Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gold Box D&D - Any advice for making a party to go from Pool of Radiance to Pools of Darkness?

So I've been thinking about getting back into the Gold Box D&D games lately, specifically the Pool of Radiance/Curse of the Azure Bonds/Secret of the Silver Blades/Pools of Darkness series. I've played Pool of Radiance quite a bit, but I haven't beaten it yet. I'd like to take the same party of six characters through all four games, without replacing any along the way. Anyone have any experience with these games? If any readers want to share some advice on how to avoid screwing up this idea from the beginning, I'd really appreciate it.

Here's what I'm considering so far:

  1. Dwarf Fighter/Thief multi-classed character (True Neutral?)
  2. Human Fighter. After reaching Level 8 or 9, dual-classed to Cleric. (Lawful Good? Chaotic Good? Chaotic Neutral?)
  3. Human Cleric (or maybe Fighter). After reaching level cap in Pool of Radiance, dual-classed to Paladin in Curse of the Azure Bonds. Lawful Good.
  4. Human Cleric. After reaching Level 9, dual-classed to Magic-User. (Lawful Good? Chaotic Good?)
  5. Human Magic-User. After reaching Level 9, dual-classed to Ranger in Curse of the Azure Bonds. (Chaotic Good?)
  6. Human Magic-User. Not dual-classed. (Chaotic Good?)
So by Pools of Darkness, I'd have a Dwarf Fighter/Thief, a Human Paladin (part Cleric or Fighter), a Human Ranger (part Magic-User), a Human Cleric (part Fighter), a Human Magic-User (part Cleric), and another Human Magic-User.

If it helps, the Gold Box games use AD&D 1E rules, more or less.

By the way, I'm probably just going to avoid Hillsfar altogether.

Ideas for Starting a Campaign (D&D or LotFP)

Generally, my goal is to publish at least 11 blog posts a month. This is the second month in a row I haven't reached that goal, so starting in October I'm going to try and return Dragons Gonna Drag to its regularly scheduled programming. In the meantime, I should probably write at least one more post for September, so here's something I've been thinking about lately.

You know that old trope in which the party members all meet up in a tavern or an inn at the beginning of the campaign and conveniently join forces, often for very little reason other than getting on with the adventure? I'm not exactly going to bemoan the idea here; it's a cliche because it generally works, and it has arguably become a genre convention by now. However, it sure is nice when things are kicked off in a slightly less predictable way, especially when the players can start out either right in the thick of the action or in the process of making a major, meaningful decision.

Hopefully, I might be starting another campaign soon in addition to my regular one, so I figure it shouldn't hurt to list some ideas for the campaign's beginning in case my potential players want to give me some feedback about what interests them, or in case anyone else might either find some inspiration or share some of their own. Now, by no means do I want to claim that these are original ideas I came up with by myself; many of the things I'm going to list are also pretty common suggestions. Much of this will probably count as "preaching to the choir" for any readers who were playing RPGs before I was born or when I was in diapers. Still, I think these suggestions are less common, and in my opinion more interesting, than the meeting-in-a-tavern trope. If anyone wants to tell me about a time when one of these ideas was used in a campaign, for good or ill, I'd love to hear it.

Starting off with one specific adventure, after which point the players can choose where to go and what to do:

