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Friday 24 February 2023

Friday Fantasy: Earth Incubation Crisis

The year is 1635. The village of Landskrona has nothing to recommend it except perhaps for a legend about a dragon having been killed in the past—nobody can remember exactly when—and that is all. Landskrona is utterly forgettable except… In the past few months two teenage girls have gone missing, as have several children. There are rumours of witches in the area, because, well, it is 1635 and there are witches in the area. Also, a unit of mercenaries recently passed through the area looking for bandits. However, the missing girls and children, let alone the rumours of witchcraft are not the only problems besetting the village of Landskrona, let alone the rest of Norway, Europe, and even the whole of the Earth—though they are just the most obvious ones! This is the set-up for Earth Incubation Crisis, a scenario for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay. Written by the designer of Wight Power, the good news is that whilst Earth Incubation Crisis is another ‘hidden, apocalyptic monster waiting to be unleashed, whilst surrounded by monsters’, it is more interesting, better developed, and less provocatively titled than Wight Power, and whilst it contains content that is prurient in places and is adult in tone throughout, it is not thoroughly as unpleasant or as tasteless as Curse of the Daughterbrides. In fact, inspired by Japanese Science Fiction, Earth Incubation Crisis has the potential to be a lot of fun.

Earth Incubation Crisis is essentially a hexcrawl set in the Norwegian countryside. Like other scenarios published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess it is set in the game’s default early Modern Period. Specifically, in 1635 Norway, so it could work with several of the other publisher’s titles or equally easily adapted to the retroclone of the Game Master’s choice. It could even be shifted to another similar location. The scenario begins when the Player Characters arrive in the village of Landskrona and quickly learn of its problems—the missing persons and the rumours of witchcraft, as well as the possibility of discovering a dragon’s hoard. This is motivation for them to set out and investigate the nearby forests, marsh, and mountains. Barring the village of Landskrona, there are only five set locations in the scenario, set across the region. As the Player Characters move about the area, they will run into encounter after encounter, and it is with these encounters that the scenario begins to come its own. The author has made an effort to make every encounter detailed and interesting. For example, brown bears are sighted in the area, but a pair of corpses are later found which turn out to be of a couple who tried to live in harmony with the bears and unfortunately, it did not go as they intended. An abandoned home will be found, but its former occupant might be found later. There is the mercenary band out looking for the bandits and the bandits themselves, hiding out after a robbery went wrong—which is why they are being hunted. The mercenaries are not just soldiers and the bandits not just bandits, there is a bit more to them in each case, which can work in the Player Characters’ favour as much as it could hinder them under different circumstances. Some of the NPCs are monstrous, but the major NPCs in particular are well drawn and often elicit the sympathies of the Referee, let alone the players and their characters. In other cases, what would ordinarily be seen as in monsters in other Dungeons & Dragons-style adventures are here treated as completely sympathetic. There are some genuinely entertaining NPCs in Earth Incubation Crisis and the Referee will have a lot of fun portraying them.

Ultimately, clues found across the area will point to something else going on in the region and following those clues will reveal a secret area where the real threat at the heart of the scenario can be found. Directly inspired by classic Japanese Science Fiction films, this is a truly gargantuan threat. Discovery of this sets up the second of two moral dilemmas in the scenario. This is a much bigger one, one which fits the scale of the threat. The scenario includes a solution, again on a similarly grand scale. If there is a downside to the solution and the final denouement in the scenario, it is that it can only really involve the one Player Character, who gets a very big role in the spotlight. 

Physically, Earth Incubation Crisis is a handsome hardback, done in orange shades throughout with slightly cartoonish illustrations. However, the artwork is unnecessarily prurient in places in way that adds nothing to the situation described in the book. Also, giving a robot the name ‘P3N1S’ is immature, if not puerile.

Like many scenarios for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RoleplayEarth Incubation Crisis is best run a as one-shot, because with the likelihood of the world being ended, a campaign is really difficult to carry on. Despite that, Earth Incubation Crisis is a lot of fun. It takes the standard format for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay scenario of there being a ‘hidden, apocalyptic monster waiting to be unleashed, whilst surrounded by monsters’, and themes it around two genres which normally do not meet, but clash suitably here, whilst also presenting the players and their characters with a moral dilemma (and a way out of it). Earth Incubation Crisis then sets this in a superbly detailed, hexcrawl populated with interesting encounters and a cast of grotesques, and then lets the Player Characters loose upon the Norwegian countryside to discover the horrors, both natural and unnatural for themselves.

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