Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess (2013)
Zzarchov Kowolski (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Levels 1 – 4
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess by the awesomely named Zzarchov Kowolski is a short, 18-page location based adventure for character levels 1-4 set in a horrific variation of the Land of Milk and Honey. It is really fucked up and weird but kind of interesting.
The premise is as follows. King Connoley IV exiled all the halflings (I guess you could replace them with some sort of European 17th century minority if you don’t use humanoids) from his lands but belatedly realized they brought in a considerable amount of income. Now, with his economy in the shitter and his own inbred serfs unable to run the apple orchards properly, The King offers a reward if the players can find the halflings.
The adventure begins with poor layout decisions, the random encounters in the forest are statted out in the back of the book for no reason. The maps are drawn and have no scale to them, but the distances that one needs to travel are provided in the introduction so this is no great loss.
The random encounters in the forest where the halflings fled are very interesting, a very dark and ominous take on traditional folklore of the Fae. I don’t mean tolkien’s elves. I mean the Wild Hunt, the Black Dogs, the child-stealing bastards of whimsey and woe. This is a BAD forest, and wandering through it means the players are assailed by things, shittier things depending on how many lawful characters and clerics they have with them. These encounters are really great; A one-eyed bear that, if it flees, returns the next day completely unharmed. A hunting party of animal men led by an elf noble dressed in armour of wood with a crystal blade. The Maiden, mother and the Crone show up to offer any Clerics a chance to convert to a Chaotic, sorcerous religion if they perform some sort of disgusting rite. A Talking Owl will provide information but only if you do not interrupt his long-winded rambling and so on. Very good balance of interaction, combat and atmosphere. The only part where it breaks down somewhat is that for character levels 1-4, some of the encounters will be too lethal. 7 HD creatures with faster then human speed and a poisoned bite are going to make short work of a party of 2nd level characters.
After a trek through the dark, and ancient forest the players eventually find themselves at a crossing. A faerie circle on the one hand, a hedge surrounding a statue on the other hand. Where do you go? The Faerie circle involves a drinking contest with a pixie and a chance to get yourself some information (with an accompaniment of multiple racial slurs) and some quasi-useful albeit disgusting magical stuff to improve your survival chances.
As soon as you move under the hedge you arrive in the Land of Milk and Honey, a sort of demiplane composed mostly of candy. Within its single village bounded by rivers of, respectively, milk and honey, are the halflings, all grotesquely fat and with rotten teeth. They are forced to act happy at all times or risk being gruesomely killed by the small army of animated teddy-bears, purple poodles and cupids that enforce this bizarre state of affair. The section overal is nice and the description of a rather grotesque twist on the maypole dance hits home quite nicely, but I must gripe once more. The number of Cupids in the village is not given, and little is written in the way of response to player actions. The GM will have to do most of the heavy lifting himself, but if the players are to survive and eventually escape, some sort of attack, possibly with preparation beforehand, upon the Ivory tower in the centre of the village will need to be undertaken.
After the destruction of a particularly powerful animated Teddybear by the name of Buttons, our dashing heroes reach the top of the tower, where the creator of this hell, an innocent girl of about 8, is kept in drugged slumber and guarded by animated toys. It is true that the idol guarded by the hedge grants wishes, but a horrid trickster always adds a second part to the wish the original wishmaker has no control over. Kowolski suggests several ways of possibly ending the adventure ranging from a heroic battle with a faery Queen (complete with a wand that fires rainbow beams that turn people partially into candy) to a deeply disturbing pact with the Fae Lord Mistysparkles (who looks like a pastel blue unicorn with pink pegasus wings which goes without saying) to 8-year old child murder. The adventure suggests you either pick or choose randomly but I see no reason multiple solutions should not be possible (to make it an effective dilemma, defeating the Faery Queen should be very hard).
So how everything get so fucked up? Her wish was I Wish My People to Be Happy as Long as I live. Added to it, was the caveat Or Else. If the players survive the adventure they have the option of making a wish, under the same restrictions as the other wishes in the adventure. Nice.
Other then an appreciable dose of nightmare fuel the adventure provides you with a list of new spells that are all very silly yet gruesome at the same time. Gingerbread Curse, Rainbow beam and the potent yet clumsy FireCracker spell are all good stuff, as is the Nightmare Fuel spell that allows one to bind the spirit of a demon, djinn or the deceased into a toy.
Fucking Mistysparkles could have used some more info on his location, motivation and so on. The adventure says “he will help the players as long as it leads to more suffering in the end.” Since Mistysparkles can open doorways between worlds, he provides an alternative method of escape.
Judging this thing is hard. While it has some rough ends, overall Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess should provide for a diverting session or 2 of gruesomely silly adventure. It marks the beginning of an era of Lamentations of The Flame Princess modules that would get increasingly silly as time wears on. While it has some very good and atmospheric random encounters and flourishes and is very dense with content, it remains ultimately a simple, and somewhat unpolished module. This one needed maybe a few days more before it was published. 5 bucks is not an unreasonable price for that.
6 out of 10.