Friday, November 7, 2014

Adventure Review: Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies Module 8)

Adventure: Proteus Sinking.
Author: Bjorn Warmedal.
Publisher: Geoffrey McKinney (Psychedelic Fantasies), 2014.
Compatibility: Any Old School edition or clone.
Recommended Character Levels: 1-3.
Availability: PDF: $2.95 or Pay What You Want.

Here's an excerpt from the description of all Psychedelic Fantasies products:
These modules revel in unconstrained imagination. Every monster, every magic item, and every magic spell is a unique and never-before-seen creation of the author. No orcs, fireballs, or +1 swords will be found within. Leave the familiar behind to explore hitherto undreamed of wonders… 
Proteus Sinking is an utterly charming low-level adventure with a sort of whimsical science-fiction setting. Since it is the most recent of Geoffrey McKinney's (of Carcosa fame) Psychedelic Fantasies I am sort of working backwards here. But I heard about the module after briefly meeting the author online. So I looked at the Preview on RPGNow and was immediately hooked by the unique setting. I'm going to quote the "Background" in full:
The Globonauts are bipedal slime creatures of a fluorescent blue colour. They travel through space and dimensions to find beauty and happiness, attempting to discern how these qualities come to be and how best to preserve them. They do not understand happiness themselves, however, as they are mostly in a melancholic mood. 
During their travels their ship, the Proteus, was somehow infected with a powerful psychotropic virus, which eventually corrupted the entire ship and caused it to crash in a dark and disgusting swamp. The ship now lies propped up on top of a tentacle monster that at the same time tries to enter the ship to plunder it of anything organic (read: edible) and prevents the ship from sliding into the depths of the swamp. 
All Globonauts, being tightly integrated into the dimensional energies of the ship, now feel confused and depressed. They dare not leave the ship – in fact they might not even be aware of the possibility – and they spend their time trying to survive mentally. This includes holding a perpetual colourful disco in one of the rooms on the ship, imbibing fluids and substances that all Globonauts feel is part of the activities of a proper party.
See. Now you're hooked.

Psychedelic Fantasy modules contain no art--color or otherwise. It's therefore a brilliant stratagem to incorporate exploding color into the name. That's a compliment not a criticism. The PDF is entirely black-and-white text. But when I think of it, I imagine those very blue Globonauts.

I hope the author will pardon me if I didn't keep thinking of the ship as similar to the one in The Awful Green Things from Outer Space, with the Globonauts and their mutated pet Spiderlings (made out of jelly, of course) as sort of an alternating cross between crew and slime.

As with Green Things, there are various random outcomes that could be beneficial, harmful or strange but are always cool. These are summed up in the tables--"What is in the Globonaut Chest?" "What does that button/switch do?" "What happens when the pipe breaks?" and "Random Mutations".

One of the central ideas of the adventure is that everyone an everything on the ship is affected by whether the ship as a whole is lawful, neutral or chaotic. This status is in turn dependent on the mix of green or pink fluid connected to each of three disembodied brains, which the characters may be able to affect, intentionally or otherwise.

There are 34 rooms on the ship, most containing an alien derived something that the adventurers will find mysterious, wondrous, fantastic and perhaps deadly. Plus those tentacles are often in residence. Though the links to the dark fantasy of Carcosa or Lamentations of the Flame Princess are obvious, I think this adventure would be perfect for children (with a few modifications--perhaps replacing the mutant humanoid navigators and their disembodied brains with robot bodies and robot heads, for example).

This module is a triumph of a unique, one-session adventure. For $2.50 it captivated me for an hour, making me think and smile. I would love to run it, especially with a group of children for whom Game of Thrones is not the be-all and end-all of imaginative fantasy. Since my three-year old daughter was captivated by the Fiend Folio the other night (I had inadvertently left it on the coffee table while sorting things), perhaps that's only a few years away...

“Daddy, what is that?”
“That’s a Bunyip, darling.”
“Oh, a Bunyip.”
“Daddy, what is that?”
“That’s a Son of Kyuss, darling.”
“Oh. A Son of Kyuss. I don’t like them, Daddy.”

1 comment:

  1. Sounds awesome! I've run a few from Psychedelic Fantasies and really enjoyed them. This cover is better than just a plain brown, but would love to see some interior art in these adventures. Doesn't have to be many, just a few would be great.