Death Love Doom (2012)
James Edward Raggi (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
While I’m wading through another 200-pager and doing the patron rules for Palace DCC I think it’s time for another one of these. My opinion of it changed over the years, both with time, and with experience. That’s right kids. Uncle Prince actually ran this one, and ONE of them was an entirely new player. Death Love Doom was his first experience with roleplaying games. You are welcome OSR.
Love inspires the gift. The gift kills. Death by Love.
With those unsettling words James heralds in a module dredged from the chasm of resentment, and fueled by all the blue- balled fury and angst of an ex-husband scorned. A module literally inspired by divorce, filled to the brim with edgy sick-fuckery, and nary a hint of an ironic wink or a nudge nudge. Uncle Raggi wants you to bite the pillow and take this one like a man, no lube. A module meant to rock your socks off, set fire to your collection of B/X modules and leave you breathless, with the words JAMES RAGGI, MASTER OF EDGE engraved upon your boy-pussy.
My first marriage was a complete mess as lives on totally different tracks intersected at just the right/ wrong time. I ended up living across the world, a situation that was honestly more about escaping a life I hated than anything else. Finland was the right place, but unfortunately, the person I was with wasn’t quite right.
Death Love Doom is meant to be run as a horror story and dedicates almost a page to that exact purpose. Tips on how to run the game, with notes on how to present the information and the semi-sociopathic detachment from player enjoyment that I have started to quietly respect over my years as a player and GM, all work to one’s benefit. The only problem is that besides this (solid) advice on narrative framing, the adventure literally says ‘Look. Do what they do in the horror-movies. The tricks there will work here. Ya get it?’ and then capers off to the races, pockets laden with my Paypal earnings. The big centrepieces of Death Love Doom, the 4 horrifically transfigured inhabitants of the Bloodworth Estate, appear at the GM’s discretion and have random starting positions, leaving myself, the suffering GM, to do all the heavy lifting. YOU ARE THE AUTHOR DAMNIT.
The Dead Sign is a trap for anyone who touches Miles (indirect contact included). When contact is made with him, the feces sigil will ignite, filling the room (and possibly entire house) with a foul smoke.
London 1625. Erasmus Foxlowe has not returned from his trip to the Bloodworth Estate. Your party overhears a band of thieves planning to rob the place. They are going to hit it tomorrow, that means you can hit it tonight. Credit where it is due, the adventure immediately opens very well by discussing possibilities of teaming up with the gang of robbers, or possibly going after them (which means you will find their bodies somewhere on the grounds, which is nice). There’s a nice rumor table and an even nicer mechanic to get additional rumors by spending more cash getting shit-faced which I appreciate.
At least that’s the PCs background. The module spends a long time fleshing out the details of the inhabitants of the Bloodworth estate and their relations, possibly to give the GM enough hooks to make them seem as human as possible, so the horror is amplified. This is a sound decision on the one hand but it does mean some paragraphs are burned fleshing out what amount to monsters that will say one or two creepy lines before the PCs shoot them. The gist of it is that Erasmus got himself a cursed necklace from somewhere in the Orient and the demon inside turned everyone into freakish monstrosities that now haunt the premise. A tie in to the Du’van Ku of DFD-fame is half-heartedly attempted but the link is cosmetic at best.
Typical of an early Raggi module, the conceit of the adventure is clever. You go in as murderhobos, but the gruesome nature of your foes, coupled with their obvious humanity, is meant to cause cognitive dissonance and trigger a feedback loop, causing the PCs to hopefully go ‘Dude, this be kind of fucked up,’ as a pretend deconstruction on the perceived amorality of dungeoncrawling or whatever the fuck. You know the drill by now; you can do your critical theory and your ludological decolonizationalistism and your situational homosexuality as much as you like but you have to give us something to roll dice while you do so.
Stanley Hobart’s body is here in his bed, his head missing and a horse’s head sewn on in its place.
The map of the mansion proper is good, realistic, and allowing for nonlinear exploration. My one major gripe is that the exits to the outside are not clearly marked, meaning its possible that, if you are like me and you actually run it, the PCs might end up circling the manor and asking how many entrances they see. It is still not quite clear how the Cellar exit is connected for example and this is easy to miss.
