Over the weekend, camping, we played Lamentations of the Flame Princess and it was good. We didn’t play one of the awesome and horrific modules by James Raggi and crew, as the GMburger surprised us with some ancient B module (Horror on the Hill? I think so) that put LotFP through it’s paces… as a fighting RPG. The best was that I got to play for once. I’m usually the one FORCING various RPG’s down the fucking throats of my friends and acquaintances, but this time, I take a back seat and just sat and got drunk in a cloud of gandalf pipe-smoke staring blankly into space most of the time rather than being the always on guy that you must be as a GM. The following was played over a three day period in the woods in a tent with inordinate amounts of alcohol. Decisions were made that weren’t good or tactically sound. If you are looking for a method to get through this module, do the OPPOSITE of the following.
The story was that there was a village, near the village was a river and across that river was a hill. The hill had an old monastery on it that was filled with horrible things. We went to kill those things and take their stuff at the behest of a wandering cleric who got to go first in the marching order.
Party 1 (foreshadowing?)
Hintern Geshlects – Specialist (me)
Changeous Botlinger – Fighter
Snatchus Maximus – Fighter
Ashtell Lumberman – Magic User
Everyone started with level 1 characters. There weren’t any stand out characters in this mix (like a: “holy shit it’s +4 character!”) either. Character creation is very fast and extremely solid. As a system note aside, your character must have at least a zero in all bonuses (13+ gives a bonus), so you can have a -2 to say, charisma, but a +2 bonus in strength to zero out or you toss out the set of rolls and roll again. After your rolls, being able to switch two rolls, say from charisma to strength, is huge and easy, without all the +1/-2 bullshit from Moldovay Basic. The way HP is calculated (roll or take a default) among other little tweaks makes the LotFP system of character creation is fun and very fast, which is good as you die a lot. The slowest part of generation is the equipment buying– which needs to be very thoughtfully done of course or… you will die a lot. I played the Specialist and took dots in Stealth, Sneak Attack and Search. The placement of these dots are VERY important if you are playing a Specialist because you simply cannot take enough skills to be what your party needs you to be at first level, and you can’t fight well either. I found sneaking and surprising enemies nearly impossible during the game because I spread my dots around so pretty much gave up and just got stuck in with the fighters.
The magic user luckily rolled the SLEEP spell for one of his initial spells. Both fighters were sword and board for this run to max AC. Everyone had leather armor at least. We were fucking ready!
The adventures started in… a tavern where the party met some sort of cleric named Darius of Specularium (isn’t that the thing to check for genital warts inside a woman?) that bade us to join him raiding a monster infested monastery on a nearby hill that had been shunned by villagers. We…agreed, secretly knowing we would kill him as soon as possible to maximize XP splitting of treasure, at the end. We had to pay a fisherman 10sp to cross the river (and vowed to kill him too when we got back) and up the hill we went.
After scouting for a long period of time, we immediately wandered into a room with a couple of drunk Ogres. I failed to sneak. Failed to surprise. First level characters vs 2 Ogres? YES! With luck that would soon run out, we were able to take them out without any casualties. Inside we opened their meat lockers that contained a group of still living cro-magnon mongoloids. Luckily, our Magic User spoke their gibberish tongue (in LotFP you have a 1/6 chance of knowing any language you come across) and was able to get two of them to join the party while the other two ran back to their mongoloid caves. The mongoliods: Grum and Frum, became our meatshields instantly and there was rejoicing.
After this brush with death, we found something akin to the greatest treasure possible for Basic characters– a fountain that when drunk from had the potential to increase STATS. Not heal, not grant a bless, but PERMANENTLY increase stats. While my immediate idea was to shit into the fountain, as is my wont, Darius the NPC priest (meatsheild 1) drank first and felt good, so the rest of the party drank. It was a stat increase FIELD DAY for everyone. Really we could have walked away from the adventure at this point and been considered winners, but we went on.
Sneaking around we found a massive weapons cache, enough to get us up a couple levels if we got it back to society. We were able to grab some spears and arrows and such before getting into some more fights in the halls nearby.
