Forgive Us (OSR/PFRPG) (Patreon Request)
This module clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, leaving us with 45 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
First things first: I called this “module”, because it is one properly developed module, and the other two are essentially slightly prolonged adventure hooks. All have a leitmotif of, well, things you’d utter “Forgive Us” for – as you can imagine, that makes them all pretty horror-centric. As often for LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), the queasy need not apply. The modules all sport a horror-theme to some degree. They are intended for low-level characters (level 1 – 4 work; it’s designated for 4th), and are pretty deadly in various degrees. A note if you’re one of the many people annoyed by some of the meta-game shenanigans in some LotFP-offerings: This book lacks those. It also thankfully lacks “wrong thing, world explodes”-BS; the PCs can very much screw up with far-reaching consequences, but they’ll have to LIVE with that, so if the “blown up campaign world”-angle bores you by now, this won’t hit that pet-peeve. As horror-modules, the content is obviously not suitable for kids, and if you’re easily triggered, particularly by suicide or infanticide, this is not for you. The main module would be a perfect fit for Warhammer, just fyi.
All of the modules are nominally set in England, AD 1625, and includes a brief NPC-name generator. The modules sport a total of two one-page letter handouts between them, and the author also handled cartography and artworks: You can see the style on the cover, and rest assured that, this comic-like look notwithstanding, the drawings do manage to convey horror. Anyhow, the cartography bears special mention, as does the information-design: For one, the pdf is heavily cross-referenced with internal hyperlinks as well as bookmarks, making running the module from the pdf surprisingly convenient. Secondly, an area comes with fully drawn b/w-cartography, with the write-ups of the respective rooms showing lots of details, from fallen over chairs to beds etc. The maps sport a scale, but no grid for VTT. Some rooms have more “interaction points” than others, which are listed separately – this makes running this with just a bit of minimal prep-work easy. There is but one thing about this module that it gets really wrong in that department, and it’s, for me as a person, the most important one: There are no key-less versions of the detailed maps, which is particularly odd since LotFP is usually good at that sort of thing, with layered pdfs and the like. So no, you can’t turn off the annoying numbers, the tell-tale Secret-door-S-indicators or the like, which severely limited the usefulness of the excessive cartography for me. This is also annoying, because the map of Norwich included suffers the same issue.
It should be noted that the two “bonus-hook”-scenarios in the back do not have cartography or the like included – the above only holds true for the primary scenario. Which brings me to one point: The setting the stage section on Norwich is interesting and grounds the module, but I genuinely wished it was longer; the page-count allotted to the bonus scenarios would have helped here, as well as with the finale of the main module, but we’ll get to that next.
In order to talk about the adventure + hooks herein, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS right now. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only referees around? Great!
Let’s start at the back, with the adventure-sketches: “Death and Taxes” is contingent on the PCs being friends to a fellow –ex-soldier called William Blake; this man has died, as a letter informs them (one of the handouts), and they are invited to the funeral. Blake’s been buried with a dark treasure, and his daughter, precocious and surprisingly adept at surviving in the wilds, has gone missing. The kid followed her late dad’s instructions; after finding her, the PCs will probably have to dig up their friend’s corpse t get rid of the item, for the taxman coming to town with his retinue is actually a cultist in disguise who also wants the contents of the buried box. This adventure sketch is pretty basic, and suffers from its brevity: With a properly depicted service, some more detail on how good a fellow Blake was, etc., this would have gravitas; instilling how taboo digging up the dead was and the social scene of the village would have also helped make this exciting. As provided, it is imho dead real-estate, a dud.
The second adventure-sketch “In Heaven, Everything is Fine”, deserves a trigger-warning…sort of. But not really. You see, the module takes place in the small village of Ashmanhaugh, where stories of a ghost abound. A nearby tower invites adventuring, and the strange, ghostly manifestations are disquieting indeed! But here’s the thing: Ashmanhaugh is mostly fictional, a super-complex illusion woven by a thing from the stars that masquerades as a toddler. “Anthony”, this thing, has the power to bend perceptions and reality, making tower and the vast majority of people in the village figments of its imagination…but the power comes at a cost: The entity consistently drains life from those in the illusion, which has reduced the actual population of the village down to 5, including his delusional “mom.” Not counting the ghost, that is, for the ghost is actually a man who, due to a head-injury, can’t be affected by the illusion: His “hauntings” are attempts by the simple-minded and good-natured fellow to scare away others from a phenomenon he can’t grasp, but perceives as dangerous. Obviously, all the loot and dangers encountered in the tower etc. are figments, which some groups won’t appreciate. While I am not a fan of the shock-jockey-esque “kill a helpless cosmic entity masquerading as a kid”-visuals or roleplaying situation to solve the adventure sketch, I can’t help but really like the whole concept; in many ways, I wished that this had instead been expanded into a detailed, full-blown adventure, with progressive accumulations of glitches in illusions, mysterious deaths of the remaining villagers (who’ll show up once more, perfectly fine, as Anthony’s illusions…), etc. This could have been a clever, damn cool psychological horror scenario. With its meager 5-page page-count, it can convey its basic idea, but anything beyond that is up to the referee to handle, limiting its utility.
