So, that IndieGoGo campaign is still running. Well, crawling, more like. Anyway, still ongoing. Red in Beak and Claw, the “Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds” adventure, will be released by Lamentations of the Flame Princess if it meets the $6,000 funding goal. At this point, I thought it might be useful to reflect on how the hell does one utilize The Birds in the context of a fantasy adventure role-playing game. The film is not noted for its dashing feats of derring-do and epic heroism. It’s not, in a word, D&D. It’s a bit more LotFP, but still not there.
Indeed, I’ve never even seen an adventure based on The Birds for any game, which strikes me as odd since it’s such a well-known film and reimagining movies and novels as RPG adventures is a time-honoured tradition of the hobby. I own something like three or four takes on Heart of Darkness alone and my Living Greyhawk adventure Bright Sun, Black Lion owes a heavy debt to Smokin’ Aces.
Incidentally, Wuthering Heights would make a totally awesome game. (Anyone ever tells you it’s a love story, don’t date them. It’s not. So very, very much not.)
Anyway, the thing about The Birds is that the main characters in it are victims. They don’t have a whole lot of agency in the story regarding the bird attacks. They can run, they can hide, and they can escape. It makes for classic cinema and it can also make for a very good roleplaying session. However, that roleplaying game is Call of Cthulhu. In D&D fantasy, even one as horror-oriented as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the PCs need something to do beyond survival. That’s what they’re trying to do anyway, all the time. Besides, problem-solving and doing stupid things like running towards the blood-curdling scream are core assumptions of the game. So, the PCs need something to do beyond running away.
Not that they won’t be doing a lot of that, too. At least the smart ones. Fighting a flock of a thousand murderous seagulls is a losing proposition. Granted, if you do wear a suit of full plate armour, you’ll be more or less invulnerable but even then you can’t actually fight and win. It’s perhaps better to visualize the bird attacks as a sort of natural disaster rather than an enemy in this respect. However, unlike a natural disaster, in Red in Beak and Claw, the player characters do have the chance of stopping it.
Before the characters can stop it, though, they must first figure out what is happening, why it is happening, and how it can be stopped. There are clues in the village of Graypiers, and a quick, smart and capable party of adventurers can figure it out before it’s too late. There are people who know parts of the story and if someone were to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the whole ugly picture would be clear. I hope the picture will be interesting enough. I am deliberately steering away from the whole “secret sins of the village elders” thing here. As a bonus, a wizard did not do it!
Of course, this requires the people in the know to be alive to tell the party, and even if the characters themselves are bold adventurers decked out in full plate, impervious to the beaks of anything smaller than a roc, the rest of the villagers won’t be. The clock is ticking, the schedule is tight, and people are dying.
Next week, I will describe the system used to adjudicate the bird attacks as well as the village of Graypiers, which may be a deeply strange place but hopefully, one worth saving.