  • The game begins with the party all locked up in the same dungeon or prison, and the first adventure is their escape attempt. (I apologize that I do not remember exactly where I read this, but I've seen it suggested more than once that a good way to start a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign would be to have the party wake up in the cannibals' lair in Better Than Any Man - possibly with their shackles accidentally loosened and their starting equipment bundled in a nearby room.)
  • Some variations on the above: The party consists of people who have been press ganged to work on the same ship, conscripted to fight in the same military unit, abducted by the same god/witch/fairy/UFO, unwittingly teleported to the same alien planet, or kidnapped to serve as The Most Dangerous Game for the same group of bloodthirsty nobles.
  • The PCs have all been mutually and mysteriously gifted a mansion or similar piece of property through the will of an eccentric, wealthy individual of some notoriety. Some or all of the PCs might not have even met this benefactor. The party is free to claim the property and use it as they see fit, on the condition that they can make it habitable. Naturally, the place is haunted, cursed, infested with monsters, or otherwise operating as a dungeon-style adventure location, of course.
  • The party is a group of pilgrims/travelers who happen to meet on the road en route to the same location, shortly before they run into trouble together on the way there. A Stranger Storm, the sample adventure from the free Referee Book from LotFP, works well with this approach, as does the adventure Tales of the Scarecrow. This was also basically how the game of LotFP I played at Gen Con 2016 started. You could pull a bit of a switcheroo with this idea - the players think they're headed for one adventure (and maybe they are, if they survive the surprise), but they get a different one instead or beforehand.
  • The party does meet in a tavern, but not by chance. They were all asked to meet there by someone who wants to hire them for a heist or some other mission. Think Mr. Johnson from Shadowrun. For added fun, consider making the meeting itself a trap.
  • The party members are residents of the same town or region who become mutually trapped in the area or otherwise endangered due to a disaster or attack, and the most sensible way for them to survive and escape would be for them to work together. Over at Anxiety Wizard, the Deep Carbon Observatory campaign currently in progress seems to use this approach, at least with some of the PCs. I think it would also be a fun way to start No Salvation for Witches.
Starting off in a "sandbox" right away, presenting the party with a choice of adventures in the very first session:
  • The PCs are all members of a Hunting/Safari/Mons Club, and they have found or been presented with several leads as to the locations of various magical creatures/monsters to track down. I think this could work well with Isle of the Unknown.
  • The party members are all refugees fleeing persecution, and there are several places to which they could try and escape. Think Sirenswail (which makes good use of this premise as a lead-in to a specific adventure location), but with several possible adventure locations depending on the escape route chosen by the party.
  • The party consists of a team of officially-endorsed (but still wet behind the ears) witch hunters, bounty hunters, crusaders, etc., and due to either some unique circumstances or some weirdly unfettered institutional policies, the PCs start off with their choice of assignment. They must pick which menace to hunt down or which group to prosecute/persecute (possibly like a reverse of the suggestion above - the PCs are the ones hunting the refugees). If the DM wanted to start off with a specific adventure instead of a choice of several ones, the party could simply have to earn the right to choose their assignments after the first one.
  • Much like in the "gifted a mansion" example above, the PCs all inherit joint custody of a collection of books, maps, and various documents. This collection gives plot hooks for all kinds of different quests: You want to go treasure hunting? This journal says that unfathomable wealth is buried in the lost tomb over here, and unimaginable riches are probably still on board that ship that suck under suspicious circumstances over there. You want arcane knowledge and magical powers? This diary details the methods by which you could summon the Ripened God deep in the Thrice Forbidden Grove and try to ask for some favors, but first you'll need some rare ingredients for the ritual, which can be found here and here, if you believe the rumors. You want to curry favor with the authorities? These letters over here contain tantalizing clues to the unsolved occult murders Duke de la Poer and his family. I'm personally thinking of something along the lines of Clarke's "Memoirs to Prove the Existence of the Devil" from The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, or Miskatonic University's good ol' Lovecraftian giftschrank, but the collection of documents certainly doesn't have to be horror-themed. It could consist of the research notes of a scholar who secretly discovered the Hollow World, or the treasure maps of a retired pirate captain showing where he buried all his booty, or the library of famous sage and wanna-be alchemist Poindexter von Magicpants.
  • You could try the open-ended hexcrawl version of the aforementioned "unwittingly teleported to the same alien planet" idea. The PCs all get plopped down against their will in the middle of the same place on the hexmap, and what happens to them next depends entirely on what direction they decide to go, how thoroughly they want to explore, which dungeons or other plot hooks they wish to stop and investigate, and what gets rolled on the random encounter table.
Really, this post is an attempt to answer two different questions for the players. First, why is my character going on this adventure instead of doing something else? The two answers I find most likely to satisfy the player are "For profit," and "For survival." Second, why is my character pursuing this adventure as a part of a team with these other characters who are probably strangers? The most reasonable answer in many cases will probably be "For better chances of success." If your players want to come up with other motivations, like "Because it's the right thing to do," or "For revenge," that seems perfectly fine by me - I'm not here to inflict the RPG equivalent of kink shaming on anybody - but that probably shouldn't be expected or required of your players just so that they have some kind of reason or excuse to get involved. Likewise, I think it's fine and dandy if players want to come up with a little bit of mutual backstory explaining why the party is together, but I don't want that to be a prerequisite for play. You don't always need a huge amount of backstory or prep for a campaign to start off strong.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Customizing Carcosa's Classes

Carcosa, as presented in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess release of the campaign setting by Geoffrey McKinney, is a pretty over-the-top place. Here are some over-the-top tweaks to the two main character classes in the setting, which I am considering for use in a future campaign.

