Who knew Maryland could be so fun? A review of Colony of Death by M.W. Hess
So I picked up another OSR publication. I told you…I’m obsessed! This one sounded intriguing. Basically, its a Lamentations of the Flame Princess compatible publication that takes place in Maryland of all places.
I thought…Maryland? What’s so fun about Maryland? So for about $5 I got a hard copy. (The pdf version can be found at DrivethruRPG.com). I gotta say, this is awesome. There is a lot about Maryland that is weird. This is a neat little set up for an entire campaign that can take place in 1650s Maryland. Of all freakin’ places… Maryland.
Clearly, Mr. Hess put some serious research into this. The first third of the book is devoted to providing the Referee and players with background to work with (the book is about 57 pages). There is a timeline and brief history of the colony. Just enough for a Referee to get their bearings, but not too much to rankle the historians. He provides a simple vigniette of the people one is likely to find in colonial Maryland. Again, there is just enough to provide a player with an array of options for character creation, but not too much to bog down the work as a whole. He provides background for both Catholic and protestant players, servants or criminals, or even Native American characters. (If I played in this setting, I would totally reskin a Lamentations Halfling as a Susquehannock native. I’m from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. I loved reading about the Iroquis when I was a kid).
There is also an option for the players to build and maintain their own homestead and tobacco farm. Again, there was some research put into this work as the back of the book contains a primer on how tobacco was grown in 1650s Maryland. It is this kind of detail that can make a setting come to life. I love it. Even if the players never decide to grow tobacco, the Referee can incorporate that into his or her narratives to really immerse the players. Bravo!
For the rule and option junky, Colony of Death gives you rules for colonial diseases like dysentery, typhoid fever, small pox, and yellow fever. Another (dangerous) way to immerse the players in their adventures through colonial Maryland. I have every intention of using these rules in other campaigns and settings.
I really like the use of local folklore as inspiration for monsters and adventure. I won’t go into the details here as a I don’t want to spoil anything. Colony of Death provides you with four adventures, three of which involve his monstrous creations. One adventure includes some very potent and incredibly weird magic items that will certainly make your players think twice before using them.
The map and encounter charts provide a Referee with the means to run a hex crawl through colonial Maryland. My only criticism that I can offer is that I would have liked to have seen some named places on the map that aren’t given any detail in the book. Something like “cursed burial mound” or “So-and-So’s cabin.” Anything to give someone like myself who knows nothing of Maryland’s history something to work with and to get the creative juices flowing. I once ran a 10 year campaign that was inspired by a single sentence in the 1ed Forgetton Realms Campaign book: “On this date, the Ring of Winter is found.” There was nothing else in the book about the Ring of Winter, but boy did that sentence fill me with such foreboding, I had to write about it. That sentence launched a campaign that my friends still talk about to this day. Anyway…I digress. My criticism is minor. The hex map is cool and there is a lot of room for a Referee to put his own stuff on the map.
So, with all that said, I absolutely love that colonial America was explored as a possible setting for some wierd fantasy roleplaying. While this book is not an official Lamentations product, it was written as one compatible with the system. Those familiar with LotFP know that the default setting of that game is early modern Europe in the 17th Century. It’s nice to see that the weird has expanded to the American colonies.
This book is worth way more than what its listed price is on DriveThruRPG. Pick it up. It is totally worth it.