A Dark Little Secret – A Review of The Shadow Over Providence

The Shadow Over Providence

Authors: Jon Hook & Matt Ryan
Publisher: Chaosium
Page Count: 38
Available Formats: PDF and print
PDF (DTRPG) – $3.99
Print – $9.99

The Shadow Over Providence is a traditional Call of Cthulhu scenario for Keepers of all skill levels. It made its debut at Necronomicon Providence in August of 2019 and has already received pretty high praise from those that have played it and those that have purchased it. One of our writers, Dan, acquired his limited release print copy while at Necronomicon Providence. I, on the other hand, purchased the PDF and must now wait on the print version to become available.

I have attempted to keep this review spoiler-free. If I have slipped up, please accept my apology in advance.

There are two elements that set this scenario apart. First, the scenario’s location is modeled after one of the iconic hotels in which Necronomicon Providence is held each year, the Graduate Providence, originally known as Biltmore Hotel, Providence. In the scenario, the hotel is called the Milton Hotel. Second, the scenario is confined to the Milton Hotel with one exception (more on that later), making it a beginner-friendly scenario.

The Shadow Over Providence is a classic-era scenario that is equal parts investigation and action for up to three players but can easily accommodate more. Set in the late summer of 1928, a traveling Egyptian exhibit has made its way to Providence and is being housed in the Milton. The investigators have been provided gratis passes to this small display, but rare opportunity to view 18th Dynasty artifacts. It’s an exhibit not to be missed. The artifacts attract interest from a wide array of people, leading to a failed burglary attempt. Havoc ensues within the Milton, leaving a famed Egyptologist desiccated, an artifact damaged, and a dark entity released.

Investigators, being investigators, are put into a position in which they must act. To that end, they will have to follow the clues to learn what the intended crime was. What went wrong. What was unwittingly released into the world? And how they can stop it. I previously mentioned the scenario is confined to the Milton with one exception. There is an opportunity for the investigators to leave the hotel and visit the local coroner, should they think to pursue that line of inquiry. There are no opportunities for the investigators to take in the sites of Providence and this is for the best. The scenario is really meant to be a tight, low travel story that draws them in before they can become the next victim.

There are ample hooks and tips provided within the scenario to get the investigators involved and interested in solving the situation, especially before more innocent victims die. For players that enjoy a good balance of investigation and downright action, The Shadow Over Providence has both and will appeal to a wide array of player types.  Keepers, this scenario has a variety of ways in which you can tweak it to get the perfect vibe for your players and/or the type of group you have assembled.

The overall quality of the writing is top-notch, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from these authors. From beginning to end, the story flows well. It is presented in such a way that it should provoke and motivate the investigators to want to figure out what’s going on, but more importantly, not become the next victim. The bottom line is Jon Hook and Matt Ryan have given us a well-crafted story that is both interesting and exciting!

I posed the question on Facebook about play length as I will be running this at a game convention in November. Jon Hook, the author, was kind enough to respond that the scenario, as written, is a 5-hour scenario. He also provided a link to the BRP Forums (spoilers ahead), where he gives tips for Keepers on how he successfully trims the scenario to play out in 4-hours for convention sessions.

The production of The Shadow Over Providence is in line with what we have come to expect from Chaosium. The front and back covers are full color and very evocative of the story within. I was surprised when I began reading the PDF to find the interior was only black and white. I’m accustomed to purchasing all of their hardcover books that have full-color interiors. The black and white interior threw me for a loop. I assume that this was a purposeful design choice to facilitate printing the scenario for table use. This by no means detracts from the overall quality of the product.

The scenario includes six pre-generated investigators, each of which is connected to the story in some way. First, the diverse array of occupations are complementary to the story, but still broad enough to be usable in other scenarios as well. Each pre-generated investigator is richly detailed and has a well-crafted backstory that makes their use plausible in this story.

My final thoughts on The Shadow Over Providence is that that story is well crafted and will stand the test of time. It’s a fast-playing, easily approachable scenario for new and experienced Keepers alike. Players will find the gameplay and the balance between investigation and action nuanced and enjoyable. I think those that prefer an investigation heavy or super action-packed game will find enough of either within these pages to be enjoyable. For $3.99, you can’t go wrong with The Shadow Over Providence!

~ Modoc

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