Saturday, 14 July 2018

OSR PDF Reviews # 3 (Faux Pas) + Faux Pas Popping Plague Table

(Explanation of my review methodology can be found here)

Faux Pas.  

Available at:


What is it?

A horror/sci-fi freakshow module containing details of an infected town (Opeth), a doomsday countdown events table, and a dungeon. It also seems sort of wild west but that might just be because I binged watched season 1 and 2 of Westworld last week and everything has an imaginary cowboy hat perched atop its head at the moment. Also, a key NPC introduced on the first page is named Father Holden which reminds me of Judge Holden (The town is relatively timeless/out of time so could easily mold to your setting if it so easily warped to my current day dream climate.)

It's a race against time, it's morbid fascination porn for your PC's, and it's a dungeon with greys called demons harvesting primeval black plasma at an ancient occult site. It's an adventure with a social conscience too, suggesting maybe all that's needed in our troubled times, that seems to be hurtling towards apocalypse, is to just slow down and talk to each other - even if we speak different languages. That, and maybe the mindless extraction of natural resources might have unintended consequences on those that live nearby said resource extraction.


The introduction: Short, pithy and punchy. Straight to the point. There is creepy weird shit happening and its about to get worse. No essays on the last century of local history, politics or religion - just stuff that is instantly interesting and fun. Got my attention and made me want to know more.

Interactive PDF: The maps and key terms in the text hyperlink to the appropriate pages. It works great, and would make running the module straight from an electronic device very easy. I printed my copy and wrote notes all over it to review it. Whenever I was confused about what was were I used the electronic copy and found what I was looking for very quickly. Good idea, done well.

Descriptions heavy (nigh pregnant) with implication: Just like the introduction most descriptions are relatively pithy and to the point, but with enough meat to help you grok what the hell is going on. There's room to interpret things in your own way and run your own version of Faux Pas rather than the authors version of Faux Pas (see my above comments regarding interpreting the whole thing as vaguely wild west). Buildings too hint at things rather than stocktake room by room, again opening up the module to run it as your interpretation (At times I probably would have preferred a clearer vision of what was contained within certain locations - I will address that later).

NPCs as Clues: Generally, all NPCs, whether sane or tortured with mutations, point towards what's going on in their own warped way. They are all little horribly shaped puzzle pieces. Most people serve a purpose and aren't there to just get in  the way/distract. There is somewhat of a mystery to solve in Faux Pas, not purposefully obtuse or misleading - but a mystery. Whatever part of Opeth the PCs wander to, something weird, if engaged with, will point them in the right direction.

Art and maps: Understated,  jilted and weird. Again heavy with implication rather than spelling it out (see "mutation" image at top of review). Art is a combination of bricolage and creepy hand drawn figures. I would have liked to have seen more art, especially further interpretations of the mutated plague victims. The dungeon room sketches are very good and useful. The custom typography work actually does a fuck load of work in getting you primed and ready for horror. See, the actual Faux Pas title text. The maps too are clear,  yet unsettling. The maps are shrunk to take up about half of an otherwise clear page and they would have been easier to use if they filled up more of that empty space.

Affliction descriptions: Weird and nasty and terrible and fascinating. It's the closest we can get to visiting a freakshow in the modern "civilized" age. Normally the weird things just attack the PCs on sight, it's nice to be able to have some non combat interaction. Players will experience joy in seeing the weirdness, the GM is going to have have fun describing it. I could imagine my players coming to Opeth, wandering around for a few days just staring in wonder at all the horror, then leave without fixing anything. And that would be fine. They could then come back in a few weeks to find it all burned down. There would still be adventure to have at that point, the dungeon still be churning out mutations. 

The Dungeon and The Gilagthrr: It's a puzzle and mystercultist archaeology. It has greys (Demons/Gilagthrr) extracting cultist goo to power their spaceship. The greys aren't there to kill any one. They don't even really know any one is there, they are just their to get some spaceship gas and leave (roadside picnic influence?). This means that the biggest enemy in the dungeon is miscommunication. If the players work out a way to actually communicate with the Gilaghrr they can fix everything. If the players attack the Gilaghrr they will probably get killed and Opeth will burn. I like games where combat is sparing and only used as a last resort (and when at least one PC dies), this dungeon encourages that.

The Doomsday Countdown: Stitching the dungeon and the town together is a d30 Random events table. Once all of the entries have been used, the Inquisitor General comes back to town and burnkills everything. The build up of horrific weirdness will ensure a tense and entertaining visit to Opeth. Here's a good example: 


The Dungeon Back Story: At the end of dungeon room descriptions are somewhat poetic verses describing the back story rituals of the locale. Some of them are cool (the bed hanging over the chasm) but generally I don't know what do with them. It does help to infest the mind as you run Faux Pas, but the way I see it, will never be used/seen by the players.  I didn't get it, its kind of vague. It is maybe a fun puzzle for the GM to work out whats going but its stuff the players will never be told (Unless they had some book or translation item  which could be used to regale them with the verses - which doesn't exist in the text).

