Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lamentations Of The Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me in the mailbox on Friday. James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing game! With my wife away on a business trip for the weekend, i'm only, now, getting a chance to open up the box and have a look at its contents.

Here's the box, which is about the same size as the original OD&D collectors edition boxed set, or the Swords & Wizardry boxed set. Actually, it appears to be about a 1/4" shorter and an 1/8" wider than those OD&D and S&W boxes, presumably to accommodate booklets printed on European A4 or A5 paper, rather than the North American letter or booklet-sized paper.
And here are the Referee and Rules booklets. All of the basic rules you need to play Weird RPG are in the Rules booklet, while the Referee booklet contains advice on running a campaign. For the next printing, James may want to white-line the text at the bottom of front-covers, or print the text in white, to make it easier to read. The box itself is a clamshell style with corner tabs to keep the lid secure, rather than separate box and lid.

The compete contents of the Weird RPG boxed set is pictured above (not pictured is a small pencil and set of mini-dice that also come with this boxed set). The box is crammed full of booklets and materials. There are four booklets (Rules, Referee, Magic and Tutorial) an introductory adventure, sample campaign world, a "recommended reading" booklet, character record sheets, double-sided graph and hex paper, open game licence and adverts for Dragonsfoot and Expeditious Retreat Press. The best recent analogy I can use to describe this boxed set is that it is a weird version of the Swords & Wizardry boxed set, on steroids. At 60 Euros, I paid about twice for the Weird RPG boxed set as I did for the S&W Whitebox set, but i'm getting at least twice the value. I love my S&W boxed sets (I bought two sets, plus several extra Character booklets), but, to give you an example of the additional value, the Character booklet for S&W is 24 pages; the Rules booklet for Weird RFP is twice that, at 48 pages.
Similar to the S&W boxed set, Weird RPG has a separate Magic booklet. I like this publishing choice, as it permits the Referee to decide whether or not the Magic booklet will be available to the players. My choice would be to keep this booklet out of the hands of the players, and thus maintain some mystery regarding how magic operates. The Magic booklet contains all of the standard clerical and magical spells you would find in an old-school RPG: missing is a list and description of illusionist spells, but perhaps James has decided to exclude the illusionist from the Weird RPG game. Again, the word "Magic" at the bottom of the booklet could have been white-lined, to improve legibility.

The addition of a Tutorial booklet is an interesting feature of Weird RPG. It assumes that the game will be marketed to and purchased by those unfamiliar with, or uninitiated into, the world of paper and pencil role playing games. I applaud James' optimism, and hope that Weird RPG does indeed attract new players to the traditional PnP RPG hobby. But this Tutorial booklet is also valuable to those of us who are already well-acquainted with RPGs, as it provides some interesting insight into how James sees the role-playing game process occurring.

The Weird RPG boxed set also included an introductory booklet-sized adventure, Tower of the Stargazer. Stargazer is a 16-page adventure booklet, with a separate, unstapled cover, with the maps printed on the cover's interior, similar to those early TSR modules. While Stargazer is the same number of pages as another excellent introductory adventure, found in the S&W boxed set, The Vile Worm of the Eldritch Oak, Stargazer has 26 detailed locations, while Vile Worm has less than a half-dozen. Stargazer looks like another excellent adventure, in the unique style of James Raggi: this can be a profitable adventure for the cautious and attentive, but not everything in the tower is meant to be touched or taken.

A complete wilderness adventure framework is also provided in the Weird RPG boxed set, and is appropriately entitled Weird New World. Like Stargazer, Weird World had been published as a separate 28-page booklet and unstapled cover, although the cover folds out to reveal a 4-page wilderness map featuring an arctic climate. Weird World is broadly designed in the sandbox style: James Raggi has designed and chronicled a few adventure locations to get you started, but the world is large enough that the Referee and players can participate in a long-running wilderness hex-crawl without ever leaving the map.

Another pleasant surprise: James' version of Appendix N, entitled "recommended reading." Among those appearing on James' list of recommended authors are Clive Barker, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Clark Ashton Smith, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Each author receives a detailed biography by a guest biographer.

I can honestly say that this is the closest anyone has come to publishing my dream old-school boxed set. Once I have a chance to delve deeper into the Weird RPG booklets and supplementary material, I will provide some additional comments.


Tenkar said...

I think you'll enjoy what you read. The sum of the parts is much greater then the pieces on their own, and on their own the pieces still rock.

Nice set of pics you took too :)

JimLotFP said...

Leaving the logos and titles obscure on the interior booklets was intentional. I didn't want to get in the way of the art.

(It was a bit different for the Tutorial book as that was more colorful anyway).

Aaron E. Steele said...

@Tenkar: thanks for the encouragement, I am enjoying reading these books. My only complaint about my photos is someone kept getting their hand in the pictures! :D

@James: your booklet title decision does not detract from the usability of the product.

ze bulette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akrasia said...

Looks amazing. I plan to get this in about a month (once funds become available). Hopefully some box sets will still be available then...

Cimmerian said...

Hey..that art does look cool on the covers and it's nice to see some color for once!