Ok, I was going to post this one much later but word has gone out that Lamentations is having some financial troubles. They may be on their way to making their goal to stay afloat but we’ll see for how long.
There’s a lot that can be said about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Way more than I’m going to rant about here. But there are still some good points and bad points that I’m going to mention. For the TLDR version: A solid core game that’s been outweighed by its own controversies and shock just for shock value.
First off, the game itself is solid. Basically, your standard classes and races with a few tweaks here and there like the Fighter is the only class whose Attack Bonus improves and the Specialist (Thief replacement) is the only one who gets better at skills. And speaking of skills it uses a simple x in d6 system. There’s even a pretty easy encumbrance system. Plus some new spells and variations of ideas on existing spells. So that’s the good part. The core game is fully usable and takes a few of the tropes into new and interesting directions.
A lot of people are put off by the graphic art. I mean really graphic. I’m not but I can understand the “Ew!” reaction that many folks have. But there are some free art-free PDF’s legally available over on Drivethru here and here.
I thought some of the early adventures; A Single Small Cut, Scenic Dunnsmouth, and Weird New World; were pretty good. But as time wore on the adventures became more and more one-way death traps or shock just for shock value. You know sort of like Spinal Tap, “The shock goes to 11.”
Now, you can’t think about Lamentations of the Flame Princess without bringing up controversy. In hindsight, it seems that controversy and shock value were the marketing plan. There’s always been some sort drama surrounding the game. It was the art. It was personalities. Or something. Back in the days of G+, it seems like there was one every month or so. IMHO, all the drama and the “Shock Factor 11” adventures just wore out a lot of the fan base. I know it did me. So I pretty much stopped paying attention to it.
And there’s one more 800 pound gorilla out there. The now infamous Ref Book Indiegogo Campaign. Yes, I backed it. That was like 7 years ago. The last update on the campaign was in February and with the recent financial problems, it might be another 7 years if at all. Of course, a lot of folks are a bit pissed considering all the other stuff that’s been published. Crap, he had the money to make promotional buckets. Yes, buckets… You might be able still get one. No Ref Book but you can have bucket.
Yes, I know I didn’t get any blog posts done last week and I was hardly around on social media. Things were busy but I wasn’t idle on the gaming front. I almost have Back Alleys done for Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, I did some more brainstorming on YARC, and the whole reason for this post more mulling on The Blight.
Right now, I mostly messing around with the gods and Gods of Castorhage and thinking of how to make the various game systems. So I figured what the heck, throw out to masses and see what happens. Of all the games I have at my disposal I’ve narrowed it down to these (in no particular order).
1. Swords & Wizardry: It’s easy to do NPC’s. It’s flexible. It’s readily available in PDF form and the players can buy the book if they want. And there’s already a ready made version of it by Frog God Games.
2. Fifth Edition: It’s the elephant in the room. The players are already familiar with it and they already have their own books. It’d be a little tougher to run improved NPC’s off the cuff. The PC’s do have a lot more umph than in the other systems so make it a little grittier will take some house ruling.
3. Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar: Why? Well, DCC is cool and I should have my physical copies from the Kickstarter soon. The players are already familiar with it. The Blight is a city-based campaign so in my mind’s eye, it would make a good fit using the DCC: Lankhmar rules. Yes, I know no clerics and I would have house rule the partrons. So more prep type work on the DM’s part. I’m also aware of how crazy the magic can get. The players are already familiar with DCC and some have the books already.
4. Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Well, you can go weird and gritty without thinking about LOTFP. The players should be able to pick it up quickly. The art-free version is still available. It won’t take much to convert the Swords & Wizardry version over to LOTFP.
5. Something else? Oh. There’s plenty of other games out there. But the above are really my main choices.
So here’s a poll. Leave a comment. Let me know what you think.
Last month Frog God Games ran a contest for fan reviews. I did a couple and did garner some Frog Bucks to spend. I’m still shopping. The Blight was on my list of things review and I just didn’t have the time fully delve into it. But as luck would have it, I just did have some time and dove right in and wish I had done so earlier. Now, if you’ve follow me around social media I’ve mentioned the idea of mixing The Midderlands, Tegel Manor (which I backed), and The Blight. That idea still stands. One more disclosure for this rant. This is based on the 5E version of The Blight and I’ll only be talking about the Campaign Guide. I had grabbed it and a bunch of other really cool stuff from a 5E Humble Bundle.
