[Review] Blood in the Chocolate (Lotfp); Degenerate rubbish

[Adventure]
Blood in the Chocolate (2016)

Kiel Chenier (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Level 1 – 3

There are 3 porters tied to slabs being bled to death. They were caught trying to sneak into the factory. 2d6 pygmies are having sex around them, covered in their blood

Blood in the Chocolate by Kiel Chenier is an adventure for low-level characters  nominated for the coveted Ennie 2017 award (Edit: It actually won gold for best adventure). A close and personal friend recommended it to me and when I read the synopsis I was at least a little excited. “Boy!” I said to myself. “Nominated for an Ennie?!? It must be good! Any adventure set in my beautiful Netherlands would surely be worth my time. Finally the mighty Dutch Republic would receive the recognition it deserved!” Holding aloft my newly minted copy of Blood in the Chocolate, tears of happiness streaming down my face, I capered off to my hovel to begin the reviewing process. Tragedy ensued.

Being a cynic is not always the most conductive to long term happiness but you do get to be right a lot.

Blood in the Chocolate is an adventure centered around the burglary of a willy-wonka inspired chocolate factory. It is supposed to be shock-funny in the manner of The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children, and it shares some of its design elements (i.e the main antagonists are great hordes of slow moving, weak opponents) but it ends up being boring, stupid, miserable and disgusting (not in a funny way sadly). This won an Ennie for best Adventure? Is Kiel a mind-controlling mutant super-villain by day and a shitty-rpg designer by night? All of this will be answered and more (but the answer is no, he is a shitty-rpg designer by day and by night).

The setting is the province of Friesland, 1617. A half-spanish half peruvian fat lesbian (no I am not making this up) named Lucia de Castillo is taking europe’s aristocracy by storm by suddenly introducing chocolate to the castles and manors and they fucking love it. No one knows the secret of her creation process. French competitors hire the crew to break into her factory and figure out the secret of her success (spoiler: the secret is narrative affirmative action). Enter the poor, dumb shmucks that you roped into playing this adventure.

The adventure does an admittedly decent job of quickly spelling out the political situation in Friesland by giving you some quick facts, some of which are quasi-relevant to the adventure (i.e now your ridiculous premise is at least given some serious context)*.
It then gives us three pages of stupid backstory for a ridiculous premise that makes no sense but whatever, fuck it.

So a tribe of pre-Inca’s worshipped cocoa trees until 5 evil Mayan shamans came by for no reason (no really, the adventure doesn’t know either), tried to take on a tribe of 100 people and got killed. Their bodies seeped into the soil and apparently infected the cocoa tree, making it grow huge and the natives stunted, savage and pygmie-like or something. They had no contact with anyone nor did anything interesting until Lucia de Castillo appeared. The adventure talks on and on about Lucia de Castillo but TLDR Castillo is a half-peruvian/spanish lady with a lengthy origin no one cares about and after her husband dies she decides she don’t need no man and goes on expeditions and finds the Cocoa tree and the tribe of natives. Figuring out the sorcerous cocao stuff is addictive and delicious, she then proceeds to transport the entire tree+tribe to Friesland and start her business, thus this adventure.

Anyway, after the completion of this fucking novel of irrelevant tripe, let’s take a look at the adventure proper. So the players get hired by Lucia’s french business rivals to obtain various samples of candy from the factory, with different rewards for different samples (chocolate, mundane ingredients, the secret recipe etc.). There is even a reward for killing Lucia and taking over the entire factory and then pawning it off to the French, something which would work fine had it not been for the fact that it is ILLEGAL AND WOULD GET EVERYONE ARRESTED FOR MURDERING A WEALTHY BURGHER AND THEN ATTEMPTING TO PAWN OFF THE FACTORY WITHOUT ANY SORT OF OWNERSHIP DOCUMENTATION.

