Review: Fear’s Sharp Little Needles

“Fear’s Sharp Little Needles” is a book of short scenarios, by Stygian Fox, and written for the Seventh Edition Call of Cthulhu role playing game published by Chaosium.

The cover art has elements I like, but is so dark it gives the impression you’re missing detail. That said, it’s very well executed.

The pages have a very cool parchment look. It’s bold enough to be noticeable, yet subdued enough to not interfere with reading. The table of contents gives the scenario titles on simulated scraps of paper, which is a nice touch. The text is Times New Roman, with the section headings bolded, and in some sort of sans serif font, making for an easy reading experience.

The interior art is beautiful. Also, not only does each scenario start with a full-page illustration which is a teaser for what’s in store, but there are also maps galore. The scenarios are intentionally brief. They are all set in the modern era.

Now, on to the scenarios, with an effort to minimize spoilers. Unfortunately, this leaves me only room for introductions. The cover page of each scenario contains three or four words which give an even briefer idea of what is contained therein–nice touch.

These scenarios are all great. They are well thought-out and have all necessary detail packed in a few pages, with clarity.

SEPARATION ANXIETY, by Jeffrey Moeller. This adventure starts with the disappearance of a young woman, for whom the Investigators are searching. This soon leads to an understanding of some concerns the lady has regarding herself.

UNDERTOW, by Simon Brake. Novelist Justin Hayes hasn’t written anything in several years, but has now found his muse and put out a work which is making various best seller lists. Hayes’s book details the life of a Los Angeles based actress who is down on her luck.

SINS OF MY YOUTH, by Oscar Rios. This scenario begins with an inexplicable attack on the Investigators by a large homeless person, bundled in filthy clothing.

WALTER’S FINAL WISH, by Matt Wiseman and Jennifer Thrasher. The Investigators are kicking back in the Whispering Willow Retirement Home. They may be employees, residents, visitors etc. All is calm and mundane, until it isn’t.

WHOSE FUEL IS MEN AND STONES, by Jason Williams. This scenario has the convenience of being for only the Keeper and one player. The Investigator has just inherited a generous sum of money. They are also bequeathed a trip to London, a city they have always enjoyed. Soon, however, the Investigator’s sorrow begins to bring on bad dreams.

PULVIS ET UMBRA SUMUS, by Matthew Sanderson. Each Investigator, who lives in a large city in the US, is poor and in debt. One day, much to their surprise, they are invited to the reading of a will.

THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE AWTO, by Jo Kreil. (Direct quote from the opening of the scenario.) “Dr. Sarkeen Harmon has been working on a new experimental engine for use in automobiles, a steam engine which would not only burn cleaner but only need simple water as fuel. Dr. Harmon’s research stalled recently, faced with technological challenges in the engine design.”

SPILSBURY #9485, by Adam Gauntlett. The Investigators are members of a secret organization, the Spilsburys, who’s purpose is to watch for the appearance of a certain steamer trunk, which has been the repository of murder victims for many years. One day, of course, it turns up.

LIGHTS OUT, by Joe Trier. The Investigators–police, private detectives, concerned friends and/or family members–are asked to help search for Alice Miller, who disappeared last night. Alice, a fifteen year old girl, is devastated by the loss of her boyfriend, Danny, in a car accident. Recently, she has been using an old Ouija board in an effort to contact him.

BONE DEEP, by Alan Goodall. This scenario takes place in an economically depressed urban area. Jamie Dufferin walked in on the murder, in progress, of his mother Elize, a middle-aged school teacher. Unfortunately, Jamie could make out no details of his mother’s killer. Meanwhile, Elize’s husband, Howard, is missing. This is another scenario in which the Investigators could easily be police, private detectives, concerned friends and/or family members.

DO NOT CALL UP THAT WHICH YOU CANNOT PUT DOWN, by Brian Courtemanche. It’s Summer and the Massachusetts State Fisheries Department is tagging sharks. The Investigators are out for educational adventure, or possibly filming a documentary. All is going smoothly until the ubiquitous raving drunk shows up, shouting about sea monsters.

HIT AND RUN, by Tyler Hudak. Jebediah Gareth and his young grandson, William, lived reclusively in a cabin on the outskirts of a small town. This was precipitated by an vehicle accident, in which Mr. Gareth’s family were all killed, save for William. Now William has been killed in a hit and run by meth dealer Johnny Williams, who contacts the Investigators for help because he is convinced Jebediah Gareth seeks to kill him.

REMAKING THE HATTERAS REEF, by Andi Newton. Perhaps that old ship, recently scuttled to rebuild the reef, has leaked some sort of contaminants. At least that’s the current theory of the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, as the cause of the various and quite bizarre mutations of the local fish catch.

