[Review] Fish Fuckers (Lotfp); McLovecraft

[Adventure]
Fish Fuckers (2018)
Kelvin Green (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Level 4

I dig Lovecraft. Since I was 18 I read Lovecraft and it was this obscure horror/fantasy author that had inspired a whole genre of fantasy fiction and whose shadowy presence was behind many an awesome horror encounter. I still recall reading the 2e Necromancer’s handbook and marveling at the references to these old and (to me) obscure authors like Lovecraft, C.A Smith, Leiber and Moorcock. Actually discovering them all for the first time (including Leiber, only the last year or two) is terrific. It is therefore a pity that the great devil Popculture swooped down from the stars with a bone-chilling shriek and like some vast, aviary rapist has been having its way with Lovecraft for some time now, leaving a twitching, shuddering wreck that is no longer fit for consumption.

Seriously, Lovecraft is everywhere. You can’t walk into a nerdstore without encountering dozens of video games [0], comic books, literary references and god help us, so many fucking RPGs. It probably won’t be long before they release an actual hollywood blockbuster and it will have all the surface trappings of Lovecraft while seriously watering down the actual substance thereof, if it deigns to tackle it at all. What will probably happen is that instead it commits itself to inclusion and makes all the major characters gay and huffington post journalists in full on hitler’s-bunker-mode will write articles about how ‘The New Lovecraft Movie Makes The First Step In Undoing The Harm White Turn of the Century Authors Have Been Doing To Coloured LGBTQX [1] Folk And That’s Why It Doesn’t Matter No One Saw It.’ The point I am making is that there is an oversaturation of Lovecraft in the current nerd popculture that ironically renders an intellectual property based on fear of the unknown utterly mundane when it appears in its unmodified form.

To continue our entirely accidental trend of adventures about Fish People, Fishfuckers is an adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess by Kelvin Green. The approach of Fishfuckers by Kelvin Green to Lovecraft’s is as something of a farce, and that is the correct approach in this case. After an uneven but promising start in Forgive Us, Green returns with a more balanced entry in the Lotfp catalog that comes across as a pretty solid if standard WhF scenario with a coat of Lovecraft paint if not for the subversive twist. You see in Fishfuckers, it is the Villagers abusing the Fish-People, not the reverse!

The adventure takes place in Innsmouth, 1635. The once impoverished and partially abandoned fishing village has seen a sudden bloom as it exports copious quantities of fish and gold, despite a lack of a mine in the area! This oddity is meant to inspire further investigation by your loveable band of raggamuffins, who by this time should be pretty fucking hardened if they actually made it to 4th level in Lotfp [2]. Anyway the gist is that the naughty Sorcerer Desmond has found a ritual to compel the Deep Ones [3] into obeying him and giving over the treasures of the ocean floor, leading the village in great fish-sex orgies on the beach. Apparently fish-sex is secretly delicious and even addictive. Desmond has further spiced up this obscene ritual with human sacrifice, but only because he is a dick.

The tone and writing of Fish Fuckers are a pitch perfect blend of light-heartedness and explanation that makes the adventure pretty easy to absorb while preventing it from descending into outright farce. Green’s irreverent pranking throughout the work imbues it with an atmosphere of fun that helps the GM to read through it and get the tone and atmosphere. It is tongue-in-cheek horror that only reveals itself as such when viewed from a distance, with abstraction or at the dramatic reveal. There is a pit full of deformed baby skeletons that serves as the most ominous fucking foreshadowing I have seen in a long time.

The format of the adventure is far more old WhF then it is oldskool DnD. A solid, real location (the village), with a few important houses keyed out (and a suitably evocative random occupation table in case the PCs take to burglary) as well as the sea cave (with a tide table that Green admits is sensibly abstracted) and the beach. No fancy labyrinths or whathaveyou, instead the power is mostly concentrated in the NPCs. The usual DnD approach is to have really fucking wacky monsters in your game that tintillate and amaze, but WhF, despite its by no means deficient bestiary of cool beasties, tends to rely more on human NPCs with a sprinkling of the fantastic. So too in Fish Fuckers. Even the Sea Cave, which in many an OSR adventure would have been turned into a fucking dungeon, feels naturalistic and admirably restrained. Fish Fuckers is typical of a type of DnD which I encounter often in play but which I seldom see in module form, which is interesting.

