Different types of horror can evoke different emotions - discomfort, disgust, fear, dread, despair. Personally, that's why I love the genre: it gives one a place to safely experience and, yes, even enjoy these emotions. But my favourite type of horror is the kind that bends reality about five degrees to the left, leaving you feeling uncertain about the world you're inhabiting and your place in it. It's not exactly scary, per se - but along with a feeling of wonder, it also gives you a deep-seated dread that reaches down into the pit of your stomach. It's the feeling you experience when you have deja vu, or when you turn a corner in your hometown and suddenly there's a new store where there was once an empty lot. That gut feeling that there is some hidden secret or truth to the world and, if only for a moment, if you try hard enough, you can get a glimpse behind the curtain. The momentary conviction that somehow, something is just wrong.
And like a frog in a pot of lukewarm water that is turned up to boiling so slowly that by the time it notices, it's too late, Impossible Landscapes begins with a gentle dip into the surreal. Moment by moment, the surreality grows, almost unnoticeably. But for your players - and perhaps for you, dear Handler - this campaign inexorably slides into an unstoppable plunge, where only by luck and force of will can one rise to catch their breath, before they are pulled down, beneath the cloud lake, to the hidden city of Carcosa where all secrets are laid bare.
It's no exaggeration to say that I've been waiting for this campaign to come to fruition for many years. Since first playing the original Night Floors campaign perhaps five years ago, I've been enamoured by this aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos. The King in Yellow is a mystery that leaves you hungry for more but uncertain where to look - or even what the mystery is. The original Chambers' stories are but an amuse-bouche, a stage setting for all that was to come. And if contemporary stories like True Detective were the appetizers, Impossible Landscapes is the main course. You will eat the entire meal, and only then will you understand the true secret: That the meal is you and you are the meal. Consume, and be consumed.
While the original Night Floors was atmospheric and reality-bending - and in fact was one of my favourites - it always felt it somewhat unfinished, with no satisfying conclusion. And because the Agents never saw the full behind-the-scenes picture of the operation, they were inevitably left feeling a bit confused. Thankfully, Impossible Landscapes slots Night Floors neatly in place as the opening act to a much larger campaign, and even if you've run Night Floors before for your Agents, by running it again you'll find an expanded story, new clues and horrors for your Agents, and - perhaps most crucially - new meaning behind what already existed in the campaign.
Moving on to the second stage of the campaign, A Volume of Secret Faces, you'll find an operation for your Agents that is both wide and deep. In some campaigns or operations, a lot of the peripheral details are left for the Handler to flesh out. Happily, such is not the case here - especially because some of those fringe details will turn out to be some of the most goosebump-raising, spine-tingling moments for your Agents. This campaign is both linear and nonlinear; you'll see what I mean upon reading it. As a result, it will require some flexibility and on-the-spot improvisation by the Handler to adapt to your players' choices, as well as a deep and thorough knowledge of the campaign (DEFINITELY re-read it at least two or three times before running a game); but such GM-gymnastics will be well rewarded when your players have that "aha!" moment that we all live for as Handlers.
In the third stage of the campaign, Like a Map Made of Skin, the action rises and things go all-out surreal. I really enjoy when a Delta Green operation has a good mix of unnatural horror and the "mundane" terror of mortal combat, and this section of the campaign leans on that mix very hard to push your players forward. This section is the shortest of the four parts of the campaign, and - if you so desire it, though it's not by any means necessary - would be best served by Handlers who like to expand on the campaign material with their own side-quests, maps, etc. But since this part of the campaign sort of becomes a bit of a rest stop for the players, you may wish to play it as-is so that they can continue in good time to the climax, in part four.
In my own, original run of the Night Floors operation years ago, I built a climax very similar to what ends up comprising the end of this book. That my own creation turned out to be similar was satisfying indeed, but in this section, The End of the World of the End, the details build out a world that feels both real and unknowable. And the underlying corruption mechanics that have both hindered and guided the Agents this far will lead to a different personal revelation, ending, or understanding for each of them.
The layout and graphics of the book lend it an air of mystery, as if the campaign book itself has come under the corrupting influence of the King in Yellow. It's almost a pity that your players won't get to see it, because it provides a lot of dressing for the horror of the words written within. The handouts are exhaustive and detailed, including maps, clues of all sorts, NPC portraits that feel like real people, and all sorts of things to confound and illuminate your players. The organization of the campaign is particularly satisfying; it is a very long book at more than 350 pages, and very dense, so as mentioned it does require re-reading to really understand all the details. But reading it, I never felt lost or confused about what was happening or where. It's a very easy campaign for a Handler to follow, as long as they read it enough to absorb everything, like a poison you must take in through the skin.
The way that Agent corruption is built or reduced via the game mechanics throughout the campaign is both subtle and, at the same time, a critical part of what makes this campaign work so well. Instead of being a Handler "inflicting" weird things on the Agents (who, in the original Night Floors, had very little personal agency as a result), the Agents' own actions and decisions guide what they see, hear, and experience. They decide how strong the pull of Carcosa is on them - do they dare turn another page and continue on to that cursed, beautiful, horrible Act II, Scene I?
I think you will find that they cannot resist. And so you, dear Handler, are given the pleasure of watching as they seal their own doom and proceed down that dark corridor searching for answers - just a little farther, a little farther - until the darkness envelopes them.