Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Review: Cabin Risotto Fever

On Exalted Funeral's recent Black Friday sale, I snagged a few attractive-looking zines published by Games Omnivorous (among other things). This is the first of my reviews, but I intend to review the lot. I hope you enjoy.

Cabin Risotto Fever (and the other Games Omnivorous books--but to my taste, this most so) is gorgeous. It has a nifty-electronic-gadget allure. Something glimpsed in the window of a Sharper Image store or at the feet of your favorite local Shoegaze band. It has two color printing: rich yellow-orange and black on white paper. An elastic strap holds a detachable cover with a luscious map on the interior spread. Evocative art fills nearly half the 24-page interior contents. It looks and feels like a premium, luxurious product if nothing else.

And what of the content? The zine concerns itself greatly with how you use it. It suggests a certain ambiance for your gaming table, it requires a meal of risotto (prepped 24 hours in advance) to be used as a prop (more on that later), and it organizes the adventure into strictly linear story beats. 

Players are a ragtag team of rescuers pursuing a lost academic expedition in mid-20th century northern Canada. The adventure provides some loosely sketched out pre-gen characters, some meta-mechanics, suggests using a rules-lite RPG system (I'd choose Into the Odd) and sends you on your way through its 5-act structure.

The acts block out discrete scenes spent in and around a remote cabin deep in the Canadian wilderness. Two members of the sought-after expedition hunker here, spewing paranoia and cooking risotto. Each act reveals more about the dark and mysterious situation, the fortunes of the missing expedition team, and the contents of the risotto. Despite the appearance of a Wendigo in the immediately following chapter, the adventure reaches a peak in tension and horror when the characters--and their players--are served and consume the marrowy meal. Gruesome and repulsive description accompanies the adventure's directive to serve the risotto as the truth of its ingredients come out: human bone and psychoactive mushrooms.

Punchy details and actionable ideas fill each cabin of the adventure's rail. The cabin map, event table, and cabin-feverous NPCs equip a GM with sturdy tools to run a richly atmospheric and engrossing game. That said, the adventure feels more like an interactive story than a mystery to be solved or a challenge to met. Clues might point saavy players in the right direction well before their dramatic reveal, but things will progress according to plan regardless of whether or not they put the pieces together.

You can get some friends together (when it becomes medically advisable to do so) and put on a spooky show and probably have a pretty enjoyable night with this book and your risotto. The adventure is far more than it's central gimmick, but I still probably wouldn't attempt to run it without indulging the whole shebang. While this might work fine for online play, you'd be losing more than I'm willing to give.

Physical copies of Cabin Risotto Fever are available at Exalted Funeral and PDF at DriveThruRPG. I would recommend getting the physical if you're going to buy this at all, but it is fairly expensive at $18 for 24 pages.

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