Wednesday 10 July 2019
No Rest For The Wicked - a short review
I bought No Rest For The Wicked, here's my thoughts. Mild spoilers.
Visual stuff first: I only got the PDF, so I can't say anything about the physical book. Cover art by Yannick Bouchard is always nice, featuring Alice the Cleric. Internal stuff is very pretty. Dark minimalist moodiness, setting the tone wonderfully. Jez and Alex do a very good job here; I'm reminded of the dark block-black art of Hellboy comics. The whole thing has a sort of grimey woodcut feel to it, it's wonderful.
I found the layout of what goes where pretty intuitive. There's a lot of information repeated, so you get the brief summaries all in one place, and then more detail later on. It works well, and saves page-flipping in play, I imagine.
But then, this is LotFP, you expect it to be good.
So, then, the adventure itself.
There's no weird elements here (save perhaps the PCs), just humans being grubby and horrid.
The adventure itself puts a neat little moral dilemma in front of the PCs, and then asks what they'll do. Things have layers. None of the 'bad guys' are presented as wholly bad, and it's possible (if difficult) to appeal to their better natures. None of the victims are wholly blameless, either. It's messy and complex. The sort of thing where working out the 'right thing' to do is going to take a long argument, but you don't have time to have that argument, you need to act now.
If the PCs do nothing, they're basically fine (so long as they can avoid being hauled in for being witches and/or bandits, which is always a possibility). The affair ends cruelly but cleanly, a few people get executed and that's the end of that.
If they intervene there's a horrible tension to things and the slightest knock can set everything off into a spiralling disaster. The whole thing drips with possibilities for the PCs to do something dramatic and stupid, and make everything Much Worse.
I just don't want to run this, honestly. I want to play this. It gives you a nasty moral problem with difficulties and complications and external pressure. I want to try to give everybody a happy ending somehow.
Reading it, it feels like this is a situation best solved by subterfuge. A cleric with the right miracles prepared, or a magician with invisibility, illusions and some prep time, etc can - if they want - solve this fairly easily. Then again, the massive looming threat is 120-ish soldiers, all lv 0. A direct fight is one that the PCs almost certainly lose, but the almost is important. LotFP gives PCs a lot of lateral thinking tools and weirdness. Misdirecting or subverting the army's not impossible.
There's no map of the surrounding countryside; where the inn, the army camp, escape routes, hiding places etc are in relation to each other. If the PCs decide to flee with the fugitives, this is gonna require a little frantic map-sketching from the ref.
It feels like if the PCs start throwing around witchcraft, the responses of various NPCs will matter. It's not clear how the adventure intends the innkeeper, refugees etc to respond if the PCs start summoning tentacle-monsters and creating phantoms, even if they're trying to help. Not a massive issue, but it's something I'd possibly have given a little more detail.
These are very minor though, and don't really detract from the quality of the book as-written.
The tone is interesting. It's fundamentally about refugees from horrible circumstances. It tugs at the heartstrings. It doesn't take a political stance, and makes no assumptions about what the PCs will do, but it feels relevant. I feel like it's one of those scenarios where how you approach it says something about you.
It ties in with some of the themes of other LotFP modules - Man Is The Real Monster, War Is Horrible, etc. I can see it working amazingly as a prelude to Better Than Any Man. Actually, I think thematically this adventure, No Salvation For Witches and Better Than Any Man are very nicely tied together. The three in sequence would make a pretty great campaign imho.
Following certain unfortunate events recently, I've seen a lot of discussion about what the future holds for LotFP as a brand. If they keep putting stuff like this out, they'll be just fine.
I''d run this, and I'd leap at a chance to play this. Go get it.