Thursday, July 03, 2014

Two New RPGs From Brom

Last month I popped over to the UK Games Expo in Birmingham for the weekend. I'd recommend it to anyone - it's a huge convention with the largest trade hall in the UK. I picked up a couple of games:-

LotFP has nice artwork too - much nicer
than the generic D&D/Pathfinder art
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a Weird Fantasy Roleplaying game that uses a system similar to the old OD&D (original Dungeons & Dragons) with some of the later innovations of D&D (ascending armour classes etc.). Character classes are very tightly focused (only fighters get better at fighting, only specialists get skill improvements), elves, dwarves and halflings are classes to themselves. I have some reservations - for instance dwarves seem to stacks of hit points but no combat skills.

The Weirdness is in the adventure material, and the often graphic artwork, and they are typically set in a form of the real world in the 17th century. James of LotFP does a very strange thing at conventions - Pay What You Want. You can buy any books he has an give him whatever you want. If you give him above a certain threshold he'll even send you a forthcoming module when it is done.

I threw down £50 and bought the core rulebook hardback, Carcosa, Isle of the Unknown, F**K for Satan (yes really!), the Monolith Outside of Space and Time and the God That Crawls. They're weird. There's been a lot of criticism for some of the adventures from various quarters (one of them features a gigantic alien mind controlling phallus), but James is clearly not someone who wants to filter his imaginations for political correctness, nor does he hold with the idea of "fairness" in adventures. There's no bestiary - monsters and spells are unique and introduced in scenarios. For example one wizard has a 1st level spell allowing time travel.

This was always a contention of mine when I used to write roleplaying games. Scenarios, particularly those in living campaigns, have to be playtested and the encounters balanced using some sort of pre-determined equations. I once had to make the walls of an enemy city manned with only 2 archers in order to fit the Encounter Level of a ranged encounter. The author of the Free RPG Day Pathfinder module apparently had to apologise for a particularly dangerous encounter where a bad guy's abilities made him near unbeatable if the DM wanted to play by the rules. It makes it boring if you know the only encounters your DM throws at you will be "fair". Some of the parts of LotFP adventures are not "fair". Player characters can get mangled without a saving throw just by following the plot. As it says in the rule book, there's a reason the average mook doesn't become an adventurer. You cannot expect what you face to always be within your power-level, and running away is always an option. Even if it does rip that IV Drip of experience and treasure of your living camapign.

That said I envisage running LotFP for a lot of hilarious one-offs. I would not drop them randomly into an ongoing campaign without planning - most of these modules will not leave your PCs unaffected. You can get the rules for free here, and the 2013 Free RPG Adventure Better Than Any Man is a huge scenario that highlights the weird fantasy aspect. Well worth the downloads.

Fear the stones of Esteren!
The other game I picked up was a French game, Shadows of Esteren. It is a completely different beast of an RPG yet still has overlaps with the Weird Fantasy. It is very much a new-school roleplaying game set in a Celtic-like set of kingdoms known as the Tri-Kazael. It describes itself as part Dark Ages Cthulhu and part Ravenloft - with a very gothic feel.

Part of the fear comes from the isolation of the communities in Tri-Kazael, who live in fear of the Feondas (or enemy). These are unique abominations of plant, animal or even humanity - basically mutations of the natural order and each Feondas has the potential to be a unique horror that could terrify player characters.

In terms of magic the PCs can wield there are the Demorthèn (the druids, the old faith of the Tri-Kazael who still hold considerable influence), the Church of the One - a new faith whose miraculous powers are often more powerful than the dweomers of the Demorthèn and the steampunk-like Magientists, who combine magic with science through the use of a mysterious substance known as the Flux.

The game itself is gorgeous and you can download the first book as a PDF for free here. I played it twice at the Expo, one 4 hour game and one 2 hour demo at the desk (great game, but they cleaned up my Pepsi can in the time it took for me to buy the game). I was sold and bought the uber-bundle of all the rule books, the CD and some player aids/DM screen.

It's a multimedia project, there is a point-and-click adventure game in the works, as well as a boardgame which I've help Kickstart, and some music CDs - though I did not yet get my CD (or PDF copies of the books) as part of the bundle.

I've an idea for a really spooky convention scenario for this - called The Sentinel. I might run this at the Nationals.

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