Review: LotFP Rules and Magic Hardcover
by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 10, 2013
I do have two small complaints about the [LotFP Grindhouse] books as objects: the three books are quite nice, but I think they would have been nicer with thicker covers and softer paper; the title font, while appropriate for the contents of the book, is a bit hard read. It’s a very nice boxset, but after seeing Carcosa I can imagine a future edition of the rules that will truly be epic.
This was more or less the only complaint of note in my gushing review of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role Playing (Grindhouse Edition) box set. James Raggi was clearly one move ahead as my boxed set arrived in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign to produce the Rules and Magic book as a hardcover. I ended up backing the project despite having just bought that box set because I was really impressed with LotFP. I figured I could use another rule book. My new book arrived a couple weeks ago along with a ton of other LotFP books. Let me say this up front: the new Rules and Magic rule book from Lamentations of the Flame Princess is amazing.
As I mentioned in my review of the Grindhouse Boxed Set, LotFP builds on top of Basic / Expert D&D. It’s not quite a retroclone, but its also not a huge departure from the source meterial. Even if you aren’t interested in “Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Games” LotFP would make for a great ruleset to play D&D with. I am a fan of all the tweaks Raggi has made to the game.
This books contains all the rules you need to play a game of LotFP. The book is split into two parts, which you can probably guess from its title: rules and magic. Rules covers the rules for adventuring, of course. The magic portion of the book is the pretty extensive spell list for LotFP. The two halves of the book are about equal in length, about 70 pages each.
The rule changes make sense within the context of the sorts of adventures Raggi writes. Fighters are the only character class that improves at fighting. They, along with Dwarves and Elves, also have a few additional tweaks that make them more versatile when fighting. This helps better differentiate the Fighter from the Cleric, for example. In most LotFP adventures, fighting is probably not going to get you very far, so the fact other classes are going to have a hard time hitting things really won’t have much effect on the game. Raggi is trying to encourage a style of play that doesn’t lean to heavily on killing everything. The encumbrance rules in LotFP are much more straightforward, and the official character sheet makes tracking encumbrance very simple. In a game where you get most of your experience for treasure, tracking how much you can carry out of a dungeon becomes interesting and important. Do you weigh yourself down? Do you leave this treasure chest behind? These were the two biggest rule changes that first sprung to my mind, but there are lots of little changes like this throughout the book.
When I bought the Grindhouse boxed set I skimmed through the magic portion of the rules book, there was so much to read. This time I thought i’d read through it all to really see what was changed. Briefly: a fair bit. The changes to the spell lists in LotFP give the game much of its colour. They are doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making the game “weird”.
The spells available to Clerics have been changed quite a bit. Several spells typical to the Cleric in D&D end up being Magic-User spells in LotFP, like Hold-Person and Speak with Animals. Several spells were dropped from LotFP, like Sticks to Snakes and Raise Dead. The tweaks better cement the Clerics position in the world of LotFP as agents of Law, demon hunters, healers, etc.
Magic-Users in LotFP have a pretty huge list of spells available to them. (20 spells per level for the first 7 levels of spells, and then 10 for level 8 and 6 for level 9.) There are lots of small tweaks and changes to the flavour text that give most spells creepier overtones. Mirror Image pulls versions of the caster from alternate timelines that then distract opponents as per the original spell. Charm Person works as it does in Basic D&D, but the charmed creatures explicitly remember what they did while charmed when the spell ends. Animate Dead brings people back to life, but they have vague memories of their former life, which drives them mad and makes them destructive. Summon is a first level that lets the caster summon a demon. Failure to cast the spell can result in a TPK at the very least and wreck serious havoc on a campaign if dice rolls go the wrong way. Magic-Users and Elves are generally treated as “evil” when it comes to spells like Detect Evil, Protection from Evil, etc. They are Chaotic and this has some concrete effects on the game. This all works together to create a vision of magic that is decidedly less high-fantasy than your typical D&D.
There are several new pieces of art in this new book, and they are some of the best yet from LotFP. The two new colour Magic-User pieces are particularly good, and really stood out to me. One for its cosmic level of awesome, the other for its gleeful violence. Another piece I like is that of the infamous Alice from the Tutorial book armed with a blood soaked musket, herself drenched in blood. As with the latest LotFP releases, the graphic design and layout of the book is excellent: it is such a marked improvement over the older Grindhouse rulebook.
So yeah, I can think of no good reason not to own this book. As I said to start, the new Rules and Magic rule book from Lamentations of the Flame Princess is amazing.
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