This adventure gets a lot of things wrong. First the map itself. Apparently Lucia not only learned the secret of delicious addictive chocolate but also figured out how to construct an industrial age steam-powered factory complete with a boiler room, automated presses, a wheel and so on and so forth. An entire page is devoted to explaining the 7 fucking steps of making cocoa pods into chocolate bars. You’d think a factory inspired by Willy Wonka would have all sorts of bizarre shit going on with industrial processes that don’t make any sense and make for fun encounters but for some reason the factory is depressingly mundane and grey. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the map does allow for nonlinear exploration (of a sort, you can actually climb its walls and immediately break into Lucia’s quarters if you are smart so props for that) so it isn’t terrible but the rooms are fucking dull. So many of them are just industrial machinery + Pygmies + maybe some heat do you like heat? No secret doors either. There is a room with a bunch of random candy vats ah la In Search of the Unknown but they are almost all negative like everything else in this shitshow of an adventure.

The argument that it is just meant to be a nonsensical funhouse dungeon is belied by the bullshit 3 pages of backstory, factory explanation and the boring factory interior. While it does indeed have an inner courtyard with a boiling hot chocolate river and another hothouse with the pygmy tribe, giant cocoa tree and huge mosquitoes worshipped as divine animals by said pygmies, these are little breaths of fresh air in a wasteland of dullness. Why go for the realistic approach?

This seems like an appropriate time to to mention the secrets of the fucking steam-powered factory could have easily got Lucia a nation state of her own by producing, oh I don’t know, muskets instead of fucking chocolate but that would make too much sense stop fucking thinking this is just fun! fun! fun!

The outside factory is done alright. Guards (2nd level guards? In lotfp? Harsh) in towers keep watch, there is a random dice roll to determine any activity at the docks, the adventure takes into account that players might pose as dockworkers to get close to the factory and notes any weaponry or armour makes the groundkeeper Karl suspicious (he has the keys). Talking to Karl nets you such gems as:

“She’s an incredible woman. Bit frightening, to be honest. I’ve never met a more driven person. She’s a tad eccentric though. Armed to the teeth, too. No one dares cross her. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I’ve heard rumor that she prefers the company of women. How un-Catholic of her, but it’s not my place to judge.”

Truly Kiel is a poet and a scholar. Anyway, the guards attempt to arrest trespassers if possible and can be bribed so all is not lost. If the players get captured Lucia uses them for experimentation or as sex slaves because this is a funny adventure and nothing is funnier then getting raped by a fat lesbian woman. In fact, the topic of fat women getting sexually assaulted is a returning feature. The Pygmy tribes have something called a Berry Orgy where they fuck/murder the hugely bloated (like the blue guy in Willy Wonka, a side-effect of some of the chocolate) females to appease their chocolatey god, and some other broad you find in the cellars is being treated (this temporarily abates the effects of swelling up) in some sort of industrial press. What a mess.

So Lucia is obsessed with Peter Paul Rubens paintings of herself and if the PCs are smart they find a bunch of his paintings in the entrance room and meeting room almost the second they break in and they are about 1000 sp a pop. Stealing any of them or fucking with any of the locked doors tends to trigger a gas trap, infecting your players with some sort of weird disease that transforms them in various, candy inspired ways. You can swell to enormous size (even if you somehow survive, your skin is now permanently blue, there you go fucktard!), turn into taffy, emit a scent that causes others to want to eat you, swell up into a sort of helium balloon (notice a disturbing trend towards making your players fat), get rocky candy skin, get addicted to chocolate to the point where you will keep eating it until you explode (take a drink) or explosively vomit corrosive chocolate. Just about everything in the factory is coated with berry poison.

Let’s talk enemies. The primary and most common antagonist is the humble pygmy, and the adventure is at least well designed in that it gives you a pygmy tracker so you can cross out how many have been killed. Pygmies are weak, slow and pretty dumb. On the minus side, they all have blowguns with save vs poison BERRY POISON/PARALYTIC POISON so fuck you if you didn’t spend your starting sp on a helmet/pikeman’s armour/tassets/buff coat combo. They are not immediately hostile and it is even possible to befriend some of them but fucking with the magic Cocoa tree will gain you their ire. They are led by, you guessed it, a giant fucking fat pygmy woman with spellcasting powers. The only other monster (besides Lucia) are the giant mosquitoes that fertilize the cocoa tree and reproduce by implanting their eggs into human hosts (and I guess an animated milk monster somewhere). The adventure mentions the larvae mind control the host but nothing is done with this and it is never brought up again.

