Everyone is talking about the new edition of D&D right now. But as usual not everyone is happy about a new edition. But isn’t a new edition a good thing? It shows that there’s still interest in the game and the company behind it is driving things actively forward. Often clunky rules are fixed and things are streamlined, in other cases new options for players and GMs are made available. But alas it’s not always all sunshine and flowers.
More often than not, new editions come with a slew of problems. In some cases the old material becomes obsolete and you have to make the hard decision whether to stick to the old edition and stick with a system which is not supported anymore or you can embrace the new one, which usually means buying a lot of books again, just to get the updated versions of material you already have.
And the longer you wait, the more severe the problems become. In most cases old editions go out-of-print as soon as the new edition is announced. Some books quickly become pretty rare and people are paying ridiculous prices on eBay to get their hands on a copy. And if even the PDF version are removed from stores you either need to make the switch or grudingly pay vast sums just to get that one book you still needed.
Since I enjoyed the Shadowrun 3rd edition game a friend run for me recently, I decided to get a couple of 3rd Edition books for myself. But alas that’s easier said than done. I was able to track down used copy of the core rules (I decided to go with the German version this time, since that is what my friend uses), but most of the supplements are either extremely expensive or not to find anywhere. It’s even worse with the Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition, which is supposed by many to be the best version of Shadowrun available. I already own a PDF copy, but I also would love to have a print copy as well. Alas I had no luck tracking one down. For some people this is no big deal, especially when they picked up everything they wanted when the older edition was still widely available.
This is just an example what issues you could face if you decide to play an older edition of a game. So I can understand the concern of people who love D&D 4th Edition, or who prefer other games who were made obsolete by new editions. Of course it’s unreasonable to ask publishers to keep old editions in print indefinitely. In most cases at least being able to purchase old games as digital editions is a great help. So, what’s your stance on this subject? Please share your thoughts below!
Recently I picked up the new hardcover version of Lamentation of the Flame Princess’ Rules and Magic book. Even though I have read the rules several times over the last few years, I took the opportunity to give it another look. I have stated several times before that LotFP is one of my favorite D&D retro clones, and today I want to share my reasons with you.
LotFP is advertised as “weird fantasy”. But what the heck is weird fantasy about? Basically it’s fantasy combined with elements of horror. If you ever read one of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories you get a good idea of what to expect from LotFP, especially if you set your game into an early modern age. The hardcover edition actually includes rules for early firearms and armor used in that period. LotFP gives me a similar vibe as the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition.
Low or rather less flashy magic
The magic in LotFP feels a bit different from vanilla D&D. A lot of the spells are less flashy and overall magic feels more like a dark art performed by a few instead of something which is present on every corner. Summoning is a dangerous affair. If you mess up, the thing you just summoned into the world, rips of your arms and legs and returns to hell with your soul in tow. Ouch! In LotFP magic is dangerous and mysterious. If you’re fed up with standard high fantasy settings this is a very welcome change.
Most D&D retro clones (and early editions of D&D for that matter) use skills for the Thief class only and use a percentile-based system which doesn’t really fit in with the other mechanics (at least in my opinion). James Raggi IV has taken the system, turned it into a d6-based one and applied it to all the classes. Now every character has a certain chance to Tinker, Climb, find secret doors, etc. but only the Specialist class may improve these skills. This makes a lot of sense to me and it seems to work quite well.
No superpowered heroes
In vanilla D&D characters become extremely powerful over time. And to counter that the GM has to come up with more and more powerful enemies every time. The high availability of magic weapons and armor only makes things worse. In LotFP characters don’t improve that fast. The fighter is the only class which improves its base attack bonus over time and magic items are extremely rare and always come with a cost. But this also means that monsters don’t need to have ridiculous stats in order to be any challenge. The way LotFP is designed, even a high level character is in danger when confronted with too many enemies – even low level ones.
Different but still familiar
Even though LotFP feels different from other D&D retro clones it’s still familiar. If you have played any D&D-based game you can easily pick up and play LotFP. Adventures designed for other D&D variants can easily be modified to be run with it.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is perfectly suited for any game set into a pseudo-European early modern age game with low magic and horror elements. Would I run a Forgotten Realms game with it? No way! What about Ravenloft? Hell yeah! I’ve also considered using LotFP for a game set into the Warhammer world. Or you could probably just as easily use it for a game set into the aftermath of the Thirty Years War. In my opinion LotFP is more than “just” a D&D clone, but a game which harkens back to the days of yore while taking things into a fresh and new direction!
During the last months I’ve been throwing a couple of ideas around what I could run next. At the moment I still have a XCOM-inspired game and a Fallout game to finish. Both are run using Fudge and worked quite well.
For a small local convention I planned to run a game of Barebones Fantasy but then I decided to discard this idea in favor of Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Why? It’s not because I generally prefer LotFP over BBF. I just noticed that no one offered an old-school D&D game at this day. And I just got the awesome hardcover version of LotFP’s Rules and Magic book. Then I remembered that my copy of the LotFP Boxed Set contained a copy of the adventure “Tower of the Stargazer”. So it was settled. The Stargazer runs “Tower of the Stargazer” at the local con.