Justice Playthrough #155: Guidebook to the Viridian Maw (Forking Paths #1)

This is cool as hell. If you’re running a tabletop fantasy RPG and would like to toss your players into a dangerous alien wilderness that’s still playing fair with them, this is a hell of a good resource.

Page 49, Game 20: Guidebook to the Viridian Maw (Forking Paths #1) by Orbis Tertius Press

Welcome to the impact crater, motherfuckers.

The Veridian Maw is a biome-within-a-biome. It’s not a rain forest, but it’s damp. Real damp. Damp enough to support rather a lot of fungus — some really scary fungus that can kill you. Or help you out! Or help you but within some really dangerous constraints. It all depends on whether you know what the fuck you’re doing.

That’s the true value of this setting: there’s a hell of stuff to know about this environment. If your players either crush or fail a “Know What The Fuck That Plant Is” roll, you have legit rewards to give or withhold. If your players take the time to research what they’re getting into, it can save their lives. If they do the locals such a huge solid that an NPC volunteers to keep them out of trouble, good god DAMN is that a big deal.

For instance, there’s Knitmoss, a kind of moss that has natural healing properties. Get injured in the Maw, and it’s the sort of thing that can save your life. Of course, use it too aggressively, and the knitmoss can lightly colonize your system and occasionally cause you to sprout moss as your injuries heal. Which isn’t necessarily the WORST thing, even if it does sound kinda itchy.

Of course, you want to be careful you don’t mistake it for KNOTmoss, which will wreck your shit in a hurry. Where knitmoss is symbiotic, knotmoss is a full-bore parasite and will kill you, painfully, tying your body in an excruciating knot as it spreads through your system. They’re a bitch to tell apart. Luckily, locals know to drop a fresh earthworm into a patch of potentially life-saving moss. Earthworms don’t mind knitmoss, but will frantically try to get the fuck away from knotmoss. Usually.

There are moss creatures and dream snakes and various plants that will get you high as balls if they don’t kill you. There’s a ton going on.

And beneath it all is, of course, a history. There are ruins, if you want to explore them. But be warned, if the locals avoid it, that’s for a reason.

Something MADE that impact crater, after all. Something is responsible for this region being as weird and dangerous as it is.

This zine creates an interesting, dangerous wilderness where you don’t have to abstract the dangers. Instead of telling your players “All right, thanks to your research, you can take Advantage on this nature check,” you can, like, give them ACTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE shit. The ruins here aren’t just generic vaguely Mesoamerican fallen civilizations, there are actual mysteries to explore an uncover.

The material is system agnostic, so converting it all into stats is very much your problem. (The author, Nathan Harrison, makes enough references to Dungeon World that I seriously wonder if that wasn’t how he first ran this material. If so, I kinda wish he’d included those game details; Apocalypse World stats tend to be pretty unobtrusive and narratively friendly.)

Towards the end, the author talks a bit about the philosophy behind the setting. “If you spot an open door to make the life of a character stranger, instead of making it end, go for stranger every time.” What a lovely way to run a game. I bet this guy’s players have some really weird anecdotes to share.

Pretty much my only beef with this product is the art. It is … not good. Also, the map of the region depicts a river passing over a waterfall into the crater, where it flows to what appears to be a cave in the center and just kinda … fucks off. The mystery of “Why is this place not a lake?” is unexplored, and honestly merits a sentence or two.

This is the second of three issues of Forking Paths I’ve encountered in this trawl, and the previous labyrinth-centric issue Lost in Dark Halls was similarly excellent. Looks like the three issues in the bundle are the only ones that have been published so far. This is quality work, and worth keeping an eye out for.

It sure beats the shit out of “You get ambushed by goblins, but they all like worship moss or something” for giving your game a sense of place.

What terrifying ways to die await me in this next game?

Page 13, Game 12: Daily Chthonicle by charon@ss

“Supernatural Detective Game”

All of them. I’m guessing this is gonna give me all the ways to die.

Very nice.