Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tommy's Take on LFNE Book 2: Among the Missing

Yesterday, I reviewed Little Fears Nightmare Edition. Today, it's one full-sized supplement: Among the Missing. I'll work on getting to the Campfire Tales as time permits (and I still need to get two of them).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: You can pick up Among the Missing for $20 in paperback or $10 in PDF, and it is a supplement revolving entirely around missing children, which are divided into five groups: The Abducted, The Stolen, The Runaways, The Abandoned and The Forgotten.

The Abducted are kids who are kidnapped by other people. Chapter one covers them, and this is one of those areas that can make folks nervous, veering into that "real world horror" that does make some folks uncomfortable (and I think that's a fair reaction to have). This chapter deals with not only the hows (covering the gamut from physical force being applied, to having a parent abduct a child without them really knowing - at first - that they are missing), to the  whys (one parent trying to "protect" a child from another, to creepy cult-like brainwashing). It is worth noting that while the author notes that even more evil motivations exist, he  has chosen not to highlight them for the purposes of this book. The common (in universe) resolutions are then provided, as these sudden abductions can sometimes allow Closetland to reach its horrible grip around the child.

The Stolen are children who are captured by Monsters. This follows a similar format, detailing how Monsters get children (like luring them into traps) and why (some love to eat kids, you know, while others just don't know how to make friends). A few options for resolution are also provided, from release to escape.

Next are those who choose to disappear, The Runaways. Again, same format: How (disappearing into the night, or into a crowd), Why (Escaping abuse, or perhaps jealousy) and the resolution (most of which aren't great).

The Abandoned have been left behind by their family, perhaps with a friend, or on a random doorstep. The reasons can be varied here as well. In fact, one can become Abandoned because a parent had your best interests at heart. Even if a child does find a new family, those scars are still present for Monsters to take advantage of.

The Forgotten are those who have ceased to exist in all but the memories of a few children (and that won't last for long). This one is the most fantastic of the options, but one of the most interesting, as it can happen for a variety of reasons (Monsters tormenting kids, parents grieving to the point that they push the surviving kid out of the world, forces making abusive parents forget they HAVE kids and so on).

Chapter 6 covers playing a Missing kid, and most of character creation is the same, except you  must select one of the five types and your approaches to Stuff and Qualities change, as you have access to less Stuff (generally). New questions are also added to the Questionnaire, depending on your Missing type. This chapter also covers the use of Missing GMCs as both allies and enemies, and provides something of a mid-level between the quick and dirty GMCs and the full fledged characters.

Chapter 7 gets into Missing interacting in the world (both real and Closetland), hitting on places like community shelters, churches, well as crossover points between the two worlds (including how to find - and breach - them). There are a couple of interesting places that exist DIRECTLY between worlds, one of which being the Halfway House. This chapter also talks about the Laws of the In Between, and how it sometimes chooses not to enforce them. This chapter details hiding places in Closetland, like the Ash Pile, which can be used to make you invisible...just don't overdue it. Lastly, you get places to avoid, like Nowhere.

The next chapter covers people you can meet. My personal favorite is the vagrant known as Walter Highways, who can still see the Monsters. There are also a few folk that you can meet in the In Between, and even folks in Closetland that'll help you (and a big freaking Cat that won't). Some more monsters are also provided that focus specifically on missing kids. The Ghost Car particularly stands out to me here.

The Long Way Home is an adventure that is sparked by the sudden arrival of a boy who went missing about a decade ago...who hasn't aged a day. The PCs get to deal with his identity (and lack of acceptance from his family, who clearly have issues with him not having aged), and get to come face to face with a horrible monster. The adventure hinges on a big moral choice for the PCs, and is intentionally left open ended depending upon HOW they want to deal with the dilemma facing this child.

Lastly, the book has expanded GMC sheets, a new character sheet and new questionnaires, along with the promise of THE SEVEN KINGS, coming soon.

WHAT WORKS: The art in the books is eerily effective, with one piece (page 91 of the PDF) genuinely creeping me out as I was scrolling through the PDF. Seriously...not cool. The book has lots of information designed to inspire, and the writing conveys the research in such a manner as to not be tedious or boring. I do also love adventures that put actual choice in PC hands, and this one does a nice job of that, especially at the end.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Well, if you want a lot of crunch, it's not here. There are some slight tweaks to the character generation that you can use, but this isn't a "splat book". Similarly, the subject matter may begin to push Little Fears a bit more into "Squick" territory than a lot of you may like, addressing the idea of humans being as detrimental to kids as Monsters.

CONCLUSION: 128 pages flew by, thanks to the concise writing and conversational tone. The author has a knack for speaking to you when writing without it ever feeling tacky or annoying (which can be a hard feat to master). Little Fears will work perfectly fine without this book, but it does do a nice job of adding more pieces to the puzzle...pieces that are wholly optional and rarely completely spelled out for you, instead providing a long road for your group to walk down on and leaving it up to you all to determine what's at the end.