Things like:

'Before the final baptism and being sent  out into the world applicants would walk beneath the gaze of their elders any of whom could demand their expulsion"

As a GM I want to attempt to be an objective conduit to the game world, I feel reading verses like that gets in the way of that goal. I'm not completely convinced their totally bad though as they may act  like a tuning fork for the mind, helping the GM grok the dungeon. They are there, the writing is good, but I am unsure of their usefulness.


Unclarity: Implied setting writing is good but some things need details. Example "Andrew's children's mutations are grotesque and there minds are gone". There is three children, I need to know exactly what mutations they have and how their minds are gone. Most mutations are described in glorious detail  - so when they are blatantly absent it sticks out. Another location describes pens filled with violent mutants (which one NPC is actively trying to unleash). None of those mutants are described and I KNOW my players would immediately ask for descriptions of every mutant in each cage. I don't have the capacity to generate 12 random mutants on the fly as I run the game so this section seems an oversight. More mutant descriptions please. Additionally, a quick sketch of what is in each building in Opeth would be nice. Not a stocktake of every room just a quick sketch. This could even just be notes on the map page. This manifests most apparently in the case of "The Cook's Castle". There is a solid backstory and foreboding but I don't know what is actually in there (also there is a hexagram drawn on the second floor on the map - whats going on there? Give me a couple of details please!)

Missing a plague table: If you are me, the players ARE going to get infected . I need to know what happens to them once the violence passes. Additional NPCs pop during the module - I need to know what happens to them too. That said, the other descriptions of mutations are so fun I was inspired to write my own (I did - they are at the bottom of the page).

Lack of uniformity: Town map spots are sometimes NPCs and sometimes location. Sticking to locations would make Faux Pas easier to run. Ie: Name each building or town region, then when I click on it I can see the buildings descriptions and what NPCS are there. There is also no details on some of the buildings (or even an overall description of the architecture of the town).  The random events table has similar problems. Some events are places  rather than "events" and this requires the party to walk over to the thing to experience it. Ensuring that every "event" could happen wherever the party was at that point in time would make Faux Pas, again, easier to run.

Father Holden and Inquisitor General: Not enough details on these guys - Inquisitor general in particular has nothing other than his name (cool name though).  It's more than likely he will end up coming to town and when that happens I need to know how to run him. He is the true looming armageddon, so to see so little description of his aspect and methods leaves me longing for more information. I just need to know a few things: What's he look like, how does he talk and how does his trails and torture manifest. If any one is interested, here's how I pictured him "He has an eye patch covering an empty scared socket, and a black pope's hat. He always shouts, even when he is whispering [which he does a lot], then I would just use the methods of torture/training listed in the dungeon as a bit of a mirror foreshadowing freakout for the players.

The Gilagthrr: The are never described in text. It seems like a very conscious decision but I would like an ornate piece of text to describe to my players. I want to see Nick's writing prowess put to work to say everything but "Basically greys with butterfly wings", which is what I will say straight away when a player goes "Yeah, but what does it look like?". I could just show them pictures (see cover, see illustration page 28) but that robs the players of using their own imagination from what I know would be a delicious text description.

How could you use it in your hexcrawl? 

Faux pas assumes you will be using it in a preexisting hex crawl. It tells you to just whack the town on a hex - and that would work perfectly well. Additionally,  you could use the doomsday countdown random events table in any location of your choosing ignoring the preexisting  mutated town elements and experiencing a slower burn to insanity, ultimately leading the players towards the dungeon.

Adventure is suitable timeless, not too heavy on its own custom campaign setting, so would easily warp to any specific setting you had.

How could you use it in your urbancrawl/megadungeon? 

Slot the dungeon in the level below the current level. Use the random event table to have chaos slowly unfold. Reskin/UseAsIs the NPCasClues.

For my suburbcrawl Guild Dogs game I am thinking of popping Opeth as a tenement building, the Inquisitor General recast as a quarantining rather than religious figure.

The popping plague is a great ailment,  that would be fun to see infect any region of your game. Again my desire for Faux Pas to include a mutation table simmers strongly within me.

Faux Pas Popping Plague Table

If PC exposed to popping plague do a private Save versus Poison, or CON test. If failure in d4 days PC goes through fit of violence for 10 minutes in which they attempt to kill anything they see. 

If PC survives The Violence, Roll a d6:

1 = Minor Physical Affliction
2 = Major Physical Affliction
3 = Mental Affliction
4 = Minor + Major Physical Afflictions
5 = Minor Physical + Mental Afflictions
6 = All three Afflictions

Cross off each entry as it is used to give the impression the popping plague manifests uniquely each time.