What else? Uh fuck. The treasure is okay I guess. A nice mixture of precious lady apparel, paintings, sacks of sugar, some gemstones here and there. Nothing hidden anywhere and all easy to find but whatever, it’s not lazy.
Getting the secret recipe is fucking difficult because the chest is trapped with a vial of acid to destroy it if it is opened without Lucia’s personal key but at least some props should be given to Kiel for statting out the factory costs and its monthly upbringing in case you actually decide to keep it, however unfeasible this may seem. The Lotfp property management rules are actually used here, which is good because apparently someone must. The only magical item is an Inca amulet owned by Lucia herself which prevents poison and disease and retards aging by half which was given to her by her late husband, and removing it means she immediately gains 200 lbs. and begins aging to death rapidly. I guess you could theoretically shoot it off her since otherwise you are facing a 28 hp AC 16 evil capitalist (OF COURSE) fat lesbian-womyn-of-colour-that-don’t-need-no-man with two wheellocks and a rapier. And this:

“Lucia is susceptible to flattery and enjoys having her ego stroked.
She will be more inclined to listen to the player characters if they ingratiate themselves to her. Her tastes mean she is more likely to be seduced by another woman than by a man. She takes the lead in any relationship, so she might seduce a man if he is suitably
submissive and effeminate.”

That sounds like terrific fun for a very special definition of fun.

Blood in the Chocolate is the first Lotfp product that I found genuinely off-putting. You get the feeling Kiel Chener wrote the adventure with one hand if you get my drift. Instead of wonder and whimsey interspersed with wacky horror you get so many boring rooms, sexual deviancy and social justice garbage. Is this really the best you can do?

I’ll give you a last fuck you. At some point you find two kids in a cell. Starving, tortured, used for experimentation. They are infected and were given tincture. When you try to get them out, the disease manifests itself 1d4 rooms later. If you touch them you get automatically infected. Hahaha no one gets a prize!

There is a nice cartoon in the back by Jason Bradley Thomson who I believe did a bunch of walkthrough maps for both classic AD&D adventures and Crawling God. Overall the production value is decent, the cover is a pretty good indication of the general art quality and style.

Pros: Uh…I…Well…That is to say…Perhaps…The map is okay and the Pygmy/Disease tracker is useful. Could theoretically be played. Some decent work on the perimeter defenses. Good production value.

Cons: Depressingly mundane execution of a silly premise. Padded with pages and pages of useless backstory. Off-putting and gross.

Final Verdict: http://gunshowcomic.com/471
3 out of 10.

Can someone who has actually played this or liked it explain the appeal? I am very biased but also curious.

EDIT/Postscriptum: Another example of Cheniers irritating and backwards design philosophy is the use of a piano-key lock. Lucia’s rooms is locked with a musical lock, and only a certain song will unlock it. That’s clever. The execution is not.
Anyone playing a willy wonka song gets a dose of poison. Okay, so how do you learn the song? Is it by means of a riddle? A series of subtle clues? NO BITCH. LUCIA AND A RANDOM PRISONER WHO OVERHEARD THE SONG FROM HER KNOW THE SONG. FUCK YOU.

*As an irrelevant side note, the primary listed language of Friesland is listed as Dutch, with English and German as secondary languages, which is almost certainly incorrect. The primary language of Friesland should be Frisian, with Dutch as a secondary and English/German as a tertiary language.

 

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12 thoughts on “[Review] Blood in the Chocolate (Lotfp); Degenerate rubbish

  1. “You’d think a factory inspired by Willy Wonka would have all sorts of bizarre shit going on with industrial processes that don’t make any sense and make for fun encounters but for some reason the factory is depressingly mundane and grey.”

    The reason is nerds. Hand them the brief ‘factory’ and you’ll get a shitty FPS zone.

    “Why go for the realistic approach?”

    Nerds. Fuckers can’t resist dragging fantasy down into their drab little world of dotted eyes and crossed tees and everything making *sense*.

    “In fact, the topic of fat women getting sexually assaulted is a returning feature.”