Fighter:

  • Basic Fighter Stuff - The Fighter's Base Attack Bonus increases as in LotFP. The Fighter can also Press, Fight Defensively, and Parry like in LotFP.
  • Skills - The Fighter gains skill points like a Specialist in LotFP, and can spend them on any skill except Sneak Attack or Luck (see below).
  • Sneak Attack - The Fighter starts with 2 ranks in Sneak Attack. The skill increases to 3 ranks at Level 4, 4 ranks at Level 7, 5 ranks at Level 10, and 6 ranks at Level 13.
  • Great Cleave (or "Unstoppable," from Warriors of the Red Planet p. 8) - When the Fighter kills an enemy with a melee attack, the Fighter can make an additional attack against another enemy within melee range.
  • "Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?" - Once per day, if the Fighter takes no action for at least three full, consecutive rounds of combat other than getting pumped up about killing an enemy, then the next attack the Fighter makes (in that same combat encounter) will do the maximum amount of damage (based on the Fighter's weapon), stun the target for 1d4-1 rounds, and give anyone who targets that same enemy (in that same combat encounter) a +1 bonus to hit. This ability cannot be used in the same attack as a Sneak Attack.
  • Fuck Psychics - The Fighter can no longer start play with psionic powers, no matter how high the Fighter's ability scores are.


Sorcerer:

  • Basic Sorcerer Stuff - The Sorcerer is the only class that can perform rituals, as per Carcosa. In addition to the effects listed in Carcosa, the completion of rituals (or the subsequent bargaining with summoned entities) may sometimes lead to additional powers or rewards, at the DM's discretion.
  • "I Will Destroy You With My Mind!" - The Sorcerer automatically starts play with psionic powers, and all 8 powers are available to the Sorcerer every day (rather than 1d4 random powers).
  • Luck - The Sorcerer starts with 2 ranks in Luck (see LotFP Playtest Document 0.1). The skill increases to 3 ranks at Level 4, 4 ranks at Level 7, 5 ranks at Level 10, and 6 ranks at Level 13.
  • Identify - Once per day, the Sorcerer can magically/psionically investigate the function of a magical, high-tech, or otherwise unusual item in a manner similar to the spell Identify in LotFP. This process costs 100 gp in materials and takes 1 full day to complete.
  • Recharge (based on the ability from Warriors of the Red Planet p. 14) - Once per day, the Sorcerer can attempt to magically/psionically recharge one special item that carries limited charges (such as a ray gun). Doing so costs 1d10x100 gp in materials. The Sorcerer must roll a d6: on a roll of 6, no charges are restored and the Sorcerer must make a Saving Throw vs. Magic or else be subjected to 1 year of Unnatural Aging (see Carcosa p. 14) and waste 1d4 additional charges of the item. Otherwise, a number of charges are restored to the item as follows: 1 charge at Level 1, d4 charges at Level 4, d6 charges at Level 7, d8 charges at Level 10, and d10 charges at Level 13 and above.
  • "I Won't Lift A Finger!" - The Sorcerer starts with a Base Attack Bonus of 1, and this bonus does not increase upon gaining a level, as per most classes in LotFP. Likewise, the Sorcerer cannot Press or Fight Defensively, and can only Parry like a Magic-User/Cleric/Specialist in LotFP.
Both Classes:
  • Hit Dice are d8, as per the Fighter in LotFP.
  • Experience Points needed per Level are based on the Sorcerer.
  • Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Saving Throws use the rules from the LotFP Playtest Document 0.1. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution still use the rules from LotFP Rules & Magic.
Possible Changes:
  • Give "Basic Fighter Stuff" to both classes and remove either "Identify" or "Recharge" from the Sorcerer to put the classes slightly more in line with Carcosa as written.
  • Replace "Identify" with "Magic Sense" from Warriors of the Red Planet p. 105.
  • Change how Unnatural Aging works for the Sorcerer, since Carcosa doesn't get too specific about it, if I remember correctly. Maybe replace it altogether with some other penalty.
  • Change the name of the Luck skill.
  • Add some new skills and remove some Old Ones. Ha.
  • Give different stats/abilities to the different technicolor peoples of Carcosa.

