Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess (OSR)
This adventure clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, which are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you could fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, so let’s take a look!
This is an adventure intended for characters level 1 – 4, and it is one that can have some high-impact consequences. It should be known that, at level 1 and 2, the likelihood of PC death is pretty high. Compared to many Lamentations-modules, the adventure is not as lethal, though. The OSR-rules-set employed is obviously LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess). The module does not feature read-aloud text.
While it looks cutesy, this is a pretty dark adventure (big surprise!), so no, this does not belong in the hands of kids.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only referees around? Great! So, King Connolly VI (or another minor king/lord/whatever have you…) is a bit of a racist prick. He started a pogrom against the local halfling populace…and only thereafter noticed that they made up for most of his income, being the manufacturers of luxury goods, apple brandy…and now the ruler wants the PCs to find the halflings that have escaped through the dark forest.
If you know Zzarchov Kowolski’s modules, you’ll notice a leitmotif here, and indeed, the first section of the adventure will have the PCs harry through the sheer endless forests. One encounter per 12 hours, different dice are used for day and night – and the exploration has an interesting angle: You see, the forest has a Dark Heart and actually hunts the PCs, at least in a way – depending on party composition, the dark heart will become more agitated…and it will be able to sooner or later form a dark avatar. From fearie knights to other, strange inhabitants, this first section is rather cool, but it should be noted that the stats are rudimentary: The statblocks note HD, armor in analogues (“armor as plate”), damage, and similar basics, but doesn’t provide the usual statblock segment we see in LotfP scenarios. It may not be issue for you, but it represents an unnecessary comfort-detriment for the referee. As a nitpick: The font used for the random encounters section is different. On the plus-side, we do get a rather interesting table of changes that are wrought upon PCs, should they choose to imbibe some potentially mutating mushrooms.
The module takes a complete 180° towards the weird promised by title and cover once the PCs find a hedge – moving through it will deposit them in basically a demiplane, where mild and honey literally flow. A candy-based place, where all the halflings have gone and no inhabit a gingerbread village in the shadow of an ivory tower. Obese and unhealthy, they smile neurotically, and indeed, from the pink poodles to the happy cupids flirting through the air to the teddy-bear patrol…this place is actually a nightmare.
The PCs will get to see as a halfling is rounded up, impaled, and then his guts are used for the happy, mandatory maypole dance – unless the PCs want to take up arms against the cutesy bringers of death. The fully mapped gingerbread village doesn’t offer much beyond this scene, though – no NPC personalities or the like.
Instead, the pdf pretty much clearly shows what the PCs are supposed to do – enter the ivory tower and confront the lord of the place – Mistysparkles. A pastel-blue unicorn with pink Pegasus wings. Who happens to be a true sadist. Alas, this fellow is far beyond the capabilities of the PCs to defeat, so smart players are required here. How did this place come to be? Well, you see, there is a portal towards an interstellar void, in which an idol stands. Devoted to a trickster god, it allows for wishes, but adds something to them – here, the result was “…or else!”, added to the wish for universal happiness. Mind you, clever players can actually deduce how this statue works! It should also be noted, that the module can end in a variety of ways. The girl that uttered the wish is actually kept drugged and docile. How to deal with here depends on your proclivities, but the wish must end in some way…
The module also features 5 different magic-user spells that are pretty interesting: Two of the deal with the gingerbread curse, which can make your hit point loss really hurt…or revert becoming cookie-like. As a cool aside: While partially gingerbread-ified, you will always outrun pursuers! That made me laugh. Nightmare fuel lets you animate toys with unholy life (hint: risky!), and there is an interesting spell called fireworks. It has you roll d6s for damage, but only 1s and 6s are applied…all others are rolled again next round, until they come up as 1s or 6s, making this hilariously chaotic. Rainbow bolt is another pretty chaotic spell, but it’s a direct damage spell, which feels a bit odd for LotFP. (There is also a wand for these included.)
Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as usual for LotFP. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the interior artwork…is b/w and okay. Very comic-like. This also holds true for the maps provided, which lack scale etc. They are not particularly useful and represent a weakness of the scenario. On the plus-side, the pdf comes with excessive bookmarks, making navigation easy. I only own the pdf version, so that’s the only one I can comment on.
Zzarchov Kowolski’s “Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess” is an interesting, hyperglycemic nightmare – at least in the second part. The first part is wood-crawling excellence, as expected by the author that brought us the fantastic “Gnomes of Levnec” and “A Thousand Dead Babies,” two dark-fantasy wood-crawls he released under his own label.
That being said, apart from the sheer oddity of the second part of the module, there isn’t much going on within this weirdness – it ultimately just works as dressing for the encounters: There is not much going on in the second part of the adventure. The design as a free-form “This is what’s here, insert PCs” is great and all, but no matter how you use the second half, there isn’t much to work with, at least not without expanding the material on your own.
All in all, I couldn’t help but feel that this one is weaker than the author’s other , aforementioned “Dark Wood”-focused adventures with weirdness sprinkled in. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo – if you’re looking for a wacky, but dark baseline or a pretty quick to run/prepare scenario, this’ll deliver.
You can get this unique and strange adventure here on OBS!
Missed the amazing and criminally underrated Gnomes of Levnec? You can find them here!