Friday, 19 September 2014

[Review] Lamentations Of The Flame Princess (hc Rules & Magic + Grindhouse Edition)

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a retro clone of basic and expert rules of the original fantasy roleplaying game. It is not 100% faithful in cloning the original (as Labyrinth Lord tries to be as far as it legally can) as it has some house-rules embedded. These house rules make game more simple, but add some neat options.

The premise of Lamentations of the Flame Princess is weird fantasy. Weird fantasy means (in LotFP) that magic is chaotic and most of the people are unaware of it or afraid of it. Monsters are unique beings instead of everyday annoyance (orcs, looking at you!). Life is tough, world is dark.

Tutorial

In Grindhouse Edition one of the three books is named Tutorial. If you are familiar with Mentzer basic set of Dungeons & Dragons you now what the tutorial is like. As you read you are suddenly thrown into a solo adventure, where you learn the rules as you play. This is extremely beginner friendly method to teach roleplaying. Instead of reading rules and explanations you actually get to do something yourself. It is a bit funny, that LotFP has this great tutorial for beginners, but I am not so sure if LotFP is beginner friendly game! Rules wise it is, but artwork and mood tells something else.

The Weird

The weird in illustration and wording means gore, disgusting things, and despair. You get the basic seven races as classes (Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Specialist replacing Thief, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) but the class descriptions exude dark fantasy. Fighters life is described not valorous but the hell of war. Magic-Users reveal darkness instead of cowering away from it. Dwarfs are a dying race without pleasure in life. Also most of the spells are familiar, but written in darker tone. Your Magic-User can access Summon in first level. But before you get anxious summoning some dragons to fight with you remember, this is weird fantasy. Summon spell might screw you and everything around.

Design

If you haven't lived in a barrel for a couple of years you should have heard (or seen yourself) that LotFP products are top notch! The art is magnificent, print quality is amazing. The books are smaller than normal rpg books (half the size) but that makes them more appealing. The Grindhouse box includes three books, character sheets and tiny dice. You only need pen and some paper and you are ready to go - out of the box! (As I mentioned above about the Tutorial book you can start playing very quickly without even starting to read the rules book!)

Grindhouse box books are paperbacks (I hope I am using the term correctly here). Soft covers, rough and thick yellowish paper. I really like the feel and looks of Grindhouse books. They are appealing to me. Very sweet. You still can see that these are not yet perfect, but that makes them even more personal. The headline font is wonky to read and some things could have been arranged better for clearer read.

But that's what the new hardcover fixes. Editing is better, font is better, layout is better, paper quality is better (glossy, if that's the right word). The hardcover is easier and better in actual use, but still there's more charm in Grindhouse version! LotFP Grindhouse Edition cover art is legendary, but hardcover cover art is not worse.

Rules

Advance levels gaining experience. But monsters don't give you experience so you want to avoid those. And you should, if you have read the adventures. Gold and treasures are what give you ding. Ascending AC makes game easier so you don't have to check the table to know what you need to hit or calculate Thac0. If you will this is super simplified version of the 3rd edition of D&D. Or improved and modernized version of basic.

Character classes are a little different. Clerics get first spell at first level (same in Labyrinth Lord). Only Fighters advance in hitting better. Specialists get skill points so they can choose in which skills advance faster.

Skills are now one in six change, everyone has 1 in 6 (Elves spot secret doors 2 in 6, Halflings hide better but those are exceptions). Only Specialists advance in skills but everyone can try to pick locks or climb walls.

Encumbrance is a big improvement. Instead counting what every coin and torch weights LotFP uses encumbrance points. Some items don't add encumbrance, some add, some are heavy and it shows. Makes inventory management smoother and easier.

There are also extra rules like maritime adventures and rules for property and finance. Also you find everything you need from mapping (these are not rules actually but suggestions) to retainers.You could quite easily just convert your b/x campaign to LotFP without much trouble.

Hardcover also introduces firearms (LotFP default setting is 17th century) which earlier editions (Grindhouse and Deluxe) lack. Nice addition what most certainly adds the setting feel.

Setting

There is no setting in either of these products. There are hints of what weird fantasy is, but the setting is up to you to decide. New hardcover gives strong suggestions to 17th century pseudo-fantasy and in his house games the author James Raggi IV doesn't use demi-humans. In the rules demi-humans are there to make game compatible. If you want setting for LotFP you should buy LotFP adventures. Those give flesh for the bones of the game. There are adventures what strongly give the 17th century pseudo-fantasy vibe. But there are also other weird settings, for example Quelong for south east Asian weirdness and Carcosa for science fantasy weirdness.

Conclusion


  • LotFP is a solid set of old-school rules with modern solutions.
  • It is also easily compatible with other OSR games and in Grindhouse Edition's Referee book you get conversion tables for most popular OSR games.
  • The art might turn some people off being gross, but if you don't like the NSFW art you can get the rules for free to enjoy the solid system.
  • Even though the rules are extremely great where LotFP shines it is in its products. And you don't even need LotFP to play these supplements and adventures, because they are easily compatible with other games (LotFP statblocks are simple).
Where To Get?

Grindhouse Edition is out of print, so you need some luck. Some bookstores or gaming stores might have few in stock. Or you might find it second hand in different places from stores and online.

You can buy the new hardcover rules from:
  • LotFP store. Both print and PDF available there. The PDF is cheap so go get it!
  • Free no-art PDF is available at RPGNow. You don't get the art (someone might prefer this game without art!) but you get the nifty rules!
  • You can also check out what LotFP is about with these two free adventures: The Doom-Cave Of The Crystal-Headed Children and Better Than Any Man (in that there's two things I wrote so you better check that out!).
Special For Me

LotFP is not only an excellent game but also special for me. When I heard of this OSR I tried to understand and get it. I did download different free games (OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord for example) but didn't get it nor like it. LotFP had this awesome premise and box art and I just had to get it! I knew it was OSR I wasn't interested in but thought, that I can always use other rules. I just wanted that damn box!

And I bought it. And started to read it. After the Tutorial I was sold. When I started to read the rules I understood that OSR is for me! So without LotFP I am not sure if I would love OSR like I now do.

Thank you LotFP for making my gaming awesome again!