The Devil’s City
By Sara Tantlinger and Matt Corley
It’s no secret that I personally love when authors weave tales fused with both fact and fiction. The best part of a story is being able to immerse yourself in a strange new land, becoming a believer of its laws and lore and with The Devil’s City, I found it very easy to do just that. This short novella is under 100 pages, but it really packs a punch. I quite enjoyed the dark tone, gritty setting, and blend of historical fiction with cosmic horror!
Readers are introduced to five separate characters through a series of vignettes that connect them to notorious American Serial Killer, H.H. Holmes. Having done some recent personal investigating into Holmes myself, I found this fictional take on his mistresses, wives, and companions to be quite clever! It is clear that Tantlinger has done her homework for this project, and is well-informed from previous work such as her own HH Holmes themed poetry collection. Short snippets from Holmes are also sprinkled throughout the novel, further weaving the web of connections between each of the unwitting victims and his own dastardly plans. Much like “The Castle” in which Holmes carried out his gruesome murders, this novella has plenty of dark corners, secrets, twists and turns. I appreciated the subtlety in which Tantlinger creeps and crawls to a cliffhanger ending by introducing a cliffhanger element.
The Saturday Morning Scenario’s Kickstarter page does state that the novella and game can be read and played separately, but it is my personal opinion that they’ll both be most enjoyable when used together. The ending of The Devil’s City will most certainly provide a satisfying segue into the start of gameplay for “Horror in the Windy City,” the next setting in Saturday Morning Scenario’s cosmic horror RPG “Whispers in the Dark.” The RPG setting will provide a large web of scenarios, characters, and stories for further story arcs. I really love the idea of the novella providing expanded scenarios for these suggested characters instead of just a one paragraph backstory. RPG’s are at their best when players create their own characters to fit within them, but if you’re looking for story-focused, speedy game play, then stock characters are the way to go. It’s much easier to play as suggested stock characters when you can get inside their heads, understand their course of action clearly, and really empathize with their motives!
In addition to the novella and gameplay itself, I’d also like to praise the use of illustrations in The Devil’s City as well as the “Whispers in the Dark” handbook. The inclusion of illustration elements is an excellent tool to further expand storytelling details. Not everyone has an easy time creating lush visualizations, but the dark and moody illustrations in The Devil’s City and Whispers both round out the stories. Illustrators such as Daniele Serra, Francis Villaincourt, and Dan Hawksworth are just a few of the artists who offer their dark and thrilling visualizations to the project. Check the Kickstarter page for a full list of contributors, and be sure to check out their expansive portfolios as well. I look forward to seeing the illustrations in “Horror in the Windy City!”
Overall, I’m very excited for the release of this project. I can’t wait for my friends and I to finish our current “Whispers in the Dark” campaign so we can continue on with “Horror in the Windy City” next.
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I received a copy of The Devil’s City and Whispers in the Dark from Saturday Morning Scenarios for review consideration.