Let’s start of with a general overview. So what is The Blight. It’s grim/dark, horror, gritty urban campaign location, namely the City-State of Castorhage. It’s mean and cruel place and it’s big. The campaign guide places the population at about 3.8 million. That’s roughly the size of Los Angeles. Not only is the city big so is the book. It clocks in at 890 pages or so. No easy feat reading this thing in PDF form. Castorhage is physically and morally corrupt. Countless alchemical experiments and a lot of sewage have polluted the the main river. The royal family is decadent and insane. To add to this already warped setting, there’s the Between. A nightmarish dimension that can sometimes be accessed through mirrors or other reflective surfaces. And to keep with horror theme sometimes the Between just pops up in those places.
Let’s do a little run down of the book itself. Like I said, it’s huge. It starts off with the usual overview. This can be most easily summed up with the Seven Prayers of Castorhage and the Seven Unspoken Prayers of Castorhage. Basically, the rules and philosophy of the city. One for the low born and one for the powerful. For Example: Only the wise know how to use the dangerous curse of magic, and only a fool would tamper with it./M agic is power, and power in the wrong hands is folly. Only those of high caste know how to use it wisely; the lowborn who dabble with it must be taught a lesson and cleansed as an example to others.
Next up are people. Some of the more important NPC’s as well as options for player characters plus quirks, and new equipment. Then we have a GM’s section with advice and suggestions on how to run the Blight. And there’s even more material about places and people. One of the interesting things about Castorhage is that there gods and Gods. Let me explain. The gods aren’t really gods. They walk around and inhabit the city. They don’t have real religions but they do have cults. They way the are presented in the book I’d call them urban legends to place blame or find cause for any mysterious or horrible thing that might happen. For the 5E version, they really missed the boat on this one. I feel that the gods would make great warlock patrons but alas nothing was written up so GM’s would be on their own.
Then there’s a whole section on the Between. Like I mentioned a nightmare dimension that personally reminds me a bit of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. But that just maybe me. I don’t want to say too much on this part since I feel it’s a good venue for GM’s to throw in some mystery and exploration in an otherwise urban based campaign. But it is detailed as basically it’s own world. Oh yeah and the Between can corrupt characters and so on. Nasty stuff.
Then come a huge bestiary. I’m seeing why this book is so long. All sorts of new and interesting monsters as well as some of the major NPC’s. Oddly enough, enterprising GM’s will find a few other player character options like the Undying. You’re only sort of undead.
Then there’s a very small section of inspirational random tables and then the books goes into another more detail breakdown of each of the districts of the city. There’s a ton of information and detail about these districts. It’s not as crazy as City-State of the Invincible Overlord but still there’s a lot. Almost too much for your average GM to digest and remember.
Finally, there’s an adventure path, The Levee. I don’t want to put any spoilers but looks pretty good and if you want a sneak peak of what it’s like then stop by and listen to Swords & Misery, an actual play podcast.
So what do I think? Overall, pretty god but it doesn’t mean there a few problems. First there’s a few editing errors that make the 5E conversion seem almost like an after thought. There’s a few places where the explanation of crunchy is worded more akin to the Pathfinder rules rather than 5E. Like I said before, there’s lots of information and I fell it wasn’t always presented in the most efficient fashion leading to page flipping and head scratching till find another bit of information to tie it all together. Also, some of the NPC’s have powers or abilities that are mentioned in the fluff text but not even mentioned in the stat blocks. For example, one powerful NPC “borrows” the skin of an underling when needed. Yeah. Nasty stuff. And I suppose I should mention that if you aren’t ready for a decadent, horror-filled setting then just walk away. Also, going through the setting if you are the type to doesn’t like the Cantina Scene type set up then you may just house rule the extra races and racial options out. However, I would say this, it all seems to fit without seeming forced or “let’s just make sure that any player can play whatever they want”. There may be prices and/or consequences based on the character’s race or class.
Do I still want to run it. Hell yeah. But I’ve got some thoughts on that.
5E: While the version I have of the Blight is for 5E. I just don’t feel the game as written doesn’t play well as for a horror/grim dark setting. There would have to be some house rules. Sure all the races are ready made but there’s nothing about Tieflings which fit well and would have their unique problems in the city IMHO.
