Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Milk of Inhuman Kindness

The danger in coming to review Something Stinks in Stilton is to belabour a series of cheesy puns (see what I did there?). Given that this scenario for use with the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying is set in Stilton, the Cambridgeshire village where the famous cheese was first sold and that it actually does involve said cheese, famous for its sharp taste and smell, it would be all too easy to give into temptation and serve up a cheese board of puns. So it is something that I will Caerphilly avoid…

Published by the Melsonian Arts Council, Something Stinks in Stilton can be used with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying and similar retroclones and is designed for characters of First to Third Level. Much like recent releases for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying, such as Forgive Us, Scenic Dunnsmouth, and Death Love Doom, this adventure is set in the early modern period, roughly the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Specifically, it is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Stilton, in 1730, where the infamous cheese was first sold at the Bell Inn, a coaching inn on the Great North Road.

As the scenario opens, Cooper Thornhill, the owner of the Bell Inn has been selling the cheese for a few months and it is beginning to garner the coaching inn something of a reputation. This is much to the annoyance of his sister-in-law, Jane, who feels that she and Cooper’s brother should share in his success. So she hires the player characters to find out what it is that makes her brother-in-law’s cheese taste so good. Or perhaps they are hired to locate someone who went missing whilst travelling on the Great North Road or just need somewhere to stay overnight on a long journey, but whatever the reason, one evening the player characters find themselves as patrons at the Bell Inn.

The owner and the patrons are full of good cheer, Cooper Thornhill pressing food and drink upon the player characters—including the famed cheese, and the player characters are made to feel welcome. So far so good, but all of this so far is essentially set up, the means to get the player characters to the start of the scenario and its events. From here on in, it is up to the player characters to act and to be actively investigating. The problem with the scenario is that if the players and their characters are not proactive, they may miss the clues and cues for them to act and investigate. Now there are ways around this, but they are perhaps a little heavy handed upon the part of the Referee.

When the player characters do investigate, what they find is a stinker of a dungeon, relatively short, but with a weird thread of body horror that is decidedly bovine in nature. There is also a hint of the Lovecraftian fecundity to the scenario akin to that of Shub-Niggurath. Like all good scenarios for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying, there is ultimately little monetary reward to completing the scenario—the reward is in the experience of playing the scenario as odd and as nasty as that experience may well be...

Something Stinks in Stilton provides a solid session’s worth—perhaps two at most—of play. Yet it actually fits comfortably alongside a number of other scenarios for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying that are set near London and the eastern half of England. Forgive Us is set in Norwich and Death Love Doom is set on a road outside of London for example, but The Squid, the Cabal, and the Old Man is also set in Cambridgeshire—as well as London—and the forthcoming England Upturned is set in Lincolnshire. Although the exact years of when they are each set may differ, they and their geographies are close enough to form the basis of a campaign. 

Physically, Something Stinks in Stilton feels somewhat overproduced. Its thirty-two pages are done on glossy paper and the scenario uses a lot of red to highlight text and mark maps, but only the one page is done in full colour—and that is an advert! The scenario does need another edit, but the writing is clear and makes the scenario easy to run.

What the author has done with Something Stinks in Stilton is take the real history of Stilton—both the cheese and the village—and given it a twist or two that turn the cheese’s origins into a Hammer Horror movie. Something Stinks in Stilton is a solidly written, straightforward scenario that should make the players come to dread dairy and abhor the bucolic.