Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Initial LotFP WFRP Thoughts

I finally got my copy of Jim Raggi's magnum opus, Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, yesterday, making me probably one of the last people on the planet to do so. I've admittedly got a lot of other things to keep me occupied these days -- too many, it seems some days -- but I'm not ashamed to admit that I was rather looking forward to receiving this game nonetheless. I've stated on numerous occasions that I don't believe there can be such a thing as "too many" clones, since, if nothing else, each new clone ensures that the old school scene remains a glorious riot of ideas and approaches, many of them delightfully idiosyncratic.

I still feel that way after my initial reading of LotFP WFRP (that's going to get annoying to have to type out again and again, I predict). If anything, I feel even more strongly that there can't be too many clones, since, if Jim Raggi had believed this, he'd never have written what I think is the best version of the "thief" character class in any old school gaming product to date (even if it carries a name -- the "specialist" -- that I can't stand). There are lots of other great little tweaks and interpretations in LotFP WFRP (yeah, that is annoying to type) that probably mightn't have seen the light of day outside of a new retro-clone and that really would have been a shame, because, even after my first pass through its contents, I'm mightily impressed; this is an imaginative, evocative RPG and I can't feel the least bit of angst about its existence.

Could Jim have simply presented this stuff as a bunch of rules variants to an existing retro-clone? Possibly, but his goal was clearly to create a complete game, written and presented according to his own notions of how best to introduce newcomers into old school gaming. I can't fault him for that; indeed, I applaud him for it. Now, I'm not sure he'll succeed in this endeavor. I rather suspect that the vast majority of the copies of LotFP WFRP sold will wind up in the hands of people with many, many years of gaming experience who are already plugged into the old school scene, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong about this.

Regardless, I'll be making a fuller review of the game -- I'm not typing out that abbreviation again -- over the course of the next week. It'll likely be a multi-part review, since there's a lot of ground to cover and I really want to do it justice. For now, though, I'll say simply that I am very impressed with what Jim has created. He succeeded in producing an old school product that clearly knows what it's about and that has its own unique voice, style, and content but which is still amazingly compatible with The Original Fantasy Roleplaying Game™ and its many descendants. I expect to hear, in the months to come, that many of Jim's clever rules have been adopted even by those of us who aren't playing his game in toto. There's really a lot to like here and I am glad to place this game on my shelf, beside Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, Swords & Wizardry White Box, OSRIC, and Spellcraft & Swordplay, not to mention a few other games whose titles are well known beyond our little echo chamber.

Well done, Jim.

26 comments:

  1. I can't read WFRP without thinking of Warhammer.

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  2. Yeah, I use the abbreviation "LotFP: RPG" myself.

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  3. I have it now as well, but I can't figure out what is supposed to be the "weird" part yet.

    More reading is required I think.

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  4. Yeah, specialist blows as a class name.

    It certainly doesn't come across as "metal".

    I also believe you're right about it not making it as an introductory game, and ending up primarily on the shelves of experienced gamers. Frankly, its price might be acceptable to gamers who have some idea of its potential; but new gamers, with only an idea of what RPGs are, probably won't be inclined to pay that. Especially with the 4E Essentials game at $20, almost impulse purchase price for a game store.

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  5. I'd go LFP myself. Or LFP-RPG if you must.

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  6. Mine is still on a boat, somewhere in the pacific... planning to rope some newbs into sitting down for a sesh or two.

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  7. I agree about already having too much in mind to run already on my plate - I'm doing campaigns of AD&D, OD&D, Metamorphosis Alpha (using MF), and Champions, but also soon want to do Call of Cthulhu, Knights of the old republic, Runequerst, and a Dune bases game for my group. I just don't have room for another set of rules and settings.

    Having said that, I think this is the most exciting thing to go down in the OSR so far, including the Carcosa "supplement." Good on ya, Jim R.

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  8. I agree that the initial limited edition boxed set that we've all ordered is not going to be the vehicle that brings new gamers into the fold. BUT, if Jim markets the thing correctly and makes it readily available in more accessible, less expensive formats (print sans box and in PDF, obviously) I think it can become the intro game he really wants it to be. He's already gotten a good start in that direction, I think, because he's made the rules book and the magic book available as free, non-art PDFs (in keeping with the practices of other retro-clones).

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  9. The really valuable function of this game may be for experienced referees to use to attract newer players to older editions. The production values are high, it's visually arresting, and the big splash art piece isn't deliberately retro. I can see it being an easier sell on those terms alone than some of the other clones, or waving around a tatty set of the 3LB.

