The Valley of Flowers

Jedediah Berry, Andrew McAlpine
Phantom Mill Games

Wildendrem! Where quests unfurl like the petals of the blood-red poppy. Where monsters haunt the edges of the world—and the edges of the world draw ever nearer. Aerthur the Hornèd King is gone, but his shining vision lives on, borne by countless knights over a land in the grips of a sorcerous delirium. The sun has gone strange, and the roads are beset by phantoms and brigands. The once united provinces grow ever more isolated, ever more themselves Now the valiant and the foolhardy alike seek glory in regions riddled with sinister enchantments. Oaths sworn, oaths broken, treasures claimed and lost and claimed again— and so the whirligig of the seasons unveils its perilous mysteries. Wildendrem! Your golden age is ended. New adventures unfold in the light of a ragged sun.

This 150 page supplement is a campaign guide, regional supplement, and dungeons combining to form a slightly offbeat mythic environment for gaming. An idiosyncratic vibe with a MONSTROUS number of things going on, and a tone that is magnificent.

The very first table in the book, in the cover, is “What is the sun doing today” that you roll on each morning. “7 Maintaining a low, indecipherable chant.” This sets the tone for all that is come. A tone that is very hard to describe. It’s not like you can compare it to things well, such as “LotR except Sauron won” or something like that. A mashup of the Wizard of Oz, Arthurian myths, the movie Wizards … I don’t know what else? Maybe we start at the Arthurian thing, full on Pendragon mode. But, also, lets push things, in every direction, until we get to a place where knights could maybe joust on giant bees and, while it would be unusual, you also wouldn’t totally freak out. (Also, The bees are quite bureaucratic here, with lots of rules set down by Her Highness, and its likely you might get in trouble at some point.) The church is a little askew. The Faerie court could show up and it would not be all that out of place. The nobility is pushed to foppish excesses. In fact, everything is just pushed a little more. Not hyper-realism, but just a bit beyond that. Maybe the world of Quixote? It’s everything the default LotFP setting is, but, turned on its head and instead of being all evil and hopeless instead the sun is shining and everyone is optimistic. Not really, but let’s go with that as I continue to struggle with communicating the vibe.

“Aerthur is missing, and the sun has gone strange and monstrous. The steward Unther, a hollow suit of armor, makes oracular proclamations, mystifying the old king’s ministers. An intoxicating strangeness ripples over the land as knights of myriad orders, in the grips of  lunatic passions, undertake quests of dubious provenance. Meanwhile, the people of Wildendrem stray from the faith, seeking the forbidden mysteries of old.” That’s not a bad overview. Whimsical … but with a flavour of deadly that leans for to the frequency of the typical D&D world … and occasionally slips in to LotFP territory. Gone Fishin’ would not be out of place here. 

There is a writing and creativity here, creativity aligned with tone, that just fits perfectly. “Dark and musty, unfinished stone walls, creaking iron steps.[]. Roseate light spills through the cracks of the marble door at the bottom.” Now That’s a fucking description. And it’s just a fucking spiral staircase. Some throwaway place. Or, let’s talk about The Prayer Beast, found in the Graveyard of Idols in the Tower of the First Heresy, a place the Holy Church keeps things hidden: “A 10’ tall humanoid that crawls on knees and forearms. It is headless and blind, and covered with dozens of hands and mouths. Its hands make occult gestures while the mouths whisper prayers to different gods; sometimes one will shout an expression of futility and despair (“nothing triumphs over all, no one hears your prayers, we are alone, the sky is empty, empty”). The beast is confused, erratic, and in constant pain” Now that’s a fucking monsters description. It focuses on play, not some ecology bullshit. This is what the party will EXPERIENCE.

We’re getting, maybe, six distinct regions in the land, Each with nine or so different places of note. These are described in a short little paragraph, a couple of sentences, with three keywords for notable NPC’s (which I love, in theory, and wish were a little more thought out, in practice, in places in this) and a little section after that, again just a couple of sentences, for some quest ideas/things to do at this place/people. In addition we’re getting about five dungeons and maybe, of, ten r so other places that are more described than a single entry but less than a full blown dungeon. 

One notable place is an old monk abbey, recently abandoned. The monks having committed a drunken murder and summoned a drunken god … who is evolving in to a five-fold facet of themselves. With some knights present also who have sworn to drink all of thor special liquor known to exist in the land. A site/quest/adventure that could end with The Great Sobering or with The Forever Feast. 

There’s a strong social element to most of what goes on in these locations. It’s not your typical hack dungeon, although there are still things about to stab. I don’t know, a comparison to Castle Amber? That Abbey, for example as three or four pages (digest pages. SIGH) of factions, people, dunkkard rules and so on, before we reach the keys, 21 or so rooms. “ Five umbral imps (p. 32) put the finishing touches on a large, sumptuous meal .” in the kitchen, so, we stabbing or sucking up?

“Cardinals and archmystagogues may usually be recognized by their enormous, swollen head”. Literally, in this case.

A magnificent little regional setting. Strong on vibe, consistent, deadly, whimsical, or, perhaps, farcical? It’s not in any way silly. I would have no problem at all running something here. One of the more decent things since Scourge of the Demon Wolf. (Yes, I know the scope is different)

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is fourteen pages. It’s a good preview, showing a fine selection of things, focusing on some of the regional locations and few of the more in-depth location pages. And the art matches the vibe perfectly.

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4 Responses to The Valley of Flowers

  1. Nobboc says:

    Yes, this one is great

  2. Artem the Elf Blood says:

    Many of the ideas sound really cool, I wish had this one handy during my Feyeild campaign!

  3. Alex says:

    Cool! Doesn’t sound like quite my cup of tea but somebody will love this and that’s what indie gaming should be all about.

    • Knutz Deep says:

      I backed this not being sure if it would be my cup of tea either but I’m really glad I did. It’s full of wonderful ideas. I don’t think I would ever run a campaign in this setting but I sure as hell would send my PCs there through a gate or portal as a lark.

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