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Sanctum

Sanctum is a supplement or perhaps alternative campaign setting that focuses on settlements (or Havens in the cant) in the City Beneath. The idea is that the Haven and it's community form the fulcrum of the campaign play with the longer term fate of the Haven being the key dramatic resolution.

The setup echoes Belly of the Beast quite a lot, in particular in how the gameplay loop works for Havens, this felt identical to Belly of the Beast's "Delves" to me. There's also a presence of Blades in the Dark in terms of investing in a community for both storytelling and mechanical benefits. The Beats system all borrows positively from the work of people like Vincent Baker.

In sure this slim volume assembles a variety of good mechanics to create a campaign frame centred around a community in a bizarre environment with a twist. It builds on the existing Heart rules for Haunts, Domains and Stress to make the integration pretty seamless and logical.

Haven creation is shared between facilitator and players so there's some structured questions and a walkthrough for an example Haven.

The other half of the book is taken up with Angels which are strange, immortal creatures connected to the Heart that conduct unfathomable tasks on its behalf. While their uncanny nature mirrors the inscrutable and inhuman nature of the Cthulhu Mythos creatures they are thankfully less loaded with the tropes (and tentacles) of those creatures.

The connection between these beings and the havens is tenuous at best. The suggestion being that if the creatures have been tasked with removing people from an area or transforming it into something different or explicitly destroying a Haven then the Haven inhabitants will have to resolve the threat. I'm mean yes but all the other antagonists that get mentioned don't have their section do they?

There has also been some serious effort to weave these two sections together with some game fiction where a character provides a travelogue of the Havens they encounter as they conduct a quixotic quest to document the angels.

So top marks for effort but there are blatantly two sets of unrelated material that have been stitched together here. Similarly the production quality is great, with a glossy magazine style finish and Felix Miall's artwork is evocative and intriguing as ever.

Sanctum offers a great play frame for Heart and stands on shoulders of other sold mechanics and structures. However it feels like a fanzine or two's worth of material stretched into something that justifies the price tag. Probably something worth getting in PDF if you like the sound of it. In my view basing play in communities is more interesting that murderhobing.

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