If you buy the core rule book you will see how she lost her leg!!!
Hello, 2020! Hello, the brave new world of insanity…quarantines, riots, angry internet people…it is as if the Seventh Seal has been opened and, well, here we are. If Kirk Cameron had mysteriously disappeared, I would have concluded that the Rapture happened and we all have been Left Behind. I guess the good news is that he’s still around, so the world hasn’t ended…yet.
Ironically, COVID-19 expanded my gaming significantly. I have been gaming more than I was a year ago. It has been great! I am currently playing in a D&D 5e Curse of Strahd game. We are taking a brief break from that as the dungeon master wanted some time to meditate on the game and avoid burnout. He has been running downtime via email so we can still “play” our characters until “CoS Season 2” starts in October. He has been doing a great job and I look forward to when we pick it back up. Every now and again there is a Tyranny of Dragons game I play in as well. That one has yet to hit its stride, but it has been fun playing a wise-cracking halfling wild-mage gambler.
As a game-master, I am running a ton of campaigns and it is awesome. I am running a D&D 5e campaign based on the Tales from the Yawning Portal campaign book. We meet every Thursday night for that. It is a blast. I am also running a Waterdeep Dragonheist campaign every other Friday night. That is an interesting campaign. I suspect I will have to start writing about both of these campaigns. Recently, my main gaming group got back together after a six-month COVID-19 hiatus. It is a homebrew campaign in a world of my own devising: Arynor/E’turia.
On top of all that, I started a podcast with a couple of guys I met online who are longtime gamemasters. It is called “Gamemaster’s Getaway.” We are still working on the marketing side of things, but I will be posting links soon.
But my inordinate amount of D&D 5e games is not the “new obsession.” No. In fact, I think the saturation of 5e gaming is the reason I have this new obsession. My new obsession is a little independent gaming company called Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
I picked up the core rulebook about a year ago on a lark. I was learning about Old School Rennaissance (OSR) and wanted to see what it was all about. I picked up the book, saw the art, and was blown away. I couldn’t believe someone out there was making stuff like this. As my gaming group at the time (December 2019) was not interested in OSR, I did not push it or consider picking up any further products from the publisher. Then COVID-19 happened and my main homebrew epic storyline involving the beleaguered kingdoms of Arynor had to be placed on hold.
My friend Jeremiah started running CoS on Fantasy Grounds. The idea was that we needed to stay in touch, play games, and keep our sanity. I, too, started running games (Waterdeep & Tales) using Fantasy Grounds. But I gotta say…I have had my fill of 5e.
*Enter stage left a flame-haired beauty sporting a peg leg and a silver rapier. She speaks with a decidedly Finnish accent and she is into heavy metal*
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a breath of fresh air in a gaming community saturated with milquetoast easy to digest games and story hooks. That’s not to say that Wizards of the Coast is not putting out a good product. They are. But DM’s Guild and other independent 5E designers and writers are not doing it for me. To be honest, I am tired of the safety of political correct stories, concepts, tropes, etc. I just do not find it innovative or creative. That, and coupled with some mechanics issues I have with 5E, I am craving something new. Indeed, I started writing something to publish on the DM’s Guild and I stopped because I am just bored with 5E. (I still intend to finish it…I will let you know when it is up. I hope people like it!)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess has a punk rock, heavy metal vibe, which I love. The artwork depicts a very brutal and risque game world. All bets are off. If you are squeamish or easily offended, do not buy this game. Do not waste your time buying it and complaining about it on Twitter. Just don’t…the world is bad enough as is.
For the past few months, I have spent a significant amount of money picking up adventures and supplements for this game. I have not been disappointed with any of the products I have purchased. As a general matter, the quality of art and writing is great. It almost feels personal when compared to the writing from Wizards of the Coast. Where WotC is technical and instructional, I feel like I am reading experimental prose or avant-garde storytelling. In fact, when you read an adventure from the brainchild behind Lamentations of the Flame Princess, James Edward Raggi IV, it is very personal. I am hesitant to refer to an RPG as “art,” but this stuff is bordering on art qua art. In the future, this blog will be bloviating on some of the stuff I have read and giving you some of my thoughts on the modules and supplements.
On two occasions, I have had a chance to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess one-shots online. They were a blast and brought me back to when I first started playing D&D, but with a horrific and weird twist. A fun and wonderful experience to be sure.
For a bit more detail: Lamentations is a D&D “retro-clone” of the Basic D&D system. There are seven classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Specialist (all human), Dwarf, Elf, and Halfing. Rather than using THACO (To Hit Armor Class 0), it uses the d20 mechanic of an ascending armor rating for attacks. There are the classic saving throws from Basic D&D (Paralyze, Poison, Breath Weapon, Magical Device, and Magic). The target numbers of a character’s saving throw progressively decrease as the character gains in level, thus an easier save. When you roll your character, you buy some equipment and off you go. The character classes are distinct and there are no feats, passive/active abilities, or special powers. You have your sword, your armor, (and hopefully) your wits as a player. That’s it.
The most intriguing part of this game is the skill system. Rather than have your specialist (formerly called “the thief”) roll percentile checks, all skills are reduced to a 1/6 chance on a die roll. Everyone can search for traps, open doors, know a language, hide, etc. The specialist gains points to add to increase his chance 2/6, 3/6, etc. Obviously, the demi-humans have access to a few of these skills as well. This skill system is elegant in its simplicity.
The game itself feels like something you can pick up and play. But, also, there is all of this room for you to add your own “stuff” to it, to customize the game to fit your style and personal predilections as a Gamemaster. This is what I have been missing with 5e. 5e is a very tight and integrated game system that any tinkering with can easily spiral out of control and lead you down a path of ruin. (A topic for a future blog post). But the simplicity of Lamentations of the Flame Princess allows the Gamemaster a lot of creative control mechanically. We all know that the Gamemaster can do whatever he wants at his table. (He is the master of the game after all). But it is one thing to retcon some Forgotten Realms canon in order to fit a story arc, it is another to try to mechanically change the way the game is played to fit the story and/or world you created. (Again, another topic for a blog post). Lamentations of the Flame Princess makes it easy to do just that. Indeed, if you read Vornheim, Veins of the Earth, or The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions, and others, you can see the potential a creative mechanically inclined Gamemaster has with this system.
In fact, I hereby declare that I am going to be using this system to tinker with the old AD&D 2e Darksun world! I know someone has tried to do it, but I don’t like it and it is not complete. I will be dedicating future blog posts to this endeavor.
Anyway…go buy the core rulebook. You will not be disappointed.