Alone Against the Static is the brand new solo adventure for Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Inc. It contains unprecedented solo mechanics and a new Mythos entity.
Alone Against the Static is set in the 90s, but unfortunately you are so far away from everything that you lose contact with the outside world. What remains is this static noise.
Choose your character
You can play as Charlie or Alex, who are a couple, depending on whether you want to play a lady or a gentleman. What’s cool is that the two have different abilities, making the choice feel more like a computer game than just a name and picture making the difference between a male and female character. So the choice of character already gives the game a slightly different feel, I think. But it gets even more diverse.
To play it, the rules included in the starter box are enough. However, a proper set of rules can never hurt, especially as the Cthulhu rulebook really does contain everything your heart desires and nobody really needs to buy expansion volumes, even if there are nice volumes on magic (Grand Grimoire) and monsters (Malleus Monstrorum).
Alone Against the everything
Alone Against the Static joins a series of solo adventures for Call of Cthulhu of varying quality, see here:
- Alone Against the Flames
- Alone Against the Tide
- Alone Against the Frost
- Alone Against the Dark
And I can already reveal that Alone Against the Static ranks near the top.
A perfect start
The story of Alone Against the Static begins with: “Somewhere in the forgotten wilds, where pine needles carpet the forest floor, something stirs.” Well, if that’s not a good opening line, I don’t know what is.
Like a computer game
Another new feature is the log sheet. This tells you, without spoilers, whether you have discovered and found everything there is to explore, while also helping you to record the decisions you have made. These have an impact on the rest of the game. I like the fact that this solo adventure feels so computer game-like, even though it’s on paper or as text in a PDF. The simple mechanics and the new features somehow fit perfectly with the 90s flair. And I know this because the 90s is the decade in which I enjoyed the most computer games.
How is it?
I play on my cell phone. I read the PDF there, roll the dice with a dice app, I have copied the values. It’s not the best way to play, but it proves that it works. So I chose Charlie, the female protagonist. The beginning is atmospheric. It’s easier to imagine ourselves in our time than in the 1920s, even if we think we know what the 1920s were like. The now is so familiar, and the hundred-year-old is just a sketch, a caricature, a hand-me-down of what it really was.
Pine trees are an elementary element in this story. What’s cool is that there are not only external actions in the world to be decided, but internal and very personal things. Am I hungry? How do I feel about my life situation right now?
There is this “they” the whole time. Either that’s a strange form for only one person in English that I don’t understand or it’s a mistake. It’s just Alex and me. In any case, this “they look at me” alone gives me a funny feeling in my stomach. Oh, now I get it! That’s supposed to be a non-binary pronoun! So you can also take Alex as female or male. Correct? I don’t know, because it’s my first confusing contact with this use.
Plays like a good book
What I like is that I don’t have to jump back and forth in the book for long stretches. The chapters are all close together and distributed almost chronologically from front to back.
The story reads like a good book. Everything is beautifully described and yes, I love coniferous forests and I like creepy suspense instead of pure bloody horror. So this adventure can already tick two big boxes.
Somehow I manage to roll well on all the interpersonal checks so that Alex and I understand each other better again. But I also manage to roll badly on all perception checks, whether hearing, seeing or discovering, so that I don’t notice anything unusual or suspect anything bad. How reassuring, such an excursion into beautiful nature.
Then finally, when the situation comes to a head, I have an increased pulse rate several times out-game, I’m just good at immersion. Maybe it also helps that it’s gloomy outside in the out-game and raining incessantly.
Then comes “To settle in for the night, got o 142”. I don’t want to, but there’s no other number I could choose.
I take it back. Nothing is chronological anymore. The more the story gets out of hand, the more confused and wider the jumps within the PDF become. Coincidence or well done? I don’t know. But it does its job.
It resolves itself, but not completely, it gets a twist and an ending, as it should. I very much enjoyed this.
Alone Against the Static creeps me out. And I really can’t say whether it’s me and and the mood I am in, or whether the story is that well done, but it’s one of the most atmospheric adventures I’ve played, run or simply read from Call of Cthulhu. And that’s despite not expecting a miracle after the disappointment of Alone Against the Frost. The theme of static noise is elegantly revisited again and again, this uncertainty slowly seeps into your consciousness, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t like it. This feeling becomes denser and lasts so long it’s a joy.
I like this simple mechanic with the log sheet. It really doesn’t tell you anything until you play the adventure and yet it helps you to keep using decisions you’ve made and not take detours a second time.
Unfortunately, there was hardly any combat in my test, although with Call of Cthulhu you may quickly regret this statement. I played the adventure twice. First with Charlie, then with Alex. The main plot remained exactly the same, but the details and even entire scenes were very different. And the great thing is that the story has many endings.
Alone Against the Static is the best Call of Cthulhu solo adventure I’ve played. I also really liked Alone Against the Flames, but this one has an atmosphere that really lulled me in and grabbed me. This solo adventure was a great experience for me. Chaosium – I need more of that!
Alone Against the Static will be released in English on December 4, 2023 and is highly recommended. Two thumbs up.