List of LotFP Classes from Official and Semi-Official Sources (Print and PDF Only)

There are a ton of awesome custom-made classes on various blogs and other websites for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other OSR games, but I found myself wondering how many different classes have actually appeared in official LotFP releases, and how many have likewise appeared in "third-party" print or PDF publications that are considered to be intentionally compatible with or based on LotFP.

So, I decided to make a list of classes from such publications. This is mostly just meant to be a quick reference for anyone curious as to what's out there so far. If I missed anything, please let me know!

Also, I may do a round-up of links to interesting online character classes at some point.

Official Sources:

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules & Magic

  • Cleric
  • Fighter
  • Magic-User
  • Specialist
  • Dwarf
  • Elf
  • Halfling
A Red & Pleasant Land

  • Alice (or Alistair or Fool)
Carcosa

  • Sorcerer

Green Devil Face #4
  • Knight of Science
Third-Party Sources (in Print or PDF):

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia

  • Raconteur (Bard)
  • Chaos DJ (Bard)
  • Nexus Bard
  • Kaldane
  • Carnomancer (or Meat Mage)

Saltmouth Issue Zero (playtest document for The Driftwood Verses)

  • Blattarian
  • Vassal
  • Navigator

The Undercroft #9

  • Skinned Moon Daughter
  • Doctor
  • Detached*
  • Partners in Crime*
  • Fallen*
  • Pariah*
*These classes are from an article called "Dead Inside," and are intended to completely replace the character classes from the Rules & Magic book, rather than simply supplementing the list.

Vacant Ritual Assembly #4

  • Barbarian

Vacant Ritual Assembly #5

  • Ritualist

Wolf-packs and Winter Snow

  • Expert
  • Hunter
  • Magician
  • Neanderthal
  • Aberrant**
  • Morlock**
  • Mystic**
  • Orphan**
  • Wendigo**

**These "Alternate Classes" are not intended to be available to players without the explicit permission of the GM.

Appendix 1: Classless Systems and Alternate Character Advancement Systems

  • "New Character Creation and Advancement Techniques" from Green Devil Face #5.
  • "Classless Lamentations of the Flame Princess" from The Undercroft #4.
  • "Everyone is an Adventurer" from The Undercroft #9.

Appendix 2: Honorable Mentions

  • The Lotus Monk from Qelong is intended to be a template of abilities for specific NPCs, but if you want to stick it to the man you can probably turn it into a character class pretty easily.
  • There are some special rules for religion that can be used with many classes, but especially Clerics, in England Upturn'd.
  • If you wanted to make a Psionic class, the psionic rules in Carcosa might not be a bad place to start.
  • The Meat Men from The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia constitute more of a suite of abilities/mutations for PCs to acquire than a separate class per se, but the text does briefly touch on the possibility of using the Meat Man as a class.
  • The Thundercloud Druid from Vacant Ritual Assembly #3 is not a separate class, but rather a background that can be chosen along with a class. Rules-wise, a Thundercloud Druid essentially gets a specific package of starting equipment instead of randomly-rolled starting money. This issue of Vacant Ritual Assembly also introduces two new skills: Falconry and Play Wind. Conceivably, a separate Thundercloud Druid class could be created if one so desired.
  • An article in Vacant Ritual Assembly #4 called "The Oolai Cloth-Skins and Dragon Blackhide Bastards" presents a system of magic item creation/character enhancement (depending on how you look at it) which could perhaps be used as the basis for some kind of Magical Weaver class.
  • A new skill that is exclusive to Magic-Users, Pipe Arts, is presented in Vacant Ritual Assembly #5. In the same issue, Lycanthropy Rules are introduced, which could possibly be used to make a Werewolf class.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Any Suggestions for Reskinning Adventures?

In my current campaign, there are two adventures that the party is likely to want to tackle in the near future. I'm hoping that I can reskin some pre-written adventures to fit what I'm looking for. Basically, I want to save some time and effort in terms of cartography, monster stats, some unique magical effects, etc. while changing and adding a bunch of other stuff to match my particular campaign. Here's what I have in mind:

First, the party wants to use time-travel magic to alter a key event in history. Instead of literally going back in time, I figure the party could use a mystical artifact to travel to a surreal dungeon which serves as an abstract representation of time/history/fate/destiny. By interacting with various features of the metaphysical dungeon (like convincing the Moirai to cut or not cut certain threads, or hacking the Matrix, or whatever), the party could alter the past in precise, almost surgical ways...albeit limited ways, and probably at some hideous cost, of course.

