Too Close to Home?

Too Close to Home

Author: Benjamin Schäfer
Publisher: Miskatonic Repository
Page Count: 12
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – Pay What You Want

Too Close to Home is a brand new scenario created and published Benjamin Schäfer through the Miskatonic Repository located at DriveThruRPG. This is Ben’s first published scenario, but he’s no stranger to the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying scene. In fact, Ben is an active contributor on Facebook and Reddit. His knowledge of the game system and what makes for good nightmare fuel is evident.  Does his online presence denote he’s a gifted creator?  Not necessarily, but let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Given that Ben is a new creator, I approached this review with mixed expectations.

Samuel Dawson, the local mortician had been charged by the Sheriff to cremate the body of a reclusive resident by the name of Henry Burrows, as no next of kin was located. In an attempt to complete the duty for which he was charged with, Dawson prepared Mr. Burrows for cremation, but neither could the corpse be damaged with a scalpel, nor could be consumed by the flames of the furnace. Intrigued by the mystery, Dawson proceeds to investigate on his own and then goes missing. Investigators will need to track down Dawson and learn what secrets he’s uncovered without themselves not succumbing to dark forces.

Too Close to Home takes place in the modern era in a quaint and idyllic sleepy town by the name of Roselawn. The scenario could easily be relocated to any period from the gaslight era forward with very few adjustments needed. For that matter, you could very easily place the contents of the scenario in any small town without it feeling shoehorned in. The story itself is presented in a very linear fashion, but Ben has provided Keepers with a couple of ways to spice things up in very specific locations or scenes. Speaking of linear and scenes, the story is constructed so that investigators have the best chance of success in not only following the clues at specific locations but also by limiting their search to just those locations—the whole linear concept.

With its linear design, the story could grind to a halt if well-seasoned investigators want to explore outside the parameters of the published scenario. It’s by no means a showstopper, but Roselawn is not presented as a sandbox location. A seasoned Keeper should be able to make the adjustments necessary for exploration outside the scenario confines. Conversely, newer Keepers may find it a little more challenging to adapt to. The locations within Too Close to Home are fixed points of interest for the investigators. Clues available at each location are not easily relocated to other locations should investigators not find a particular clue. Clues could be relocated within the specific location to provide a second opportunity for investigators who may have missed a clue on their first search. The investigation will culminate with the investigators coming face-to-face with a dark force that is the root of the Henry Burrows current physical condition. It is at this point they can learn the fate of Mr. Dawson should they think to ask. But they must tread carefully so as not succumb to a similar fate.

Does the scenario live up to my expectations? Yes, the story created by Ben has all the elements you’d expect in a one-shot investigation. There is a mystery to solve that is well laid out in a concise, yet colorful fashion. The key locations are nicely detailed and everything seems to click and work. Although the scenario is linear, it is by no means a complete investigator “railroad”. As mentioned above there are ways to spice it up a little and a resourceful Keeper will be able to adapt scenes on the fly. At the end of the day, there is an endpoint that must be reached.

Let’s talk about the artwork for a minute. Aside from the cover and the included maps, there is only one small piece of artwork within the scenario itself. it’s a small, simple, grey and red line drawing of hand or orb, but it feels out of place. I can only partially connect it to story elements on that specific page. The cover is clean and thematically on point with the scenario. In fact, it has a very similar vibe to the story cover art contained in Stygian Fox’s “Fear’s Sharp Little Needles”, a nice touch in my opinion. There are four maps included at the end of the PDF; these maps are really nice. The feature parchment paper on top of what appears to be wooden tabletop. These elements are very complimentary. The maps are (or appear to be) hand-drawn affairs by a skilled hand. The black line artwork stands out on the parchment background. Furthermore, they are clean, easy to read and understand, and very functional.

The scenario does fall short of my expectations in the area of editing and style. It’s clear from reading Too Close to Home that Ben is new at publishing. First, as I read through the scenario I noted a modest number of grammatical errors and style issues that a more seasoned creator would likely have caught and addressed before publishing.  Second, I checked the credits page and confirmed that there was no editor or proofreader listed which ties back to my first statement that he’s new to publishing. Please take the aforementioned criticism with a grain of salt; I’m a freelance editor and proofreader as these types of issues tend to jump off the page for me.

Without a doubt Too Close to Home is worth picking up! Put aside the grammatical errors I got fixated on and consider how this scenario might be useful to you. We should support new publishers and creatives who put their heart and soul into their products. Ben is one such person and I think he has the potential to create more great scenarios in the future. With Too Close to Home’s linear nature, I think it would be great for in-store and convention one-shots. In fact, as I prepare for the fall convention season, Too Close to Home has been added to my list of scenarios that I will rotate through at the conventions and store events I plan to attend.  The long and short of it—grab this scenario!

~ Modoc

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