Scourge of the Tikbalang (2014)
??? (1-2 est.)
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The Kowolski omnibuscrawl continues. One of the modern writers with something resembling a distinct non-dungeon based style that is any good, Kowolski excels at creating little sandboxes with a handful of NPCs and then releasing the PCs into them to cause havoc. This one was created as part of a charity drive package but can be obtained online.
Case in point, Scourge of the Tikbalang, a vaguely peloponesian themed low level adventure that is little more than an area map, a handful of Low level NPCs, a few secrets and 40 pirates in a neighboring village. Also it has no monsters and the theme of the adventure is that women are liars and should not be trusted.
In the hands of anyone else? Disaster! Pollitical allegory! Storygaming! Yet in the hands of the subtle craftsman, 14 pages (including vestigial maps) and an evening of fun.
It is the village of Taal, on an island on the borders of the Rhajanate. The gold mine that is the village’s raison de etre has long since been exhausted and now it has sunken into the gentle poverty of fishing, hunting and subsistence farming. A terrible tragedy has occurred. The fair Mayumi has been assaulted in the forest while taking a walk, and now she is pregnant with the horrible Tikbalang! Another girl also reports having been taken by the wretched creature. The hunter Makisig has gone missing in the forest! The village hetman offers the characters 1800 GP (all the village’s remaining gold stores) if they find the hideous Tikbalang and bring back its head, or else Mayumi will give birth to another Tikbalang (allegedly)! Enter the PCs.
It’s a good premise, very street level, your adventurer’s finely ingrained monster hunting instincts should be gearing up…until you interrogate both ‘victims’ and the senile old woman and you start to figure out that maybe something else is going on, and before you know it you are at the heart of a sordid mystery involving adultery, attention seeking, embezzlement and A DUMB JOCK getting CUCKED by a smooth-talking handsome goodfornothing. A story as old as time itself!
The adventure could almost be system neutral, no magical treasure, no complicated fights, just a dillemma that must be resolved. If the PCs reveal the deception they don’t get a reward and at least a few people will be killed, if they go along with it they must concoct some sort of charade. I think the resolution as presented coming from the adulterer is a bit too straightforward, it would have been more interesting if the PCs had to figure out their own way out of the mess. The solution as presented just means you have to overcome 5 sleeping pirates in a nearby village and steal a horse, which is not exactly the Twelve Tasks of Hercules even for street level PCs.
I think this will probably be fun. But! It is very simple. VERY simple. Little to no complications (there is the possibility of earning some extra cash if you discover the hetman is actually embezzling some of the gold he is using for a reward), hidden treasure, you can get killed by being retarded and fighting all the pirates at once, but anyone short of a novice is going to be using some sort of subterfuge. You can probably blaze through this in a diverting session. For 14 pages that’s very much on the light side.
At the same time it’s not BAD. There are different resolutions depending on what actions the PCs take, the NPCs are well fleshed out without taking up entire volumes of space, the concept of doing a fantasy adventure with little to no magic (another Kowolski gambit) has been executed with competence and originality. There’s a monolith with greccian writing hinting at the escape of a minotaur provided as a hook for follow up adventure. But these are little puffs and crumbs of flavor.
In comparison with almost every other Kowolski micro-sandbox of similar page count, GoL, TDB, TPL, LoGP, this one is on the aenemic side. It’s not bad, its actually pretty clever, but you won’t be missing out if you skip it either.
Check it out here.