    (I personally enjoy retro trade dress, but I've been playing for almost thirty years and I don't really buy new products, so I'm the exact wrong demographic.)

    Vintage appeal is a very limited marketing tactic for attracting younger players, same as with video games. Shout-outs to the 8-bit NES days still pop up in video game circles, but almost exclusively in an ironic context. Deliberately retro marketing tactics may also create certain expectations in younger players, predisposing them to think of clones as short term larfs or experiments before they go back to "serious" games.

    LotFP looks like a modern professional product, and that's a good thing for attracting the "right" demographic on something other than a "durr hurr, we played old D&D the other night" level. I don't see many truly new players buying it, but I can see them listening to someone else who wants to run it.

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  10. > I expect to hear, in the months to come, that many of Jim's clever rules have been adopted even by those of us who aren't playing his game in toto.

    I am using the list-lines encumbrance and dice-pip skills system, for sure.

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  11. I like the idea behind renaming the thief as a specialist, although I agree that the name isn't really that inspirational.

    I use "adventurer" myself as a substitute for the thief class. The other two classes in my games are "warrior" (for a character specialising in fighting), and "sorceror" (for a character specialising in magic).

    Must see about grabbing a copy some time.

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  12. For a moment, I thought this was about Warhammer Fantasy Role Play.

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  13. If only :(, not that this doesn't look awesome. I wonder what James's opinion on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition is (especially The Enemy Within)...

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  14. This James or do you mean Jim Raggi? :)

    For myself, I actually don't know WFRP very well. I owned the first edition but never played it. I thought it looked really fun. The rules are delightfully quirky and nicely evocative. I wish I'd had a chance to play. Maybe someday.

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  15. I don't like the Warhammer rules so much, but I love the feel of the setting (not so much the actual setting, but the feel).

    I think The Enemy Within is AWESOME, especially Death on the Reik and Power Behind the Throne. Many of the Warhammer 1e adventures (Doomstones, Lichemaster, what's the other one with the small town...) are great too.

    Basically as soon as I got hold of Warhammer, my D&D immediately changed to be more like the Old World than Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms or anything like that.

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  16. I say call it "Lotfip", at least out loud.

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  17. No, the small town adventure wasn't part of the ENemy Within. Death's Dark Shadow maybe? Not sure.

    As for the name, anything's better than "Lot of Pee" that some jokers came up with years ago. :P

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  18. The Enemy Within is one of my favorite campaigns, but may offend "old school purists" (if those exist) in that it has a definite "story" running from Mistaken Identity to Empire in Flames. In fact, it's a lot like an Adventure Path ...

    The first installments are so much fun, though, that I've never heard anyone complain about linearity, and some of the funnier in-character moments I've ever witnessed were during the couple times I've run that campaign IRL. And Death on the Reik allows for enough player direction that you can easily just axe the "story" parts and have the skeleton of a nice little sandbox.

    Hell, maybe I'll run a TEW PBP again sometime.

    Anyway, sorry for the derail.

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  19. I say full name (or full abbreviation) on first use, then a shorter version thereafter. (Perhaps “Weird FRP”.)

    I think this would be a great introductory set, but getting it into the hands of beginners instead of merely veterans will be the hard part. For my part, I’ve put my copy in the hands of a beginner.

    You know, The Enemy Within campaign didn’t go over so well with my group at the time. Although I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to lay at my own feet about that. I do regret that I’ve misplaced it sometime in the intervening years, though.

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  20. I call it Weird Fantasy - fits to me.

    But then, I like 'specialist' and find it evocative for a batman type explorer (without the vendetta and the bat, but with the determination, the gear and the preparation.)

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  21. what was the point of renaming the thief class? Am I missing something?

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  22. Because I've always seen the class more as an Indiana Jones type of character than a criminal, and Thief always causes problems when introducing name and profession in-game.

    As for why Specialist, the problem is if you call the class Explorer or Adventurer, isn't everyone in the game an explorer and adventurer? Specialist may not be the best name, but it describes a bit what the class can do (Generalist would be more lame!) and it's not something that other classes would generally call themselves.

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  23. You mean like "Magic-users"? :)

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  24. Yeah, "Magic-user" was always sounded like a lame, "functional but boring" bit of jargon to me. "Wizard" or "sorcerer" were the generic name for MUs and Illusionists in my game world, regardless of the spell list they used or the level achieved. Peasants just don't know the difference. :)

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  25. "Outlaw" is what I've been playing around with for the name of the thief-alike in my game. A thief, by definition, has to steal things, whereas an outlaw merely needs to do things his own way rather than that of the authorities. That seems to fit better, though it is still not perfect.

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