[Review] Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom (Lotfp); Tjing Tjang Tjing Nutillej!

[Eventbook]
Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom (2018)
James Edward Raggi IV (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Before we kick off FTL-februari in earnest, here’s a little transition piece. James Raggi wrote a thing, it sucked. Here is the autopsy. In invite you to play this song on repeat for maximum impact.

Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom by James Raggi is a 46 page non-effort based off the hypothetical sandbox area in the lukewarmly anticipated GM’s Guide for Lotfp. Since Raggi has decided to replace the Mushroom Kingdom with one ‘more suitable to canon Lotfp’, we are stuck with his sloppy seconds. Even James Raggi kind of admits it will suck:

And thank goodness. Does anyone actually want to spend entire sessions crawling around a mushroom kingdom? Of course not. Especially not when it’s easy enough to have all the cool parts of such a place extant in your campaign without having to actually game out first contact with the cradle of fungal civilization

Yeah who wants a hexcrawl when you can just have a cut-n-paste transcription of some silly Mario inspired monsters instead amirite?

I say 46 pages, but 20 would be more accurate. With a full page drawing every 2-3 pages and numerous tables or pages that are only half filled or have additional art work, SoTMK comes across as padded up the wazoo. The art is…ugh

mushroom mans
Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is best described as a Wet Blanket bestiary with an adventure seed coating. To prevent all that tedious exploration and discovery from taking place, Raggi recommends you just have a tunnel open into a dungeon somewhere and have that tunnel spawn 1d10 creatures every day like some sort of 50s B-Movie.

The main Inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom are the 8 different colors of Mushroom Mans (James calls them this). Their culture has no distinctive features beyond the fact that its tribal and their psychology is described as “alien” which saves the Raggi from having to come up with anything that is actually alien or has to make sense. The one thing that separates Mushroom Mans from other such Humanoids is that you can eat them.

The random mushroom effects, vaguely reminiscent of the random button effects from Doom-Cave of the Crystal Headed Children, are fairly well done from a game-play point of view and incentivize players to kill and eat mushroom mans. A psychedelic effects table that kicks in at a failed saving throw after consuming more then one dose of Mushroom mans per day serves as a balancing factor. This aspect is relatively well-implemented if almost cartoonishly silly, with player characters having to poop fully grown mushroom mans, or lava shooting out of someone’s head like a volcano, damaging equipment and people around him but leaving the character in question entirely unharmed. Has Raggi gone senile?

Each tribe of Mushroom mans has its own special ability (i.e Black ones can all cast random spells, Red Ones Go Fasta (+2 to initiative and +50% movement rate) and a list of d8 effects when you consume them, relating to their special ability.

The rest of the bestiary seems to almost form some sort of silly if functional eco-system which would almost be impressive if not for the fact that as written, this never comes into play as the creatures are merely vomited forth 1d10 dudes at a time. There is little to explore. Various stupid monsters such as Toadstool Turtles, Moo-shrooms, Bumble-shrooms (mushroom bees which are a vital component in the Mushroom Man reproductive process), Mushroom Fly Trap and the Mushroom in Mushroom Man’s Clothing [1] are introduced, but no way is provided for them to interact. The MiMMC feeds exclusively on Mushroom Man’s, making it an interesting environmental feature, but as written there is little opportunity for any of this. You should have made it a hexcrawl dude!

Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is all the more dissapointing because there are hints of good writing littered throughout it. One of the most dangerous predators is the Undead Butterfly, a hideous parasitic virus that reproduces in Mushroom Mans and turns them into zombified horrors, and its a genuinely disturbing creature. The Mushroom King, a three-headed creature constantly in contact with other mushroom kings across reality, is a genuinely interesting monster with abilities that change every round ah la a Final Fantasy boss. Its a terrific little bit of writing that stands above the rest like a sour thumb.

The passive agressive Professor FinkelFünkel shows up to add farce to what is already pure farce. If you are nice to him and don’t laugh at his ridiculous name and adress him respectfully [2] he will share his super mushroom tea with you, if not his tea will cause debuffs.

Finklefunkel
Tjing Tjang Tjing Nutillej!

There is a Shrieker variant that drives off Mushroom Mans but causes organic creatures to start masturbating…sigh

Hive-mind Cows, a phenomenon reminiscent of the House from Sterling Lanier’s excellent Hiero’s Journey novel and some mushroom related treasures like a bi-pedal mushroom vehicle, statt-altering mushrooms, exploding mushrooms, it has all the coherence of an NES game.

