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Friday 22 November 2019

Friday Fantasy: Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas

Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is one of four short scenarios for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay released by Lamentations of the Flame Princess at Gen Con 2019, the others being More Than Meets the Eye, Menagerie of Exiles, and Zak Has Nothing To Do With This Book. Written by Zzarchov Kowolski, the author of the highly regarded Scenic Dunnsmouth, it is like several other scenarios from the publisher, set in the early modern period of the opening decades of the seventeenth century. It is also a sequel to the author’s Going Through Forbidden Other Worlds, itself part of the publisher’s quartet of releases for Gen Con 2018. Unfortunately, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is not as upfront about this fact as it could have been.

Instead, the back cover blurb focuses on a story from the far future which although tying in with the overall background of the scenario, it is not really relevant to what the player characters will do in the scenario. Essentially, an interstellar robotic probe a thousand years into the future reaches a distant star system and scans it for habitable worlds. What it discovers will astound those it relays the information back to—and what it has discovered are the doings of the player characters on a moon very, very, very far away from Earth. Some five centuries ago…!

Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is not a scenario in the sense that there is a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Rather it is a set-up where the possible arrival, and then definitely the presence and actions of the player characters will drive the action and the story. The set-up is this. It begins in Going Through Forbidden Other Worlds where an off-world missionary mission of Portuguese conquistadors has successfully used the portal in Hell to reach an icy moon called Nibu. There they are surprised to discover the city-state of Bwang-Quos with its sophisticated Stone Age technology clustered around a boiling sea of lava in one of the moon’s volcanic regions and inhabited by the descendants of Earth’s neanderthals who had been abducted thousands of years before by a race of Alien Wizards. The Alien Wizards are now long gone and are of course, revered as gods, which meant little to either the Jesuits or the Conquistadors, who being Jesuits and Conquistadors, set about bringing the Word of God to the heathens and plundering the wealth of the new world for crown and glory.

At the start of Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas, the conquistadors have conquered Bwang-Quos, have barely pacified the local inhabitants, thrown down their idols (of the Alien Wizards) and begun to construct a proper Catholic cathedral. However, the leaders of the off-world missionary mission are divided in their aims. The Portuguese conquistadors wants to pacify the Bwang-Quos and prepare against any resistance attacks, whilst the surviving priest wants to continue building a cathedral and create a bishopric of his own. The last remnants of the city-state’s royal dynasty has fled to an impregnable sky-fortress said to be the home of an incredible weapon of the gods, and there plots to throw out the invaders. Both factions in the off-world missionary mission would like to capture the last of the royal dynasty and take control of its famed weapon of the gods. Beyond the city, rebels and raiders have taken refuge in the bulrush marshes surrounding the city, there hiding whilst looking for opportunities to strike at the invader and planning to eventually drive them away. The resistance also wants to make contact with the royal dynasty and perhaps gain control of the legendary weapon to use against the invaders. Lastly, the tribes of Ice Barbarians who live in the tundra beyond the forests and bulrush marshes look on, waiting to see what will happen and hoping that the situation will eventually be to their advantage.

It is this febrile situation that the player characters are thrust. The likelihood is that they will have have arrived on Nibu via the portal in Hell—as detailed in Going Through Forbidden Other Worlds—and so will encounter the conquistadors first. Such an encounter is likely to lead to an alliance or an offer of work, either against the rebels or the Royal holdouts. Exploring the city-state will bring the player characters into contact with the local inhabitants, some of whom support the Portuguese, some of whom do not. They may even meet the rebels who might try and persuade the player characters to fight against the Conquistadors. Conquistador patrols and rebel bands are likely to be encountered in marshes. Of course, if the characters arrive by a different method, such as a magical mishap which lands them on Nibu, they may arrive anywhere of the Referee’s choosing and so meet the various NPCs in an entirely different order. Another option, would be for the players to create native inhabitants of Nibu and play as members of one faction or another. That though, would require further preparation upon the part of the Referee.

Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas provides sufficient detail about all of the various and pertinent factions and locations on Nibu, although there is scope for the Referee to create more of either. Only one location is described in any detail—Hawk’s Peak, the secret redoubt of Bwang-Quos’ royal dynasty—but it is not really a dungeon or adventuring locale in any sense. Surprisingly, none of the NPCs have stats, so it is left up to the Referee to provide these. Whilst it means that the Referee will need to put more effort into preparing the scenario, she can easily scale it to the Levels of her players’ characters. That said, they do have an advantage over the native inhabitants in being stronger and having access to metal arms and armour, and possibly firearms and magic versus the Stone Age materials of the Nibu inhabitants. The lack of stats also makes it easy to adapt to other rules systems, whether that is for the Old School Renaissance or not.

Physically, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is a slim booklet, tidyily laid out with an illustration or a map on every page. It needs an edit in places, but it both art and maps are decently done.

Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas describes itself as having the “...[C]lassic conquest versus liberation adventure going on…” and indeed, it has that. In fact, it actually has the classic conquest versus liberation adventure going on, because when all said and done, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is a fantasy/Science Fantasy reskinning of a classic conquest versus liberation situation from Earth’s own history, one contemporary with this scenario. That situation is the 1516 invasion of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish conquistadors and there are a great many elements in Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas which parallel the history of that invasion. 

With that parallel in mind, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas presents an interesting roleplaying situation in how far the players are willing to explore the strength of their characters’ religious beliefs. Certainly how far they are willing to side with an invading force before it abuts with our contemporary inclination to side with the oppressed… That said, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is of a limited utility. To get the fullest out of it, the Referee will need to have run Going Through Forbidden Other Worlds or found some other means to get the player characters to the distant moon, otherwise the scenario is not easy to add to an ongoing campaign. Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas has potential as one-off or some weird dreamscape, but this would require some development upon the part of the Referee.

Of limited scope and utility, Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas is an interesting addition to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay range, but one that may not see a great deal of play.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, not sure I'll pick this one up (I'm a bit tired of the 'portal through hell' schtick TBH), but I appreciate the review :)