Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Secrets of Tibet

Note: My review of Secrets of Tibet was originally posted on shoggoth.net on January 27, 2015.

Chaosium’s “Secrets of” series of sourcebooks give Keepers an opportunity to expand their games outside of Lovecraft Country and into other locales around the world. Sometimes these places are closer to home, such as with Secrets of New York, and sometimes they are in exotic locations, such as in Secrets of Kenya. The newest “Secrets of” sourcebook, Secrets of Tibet, takes Keepers and players on a journey to dark and mysterious Tibet.

Secrets of Tibet was written by Jason Williams and published by Chaosium in 2013. At 161 pages long, this softcover book contains multiple pieces of black and white interior art by Caleb Cleveland and Lee Simpson that fit well into the the Tibetan motif. The cover is a striking painting by Cleveland of Tibetan monks summoning an eldritch being from a body of water.



The first three chapters of the sourcebook describe the religion, history, geography, and culture of the plateaued country north of the Himalayan mountain range. These chapters contain a plethora of information for the Keeper, including a timeline of major events (both real and fictional), sample Tibetan occupations for players, Tibetan gods and creatures, and information on Buddhism, the Dhali Lama, and Bön – a sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

The last three chapters cover notable NPCs that could be useful or interesting to have PCs meet, the different issues that come from traveling to and within Tibet, and a description of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Finally, the book ends with three short scenarios (descriptions below are vague to prevent spoilers):
  • Dreaming of the River of Night finds the PCs on a mission to find gold in the Tibetan plateaus, and takes them much farther.
  • Company Town has the PCs looking for a missing merchant in the remote villages of Tibet.
  • The PCs help the Tibetan government investigate a suspicious Nepalese diplomat in O’ Sleeper! Arise!.
Secrets of Tibet is the first sourcebook to use the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition rules. However, since it came out almost a year before the official rules were published, a summary and conversion from previous editions is included at the end of the book.



It is obvious from reading the book that Jason Williams is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about Tibet’s geography, culture, and history. This shows throughout the book in the immense amount of information it contains. These facts are welcomed as they help remove some of the mystery surrounding Tibet; something that most Keepers will find helpful. Secrets of Tibet is worth the purchase price for this information alone and I would recommend it solely for that.

However, the book is not without its flaws. First, the only map of Tibet in the the book is a black and white physical map that, with the shading from the mountains, makes it useless. A simpler map that was easier to read would have been preferable.

Second, while the book contains an abundance of information on Tibet, there is very little actual information relating it to the Mythos. There are Mythos tie-ins to Tibet in various chapters, but they feel few and far between. The chapter entitled “Tibetan Gods and Monsters” does connect the Cthulhu Mythos into Tibetan religion and folklore, but it is disappointingly short. Given the amount of information on Tibet within the book, I would have liked to see more on the author’s perspective on how to tie the Mythos in, or additional hints about eldritch things lurking in the mountainous shadows.

Finally, the three scenarios in the book feel rushed and shortened. Each scenario has its own unique charm to it, but as I read through them I felt that, as a Keeper, I would need to add more to make them usable in a game.



While there are some issues in the book, it is still worth purchasing. The abundance of information on Tibet outweighs any flaws it has, as Keepers can still take that information and twist it to their own devious ends. I still would have liked to see the book extended to include more information on the Cthulhu Mythos in Tibet or expanded scenarios, but in the end, this is a sourcebook worthy of any collection.



Worth purchasing.

  • An abundance of information on Tibet.
  • Excellent art.
  • Three scenarios.
  • Map of Tibet is useless.
  • Would have liked to see more Mythos content.
  • Scenarios need fleshed out just a little more.


  1. I'm almost sure that these types of campaign sourcebooks have finally seen their day. Most of the history and geography all can be found online and so there isn't really a clear need for this type of content anymore.

    There is always need for more scenarios and explanations of mythosy stuff, though, but it doesn't need to be tied to other geographical stuff. What do you think?

  2. Dave - I do agree. I think there is a difficult balance that has to be made with location based sourcebooks between information on the location and including in game material. If the balance has to be tipped, I feel it should be toward the game material end because thats why I bought the book after all.

    When it comes down to it, I'd prefer to see era-based sourcebooks than location based ones. Gaslight (latest edition) is a great example of this. To me, it has the perfect amount of era information and relates a lot of it in game setting.

    That being said, there are still a lot of locations out there that I'd love to see sourcebooks on. Russia is definitely one. Between the czars, communism, and everything in between, there is so much to have fun with. Chad Bowser is doing a great job bringing it to life with his scenarios too.