Friday, March 11, 2016

"The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia" Review

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia is a campaign setting book written for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other OSR systems by Wind Lothamer and Ahimsa Kerp and published by Knight Owl Games. Spoiler alert: I highly recommend getting this book. You can do so HERE.

Meatlandia gives the phrase "fleshed out setting" a whole new meaning.

The very brief and fairly tame opening about the history of Meatlandia's gods will not prepare you for the glorious madness to follow. You know how the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune would drown a small sandworm and use its Spice-laden secretions, the "water of life," to create their own home-grown version of the psychic (or prescient or whatever) Reverend Mothers? Picture that, but with creepy biopunk magic instead of psychic or metaphysical abilities. Now make that a huge industry in a city that is under siege by more (and weirder) sandworms and controlled by David Cronenberg's re-imagining of the Invincible Overlord and subject to random bouts of reality losing its fucking mind and you've got a good idea of what the setting of Meatlandia is all about. Just picture that, but sillier and more disgusting and more awesome.

The book's got cool factions and NPCs with plenty of plot hooks, weird magic that players are sure to both desire and fear, a city and surrounding territories with just enough detail to be fascinating and useful without getting bogged down with any pointless crap, rules for Chaos Storms that will probably break your campaign (in a good way, LotFP-style), crazy new classes with insane new rules, neat new monsters and magic items, rules for altering your flesh for fun and profit to become a meat man, and meat mechs. That's right. Meat. Mechs.

The tone of the book manages to hit that fine line between comedy and horror. It's a hard tone to pull off well (I'd recommend the works of David Wong if you crave this sort of thing), but Meatlandia does it. Reading about the downtrodden and doomed citizens of Meatlandia, I was caught between laughing at the absurdity of their situation and feeling really bad for them. This is a setting that wanna-be heroes and murderhobos alike could enjoy.

I think the new classes were my favorite feature of the book. There are three, count 'em, three distinct species of bards, and somehow none of them are lame. There's the Raconteur, who amasses a small army of NPC henchmen, the Chaos DJ, who takes metagaming in a hilarious direction with the power of the player's music collection, and the Nexus Bard, who calls down Chaos Storms to just break everything (which is probably a good thing, considering the situation in Meatlandia).

As if that wasn't enough, there are also Meat Mages (a.k.a. Carnomancers) to take advantage of the new spells/ritual magic rules/worm-based drugs, and Kaldane, a race of six-legged heads who ride around on headless bodies and generally do freaky things. The Kaldane are especially unique, and look really fun for both mechanical and roleplaying reasons. Imagine Master-Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, except that Master is a disembodied head creature and Blaster is...pretty much the same, but without a head. Good stuff.

Some of the random encounters and Chaos Storm effects might be a little too harsh or arbitrary, like an encounter that can make a character lose a point of wisdom if they can't figure out a riddle shouted by some random madwoman, but the DM could always adjust things by allowing more saving throws or letting the players avoid certain problems with some quick thinking. Besides, Meatlandia is supposed to be harsh and sort of arbitrary, so this is probably a feature and not a bug. If you don't like these encounters, adjusting them is easy, but there might be some value atmosphere-wise to keeping this as written.

I do have to mention some weaknesses in this book. It could have definitely used another pass by an editor, since typos are pretty frequent. They didn't get in the way of my understanding of the material, but they were annoying. The stats are supposed to be compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but using them with that system might require some slight hacking, since there are a lot of references to AD&D-isms like a paladin NPC, schools of magic, the 9-alignment system, etc., plus the sheer power-levels and diversity of abilities of the new classes seem to be more in line with AD&D or modern D&D than the ultra-streamlined classes of LotFP. This isn't really a bad thing; in fact, it makes me really want to run an AD&D 1E campaign set in Meatlandia. But I wish there were more conversion notes for using the material with Basic D&D-type games like LotFP, and maybe even some non-D&D-based games (at least the book uses the excellent skill point system from LotFP). Finally, I think that some of the new spell descriptions were a little too vague in terms of what kind of actual mechanical effects the spells were supposed to have. This is nothing major, but a tiny bit more guidance in terms of "crunch" might have been nice.

Still, the strengths of this book far outweigh any weaknesses I may have perceived. The sheer creativity, imagination, goofiness, grossness, usefulness, and fun of this book, coupled with its strong and consistent theme of order putrefying into chaos while reality takes a lunch break, make this a must-buy for all you OSR freaks and geeks out there. I can't wait to see some adventures released for this setting, but in the meantime, The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia gives you everything you need to get in touch with your inner Lloyd Kaufman, Stuart Gordon, or (early) Peter Jackson.

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia gets a Worm-Infested Panda Bear with Acid Breath out of 10.


  1. Thanks for the awesome review. We did fix the typos finally. We can get you a new copy of you like :)

    1. Sure, a good book deserves a good review. I bought the PDF on DriveThruRPG. If I re-download it, would that give me the newest version?