Forgive Us (2014)
Kelvin Green (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Forgive Us marks the last of a sort of imaginairy trilogy of Lotfp adventures that attempt a serious foray into historical fantasy and are not situated on an Island and were not written by James Raggi. This installment is by far the least embedded in history and is therefore the easiest to convert to any other setting. In addition to the 36 page adventure described below, Forgive Us also has a second adventure outline and a sort of hook, because why not.
It is the year 1625, Norwich, England. A year the plague broke out. But it was not really a plague. A powerful criminal organization by the name of the Tenebrous Hand finally receives its come-uppance by stealing from the wrong guys (the ominously titled Brotherhood of Pus), and the PCs are involved by means that are not really specified. What follows is an investigative dive into a series of linked yet closed-off buildings all owned by the hand that eventually leads into an underground tomb complex. Also, because this adventure is for Lotfp, it is a death trap and a TPK is possible.
The layout and format of the adventure reminded me instantly of Warhammer Fantasy and lo and behold I was correct, the forward mentions the Marienburg articles in White Dwarf as key inspirational material, as well as John Carpenter’s the Thing (for obvious reasons).
A page of description on Norwich and a city map later and we dive in. The Tenebrous Hand has converted an entire block for its use as a headquarters and many businesses within are under its control. The civilians in their payroll have noticed the sign that there is something amiss and have thus gone home. The buildings have been closed off from the inside and the windows have been barred. Do you feel lucky punk?
The first thing I noticed was that Forgive Us uses the same sort of drawn pictographic map format as Squidbalman but unlike that worthy and otherwise excellent investigative romp the maps here are legible and it is instantly obvious what is what. Also, relevant rooms are actually keyed using words so there is that.
The apartment complex in Forgive Us is vaguely reminiscent of Silent Hill or Resident Evil, a complex that can be explored in a nonlinear fashion that is filled with a collection of stolen goods (treasure), ominous clues (thieves that have committed suicide by hanging or by bashing their skulls on the stone, an insane homicidal thief), ominous notes proclaiming this world could not have been crafted by a loving god, tracks to further progress for observant players and, of course, a few hideously mutated dogs and humans to keep the PCs on their toes. If you have seen the excellent John Carpenter’s the Thing you know what to expect and it is hideous. This adventure is for 4th level characters (unusually high for Lotfp) and it knows it.
The exact layout of the various buildings might need some studying before the wise and all-knowing GM has figured out exactly in what manner one can go from A) to B) [i.e a strong ladder in a House can be used to cross an alley and enter the Carpenter’s Building] but I am sure that in the end all will be well and our enemies will be crushed beneath our Iron Threads. In addition, I like the addition of a mundane threat such as the 5 guard dogs, which have not been fed in a very long time (as the remains of number 6 can attest), which may be circumvented by means of food-related bribery. An elegant simplicity to that one.
To add an extra dimension to this investigative horror or to add some Resident Evil Nemesis to Resident Evil, the dreaded Rival NPC PARTY! Motives are left up to the GM! Each one has a little something that makes him stand out (Gives bonuses to the rest of the party while he is still conscious in the form of orders, treats alcohol as healing potions, magician/stage actor, zombified last party member). Depending on the GM, this is either a single extra combat encounter or a potential ally.
By the time the PCs arrive in the Cellars, it should be about Obvious that things are SERIOUSLY FUCKED but the GM hopes that the carrot of the Vault of a band of very successful thieves is enough to trick them into opening the Vault (which requires two keys and a cryptic action to open it, for which I offer naught but enthusiastic applause to author Kelvin Green).
The Vaults proper are, of course, filled with riches and also the hideously mutated members of the Tenebrous Hand, which emerge from hibernation just as the PCs are busy looting, giving rise to a sort of risk/reward mechanic where players can loot more shit if they are willing to take free attacks from mutant things. Since even a single attack can be fatal, this is a decision that should not be undertaken lightly. Also, if the players are careless shits and the creatures escape Norwich is fucked. To give you some ideas of their ability, think double strength ghouls only instead of paralysis they infect you with a disease that turns you into one of them over the course of several hours.
The riches themselves are well done. Writing interesting mundane treasure is underrated. A copper statue of a feral rat. Green porcelain devil mask. Carved Wooden box filled with exotic perfume. The sort of shit you expect a band of thieves to have. The Brotherhood of Pus, whose stolen Idol started this whole hideous affair, is briefly described, but to no great effect. Going to their secret headquarters (a house where they meet), putting them to the sword and gazing upon the sickfuckery stored therein gains the players no new insights and few rewards.
The other adventure outline is kind of vague but maybe it could work in a sort of twisted Star Trek the Original Series sort of way. A space alien ghost pretends to be some lady’s dead kid (Anthony) and uses illusions to make everything seem fine. Unfortunately the Illusion drains the life force of men so the village is a dilapidated ghost town with only 5 real people in it, the rest is illusionary and their real bodies are withered corpses. Only one person knows what is going on and tries to warn the PCs, but he is masked by the Illusions and thus his actions are perceived as little more then ghostly apparitions (see random table).
The true shit move comes in Anthony’s plot to make the players stay. A nearby illusionary tower is stocked with easily earned experience, easily circumnavigated traps and plentiful treasure and so on and so forth. All illusionary. This might cause your players to flip their shit but I guess if you are subtle about it (fuck you for not giving us more direction how to do so Kelvin Green) this could really work. Overall, not a bad idea for an Lotfp adventure.
The last 4 pages are also a sort of adventure set up but very mediocre. One of the PC’s friends is dead and during the funeral some cultists masquerading as Tax collectors come looking for some cult book of special significance to their apocalyptic cult that he buried with him. Too ho hum and generic to be of much interest.
Pros: Proper horror investigative adventure. John Carpenter! Nice non-linear horror adventure for levels other then 1. Good build up. Treasure is well done.
Cons: Feels too rushed/open-ended in places. The Brotherhood of Pus feels like an afterthought. Hooks and motivations are optional, we know, but that doesn’t mean you get away with not describing them. Inclusion of adventure outline 2 and adventure set-up 3 was unnessecairy.
Bottom Line: I’m kind of stumped. It’s not bad but it’s not great either. The core adventure is a decent one but maybe a bit too straightforward. The atmosphere is well done but it lacks the outré pizzazz of its kinsmen. Good but nowhere near great, and why are the other adventures even included at all? 6.5 out of 10.