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Lamentations of the Flame Princess: a review of the game system

By Bronze oldie

I was asked to review Lamentations of the Flame Princess as a game system. In case you are not familiar with this, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) is a game company that pulls no punches and is publishing some of the highest quality and innovative RPG material on the market today. The quality of the art and the way that the books are put together is amazing. It’s very surprising to me that LotFP  is able to  get such high quality artists, when Wizards of the Coast, with backing of the Mighty Hasbro corporation, who have the ability to outbid everyone else, produces such comparatively inferior art for their games. 

LotFP publishes a wide variety of modules and game supplements. Some of them, like Carcosa or A Red and Pleasant Land are game worlds. Some are modules that you can easily plop down into the middle of a regular D&D campaign. But most of the books take place in a game world that resembles 17th Century Earth: the time of the English Civil War, the 30 years war, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

But at one point, the decision was made to make a game system to go with the books. It was originally released as box set with a players handbook, a referee’s guide, a module (Tower of the Star Gazer) and a book on how to play a RPG for people who have never done that. Since then, the players handbook: Rules & Magic has been updated. It’s available for free without the art. But the paid version without the art is much better. On the other hand, this is a game for adults, and the art reflects this. You might not want to give the book to a child if you have not seen it yet.

Looking through the book, it is mostly a clone of TSR version of D&D that is closest to the B/X version of the game. 21st century players are used to each edition of D&D being radically different from the previous version. But the TSR versions were more alike, similar to the way that 3.0, 3.5 and Pathfinder are similar. There were slight variations between TSR versions of D&D. The worse Armor Class was 10 in some versions and 9 in others. But Chainmail was AC:5 is all versions and Plate mail+Shield was AC: 2 in all versions. LotFP is very familiar to players of TSR D&D, with only a few, but significant changes. It has the same seven classes that go back to the original version of D&D. (Cleric, Fighter, Magic User, Thief, Dwarf, Elf and Halfling) Skills are rolled on a d6 instead of a % as TSR does or a d20 as 3+ editions do. The Weapons available have a few things that are spelled out, and all others are grouped according to their size.

But the biggest difference in LotFP is that the classes are more separated. Every Class is the best at something: Fighters are best at roll-to-hit, Specialists (Thieves) are best at using skills, Dwarfs have the most Hit Points. Halflings are best at Saving Throws, missile weapons, and Hiding in the wilderness. And the Magic of Clerics and Magi are completely separated. With only Dispel Magic on both spell lists. Also, the get-out-of-jail spells have been removed from the list. (Raise Dead, Resurrection, limited Wish, Wish) also, the damage dealing spells have been removed (Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Cone of Cold) leaving Magic Missile as the “go to” spell for dealing damage (which has been increased to 1d4 per level) And there are some interesting new spells. The combined effect of these changes are to make Magic dangerous and scary. And a recent book: Vaginas Are Magic, introduced a new rule that made 9th level spells potentially available to a 1st Level character.

However, the LotFP rules can sometimes confound player expectations if they have played D&D. For example: Starting in Original D&D and throughout all the boxed sets, Halflings were always a variant of Fighter. But starting with (1st ed) AD&D and on through all the later versions of the game, Halflings were strongly encouraged to be Thieves. In LotFP, Halflings are more like the 2-5th editions’ Ranger.

And players who are used to using the rules to defeat the monster instead of role playing, who are used to Feats and Skills for all classes, won’t like the simplicity of the the LotFP system. 

There are some who think that LotFP is more dangerous than other games. And it is more dangerous than the 3-5 edition games that Wiz-bro puts out. But it’s not any more dangerous than the TSR versions of the game. The big difference is that in the TSR versions of D&D, your character could at any moment be chopped up by and axe-wielding Orc. In LotFP, your character might be pulled away to the home plane of the eldritch abomination that you Summoned and failed to take control of.