Monday, October 4, 2010

Read Lately: Lamentations of the Flame Princess

  • Have you heard about the Old School Renaissance? If you aren't into RPG blogs, it would be easy to miss. The OSR (as it's referred to by the initiated) is a call back to the role-playing games of yore, specifically the original Dungeons & Dragons and its immediate successors, like the Basic/Expert rules and up to the first edition of AD&D. They contend that game rules don't go bad just because they are old and new is not always better. I cannot help but agree. Several clones of those games have sprung up over the last couple years, works that preserve those rule systems by modifying the Open Game License.

  • Since I don't regularly play RPGs any more, I've been content to read about how people have been playing and the rule systems they've been building without diving in myself. That was until I discovered Lamentations of the Flame Princess, written by James Raggi. The subtitle for LotFP is "Weird Fantasy Role-Playing" which I think is important to mention. The real draw of Raggi's design is how he has turned away from the heroic fantasy paradigm. Instead, LotFP supposes a game world based on the weird tale fantasies of yore.

  • In most modern games like D&D 4th edition, you play as a superhero in a bright, exciting world. In LotFP, you are just an ordinary person with some specialized training who is trying to get ahead in a world that is out to crush you. You might compare it to Call of Cthulhu in the way it establishes its moods and mysteries. Which is fitting since H. P. Lovecraft was a master of the weird tale, exactly the kind of stories LotFP is looking to emulate.

  • The brilliance of the game is the commingling of its eccentric style with the stripped down and streamlined system reminiscent of the original D&D. Raggi has recreated the feel of those early rules while also bringing a modern sensibility to updating the game. From reliable new systems like target number Armor Classes to rationalizing Thief skills (now the Specialist class) with the standard skill mechanics, LotFP makes a lot of sense. It feels like the game you remember playing without all the headaches those games used to cause.

  • The game looks amazing too. The box (yes, it came in a box) has a brilliantly evocative cover, as do the books inside. There are four books inside, the Tutorial, Rules, Magic, and Referee manuals, as well as two adventures to get you started. The Tutorial does a great job of introducing you to role playing and teaching you the rules as well as the feel of the game. It also has one of the most amusing Example of Play articles ever published. That was enough to make me want to start a game right then and there.

  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess may not be for everyone (price being one consideration). But it is a game I would highly recommend to anyone interested in role playing they way they did in the early years.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. This looks great! I'm out of the PnP RPG loop so to speak so this is very cool to see. I'd love to play this game.

  2. @ Thac0 - I think that's one of the great features of this game. It just exudes cool. I've got to find a way to con some people to kick it old school with me.

  3. If you want to try running a game via the internet, I'm in.