This weird module clocks in at 22 pages in the pdf version – 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content. The pages are laid out for a booklet/digest-sized A5-size (6’’ by 9’’), which means you can fit up to 4 on a sheet of paper when trying to conserve ink/toner. Enough delays, let’s take a look!
It should be noted that one of the pages herein is devoted to a mutation table that overlaps with Violent Media’s mutation supplement – it is decent, but if you have access to a more detailed one, I’d suggest going with that instead. The pdf does come with a high-res .png GM-map and a player map replicated as a nice .jpg…which ties in with one of the adventure hooks. This is remarkable and cool, as far as player maps go. Why?
Well, to quote the pdf: “Further ensuring no good will come of this, the Consumptive Prophet coughed up a blood-spatter blessing, “depicting” the inside of the complex. He will gladly share the knowledge from his sacred disease, for a nominal fee and small percentage of the loot. Fee up front. No Refunds.” Call me weirdo, but at “Consumptive Prophet, I was smiling. Seeing a blood-spatter map of the complex? Damn cool!
Anyways, it should be noted that I do own both the PWYW pdf-version and the saddle-stitched paperback version, which does come with a bonus chapter. But more on that in the SPOILER-section. It should be noted that, beyond the bonus content, the print version also has a kind of appendix that collates all stats and a page of quick room descriptions, with all relevant bits on one page. It also features a handy encounter-chart. The suggested OSR-rules for use in conjunction with this are LotFP-rules.
As a cool comfort-bonus, the pdf-version comes with a 2-page pdf of printables that collects the maps on one page and sports a handy tracker of the NPCs featured herein on the second page – big kudos!!
All right, this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, only referees around? Great! You know, sometimes you want a change of pace, something utterly different than anything you’ve read. This module is just that. Somewhere in the fields, there is a hole in the ground. In this hole, strange spider people exist, worshipping the seven-armed spinner in darkness. These spider-folks, all seven-armed/legged and based on a real-world spider…are actually happy. Kind. Caring even, for the most part. That makes them dangerous.
You see, this dungeon is inhabited by the friends of the 7; for the most part, these spider-people were once sad or even evil folks; now, they have found a place to belong, a family of sorts, all in order to get the blessing of their chthonic and potentially really nasty deity. Still, these beings aren’t out to slaughter innocents. Quite the contrary. They constantly invite everyone they can find to join them and become just as happy.
Here’s the problem: Whenever someone declines a direct invitation to the cult, they immediately exhibit a disgusting mutation. The spiderfolk don’t necessarily want this, but it happens. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Suffice to say, the nearby population has become extremely paranoid of the spiderfolk. Enter the PCs, who get to explore the complex and deal with the spiderfolk…but how?
Sure, the idol can be destroyed…but to get there, the PCs will have to brave the kind-hearted, giddy spiderfolk who want them to join…and finding creative ways in roleplaying to say no sans actually doing so represents a major part of this weird-sad locale. The well-meaning head-spider-thing-cultist in his earnest glee may actually be one of the saddest final bosses I have seen…but even if the PCs murderhobo through this (and probably feel bad about it), there are some honestly interesting places to find, like the blood sand bottoms, where viewing starfish constellations may bestow strange benefits…
Now, I mentioned the print version’s bonus content, right? It’s well worth getting the print version. Over 4 pages, we are introduced to the forest o’ the puppeteer. This landscape is inhabited by strange marionettes – cutting their strings sends then crashing to the floor. Tying a string on a person charms them and those slain here have wooden puppets burst forth from their corpse. There are the stage left and right mountains and the track canyons to limit the area – and at the furthest depths, where the sky no longer has any room to flee, an old man teeters behind the sky’s blue curtain – slaying him turns the victor into the new puppeteer. The second, strange place featured would be the Obedient Place,a park of roiling greens that can never change. There is always a vulpine queen, two ursine dukes. There are 4 cygnine countesses, 8 feline barons and 16 equine knights…and 32 coal-eyed slaves. Killing a slave or the queen turns you into them. Killing a knight transforms the closest slave into a knight. Killing a baron transforms the closest knight into a baron. You get the idea. It’s twisted and interesting.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to a 1-column full-color standard and the art by Anxious P. is suitably weird. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment. However, the high-res maps and cool player-map make up for that. The softcover comes on high-quality, glossy paper and is worth getting, as far as I’m concerned.
Edward Lockhart’s pdfs had not really impressed me that much up to this point. It’s strange, but sometimes, I have a very strong impulse to get something I know nothing about; the cover looks strange, sure, but I am to this day not sure why I bought the print version of this supplement, apart from perhaps wanting to show a bit of support. As a result, the booklet did lie around for a while before falling back into my hands. I began reading it, downloaded the pdf for the maps and review-purposes as well, and frankly, I haven’t looked back.
“Smile with us, Friend…” is something you only very rarely get to see – a thoroughly unique module. The premise is interesting and not something I’ve seen before. Billed as “weird-sadness”, the tag-line does perfectly sum up the flavor of this module. This can be a somber experience or a hilarious mutation hackfest, depending on the inclinations of your PCs, though the detailed and intriguing NPCs imho deserve being interacted with…and it’s damn funny to watch how long PCs can try to ROLEplay themselves out of mutations…
In short, this is an amazing module. Even if you don’t play with an OSR-system, this is worth getting and converting. The bonus environments provided for the print version are amazing and creative as well. Better yet: You can get the electronic version for PWYW, check it out and then determine whether this is worth a tip and/or getting the print version. Personally, I absolutely ADORE this humble module. Strongly recommended! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this cool module’s PWYW electronic version here on OBS!
The print version with the bonus content can be found here on lulu!