What is The Brotherhood of the Beast?
A hardened archaeologist and a wealthy adventurer join forces to look into inexplicable murders in Boston. Before long, their investigation reveals a nefarious conspiracy, with tentacles reaching from their own past to the furthest corners of the globe. Will the duo and a team of trusted comrades be able to thwart an unholy alliance of dark forces, or does our very world stand upon the precipice of a terrifying doom?
THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BEAST is another audiobook drama created by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. While they’ve been doing many adaptations of Lovecraft’s actual work, they’ve also done a number of pastiches as well with this being the second Chaosium-adapted module after MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP. I am really interested in these and hope they’ll continue to do them. I would also be interested in them adapting some other Mythos authors. I think this format is perfect for, say, Brian Lumley’s The Burrowers Beneath.
The premise of Dark Adventure Theatre is that in an alternate universe, HP Lovecraft managed to get his stories adapted to radio play dramas in the 1930s. They’re deliberately bombastic, over-the-top, and even pulpier than Lovecraft’s own words that were in pulp magazines. It’s a format that worked exceptionally well for Masks of Nyarlathotep and I was excited to see used again for THE FUNGI FROM YUGGOTH, which is a module I own.
If you wonder why they renamed it to THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BEST, it’s because older Chaosium modules had a weird habit of naming themselves after things not in the adventure to mislead players. For example, THE SHADOW OF YOG-SOTHOTH doesn’t have Yog-Sothoth in it but is instead about the rise of Cthulhu. Which is a TLDR way of saying, “It’s not called The Fungi from Yuggoth because there’s not many Mi-Go in the adventure, nor are they the focus.” It would later be republished as The Day of the Beast but opening with that means I wouldn’t be able to share this weird digression.
The short-short version of the plot without too many spoilers is that after a horrific encounter with a monster-spawned abomination, a millionaire and his archaeologist friend discover an ancient Egyptian cult is plotting to bring about the rise of a godlike being who will usher in the end of the world. They journey from New York to Transylvania to Peru to San Fransisco and possibly Ancient Egypt. Why possibly? Well, the module has the unique fact that it has multiple endings like the movie version of Clue. More on that later.
I, overall, enjoyed the audio drama tremendously. They made a lot of cuts of fluff and it’s a much more manageable three hours long versus the Masks of Nyarlathotep‘s seven hours. I particularly loved the character of Jenny who is an ex-gangster’s girlfriend and adds a lot of levity to the story. Indeed, Jenny is my favorite character so much that I desperately wanted her to live through the story so she could star in further adventures. The protagonists are enjoyable and the kind of people you’d find in actual adventure radio of the time.
The story suffers a bit from being too similar to Masks of Nyarlathotep. There’s an evil cult out to overthrow the Earth and bring about the end of the world. Indeed, people from the Bible Belt like myself will note that this adventure leans a bit too much to fundamentalist Christian eschatology. Which, translated for normal people, Nyarlathotep’s agent (or Nephren-Ka’s agent in this case) acts way too much like the Antichrist from the Omen movies or Left Behind versus a human in a cosmic horror story. Weirdly, I much preferred Baron Hauptman as a villain because while he heavily beats the “Dracula” drum, he actually subverts some expectations along the way.
The audiobook also suffers from the fact the four endings are completely unnecessary. Not only do they end more or less the same way three out of four times (one of them at least ending in the villain’s victory), they disrupt the radio play format of things. I feel they should have stuck with one ending or found some contrived way to include all of their material. As such, you’re left to pick one of the endings as “canon” and wonder why they kept them so similar if we’re never likely to see the protagonists again.
In conclusion, it’s a very fun pulpy story and anyone who has read my own books knows that I love pulpy Cthulhu. There’s globe trotting, millionaire playboys, creepy cults, and heroic sacrifices. My only real regret is that it doesn’t feel very Lovecraftian. This could easily be about a Satanic cult plotting to bring about the Biblical apocalypse. After all, I’m fairly sure Cthulhu doesn’t care about who is President of the United States even if I wrote him in a couple of times.