Swords & Wizardry/White Box/Old School Essentials/OSR: This could be done with little or no conversion and only some minor tweaking. I know there’s a Swords & Wizardry version available but it’s so easy to convert into Swords & Wizardry. There’d me minimal house rules plus there’s is much good old school stuff out there it would be easy to find other tools that would fit. Now, I can’t mention the old school games without thinking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The vibe fits almost perfectly but there’d still be some tweaking. The real gem in LOTFP is the spell list which could be easily substituted for the original or vanilla lists.
Dungeon Crawl Classics: Lankhmar This already give a set up for running urban adventures with a more Sword and Sorcery flair. Conversion would be a little more difficult and then there’s the fact the magic can get really swingy. So that would be a consideration.
Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: It’s no secret that I love this game. It’s rules light and very easy to convert into. It would work great. If you want to add non-human races then that might take a little work.
Zweihander: I admit that I haven’t played this yet but I do have the PDF. And it would work danged perfectly. It’s fits great with the tone and atmosphere of the setting. There are a couple of problems. First, it would be a pain in the butt to convert all the monsters and NPC’s. I’d also be faced with teaching the group a whole new game system.
I’ve rambled long enough on this. I haven’t brought it up the gaming group yet so we’ll see what they say. We’ll see what happens.
I ranted about elves before way back when but I still wanted a little extra something to make them more alien and just a bit different. Nor your tree hugging wild elf or that mysterious high/gray elf or whatever you want to call them. Somewhere in the bowels of the internet someone made the comparison of old D&D elves to Elric. I like that. Then this little idea popped into my brain that focuses on the standard fighter/magic-user type elf.
In ancient times, the elves make a pact with an ancient being whose name has been long lost. They wanted the power magic and immortality. The elves were granted both but not at the same time. The elves learned the power of magic and would each live for 1,000 years. They had magic but using would cost them years off their lives. The elves created an empire and rules the world for millennia but due to their arrogance and decadence their empire has crumbled. Many elves venture out into the mortal world out of boredom.
The Game Mechanics:
When the elf casts an arcane spell, roll 1d20. If the result is less than or equal to the spell’s level then elf permanently losses HP equal to the spell’s level.
And since I’m on a Dungeon Crawl Classics kick, there’s a little variation for those rules. Elves do not suffer from Corruption. Instead, any time a Corruption effect occurs, the elf loses permanently HP as above plus suffers the effects as if the character had Spellburned a number of points equal to the spell’s level (but doesn’t gain any bonus to the spell check). Additionally, Elves may voluntarily “Spellburn” HP at rate of 2/1 (1 HP=+2 bonus to the spell check). These HP are permanently lost.
Really, I can’t even pronounce that. Let me just call it Chandler’s Book of Stuff That Will Give You Nightmares.
Lusus Naturae is a bestiary of monsters designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess but it’s pretty easy to convert it to whatever OSR game you want. This isn’t your run of the mill collection of demons, forgotten horrors, or orcs and goblins who have an additional odious habit. These are wild, weird, eat your face, swallow your soul, ruin the rest of your day type monsters. Like I said, it’s designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess so if you’re experienced with any of those adventures (like Death Love Doom (AL)) then this is right up your alley.
There’s lots of cool stuff in there. There’s actually a connection between many of the monsters. Some created others. Some like or hate others. It all just depends. Also there’s a neat little thing that some of them have. “Killing Blow” He who kills the monster gets something. Maybe something good. Maybe something bad. But this is for Lamentations so take that as you may. And you get away without having a cool crazy monster generator.
I think my two favorites (so far) have to be Doctor Volt and the Gelatinous Hypercube. Yes, Doctor Volt. A supervillian teleported to a fantasy world. Hehe. And the Gelatinous Hypercube. Well. I think the name pretty much says it all.
I can’t not mention the art. I usually don’t bother mentioning art but in this cast I will make an exception. Gennifer Bone did a great job making bring these these nightmarish creatures to life. The art is cool and disturbing as it should be for this book.
So this gets a big thumbs up from this guy. Now I’ve got about a half dozen ideas bouncing around inside my head.
You can grab Lusus Naturae at Drivethrurpg. (AL)