The Antagonists are nicely differentiated in motivation and outlook in but a few simple sentences, more then enough to give you a firm impression. Desmond is charming but cocky, like Robert-Downey Jr. in the Marvel films. Got it, moving on! The seemingly simple scenario is complicated not just by an emissary of the Deep Ones (who try to convince the Pcs to destroy the magical stone Demond uses to control them) but also by a pregnant woman that doesn’t want her half-fish person baby to get killed a band of thieves staying in an abandoned fort nearby who plan to rob the place and could be (temporary) allies.

The adventure is presented as a mystery but there is little in the way of subtle clues, and the villagers are immediately so unfriendly the PCs will probably be pushed to investigate, particularly if there is gold to be had.

There is a very interesting option that I think makes more sense if you run it as a one-shot but you might have the chops to work it into an ongoing campaign. One of the characters has ‘The Innsmouth Look’ which means he is essentially half-fish person and is thus inexorably drawn to the stone and the village. It adds an interesting dynamic because the Fish People fill fucking murder everyone if the stone that controls them is destroyed (instead of, say, pawned off), but the half-deep ones will be spared in the purge. He briefly discusses an intriguing variant where the GM tells you there are Deep Ones among the party, and then passes out notes telling you whether you are Deep Ones or not, stating it will be “…like Battlestar Galactica, only with fish.” This is an awesome idea but it could have used further elaboration. Sadly the execution will be left up to the GM.

Re: treasure the adventure keeps it pretty simple with weird Deep One jewelry worth so and so sp and the odd ritual stone or a golden fish mask and whathaveyou. The adventure discusses an ‘if you hate your players’ option to make all the Deep Ones gold radioactive but leaves the explanation of why Desmond is unaffected more or less to luck, something for which I would crucify my GM. The best and most memorable piece was something of an oddity and it only shows up on the random treasure table; a single gold piece from an alternate timeline where the Yorks won the War of the Roses. Second place goes to a verdigris covered ring that allows you to control a single mollusk of any size (lolwhut), but turns your skin permanently slimy after several hours of use. Nice.
There are some new spells too, one a sort of amnesia powered invisibility with more complications and thus more interesting, the other a Deep One summoning ritual. The two spells have miscast complications that are apparently from Vagina’s are Magic,  an actual rules supplement written by Raggi which seem on par with severe miscasts from DCC but I haven’t read the damned thing so I wouldn’t know. Call the Deep Ones can result in accidentally conjuring Dagon or Mother Hydra, which is fucking BAD NEWS BEARS for the party, and Forget Me-Do can erase the character’s memory from the world (meaning all oaths, debts, contracts, demonic pacts and landed properties are forfeit).

There is a puzzling one page description of a sunken wreck that I didn’t really see any use for and is mentioned nowhere else, why is it here?

Another bizarre design decision is the placement of hooks in the back of the book. The hooks are more appropriate for a CoC scenario then a party of adventurers for the most part, though I have to give Green credit for the hooks of Tax Collector and investigating the lack of church tithes respectively. The missing relative, Innsmouth native or ‘driven there by storms’ hooks might not be to the taste of some GMs.

As a last courtesy Green gives a 4 page Deep One layer generator with appropriate descriptions of coral garens, kelp forests, strange gateways leading into the past, collections of skulls and of course a certain hideous Idol belonging to everyone’s favourite octopus-dragon-humanoid god. It’s rudimentary but solid enough to cover a session’s worth of adventures or more if players insist on exploring the lair of the Deep Ones. As a bonus, if you roll a 100 on the room occupant table you can fuck them up with Dagon.

Pros: It’s fucking Deep Ones, literally! Another WhF-inspired OSR adventure, and you can never have enough of those!

Cons: The Fish Fucking might bar the game from many a household and if you haven’t figured out how to run an adventure with a location and multiple agencies on the fly by now you are going to get zero use out of this. But then again, if you can’t you can’t really GM anyway so maybe legos are more to your taste?

