Review: Death Love Doom

I now interrupt your regularly scheduled Ropecon report with a review. It’s the newest Lamentations of the Flame Princess release, Death Love Doom, written by James Edward Raggi IV! It was released at Ropecon, I picked it up on Friday and read its 20 pages during the next two days, while I was lounging about behind the RPG desk. It’s in black and white and has the covers separate from the pages in that old-school style, with maps on the inside covers. The inside illustrations are by Kelvin Green, for which I am grateful.

This is because Green has a cartoony style, especially compared to some of the other illustrators for LotFP. The reason this is important is that apparently Death Love Doom started with James thinking up scenes from the sickest gorno his mind was capable of and then phrasing that into art orders. The module was written around those.

The end result is that Death Love Doom is not for everyone. If it had been illustrated in a more realistic style, it would be for even fewer. I’m not exactly sure it’s even for me. Some of the artists he asked turned it down after seeing the art descriptions. It’s labelled for ages 18 and over, and for very good reason. Also, in the preface, James tells that the entire module is a metaphor for his divorce with his first wife.

So of course, being the sensitive and mature gentleman that I am, I figure that kind of emotional mess completely justifies the blood and guts and pussies and cocks and dismembered children.

Just be glad I have no art to illustrate this entry with. However, that’s enough about the gore. Is there anything else to this work?

Well, I wouldn’t be bloody writing up a post about it if there weren’t. Once you wipe away all the blood and entrails, you have a rather good haunted house adventure, with a compelling, tragic backstory that the players actually have a chance of finding out (not easy, but it doesn’t have to be).

Like usually with the OSR stuff, there’s no plot as such, just a few hooks that might get the characters interested in exploring the Bloodworth Estate, some miles outside London in 1625. There’s just the backstory, the location, the villain and the adversaries.

Wiping away all the blood might be inadvisable, though, since, well, it’s a horror adventure. The horror in Death Love Doom comes from the blood and guts, and removing them would diminish the impact of the adventure. There’s even a page about how to run the adventure and deliver the horror. James has an enviable skill of writing horror adventures in such a way that just reading them drives a chill down my spine. Death Frost Doom is similar, in this respect, and the two modules share a thematic link.

So, Death Love Doom is a good adventure. It’s also not for everyone. If you like the films of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento and can sit through Cannibal Holocaust and Hostel, this will probably be right up your alley. If not, you may want to give this a pass.

You might want to check with the players, too.

Death Love Doom isn’t yet actually available for purchase currently, but the estimated release date is August 8th, along with The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time. I paid €6 for my copy at Ropecon, so even if you find it not to your liking (and you have been warned), you won’t have dashed your offspring’s hope of ever attending college.

LotFP Grand Adventure Campaign Comes to an End

The Grand Adventure Campaign on IndieGoGo ended a couple of days ago. 19 adventure writers on 19 adventures, throw ’em at the wall and see what sticks. Seems four of them did, and it was a tense finish. The glorious four were Jeff Rients with his Broodmother Sky Fortress, Vincent Baker with Seclusium of Orphone, Kelvin Green with Horror Among Thieves and Dave Brockie with Towers Two.

Unfortunately, my own Red in Beak and Claw wasn’t among them, with its decidedly unimpressive showing of $470. There is light at the end of the tunnel for it, though, and it may yet emerge from the dark recesses of my hard drive upon an unsuspecting world. I was, incidentally, interviewed on Jennisodes about the project and the other stuff that I do, and I only now realize I never linked the interview here. It’s because it came out while I was at Finncon in Tampere at the time, and followed that up with Ropecon in Espoo. For me, the convention also ate up the entire preceding week in all sorts of preparation and promotion. Basically, I spent 11 days straight doing a convention, and when I’m that deep in, it’s very hard for me to focus on anything else.

Anyway, they tell me it’s a good interview, which I cannot objectively determine, but I had fun doing it, which probably counts.

The campaign, then. Was it a success? I don’t know. Was it a failure? No.