    … of course it is. I’m not actually going to blame nerds for this one, although goodness knows I’ve seen some things on portions of the Internet I don’t wish to name in public and have put far, far behind me now. I do find it oddly amusing that what appears to be a progressive choice (making yr. actual Wonka figure a queer, obese woman of colour) is so roundly undermined and dunked upon by everything else in the module. Deliberate satire, or an accident of this masturbatory design process? WHO CAN SAY? (Unless this is one of those ones where the author turns up to defend their choices and/or call you a LIAR…)

    “The Lotfp property management rules are actually used here, which is good because apparently someone must.”

    I like that those exist and I know at least two players who would consider interacting with them, but I have no interest in running Renaissance Real Estate: the RPG any time soon and that’s what I think it’d devolve into before long. A Eurogame with funny voices – and if I want do to that I can just play more Near & Far.

    ” The only magical item is an Inca amulet owned by Lucia herself which prevents poison and disease and retards aging by half which was given to her by her late husband, and removing it means she immediately gains 200 lbs. and begins aging to death rapidly. ”

    … This is in there purely for the body horror of having to fight a *really* obese *elderly* woman, isn’t it? Fucking LotFP.

    “*As an irrelevant side note, the primary listed language of Friesland is listed as Dutch, with English and German as secondary languages, which is almost certainly incorrect. The primary language of Friesland should be Frisian, with Dutch as a secondary and English/German as a tertiary language.”

    Nerd. But at least you admit this is an irrelevance.

    Like

    1. Someone sure picked a word of the day. Good to hear from you Von. Merry Christmas/Happy 2018!

      [Nerds/Fps/Making sense]

      Saint Gygax was a nerd once Brother. Ten lashes for impiety.

      I recognize the impulse to have everything make sense but I curb that impulse when the situation demands it. Internal consistency is less important in say…a farcical fantasy dungeoncrawl then a historical investigative game. It’s a matter of having selected the wrong fucking format for the tone. IF you give something a lengthy description of the factory and a long fucking background in a vain attempt to create versimilitude you invite scrutiny into the internal consistency of the thing. Blood in the Chocolate paradoxically needed to be dumber to work.

      Just shut the fuck up about Lucia del Castillo’s stupid ass backstory, drop the fucking CAPITALISM IS EVUL bullshit message, replace the fat broad that Kiel want’s to sleep with with an ancient Summerian Daemon/Caine/Evil Fey Lord/Candy-obsessed Wizard/Shrakoth-Kaaal Who Watched the Empty God Eat the Prior World in the guise of fucked up Willy Wonka analogue, add more weird nonsensical set-pieces and have the factory be powered by the cold-burning fires of the hearts of dead stars, wrenched from their clutches with the stolen wishes of children. Shrakoth Kaaal’s goal? Cold hard cash (and to evade for but a second the unblinking scrutiny of the ponderous and ever ravenous Empty God)!

      [WHO CAN SAY]

      Ah las, I cheated, I looked up his twitter. I don’t think it’s deliberate self parody, I think it’s just the way the gods rolled when they statted up poor Kiel.

      [fat women]

      Pages and pages of background of the broad makes me suspect this he put a little bit too much of himself in there. It’s okay to give a chubby broad with a nice face a tumble in the hay every now and then but you don’t have to be proud of it damnit.

      [Property management]

      I looked at them once and I am convinced that no one in the history of the universe has actually tried to use them. They are so unwieldy as to be comical.

      [Irrelevance]

      If we can’t be pedantic in the addendum then the communists will have won

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      1. [Impiety]

        Gygax was a nerd and an actuary and it’s glaringly obvious from the way RPGs have developed to enable the worst habits of these people. I accept the charge, but I reject the sentence; this world needs its heretics.

        [Dumber to work]

        I agree. Concepts like this require suspension of disbelief, not the invitation to disbelieve that’s offered by such nitty gritty fiddly widdly nonsense. Candy-crazed wizard or elder god or exile from the Elemental Plane of Choccies would have been fine.

        [Tubberzords]

        I can forgive a man the inclusion of his fetishes in his elfgame modules but to dwell on them at length is to walk a dark Path. At the end of the Path, Byron Hall is waiting, callipers in hand and calculus on his mind. PREPARE YOUR ANUS.

        [Property Management]

        As you wish. It has been some years since I glanced that way and my pro-Eurogame crowd meet so seldom that actual board games are more plausible amusements.

