Death Love Doom (2012)
James Raggi IV (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Death Love Doom by James Raggi represents one of the turning points in the Loftp Canon, along with The Magnificent Joop van Ooms and The Monolith from Beyond Time and Space after which the published modules began to reflect the implied setting of 17th century weirddark europe with greater regularity. Raggi based DLD on his own deeper inner anguish at a broken marriage as he explains in the introduction, and now we get to suffer as a result.
DLD is a haunted house/grindhouse adventure in rural England. It is extremely graphic and gory and it is possible your players will use the phrase “What the Fuck man?!?” multiple times during a successful outing. Solid advice is given before the adventure proper to cultivate a tense, horrific atmosphere to ensure that, whatever happens, the players will feel horrified and miserable. Maintain a serious tone, use the classic horror movie tricks, don’t let up etc. etc.
The adventure proper is that oldest of adventuring traditions, the burglary. Erasmus Bloodworth, wealthy merchant, has not been seen in the house for a many a day, and the place seems abandoned. Enter our heroes, who may join with a band of thieving rascals at the beginning or follow in their wake (or alternatively, before them). A rumor table leaves one with the impression that this will be a cake-walk whilst ominous flashes rumble in the background and we are off.
This is, of course, a horror adventure centering around the grotesquely mutilated Bloodworth family and the Cursed Necklace that created them (with a callback to Deathfrost Doom and the hideous Du’van’Ku death cult, I suggest that a follow up adventure should involve them as antagonists). It sets up well in advance that things are SLIGHTLY OFF(TM), by including such subtle things as half-melted corpses in the boathouse, dead vegetables, ominous weeping and a horse body with a human head sewed onto it, and vice versa. If your players are into this sort of thing then they will probably love this, and also you should probably not play with them very often unless you too are into this sort of thing. If they are not they most certainly will not and the reaction will be hollow-eyed visceral disgust.
The map proper has that realistic feel one has come to associate with horror adventures and thus functions impeccably. There are enough riches to satisfy all but the most greedy of players but the horrific nature of the antagonists as well as their clear innocence (they are being controlled or possessed after all), render this act all the more fucked up. Expect such gems as eyeless naked old ladies with shears and needle and thread, an infant still connected to his screaming mother attacking the pcs with intestines and revealing soul-crushing revelations on the nature of reality and, of course, the infamous possessed young man that fires acidic spider webs from his cock. Some of the mutilated people are actually harmless so you can expect your team to be performing mercy killings. I bet your players have never put a child out of its misery before. With Death Love Doom, you can!
Insult is added to injury as we discover that the Artifact that is responsible for this hideous terror is not simply destroyed and will trigger the same thing all over again whenever it is given out of love to another human being. Anyone who actually figures out the labyrinthine backstory would make it his goal to destroy it (thus giving PC’s a reason to go to Deathfrost mountain hint hint hint). Forget about smashing it, the locust-like Thing in the Jewel will murder all of you and then host itself in another precious item! The Gm is encouraged to simply increase its gp value until the players are willing to sell it off. Meta-gamey but kind of effective in a fucked up sort of way. Any unique stuff the players pawn off is liable to get them wanted by the authorities. I’d sigh but who cares, shit like that creates adventure and gives a reason to move around.
The adventure is also a death trap since it is for 1st level characters and first level characters are unlikely to be able to handle the entirety of the Bloodworth family, let alone the possibility of a re-animated zombified host (ah the classic Raggi Deathtrap!). There is a 12 HD flesh-warping eyeless grandmother, which renders all other commentary moot.
A note on monster placement; While some of the Bloodworths have definite locations, the GM is encouraged to make the remainder appear whenever it would be most scary to do so, which is actually sound advice. Quantum Ogres be damned, this is a horror adventure and thus the devil must have its due.
I think this is without a doubt the most fucked up adventure that I have ever read. I guess that is some sort of achievement. It is not, however, an incompetent horror adventure. I think it achieves what it wants to achieve with flying colors. I don’t want what it is trying to achieve, but it does so. It may be likened to a man crafting, with care and consideration, the most perfect rape limerick ever. It is impressive, in a way, but not necessarily desirable.
Enough belching. As a horror adventure DLD achieves through shock factor and grotesquery what it sets out to do. It goes beyond the kitch or farce factor into the territory of Genuinely Unnerving and Disturbing. I find it distasteful and gauche but I do not find it poorly made or lacking in quality.
Pros: Genuinely Horrific. Unique if incredibly fucked up antagonists. Probably unlike anything your players have ever experienced. Good if fucked up way to kickstart a campaign with embedded plot hook artifact and many enemies as a result of the burglary.
Cons: Liable to alienate a very large percentage of players. Useless for a normal game. Diehard horror fans and strong stomachs only.
Final Verdict: Raggi has a tendency to overdo things and this is no exception. I am glad that the pendulum eventually swung back with Crawling God and Better Then Any Man. I feel like Raggi with active control collar delivers overall superior works. For those brave few that are into this excessive abattoir of grotesque imagery I suspect it will facilitate what you are going for with off putting and overwhelming efficiency. 6 out of 10 infants with their limbs replaced with clock parts.