Minor Physical Affliction, d12.
Major Physical Affliction, d12.
Mental Affliction, d12.

1.      Hands or feet spin 180 degrees on end of limb. Useable but backwards.
2.      Take on the face of the last animal gazed upon.
3.      Eyes leave head and move to; d6: 1) Hands, 2) Feet, 3) Knees, 4) Chest, 5) Elbows, 6) Back of head.
4.      The following disappears; d6: 1) Eyes, 2) Legs, 3) Arms, 4) Nose, 5) Ears, 6) Mouth.
5.      Finger nails grow thick and backwards along arm at alarming rate, covering the body in d6 days.
6.      Swaps bodies with the first person they lay eyes on after the Violence passes.
7.      Countless fingers sprout from skin all across body. They act with their own malicious free will.
8.      Teeth outgrow mouth in geometric patterns to form cage around head, takes d4 hours.
9.      Once a day stomach swells to the size of a watermelon, then vomits miniaturized version of self, about 1 foot tall. Mostly stillborn 2.5% chance will be alive and sentient.
10.   Arms grow at a rate of a foot a day. Generally work fine the bigger they get.
11.   Arms and legs fuse to torso, dozens of hands sprout to help scuttle about new snake like form.
12.   Grows a babbling head on their back each day (speaking the language of demons), getting increasingly more hunchbacked. Heads are replicas of the most interesting person they saw the previous day.

1.      Body splays out into an arm or leg flower. Head and torso nestles at centre 6 + d10 arm/leg “petals”.
2.      Intestines wrench forth from stomach, twirl down legs, and plant themselves like roots in the nearest soil. Intestines quickly multiple in quantity and red flesh leaves sprout from top of form as motor control slowly ceases.
3.      Head increases in size at the rate of the mass of a dog a day, to about the size of an elephant.
4.      Over d6 days warps into a flesh version of the last piece of furniture used.
5.      Liquefies over d6 hours. Can remain sentient and alive if now goopy mass held in a single large receptacle.  
6.      Hair grows and thickens, then wraps around neck to strangle to death. Will achieve goal in d4 hours unless constantly cut.
7.      Flesh turns to rubber. Now a quivering and near useless tangle of limbs without very little control – length of body is increasing at a rate of a foot a day.
8.      Flesh and bone contorts itself into the shape of nearest insect. Transformation is only concerned with shape and form – ignoring function and ongoing agony of transformed being.
9.      Ribcage grows over 1d6 hours to burst from flesh, and form into a set of four bony horse like legs that carriage the transformed being around without their consent. Gallops aboveground following the route of the underground river.  
10.   Grows a conjoined replica of every person they touch, takes 1 day for replica to grow. Conjoined replicas will grow wherever there is room and the replicas count for touching/replicating purposes. Conjoined replicas are drooling and vegetized.
11.   A sort of bloody red octopus grows using the intestines, bursting out of groin to support and carry plague victim. Grows to the size of an elephant in d6 day.
12.   Body is turning into flesh bricks, replicating the nearest stone building. A major body part per day is converted. Once body has completely brickfield, brick flesh continues to grow – replicating the Dungeon map below at the rate of a room a week. Flesh bricks will grow around existing structures – squeezing into any gaps it finds.  

1.      All mental functions beyond breathing, eating, drinking and expulsing waste stop. Vegetized. 
2.      All speech comes out backwards.
3.      Sees own limbs as fractal like snakes, terminating in a tangle of additional snakes. If focused on the illusion spreads, the ground and everything the hands touch becomes fractal snake patterns. The snakes wear a violent sneer.
4.      Something huge is always swooping down from the sky to destroy the afflicted, yet it never quite reaches them. They are aware of a constant menacing shadow around them, always hearing a whooshing noise. They cower and flinch.
5.      Now knows the secret that there is treasure hidden deep within the delicious red organic flesh of all beings.
6.      Now knows the last d6 people they gazed upon have stolen their memories.  
7.      Now knows that anyone who refuses their kindness, in gestures great or small, is plotting to kill them and will complete their machinations in the next day.
8.      Now knows there is butterflies beneath the ground and must catch them to avoid dying. Wakes up finding self sleep-digging at dirt with filthy hands.
9.      Understands the language of demons but can no longer sleep. Will die of exhaustion in a week.
10.   Now speaks the language of demons but cannot understand it. The fact that they no longer understand the language of their own thoughts is particularly aggravating.
11.   Now knows everything will be fine if they drown every person they see in the well. They take d12 migraine damage each day they don’t drown someone.
12.   Sees demons in the reflection of every window they encounter. Takes 1 point of migraine damage if they walk past the window without smashing it.

Once infected, you will have to read Faux Pas to find out what the cure to Popping Plague is! (The curse it learning to have a healthy and productive relationship with [your] demons).