No Rest for the Wicked (2019)
J.Stuart Pate (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Levels 1 – 3
What started as Griswold Herzog’s home funded by war profiteering money eventually grew into a trading post and later a full-blown inn, The Soldier’s Rest. The Soldier’s Rest is an ernhaus (a housebarn in traditional central German style) attached to a two-story inn. The inn looks newer than the farmhouse. A small series of fields to the north may hold grain, probably barley or rye if set in Bohemia; the state of growth depends on the current season. Assuming early spring, the grain is just starting to sprout.
The inn itself bears an iron sign hanging above the door proclaiming it “The Soldier’s Rest.” A stylized sleeping soldier, his hat lowered over his face to block the sun, is pictured on the sign. An old, twisted linden tree sits in the front yard.
With the exception of the front door of the inn the Herzogs keep most doors locked.
During the daytime the pantry door, the door into the entryway, and the southern barn door are all routinely unlocked. At night only the front door of the inn is unlocked; those needing service can ring the bell on the counter or knock on the door between the common room and the entryway.
Griswold and Jarla both have key rings for the inn although Griswold gives out his copies of the room keys to patrons. Jarla has the master set.
– Inn description, No Rest For the Wicked
I while ago I ruffled some feathers by predicting the likely death of Lotfp as a brand now that Zak has been banished to the Shadow Realm, and I hate to break it the Lotfp fans but products like this are not exactly helping its case.
No Rest for the Wicked is a 34-page side-trek for Lotfp and good for about a single session, part of the new, serious, historical grimdark direction it seems to be taking, bleached of color, life and anything of interest. Pate somehow manages to deliver less excitement, hooks, dynamic potential and gameable content then much shorter adventures like THOT Audit (no seriously!) or even earlier Lotfp side-treks like A single, small cut or Tales of the Scarecrow. NRftW is aggressively tedious, so much so that I almost gave up reading it halfway through.
I caught the early warning signs in the ramble-y foreword. Pate outlines his rationale for having an adventure using only mundane antagonists in what is nominally a weird fantasy roleplaying game; He initially provides a useless contemporary example of a band of Blackwater mercenaries barging into a town and starting to dig around in the sewers and tells us to “imagine what that would be like lol” which is the sort of argument you see imbeciles on forums make all the time in an attempt to seem clever. If such a thing were to happen in a contemporary setting Blackwater’s customer service and PR department would start receiving complaint calls, the mercenaries would be filmed with someone’s phone and put on social media and 24 hours later a diplomatic fubar involving the United States and the country in question would be in place as the mercenaries would have been quickly detained by a sophisticated modern military capable of travelling anywhere within the borders of the nation within several hours. The modern analogy falls flat, adventurers as conceptualized in DnD can only exist in regions of relative anarchy or covertly (and criminally) in more civilized areas, period.
His second argument seems a more valid one; in a weird fantasy game one must regularly introduce mundane antagonists so as to keep the fantastical fantastic, something that was recommended by the Gman  himself and goes all the way back to sword and sorcery novels.
No Rest for the Wicked is about an Inn that serves as a shelter for protestant operatives being visited by the Imperial Army while that characters are in attendance. It seeks to distinguish itself by having no fantasy in it like The Punchline but unlike that worthy effort it is terribly, glaringly mundane. It could have served as a single encounter in Better Then Any Man and it would barely stand out.
There’s three things that kill No Rest for the Wicked; Lack of dynamic potential, Long-windedness and Lack of Ambition.
Lack of Dynamic Potential.
One of the things that I liked about Thot Audition, despite the fact that it was messy, was the number of ways the scenario could unfold. There’s 100k worth of smack on the ship, a federation agent, secret space princess preparing for a last stand, a dude with a debt and so on. There’s any number of ways these factors can interact, probably violently. NRFTW doesn’t have that.
One of the things I liked about Tales of the Scarecrow was the bizarrely inventive Tales of the Scarecrow mechanic where the Scarecrow was endowed with power by the player with the scariest idea. In addition, the players were confronted with a threat they had to figure out, while in the house was a volatile situation. To top it off, a magical tome that would surely get the Inquisition on their tail if they didn’t destroy it instantly could also be found. It left the PCs with a unique magical item that would get them into trouble, and in short, for 8 pages it packed a hell of a punch. NRFTW doesn’t have that.