Second, the party will probably want to enter the Sealed City of Duvan'Ku, deep in the Untamed Lands, and try to undo the evil curses placed on the world by that empire of cruelty. This may very well serve as the climax of the whole campaign, so I was thinking about making the city (or some structure within it) a megadungeon chalk full of the kind of hideous magic found in adventures like Death Frost Doom, Death Love Doom, and Fuck for Satan. If they can get to the heart of this labyrinth, the party may be able to find a way to stop a dreaming god from awakening and ending reality as they know it...again, at a hideous cost, because this is the cult of Duvan'Ku we're talking about here. Nothing is painless with them.

Here's a list of pre-written adventures/modules I've already used in the campaign in some capacity, to the extent that I consider them disqualified for use in this reskinning project.
  • A Stranger Storm (LotFP Referee Book)
  • Tales of the Scarecrow
  • Tower of the Stargazer
  • The Pale Lady
  • The Flayed King
  • Oil and Water
  • Fuck for Satan
  • No Salvation for Witches
  • The Tower (Green Devil Face)
  • The House of Snails (Green Devil Face)
  • Fantasy Fucking Vietnam (Green Devil Face)
  • The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time
  • A Single, Small Cut
  • Death Love Doom
  • The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem
  • Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess
  • Forgive Us
  • Hammers of the God
  • The Bloodsoaked Boudoir of Velkis the Vile
  • Thulian Echoes
  • The Idea from Space
  • Beyond Mere Lotophagi (Green Devil Face)
  • People of Pembrooktonshire
  • The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions
  •  Death Frost Doom
  • Scenic Dunnsmouth
  • The Gem Prison of Zardax
  • Towers Two
There are some other books/products I've used which I don't consider disqualified, so they are not listed here.

So, any advice? If anyone has any ideas to share, I would greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Sirenswail" Review

Sirenswail is an OSR adventure intended primarily for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, although it is not officially part of the LotFP product line. It was written by Dave Mitchell, and you can buy it at Lulu. Full disclosure: I'm in the credits for this book because I read an early draft of the adventure and gave Dave some feedback, so I admit that I was predisposed to liking this one before I read the final version. That said, I really do think it's a great little book, and it's well worth picking up.

Sirenswail is a softcover book of 66 or so pages. It's got a classy, somewhat abstract cover by David Paul Hellings which (perhaps not coincidentally?) reminds me of the Mana Cross from Siren. Mr. Hellings also did the map and monster illustrations in the book, which may look a bit amateurish but are appealing to me all the same in their slightly cartoonish and yet somehow woodcut-like style. The map is pretty clear to read and includes a handy hex grid. The rest of the art consists of old public domain material as far as I can tell, but it fits the setting and tone of the book just fine. Sirenswail is "An adventure intended for 5-8 characters of levels 1-3." The book contains "Adult Material," in case you're wondering. A note in the back suggests that this can be used as the first part in a series of upcoming adventures by Dave Mitchell, but it definitely works on its own merits. I see no reason that Sirenswail couldn't work as a one-shot or as something to slot into a larger "non-Mitchell" campaign, and the book seems to be primarily intended for such purposes. I see no signs of any invasive meta-plot.

Sirenswail is what I would call an investigative adventure. The closest thing to a dungeon consists of three rooms, but the real meat of this thing lies in NPC interactions and poking at various mysteries. This is certainly not a bad thing, as evidenced by LotFP adventures like "A Stranger Storm" (from the free Referee Book), "In Heaven, Everything is Fine" (from Forgive Us), and England Upturn'd. Sirenswail offers a lot of interesting NPCs who may either help or hinder the adventurers (and each other) depending on the party's actions. The NPC write-ups are efficient, providing useful motives and traits without taking up a lot of time or space. Many of them could just as easily wind up as friends or foes to the party. Considering that Sirenswail is openly based on the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, the "peaceful" island community is not what it seems, of course. I don't want to spoil too much, but the characters are a big strength of this book.

The book begins with a brief history of the setting - England, 1644. There is more historical information a few pages later, which specifically details the town of Penzance on the coast. This information could have probably been condensed into one or two fewer pages, but it's not a big deal because the book is already a quick read. Most of this isn't strictly necessary, but it's helpful for flavor and for answering a few general questions that might pop up about the setting during play if neither the DM nor the players know much about this time and place, as is the case for me. Between England Upturn'd and Sirenswail, I feel like I should have enough information to start a good campaign in Early Modern England without needing to bury myself in textbooks first. Sirenswail could probably plug into England Upturn'd pretty nicely as a sort of side-quest, now that I think about it, although I'd have to double-check both books to be sure.

