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Review: Better Than Any Man

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 23, 2013

Tagged: kickstarter lotfp osr freerpgday

Better Than Any Man

Lamentations of the Flame Princess ran a Kickstarter campaign several months ago in order to get a new adventure printed and included as part of Free RPG Day. Their goal was to get a minimum order of the adventure printed so they could participate in Free RPG Day, with stretch goals letting them make bigger and bigger print runs. They ended up hitting their big goal of being a Platinum Sponsor of the event, alongside Frog God Games and Paizo. This Kickstarter was interesting because getting the actual printed adventure wasn’t one of the rewards. The logistics of printing and shipping the module to Kickstarter backers as well as the people running Free RPG Day was too costly. Instead rewards were PDFs or print copies of four new modules from LotFP.1

My first stop on Free RPG Day was The Silver Snail, a comic book shop here in Toronto. They were running some Pathfinder games for Free RPG Day that had already started when I arrived, and simply giving away random bags of RPG stuff to customers who asked about the event. I ended up getting a copy of Better Than Any Man this way.

Better Than Any Man is a mammoth module. It’s more or less a mini-sandbox campaign. It’s bigger than almost everything else LotFP have put out thus far. There are several adventure sites for the PCs to investigate, several towns to explore, and an invading army to deal with—or not. The over-arching ‘hook’ is that a group of women sorceresses calling themselves the Seven have taken over the town of Karlstadt. Of these women, the one who calls herself the Mother has more sinister goals than the rest. She is hoping to revive the Insect God, and is using the current chaos to mask her true intentions. The module describes the town of Karlstadt in detail, has a pretty fantastic (and inspiring!) countryside encounters table, and several adventuring sites related to the Insect God cult, which all lie beneath a place called Goblin Hill. The two main places to explore are an ancient shrine to the Insect God and the headquarters of the cult. There are three additional locales discussed in the book: an abandoned farmhouse now home to bandits; an ancient mound now home to a creepy magic-user; and a magical tower with an infinite number of levels. There is a ton of stuff to play with in this module.

Better Than Any Man was meant to showcase what LotFP is all about, and here it clearly a success. The book features everything you’d expect to find in an LotFP product: sex and violence, cannibalism, some dudes dong, magic items no one will want to use, monsters you probably shouldn’t fight, etc, etc. It also highlights the more recent changes to the line: the implied setting for the module is a bizarro version of Europe, circa 1631; demi-humans and humanoid monsters aren’t to be found, though their former existence is implied; there are some brief rules on guns. The book is a great example of what your typical LotFP module is all about.

If you missed Free RPG Day Better Than Any Man is now available as a PDF. The PDF version of the module is in many ways nicer than the print version: it’s less dense, with large chunks of the book being set in a bigger font and in a single column; there is a pretty extensive appendix at the back that collects a lot of useful information from the module; and it’s full of hyperlinks that let you jump between sections. There is really no good reason not to get this book.

  1. This isn’t uncommon if you look at Kickstarter projects outside of the Games and Tech sections, where the thing you are funding might not be something that will be mass produced upon completion of the project. This project felt more in line with art or film projects where you are funding a common good. Later on in the project James Raggi decided to do a second print run in Finland that he would ship to backers if they were interested in buying the module.

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D&D Game Day 2013

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 22, 2013

Tagged: 5e dndnext playtest encounters toronto freerpgday

The Map of the Vault of the Dracolich

I had another successful Free RPG Day this past Saturday. In addition to getting some free RPG books, I got to play a some D&D Next, the new fangled version of D&D coming out in 2014. Derek from Dungeon’s Master was the Toronto organizer for a public play event from Wizards of the Coast, an adventure entitled Vault of the Dracolich.

The set up is straight forward enough: a Wizard needs a group of adventurers to find a magical staff he had been unable to retrieve when he was a young adventurer. He gives the party a rough map of the caverns the artifact is located within and warns the party they won’t be able to retrieve the staff without first disabling four wards that protect it. To do so they’ll also need to find four idols hidden in the caverns. With that brief intro we were teleported off to the caverns in search of adventure. Our motley crew numbered forty odd people. What!?