There’s maybe a tiny moral dillemma in NRFTW. The innkeeper and his wife are keeping a deserter and his wife in the cellar. Their son arrives  to tell them the Imperial Army is moving through this region (to meet up with Wallenstein’s army to fight Gustavos Adolphus). Dudes go to the basement. Guests arrive that are secretly advance scouts for the Imperial Army. Turns out there’s a 200 sp bounty on the dude that is in hiding, and he burned down a village to cover his escape. If they don’t give him up they get raided by German soldiers in the night (“aufmachen papieren bitte etc. etc.”) which raises an interesting moral quandry; Will your players work together with the Germans for 200 sp and be the brunt of collaborator jokes for the rest of their life? For bonus edge-lord points, consider changing the ethnicity of the fugitives to some other less-algorithm friendly demographic and increasing the reward.
That being said, while there is some subterfuge going on (the guests arriving actually being spies), there’s almost no opportunity for factional infighting , trickery, or a sneaky plan. Once the soldiers arrive, its watching them get shot the fuck down, trying to bullshit your way out of a collaboration charge, or shooting it out with 10 soldiers (with hundreds in the camp nearby).
In fact NRFTW is so static it more or less writes out in exhaustive detail each possible resolution to the scenario. Some of these are non-results; if the pcs do nothing events in the module proceed according to the time-table and a massacre ensues. If they cast an arcane spell everyone fucking panics and the receive a maximum strength response but to be honest this is sort of implied in Lotfp in general. There’s handing over the Steiners, trying to flee with them as soon as they receive word the Army is on its way and
Something volatile or tactically complex, a hostage scenario, several guests with conflicting agenda’s, a few kegs of gunpowder in the cellar, would have lifted this scenario a little higher. As it is it would be fine for a paragraph on a random encounter table or a 5-page entry but the problem is that it is 34 pages long.
The equivalent of 1d6 × 100 days’ worth of standard rations are stored down here where the cool temperatures will prevent spoilage. Any remaining items for sale that won’t fit in the pantry are stored here. The Steiners’ gear is stored here, which includes saddlebags, two backpacks, a couple of sets of common clothes and winter clothes, three bedrolls, a lantern, two flasks of oil, twelve waterskins, seventy days’ iron rations, and 28sp in assorted jewelry and coin. As noted in their statistics they also have two flintlock arquebuses, two powder horns, two shot bags, a sword, and a knife.
If this area is investigated after dark, the Steiners will be here: Lodwig, Wilhelmina,
Waldemar (age 8), Konrad (age 5), Dieter (age 2), and Alexa (newborn).
Anyone searching this area will note a patch of disturbed earth in the northeastern corner of the room. Digging will reveal a locked strongbox (the key is on Griswold’s key ring). The strongbox contains 500sp and a strange idol of a leering devil Griswold found in an abandoned village while on campaign. He kept it as a memento and it is potentially worth 200sp to the right buyer. It is up to the Referee whether it has more significance than just a strange memento. If it holds any magic, Griswold certainly doesn’t know about it. If Jarla knew he still had it, she would probably make him get rid of it. The devil idol likely has no strange abilities, although a devious Referee may determine it is enchanted with a Magic Aura. The Referee may change the idol to another item connected to any conspiracy or strange event in his campaign; it has no significance beyond being yet another loose end to investigate if the characters go searching.
– No Rest for the Wicked, Cellar entry
Age of Dusk Comments section; BUT PRINCE HOW CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT LONG-WINDEDNESS WHEN URSELF HA HA HA!
Shut it you apes. I don’t know if Raggi pays by the word but this thing is padded as hell. Every detail is spelled out exhaustively, a complete map is included by Alex Mayo, half-hearted Jez Gordon art is splashed over every page. It’s decadent is what it is.
This adventure really only needed a couple of things. A timetable of the events. A barebones map of the inn with the treasure total. A sketch of the dramatis personae and their motivation. I mean like a paragraph max. Fucking Pate himself admits that you will likely end up not using much of the character biographies included in the adventure for each character and he’s right. You won’t. These characters will be forgotten in 2 hours dude.
Jarla married Griswold before he went o to war and they had two children, Gabriela
and Ulrich. Ulrich took ill while they were on the road and died when he was an infant.
She and Gabriela were camp followers while Griswold was on campaign. She saw enough horror out there to agree with Griswold’s assessment that the war serves no God in Heaven and supports his decision to lend what aid he can to the Protestant Union’s cause. She is frightened at the prospect of the Imperial Army learning of his activities.
