Fantasy RPGs (like any number of other genres) have several tropes we all tend to trip over. You know the ideas I’m talking about… Elves don’t like dwarves. Dwarves are drunkards who speak with a Scottish accent. Dragons like hoards. And adventures usually start in taverns with some crazy guy sitting in a dark corner telling stories…
So I’m always happy to run across ideas I’ve not seen before. Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House is one of those ideas. I think as Americans we often forget about other cultural influences (unless it’s food-related and then we still manage to bastardize the recipe). Designer Michael Tumey takes the idea of the Japanese bath house as a gathering place and brings it beautifully into the Kaidan setting from Rite Publishing. Now, I know the Japanese aren’t the only culture to use bath houses (think about the ancient Romans, the Turkish, and others as examples), but it’s not a structure I’ve seen used in a RPG module before.
Now take that bath house, throw in a ghost story with a mystery, and you get a fun adventure that involves culture, investigation, and a paranormal angle that can be dropped into any number of campaigns. And Tumey could have left it there, but he didn’t. It not only includes all the gaming bits, but a bit of an introduction to the bath house culture that I really appreciated. The first two major pages of the 61-page PDF include a colorful piece of Japanese art illustrating a bath house in motion along with the reason the bath house has such a big role in Kaidan. Sure, it’s great to get clean, but the communal/societal aspects and associated rituals really make it something special.
Though designed with Pathfinder in mind, I think much of what’s included in the book could easily be transported to just about any campaign with an oriental influence. The different types of baths listed (hot water, salt, etc) along with different meals (from a simple meal of rice, pickles, and fish stew to a fine multi-course meal) adds some great details to really drive home the cultural differences between this world and the more Euro-centric influences most of us are more familiar with in fantasy settings.
From there we are introduced to the Autumn Moon Bath House, its many nooks and crannies, the people who work or are staying there, and the mystery our intrepid PCs are meant to solve. You get a ton of detail with gorgeous maps done by Tumey and some great art by Tumey and Mark Hyzer. Plus you get to deal with a creepy paranormal being that might give your players a few nightmares.
Is it a gorgeous book? Yes. But I wanted more. You get a few NPCs (five, plus a special one) and really there should be quite a few more in a building of this size. I would expect a few more staff members along with many more guests (perhaps double the NPC count). Perhaps the addition of a random table to help generate a few more inconsequential but colorful guests would be enough, but I wanted the place to be a bit more populated.
In addition, the content itself really only covers about 18 of the first 22 pages of the book. Most of the rest of the book is occupied by a blown-up map across more than 30 pages that might have just as easily been put into a separate PDF (the maps are also available separately as JPG files included with the PDF).
Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House is meant to be an encounter somewhere in the scope of a larger campaign, so I do understand why it’s fairly light content-wise. But I think a bit more could have been included to aid a DM attempting to work it into their adventure more easily.
Even so, this would be a lot of fun to run. I would fully expect my group to act like bulls in the proverbial China shop if we encountered what was going on. It might not last long (or come to a tidy resolution), but I think they’d look twice at the next bath house they ran across!
Great work from Michael Tumey for the Kaidan setting from Rite Publishing!
For more about Kaidan and other great products from Rite Publishing, be sure to check out…
- … the Rite Publishing home page.
- … their other products available at DriveThruRPG.
- … Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House at DriveThruRPG.
- … and my reviews of some other Kaidan-related products: Frozen Wind, Dim Spirit, and The Gift.