Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Finally, a review!

Today, we are taking a look at Obscene Serpent Religion 2 By Jeff Rients for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
I rate products in these categories:
Writing quality and content.
Usability at the table.
Interior art and layout.
Overall presentation.
This is one the GenCon exclusive modules printed for 2019. The convention exclusive booklets are quick supplements and scenarios meant to add to your game. This little book introduces a village hub for players to get attached to, then it rips that away by having a snake demon corrupt the town and ruin everything they love. The snake demon in question is a quasi-deity capable of rewriting character's genetic history and is a tough customer to deal with. 

The first half describes the village of Nonesbeck. It's a sleepy little Hamlet with the basic needs for entry level characters. The NPCs are all described well as are their connections to one another.
This section alone is quite indispensable. The referee can never have enough villages laid out, described, and fleshed out. There are some quest hooks for the PC's to discover and for the referee to prep. The art here is pleasant and does a good job setting up the pastoral village.
The second part describes how to pull off the con on the players, and how each NPC has been affected by the cult. It's actually kind of heart-rending. How players react to the corruption can set off a new campaign arc. Maybe the eradicate the cultists and chase them out? Or maybe the players choose to cut their losses and flee. This option only leads to more cultists, though! The art in this section perverts the art style of the first. There are more shadows and the tone is more bleak, more menacing.
The third section details the serpent demon and her powers. The art in this final section is what we have come to expect from the publisher. Detailed, well done, visceral and completely NSFW.
Everything is laid out very well and the referee is able to find whatever they require from the book with ease. It's very useful as a premade location, but not everyone's table will let the 2nd part fly. So a good half the book may go unused. The creature is neat and wholly unique, but again, she is a unique flavor that will probably only sit well at a few tables as she can literally unmake and ruin a character on a whim, no saves allowed. The serpent demon would however, make an excellent end of campaign fight.
Overall, I rate this product 4/5 stars. Product quality overall is high. The small A5 booklet fits neatly on a shelf and doesn't add much weight or space to your game bag.
The art is fitting and I like the dual atmosphere it creates.
The only issue really is that the entirety may not be up for everyone's table. 
I give it 4.25/5 stars, it's worth checking out! The PDF can be had at drive-thru rpg and physical copies are still available in the US lotfp store, Amazon, and the usual second hand market book stores for between 10-20 bucks.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

let's talk Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or LotFP for short was one of the early retro clones that broke away from being a straight B/X clone. 
It takes the Moldvay Basic/Expert rules and makes them accessable for a modern audience. It further sets itself apart from the pack by having it's default setting be Europe in the 17th century sprinkled in with weird horror ala Lovecraft, his circle and modern influences like Clive Barker.
It has a reputation as being the "fuck with your players game". Only some of the modules are like that. It helps if the referee is very upfront about the game and contents of the scenario being played. Because of this, I think of lotfp as being a horror system rather than fantasy.
A lot of the early modules like Death Frost Doom, Death Love Doom and Fuck For Satan are really like dungeon and sandbox crawls with a little (or large) morality test in there some where.
The published modules are excellent in printing quality. Sturdy hardcovers with ribbons and embellishments, bookmarks and top notch art that is not for the faint of heart. Each purchase also comes with a very well laid out pdf. Nobody in the business quite puts out product like this!
 I will be putting out some product reviews shortly and will make a spoiler free tldr as well as an in depth version.
I have ran: better than any man, Blood in the Chocolate, Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, and Fish Fuckers so far.
In 2018, accusers came out to testify about Zak Smith about cases of Abuse. You can Google that whole episode and make your own informed decision. I refuse to cover that can of worms here and will not respond to comments pertaining to it.
Because of that and a series of unfortunate circumstances the company is very deep underwater need your help!
You can read more about here: http://lotfp.blogspot.com/2020/07/new-releases-tomorrow-monday-july-13.html?m=1

In short, please pick up some stuff from either of the stores if you able to and want to see this company continue putting out excellent, unique material.
If you are short on change, you can pick up PDFs from drive-thru, but the profit margin isn't that high for the publisher.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Murder hobo solution

