Tabletop RPG Review: Where the Wheat Grows Tall

I was lucky enough to get a copy of this when I visited the excellent Washington D.C. game store, Labyrinth Games & Puzzles, on Free RPG Day 2022.  Apparently Camilla Greer, one of the book’s authors, used to work there.  There are some stats for critters that were made for Old School Essentials, but I think it would be extremely easy to port this over into whatever game system you’re using.  If you want some surreal fae adventures with a Slavic vibe, this might be the book to check out.

The zine scene has become quite the thing in contemporary tabletop gaming, especially for the Old School Renaissance (or whatever you think the R stands for) movement.  Even I have a few, and I’m both out of touch and not really into the OSR generally (Look it up. I’m not going into an explanation).  This zine adventure looks great.  From the green and gold cover to the copious black and white interior art, it has a moody, whimsical, woodcut sort of thing going on.  There’s a nice centerfold map, too, which sets up a sort of point-crawl area for players to explore.

There isn’t a plot here.  There’s a set-up, some characters, some creatures, and some locations.  I suppose this is sort of a “sandbox” adventure, in that the plot will be emergent.  There isn’t a lot of guidance given, just a lot of ideas, leaving it up to you and your players to figure things out.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it’s important to know.

Recently, I’ve been running a little experimental Dungeon Crawl Classics game for a friend.  I’ve been using the Dungeons & Dragons 5e adventures from the Starter Set and the Essentials Kit, The Lost Mines of Phandelver and The Dragon of Icespire Peak respectively.  I’m doing this for multiple reasons.  The two adventures don’t naturally mesh, but they both take place in and around the frontier town of Phandalin.  There’s a wide cast of characters and a ton of locations to explore.  I’ve been thinking about the possibility of reworking it a bit more than I already have and using it as the “local area” for a Dungeon Crawl Classics game, if I can ever form an in-person group, particularly if I can get a sort of West Marches game going (again, I’m not going into what a West Marches game is, but you can look it up).  I say all of this, because as I read through Where the Wheat Grows Tall, I started thinking it could mesh into the local area of Phandalin without too much work.  There are a few rumors and hooks to draw characters into the adventure, so why not put those into the mouths of gossipy Phandalin townsfolk?

That’s not the only way I could see using this.  Not only could it work as a convention game, though I think you’d want to build in a bit of structure or a more obvious ticking clock, but it might work for many vaguely Medieval European style games.  Ars Magica, A Song of Ice & Fire, Cairn, etc.  Any game where a war might have happened years ago, there are farmers, and some kind of fairy-type beings of nature and chaos might exist. 

I’m not great with modules, so I definitely can’t see myself picking this up and running it right out of the book.  However, with a bit of prep time, I think it would be fun.  I look forward to using it.  I will likely make 3X5 cards for all the NPCs, creatures, and artifacts, but I don’t think I’ll try to graft on a more narrative thread.  I’ll be curious what players will come up with.

For movie buffs, it kept reminding me of “A Field in England” for various reasons.  I think I’ll watch that to help set the mood.  

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