Today I’m looking at the perfectly pestilent OSR module Fever Swamp by Luke Gearing, with art by Andrew Walter, published by The Melsonian Arts Council. I bought this creepy swampcrawl in PDF at DTRPG, and I loved it so much that I also bought the hardcover…I can’t remember where. Maybe Exalted Funeral?
This gorgeous book is jam-packed with swampy goodness creepy denizens, dangerous locales, and unique creatures. It’s small but potent—every bit of page space does something worthwhile in this fantastically dense sandbox. Swampbox? If you know Troika! also from The Melsonian Art Council, You’ll recognize the elegant design with simple tables for ships sinking, swamp rumors & more. Even the front and back inside cover are, respectively, a hex map with key and a quite nasty random swamp diseases table. It works out to 32 pages of humid horror, counting the end-pages.
In the same way that Troika! is more about implied, evocative world-building than spelling everything out, Fever swamp gives few words to its places and people, yet the barebones copy is bristling with hooks, bursting with creative goo. Or something. The point? It’s fiendishly tightly written and laid out, with a surprising amount of room for art and maps.
There isn’t one through-line for this supplement…rather, there are several morasses the the PCs can either wander into or be lured into with hooks. There’s a lost treasure, a cult, a dungeon crawl, and a body-horror monster known as the Transfiguration Host, about whom I won’t give anything else away.
It’s hard to say what level would be right for this fetid adventure. I think it would grind up most low-level characters, though. Here’s what publisher Daniel Sell—author of Troika!—said in a thread on DriveThruRPG, where I posted an early version of this review:
It’s playable from level 1 if the players are careful, with 4 or 5 being a more comfortable spot. However the nature of the swamp means it remains rather dangerous regardless of level.
I reckon the best way to include it in a campaign is to tell them it exists, is dangerous, and is full of treasure. If they turn up and decide it’s a death-trap they can always leave and come back later.
I could see it being a challenging midlevel to high-level adventure with just a little extra prep, and the swamp itself and the many tables in it could be endlessly reused, even by the same players and characters. I’m going to use it for a fateful excursion—a Lankhmar-based group I’m GMing is planning a foray into the Great Salt Marsh, and Fever Swamp will stand in.
If you can’t understand how much I love this book by now, I’m not doing a good job. To be clear, it’s wonderful—and awful. I’d give it an easy 5 stars out of 5.