Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Evil on the East Coast

The Darkness Over Eaglescar – A Modern Day Call of Cthulhu Scenario is the tenth scenario from publisher Stygian Fox. Although the title suggests that it is a modern-day scenario for use with Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, it is actually set in 1999. It is also set in England’s north-east, in the fictional coastal town of Eaglescar. What this means is that it has a certain English seaside town ambiance that certainly British Keepers and players will enjoy. Despite the specifics of the setting, The Darkness Over Eaglescar can easily be adapted to the setting and period of the Keeper’s choice, whether that is the Purple Decade of Cthulhu by Gaslight or the Jazz Age of Call of Cthulhu, or indeed, updated to a more contemporary period. With some adjustment the scenario could be adapted to run using Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game.

Designed for roughly four investigators and to provide two sessions or so’s worth of play, The Darkness Over Eaglescar begins with the Investigators being contacted by an old friend, Georgina Angler. She believes that her teenage daughter, Cassandra, is in trouble, having become involved with some shady characters, and she suspects, drugs, as well, and wants the Investigators’ help in finding her. Georgina will point to one of the business owners on the esplanade as someone who might know more, and he indicates two further leads, one a local drug dealer, the other a sea front fortune teller. Both will point towards the Voice of the Machine, a local New Age cult run by Eleanor X. Researching her reveals that her parents were members of a seventies hippie cult, The Children of the Vortex. This cult was notorious for its drug dealing, the exploitation of its members, and ultimately, the stabbing and murder of its founder. Background on the cult can be discovered by research at the local library and Eleanor X herself, will contact the Investigators to reassure them that Cassandra is fine. However, the cult leader will not let them see the missing girl.

Ultimately, the Investigators will need to investigate the cult’s properties and possible links between The Children of the Vortex and the Voice of the Machine. The latter will probably involve the Investigators having to commit a couple of acts of breaking and entering, which presents its own challenges in a small town, suburban environment. In doing so, they will likely be involved in one or more violent confrontations, and perhaps rescue Cassandra.

In terms of its horror, The Darkness Over Eaglescar is a scenario with a very human face. The Investigators will not be confronting any of the traditional elements of the Mythos, and to be fair, not really confronting the Mythos directly, more its effects upon the members of the cult. This will come primarily in a pair of intentionally surprisingly violent encounters, but depending upon what the Investigators discover, they may be able to get hold of another means to thwart the cult—a more magical means.

The Darkness Over Eaglescar is a relatively short adventure and although the players and their Investigators do not know it, they are up against a time limit. The players will need to use their Investigators’ time with some care, but unless they really waste it, they should be able to conduct their inquiries with alacrity. In fact, there are few plot strands to follow in the scenario, so the given timeline could be effectively collapsed into a couple of days or so and the scenario run in a single session as a convention scenario. However, that would be quite tight in its plotting. The alternative would be to reduce the number of Investigators—the scenario could be played with just two and still work.

The scenario is decently supported with a handful of handouts, some of which are really very good. Likewise, some of the artwork is also very good. Similarly, The Darkness Over Eaglescar is a very good-looking scenario, but unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. The cartography looks good, but feels a little odd in the design of its two houses. Plus, why is there no map of the Eaglescar itself? Then there are several element crashes between the scenario’s images and handouts and the text. This is not enough to make the text totally unreadable, but it is unnecessarily challenging. In addition, and although it is not as bad in previous releases from the publisher, The Darkness Over Eaglescar is further indication that Stygian Fox Publishing is still very much in need of a professional editor.

Let down by disappointing production values, The Darkness Over Eaglescar includes a decent mix of investigation and interaction, as well as some surprisingly violent scenes—ones that if played in the scenario’s British setting, the Investigators will probably be unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with. A more than serviceable scenario, The Darkness Over Eaglescar neatly captures the faded ambiance of the British seaside town, but is flexible enough to be set elsewhere and else when.

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