Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tommy's Take on Kiss of the Frog God

Kiss of the Frog God is a 6-Pack Adventure by Postmortem Studios for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG, written by Michael "The Crazy GM" Garcia...that is, the adventure was written by Michael Garcia, not the RPG.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The 6-Pack Adventures line are meant to be pick-up and play one shots that can either be played standalone or dropped into your campaign. They have been released for a few different systems, most of which have their roots somewhere in D&D. Kiss of the Frog God includes everything you need, including map, tokens and pre-generated characters and sells for $1.99 in PDF format.

The adventure itself involves pilgrims seeking atonement (the PCs) stumbling across a town that is being tormented by a corrupted pagan spirit. In addition, a pair of young lesbians who have been deemed sinners by the town have went looking for said fey spirit, under the mistaken impression that it can wed them. As is my policy, I won't get heavy into spoilers, though I will say that the Big Bad's underlings are freakishly terrifying and the Boss Fight itself has a very nice hook to it that prevents it from being a straight-up "stand up and fight".

Each of the six pre-generated PCs are fleshed out in such a way that each is given a hook that haunts them, making them more than just a group of statistics.

Although the adventure itself is only five scenes spread out over three pages, there certainly feels like enough material here for a full night of adventure, especially with the extra options for Scene 4.

WHAT WORKS: First off, the Frog Men (the underlings for the adventure) are downright terrifying, and do a good job by themselves of capturing the "weird fantasy" aspect over just any Basic D&D adventure. The catch for the boss fight is also a nice touch, forcing a bit of thought for the resolution, without feeling like it is cheating. The map is really well done, with some great production values. Two of the NPCs are set up as dueling personalities, and while we are clearly meant to sympathize with one, they are both at least partially responsible for the events that draw the PCs in, a nice bit of writing that makes the characters feel more real.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Two of the pregens are closeted homosexual lovers, and the author's notes about playing the gay couple come across a bit defensive and condescending. Gamers in general have come a long way from the days when homosexuality was on the mental illness chart in Palladium games and while some folks may have issues with the "two gay men" aspect, in my experience a lot of folks are going to be equally uncomfortable with the solution of "just change one of them to a female and play the couple that way". I don't really think it's a matter of being insecure in one's sexuality, but a general aversion towards roleplaying romantic relationships among PCs in general, ESPECIALLY in D&D-type adventures. That said, it IS a good hook in that it ties into adventure's hook thematically. The "Pilgrims seeking atonement" plot hook works great for a demo or con game, but is *really* specific for a "drop into your own game" session, but that's a minor quibble as the town could be dropped onto any road along the way, and the PCs drawn into the affairs of the village. The proof-reading could have been a lot tighter, as I not only caught homonyms that made it past editing, but mis-use of apostrophes and even a typo in the editor's name in the credits.

CONCLUSION: I got more "weird fantasy" from this adventure than I did from reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess in its entirety, and I mean that as a compliment. This adventure provides compelling reason to re-read LotFP and see if there wasn't something I was just missing in there (I had high hopes going in, initially, but was underwhelmed). I applaud the author for tackling themes that aren't commonplace in fantasy adventures, as it didn't feel like political correctness for its own sake, nor did it feel like an attempt to be "shocking" and "in your face" the future I would just toss in a blanket warning up front (if the author feels like it is necessary at all). As usual for a Postmortem Studios project, it's certainly worth the money, even for a guy like me who doesn't play the system it is designed for (a Savage Worlds conversion would take very little time at all, I'm thinking). Good buy for an evening's worth of play and, if you're like me and re-use maps a lot, the map included is a very nice piece of work (a swampy grove, to be exact).