A Single, Small Cut (2014)
Michael Curtis (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
A single, small cut by Michael Curtis made me very happy. It gave me hope. After wading through the entire Raggi section of the Lotfp catalog one gets tired, as even the good adventures exert a heavy toll on one’s sanity and spirit. Barely kept cognizant on a diet of Avalanche Press supplements, Drizz’t Do’urden novels, John C. Wright and Star Trek porn, sometimes you need a little pick me up before that big black barrel starts becoming all too appealing. A Single Small Cut by Michael Curtis gave me hope for a better future for mankind.
Where to begin. Ah, how do I describe thee? ASSC is what many of Raggi’s adventures try to be but cannot, a successful evocation of the weird fiction atmosphere of Howard’s Kane and Lovecraft. It all begins with a good premise. On the edges of civilization, where pagan sorcery still lurks in the deep forests and highest, most foreboding mountaintops, our heroes visit a church secretly dedicated to a clandestine holy order dedicated to fighting evil, the Order of the Kites. Frequently outnumbered and filling its ranks with outlaws and other ne’erdowells, the Order has compensated for this by frequently using the evil pagan sorceries against the dirty damn pagans. The chapter master came to perish, and with him control over one of the artifacts (The Red Bell), thus they interred him within the church. Unfortunately for our PC’s, they arrive in the middle of a robbery. Eutaric the Sorcerer has come for some magical shit! One cloudkill scroll later and they are in business!
So, good background. Now the set-up itself. As the PCs arrive in the church, there is something subtlety off. A trace odor of almonds lingers within the church. The priest has rough hands, a single cut across his face and his tonsured scalp is red. He is, of course, actually one of the burglars, quickly disguised as a priest and will attempt to lure the PCs into the church and convince them to leave their weapons at the door, after which his companions will ambush them with crossbows. After several rounds of combat two men emerge from the church catacombs, fleeing for their lives, pursued by a hideous amalgamation of re-animated corpse-meat and feeding tendrils. The thieves inadvertently activated the artifact and now the Corrector of Sins (or so the Order of the Kites named it) has been summoned!
If the PCs survive they can investigate further. The surviving thieves will fire off a few crossbow bolts at the Corrector and then try to get the fuck out. No notes are provided so they may be captured, an omission but a forgivable one, given the situation at hand. Provided the PCs survive (recommended level is six 3rd level characters, and given the strength of the ambushes and the corrector of Sins I guess that one fatality is possible but severe depletion is unlikely) and enter the catacombs in order to investigate further they find the bodies of the thieves and the sorcerer, as well as the Red Bell. Unless it is handled carefully, it chimes and the Corrector of Sins is of course summoned again, manifesting from the corpses of the burglars it murdered and probably trapping the PCs within the catacombs. Ouch time.
Nice detail. The Corrector may be banished with normal weaponry but only magical weapons or holy water will kill it permanently. A single point of damage from a nonmagical source will cause it to be banished instead.
Now what I like about this encounter is that it gives you not only a nice supernatural organization to use further on (the Order of the Kites), a plot hook and follow up (there are 7 artifacts total, and two have not been located), a means to actually use the device (you need either a special version of the Magic Jar spell (so research rules must be used excellent!) or you must travel into the mountains from whence the dreaded Red Bell hails! Also looting the church means you will in all likelihood be blamed for the deaths and pursued by bounty hunters, the Inquisition and lay clergy who will stop at nothing to bring you to justice. YEAH. CRIME DOES NOT PAY CREEP!
Bottom line: Nice set-up. Good encounter that requires observation and attention to detail in order to maximize survival. Ambush is exciting. Delicious classic hints of Solomon Kane or Warhammer Fantasy. Good seeds for further adventuring. Nice unique magic item.
Tales of the Scarecrow was good because of its nonstandard horror set-up, weird items and interesting Scarecrow player mechanic. This one I like because it is, at its heart, a very simple combat encounter, just one that is very well done. An inspiration for GM’s worldwide. Successfully evokes what Lotfp often wishes to be but fails. 8 out of 10.