Tall Wheat

Tall Wheat

I was expecting a larger tome, maybe something like a small bible, as I saw the cover after the kickstarter first delivered. I was late, the kickstarter was closed and the Exalted Funeral shop entry was saying "please wait", then "sold out". I keyed in my email and when stock appeared, I ordered a physical copy. It arrived this week.

Last year, between two waves of Corona, I went back in my hometown and met my cousin, he is an artist. I wanted to show him some of the treasures among our modern role-playing games. I was thinking maybe Mörk Borg, brandishing it like a warhammer. Then, maybe something from the Flame Princess constellation. Then, I didn't take anything, I travelled light.

My first trail in the tall wheat went diagonally, jumping from one illustration to the next. They are all by Evlyn Moreau. Those modules and settings are often at their best when a single illustrator is a work, this one is no exception.

The illustrations and the text were woven together by the layout (into nicely framed pages, maybe a reminder of the wall between the farm and the wheat. It all feels right, it is not pretentious. My diagonal progression soon turned into the reading of tables. I went to the first page and started reading the module.

The work of Camilla Greer feels like a presentation, a bullet point one. This is not a bad thing. We have this experience of sitting in the meeting room, waiting for the next slide, because we have read all the bullets and the presenter is simply reading his own slides. We learnt how to read, we read silently in our heads, it is faster than listening.

So reading I was and it is an easy read. All those points coalesced to form a setting, Where the Wheat Grows Tall, and it is flattering to be trusted to assemble that universe. It didn't feel like learning, or studying, it felt like building and making it my own.

Maybe I am fooling myself and I need a third reading to have something that I can run. Especially since a few "joints" are left to us, referees, to fit together. So much of that fooling comes with the trusting, the leaving it to you the reader, from the authors.

This afternoon on Mastodon, Sandra Snan of blorb fame was highlighting some Record of Lodoss War extracts and pointing at their unblorbiness. Of course, the Lodoss War rolled a 6 in the encounter table in my head and that meant an ambush with a Polevik in the Tall Wheat. I asked Sandra, "Is Where the Wheat Grows Tall blorby?".

She took the time to read the module and to answer:

From a blorbiness perspective, 10/10.

Encounter tables, clear rules for how often and when to roll on them, pointcrawl, no prepped plot or outcomes, super interesting situations. This is great for #blorb.

I have a minor complaint. Not a blorb problem, it's something else.

The following is bad UX for DMs. There are three questions and it says: "Read the adventure and answer these questions for yourself"

Instead, give the DM clear and explicit answers to mysteries upfront. They'll need to know them in order to answer questions, and not create contradictions. If your adventure is about a stolen cake, put on page one who stole the cake. The DM's reading experience is very different from the player's experience trying to figure out who stole that cake.

Thanks for the piece of wisdom!

Her analysis is finer-grained than mine, maybe it will help me escape the snare that this module is for me. Maybe I can only escape by running it.

The beautiful booklet of Where the Wheat Grows Tall is the piece of art I want to show to my cousin back in the old country. He'll think I am a fool. I probably am. The endless expanse wheat in the summer, the powerful dark clouds looming, and that certitude that the night will be cut and punched by lightning and thunder. Piotr on its cross, upside down, his suffering overriden by his fear of the storm destroying the harvest.

(the whole family, fully dressed, kneeled in prayer until the storm wanes, the farm of my grandfather)

Where the Wheat Grows Tall was reviewed elsewhere.

If a person falls asleep on the job after drinking, the Polewiki might murder them. Appeasing the Polewiki requires two eggs, a rooster, a toad, and a crow placed in a ditch when no one is looking.

There is a troll under the bridge.