Welcome back to my crypt! It's been a while. (A year in fact!) A lot of life happened and frankly, I needed some time to get things in my personal life under control.
Shortly, I will begin working in earnest on a DCC version of the classic D&D adventure: "X1 The Isle of Dread". I will be using both the original versions and the 5e version put out in Goodman Game's OAR #2 "The Isle of Dread".
The original version will be what I pull most things from and using wholly. The 5e conversion has some excellently fleshed out maps, areas, villages and NPC's that will make my prep go a lot faster. I will also be using the DCC setting conversion guide "Dinosaur Crawl Classics" to set this somewhere on the planet, Cretasus and using the setting to the best of my ability. So far, I plan on setting up a confederate outpost on the east coast of the island, a smattering of Dinozon villages throughout the wilds, and raptor villages as well.
I will be running the "re-version" at U-CON as 2 separate events. One will be a 0-level funnel featuring 0-level characters from another world that have shipwrecked on the island.
The second scenario will be fully sandbox with 3rd level pc's tasked with one of these: 1. a way off the island. (Confederate allies.) 2. Uniting the villages against the blue ones. (Dinozon). 3. Securing the tribe's safety. (Raptors.) I will roll randomly at the start of the scenario and pass appropriate character sheets to the players. It is not required to have played in the funnel, but I will have blank 3rd level sheets for the return players to bring in their survivors.

That's all I have on that field, let's get to the meat of this post: "What do I do with a party full of murder hobos?"

Players that kill and loot everything in sight are the bane of  decent story driven games and serious gamemasters with continuity in mind. Some players don't understand that every action should have a consequence. The "Challenge Rating" system implemented in 3E and kept on in recent versions of D&D as well as other games, other systems, and genres. It has programmed a lot of good players into thinking that in a world where gods are real and dragons and demons can kill with a thought that "I'm level 5, I can do what I want, these villagers are probably 1/4 CR each weaklings, same goes for these goblins!
They ignore any chance to think logically or humanely, so they go to: "Kill it! Take its stuff! There are no repercussions!"
Here is a system neutral set-up to give them a taste in verisimilitude. Think of it as a litmus test for decency,

+Players hear rumors of an elderly, retired adventurer that has a cabin in the woods and it is stocked to the brim with valuables and arcane artifacts. Easy Picking!
+Said Elder is actually a much higher level NPC. ( 3rd level pcs, 9th or or higher level old man.)
+If they visit him and act like decent people, he tells them the dragon holed up in the coal mine is a real hazard to the village they came from. If they kill it, he will give them each a treasure from his stash. (And he will!) If they immediately move to aggression, move to the last point.
+The mine is a short crawl, minions are average difficulty. The dragon? Go ahead and use a large animal's stats (Like a grizzly bear) and give it a breath weapon and flight. It should put the hurts on the party, but not be an actual threat. (This is an important part of the set up. The false confidence booster.)
+ If the party returns with proof, the old man will honor his promise, give them their prizes and see them off.
+If they choose to be monsters, they should in turn be treated as such. "The old Man" will reveal him self and systematically beat each and every one to near death and disappear with his home and treasures.

You have to be careful with the last bit, you don't want to piss off your players, or break the trust they put into you, the GM, so don't outright kill them in a single blow, or decimate them. At the same time, you are teaching an important lesson, so you do have to be the parent here, it is tricky work.

There are other ways to drill this lesson into your players, some more heavy handed than others. Killing an agent of a king means his soldiers will come for them, ban them from towns they have yet to visit, etc.
Overly chaotic actions will inevitably attract the attention of dark powers and darker consequences!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

My Chult is not your Chult, is not his/her Chult

This is my first post in the "make it your own" series. These posts will feature advice and personal anecdotes on using published modules and scenarios while still making it "your game".

Let me preface this post with this, dear reader.  I like dinosaurs, a lot. This is not the place, nor the time to describe my love of dinosaurs and ancient animals, but it does influence my game design and I will share an anecdote about my success with running an old school, non-railroad style game using a non-osr system and still managing to get the same "retro" flavor.

How much research you do into your game matters and has impact on your game. My two favorite settings from the TSR era are Mystara's "Hollow Earth" and the peninsula of Chult, found in the Forgotten Realms, All but forgotten in 3rd and 4th edition, Chult is experiencing a bit of renaissance right now in 5th. (More on that later.) Something about that classic pulp adventure aesthetic, where giant animals can kill you just as easily as the terrain can gets my creative juices pumping.    

