Saturday, 26 October 2019

[REVIEW] More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets the Eye (2019)
by Kelvin Green
Published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Low and mid-level

How much are you willing to pay for an idea? The answer to this question will greatly influence your reaction to this adventure, because it is basically An Idea with some expansion on what you might do with it in your game. It is, also, the companion/sequel to Fish Fuckers, probably the classiest adventure title in gaming history. Finally, it is an homage to Transformers, a cartoon series I never watched, so half of the module’s allusions might have gone right over my head.

The Idea is great: bizarre-looking, shape-changing aliens have crash-landed in a podunk coastal village. Another group of aliens have also arrived in their pursuit, resulting in a standoff that has pretty much wrecked the place, and introduced an opening where a crafty band of outsiders could play a decisive role between the antagonistic groups. So, as the module acknowledges, “[i]t’s basically Yojimbo with aliens, so to prepare, watch Yojimbo. Or A Fistful of Dollars. Or Django.” This is great. I am a sucker for primitive places getting wrecked by the appearance technologically superior outsiders (or vice versa), and doubly so for anything based on Red Harvest and its successors, so I bought the adventure based on this strength.

But The Idea is mostly what the module has. There are loosely described locales with monster statistics, but they are all basic concepts without worthwhile elaboration. Here is the coastal village. Here is a manor house. Here is a ruined priory (mapped on a full page for no functional effect) with a set of (unmapped, potentially important) cellars under it. This feels like an adventure in the idea stage, and it could be presented on three or four pages without any loss if you put some thought into it. You could run it, and it could be a lot of fun if you let the situation develop. It is a potentially great launching pad for improvisation, and in the usual LotFP fashion, seriously derailing a campaign. But most of the added value would come more from the GM–player dynamic, and not the module text. As a developed scenario to help that dynamic, it is sorely lacking, even in curveballs and ideas which would stimulate the action.

Much of the module is taken up by the oddball aliens, described in loving detail. There is a gimmicky random chart for trying to use advanced alien technology, which has results ranging from the creepy (“The character devolves into an ape-like protohuman”) to the lolrandumb (“The character becomes ethnically Austronesian”). There is another gimmicky random chart for a sentient giant bio-mechanical spaceship – getting on board, which is unlikely but possible, is both sort of awesome and sort of almost certainly campaign-wrecking. Much attention is also dedicated to the aliens’ reproductive habits, which is accomplished “by using a sort of penis to fill an object with DNA-rich goop, then the Primal Matrix™ is used to activate the goop” (and so on). Each alien present in the adventure has custom statistics describing ?his? (I am at loss for the proper pronouns – is this a SWORD*DREAM scenario in hiding?) “penis-like organ”, and what happens when ?he? sticks the penis-like organ into the target character. This is certainly what I would expect from purveyors of good taste like LotFP, and only wish more adventures were as meticulous.

More Than Meets the Eye is written in a breezy, conversational style, which occasionally verges on the overly chummy. On one hand, it is entertaining to read; on the other hand, it says less than you’d expect. It reads like an awsum, indulgent shaggy dog story told by someone who is obviously in love with his own ideas. The enthusiasm is infectious. It is, also, kinda empty. Accordingly, I rate this adventure two out of five penis-like organs.

No playtesters are credited in this publication. In fact, no cover artist is credited in this publication either, although I suspect it is the author himself. This is not made entirely clear.

Rating: ** / *****

3 comments:

  1. Near identical observations and conclusions, good, we are approaching Stage II of the memetic Conquest of the OSR. How do you conclude it is a companion of Fish Fuckers?

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    Replies
    1. It says so right in the module text! p. 9:
      "St Michael’s Bay is a small mining village on
      the south coast of Cornwall, about seventy-five miles southwest of Innsmouth -- see
      Fish Fuckers -- and thirty-five miles west of
      Plymouth -- see Wikipedia -- and is not much
      known for anything."

      And here, I must declare my everlasting love for this bit of prose. Move aside, Hemingway! Maybe tomorrow, Joyce! The new Master has arrived in town.

      I don't own Fish Fuckers, although perhaps I ought to.

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