If desired, players can take the roles of Mushroom Mans with a fully playable 2-page class that is included in the back of the book. Mushroom mans have a set of alien characeristics like not having to breathe, random hit point progression (the laziest way to differentiate your character class) and a bizarre ability that is pretty interesting. Each level after the first the Mushroom Man gets a random color. The Mushroom Man can bestow this buff upon himself or other characters by taking a bite (and taking damage). It’s a weird little class but I dig it.

Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom fails to impress more for its lacklustre execution, counter-intuitive structure and bizarre tonal dissonance then its premise. Its structure fails to capitalize on many of its elements, rendering what little background the creatures have vestigial. An ecosystem is turned into a random monster spawner. Possibilities for interaction are removed, there is no point, no reason.

Bereft of even edginess to sustain it, Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is little more then a joke with no punchline. Raggi is just trolling us at this point. The enigmatic Myconid is regressed back to its primordial antecedent: a stupid fucking mushroom man. To succeed beyond wildest expectations while goofing off, that is the sublime art. To wallow in a pit, cackling and pointing as you eat your own faeces screaming ‘ITS A JOKE. ITS ALL A JOKE,’ is nothing.  I want high adventure and weird horror, not a fart joke. 3 out of 10.

If you want to check out a wackily creative adventure with psychedelic mushrooms and other such tossfiddle, I can recommend the vastly superior, infinitely more playable, but still critically flawed and poorly edited Monkey Business.

[1] And I will fully admit I cracked a smile at that
[2] Somehow this seems the height of Raggi-ism. To be confronted with an obvious farce but then to be forced to act as though it were a serious thing.

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11 thoughts on “[Review] Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom (Lotfp); Tjing Tjang Tjing Nutillej!

    1. I don’t think it would have any impact if he would continue this trend actually, I’m not predicting a downward slide for Lotfp in general (that is to say, I have insufficient data) just Raggi’s stuff, which has been almost exclusively FreeRPG day stuff anyway. I believe it when I say he made this and figured it didn’t really fit the book that well so he might as well put it online. He just needs to recover his art budget and he’s dandy. I think, based on what I’ve seen, that the new Lotfp book is going to suck, but we’ll have to see.

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  1. I like fungoid monsters as much as I love slugs, but unlike Slügs! this book was a major disappointment. Two good monsters among a crapton of filler is not worth eight bucks. At least the art isn’t Scrap Princess, but other than cheap pop culture references and the adorable mooshrooms it’s meh.

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    1. Hi! I like fungoid people too. Could you recommend any good content for tRGS about them (modules, supplements, etc.)?
      I know just a couple of thing for the inspiration – The Book of Ambergris by Jeff VanderMeer, and a video game Hollow Knight

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      1. I don’t know what TRGS is but sure, I thought Dreams of Ruin was an infinitely more elaborate module about the invasion of an extra-planar ecosystem into the material plane. It’s PWYW and for Labyrinth Lord so compatible with any OSR system. There is also a module called The Fungus Forest for generic OSR which might fit your bill, I haven’t checked it out. There’s also Wheel of Evil for Labyrinth Lord.
        Additionally, you might want to check out module A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords for their first appearance.

        [Inspiration]

        Wasn’t Jeff Vandermeer a hard-sf writer who wrote Annihilation among other things? I’m kind of into hard-sf but a lot of entries nowadays are a little weak. I’ll look into it.

        I recommend the movie Matango to anyone who wishes some disturbing fungal fantasy japanese horror from the 60s. As for a book, Hiero’s Journey has pretty disturbing Fungal antagonists.

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      2. Thank you much, Prince!

        It’s just a typo for RPGs. Dream of Ruin sounds cool!

        Yep, that’s Vandermeer. He also wrote a book, City of Saints and Madmen, which is collection of pretty weird stories about a strange city that was built on the mushroommen grounds. If you know China Mievill’s stories about Bas-Lag, that’s kinda similar vibe – cults of giant krakens, strange species and so on.

        I liked Hiero’s Journey very much when I was a child. Mutant Crawl Classics and Umerican Survival Guide reminds me of that.

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      3. [Vandermeer]

        That sounds surprisingly metal. I generally ignore book recommendations since I have too many of the damned things already but I’ll pick this one up if I see it. Bas-Lag was good (though I haven’t cracked the China Melvielle, Brilliant or Imbecile paradox yet). I still remember vividly the moth-sex scenes as well as the Grindhouse B-movie ending of Perdido Street station. It was a bizarre book. I liked it overall.

        [Hiero’s Journey]

        That doesn’t suprise me considering both of those were strongly inspired by Gamma World.

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