I’m pretty positive about Fish Fuckers overall. It isn’t high art but its the old combination of non-standard adventure format, good-execution of a relatively simple premise, readability and thoroughness that is rather charming. I found the initial adventure in Forgive Me to be a bit stronger, especially atmospherically, but Fish Fuckers is far more polished and lacks the mainly vestigial 2nd and 3rd adventure of Green’s earlier attempt. A pretty based Lovecraft powered adventure, Green has talent. 6.5 out of 10.

[0] = Including the excellent Darkest Dungeon, a game I love and despise in equal measure. A game of hot, tempestuous love affairs that always ends with empty eyes, weariness and hanging hands as you turn off the PC. I might try a fucking wiki run next time.
[1] = I included the X to cover for a hithereto yet undiscovered gender that the brilliant minds of the gender sciences will no doubt discover in the coming years, using the magical gender-finding instruments of their trade as well as a mysterious arcane principle known only as ‘the Continuum Fallacy.’
[2] = I assume that if you run some sort of Lotfp campaign composed of stringed together adventures, like I did for a while, you are going to have a lot of deaths. I think I have had people make it to 3rd level right about the time I threw in Better Then Any Man but we never picked it up again. I should get back to it, BTAM is pretty great.
[3] = This is a big-boy blog and you really should know what Deep Ones are if you want to have your nerd cred and get all the hot nerd pussy but for millenials and the like; Deep Ones are ancient fish-people that live under the ocean and can interbreed with men.

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8 thoughts on “[Review] Fish Fuckers (Lotfp); McLovecraft

  1. You’ve been on the Darkest Dungeon too, O Prince?

    Anyway, Lovecraft has finally edged The Blessed St. Tolkers off my list of Things I Wish Nerds Could Shut Up About, for exactly the reason you describe, and also because I’m not convinced Lovecraft’s fiction lends itself well to interactive play. I blame all those Call of Cthulhu scenarios where you’re trying to stop something from happening and there’s a 26% chance that there’ll be no cosmic horror to witness and the ‘win’ condition is ‘successfully avoiding the kind of denouement HPL wrote, i.e. the payoff to this big literary mood’.

    Anyway, this sounds like an OK example of the Shadow Over Innsmouth knockoff. I like the option to have one or more PCs be sekrit Deep Ones, which is a step closer to the specific kind of horror being evoked than most such texts manage, and the tongue in cheek tone is probably the right way to play Lovecraftiana in this, the time of Old Man Henderson and “burn every book” memery. Reasonable enough. Shite job done well. And a fishman called Desmond smells like a Scary Go Round reference to me, which warms at least one cockle of my barnacle-strewn heart.

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    1. [Review]

      I got pretty far. I wiped out all the Tier 1 and 2 bosses on my last run and I even took down the Necromancer Lord but my team died to the Bone General he’d summoned so I got the trophy but lost all the charms. I was depressed for a while but then I was making a real comeback, getting some excellent dudes…and then the village got attacked by bandits. FUCK IT. I said! I SHALL TAKE MY BEST PEOPLE WITH ALL THE BEST TRINKETS BECAUSE I HAVE JUST BEEN SO STUPID. WE ARE TERRIFIC PEOPLE, I said. CHINA! I said. CHINA!

      That event is so fucked because once you start it it means one of your men dies automatically if you abort and HOLY SHIT should I have aborted. Not enough fucking bandages and too many fucking barricades later I was up in shit creek, my Plague doctor was already murmering about experimenting on everyone and refusing every second turn and the Insanity Spiral had started kicking in because that Bandit FUCK! employs about 30% madmen. And then I met Wolfguy and I got fucked. FUCK YOU DARKEST DUNGEON FUCK YOU AND BURN IN HEEEEEEEELLLLLL.

      …I started a new run recently but it absorbs HOURS of my time and its one of the few games I can play almost indefinitely. I love the shit out of darkest dungeon.

      [CoC]

      True confession time. I have played CoC only once with a GM who didn’t really know what he was doing all that well but I had a blast playing as a sort of 25 POW Houdini in firm denial as to the nature of the menace who lost his mind at the first sight of the Dunwich Horror. We had NO IDEA CoC is all about figuring something out…research and then do a banishment ritual and pray for rain while the monster turns half of you insane. Good stuff. I mean, not that scary but fucking awesome.

