The Black Seal Issue 2 

The Black Seal Issue 2 

From: Brichester University Press

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Black Seal Issue 2 is a new magazine from Brichester University Press.

The Black Seal is a semi-annual magazine put out by guys in the UK who are huge fans of the Cthulhu Now/Delta Green type horror.  From what I have seen from horror roleplaying fans, there are two types of gamers. There are those that appreciate it for the pure horror of the game and don’t mind roleplaying vulnerable party members that get through it by shear wit and cunning, while there are others that  want to explore the horror with their trusty sub-machine gun and high-tech gadgets at their side, associated to one secret society or another.  These magazines appeal to the latter.  Any fan of Delta Green or Cthulhu Now or any other conspiracy, espionage, secret evil minion hunting society based game would like this magazine. It is filled with nothing but articles for the modern Cthulhu horror sub-genre – with very few to no ads to speak of.  It is sort of a cross between a sourcebook and a magazine.

From the front cover: “ The magazine of modern horror”

Issue 2 is comprised of Delta Green and Cthulhu Now material.  They had not yet gotten permission to publish Call of Cthulhu d20 material. The primary focus of this issue is the “UK’s Shadowy Occult Watchmen: the Paranormal Intelligence Section for Counter-Intelligence, Espionage and Sabotage, or PISCES”, expanding on an organization mentioned in a Pagan Publishing adventure or supplement for Delta Green.

The opening article is the basic background and organization of PISCES. In four pages, the article gives a general history and background, a chronology, a general description of the organization, and a description of its relationship with the existing British government.  This is presented in amazing well-written detail. However, what caught my eye are the little nuggets of flavor plot text in gray boxes, like linking  Ian Flemming’s SPECTRE to PISCES and the rise to power of Margaret Thatcher being linked to some underlying plot linked to PISCES.  This was interesting and added to the dark intrigue of the organization. After reading through it, you get the general idea that PISCES is the UK’s answer to Delta Green.

Following this is a short 2 page article called “A Brief Summary of Known Great Old One-Worshipping Cults and Independent Agents in the British Isles – Part 1.”  It contains 12 short descriptions of exactly what the title says. These organizations range from the basic cult to the bizarre terrorist group, from the secret society linked to a real-life organization (like the Masons) to ladies clubs.  Hidden within these are interesting nuggets of inspiration.

Missing Persons: PISCES’ Magonia Facility is  4 page article completely detailing the secret base where PISCES brings and interrogates its detainees that they want to ‘disappear.’  Hidden on a island in the middle of an archipelago, off the shores of Scotland, the Magonia facility is one of PISCES’ deep dark secrets. This article expands off information already published by Pagan Publishing in Delta Green: Countdown.  I am not sure what is missing because this article covers quite a bit of information about Magonia and its contents.  From the old ruins of the village to the underground facility where dark secrets are kept, this is a interesting place to add to any Delta Green style Cthulhu adventure.

After the Magonia article is a short one page description of one of the most dangerous inmates of Magonia – Wilbur Bromley, a psychopathic cultist consumed by the essence of Y’golonac.  However, he is more than an inmate, serving as an informant for PISCES as long as Bromley’s hunger for books is satisfied.  This alone would serve as a great plot opportunity for creative GMs.

From the back cover: “ The Black Seal promises to re-animate the modern-day Call of Cthulhu genre.”

I am not sure what to make of the next three-page article. Maybe it is because I was not a huge fan of the Avenger TV show, but this article seemed out of place.  It’s called The Avengers: Offbeast Espionage in the Swinging Sixties. It is divided into 6 sections: Preparation, Induction, Deepening, Therapeutic Suggestions, Post-hypnotic Suggestions, and Termination. It’s basically a guide to running Avenger style games using Delta Green Call of Cthulhu.  Because I have not seen an episode of the show, I’ll defer to the fans for their judgment.

RAF Hobwood is a short 2-page article that contains the short background of an old airfield near Stourbridge, West Midland in the UK.  It’s an old WWII airfield with an unremarkable war history, but a mysterious history afterwards that involves unsolved murders and strange apparitions.  Inspiring and well written, it includes an adventure hook for keepers to use.

Returning to the subject of PISCES related articles, the next article is called Perfidious Albion: PISCES Operations in the United States. This article serves as a basic guide to PISCES and its relations with the US intelligence community, Delta Green and the occult in the US.  It’s safe to say that this group is not American-centric in their thoughts and are probably a little bothered that a majority of the Call of Cthulhu material takes place in the US.  This article guides a keeper through PISCES method of operation, primary agents in the US, and gives the keeper ideas for adventuring in the US.  The interesting thing about all this is that one would expect a professional alliance between the US’s Delta Green and PISCES, but there is not.  In fact, they often work against each other.

At this point, I am halfway through the magazine.  There is a lot in it.  To summarize what remains: 3 pages of adventure nugget-ideas, five descriptions of alternative government-style occult investigation organizations, an optional opponent organization rivaling PISCES, a four-page article on places of interest in a town called Brichester, created by Ramsey Campbell in his mythos stories, an interview with Gary Sumpter (Chaosium writer), a two-page essay report on the Peruvian mummy, a series of reviews including a review of Call of Cthulhu d20, The Keeper Compendium 2, and the movie Dagon, followed by a series of Investigator Templates.  It ends with a two-page article about another strange location called Stranger’s Race – “an enclosed turf cut maze.”  All of these are well-written and equally as inspiring as their predecessors.

In conclusion, I found this magazine issue interesting and inspiring.  I’ll be honest, I am not the biggest fan of Delta Green style horror roleplaying – too militaristic for me.  But by reading this, I can see the adventure potential in such roleplay.  It doesn’t have me completely converted, but I do feel like my arsenal of adventure ideas and options are now more well-rounded than before.  There are plenty of NPCs fully stat’ed out in original Call of Cthulhu style, there are well-drawn maps throughout the magazine, and the art ranges from reasonably well to darn good.  This is a well-written and good-looking  magazine, and I fully recommend it to those that like the high-military, high-espionage style of Cthulhu roleplaying. 

For more details on Brichester University Press and their new RPG Magazine “The Black Seal Issue 2” check them out at their website and at all of your local game stores.

The Black Seal Issue 2
From: Brichester University Press
Type of Game: RPG Magazine
Editor: Adam Crossingham
Contributing Authors: Andy Bennison, Nick Brownlow, David Conyers, Tobias Cooper, Daniel Harms, Rik Kershaw Moore, Davide Mana, Graeeme Price, Brian Sammons
Additional Art by: Neil Beattie, Robert Corcoran, Adam Crossingham, Luis Corte Real
Number of Pages: 84
Retail Price: $ ?? (US)
Item Number: 1476-1939

Reviewed by: Ron McClung