Green Messiah (2021)
Kelvin Green (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Lvl ??? (C’mon man. Level requirement this stuff. 2-4?)
During my sojourn to the 2022 January Wallowvanganza over at Falsemachine, where people were so distraught at having only a single lawn they went so far as to lower themselves to the status of moderate intelligence (what shame! such indignity!), I caught a stray comment by Kelvin Green where he informed us that he thought he was bad at what he did. This is incorrect, said I. Kelvin Green is average.
Is there shame in being average? In delivering work that people find enjoyable but that is not considered to be high art, or ‘madly innovative’ or visionary? Should he have marxposted more so a benevolent Ennie judge would have slapped a Judges choice on Fishfuckers? I should hardly think so. With that in mind, let’s check out his latest effort, the titular Green Messiah, a farcical romp in 1630s Sussex featuring a super-powered alien plant boy, a giant tree, man in black references and magic plants.
There’s probably a comparison I could do with Rob Kuntz’s Garden of the Plantmaster but today we are having Lotfp for dinner so let’s just dig in. Green Messiah is at the higher end of Green’s work (still below Forgive Us, his best work), loaded with fun ideas but utilizing sufficient organization so that it gives the GM something to work with. It’s still on the light side organization-wise but it works and there are enough moving parts to add some gameplay in between the chuckles. It is also spiked with puns and written in a conversational style, but it’s light enough that an initial readthrough should cement the three factions in one’s head, with highlighting on individual locations and creature entries allowing for sufficient differentiation.
So! Alien space plants landed in Sussex in 1624, leaving a single survivor, who is raised by the (take a drink) the Clark Household. Now the space-vegetable man is 6 years old, and intent on taking over the world with alien fauna. A giant 400′ tree is visible in the heart of Sussex. A band of opportunistic bandits wants their loot back, it happens to be buried on the site of the Giant Tree. And then a religious cult shows up that things Robert Green is Jesus Christ. Aaand a rival adventuring party from the Royal Horticultural Society. The village inhabitants have been replaced with alien carrot-dopplegangers. The Green Messiah awakens! Enter the PCs!
Green Messiah is a strong example of a silly adventure with plenty of crazy ideas that mostly work. The Green Messiah is fairly weak (2 HD only) but he can inhabit the shape of any carrot-doppleganger within 8 miles Agent Smith style, and he is invulnerable while in contact with plants or the ground. A weakness, X3 style, good idea. The shapechangers will probably attempt to replace the PCs. You can eat your own clone and get some sort of benefit from it. The rival adventuring party is clearly a thinly veiled Man in Black Ripoff. The Tree is surrounded by a non-euclidean hedge (not a dungeon sadly, we get a teeny tiny one below the roots), inhabited by lambent mutant badgers and carrot men. It’s memey, its not terribly complex but it’s fun.
I think an opportunity is missed to reward some clever investigation by making it possible for the PCs to bypass some of the bullshittery in the hedge-maze or find the weakness of the Green Messiah by using, say, Speak with Plants on some plantlife that is poorly disposed towards him. As is Kelvin considers the use of the Speak With Plants spell but makes using it in the maze rather useless. I think a missed opportunity? I see some opportunities to ‘punch up’ the script, by suggesting, say, a course of action for the agents but unlike, say, the high-concept More Then Meets the Eye, we are given ample material to work with. The GM is going to have to figure out when to introduce the various factions but their starting locations are noted so this should not be overly challenging.
I am warming up to the scenario. It’s charming. There’s good treasure but only the bandits know where it is and they will be savy and attempt double-crosses and other shenanigans. Alternatively, you can cart off a weird alien ship pod. I also appreciate the open-ended nature of the scenario, as killing Robert is bound to be very hard and destroying the giant fuckhueg tree is also going to require considerable effort (though knowing PCs, it will inevitably involve fire or Gunpowder, how much barrels can I get for d6*500 sp?). The conclusion of having to climb a 400 feet tree to do battle with the Green plant-god ensconced in it’s ligaenous crown, while having survived the various obstacles placed in one’s way would actually be fairly satisfying. ‘Muh Jaqkeying’ yes, the hedge should have been a full fledged dungeon yes, and so on but this is fun stuff.
Kelvin Green, through various side-bars, offers suggestions of spicing up or otherwise modifying the standard formula (by having, say, one of the Agents replaced with a Carrot-doppleganger), actually covers the wrap-up of the scenario (including a Green Messiah victory and an alternate ending), provides a somewhat (?) playable Carrot-Doppleganger character class for the more unhinged GM, offers an appendix N, a lengthy table of mutant fruit effects and manages to invest the whole with a sort of gleefull enthusiasm that is hard to ignore. About half of my Lotfp games have been one shots and this one would be a blast, though I suppose that if you follow my campaign model of just-stringing-together-a-bunch-of modules-in-1630-Europe-and-giving-them-branching-paths you can thrown this into wherever you throw Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children, provided they go to England and they do not join the Thirty Years War.
There is a sort of baby dungeon underneath the roots of the tree which again is a good impulse, though I must confess it feels a bit empty, the NPC retainer Geoff and any replacement PCs notwithstanding. On the other hand, you did get the random encounter frequency right (also known as basic competence), and phosphorescent rats or tree-men are good stuff.
I think the scenario would be easier to GM if there was a sort of standard response or a table of when the Green Messiah takes heed of the players and when he starts to interfere. Likewise, some default course of action for some of the factions probably would have punched it up. I find the amusing, conversational style of writing acceptable if combined with bolding and critical information is highlighted accordingly, although the frequent allusions to the PCs as bloodthirsty psychopaths (not untrue!) did grate a bit at the end.
This is a charming bit of tomfoolery, worth its asking price for those that were in the market, and I must confess I did immediately purchase Green’s Terror in the Streets subsequently to reading this one, curious to see whether it would be equally charming. I feel Green does a lot of meme adventures but his best work is still the WHF inspired Forgive Us. Maybe Terror in the Streets will be more along those lines? I don’t know if material like this is sufficient for Lotfp to regain its prominence, but with this entry it is certainly not losing ground. I am waiting to find something that will daunt. A strong entry from Green, eclipsing his earlier Fishfuckers. Kudos for avoiding the temptation of doing Plantfuckers, Robotfuckers and Childfuckers.
A zesty ***.