The Idea from Space (2014)
Simon Carryer (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Level 1 – 3
My last review before a short vacation to Canada. I figured I’d end with something traditional and wholesome and familiar. The Idea from Space is a 34-page Lotfp adventure for character levels 1-3 that takes place on an Island near the southern tip of South America. It is reminiscent of the writings of Abraham Meritt in both premise and execution, with its lost civilization and science-fantasy elements, for which I salute it. There can never be enough A. Meritt in DnD (like Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance but unlike Lovecraft).
The premise is as follows: On the Island once lived a degenerate tribe of demon-worshipers paying homage to Manakata, demon-god of Strength. Their idyllic lifestyle of cannibalism, power-lifting, praying to a great golden Idol and wrestling was savagely interrupted by the fall of a comet carrying a memetic creature inscribed upon a strange obelisk; Xaxus, the Idea from Space! The two did not get along and the native priests who became part of Xaxus soon enslaved the worshipers of Manakata, ending with a destructive slave revolt that essentially eradicated both factions (for sticklers who find the premise hard to believe, the Manakata worshipers won but their casualties made it impossible for them to raid for sustenance, thus they perished). Centuries later, a Spanish carrack crashes on the Island and the passengers become part of the Xaxus while the sailors take up Manakata worship once more. Into this Witches’ Cauldron the PCs are cast, possibly to find Duke Alvarez, one of the passengers, possibly because of legends of treasure and possibly because you used that old elfgamewide tradition for getting PCs onto Islands, the SHIPWRECK!
This is how the Idea from Space is structured; You get an Island with some locations. You get two factions and rules on how they operate. Both will probably want to use the PC’s ship to get off the Island. Both fucking hate eachother. Go nuts. From that point on what happens next will depend on the actions of the players and the noble GM.
The factions are really well done, and I applaud the adventure for giving PCs the option to join either the Worshippers of Manakata or the Xaxus. The worshipers of Manakata are feral brutes that worship physical strength. They go about the Island naked and shaved and the most favored of them are grotesquely muscular as part of the favour of Manakata. If they fail one of Manakata’s brutish tests (if you lift the idol you have until sundown to wrestle/beat unconscious/fuck/kill barehanded/eat someone) they are cursed with idiocy. Their current leader is Captain Ortega, a 10-foot tall ogrish monster that used to command the ship.
The Xaxus is rather more interesting, operating as a Hive-mind. If a PC joins the Xaxus he gains control over all of its members and access to all its knowledge. If other players join you can either decide to form a consensus and decide all actions of all Xaxus parts by committee or create a Schism. It goes without saying that parts of the Xaxus can fire some sort of enfeebling ray by linking hands.
The Island proper is well done. It feels like a rocky, barren and unwholesome sort of place and the wind and storm effects really add to that feel. Anyone wandering too long on the beach is bound to get washed into the ocean. In addition, two prehistoric birds using hit-and-run tactics provide mundane opposition.
Major locations include the two linked towers that hold the Xaxus (naturally there are multiple ways of entering the tower, including climbing through the windows!!!) and the ruined temple of Manakata. The Gull Tower has some dungeon-like elements to it but what sells the adventure for me is the premise, the factions and the atmosphere. A canyon littered with misshapen human bones. The worshipers of Xaxus fight using blowdarts and stone globes filled with a rapidly growing burrowing plant. A strange gem-room that projects visions of Xaxus’s memories. Drumming Fanatics surrounding a Crude Golden Idol of a Grotesquely muscled human, teeth gritted, eyes bulging. Bizarre science-fantasy esque super science artifacts of dubious use. Strange murals and talking stone Statues. A strange vine-like plant that the natives suck on for nourishment but all who feed on it are hypnotically entranced. A great stone face on the wall with a hollow behind it so clever players may do a silly voice and scare the natives.
Nice treasure too. Not the weird kaleidoscope of bizarre objects de’art of something like Slumbering Ursine Dunes but nice nevertheless. The cables of a stainless steel rope bridge can be collected for treasure. A dull iron ring that renders you immune to magic (including beneficial magic). Skua eggs worth something to the right collector. Silver cutlery and other shit you would find on a ship carrying a duke. It’s not brilliant but it IS above average as far as treasure goes.
There are some death traps in here but most of them are telegraphed. Vey lifelike stone statues to indicate a petrifiying face, a skeleton infested with yellow mould blocking a chute. Nothing too shitty ah la Tomb of Horrors.
There is not much more one can say. An interesting, atmospheric location with two bizarre factions that may be played out against eachother for the PCs mutual benefit, though I suspect most parties will end up siding with Xaxus, as it is both reasonable and not contained in a giant golden, jade and bone idol worth at least 1000 sp to unscrupulous merchants. It is not complex but all of its working parts have been crafted from rare metals and polished to a mirror sheen. Proper weird fantasy.
Pros: Unique atmosphere and weird factions. Faction play is best play. WEEEEIIIIRD. You can actually join the factions.
Cons: The way the adventure is structured diplomacy is essential to survive, making the scenario nigh impossible to complete for my players. Not work safe (see also, bodybuilding gay rape sailors). The map is good but the layout takes some time to wrap your head around.
Bottom line: A successful Island faction adventure in the spirit of the strange pulp tales of Abaham Meritt (maybe I am wrong, but something about this adventure screams Moon Pool/Dwellers in the Mirage to me). Another winner. 7.5 out of 10.
Alright, I am fucking off to Canada so my activity will be low for the next two weeks. Upon my return I have a special surprise for my readers in the form of a 10 question interview with a member of the OSR, inevitably more Avalanche Press and Lotfp reviews, a possible play report of my group taking on Tower of the Stargazer with absolutely disastrous results (9 casualties, 4500 sp of lost treasure, one burnt hovel and one dead Archbishop of Prague), excuses for why I did not pen the last 5 sessions of Carcosa, and more MORE MORE MORE. STAY TUNED. SAME BAT TIME. SAME BAT CHANNEL KIDS. TAKE CARE.