THE SORES, by Helen Gould. Back in the 1990s, a terrible illness swept the small town of Dirgel, Wales. This caused weeping sores and, eventually, death. Strangely, the victims became more and more blissful all the while. Now, the disease has returned. The Investigators may be locals, visitors, medical personnel from outside the town, etc.

UP JUMPED THE REAPER, by Chad Bowser. (Direct quote from the opening of the scenario.) Nikki Sandson is a promising graduate student pursuing a degree in American Folklore. For her dissertation, she had planned to catalog and analyze the tales of several isolated communities deep in the western North Carolina Mountains. Now, she and her boyfriend are missing in the rugged terrain and her family fears the worst.

RESURRECTION, by Stuart Boon. The Investigators are in attendance at the rain-soaked funeral of Ted Banks, a college friend from years ago. As the other attendees begin to leave, a lone figure appears, virtually identical to another friend, thought dead for some time.

WAITING TO BE BORN, by Christopher Smith Adair. (Direct quote from the opening of the scenario.) In 1995, Dr. Celeste Almunia established the New Life Fertility Center in the Canyon Lake, Texas area, fifty miles north of San Antonio, to further holistic solutions for infertile couples.

UNLAND, by Scott Dorward. It’s common knowledge, thanks to the all-seeing Internet, that Ina Matthews was driven insane in the aftermath of a scandal at FUNLAND, eighteen years ago. At that time, a pedophile employee was stalking and murdering children, and poor Ina was in charge of public relations. This, of course, meant her job suddenly became lying to the public and covering up details of the horrible event. She has now reopened the park, but as a facility to help people face the dark truths they carry within themselves. However, the Investigators have reason to suspect UNLAND may not be so benign.

THE FOCUS GROUP, by Simon Yee. Six months ago, the Investigators were part of a play test focus group for a geo-caching, puzzle solving game called “The Cage of Morpheus.” The game was great, but the terrible music was intolerable and the play test ended. Now, the Investigators have been called and asked to try the new version, without the hideous music.

DISSOCIATION, by Matthew Sanderson. The Investigators are among various passengers on a nighttime flight from San Diego to Seattle. Suddenly, all electrical devices, including the engines, cease to function. Then, huge sections of the hull rip away, and people are sucked out of the plane–including the Investigators?

POETRY NIGHT, by Oscar Rios. The Investigators are attending a poetry night at The Lakeside, a coffee house situated in the Pine County Artist Enclave, surrounding the village of Whispering Pines. The coffee house sits by Juniper Lake, and has gorgeous views. Clearly, they’re settling in for a nice, peaceful evening.

THE TORMISS CRD MODEL Z-17, by Andi Newton. The Tormiss CRD Model Z-17 pacemaker entered the market six years ago and has been a resounding success. Very recently, a mortuary employee posted a disturbing facebook live video of the pacemaker, still connected to a cadaver. When a lead was cut, it contained a clear, viscous fluid, rather than an electrically conductive material. Then it began to wriggle about, and burrowed back into the artery. The Investigators, who may be of a wide array of expertise, have been called in to determine what is going on.

GHOSTS OF RAVENSCAR, by Glynn Owen Barras. Ravenscar is an abandoned, crumbling ruin of a village in Northeastern England. In the early twentieth century, a failed effort was made to evolve it into a holiday resort. An unfortunate sounding text message is the last contact anyone has had with someone hiking in the area, and the Investigators are en route to see if they can find them.

THE SPECIAL MENU, by Adam Gauntlett and Brian M. Sammons. Wyse Fries, a fast food outlet, is virtually ubiquitous. Some time back, to the embarrassment of the corporation, a camera was found hidden in a Wyse Fries restroom. Two people, including an employee, have now been found in the dumpster at a Wyse Fries location. They had both ingested rat poison. All franchise employees have been arrested. The Investigators, who may represent a wide variety of agencies, have been called in to solve this problem.

THE WINOKA POINT RESEARCH CENTER, by Oscar Rios. Five miles from shore is the island of Winoka Point, barely three square miles in size, and home of the quarantined Winoka Point Research Center. The closest community is tiny South Newberry, a coastal fishing and crabbing village. For years, the government conducted secret experiments at Winoka Point, though some sort of incident caused it to be abandoned in 1985. Now, it is the source of many urban legends.

PHLEBOTOMY, by Jeffery Moeller. It’s a typically ordinary day at the QwikLab phlebotomy clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. That is until a patient begins to scream in pain and rage, kills a nurse by ramming a syringe through her eye and into her brain, then explodes into a huge puddle of goo.

The rest of the book consists of gorgeous, and easy to interpret, full color handouts.
I highly recommend “Fear’s Sharp Little Needles.” These excellent scenarios are perfect for one-shots, or can be inserted into an ongoing campaign. In fact, several of them specifically, but not necessarily, tie in with one another.

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