Tales of the Scarecrow (2012)
James Raggi IV (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Level 1 – 3
Finally, something that is an unqualified, asterisked success that won’t gross out the kids. We return once again to that most quixotic of all OSR Publishers, Lamentations of the Flame Princess. James Raggi strikes again with an all new all powerful 8 page mini-adventure perfectly suited to rock your PC’s socks off. Like most of Raggi’s creations, it succeeds admirably, with the added benefit that its goal is not to gross you out or cause you to get banned from ever hosting a game at a game-store again (and good riddance you weirdo!). Instead we get 8 sweet-sweet pages of gameable material. 2.50 is a decent price.
Tales of the Scarecrow is essentially a side-trek, a single memorable encounter meant to tantalize, bewitch, horrify and delight in equal measure. It succeeds oh so well. The premise is simple: On the road to some town somewhere, our heroes stumble upon a farm surrounded by corn-stalks (and how strange, the harvest season has passed some months ago). A single path leads to the farm. Will the players investigate? They had better if they know what is good for them.
As they move into the farm they discover SHIT IS NOT OKAY. There are dead horses and dead people inside. A single survivor has resorted to cannibalizing his dead employee’s to survive. His occupation? Adventurer and collector of rare curios. Urge to kill rising. Anyone trying to escape the 50 yards of corn suffers attacks from a single tentacle from the horrifying lovecraftian terror that lives beneath the farmhouse.
– The water is infected and the grain is poisonous.
– A harpsichord worth 10.000 gp is in the house. SHIAAAAT.
– The corn, which blocks movement, will grow back within minutes if damaged and the path closes when the PCs enter the farm.
– The titular scarecrow drains hit points from anyone who stands in proximity to it
– The single survivor, a 3rd level fighter by the name of Richard Fox, carries with him some pretty bitchin’ items of sorcerous nature. The Sword Which is Uncertain, an unerring blade with the occasional tendency to strike the wrong target, The Malleus Deus, an arcane spellbook whose side-effects causes it to be sought out by the Church and destroyed wherever it may be found, and a horror tome by the name of The Tales of the Scarecrow.
Here is where the meta-effect sets in. When the book is read, all players may devise a new effect for the scarecrow (with certain qualifications to prevent abuse), in the form of horror stories. The best story gets a variable amount of XP for his trouble, and the scenario just got more difficult.
Simple. Succinct. Packed with goodness. Likely to have a variety of possible resolutions. 2.50 on drivethru. Not an unreasonable price for a single very good random encounter. Good for about 30-90 minutes of spooky scary fun.
Pros: Short dose of fun with some nice meta-stuff that actually works in this thing. Very tight and neat and efficient and brimming with possibility. Cool horror concept. Nice treasure.
Cons: None? Maybe the meta-stuff won’t be to everyone’s liking? Do you have a soul?
Bottom line: There you go. A fun random encounter/side-trek for all ages. Was that so hard Raggi? 8 out of 10.
* Spoilers: One possible drawback. The grain extends about 80 yards from the farm in all directions. It retards movement by three quarters. The creature only attacks once a round as a 5 HD creature for 1d8 damage. What this means is that you could, if you had all the information, essentially just sprint for the exit and let the dice fall where they may without taking more then 1, perhaps 2 casualties at worst. 2nd level characters are fine, and don’t get me started on clerics.