        [Splendid irrelevance]

        It is your right to indulge what whims you wish. It is my right, bestowed on me by God and Rein Hagen, to belittle you for it. By these graces is the World kept turning for another awful year. I hope it’s treating you well, O Prince.

        Like

      2. [Impiety]

        Aye. Who would have guessed the Moorcockian view of a universe revolving around the constant struggle of Order and Chaos would actually be an accurate representation of the real world (or more accurately, the battle between FUCKING NERDS and STORYGAMERS). Blood in the Chocolate though, is far beyond when anyone should have closed ranks an put his foot down. It just screams sickness to me.

        [Realism]

        The topic of when a realistic style works to the strengths of an adventure might actually merit some investigation. How does one go about these things?

        [Tubberzoids]

        Yeah artists are going to make stuff that reflects what they like but if that thing is SICKNESS then the appropriate response becomes flamethrowers and expulsion.

        [Property management]

        You use that term on your blog and I do not know what it means. How does one differentiate a Eurogame from an Amerifag-game?

        [Irrelevance]

        So far so good. We’ll see how it goes as it carries on. I hope you have been in good health as well.

        Like

      3. [Order and Chaos and SICKNESS]

        I’m not entirely sure what the SICKNESS even *is* here. A kind of miscegenation of design philosophies, result one (1) self-sabotaging mess that pulls itself back from adequacy on any front? After all, are not games (elf, Euro, American or American’t) best served by pursuing a finite vision to its utmost? I recall even you had time for Polaris, a thing of such pure narrativium that your hands blistered to touch it – and yet you could recognise its pursuit of strange singular beauty and find a kind of respect there.

        [Realism]

        The question of ‘realism’ and what that even means – ‘technically accurate simulation’ or ‘verisimilitude’ (which is not the same thing) or ‘plausible narrative with no causal link left unlinked’ or even something boring like whether or not there are dragons – is one for the ages. Or for my professional capacity. I may well be going to GIFCon this year for some panel discussions on reality and escapism and I’ll let you know if anything intelligible emerges or if it’s all just continental-theory mush. I suspect the latter.

        [Eurogame and Ameritrash]

        The distinction is one of high importance in board gaming circles, on the fringes of which I occasionally move – but not so far in as to entirely understand their strange terms.

        As far as I can tell, ‘Eurogame’ specifically refers to those resource management and worker placement games that are ‘about’ the Industrial Revolution in Lancashire or the German electrical infrastructure or, frequently, slave ownership (in a direct way of which the most rabid of the ‘actually Tolkenian orcs are hella racist’ crew can only dream). In most cases this ‘theme’ topic of high importance is actually the slimmest of justifications for a mechanically dense experience involving the placement of cubes to generate discs or something, but I put my hand up to liking the one about building labyrinthine architecture to satiate the simulated whims of a mad monarch.

        ‘Ameritrash’ refers, I think, to games with a more direct identification between player and theme, a greater presence of random elements, and a more dynamic style of play with a greater focus on actively screwing your opponents rather than ‘solving’ the game at the start with an optimal strategy. The Battlestar Galactica board game springs to mind. I think Lords of Waterdeep is Ameritrash at heart but its random setup too easily results in a Euro-style solve state where the route to victory is both obvious and dull. Also, it has worker placement. It is the half-orc of board games; the ill-begotten product of an ill-advised and dangerous union, to be pitied and despised even for its occasional strengths. See SICKNESS, above.

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      4. Fuck yeah I got over my sleeping problem again. I feel fucking golden.

        [Order/Chaos/Sickness]

        I experienced an almost visceral loathing when reading BitCh. There are some adequate nudges but perhaps the visceral disgust comes from seeing something that is both a failure on a game design front, a story-telling front and a aesthetic front whilst having received an (admittedly) meaningless award.

        I can stomach Polaris for what themes and emotions it intended to invoke. The notion of the hopeless battle against the inevitable fall of an ancient civilisation is actually kind of beautiful and noble to me. The mechanism for achieving that evocation is admirable and even creative but just something I would never enjoy for myself. It is a bit like travelling to a foreign country, I don’t have to live there, so I can ignore many uncomfortable aspects provided they don’t get in my way of enjoying the scenery (a process by which many morons obsessed with foreign countries for years afterward after visiting for 1-2 months generally completely disregard any objection as to their entirely wholesome and transcendant nature based on crime, social status, govermental corruption or any other sort of drawback that is likely to manifest over a prolonged period of habitation).

