Monday, January 26, 2015

Deep Carbon Observatory: The Flooded Land


 This is pretty accurate...


CATEGORY
Adventure

WHAT
The always provocative and endearingly arcane Patrick Stuart at False Machine published, not so long ago, the adventure Deep Carbon Observatory. It's one of those products of which first I purchased the PDF and then had no choice but to also buy the hard copy.

PLAYERS
Two.

SYSTEM
T.W.E.R.P.S.

WHEN
2-3 months ago?

TONE
Thundarr the Barbarian + William S. Burroughs  

CHARACTERS 
  • Zanuvrion Zal, Alien Scientist: Cephalopod encased in chitinous armor possessed of an inexhaustible curiousity. Exerts a low-grade mental suggestion at all times, convincing others he looks much like everyone else. This becomes problematic in stressful situations...
  • Lu Cheng, Monk of the Order of the Pernicious Wind: Human martial artist able to manipulate the wind to his advantage. When this fails, he of course uses nunchucks...
  • Dusty & JOE-BOT: Human entrepreneur and creator of the JOE-BOT mech-suit, built from the extensive ruins of a once-splendid coffee shop. Functions as either a refreshment stand or hurler of stale scones and boiling coffee, as needed...
  • Quercus McCringleberry, Necromantic Druid: Human druid focused not on growth but decay. He also carries lotus powders...
  • Rupert Grue, Seeker after Things Best Left Unsought: Human antiquarian equipped with a voluminous Encyclopedia and utter familiarity with the Abyss. He also carries lotus powders...
  • The Whisperer in Darkness (TWiD), Master of the Shadow Arts: Human ninja who gets the job done, even when his companions forget he's there. He also carries lotus powders...

SUMMARY
...in which our eclectic band contributes to civic stability, helps a Bishop find his church, feeds the forlorn, mixes it up with a platypus, puts the dead to rest, and has words with a very large squid.

QUOTES
"Mind the toads..."
"As a cephalopod, I'll try to mind-control it."

HIGHLIGHTS
  • When a group of rogue adventurers is discovered attempting to take advantage of the chaos to wrest control of the flooded town of Carrowmere from the rightful mayor, the coup is thwarted by a combination of martial arts, magic, and rabble-rousing.
  • Refugees are provided with ample scones and coffee while squatting on their rooftops.
  • A promise is made to an old man to deliver his wife's corpse to her ancestral tomb, located farther up the flooded valley.
  • Children whisper about a witch.
  • A fugitive bishop is delivered to his detached church, providing boons from the Optical God. Also there are large frogs eating corpses until they burst.
  • Our adventurers have an inconclusive tussle with a giant platypus.
  • A body is safely delivered, and an ominous warning discovered.
  • Our adventures have a conclusive tussle with a giant squid, mostly freezing and boiling it.
  • A windmill is discovered, besieged by bone-pale crabs.

THOUGHTS
  • There's a LOT going on at the beginning of this adventure. The causal flowchart helps, but I think it probably has too many arrows...
  • I love the fact that decisions made under pressure, right at the beginning, can have far-reaching repercussions.
  • T.W.E.R.P.S. worked just fine as a system for this. I spent maybe a half-hour going through the text and converting stats from the given LotFP.
  • I REALLY wish the maps were either A) NOT drawn in scratchy pencil, or B) provided at a higher scratchy-pencil resolution online somewhere.

OTHER 

There's a group of NPCs detailed in the text, the Crows. They're the kind of hallucinatory character-studies I'd expect from the mind behind the False Machine. While I liked the idea of them, in the end, I sorta felt that if I used them as written, the adventure would end up being more about them than the trials and tribulations of the player characters. I read a comment somewhere online about DCO that suggested it was more like a new form of literature than an adventure (I may be paraphrasing badly...); I guess that's what my sense of the Crows was. Actually, in some ways they feel like a revised version of first group of player characters to slog their way up the valley...

Now again, this doesn't make them a bad addition; I do wonder, however, how many people have actually used them? Patrick, did you use them?











6 comments:

  1. I love the Crows. My players only ever saw them twice but felt their presence in every snare and zombie ambush through their hellish trek up Locke River.

    Their descriptions are totally overblown, but I found them useful in making the Crows come across as gigantic scary creeps with only a couple of brief, reserved meetings.

    My players must have been in the Drowned Lands for something like 20 hours though. I can imagine that in only one session (which is what I think you're talking about here?) they'd either be completely dominating or left out entirely. Which is kind of a shame.

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  2. Yeah, this is just the first session (maybe three hours); we've had a second session, too, during which they made it to the damn.

    I don't doubt the Crows can be used to great effect--it's cool to hear how you're doing it!

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  3. Ehhhh we didn't actually play test it.

    Probably should have...

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    Replies
    1. Nah--playtesting's for the timid! :)

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    2. I see the Crows as replacement PCs. One of them will infiltrate the party every time a character dies. In the event of a TPK you have a ready-made group to take their place.

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    3. Now THAT is an awesome idea...

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