Before presenting my concluding thoughts on the entirety of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, I'd like to discuss a few other components of the boxed set I've not already covered. First, there's the box itself. Boxed sets seem to be a flashpoint for discussion amongst old schoolers, with some feeling that nothing short of the return of the boxed RPG will herald mainstream success for the hobby. Others simply like boxed RPGs (I fall into this category). Consequently, several OSR publishers have produced their own boxed games recently. What I've noticed is that it's apparently quite difficult to get boxes that are "just right" for RPGs -- at least not without having them specially made for the purpose. I think Brave Halfling's Swords & Wizardry White Box comes closest to "getting it right," but even it feels a bit too flimsy for long-term use. WF, on the hand, comes in what appears to be a mailing box. Initially, I wasn't too keen on it, but, having carried around with me, I've come to like it a great deal. It's sturdy and holds everything inside without any difficulty, so a big thumbs up on the box.
In addition to the four books and two adventures, the box also includes a single sheet OGL statement, some advertisements (for Dragonsfoot and Expeditious Retreat Press), and a satirical warning to the reader. There are also 10 pre-printed double-sided record sheets, 5 pages of graph/hex paper (one on each side), a tiny set of polyhedral dice, and a small pencil. I appreciate that all these things were included; they ensure that the game is "complete" in a single box, but one wonders whether, for example, the pencil was really necessary. Also included was a 12-page "Recommended Reading" booklet that provides capsule biographies of many important pulp fantasy authors, in addition to a list of other noteworthy influences on WF. I really like this booklet, though (of course) I do wonder why the entry for Robert E. Howard drew attention to his suicide or why the Lovecraft entry did the same for his racism. It's a small point, I admit, but one that rankles nonetheless.
As a complete product, WF is certainly one of the most impressive things to come out of the old school renaissance. In terms of its physical quality alone, it's remarkable -- an attractive boxed set that really does include everything you need to play. Its esthetics are distinctive, obviously drawing on the past but doing so without the need to ape it. Likewise, James Raggi has a strong authorial voice that comes through on nearly every page of WF. He has a vision of what he likes in fantasy roleplaying and he articulates it clearly and unapologetically. More importantly, he does a fine job of giving anyone who purchases this boxed set the tools and the knowledge needed to create their own adventures and campaigns according to his own preferences.
As you've seen in the first four parts of this review, I have quibbles and concerns with various parts of WF, but they're mostly "in the family," which is to say, they're the kinds of concerns one makes only because one is otherwise in broad agreement with everything else the author is saying. And I am; I think WF is a very good game, one that includes a number of genuine innovations -- its approach to "thieves," for example -- that old school gamers will find of interest. That said, I think WF suffers from a bit of a split personality, seeing as its actual audience is likely to be primarily gamers of long experience, while much of its text is written as if the reader is an utter neophyte. That's not necessarily problematic. Others have pointed out that many gamers of long experience aren't really familiar with old school play and WF serves as an excellent introduction to it -- a lengthier "Old School Primer," if you will. At $65, though, WF is also expensive and that may limit its appeal, especially to newcomers. I don't deny that the price is, in fact, a bargain, considering all one gets for it, but it's still a very large outlay of cash.
In the final analysis, Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is a game I cannot help but like, warts and all. It's deliciously idiosyncratic and unabashed about its idiosyncrasies. It comes across very much as a hobbyist production in the best possible sense of the term. It's very "raw" and, for lack of a better word, "real." That is, the game is the product of a single person's love for fantasy roleplaying and that love comes through on every page, perhaps most especially in those pages I least like, where it's speaking to people for whom the wonder of discovering old school gaming is happening now, not thirty years ago. Time will tell just how successful James Raggi will be in introducing new people to old school gaming, but, even if he fails, no one can say he didn't make a pretty spectacular go of it.
Presentation: 7 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10
Buy This If: You're either looking for a new take on old school gaming or are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about old school gaming (and don't mind a hefty price tag).
Don't Buy This If: You don't need yet another take on old school fantasy roleplaying.