The animated fetus half walks, half crawls through the house. It is still attached to Myrna by both the umbilical cord and strange fibers and cords of fibrous gore, and it pulls her by the womb. It is agony for Myrna, never mind the horror of her miscarriage coming to life and stalking the halls of her home.
On a less practical note, the biggest concern is that it isn’t scary. The beginning is very effective. Quiet mansion. Foreboding. Ominous. Then you see one terribly mutilated corpse (which are well placed so at least one is encountered if one comes at the manor from different directions). Then another terribly mutilated corpse. Then you meet one of the Foxlowes. Then another. Shock is only effective after its been built up and can add a vicious extra punch to a dramatic reveal but the problem is that this adventure relies almost on shock alone to sustain its atmosphere and it is a poor fuel for long distances. I think by the time I described a severed penis rammed into the young woman’s body and the PCs examined it to figure out its origin (is it circumcised etc. etc.) that the adventure officially become silly.
The adventure proper tends towards the naturalistic and focuses on atmosphere and presentation so the interaction can be minimal at times. The treasure is often not hard to find and when an opportunity for some puzzle solving (a safe, but what is the combination?) this is bypassed. Nonstandard treasure like official documents or a telescope occasionally make their appearance, alongside little tidbits like one of the NPCs having an uncle who is a famous astrologer. Less welcome is the signature Raggi Trap; cryptic magic shit that can hit you out of nowhere with effects you cannot avoid. There’s a fucking clock child that animates all the corpses in the area, a mean-spirited but awesome trick that I do approve of in a slowly escalating shitshow such as this.
If a gang of robbers has preceded the player characters to the house, three of their bodies are here. They will be dressed in maid uniforms and arranged as a display with the help of wire and beams. One is on all fours, with his belly opened and his guts spilled all over the floor, scrubbing brush in hand as if to clean up his own mess. Another is sitting up in bed, abdomen oddly distended, but otherwise intact. His gut is filled with the 347gp that he was force fed (this money will not be found in the master bedroom if this is the case). The third is sitting in the corner, large knife in hand. His legs up to his knees, including flesh and bone, have been diced, and his is posed as if he was doing it himself. The cubes of the robber’s lower limbs sit in a mixing bowl placed between his legs.
I went into this as seriously as possible. I gave everyone pre-mades, a german Executioner to the Duke of Burgundy, a former adviser to Gustavos Adolphus ousted for heresy, a renowned cat-burgler and a brother of the Order of Our Martyred Lady, and I played it straight. They went before the thieves, got their hands on the coachmen’s gold, dispatched Sabrina as she came up the stairs, went inside, put everyone they came across out of their misery, touched the clock kid, had to kill a tonne of zombies, ran outside, ran inside again, lost Heinrich to a penis that went into his body and caused him to explode with tongues bursting outside of him, decided to fucking leg it, encountered Penelope downstairs, lost brother Jacob to her scissors, and sprinted off into the dark, with Thomas Six-finger being cornered near a bush and getting dragged back into the house and only Skallagrim escaping with a pack full of silver.
Penelope, hardly the paragon of beauty anyway at age 74, has been transformed into a visage of pure horror. She waddles around nude, her gouged-out eyes placed where her gouged-out nipples used to be
There’s a cursed necklace to be found to serve as a spur to further adventures, maybe in an effort to destroy it, which I dig, but this scenario really needed to be more sophisticated in the arena it seeks to compete in. I can forgive simple design if the flavor is on point. Disturbing imagery aside (the weird fetus boss monster that gives you visions of pre-birth eternity and causes existential crises by its very presence is probably the best in the book and should be stolen) this is one where it needed either some subtlety with an absolutely crushing blow at the end, or to go full on over the top kitch (I think the animated horsehead zombie came close).
Not terrible but ultimately not on par either, there are many better one-shots you could run. Maybe try if you are an Lotfp completionist or are really into gore. You weirdo. **