Soon, clomping around in armour with torches (we bought torches and lanterns, remember this when travelling underground) we got into a couple of very big fights, with what I think were hobgoblins and bugbears. I won’t bore you with the details but the gist was that the magic user cast sleep on some sort of high priest in PLATE MAIL and he was stripped of it and taken to a nearby torture chamber to be thrown on the rack to find out where more treasure was. During torture, he wouldn’t give up anything but yelled a lot, you know, in pain, and all that. All we wanted was a few large sacks of gold. While fun, this was not a very good idea. Reminder here that we had drunk some before and during.
During the torture, my specialist tried to set up a bucket trap by the door. This entails opening the door a crack and setting a bucket on top balanced with hot oil in it. I think normally this would be simply allowed as it was so basic, but since we were playing where Tinkering rolls had to be made to create any type of trap (per the rules) I had to roll a 1 on a sixer– and it just didn’t happen for 10+ turns (100 minutes of in game time). The GM had no choice but to roll wandering monsters and so they came barging in spraying the hot oil everywhere. Characters nearby had to roll vs breath weapon or take a D6 damage. Naturally my specialist failed and took the FULL SIX POINTS, dropping him instantly. Even though some of the hobgoblins succumbed to the oil, the onslaught was too much for the party– after slitting the evil priest’s throat, both fighters (one now in plate mail), the NPC cleric and BOTH meat shield mongoloids were dropped. Beating a hasty retreat, the Magic user was able to run away to the safety of the river bank. Total XP: 57.
Having recovered for a couple of weeks, the Magic user raised another group– this time (naturally) all fighters.
Tor Horst – Fighter (me)
Snatchus Maximus 2 – Fighter
Nerdlinger – fighter
We didn’t have our meat shields of the cleric or mongoloids, so the party walked and found the Mongoloid cave and asked the other two cro magnons we saved to come with us to help. Reluctantly they said goodbye forever to their mongoloid loved ones and followed us back to the monastery. Next, of course, we all went to the fountain of free stats and drank. This time it wasn’t all good and Nerdlinger was cursed with paralyzation so we had to wait 8 hours (we left him lying in the fountain) until he woke up. What’s more, because we found all those supplies, we told him not to buy any equipment, so he did not. He wouldn’t live long.
We were able to sneak into the bad place again and actually find the specialist, who had been tortured for a couple weeks but wasn’t dead covered with his own faeces and in a pool of urea in a mouldy jail cell. Nearby both fighters’ corpses looked like they had been burned an partially eaten. We had one of the Mongoloids carry him back to his tribe’s cave for healing, deeming that if he tried to get into town with what looked like a bloody sack of meat, he’d be killed outright. Before we could get to the armor and supply casche, there was a fight and Nerdlinger, without armor or a weapon, was instantly killed. John rolled up his third character and then passed out.
Descending deeper into level 2, we were able to find a secret door to the evil priests’ quarters and raided it. Within were some scrolls, some platemail, and a chest which no one would try to unlock without a Specialist. Seeing the pitiful level of XP the only surviving character got last time, and since one of the fighters was already dead, we high tailed it back to town with about 600 Silver pieces in tow, as much armor as we could carry and the priest’s chest (still unlocked). Because we stole three suits of platemail (1000 SP each) we were able to level up– and for me things got ridiculous. We started with Max HP per the GM, and for 2nd level I rolled an 8+1 for constitution–for a total of 18 HP. At level 2 this was crazy high. With full plate and a shield plus a dex bonus of +1, I was also walking around with 19 AC. I could tank. Imagine that…
Ulog (Mongoloid NPC)
Tor Horst – Fighter Level 2
Cornelious Pubic – Fighter Level 1
Ashtel Lumberton – Magic User Level 2
Snatchus Maximus 2 – Fighter Level 2
Ready for the third foray, Party 3 was a lot harder than the first party. Being 2nd level you could take some hits, not many, but you weren’t going to be one shotted. Of course, not everyone was a 2nd level character yet…
We headed immediately into the fountain area and got into a fight at the entrance to the Monastery, the generic non-humans getting wise to our raiding. This ended well– cutting a swath through “bugbears” and “hobgoblins.” Unfortunately for Cornelius Pubic, the fountain was not kind and all of his stats dropped by 1. He now voluntarily took the meatshield spot in the party.
