By Markus Schauta Gazer Press LotFP Levels 1-2
Chroniclers believed that the cult of the toad was destroyed during a witch hunt in the 12th century. But they were wrong. Cultists performed their hideous rituals in one of Bruckstadts stone mansions until 1613. With an old diary at hand, the player characters search for what is left of the cult and approach amphibic horror which threatens to annihilate them all.
This 28 page digest adventure features a linear mausoleum tomb with about sixteen rooms in it. It vibes well with the low-magic/real world intensity of the LotFP genre. And, while linear, it does a decent enough job with format, descriptions, and interactivity to somewhat make up for its linear nature.
You don’t hear me talk much, anymore, about the use of humans in an adventure. The overuse of humanoids, and creatures, I think takes away from that air of the fantastic and wonder and danger that should pervade a good RPG game … as if the PC’s are always somewhat in danger. And, the human factor helps brings to life that the real enemies ARE the humans, and their infinite capacity for assholeatude. This maps a decent amount in a lower-magic world, at least as compared to Forgotten Realms and the ilk, a genre that Warhammer and LotFP have centered themselves in quite well. For all of its “set in germany during the 30 years war” description, it doesn’t rely on that at all and could be an excellent first adventure, instead of cleaning out spiders from an old ladies basement.
The party gets a boring old diary that mentions, at the end, a giant gold frog idol and a cult, buried alive to die, along with a magic book. It does this well and leaves open multiple hooks, from priests destroying an abomination to magic users wanting the magic books to that fat gold idol. Much in the same way that “tha local wizard dies two hours ago, lets loot the tower before anyone else does” has a built in hook, so does this diary. A fine thing to go investigating for a variety of reasons! The cult aspect, a trope wearing thin these days, is not played up too much, its more of a personal worship kind of thing, and integrates well so as to not tiresome.
The first two encounters, above ground, are illustrative of the other rooms.
In the cemetery you approach the mausoleum. It’s described as: “Burial house with a bronze
dome, discolored green by the centuries and knee-high nettles growing on the walls.” Just a sentence, but it does a great job of setting a scene. A burial house. Bronze dome. Discolored green with age. And then the addition of knee high nettles! Perfect in not just describing the object but setting the context in which it’s being viewed! That extra little bit adds so much to painting a complete picture and forcing the mind to come alive. This is not a one-off. While some are better and some worse, the evocative writing is generally of a high quality, exactly what I would expect.
We transition to the second encounter, inside the mausoleum. There are four NPC’s, each wonderfully described in just a sentence, using that NPC keyword format that I like so much. “Stine: Blue eyes pierce out of a dirty face, croaking voice. Brave, defiant. Can’t stand being ordered around. If she is humiliated, she takes merciless revenge.” This tells us so much more than those descriptions that take paragraphs to describe someone. Its all relevant to running her, both now and in the future, as a dynamic encounter. And, in fact, it is! They are camped out in the vault, the hole in the ground present that takes you deeper. What are you willing to give her to prevent her from cutting your rope? This world is lived in. You’re not the first to get somewhere. There are dregs hanging around … a mainstay of the early days of bandits hitting a party when they come out of a dungeon. There’s even a little table for her reactions. Pay her roff, threaten her, fight her … it modifies her reaction to the party and further events she might take place in … from cutting the rope to just leaving. And this degree of more interesting interactivity continues in other places in the dungeon. It’s not the usual trap, or monster. It’s a situation. And situations are MUCH more interesting.
This is all supported by a formatting that is quite good. They start with a name, and then some bullets for the major “first seen” things in a room. They don’t over-describe whats going on, but leave room for the players to follow up with questions. Keywords are bolded and followed up with in the ensuing text. It’s not the extreme version of this in the OSE adventures, but a more gentle type. It does a GREAT job of supporting the DM … and scanning of the text for ease of play.
There’s the occasional miss or two. The map IS generally linear, and so there’s not much in the way od a true dungeon crawl experience. And, sometimes, a confusing sentence or two, like a room with only the text “In this room the book The Call of the Toad has been hidden. It’s empty now.” uh … sure buddy. Or, the inclusion of a random table where none is called for … a misunderstanding of what tables do in OSR D&D.
But, for the most part, I’d call this a better LotFP adventure than LotFP produces. Sure, there could be a screw-job at the end, but overall, it’s not relying on the garbage that Lamentations has turned in to.
I’d run this. I may not run the fuck out of it, but I’d run it.
This is $3.5 at DriveThru. The preview is the first eleven pages, and shows you several rooms. More than enough to make a judgment call on buying it.