LotfP understands adventurers. Period.

I saw a conversation in a discord-style chat channel about Lamentations of the Flame Princess wherein one speaker noted that it’s just a house ruled version of B/X. Well, I am respectfully disagreeing with that! LotFP is much more than just a list of homebrew rules attached to a photocopy of the OGL! LotFP is a refinement of some core concepts that are implied within Dungeons and Dragons. These refined mechanics show some sincere insight into the game. Indeed, one of the core insights into classic medieval fantasy role-playing games is the definition of the adventurer.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess assumes the adventurers are adrenaline junkies willing to plunge unknown depths, face terrible creatures—and potentially lose their sanity—all for the possibility of coin and the thrill of it. That’s not that far from the truth when you think about the average gaming group. However, even if we broaden our milieu to include epic fantasy, sword & sorcery, or some other sub-genre of fantasy adventure, the player’s character has made a conscious choice to do something that most normal people don’t do:

To pick up sword & shield, spellbook & staff, or maybe just a lucky dagger or two, and go search for adventure. They’ve given up the (somewhat) stable life of being a farmer, potter, blacksmith, town guard, or acolyte, to go seek their fortune. In short, they have sought new employment by going out on their own. They are no longer engaged in their former profession and have adopted a new profession, which leads me to the first and most brilliant insightful set of mechanics from Lamentations of the Flame Princess: the common adventuring skills.

Climbing, Open doors, languages, sneaking, sleight of hand, bushcraft, tinker, backstab, and architecture. These skills are all necessary to survive a dungeon delve. How stable is this tunnel? Make an architecture roll. Can I unlock this door, I have tools? Make a tinker roll.

In LotfP, every character has access to these. They are all performed on a d6. On a roll of 1, you are successful. The specialist class, of course, can specialize in these skills to get a greater chance of success. Why is this insightful and amazing? Because these skills have been common to adventurers since the beginning of the game. Lamentations of the Flame Princess just made it more explicit. Remember rolling a thief in one of the advanced versions of the game and seeing that dwarves were natural tinkerers, but elves were better at sneaking? Or how about the dexterity bonuses that added to the skills? These percentile charts were there as a reference point to determine the base chance for anyone who wanted to try doing what the thief was doing.

Only the thief was better at it, especially at higher levels. It is almost as if he was a specialist…

Making the mechanic on a d6 (rather than a percentile) is brilliant because the common adventuring skills are now consistent with how the demi-human characters handled their attempts at success for their idiosyncratic abilities as well. In LotFP, these demi-humans are, in a sense, multi-classed specialists, (the elf being triple classed).

If I have any gripe about the common adventuring skills is that there needs to be a few more. In Eldritch Cock, James Raggi provides a rough outline of rules for the second edition of LotFP. (If ain’t broke, James, don’t fix it!!!). In that outline of playtest rules, he included a seamanship skill (which is bushcraft for water travel), Leadership (to bolster the morale of your henchmen), and a medicine skill (why that hasn’t been included already is beyond me).

I have tinkered with my own versions of each of these. I would also include “spell-craft,” which would give the non-spellcasting character a rudimentary understanding of magical effects, or lore about magic.

Anyway, the ease of adding to the list of common adventuring skills is another strength of this mechanic. If your particular campaign requires a particular skill, just add it!

When you include fighting as “common adventuring” skills, the four core classes of the B/X version of the game make even more sense: these are the sub-categories of the adventuring profession that specialize in certain adventuring tasks. In my piece on the fighter, I explain that the fighter is the master of weapons and mortal combat. It is why the fighter gains additional bonuses to hit, while the remaining character types gain a +1 to hit at level one, but gain nothing further. It allows the fighter to excel in their role as warriors.

But consider just the +1 to attack all of the core classes get at the first level. They have an attack bonus the 0th level non-player character does not have because, well, fighting comes with being an adventurer. Thus, similar to the common adventuring skills, where every member of the party has a rudimentary knowledge of these common adventuring skills, they also have a basic understanding of combat.

Anyway, I have yet to comment on LotFP magic users and how LotFP addresses magic. I think this is where LotFP really shines. Don’t worry. It will happen. There is a lot to talk about and I’m still thinking about it!

The point is, LotFP is not just a set of homebrew rules for a B/X game. Some serious thought went into how to make a unique game that fits the milieu of dark fantasy.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Edit: i’ve been informed that LotFP was inspired by BECMI, not b/x. I wasn’t aware of that…and I have a tendency to conflate the two, which I shouldn’t, but I do. *Shrugs* Anyway, now you know and I know, and knowing is half the battle…or so I hear. Cheers!

Another edit! So apparently Jeff Rients did a comparison of LotFP with B/X, suggesting that it is, in fact, the inspiration for the game. Well I’ll be damned.

My conclusion: the fact there is disagreement as to the pedigree of this wonderful game, and where some of the more interesting features are derived from, it proves how unique LotFP’s contribution is to the OSR…

…that and I will need to hone my skills as an investigative journalist, apparently.

5 thoughts on “LotfP understands adventurers. Period.

  1. You haven’t convinced me it isn’t a homebrewed B/X with only one example. More, a homebrew rule can also be the result of serious thought. Personally, I’m agnostic either way. You have however convinced me that this is an interesting — and valuable — mechanic. If I can ever get a campaign organized (most likely option being with my kids, but no sustained success on that front so far), I’ll adopt this as a house rule (including a medicine/1st aid skill). Cheers!

  2. I’d say that by the time you’ve added several skills, some very specific skills like seamanship and leadership and then of course riding is needed too etc… you just end up with a proficiency system slightly more streamlined than 2e but more fiddly than simply a Helmets & Halberds style one word background & that’s what you know.

    Take out healing spells- but quickly add back in a healing proficiency… oh right it’s not magic… isn’t that just skill tax to pay instead of easy access to healing magic to do the exact same thing?

    Things like leadership start impinging on stats like Charisma- why even have the stat if you can skill around it to white-ant it? Just use a reaction roll, it’s already in the rules.

    Seems to be adding a whole bunch of relatively uninteresting crunch for not much juice at the table; oh my you’re going to sail through the eye of the storm, well you’ll die! But Elric is a sailor, ok roll a d6 & see what happens, low is bad. Vs “oh my you’re going to sail through the eye of the storm, well you’ll die! But Elric has 2 pips in sailing skill, ok roll a d6 & see what happens, low is bad”…

    1. I’m not sure you are entirely correct, which is another way of saying you’re not completely wrong. I think your examples are a bit extreme and actually prove my point. So, take a medicine skill for example. All it would do is allow a character to recover an extra hit point or two upon a day’s rest. Magical healing would still be very potent as that heals others in the midst of combat (or immediately thereafter) allowing the party to accomplish their task and continue delving deeper into whatever god-forsaken dungeon they’ve found themselves. So, in this instance, the party has some interesting options: Do they have a specialist in medicine? or do they leave it to the cleric? In the context of LotFP, the specialist is the only one going to have skills beyond 1 out of 6. And, certainly, circumstances may affect the chance of success.

      On the other hand, Seamanship could be abused…unless it is strictly construed like bushcraft is in LotFP: strictly for the use of foraging for food and water. To be honest, I would probably expand the usage of bushcraft for challenges like trying to start a fire in the midst of a storm, but that would come with significant penalties for the roll to succeed–which is why you should bring a specialist. So, I guess, in the instance of the seamanship skill it could be used to assist in determining what needs to be done to survive the storm? I don’t think that is the kind of encounter that should be reduced to one rolll. *shrugs*

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