Overall, I think this is a decent collection of modern CoC scenarios. I was a little worried when I only really saw most actual play groups playing through the first two scenarios that those would be the only two good scenarios in the book, and unfortunately to some extent that’s true. But I’ll go through them one at a time:
Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home: A little girl is abducted from a big box store under strange circumstances. Moments later, a man walks into the store and commits suicide. The investigators are left to find the girl and piece together why she was taken. This is probably the second best scenario in the book. There’s a lot of layers to the mystery here and a lot of investigating for the players to do. And while there’s a lot of room for the investigators to travel down many different paths, the bloody showdown at the end is all but inevitable. I think there’s maybe a bit too much Christian mythology here (in general, I’m not a big fan of scenarios that mix Christianity with the Cthulhu mythos), the memorable NPCs and setpieces make this a really solid entry.
Forget me not: The investigators wake up inside a crashed van in rural Michigan, and slowly piece together how they got there and what happened to their missing colleague. This is the standout scenario in the book, and is really the most compelling reason to purchase TTWLB. The amnesia trope is used really well here and adds another element of terror to the proceedings. There’s some great body horror and a confrontation with a lesser-used mythos entity. You also get some good old fashioned haunted house exploration, and some compelling clues for your investigators to sift through. There’s a lot of different ways this scenario could go, but no matter what this seems all but guaranteed to be a fun and horrific time at the table.
Roots: A young woman goes missing during a camping trip, and her adoptive parents fear that she has gone off in search of her birth mother. The search for this young woman brings the investigators to an isolated small town surrounded by deep, dark woods. There’s a lot of really interesting ideas here, and I can see what the author was going for with this scenario, but overall it doesn’t really work for me. It’s one of those RPG scenarios that would work much better as a short story. The initial investigation is interesting, but once everyone figures out what’s really going on, I think this one is going to fizzle out a bit.
Hell in Texas: In small-town Texas, a young woman commits suicide inside of a “Hell House” being run by a local church. I had never heard of a Hell House (and strangely, the scenario doesn’t really explain exactly what it is), but from what I gather it’s sort of like a Halloween haunted house attraction but with strict Christian messaging instead of light-hearted scares. The idea of the investigators looking into a haunted house attraction that is actually haunted is fun, but from what’s written on the page it’s almost impossible for the players to actually “solve” this mystery. Instead, this scenario will most likely involve the players witnessing a bunch of horrific events before throwing up their hands and saying “Well, I don’t know what to do here” and just leaving. As written, it’s pretty anticlimactic and if you’re going to run it, it will need a bit of an overhaul to give it a better ending.
The Night Season: In Achorage, Alaska, a young man commits suicide in an unusual manner, and the clues point towards the involvement of a strange, gifted young woman. I really, really don’t like this scenario, for a number of reasons that I won’t get into because it’s impossible to talk about without spoiling the entire thing. Suffice it to say, It mixes the Cthulhu mythos with pop culture in a way that I really dislike. A lot of that is personal preference; some people might actually like the unique premise of this scenario, but I was flat-out repulsed by it. This one might as well not even be in the book because it’s completely unsalvageable as far as I’m concerned.
Intimate Encounters: A serial murderer known as the “liposuction killer” is prowling the internet for victims. Can the investigators stop him before he kills again? I actually really liked this scenario. It has an “X-Files monster of the week” feel to it that I really dug. It’s a bit simple and straightforward, but it’s still good fun. I think some of the clues don’t connect together as neatly as they could, but that would be an easy fix for the keeper.
So, a pretty mixed bag overall. I don’t think TTWLB is quite worth $20, because half the scenarios are not really worth running, but the three that are good are pretty solid, so this collection gets a tentative recommendation from me.
One other thing that bothered me is the way that some of these scenarios use adult themes. I’m all for tons of gore and sex and body horror, but a few of the scenarios throw in some pretty heavy themes for almost no reason (abortion, HIV/AIDs, sexual abuse, etc). I’m all good with using these themes to invoke horror, but here it kind of feels like they are thrown in as an afterthought that has no impact on the story. It sort of feels like the authors felt like they had to include some “mature” stuff just because this book has a “for mature gamers” disclaimer on the cover.