…. and the big deal is it was written by the lead singer of Gwar--Oderus Urungus--born as-, and credited here as-, an earthling named Dave Brockie.
For those who don't know, Gwar was kind of to thrash what Dethklok is to modern extreme music. Grossout deathfuck novelty metal on steroids with inflatable dicks rolling around on stage and giant skulls squirting blood, Gwar was a big, loving, knowing parody that's lasted a surprisingly long time on the strength of ever-increasing budgets, total commitment to their bit and the fact that that stuff is pretty fun when you're drunk and waiting for the headliner to show up.
Needless to say, this is exactly the kind of thing that you could see appealing to LotFP's James Raggi, who has promoted the supplement not only the strength of Dave's name but on how it will freak people the fuck out.
|Gwar being Gwar|
But Will It?
There are, of course, in the online community surrounding games, people who live to be freaked out by games--especially ones released by LotFP. But the thing is they're very particular.
On paper, The Drama Club should have a field day with this adventure, burning it on the floor of the UN and scattering the ashes over the graves of those who died after accidentally hearing someone say they liked the original Captain Marvel costume better than the the new one.
The more obsessive members of the Drama Club refer frequently to the Death of the Author--an idea originally intended by Roland Barthes (in La mort de l'auteur) to describe how an author's biography shouldn't (and in many cases can't) be used to limit the meanings a writer draws from a piece of fiction, but which Drama Club members exclusively use to mean a writer or speaker's intentions, background and ideas should be ignored when deciding whether something's racist or sexist or inspires people to kill puppies and that only the reaction of their favorite forum regulars matter in deciding this. They get around the fact that their theory means that Mein Kampf isn't racist until someone other than Hitler reads it by claiming that you're harassing them by pointing that out and then writing conspiracy theories about you on 4chan.
Further and more specifically, various Drama Club members have established that they believe all of the following things:
-the fact something is labelled as "for adults" doesn't mean the adult reader is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,
- the fact that something is labelled as "fiction" doesn't mean the reader is the one at fault for imitating it in real life,
-the fact something is labelled as a "game" doesn't mean that the player is the one at fault for imitating it in real life,
-the fact something is labelled as "a joke" doesn't mean the audience is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,
-the fact something is a tiny sliver of microculture that will never reach a mass audience doesn't mean the fan who dug it up is the one at fault if they imitate it in real life,
…so the fact Towers Two is all five of those things together shouldn't matter to them.
In real life, if the author is figuratively dead, a naked girl means the same thing no matter who decided she was naked, and if the author is figuratively alive, then it matters that no-one even vaguely aware of the reality around it would or should take anything in Towers seriously--least of all the people who wrote it. If you're triggered by anything at all you should stay away from this adventure, but, like Gwar itself, nothing in it reflects anything anyone actually believes or will encourage any reasonable person to become worse.
Real life, though, is not where the Drama Club lives. Bad things happen to people in Towers Two and Vincent Baker didn't write it, which is usually enough to establish for the Club that Towers Two is part of a culture of encouraging bad things to happen to people in real life and so it's everything that's wrong with gaming. Add on to that the fact it's written for an old-school system and the fact that that old school system is LotFP and the game community should be bracing for another boring inquisition, complete with libel campaigns, twitter harassment, angry editorials, grumpy drunks and failed game designers staging walk-outs, and Fred Hicks frantically retweeting it all like the pallbearer he is.
|Gwar: Still Gwar|
On The Other Hand...
...the Drama Club has always been incredibly squeamish about applying their ideas about games, comics and movies to music.
This is probably because any consistent application of their standards about who wears what in front of teenagers would require picking a fight with not only Gwar and Jello Biafra but Nikki Minaj and Beyoncé as well--which would reveal how miserably crabbed and out-of-touch their nerd standards are with those of anyone who ever had any fun.
So Towers Two will be--if nothing else--a fascinating test of the Drama Club's commitment to their bit. They've consistently rejected context and--out of context--Towers Two is the most offensive thing in RPGs this side of FATAL.
They now have a choice: ignore TT and abandon all their supposedly earnest dedication to supposedly checking the supposedly pernicious influence of games that have blood and boobs or launch their usual assault and decisively label themselves as the new PMRC.
