What Ho, Cannonballers!
It’s been nearly two months since I posted a review or, indeed, read a book. My last semester of school is truly kicking my ass. I have plenty of books to choose from, but school takes so much of my mental and physical energy that reading anything seems like just another item on the task list.
One thing I have enjoyed, though, is thinking about and reading tabletop RPGs. There’s something so low pressure about RPG books, which are often just a guided collection of cool ideas. No worries about understanding complex character arcs or themes. Just cool monsters and mechanics.
I picked up What Ho, Frog Demons! based solely on the title — I was buying something else on DriveThruRPG (review pending reading) and this was in the “Customers Also Bought…” suggestions. I’d never even heard of the system WHFD is based on, Labyrinth Lord. I’m just a big fan of frog demons.
What Ho, Frog Demons! has… a lot of content, for an RPG book. It starts with a description and suggested encounters in the Canton of Marlinko, a setting previously explored in depth by Kutalik, I guess. It took me a few pages to get used to the lingo and honestly there are still some sentences I just do not understand.
It also has two “adventure sites” which make up the bulk up of the book — these are suggested scenarios for a Labyrinth Lord/Game Master to run for their party. My favorite, though the shorter of the two, is FROG DEMON TEMPLE. The second, BEETS FOR THE BEET GOD, is more than twice as long and has a lot more detail, and if I were running this module myself, I know I’d need a lot of prep time and cheat sheets to keep everything straight in my head. Both are set in the countryside of Marlinko and include maps, hooks, NPCs, encounters, and stat blocks.
The appendices are a Bestiary and Frog Demon Generator, and a Bucolic Village Generator. Various Generators are usually my favorite part of any RPG; I love the firehose of information they contain and the possibility within.
Things I liked: The art is cool and creepy and has a good balance between detail and clarity. Most of the entries were succinct, without extraneous details. There’s an armored bear NPC named Preved! who I would die for. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, and revels in combining genres and adding concepts outside of Tolkienism (a RoboDwarf makes multiple appearances). The blurb describes the book as “acid fantasy” which is pretty accurate and something I enjoy.
Things I didn’t like as much: All of the names are very Slavic, which I knew going in, but if I ever played this myself I’d need a hefty pronunciation guide (I only took French in high school). Some of the jokes… just fell flat. And in a book that was pretty funny throughout, those flats are very noticeable. Also, I cannot iterate how specifically I came here for frog demons, and it was a little disappointing that they were the smaller of the two adventures. This one is more on me, but because this is the third or fourth in a series of setting/adventure books, so much of this was nearly unintelligible without the context of the first two. I’m certain if I was familiar with the system and the setting I wouldn’t have spent the whole time trying to parse what must be basic concepts.
All in all, this was definitely worth the read, and I can see myself referring back to it if and when I return to actually playing or running an RPG.