The party delved deeper and found some sort of foundry and after another fight with bugbears and hobgoblins of generic non-human varieties, we found some fat bearded man chained to the wall obviously forced to smith for the non-humans. Freed, he was placed in the front rank and given a hand weapon of the generic variety.
Shortly after, we found some sort of large room with some dogs near some rotting corpses. I said quoting Blood Meridian “I CAN MAN ANYTHING THAT EATS!” and got some meat for them. We manned both dogs and were able to rob their old master’s corpses to boot.
After this we were nearing, notable from GMburger’s excitement, the first boss fight. It was never to occur. After finding some kitchens, some hobgoblin cooks ran off. We tried to run after them but they were too fast. The Magic User would not release his dog to chase them down (a sure kill) and so a large fight ensued as the cooks alerted all other hobgoblins in the area to our presence. Cornelious Pubic, the first level fighter, was one shotted. That was the third character to be mulched for John during the sessions. The blame game on Matt (the magic user player) for not releasing his dog will never be lived down DESPITE John playing most of the game sessions in Orde Wingate fashion (i.e.: lying on a cot).
Next we found a temple of some forsaken God that had jewels for eyes. We had the mongoloid, UNK climb the statue and peel out one of the jewels. As he did so, some large fly-like creatures attack from a hidden pit in front of the statue. Gareth Silverhand, the NPC smith, died instantly and in an epic action, UNK succeeded in a FLYING grapple onto one of the flies from the top of the statue. After this they were easily dispatched, and Unk was coerced into climbing down the pit to check it out. Nothing was there, and moments later in a nearby hall, we all fell down into a pit trap slide (likely to the third level). With this, out of fear, we took the stuff we nicked and got the fuck out of the monastery for good.
Thoughts and Feelings!
First, having three fighters in this adventure was essential. Though we were stupid and did idiotic things like leave bodies everywhere they fell and make a lot of noise it was negated a bit by being able to use charge (attack for double damage), Press (+2 to attack, -2 armor) to drop hobgoblins left and right. And at 2nd level, get a +4-+6 attack bonus. Tactically, we had tanks in the front and the weaker characters or hurt fighters would hang in the back rank with spears (still able to attack). We ruled that they could press from the back rank, giving +2 to every attack with no drawback since the front rank fighter would take the hits. This worked well. Tor Horst, with his 19 AC and 18 HP feels like a complete badass compared to his scuttling bloodbag first level self.
Secondly, being a player this time, I was able to bask in the glory of a rules light RPG without all the fucking bullshit of modern RPG’s. The character sheets are not crowded with skills and special attacks and roleplaying triggers and all sorts of that stuff. You are able to focus on the game at hand and your character’s actions rather than what’s on your sheet. While I like high powered gaming and happily run a 13th Age game (and eventually Exalted again), this was a breeze to play. Combat was relatively fast (though very boring in long fights which were the staple of the B series of modules). Whether this would standup to later levels of play, I’m not sure.
Third, sense of accomplishment was awesome. We played absolutely terrible people doing terrible things in the wilderness. Psychotic fighters, a lying, thieving specialist and a fear-wracked magic user who left his friends to die and would do so again most likely. Contrast to all the YOU’RE A HERO! type games and current milieu of Pathfinder and the like it’s a lot less.. constraining. In many other types of games you explicitly play a ‘bad guy’ who really ends up being a brooding Wolverine trope that comes through in the end while being mean most of the rest of the time. Not so with Lamentations and by extension, the characters we played as kids– all characters seem fully insane at nearly all times. When you survive as a first level character to 2nd level, which is NOT easy at all and not even likely, you feel great. Basic D&D and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are HARD games to succeed at. XP does not drop from the sky like blood rain when you cut a swath through enemies and gold and silver and jewels are difficult to get back to civilization.