I've been meaning to do a review of +Zzarchov Kowolski's adventure, A Thousand Dead Babies, since last year. The adventure comes in at 20 pages and the art and cartography is done by the excellent and sinister art man, +Jez Gordon. It was originally written during his crowd funding for his RPG, The Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR) the 2013 edition. I won't go into detail about his rpg here, but it is worth checking out and has a ton of interesting ideas on how to run a game. It's unlike any other rpg out there.
But I'm here to talk about his adventure. My first impressions is this is a Harn adventure that Columbia Games would never have written, but wished they had. That is meant to be a huge compliment. Zzarchov presents the situation, tales of demon worship and witchcraft have begun to flourish, leading the young and inexperienced priest to enter a panic.
Why is that any interest to a party of adventurers? Here's what I like about it, the adventure does not pander to the adventurers. It's there. It's not going away if they ignore it. The players will need to find their own motivation and how they decide to approach the adventure. When I read what the reward for the players would be, I knew I was going to love this adventure.
- 100lbs of turnips
- 2 rams
- 6 ewes
- 2 acres of pasture
Zzarchov describes Corroc, a town where the adventure is based. It is given a general description with highlighted words that are described in more detail later, such as the church and the inn. But as for the majority of the town, Zzarchov provides a roster of NPCs, their roles within the town and their part in the adventure. And throughout the book he provides stats for OSR systems and his own NGR system. There are several of locations to explore. All these sites are given short descriptions, but there is plenty there to get the feel of location and the folks associated with the site. Its in these descriptions that Zzarchov set up the adventure with realism and with subtle gestures of the supernatural. He executes it beautifully.
I won't go into much detail about the adventure itself, I might slip and give away a surprise. I think this adventure is about discovery during the process as much as it is about completing the quest. There are so many fantastic elements he has developed as he plays on the gruesome folk tales of the dark ages. These fantastical iconic images are presented in realistic manner.
A word about the art. +Jez Gordon could not have been a better choice to present the images. His heavy black and white contract pictures are disturbing. They strike a primal note in your brain. You don't need to know what it is, but you know its very, very bad.
I do warn against new GMs trying to run this adventure. To run this adventure a GM is going to need to his homework and know how to run a true sandbox adventure. There are many ways to approach how to complete the adventure. You'll have to be on your toes.
There is a lot of great things squeezed into this adventure. I highly recommend A Thousand Dead Babies. The highest compliment I can give to any product is that I intend to use it in my own campaign...and I intend to find a cool little spot on a map for Corroc and wait for the day they players wander to that neck of the woods. Well done +Zzarchov Kowolski!