She sleeps poorly these days and largely busies herself with work. Since the Steiners have arrived at the Soldier’s Rest she has barely slept. Jarla bears cheeks lightly marked by a pox that afflicted her when she was much younger, and usually keeps her straw-colored hair under a bonnet while working. She isn’t quite unhealthily thin but is definitely thin enough to draw remarks, and the dark circles under her eyes speak of late nights. Jarla barely speaks when travelers are about, worried as she is about drawing attention to the Steiners. She largely talks to be polite and seems a bit nervous when she does; she attends to Gretchen when others are about which is a shame, really; if the characters return when she is in better spirits she’s definitely the cleverer of the pair — always quick with a joke— and has a lovely singing voice
– DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP PLEASE MAKE IT END
9 pages of this shit, half of which is art. Three pages worth of map for an inn. Notations of how many rations are in the inn. Descriptions of mundane bedroom after mundane bedroom. I don’t mind mundane descriptions but I’ll start pulling on the bell when that is the only thing that is being offered. Which leads me conveniently into:
Lack of Ambition.
The author clearly intends to make a gritty realistic tragedy of savagery and violence in a world that has been destroyed by war and disease and if we discount the abhorrent efficiency of his method he does manage to do that. The characters are grey, gritty, scarred and all of them touched by violence. The grey coloring of the book is chosen appropriately, since the tone of this work is bleak and dreary. Its as if Cormac Mcarthy wrote an Ikea Catalogue for 17th century Bohemia.
The work is also mundane. It doesn’t feel significant. The tragedy is sure to be eclipsed by a thousand similar ones in the setting of the Holy Roman Empire anno 1632. The strongest asset of the Historical Fantasy, to tie characters into real life significant events and have them meet with legends from the history books, injected with more potency then any figure from fiction could ever hope to achieve, is missed. This is a violent altercation at an inn. Okay. But that’s fluff. What the fuck happened with a brand that once published modules that tried to do and fucking did crazy shit that no one had never seen before, with brilliant art, novel concepts, campaign-wrecking super sorcery, horror and EDGE.
No Rest For the Wicked doesn’t have any of that. A minor tragedy is enacted against a backdrop of a thousand similar tragedies. The PCs leave the side-trek, probably unchanged, the bodies are burned and the army continues its march towards a certain death. The ripples of personal horror are drowned out by a roaring ocean of three decades of war.
In my last couple of reviews I have mentioned that I believe Lotfp is essentially about nothing. It is a vague aesthetic commitment with a weak historical setting, held together by talented and popular artists and designers and good production value. This moribund turn towards seriousness and commitment to historical accuracy is a terrible choice for the audience that is already in place because Lotfp shines when it is colorful, outre and willing to take risks in defiance of convention, not when it huddles under the skirts of mundanity.
It’s not like there aren’t enough examples to choose from: The Crawling God, Better then Any Man, Tales of the Scarecrow and any other number of adventures Raggi wrote when he still gave a shit. Crawling God is really strong because it uses a real life historical figure (St. Augustine) as a focal point for bizarre horror. Better then Any Man is great because it uses the Backdrop of an apocalyptic conflict to have itself an awesome insect cult murder adventure (and probably rip off judges guild a little bit). The point is that these adventures aren’t afraid to do something interesting with their historical backdrop. No Rest for the Wicked is eight bucks for 34 pages that could be condensed into 5 pages.
For that or 1-2 bucks more you can buy pdf versions of Many Gates of the Gann, Deep Carbon Observatory, Maze of the Blue Medusa, Slumbering Ursine Dunes, Gardens of Ynn, Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival, Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia, any Peter C. Spahn module, any Merciless Merchant module and my own Red Prophet Rises. All of them FILLED with memorable shit that you can steal or just run at the table.
No Rest For the Wicked is a hideously bloated regression in game design whose mere perusal fills one with depression and fatigue, like reading a Kafka novel. All this for a SIDE TREK that will be forgotten within an hour after the session ends.
I remember a description of a stable’s contents in Red and Pleasant Land. It just said “horse stuff.” I thought that as smug at the time, but he made a fucking point.
Condense into 5 pages, hire good editor, or convert into random encounter for Better then Any Man. Pay per word has never seemed a more egregious crime. At least Monolith had some fucking ambition.
Final verdict; * (3 out of 10).
UPDATE: Stuart is fair enough to post a link to my review on his blog, which I find commendable. Its tough to have people trash something you wrote. Here’s hoping someone else likes it better or your next attempt improves.
 Gary Gygax for Lotfp players
 The adventure provides an exhaustive timetable for events so to its credit it is easy to keep track of what is going on.
 The adventure mentions the army sergeant has seen enough of war and might be talked out of it