Thursday, July 14, 2016

Briefing for an Online LotFP Game

Hi! If I specifically sent you a link to this post or otherwise asked you individually to read it, that probably means I'm planning to start an online game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and I think you might be interested in playing. So this post is for you. The game will most likely take place over Skype or some other program that allows real-time voice chat. Hopefully it'll be fun! Well, in one way or another...

In case you're not familiar with it, Lamentations of the Flame Princess is essentially a horror-based/weird fiction-based riff on B/X D&D. I can bore you with most of the details of what that means later if you want to talk about the history of Dungeons & Dragons; anyway, I'm not exactly an expert on the subject. Since it's based on an older version of D&D than you may be familiar with, Lamentations of the Flame Princess has some gameplay tropes you may want to keep in mind. Combat is not always the best path to success, since encounters are not necessarily "balanced" for any particular level or party composition, and combat tends to hit the nasty/brutish/short trifecta. On top of that, most experience point rewards come from acquiring treasure, and the defeat of enemies gives very little XP. Trickery, stealth, and negotiation are often the order of the day, although violence can certainly be useful (and fun, let's be honest) when applied cleverly and carefully. Other important aspects of the game include resource management, solving problems through critical thinking (rather than just appealing to the stats on your character sheet for success, although stats also have their place), player-directed adventures (more sandboxes, less railroads, so to speak), and rolling up lots of backup characters. I'm going to be honest here: LotFP (as the game is commonly abbreviated) tends to be highly lethal. That's part of its charm. Besides, character creation is pretty quick.

As for the atmosphere or tone of LotFP, think D&D, but with more H. P. Lovecraft, more Clive Barker, and more heavy metal.* Two of those three things I'm only indirectly familiar with at the moment, outside of a few examples here and there, but the aesthetics of these subjects are distinctive enough that I think even a cursory knowledge of them should give you a good idea of what LotFP tends to be like. In addition, many LotFP campaigns take place on a strange version of Earth in the 17th century C.E. instead of totally fictional worlds. This isn't a necessary component of the game, but it is a common one. This means that creatures like elves and orcs may not be present or may be so rare as to be virtually unknown to society, and that NPCs may practice real-world religions instead of worshiping Pelor or Gruumsh. A final thing to note: monsters in LotFP tend to be highly individualized, rare, unknown to the world at large, dangerous, and scary. You're more likely to encounter the Medusa than simply a medusa, and when you meet it, it'll probably be all fucked up and wrong.

Now, I'm not going to give you any required reading, because this is a game, played for enjoyment, and requiring you to do homework before playing probably isn't too enjoyable. But, if you're interested, I do have some recommended reading:
  • The current version of the LotFP Rules & Magic book is available (minus the art) as a free PDF, in case you want to take a gander at the system. I think it's pretty simple and rules-light, for the most part.
  • I put together a short list of LotFP actual play reports that are a real joy to read HERE. These might give you a good idea of what the game is like, and they're also worth reading on their own merits.
  • I tend to use a lot of house rules when I run an RPG. HERE is a list of things you might want to ask me to clarify, since the specifics may change from one campaign to another. Also be sure to ask me what classes are available if you have any doubts or you have a specific type of character in mind. Classes are possibly the aspect of the game's basic system I tinker with the most, and I tend to be pretty flexible in what I allow as long as it seems fair.
  • You can see a lot of (NSFW) official LotFP art HERE.
  • You can find some useful random generators related to LotFP HERE. There's another character generator HERE.
Finally, here are some important things to note about the old-school style of D&D generally embraced by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. (I'm directly quoting some great advice given to me by Tommi Brander on Google+ that I think is helpful to keep in mind.)
  1. "Once play starts, the referee is neutral, does not fudge (for or against players), and does not railroad. This allows players to succeed or fail on their own merits, rather than the whim of the referee."
  2. "It's a sandbox world, so you can go wherever. Please warn the referee before going to some unexpected place, so that the referee can prepare the area. There is no referee-made plot to follow, but if certain events are ignored in play, there will be consequences."
  3. "Creative problem solving is a good idea. Players are free to try ideas that are not codified in the rules. Put green slime in a bottle and use it as a missile weapon. Trap enemies inside a house and burn it down. Push someone off a cliff."
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I hope I'll see you at the game!

*Some people may like to think of it as Call of Cthulhu played with the rules of D&D, although that may not be entirely accurate because LotFP lacks a sanity mechanic, which I believe was deliberately left out by the author because he didn't see the need for it when D&D adventurers tend to act crazy without any directly rule-based provocation. Still, I think it's an apt comparison in some ways. Characters tend to be a bit fragile, adventures sometimes revolve around investigating supernatural mysteries, heroism often has a price, and monsters and magic tend to be awful, dangerous, mind-rending "blasphemies" that demonstrate how little we poor humans can understand the nature of reality and how insignificant we are in the wider universe.

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