There were five tables participating in the adventure. It was designed to be tackled by multiple groups at the same time. Each table was teleported to a different starting location. We each had a team leader whose character had a magic item that would let them talk to the leaders from the other tables. In this way we could communicate things we had found or encountered while traveling through the dungeon. Occasionally the groups would bump into each other while adventuring. This happened at my table while we were fighting a giant Hydra. Our DMs coordinated things like how many hit points the monster had left, and ended up having half the Hydra’s heads attack one party, the other half attacking the other. We would also come across places other parties had passed through. My group had to fight this giant Treant because a previous party had apparently harassed the monster: our attempts to reason with it were for naught. The session ended with a giant fight: we split into groups of four, each group had a different objective. My table had to fight this Dracolich simulacrum, whose ass we kicked.

This was my second time playing D&D Next. I hadn’t played a game since the very first play test rulebooks were released. The game has evolved a fair bit since then, and is a bit more complicated. That said, on the whole it is much more straightforward than 4th Edition, and plays much faster. Our 3-4 hour D&D Next session would have probably taken four times as long using 4th Editions rules. Not using minis for most of the combat sped things up considerably. The lack of long lists of powers and complicated combat mechanics helped as well. I felt like we got a lot accomplished during our session. Even though no one at our table had played Next before things went fairly quickly.

I am curious to see if Wizards of the Coast can maintain the appeal of the game to people who enjoy 4th Edition. One of the ladies I played with has only ever played 4th Edition, and she found the combat in D&D Next a bit boring. I think a lot of people enjoy the extremely detailed and tactical combat of 4th Edition. If your only experience with D&D is 4th Edition, I can see how the simpler combat mechanics of all the other editions might seem like a step backwards.

I’ll be playing D&D Encounters this season using the D&D Next rules. It seems like a great step forward. It’s probably one of the easiest versions of the game to teach, especially if you don’t play with any of the feats. Thus far I have to say i’m a pretty big fan.

The game day was a lot of fun. Although i’m quite happy playing D&D online nowadays, there is something to be said for actually playing in person.

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Free RPG Day 2012

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 17, 2012

Tagged: dccrpg flgs osr freerpgday

Saturday June 16th was Free RPG Day. If the name didn’t give it away, the basic idea is that you show up at your local game store and you collect free RPG swag. Goodman Games was giving away a DCC RPG module that I was looking forward to grabbing. Different stores have different rules about how to distribute the items various publishers send them to give away. Duelling Grounds, my local gaming store, was giving away stuff to anyone who participated in games that were being run that day.

Daniel, also known as Raven Crowking from the DCC RPG message boards, had mentioned he’d be running two sessions at Duelling Grounds. There were two adventures in the Free RPG Day DCC RPG book, and he was planning on running each of them. I participated in the first adventure, The Jeweler That Dealt in Stardust.

There were two busy games of Pathfinder taking place when I arrived at the store, each with 6 players. DCC RPG doesn’t quite have the same mindshare I suppose, so only I had arrived specifically to play in the DCC RPG game. Another fellow, Richard, who came to Duelling Grounds unaware it was Free RPG Day also joined us. We each played two characters: I grabbed a fighter and a halfling, while he took a thief and a wizard. The Jeweler That Dealt in Stardust is a fun little adventure. It’s a jewellery heist story with some demonic twists. How did we fare? Well if you’ve been reading this blog you can probably guess. To our credit, we had absconded with a ton of jewels and had defeated a demon, so we weren’t slackers by any stretch. The adventure was a lot of fun.

We managed to get through it all in about 2-3 hours of play. I felt like we accomplished a lot in that time. DCC RPG plays quite fast. I was also impressed at how quick the game is to pick up. I had read through the rulebook, but never played the game. Richard had never even heard of the game before. We occasionally had to pause the game so Daniel could explain how the rules worked, but for the most part things work the way you expect them to. Though the game requires funky dice we made due with a ‘normal’ set of gaming dice and a D30.

Free RPG Day was a big success. I left Duelling Grounds with the DCC RPG module I was hoping for, a module for 4th Edition D&D from Wizards of the Coast, and a map of some fictional world called Harn. I finally got to play a game of DCC RPG, and meet a fellow DCC RPG fan. It was a good day.


Update June 18th 2012: Raven Crowking shares his thoughts on Free RPG Day

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