Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Investigators of Arkham Horror: Tales of Adventure and Madness by Katrina Ostrander.
I have argued (unsuccessfully, via a database submission at BoardGameGeek) that this book should be considered a game accessory. As a collection of weird fiction, it is passable at best. But as a “bootstrapping” instrument to orient players to their characters in the Arkham Files games, it is excellent. Each investigator has a vignette, typically four or five pages in length, to supply them with psychological orientation and biographical details. The book is huge, full of art reproduced from the games at a more generous scale on glossy paper, with a sewn binding to keep the thing together. (It’s so heavy that glue binding would surely break in short order.) The cover art is beautiful, but there’s no dust jacket.
Maybe you wouldn’t bother to read four pages of character background for an evening’s play of Elder Sign or Eldritch Horror. But for the multi-session campaign play of Arkham Horror: The Card Game (which requires out-of-play time for deck construction anyhow), the sort of extra consideration given here to individual investigators is terrific.
This book is obviously intended to provide the framework for a narrative canon, and several of the episodes here have provided points of departure for the subsequent novellas. I was especially gratified by some of the stories for investigators who have had little exposure in other Arkham Files fiction, such as Minh Thi Phan and William Yorick. I think my favorite story for the story’s sake out of the dozens here was the one about the prestidigitator and occultist Dexter Drake.