By Nick Milton Nick Milton Publishing Generic/Universal/No Stats
Deep inside the bowels of an Elderwolf god lies a crumbling cabaret. Like an intergalactic traveling circus, the cabaret is constructed from ingested realities, only the truly bizarre and profane making the cut. Haunted monasteries stand side-by-side with chateaus run by monstrous flies. Preceding over the amusements is the mysterious Madam Maze, and she has a business opportunity for you. She hands you a spool of Alchemist Twine and offers you riches and safe passage back to your reality if you can frankenstein together a new act for her. Use whatever limbs from forgotten entities you can find still roaming about her kingdom. Time is running out and the seedier elements of her cabaret are awakening. Stretch Lords sharpen their fingers and Hemogoblins sniff the air for blood. Can you make it out in time or will you be consumed by the madness?
This 29 page “adventure” describes … I don’t know what the fuck it describes. An interdimensional freaky-deaky place with five sites each with a about a half dozen or less locations in them, all with a body horror theme and that light slight winking style so popular in some circles.
You’re in a bar. The people inside starting screaming, tearing at and off their clothes, to reveal a message on their skin “Madame Maze’s Cabaret of Carrion Delights! Outside an emaciated 29 story direwolf show up, knees, opens her mouth, and a skeleton in a tophat steps out and chains her mouth open. To get in to the cabaret you have to offer him a part of your body. Well, that’s one of the hooks anyway.
A Berlin song? A Mo simpsons quote? Commentary about our artist friends? A kind of exquisite cadaver of parts, art, and words, the tone of this one makes it hard to stomach. Get it?! Get it?! It takes place in a stomach! A quote from the designer states “I’m a firm believer that body horror can be hilarious and quirky.” A common theme among artists, and this one certainly channels the artist nature of the the paroxysms of intoxication. So, we’rve got a body horror cabaret inside of a demi-god star wolf constellation. It’s run by a virus blob woman who wants you to stitch together a new act, literally, to amuse the bored dilettantes of the star wolfs pups, who sit in the front row of the cabaret. One of the acts of which is “a monstrous hairless cat with a nub tail licks itself casually as a weeping naked man begs it to clean him.” Successfully channeling the post modern nature of stage plays and the artist body horror, this may be the best supplement yet to refer to when you are looking to spice up your characters journeys through the planes of hell. Otherwise, you’ll need a group that can handle the nod-nod wink-wink nature of the cabaret and its locations … all set inside the stomach of a cosmic dire wolf.
The writing herein can be frustrating. There can be long sections of italics ro ruin the eyes. There can be information related in paragraph form, events and plot and details that are hard to pick out. And yet parts are bolded to draw the eye. And yet that bolding doesn’t have enough weight to REALLY draw the eye. The ideas, always interesting, range from the more mundane, like “a cultist who ha stitched a wolf pelt on to his skin (another hook)” to the REALLY out there. “Lively music can be heard from the end of the wolfs throat” (which appears in the throat scene but should be in the mouth scene, in order to lure the players in) Great imagery. Great thoughtfulness. But, poor implementation. There’s a gift shop in one location. One of the creatures has an attack that will “remove any element from your body that is not ABSOLUTELY necessary for you to be technically alive. Their blade fingers work quickly.” Ok ….
So, it’s weird, the way that only our art friends can be weird. It uses bolding and offset boxes, cross-references and so forth to help bring some organization to the weirdness. And yet … it justifies only have five cabaret patrons by saying that business has been down lately. No doubt, but, just like ancient dour dwarf fortress, perhaps in the infinite multiverse we could find one in which the business has been down but there are a few more than five patrons available to be present?
In the end, you stumble about, to location after location, trying to find things to stitch together. A chef wants something daring, something forgotten and something fresh for his sauce. Tasting the sauce heals all your childhood trauma and turns poison effects to healing effects on you. This is the tone. These are the encounters and situations that you encounter.
It’s system neutral, with no stats. Mayhap a good choice. I would suggest, though, that while it is system neutral, I don’t think it’s game genre neutral. I suspect it works better for those more indie type games and less well with stat heavy games. Polaris comes to mind, but the tone is off. Maybe Mork Borg. Reformatting it, throwing off the chains of “ The Standard D&D Adventure” and embracing the less structured play style of those other genres would have worked to this adventure’s favor, I think.
This does a better job of describing an alien/hellish environment than other supplement I’ve seen. All of those decadent drow cities and hell planes supplements pale in comparison. If you can handle the tone then you’ll find some truly off the wall things, with full on body horror present everywhere. Rough to follow in places and with encounters that are a lot more opened (on purpose) and subject to interpretation, it struggles with that, I think. It’s not TOO open ended, mostly, but its really close to the line of being pointless. Or, pointless in a way that Alice in Wonderland is pointless. You have a task and are trying to bend a truly bizarre world to your ends.
“An unmotivated beam of light shines on a statue of an adorable baby Lich on the south wall. The space from statue to door is 25 ft. Approaching the statue will cause you to grow younger and the Lich Statue to grow older, its cherub-like form swelling with carved hatred. By the time you get to the foot of the now monstrous Lich you are a toddler with the equivalent mental capacities. Crawling into the Lich’s folded hands will reverse the magic and a token will plop out of the Lich’s back. The struggle is convincing a toddler to crawl into the hands.”
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. The art gives you a good indication of whats to come. For writing, I’d check out page five of the preview for the descriptions of the maw and throat. Some bolding, some boxes to bring order to the chaos, but still too rough to scan quickly. I would note, as well, that these are the more mundane of the encounters. It never really falls over on to the Weird for the Sake of Being Weird side of things, but it’s really really close. This isn’t the “normal” weirdness of avant guarde adventure, of the poser weirdness of some Venger stuff, but weird as only the exquisite corpse can be; with structure.