I wrote about The Outer Presence earlier on my blog, and recently the author, Venger Satanis, sent me review copies of two horror scenarios from The Outer Presence line. So here's what I think about His Flesh Becomes My Key:
|His Flesh Becomes My Key|
His Flesh Becomes My Key (let's just call it His Flesh...) is described as an "eldritch pulp / investigative horror" scenario. It's developed for the simple rules-lite The Outer Presence, but can be used in any other system without much effort.
The scenario's setting is defined by a short, but very evocative introduction, a description of the world coming apart at the seams: "This reality currently sits on a dimensional fault-line. It's been like that for thousands of years, perhaps from the very beginning." This shifting reality gives the characters a chance to experience flashbacks and lucid dreams.
His Flesh... assumes that the player characters are a team of "investigators". There isn't much of a hook, so I think the scenario would work best as a one-shot, or as an investigation for a very specific group of characters (weird consultants for the police, occult detectives, etc.).
I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so suffice to say, that the players investigate a series of occult-tinged murders, and get drawn into something bigger. There is a twist-ending, of sorts... Twilight Zone style. Which might work with your players, or might annoy the hell out of them.
What I really like about this scenario is its imagery and tone. It displays noir sensibilities… but this is not the 1940-50s stylish black & white noir, but something more 1980s or early 1990s? Miami Vice? No-no… Silk Stalkings, yeah, that's the one! Occult Silk Stalkings, I like that. Dario Argento, but not the 1970s Argento, but the pastel & neon of Tenebrae and Phenoena. RPG-wise, the first thing that comes to mind is not Call of Cthulhu (Modern), but old World of Darkness and especially KULT, this type of stuff. In The Outer Presence scenarios nothing is set in stone, everything's just vague shapes, mist, smoke machines and lasers, but you still get an impression, an atmosphere, a strong visual. Venger draws heavily on movies, so if you are a horror nerd, you share this world.
And the book/pdf looks good too, with a crisp layout and several full-page illustrations.
So far, so good!
Now, what I'm not so keen about is the presentation of the scenario. There is no overview of "what's going on", so the game master has to read the whole thing to get the picture. It's not too long (around 10 pages of text), but I think such summaries are important. There are no NPC write-ups, and all information regarding them is scattered all around in the step-by-step narrative of the scenario. I definitely think that a published adventure should help the game master more.