Monday, July 7, 2014

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence--A Review

When I call +Venger SatanisThe Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence sleazy and trashy, please realize that I don't mean that as a bad thing. TIoPHP (which I shall pronounce "tee-OH-fip") is what you'd get if Troma made a Carcosa movie and aired it on USA Up All Night
Man, the 90s were a long time ago...
It's a psychotropic hexcrawl across a trio of islands full of trashy sex monsters, sleazy sorcerers, and alien robots.

Some people might be offended by stuff in TIoPHP, especially regarding how women are treated on the Islands. For me, though, the “offensive” stuff went all the way around the corner until it came right back around to “ridiculous” (and ridiculous is cool). Getting offended by TIoPHP would like getting mad at Hell Comes to Frog Town or pissed off by GWAR.
This guy would fit right in on the Islands.
So let's look at this thing. The book and PDF are decently laid out with a couple of white-space quirks that will probably only annoy layout wonks like me. VS had a contest on his blog that got a number of people (myself included) to contribute art to the project. It means that TioPHP has a lot of art in a wide a variety of styles. I like this, as it displays several different interpretations of the Islands' weirdness. Dyson Logos provides several nifty dungeon maps, ready for the GM's to populate with their fever-dreams nightmares.

Lookit that art.... LOOK AT IT!!!
The first part of the book contains a number of optional rules for use in this module and elsewhere. There are charts for unstable magical effects and some damn nifty charts for magical swords. There's also a new take on the monk class that includes the power to explode enemies' brains. My favorite part of this section is the "Flashbacks."

Flashbacks remind me a lot of “bonds” in Dungeon World, which heavily influenced the “histories” section I wrote for Hobomancer Companion. With “flashbacks” each PC rolls a random, short vignette from their past. The GM reads it, then asks “What did you do?”

For instance...

8) Your sister Venissa just gave birth to a baby boy. The first to visit her after the delivery, you notice the infant has a third eye – on the back of his left calf. Venissa hasn’t noticed yet. This is a superstitious and godfearing city. Such strange deformities have ruined greater families than yours.

The player's answer gives them a cool bit of history and a peek into their personality. I really dig this sort of thing.

The next section covers the history of the Islands and the discusses the Purple Putrescence itself—an alien, violet-hued quasi-god that hovers over the island and occasionally accosts, abducts, or mutates the inhabitants. There are many different faction on the Islands, and each one gets a nicely detailed overview of their membership, goals, resources, and desires. The book also provides a sizable list of adventure hooks and other reasons for a band of adventurers to come to these blighted islands.

The biggest and best part of the book is the hex descriptions. This is where things get really crazy. Almost every hex on the map of the three Islands has one or two bizarre occupants, weird phenomenon, or uncanny locale. The PCs might run into meth-addled mutant bikers, time-displaced porn stars, killer robots, alien explorers, undead dinosaurs, or despicable worm cultists. Most of these threats have powerful magic and deadly weaponry that can totally ruin the PCs' day if they aren't crafty. It's Carcosa by way of Monstervision, and it's a damn fun read.
I imagine this is a pretty tame tally for a TIoPHP session
One of my favorite entries is the Shiny Demon, a Tenacious-D inspired encounter with a strangely affable demon who challenges the PCs to a music contest and rewards their victory with a pleasant feast and some sage advice. My other favorite is Pale Lips, White Eyes, a creepy encounter with a group of strange pilgrims wandering in a circle, muttering about "the Star Child.". If the PCs talk to them, only one of the humanoids will answer, but his mouth will make nothing but slug-sounds. An hour later, a baby will teleport from space into humanoids' midst. The pale humanoids will take the baby through a secret hatch, into the Island's underworld, and give the child to a demon. End of story. It's weird, and strange, and unexplianed, and I love it. 

While most hexes get large write-ups of their environments and inhabitants, a few have nothing more than few words. Simply “crashed spaceship” or “there is a wrecked pirate ship below the water” and that's it. This is my single biggest criticism of TIoPHP. There aren't many hexes like this, but surely there could be a little more in depth and description to these places.  At least give me a goopy monster or something. After reading about the Flames of Dahkaar or the Amazing Larry, it's disappointing to come to a hex whose sole entry is “Water.”

Overall, I enjoyed The Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence, and I'm glad I gave it my money. I don't know if I'll ever use the hex-crawl setting as a whole, but I can certainly see grabbing various factions and hex descriptions to toss into several different games. Now that I think about it, mashing up TIoPHP with Planet Motherfucker might be a damn fun experiment.


  1. Let's here it for tacky red, magenta, and purple spandex, everyone! And boobs! What google search provided that quintessential image? I must know...

    1. A google image search for "USA Up All Night" brought up several images of Rhonda (and a lot of memories).

    2. Rhonda Sheer introduced me to a mountain of schlock on my teen years.