The adventure itself is split into three segments, and these can actually be used independently of each other. First, there's Penzance, which depending on the wishes of the DM could serve as either just a jumping-off point for the adventure, a hub from which the party could pursue multiple adventures, or a location for a short urban adventure in its own right. There's a tavern and a weapon shop with unique and detailed price lists, as well as some really good random encounters and rumors. The DM would have to do a little extra work to make the party's time in Penzance an adventure all by itself, but the book provides good inspiration and decent guidance.

The second segment is the voyage from Penzance to the titular island. The book basically says you can either gloss over this journey or make it a bit more eventful. There's a table of random encounters (or perhaps adventure hooks) provided in case the DM would prefer the latter. Again, these ideas might need some slight fleshing-out, but you could use the table, the ship, or the NPCs in other nautical adventures if you don't want to run the rest of the book.

The last segment takes place on Sirenswail, or as the residents call it, The Island. This is the main part of the adventure and includes the bulk of the detail. Again, there is a new and detailed price list for The Island's inn, which is nice. Interestingly, The Island's head honcho insists on giving the party a brief tour when they arrive, which is a good way to present both the geography of the place and several plot hooks to the players. There's a pretty strange set of random encounters that could happen if the adventurers explore at night, which are quite creative and should keep the players on their toes. The adventurers will probably spend most of their time on The Island interacting with the odd residents or examining The Island's landmarks, however. This is definitely a slow burn kind of deal, unless the players decide to try and indiscriminately slaughter everybody, which I'm guessing wouldn't go well for first-level characters. If you want something other than the usual smash-and-grab D&D adventure, this should hit the spot. If you want a slugfest, you should probably look elsewhere, although Sirenswail does have the potential for a few fun and memorable combat encounters. Overall, Sirenswail uses a subtle kind of horror, with good buildup and creepy secrets to stumble upon.

There are a few more odds and ends I should mention. Dave Mitchell's writing style is clear and straightforward, which is good for something that needs to be referenced at the game table, but there's definitely some personality that comes through as well, which is nice. The hit dice for all of the NPCs/monsters are listed as the type of dice used as well as the number of dice (3d8, for example). Maybe this could be helpful if you're using the LotFP Playtest Document, in which hit dice are not directly related to character class. Still, the hit dice almost all seem to be consistent with the current LotFP Rules & Magic book as well. Not a huge detail, but I thought it was interesting and possibly useful. Also, I should mention that this adventure includes the possibility of a huge treasure haul for a group of low-level characters, but considering the difficulty they would most likely face in actually getting it off The Island, I'm not personally worried about it. Still the DM may want to either decrease the value of the main treasure cache or simply be strict about how much treasure the party can carry if this seems like it would be a problem. Honestly, I think it might be a really good idea to put most of the treasure in one gigantic pile and make most of the remaining treasure kind of piddling in this kind of adventure: It should keep the party invested in finding "one big score" before trying to escape, and I bet it would really bring out the problem-solving skills in your players once they find what they're looking for!

Finally, I do have a few criticisms I should mention in the interest of fairness. First, there's a section of the book between the historical overview and the Penzance section which serves to introduce the DM to the premise of the adventure. Unfortunately, it also includes some information that should have probably been moved to other sections of the book in order to reduce page-flipping back and forth at the table. At least this section could have included page numbers for the later sections this information references, and vice versa. Second, there's a slight inconsistency regarding a reward offered to the party for a certain action on page 9; is it 500sp or 1,000sp? Third, the adventure includes some boxed text in the form of sample dialogue for NPCs. I don't actually mind this, since the dialogue is presented as example material that the DM should feel free to change, but some readers might see this as a weakness of the writing, since boxed text seems to be frowned upon by many OSR fans. Fourth, one of the "monsters" can cause a small XP penalty to the person who kills it, which is something of which I'm not too fond. However, it would be easy for the DM to just make the monster worth zero XP instead. Finally, the adventure doesn't have any magic items for the party to find (unless you count a few traps), which is a little disappointing considering the tendency for magic items to be extremely weird, screwed up, and interesting in LotFP. Still, these are minor problems that don't come close to ruining the adventure.