        Blood in the Chocolate is familiar ground. I know, have run and have played its kind many times. I have gained a decent understanding of the operational principles between a game that is fun, one that is merely decent and one that is non-fun. I recognize that the enjoyment of the medium is dependent on the neurological architecture and personality traits of the person playing it. I attempt to look at games in terms of both a sort of objectivist game design philosophy (what is it trying to do and how does it go about it?) as well as this subjective approach (would I enjoy this and if not me then who would?).

        On the objective front, Blood in the Chocolate is inefficient. It wastes time and pages fleshing out a backstory that does not impact the adventure (it becomes a mere affectation). It handles the perimeter and infiltration part of the game fairly well, by providing tools for several means for ingress as well as a very VERY rudimentary schedule for porters. Compare this with something like Temple of the Frog and it is by no means impressive.

        After the break-in occurs, the characters must now gather the ingredients, meanwhile interacting with what is virtually the sole adversary (pygmies), gather ingredients, and ostensibly find and rescue prisoners (or the prisoner singular). The only other major obstacle is nine-million different types of candy-flavoured doom (I will conceed a certain body-horror hilarity upon reading the effects for a second time). That’s it. Presumably at some point hostility will break out anyway because of

        The factory is realistic but the juxtaposition with the silly premise means it comes across as boring. Many of the rooms are filled with nothing but industrial machinery/pygmies or something even more trivial. So much effort is spent on describing the operation of the factory and making everything make sense but vast gaps in logic bely this attempt, leaving a gaping hole in the mind.

        On a subjective level there is a strange undercurrent of fetishism, author’s pet-insertion and implied progressive message fiction (boy-positivity, anti-capitalism, feminism etc. etc.) that I just find off-putting. I can’t enjoy it for what it tries to do for what it tries to do is gross and its method is haphazard.

        [Realism]

        The loathsome touch of the infidel Academia must be kept from the reliquary of Saint Gygax at all costs! Inform me if any breakthroughs in the field of elfgame and fantasy have been made. (Incidentally that sound fun, do write a report so the muggles can read the passed down revelations of distant, booze-haunted Glasgow.

        [Am/Eur]

        Its like I learned something yet feel dumber, a familiar hazard when dealing with nerd shit. Lords of Waterdeep is alright, but yeah, I barely felt I was interacting with other people.

        Like

      5. [Visceral Disgust]

        You describe a perfect storm of blithering incompetence, and I recognise now what the Issue is here. Your observation re. foreign countries suffers from adverbs but a ruthless paring finds truth there also.

        [Strange Undercurrents]

        I refer you to my previous observation that lip-service is being paid to progressivism here but it all rings hollow, like it’s actually being done ’cause the guy gets off on it. An adventure where the factory itself is a treasure fails hard at anticapitalism, for instance (it’s almost as if the Revolution betrays itself…).

        [Blessed St. Gary]

        Gonna rub my filthy paws all over that reliquary and you can’t stop me, boyo.

        (If I go I’ll document, for sure. Doing a bunch of game studies conferences/panels later in the year too. Stay tuned.)

        Like

  2. [fatties]

    Elfgame-wise, I am rather fond of chubbier ladies. To the best of my knowledge (which I assume mirrors the entirety of human experience), they are not 100% batshit crazy like skinny female players . They don’t always expect men to be attracted to them, and men in their presence are usually able to handle both their half-stiff and the initiative rolls so EVERYBODY CAN GET ON WITH THE GAME GODAMMIT.

    Anyway I am most disappointed with the apparent lack of menstrual blood-related situations in this module. Another womyn-empowerement opportunity missed.

    Like

    1. [Chubbies]

      Whew, I’d hate to draw any overarching conclusions from what tidbits of experience with female elfgame players I have managed to accrue over the years. I have found no indication that as they increase in weight, they become more aware of the social contract (same with dudes).

      [Womyn]

      Fuck me, don’t count him out yet. I’m sure the next one will bring up that topic.

      Like

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