Now, as for the eponymous “Forgive Us”, the actual full adventure, it is an honest, well-executed dark fantasy/horror-yarn: The thieves guild known as “The Tenebrous Hand” has become too confident: Their base consists of an entire block of buildings, including interior courtyard, and the entire block is lavishly-mapped, in an angle that I have so far only seen in Rogues of Remballo. Every room and building here is properly depicted, and the module manages to evoke a really neat survival-horror aspect: You see, the guild has stolen a strange stone sarcophagus from a weird cult; unfortunately, this cult, the “Brotherhood of Pus”, is a disease cult (substitute Nurgle, good to go for Warhammer…), and the contagion thus released is genuinely gruesome: It mutates the hands of the affected, if present, into claws, and the head mutates into a grossly-conical, puckered thing, with the openings sporting licking tendrils or tongues. Those hit risk catching the highly mutagenic disease and joining the ranks of the mutated monstrosities.
The Tenebrous Hand managed to seal the worst in the vault, but it was too late for them: Faced with suicide or mutation, they chose the former…enter the PCs. Mutated dogs in fly-infested butcheries, a madman, half-mutated suicides (see cover) – this is a pretty epic and atmospheric scenario that builds up tension and paranoia well, also courtesy of its details. If the PCs unleash the horrors in the vault, they’ll have plenty of reasons to ask “Forgive Us” – provided they don’t manage to stop the things, which seems unlikely, as there are a LOT of them. On the plus-side, the loot in the vaults and how it’s depicted? Awesome. Each piece of loot comes with an artwork, as well as a glyph that denotes if it’s oversized and unwieldy, or has a negligible impact n encumbrance. I really wished we’d gotten a hand-out version that doesn’t spell out values and effects of the items, though: That way, I could give this to my PCs, ask them to choose…”Grab the Loot and Run” is quite the well-chosen moniker here.
Now, if your PCs are particularly sensible individuals who don’t want to open the vault, fret not, for there is an additional chaos-factor: A group of 4 particularly…weird (??) adventurers; three of these fellows have special abilities; the fourth recently died and accompanies them now as an undead. Whether as suckers that open the vault, help in combat or competition, this group adds a helpful wildcard to the referee’s arsenal when running the module. The two-page spread of these monsters ravaging the town is nice, even though, if the PCs do their job well, is not something that necessarily happens.
All in all cool, right? Well, there is one thing that is somewhat of a missed chance: The module has a denouement as well, where the PCs go to the fully mapped house of the Brotherhood of Pus and eliminate the cultists. This was a pretty lame section, with the icky cultist’s lab left mostly t the GM#s devising. Using the 10 pages of the additional adventure sketches to elaborate the end of the main adventure locale and this denouement would have imho been a wiser choice here, and elevated the module further. Ideally, an illustrated selection of despicable cult treasures, perhaps a mini-dungeon or some antagonist responses for the cult might have helped make the finale less anticlimactic.
It should be noted that the lethality of the module and the infection in general, is somewhat contingent on how much access the PCs have to cure disease. A single scroll can be found among the treasure, but before the PCs have the spell, the module may well be a TPK, even on a triumph, if all PCs got infected. This might also make this an efficient one-shot or convention-scenario. Just saying.
Nice: The book comes with a bonus-pdf, a 9-page conversion guide to PFRPG, penned by Jukka Särkijärvi, and to my pleasant surprise, the little pdf actually presents quite a few solid statblocks; correct formatting, math that is mostly correct (some minor snafus), and we even get a proper and solidly-executed template. The magic item included fails to list its crafting feat, but as a bonus I wasn’t even aware of existing? Cool, and certainly appreciated! For PFRPG, I’d recommend the module for levels 1 – 2, in case you’re wondering. As an aside: This bonus conversion-pdf is better than many full-blown dual-format OSR-modules that profess to have stats for/work with 5e or PFRPG…
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level in the main pdf; the bonus-pdf fares slightly worse, but is still better than many books I’ve covered. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column-standard for the most part, and as noted, the b/w-artwork, which took me a bit to get used to, works really well as a whole; we get a ton of it, and the cartography is qualitatively really nice and detailed. The only strikes in the aesthetic department is the absence of player-friendly maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. The softcover print-version sports matte paper and properly lists the module’s name on the spine – nice for the bookshelf.
Kelvin Green’s “Forgive Us” is a neat, unpretentious and well-executed horror/dark fantasy scenario, one that can be run with groups too grossed out by the misery-porn that is e. “Death Love Doom.” In many ways, I can see this work in many campaigns, and while it can have serious repercussions, it is easier to integrate and maintain in your campaign than most LotFP-scenarios. It also was, to my knowledge, Kelvin Green’s freshman offering, and considering that, it’s an impressive achievement indeed. It’s gritty, grimy, somewhat icky and dark, and yet it gives the PCs a fighting chance and is thankfully bereft of trollish “Gotcha”-BS. My main gripe with the module, apart from the missing player-friendly maps, would be that the adventure-sketches in the back deserved to be either cut (Death and Taxes) or developed into a full-blown adventure (In Heaven, Everything is Fine); the page-count they take up could have elevated this scenario from being a good module, to it being excellent. As provided, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
You can get this module here on OBS!
The print version is no longer available in LotFP’s EU-store, but it can still be found in the US-store here!
If you’re enjoying my reviews, please consider leaving a donation, or joining my patreon here! Thank you!