Will they take what has been laid out so obviously as bait? Or will they pretend it never happened? My guess is the latter. It is the Year of the Monkey and we do as we please. It's also an election year--and many hypocrisies have been laid bare.
As For The Adventure Itself
Close friends of the late Dave play D&D regularly at my house, and so I've heard the legends about his game--the Gwar bus barreling across America with a hole cut in the floor of the bathroom so shit spilled directly onto the highway system while a Brockie increasingly more preoccupied with partying and groupies than D&D kept sending the rest of Gwar to ever more gruesome deaths, climaxing in sessions that took place entirely in Hell.
To put it simply--this isn't that. Or not mostly.
Brockie's original draft is included in an appendix so it can be compared to the final product as fleshed out by Jobe Bittman after Brockie's untimely demise.
Brockie's sections of this text reads like a nasty but utterly playable Old School renaissance adventure about PCs evading warring factions and weird monsters in the countryside with a few grotty touches ("a pitch-black mud-pit filled with feces-smeared spikes", a monster's mouth is "cunt-shaped", the pig-men are in all ways fucked) that could as easily be played for How To Be A God-style people-are-horrible early Warhammer medieval crapsackism as anything and if someone told you the guy from Gwar wrote it you'd be like "That's funny. I can see him being a D&D guy". The title "Towers Two" is neither an edgy reference to 9-11 nor a flatulent satire of The Two Towers. It's just a dungeon where some brothers live (one evil, one…also a problem) with orcs. (Or, as the revised and LotFP-ified text reads--with pig-men.) It's a slightly higher fantasy version of what you might see from Evan over at In Places Deep.
Meanwhile, the posthumous additions by RPG designer and rabid Gwar fan Jobe Bittman read like…something a rabid Gwar fan would write.
There's a very telling line in the credits:
Text © 2016 Dave Brockie except Deathfuck Magic, Death Phallus, Cunt Whip, Fuckblade, Baby Fax Machine, and The Chinstrap of Accommodation © 2016 Jobe Bittman
One gets the feeling Brockie agreed to write TT because he genuinely loved D&D--and Bittman agreed or was chosen to finish it because he genuinely loved Brockie.
"Huge Feral Pig rutting in back garden."
"Huge feral pig rutting in a back garden, its engorged cork-screwed manhood pulsing in the sun."
Brockie's TT is not so much obnoxious as pitiless: "Dying old woman in stinking-of-piss upstairs room. If comforted will BLESS party +1 to all TO HIT rolls for 3-6 game days. She will die anyway."
Bittman, on the other hand, apes Oderus Urungus style Gwarspeak: "A dying old woman in stinking-of-piss upstairs room. If comforted the woman blesses the party conferring +1 to attack rolls for 1d4 game days. She will die anyway. No treasure. Fuck you for asking."
I cast no aspersions on anyone involved. It's quite possible that, since Brockie's draft was partial (all the major characters and wilderness locations are detailed, but only half the dungeon) Brockie fully intended to Gwarify the final text. However, as it stands, the most aggressively repulsive material is Bittman's and the structure of the adventure overall is pretty much a standard sandbox + climactic dungeon.
The wilderness area consists of a bunch of environments with monsters--ship with a ghost captain on it, old farms with feral animals, a gross ex-cult leader ogre, etc…the towers themselves ramp up both the variety (more detail, more traps) and the Gwar.
Prose-wise, it reads like a lot of Old School bloggers, even when it's recommending railroading--
Any self-respecting referee should take steps, as unfair as they may be, to make sure this happens, and Lord Ragath returns from oblivion, however briefly, to voice his displeasure with the sorry state of the lovely kingdom he left to his worthless offspring. Preferably he should appear at a completely critical moment or even better after the party thinks they have beaten the whole module. Anything for a good game, that’s my favorite rule!
The best part, for my money, is the drawings--by Brockie himself and OSR up-and-comer Jeremy Duncan--which mix confident, chunky linework with a fascinatingly tasteless photoshop rainbow of bad-trip colors, landing somewhere between Russ Nicholson, Mad Magazine and a Juicy Fruit commercial.
It is somehow very fitting that this was one of Brockie's last projects--he died how he lived: paying weird homage to what he loved and getting talented freaks work making disgusting monsters.