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Friday 30 August 2019

Friday Fantasy: Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom

Having reviewed Going Through Forbidden Other Worlds, seen the effects of Obscene Serpent Religion 2, and the powers to be gained through the lunar cycle with She Bleeds, we move on to listen to the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom. This is the fourth of four short scenarios and supplements for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay released by Lamentations of the Flame Princess at Gen Con 2018. Drawn from the section on sandbox campaigns in the Referee’s Book for the roleplaying game, Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom presents not a setting, but a whole ecology that the Referee can bring to her game. Or rather, a ‘mycology’ if you will, for the supplement lets the Referee invade her campaign with ambulatory toadstools or ‘Mushroom Mans’, who grow from spores shot out of the Mushroom Kingdom and who want wanting to explore the world beyond their Mushroom Kingdom. So along with a selection of other creatures, this then, is a fungal bestiary.

At heart of Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom are the eight tribes of Mushroom Mans, each a different colour, each with different abilities, but all hating and ready to fight each other. So, the Black Mushroom Mans are Wizards of casting a few spells each day, Grey Mushroom Mans control their own gravitational direction and can walk on walls and ceilings, and Red Mushroom Mans move faster and have an initiative bonus. Given that this is a Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay supplement, so far Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is not that weird, except that Mushroom Mans can be eaten and their flesh smells like birthday cake and ice-cream. When their flesh is consumed, it has different, random effects. These are all themed and there is a table of random effects for each type of Mushroom Mans. So for the Purple Mushroom Mans, who are the only Mushroom Mans capable of speaking with humans, their flesh, when consumed, grant the ability to speak, understand, read, and write any language , internalise the thoughts of foes in combat, granting excellent benefits, make the person highly persuasive, grant telepathy with anyone the consumer knows over any distance, and so on. Most of these abilities last just twenty-four hours.

Up until this point, the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom prevents beneficial effects in consuming the flesh of Mushroom Mans, though of course weird in that the player characters need to consume the flesh of an intelligent species. The supplement gets weirder when  this flesh is eaten more than once in a twenty-four hour period. Playing upon the fact that mushrooms or ‘shrooms’ have psychoactive or psychedelic properties, the supplement presents a table of more weird and random effects such as the ingestor becoming invisible and immaterial for a time—but not his clothes and equipment, a strong light shines out of the ingestor’s eyes, even when closed, or the ingestor cannot simply walk, but must skip and sing with joy, although this makes them more tired.

The competitive rivalry between the eight tribes and the chaos of any spore outbreak is abated should a Mushroom King spawn. This huge, three-headed Mushrooms Mans is in permanent contact with other Mushroom Kings via two heads, but also has his own secret plans in a third. The three heads cannot agree easily and so are slow to act, especially in combat, but each head is a different colour and changes colour from round to round, so it has a range of revolving powers. The Mushroom King is not the only creatures in the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom, the others including Toadstool Turtles which serve as mounts for Mushroom Mans and release spores that confuse mammals who attack them, Mooshrooms which are the livestock of the Mushroom Kingdom and which can be milked for their prismatic and psychedelic milk, and Mushroom Zombies, mindless killing machines which when damaged release noxious, necrotic dust into the air, which of course, has its own Necrodelic Effects Table. There are lots of bugs and other types of mushrooms and fungal creatures in the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom, such as the Great Tumor, which infects and warps everything around it, including causing all food and drink to cry out not to consume it. Perhaps the most interesting entry in the supplement is the humourless Professor Finkelfunkel, a prickly expert who has been studying the Mushroom Kingdom for several years and who may, or may not, like the player characters. This is expressed in the mushroom tea he serves…

Rounding out the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom are some treasures, like the innards of the Golden Mushroom which are valuable if difficult to get, and Transformation mushrooms which can change a character’s attributes if eaten.  The Mushroom Mans are also presented as a player character Class. They receive random Hit Dice from Level to Level and their flesh can be consumed without suffering a psychedelic effect. It is not quite clear how the Mushroom Mans Class gains its different colours—presumably by consuming the flesh of other Mushroom Mans—but the Referee should be able to develop the Class a little further.

Physically, Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is a lovely little book. It needs an edit in places, but really the artwork is excellent throughout, all done by the same team. This gives the supplement a consistent look. Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom is weird, but you would expect that of a supplement for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay, but it is not that weird. Certainly not as weird as the what was the previous themed bestiary for the roleplaying game—Slügs. This will probably make the supplement easier to use. If Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom has a weakness, it is that the ecology—or mycology—feels underwritten in terms of motivations for the Mushroom Kings and what any kingdom wants. Although she will need to develop those herself, should the Referee want to spawn mushrooms and toadstools in her campaign, then all of the spores she needs can be found in the Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom.

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