There are a lot of modules on the internet.
Dear reader, it was not always this way. Many of you will remember the bad old days, when hopping on the internet to find a free, illustrated module to play was simply impossible. You were lucky to find a decently detailed forum post, let alone a ready-to-play game.
But sometime in the last twenty years, the internet went from being the library in your living room to the printing press in your pocket. We are now awash in modules. The last-minute DM now has more options than they could possibly use. The problem is no longer scarcity; it is quality.
Well, naturally, we make the best right here at WatcherDM and anyone who says differently is either uninformed or lying. Sadly, it is entirely possible you (like us) have already played everything we’ve produced. What else is out there worth playing? What inspires us? To answer these questions and make a good home for TTRPG weird on the web, we’re introducing a review column highlighting our favorites among our community.
And it is with all that in mind that I introduce you to today’s review of Bakto’s Terrifying Cuisine:
BAKTO’S TERRIFYING CUISINE REVIEW
Found HERE: https://roll4tarrasque.itch.io/baktos-terrifying-cuisine, this Roll4Tarrasque production caught my eye immediately. A two-page pamphlet dungeon compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, this dungeon represents a lot of things I’ve always loved about the OSR: there’s a sense of whimsy-weird, good information architecture, and witty brevity throughout.
Bakto’s Terrifying Cuisine has no presented lead-in; the PCs are simply assumed to have waltzed into the dungeon. I prepped a quick intro about a meteorite falling from space and producing a chef-eating restaurant from its space germ and we were off to the races. The module provides for a randomized Bakto each time it is played. We were served up a Hyped-up Bakto, allergic to learning, who craved a passionate and theatrical dish. Inspired by the Iron-Chef theme, I found a sound clip of a gong to announce the counting down of the twenty turns the players have to explore the dungeon. You can get that HERE: https://www.myinstants.com/instant/gong-sound-27308/
And that was it for prep.
It was our first time playing Lamentations of the Flame Princess (that’s a separate review), so certain things like the swingy-ness of the combat and the squishiness of the character I must simply assume are part and parcel of the system. But overall, this module plays amazingly. It was a great introduction to a new system. Room descriptions, though brief, are very evocative and easy to riff on. Items, dungeon tricks, and enemies were all very inspiring.
My player’s madcap antics stirred up plenty of drama, and the plot they eventually hatched to poison Bakto was amazing. Our game ended with the demonic chef exploding after he was fed a pair of edible goblins (a school teacher and a comedian), some poisonous wine, and a Tarrasque sausage (don’t ask). They barely made it out alive as a Tarrasque surged into existence behind them.
When the game was over, my only regret was that I had to stop hitting my gong button.
IS BAKTO’S TERRIFYING CUISINE A CRITICAL HIT?
Well, it wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t whine about at least one or two things. The difficulty is presented as “for a group of starving level adventurers”, and while my four level-ones did survive, this was mostly due to their judicious application of retreat tactics and a generous interpretation of Lamentations’ pursuit rules. If I were running this again, I’d run it for five or more level two to threes.
Additionally, interpreting what ingredients match to which randomly generated preferences was a bit too ‘hand-wave’ for my taste. My random Bakto wanted a theatrical, passionate dish, which mostly lead to the heroes telling those ridiculous emotional stories reality TV uses to make food dramatic. It was awesome. But I do wonder what my game would have looked like had I rolled a preference for “Good fucking food” for example. That’s a bit hard to measure in a game with no real cooking rules or skill challenges that are resolved as anything other than an X in 6 chance.
Batko himself could use some saving throws, especially given that there is a magic item in the dungeon that turns those who drink it into puddles of wine.
Ah, I can’t complain. These complaints are just nitpicking, and the briefness of the document excuses a lot of what is missing. The real message here is to try this out. You won’t regret it. There are more lootable ideas in this two-page dungeon than there are in most modules twenty times as long. The art is sparing (1 in six of the panels) but beautiful, setting a great tone right off the bat. This is a bonkers adventure your players will talk about for years.
Just don’t forget the gong soundboard.
All DMs are game designers at heart, so let’s talk about what we can learn from this in terms of design. For starters, the color-coded point crawl map is perfect. It’s a huge amount of information that takes up barely any space at all. From the DM’s chair, being able to run the whole adventure off of basically one page made document management a breeze.
The ever-present countdown of turns (and accompanying narration by the adventure’s big bad) kept every moment feeling important. Even just hitting a dead-end became dramatic with the time dwindling away. Keeping the PCs in the loop on how they’re hitting the time constraints with this kind of narrative device centers Bakto in the game; every missed second seems to be his fault, and it made it that much more fun when he finally blew up.
And if I could take one monster home with me? Obscenely Tender Porcini King. Need I say more?
DO OR DO NOT?
Batko’s Terrifying Cuisine can be found here: https://roll4tarrasque.itch.io/baktos-terrifying-cuisine
Lamentations of the Flame Princess can be found here:
Gong Soundboard can be found here:
Don’t skimp on the gong! And don’t forget to leave a comment. Review our Bakto’s Terrifying Cuisine review! Let us know how we did, and if you want to see more reviews like this (or if you want us to review your module) get in touch!
In the meantime, may all your games be made perfectly to your taste!