Four out of 19 isn’t much, and I think six funded campaigns—a rough third—would have made it an unqualified success. I mean, nobody seriously expected all of them to fund. That was never the point. It would have been awesome, but it would also have been an unrealistic expectation. A more interesting question is whether they were the “right” four, and on that front, at least, I have no complaints. Vincent Baker was one of my favourites to begin with, along with Anna Kreider, Richard Pett and the Finnish contingent. It’ll be fascinating to see what someone coming from a completely different gaming background will do with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. To me, that was always the coolest thing about the campaign, and hey, it delivered. Well, will deliver.

Those two posts about Red in Beak and Claw that I promised… you’ll get them, but they’ve been postponed for now. Next up will be a flood of convention reporting and commentary on new releases, including this one little thing called Death Love Doom

Red in Beak and Claw

So, that IndieGoGo campaign is still running. Well, crawling, more like. Anyway, still ongoing. Red in Beak and Claw, the “Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds” adventure, will be released by Lamentations of the Flame Princess if it meets the $6,000 funding goal. At this point, I thought it might be useful to reflect on how the hell does one utilize The Birds in the context of a fantasy adventure role-playing game. The film is not noted for its dashing feats of derring-do and epic heroism. It’s not, in a word, D&D. It’s a bit more LotFP, but still not there.

Indeed, I’ve never even seen an adventure based on The Birds for any game, which strikes me as odd since it’s such a well-known film and reimagining movies and novels as RPG adventures is a time-honoured tradition of the hobby. I own something like three or four takes on Heart of Darkness alone and my Living Greyhawk adventure Bright Sun, Black Lion owes a heavy debt to Smokin’ Aces.

Incidentally, Wuthering Heights would make a totally awesome game. (Anyone ever tells you it’s a love story, don’t date them. It’s not. So very, very much not.)

Anyway, the thing about The Birds is that the main characters in it are victims. They don’t have a whole lot of agency in the story regarding the bird attacks. They can run, they can hide, and they can escape. It makes for classic cinema and it can also make for a very good roleplaying session. However, that roleplaying game is Call of Cthulhu. In D&D fantasy, even one as horror-oriented as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the PCs need something to do beyond survival. That’s what they’re trying to do anyway, all the time. Besides, problem-solving and doing stupid things like running towards the blood-curdling scream are core assumptions of the game. So, the PCs need something to do beyond running away.

Not that they won’t be doing a lot of that, too. At least the smart ones. Fighting a flock of a thousand murderous seagulls is a losing proposition. Granted, if you do wear a suit of full plate armour, you’ll be more or less invulnerable but even then you can’t actually fight and win. It’s perhaps better to visualize the bird attacks as a sort of natural disaster rather than an enemy in this respect. However, unlike a natural disaster, in Red in Beak and Claw, the player characters do have the chance of stopping it.

Before the characters can stop it, though, they must first figure out what is happening, why it is happening, and how it can be stopped. There are clues in the village of Graypiers, and a quick, smart and capable party of adventurers can figure it out before it’s too late. There are people who know parts of the story and if someone were to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the whole ugly picture would be clear. I hope the picture will be interesting enough. I am deliberately steering away from the whole “secret sins of the village elders” thing here. As a bonus, a wizard did not do it!

Of course, this requires the people in the know to be alive to tell the party, and even if the characters themselves are bold adventurers decked out in full plate, impervious to the beaks of anything smaller than a roc, the rest of the villagers won’t be. The clock is ticking, the schedule is tight, and people are dying.

Next week, I will describe the system used to adjudicate the bird attacks as well as the village of Graypiers, which may be a deeply strange place but hopefully, one worth saving.

Red in Beak and Claw at the LotFP Grand Adventure Campaign!

It has begun! Possibly the craziest thing I’ve seen James do yet (and I’ve known him for some years), the July Grand Adventure Campaign gathers together 19 adventure writers from diverse backgrounds to write modules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. I am one of them, and if the $6,000 funding goal is met, my adventure Red in Beak and Claw shall be unleashed upon the world, and with art by Jason Rainville!