I definitely think Sirenswail is a great addition to my collection, and a strong first adventure for Dave Mitchell. The price is certainly right: I think it cost me about $13 after shipping and handling. If you like the idea of The Wicker Man as an adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, this should do nicely. I think it also works well as a source of ideas for other adventures in Seventeenth Century England, if that's more your thing.

Sirenswail gets a dead French monkey spy hung by nautical pagans out of 10.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LotFP Skill List Tentative Changes

This is a continuation of my tentative house rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

The list of skills is subject to change before the campaign begins, and possibly even during the campaign if the players agree, but this is what I'm leaning toward right now:

  • Architecture (I would definitely be more liberal with what you can accomplish with this skill than what seems to be included in the original rules, so hopefully this one wouldn't be a wasted skill.)
  • Bushcraft
  • Climb (I might change this to Atheletics, as per Papers & Pencils.)
  • Languages
  • Medicine
  • Seamanship
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Sneak Attack
  • Stealth
  • Tinker
Here is my reasoning behind the skills I am leaving out:

  • Leadership - I think I'd rather have this kind of skill rely entirely on Charisma and the actually words and choices of the players. I could probably be convinced to include it, but I'm hesitant to risk decreasing the importance of Charisma and making it live up to the (usually inaccurate) "dump stat"stereotype.
  • Luck - I could probably be persuaded to include this one if my players really want it, but for the time being I'm leaving it off the list. It doesn't really seem like a "skill" you can deliberately improve so much as a special ability, possibly supernatural in origin, that one acquires by luck (heh). Like Sneak Attack, and to a lesser extent Languages, it doesn't obey the rules that the majority of skills follow, but unlike Sneak Attack and Languages it was only introduced in the Playtest Document (and it doesn't seem to have an equivalent among Basic D&D Thief abilities, making it unnecessary for players wanting to play a Thief-type character), so I don't feel so bad about leaving it out. Also, I'm a bit concerned that the general-purpose nature of Luck might make it more desirable than most other skills by a great enough degree that few points would even go into other skills for the majority of characters I see, and while that's not necessarily a problem (or necessarily even true - again, I'm open to suggestions here), I do find that kind of boring.
  • Open Doors - This skill has been entirely replaced by Strength Checks in my house rules. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, you couldn't put skill points into this skill in the original rules anyway, and could only increase it by increasing your strength (or maybe using Bless or something), and that kind of sucks.
  • Search - Over at the blog Papers & Pencils, LS gave some good reasons for removing the Search skill, and I've seen other good arguments on other old-school blogs, but I don't remember the specifics right now. The way I personally see it, if the players are clever or lucky or diligent enough to try and search an area in a way that seems like it should logically turn up something that I (as the DM) know is there, they should probably just automatically succeed. This goes back to the Rule of Reasonableness I mentioned in my last post. If for some reason I really want to introduce a change of failure to a search (like if the players are trying to detect a very stealthy NPC and the surprise rules don't seem to be enough to cover the situation), I would probably just have the searchers roll either an Intelligence Check or a Wisdom Check, whichever is higher. Also, Search just seems like a boring skill for someone to have to put points into for the good of the party even though there are more interesting things to pick instead.
It is unlikely for characters to reach a high enough level in a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign for a Specialist to run out of skills in which to invest points (Level 22, if you use my house rules and my math is correct). Still, I'd like to have a contingency plan in case this happens. The obvious solution would be to add more skills, which is what I've done in my Lamentations of the Fallen Lords campaign.

Here's another possible solution. I don't know if it's a good one, but I thought of it while lying in bed and it seemed kind of neat. Once a Specialist has increased every single skill to the maximum number of points, the Specialist can start using any additional skill points in new ways:

  • For the cost of 1 skill point, the Specialist may gain a Luck Point. This can be saved and used at any future time. By spending a Luck Point, a Specialist may re-roll any one die roll they make, as with the Luck skill in the Playtest Document. A Luck Point is basically a one-use item, rather than a resource that can be regained through rest up to a maximum number, like HP or Spells per Day.
  • For the cost of 1 skill point, the Specialist may increase one ability score by 1 point.
  • For the cost of 2 skill points, the Specialist may move one language from their "Not Known" list to their "Known" list.
A third option would be to just have any skills points gained beyond the maximum go to waste, but this doesn't strike me as particularly fun.