Z5 7

Where the Wheat Grows Tall (2021)

It is so hard to pick, but I think Where the Wheat Grows Tall (2021) is my favorite zine to come out of 2021. It’s an OSR-ish/essentially system agnostic scenario from Camilla Greer and Evlyn Moreau, cut from a rich fabric of Eastern European folklore.

Do you know the Noon Lady, or Lady Midday? Gemma Files’ excellent novel Experimental Film was my introduction to this terrifying and complex entity. This zine does its own thing with the folklore, to excellent effect. The thing oozes atmosphere.

Basically, there is a field of wheat that is near a farm. There is a wall around it, because folks fear it is cursed. Sure enough! Something has upset the natural balance and the family from the farm has wandered into the field, where witches, faeries and far, far worse lurk, at night and under the noon-day sun. Nothing good befell them. It falls to the players to unravel what is going on, find out how to undo it and, if possible to rescue the family, if any of them survive. There are many, many entities to encounter in the field, but this is definitely more a mystery than a hack and slash. Avoidance is best, with diplomacy a second best option, I think. Especially because, and this is why the zine is one of my favorites, you get the sense that everything on the supernatural side of things is working according to a system of rules that are just beyond our understanding. That goes a long way toward A. Establishing that there is no clear right or wrong solutions here and B. That this incursion of the supernatural maintains a capacity to unsettle throughout the proceedings.

I’ve been a fan of Moreau’s illustration work since Marvels & Malisons. The drawings here are even richer and more assured. You would think that the noodle arms (big fan of noodle arms) and cartoonish aspect would undercut the creeps, but the opposite is true. Creep city.

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