A few years ago, I adapted the 2e campaign/adventure Jungles of Chult for my Pathfinder group. I paid close attention to setting details and pretty much ran the city of Mezro directly from the page, my players loved it. I made it open and let them drive boat. We all had a lot of fun and excitement at the table.

But, you know what really made the setting come to life? I did a lot of research on real world equivalents. A lot, possibly way more than necessary. I read about climate in the topics south of the  equator, the style of dress native chultans wear (city and jungle) and compared it to historical tribes and cultures found across the southern part of the African continent, of these I had color pictures available to show them. The restaurant prepared food that people in these climates enjoyed (lots of fruits, meats, and few grains (and still do).

When they got to the jungle, I made my own rules for dehydration and heat exhaustion. But none of that compared to the best part of the experience, Creatures!

I used information I read about current biology and theory regarding the "natural" animals featured in the region. I recently had read: Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives by Alan Turner and with excellent illustrations by Mauricio Anton. I learned that Jaguars drop from trees and imbed their canines into the skulls of peccaries and other prey animals. I then applied that to the giant cats encountered.

I used the Dinosauria by Weishample to learn about current theory on various dinosaur species to surprise my players. (Warning, this book is not for the faint of heart, or the those with low tolerance for verbose scientific discussions.) I surprised my players and kept them on their toes.

I also had interactive hand outs for the puzzles found in the pyramid they discovered deep in the jungle, This saved time during the game and they seemed to enjoy having something the visual aid.

I guess in closing, you really get what you put into this hobby, and your resulting mileage will vary, but trust me, if you harness your passion, and use it to shape your game within certain limits, you will have a great adventure on your hands. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

How to build retro and osr encounters

I see this problem come up a lot from people who are adapting either to a new osr style system, or to a version of Basic, or AD&D. They look at those monster stat blocks and have no idea if it will kill all of their players, or merely inconvenience them. Remember, unless the system specifies otherwise, monsters use 1d8 for their HD.  Here is a handy formula to figure this out:


Your monster threshold is calculated by taking the sum of your player character levels multiplied by 2. This is the highest amount of HD a monster can possess and not TPK the party, at least in mathematical theory. Creatures with spells, powers, and breath weapons, you might need to think  real hard before using, remember, only you as the Referee knows what your pcs can handle.

Now, this is just a guideline and can't apply to every system across the board, for example, DCC is its own system and you may need to exercise judgement, or look at some published material for reference in encounters. The trouble with OSR games is that "balance" isn't a concern, rather the emphasis is on "flavor" "Feel" and "tone" and it is discernible when running a DCC module.

In games that use Basic, or 1stE stat blocks, monsters attack as fighters at the same level as HD indicated and also save as one unless otherwise indicated. Example: a 2HD monster attacks as a 2nd level fighter and saves as such.

2E uses the THAC0 system. Hate it or love it, it's not that bad once you know how to use it. It stands for: "To Hit Armor Class 0". Most 1st level appropriate monsters have THAC0 of 19, or 20. which in modern terms is a +1 bonus for THAC0 19, or a +0 for THAC0 20. Look for a "THAC 0 Chart" and you can find an assortment of nifty tools to speed up play.

The real low level party slayer is right here. Kobolds and wizards beware!

Friday, April 20, 2018

One page Dungeon 2018

I went with something a little weird this year. Think of "Ghostbusters 2" meets "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and add a sprinkling reptoid conspiracy theory and you get this little number. I made the map and drew the original creatures myself. Not being a very visual person, I struggled a little with making this as visually appealing as possible. I added some color via paint 3d and did the layout with Open Office.

Got a bit sidetracked there. All told, it probably took a little over 12 hours of working incrementally over the past week. I enjoy the end product, and I hope you do too! It's a system neutral adventure and should be great for a one shot. I left a lot of things open on purpose for the Judge to expand at their whims and to (hopefully) give party something to think about. 

To add to the atmosphere, the village or city that the cemetery is located in should be as ordinary as possible, maybe a little bland.  Download the free pdf here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

One page dungeon contest!

The one page dungeon contest's deadline is coming up on May 1st and I am currently finishing up my rough draft and sketches on mine. It's my first time giving isometric design a whirl and I can say I'm impressed by how much info can be given visually with this style. Still finishing up the room descriptions, but after that, it's time to draw the creatures individually, scan them in, resize, and then scan the cleaned up, fleshed up map! my plan is to have a little bit done every day.