      Virtually none of my friends know any Lovecraft and it’s rather depressing so I guess they wouldn’t have the same effect but even THEY would recognize shit like Cthulhu or Deep Ones by sheer fucking osmosis and because Cthulhu was on fucking south park. Goddamit this is why nerds are right, hobbies need to stay pure and women should not be allowed to vote. *Spits in spitoon, reveals swastika tattoo and frog marches frenetically back and forth whilst brandishing bible and confederate flag, opposing gay marriage and not voting for Hillary*

      [BsG with Fish]

      Fish Fuckers is kind of neat because despite the comedic tone there are some seriously fucked up horror elements to it so I suspect Lovecraft fans and norm-hulls alike can appreciate it for what it is and that is some pretty okay Lovecraft shit.

      [Scary-go-round]

      I looked it up on youtube but I am none the wiser my custard-swilling compadre!

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      1. [Darkest Dungeon Death Spiral]

        I’m not as far in as you. I’m still noodling around building up reserve teams and clearing early bosses to get a feel for various party members. First run ended when my only decent lads ran face first into the Collector, for whom I was Not Prepared, second run seems to be going well so far (the first level Necromancer, Hag and Swine Prince all went down easily enough).

        [CoC]

        COC is never better than when you have no fucking idea how it’s ‘supposed’ to work because how it’s ‘supposed’ to work is a bastard tone-deaf hybrid of the winnable adventure game with the fiction of defeat and very little of the published material aligns game success with a fulfilling Lovecraftian ending. To ‘fail’ the adventure is to do right by HPL. The Dreamlands material is neat though, and avoids the trap I’ve just described because that’s HPL in vaguely optimistic mode.

        Nerds are never right and I can tell you’re faking because no devilman would use a spittoon. They would gob on the floor and expect a woman to clean it up.

        [Scary Go Round]

        What the hell is this talk about custard? And why on Earth did you begin your search on YouTube? Anyway, it’s a webcomic, but back the truck up there, it’s a wry arch webcomic by a British chap with a knack for odd dialogue choices and a deeply snide streak.

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  2. Thank you for the very kind review!

    The shipwreck is noted on the map and there was a reference to it in an earlier draft — it was one of the facts/rumours players could find out about the village — but it got lost during editing.

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    1. Hi Kelvin. Thank you for writing another good adventure and for providing an explanation for the ship. Keep up the good work, and I hope to see you back here for Apocalypsechildfuckers.

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  3. Unless I find a way to shoehorn it into my vanillest of vanilla Mystarianish setting, I will probably never play this.

    Nevertheless, what I lack in terms of adult players to mess with, I make up for with creepy videogames, so of course I am interested in Darkest Dungeons. Is it purely a game of prep and ressource management, or is it possible to dive in with your sword and balls out and still have fun?

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    1. [Vanilla Mystarianish]

      A problem with many of the stuff brought out under Lotfp is that its often too weird or off beat to use in anything but a tailor made campaign setting. I concur.

      [Darkest Dungeon]

      Oef. Darkest Dungeon and having fun. Darkest Dungeon isn’t really about having…fun. It’s more like joining a cult of unarmed combat enthusiasts. It’s incredibly engaging and absorbing, sort of like a mixture between a dungeon crawler and an adventuring party management simulator, but any but the simpelest missions require a combination of luck, foresight, preparation, unit management, unit micromanagement, equipment management and macro-economic management. Its a very strategic, deep game and there are so many factors that need to be taken into account if you want to succeed at the hardest missions. That being said, it’s flavourful and grimdark/lovecraftian as hell, dungeoncrawling itself is a blast (do a dry run first and after that fails use the wiki for the set pieces you encounter, not for bosses on your first run, that is cheating) and the perma-death element makes every run exciting (also it will break your spirit after you have suffered yet another TPK at the final boss of your strongest adventurers that you spent hours and tens of thousands of GP managing. It’s an absorbing experience unlike many another. Heartily recommended if you don’t mind a lot of micromanagement and strategy to get through the last bit of the game.

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