Kelvin Green (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
All Levels (But seriously, low levels is probably best)
In the throes of mild fever, Prince shall cover the christmas miracle of Kelvin Green, author of mostly run-of-the-mill adventures. Middle-of-the-Road-MeGreen they call him in the saunas, museums and boutiques of Finland. Today proves a day of tribulations, for while I think Midvinter is probably the best thing Kelvin Green has ever done, I am not sure it’s a good adventure.
“The basic idea of Midvinter is that a secret pagan doomsday cult is trying to lure the characters into a ritual, just like The Wicker Man. The twist is that what the cult wants, what it really, really wants, is to die.
The cult believes that every eighty-seven years on the winter solstice a sacrifice must
be made to Odin and the Æsir so that winter will end, and spring will come, and for complex theological bullshit reasons, the sacrifice must be the cult itself.
To this end the cult has arranged for a group of adventurers to visit the cult’s village just before the solstice, in the hope that the adventurers will go full on ‘murderhobo’ on the cult and its members, and so complete the sacrifice.”
Midvinter is an absolute farce but unlike Fuck For Satan, it does not seek to screw over the players. The page count is 52, an abysmal measure of efficiency for a one-shot that is no more then par for the course for an Lotfp adventure, but nowhere is it longwinded or flowery. The adventure is explained in conversational, low-brow english, laced with puns and lolligagging and using accessible pop-culture references, giving the whole an infectious holiday feeling. And it’s about killing children! Again!
The reason I say this is probably the best thing Kelvin Green has ever done is that none of his usual Achilles Heels, which are bad follow through/insufficiently working out the implications of his high concept ideas, are present in Midvinter. It is an eminently well edited, playtested and worked out scenario. Ample motivations for going on the adventure? Check! Multiple options for handling the scenario in case the PCs do something unexpected? Check! Follow-up and aftermath for both the success and the failure condition? A variant where the cult’s beliefs ARE real? Check!
As the PCs make their way to the village in the mountains of Sweden, following some rumors of nastiness depending on their motivation, there are the obligatory random encounter tables, included reflexively more then anything, but this is not a complicated dungeon adventure or a wilderness hexcrawl.
This is a social adventure. The characters meet the bombastic Björn, swedish Brian Blessed turned hunter, and accompany him to a pleasant village, confronted with a circle of ominous runestones carved on rock and trees as they do so. In a manner that is reminiscent of Hot Fuzz, the characters are then invited to stay over for Midvinter and meet the Cultists and their families, who are all terribly, almost insufferably nice, yet it is made abundantly, terribly clear that something nasty is going on. All the characters are given at least one memorable way in which they interact with the PCs and one memorable thing they do upon dying, which is going to be tricky to remember, since there are exactly 41 cultists. This is one thing where I feel Kelvin Green erred, a cheat sheet with these interactions and telltales would have helped the GM run the adventure more easily, a consideration especially for holiday gaming when the GM might have a few Glühweins at the table. In fact pacing the adventure so that all the NPCs can be introduced so the moment of their deaths has the desired impact on the PCs is probably the largest challenge and Green does not provide you with much in the way of tools of managing that.
So the interesting thing here is that besides Björn taking the PCs out on a Bear Hunt, a complete red herring, the PCs can actually snoop around the village and discover signs of evil-doing by the cult long before the fated Midvinter, when everyone gathers together for a dinner, exchanges gifts, goes into the halls, and then pretends to sacrifice a maiden to Odin in the hopes of provoking the PCs into action. A fight is then started, which the cultists throw gleefully (only hitting on a nat 20 and only being missed on a nat 1). After the required number of cultists (21) are killed, the cultists break out into cheer and attempt to give everyone a hug and shake hands, secure in the knowledge that Rägnarok has been averted once again!
And again, this could have been much less dynamic then it is, with Green placing a secret room where the cult stores its captives under the village (which can be discovered), creepy ceremonial garments (which can absolutely be discovered), there’s a dissenter within their ranks who will attempt to spoil the ritual and so on. As it is the PCs have a method of figuring out what the fuck is going on before the ritual begins…and Green tries to take that into account too, although he freely admits that certain patterns, such as the PCs starting the killing early, will cause the ritual to fail.
There’s excessive mapping of each building that I doubt is entirely necessary for the completion of the adventure, but it does prevent the PCs from getting clued in that this is a farce and for what its worth its all well done, reminiscent of early Warhammer Fantasy floorplans. The art, for once, is appropriately cutesy.
There’s multiple pages of follow up involving the Cult’s secret help (or antagonism if the PCs didn’t go through with it) as well as a reaction from the authorities, which almost clashes with the farcical style of the adventure for being played so completely straight, but I rather appreciate the fact that in Kelvin Green’s world, the PCs can’t brazenly march up to a village, kill all its inhabitants and then march off into the sun-set, whistling heartily.
I think the major thing that doesn’t sit right with me in this adventure is the graphic violence directed against young children. While theoretically amusing in a sort of shock-jock fashion that we have come to suspect from Lotfp, some of the Dying commentary errs more on the heartbreaking then the comedic. “Did I do well?” asks 7-year old Lena as she crumbles to the ground with a spear through her heart. His lip wobbles and he cries, but Frans tries to stay brave. These scenes are heartwrenching to imagine, and I think ultimately Midvinter would have benefited from their exclusion more then their inclusion. Somehow these things are more fucked up then any Carcosan or Tekumélian description of similar or worse violence, perhaps because of the alienness of both settings, or that in the end, the deaths of the children in Midvinter signify nothing. It’s not over the top either, it tugs right at the heatstrings. As a PC you are free to not attack them of course, but why did you put that in the adventure then? It would be like finding a description of children in the Village of Hommlet, followed by a paragraph of If The Characters Molest The Children… We’d probably tell Gary Gygax to go fuck himself. Gloomy ruminations. Would it be funny if the GM were wearing a beard and festive hat, as the game recommends he does, whilst Swedish Jule songs are playing in the background? Ah the questions Lotfp makes one ask.
I am curious. Kelvin has added an option for the ritual to be genuine, and Jeff, the main priest, to have genuine spellcasting power. Was this prompted by existential questioning, or merely a consideration that appealed to some but not to others?
The reason I am not sure this is an adventure is that its more of a vignette, it’s not designed to test player skill and any game elements serve mostly as a backdrop for the emotional punchline at the end. It’s not a particularly difficult scenario as written, even if the Cultists outnumber the characters ten to one, because of their tendency to throw the fight. It’s meant to make you experience a combination of emotions. Is your goal a fun time at the table? Then this would probably qualify if you are the right audience.
This one comes with a caveat. Are you teenage boys or Raggi fans, nihilists or do you just like the odd sick joke ? You will probably think this is pretty funny, and I think this would serve you well.
But at the same time, a 52 page one shot, virtually no challenge, the kid stuff… For me, I say give it a pass.
There is to be leveled no scorn at Kelvin Green, who has clearly done his utmost and spared no effort at conveying a proper festive atmosphere and his weirdo child-murder holiday adventure idea, which I think would work if people are in the market for such a thing.
Brobdignagian One-shots, 34 page side-treks, boring Kowolski modules, insane holiday modules I don’t even know you Lotfp guys anymore man. **
 If some of your players are women, you had best check to see if their hair is blue and greasy, ask for a recent history of sexual partners and keep careful track of the number of tattoos and piercings before deciding whether or not to serve an adventure about the murder of children on them. I know what you are thinking, Prince they play DnD voluntarily, the question is moot, but they might be someone’s girlfriend or a homeless woman just looking for a friend and some kindness. Be gentlemanly about it goddammit.