Red in Beak and Claw, as you can probably figure out from the blurb, is informed by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I, for one, have never seen an adventure module inspired by the film, but in case someone’s already done it, I’ll have to do it better. There may also be some Children of the Corn in there somewhere.

The campaign itself is megalomaniacal in its scale. There is a terrible beauty to the sheer size and variety of its contributors. There are indie game designers, a Nordic larpwright, a rock star, bloggers, OSR writers, veterans of D&Ds classic and modern alike. It is a testament to the lightness and flexibility of oldDungeons & Dragons that game designers from such diverse backgrounds can pick up the ruleset with little prior experience and feel comfortable working with it.

Apart from me, there are three other Finns in the lineup: first of all, there’s Ville Vuorela of Burger Games, for whom I translated Stalker. The art for The Dreaming Plague will incidentally be done by Juha Makkonen, I who I worked with on Roolipelikirja. Then there’s Mike Pohjola, Emmy Award -winning author, larpwright, game designer and I can’t even remember what else, with his adventure I Hate Myself for What I Must Do. This is also the man who wrote a roleplaying game using fortune cookies instead of dice, and I advise you to expect the unexpected. Last but not least, there’s Juhani Seppälä, of the blog Blowing Smoke, with his module Normal for Norfolk, that started out as a campaign he ran for James that James has been pestering him to write up ever since.

This is also my chance to get that Richard Pett adventure I was so cruelly denied last time around. Get to it, people. Just… fund me first, okay? At the moment, to my great perturbation, I seem to be in the lead, too…

More Crowdfunding Goodness – LotFP, Lovecraft, Goblins

So, the next Lamentations of the Flame Princess crowdfunding campaign has been announced. The Grand Adventure Campaigns are eighteen in number, each featuring a different writer and artist (except for Jason Rainville, who’s illustrating two). Among them are Monte Cook, the author of the 3E Dungeon Master’s Guide; Vincent Baker, the designer of games like Poison’d, Dogs in the Vineyard and In a Wicked Age; James Malizsewski of Grognardia; Mike Pohjola, a larpwright, author and game designer who wrote Tähti, a game about teenage mutant Maoist girl bands where the rules are based on interpreting fortune cookies; Juhani Seppälä of Blowing Smoke; the strange and frightening adventure writer Richard Pett, who may or may not brutally murder and eat all the dignitaries at PaizoCon UK every year but who certainly did write The Skinsaw Murders and The Sixfold Trial, some of the finest adventures I’ve had the pleasure to read; and me. I’m not quite as intimidated by the lineup I find myself in as I was last time. Also, this time there’s also a chance that my work will get funded. I have something very cool in the works, you’ll see.

So, that’s starting next month, and it will be all sorts of awesome. More on that later.

Also, it looks like Paizo’s Pathfinder Online Kickstarter is completely out of control. Regardless of whether you actually care about the game, the stretch goals are quite worth the investment. The hardcopy Thornkeep book, which you get at the $50 reward level, has bloated from its original 64 pages to include additional dungeon levels by Jason Bulmahn, Erik Mona, James Jacobs and Ed Greenwood. Someone mentioned it’s over 100 pages, now, so that’s some bang for your buck.

Lastly, there’s The Shadow out of Providence: A Lovecraftical Metatext. It is a metafictional work about Lovecraft as a cultural phenomenon, which looks tremendously interesting. It’s two short stories and a play, and seems to avoid tangling in the Cthulhu Mythos, focusing on other aspects of Lovecraft’s work. The play is framed as the work of Lovecraft’s half-brother, the Harlem Renaissance writer Albert Jermyn and one of the stories is illustrated by Erol Otus, which sold me on the project. The Shadow out of Providence approaches Lovecraft from an angle that may not be exactly original (he’s been approached from pretty much every angle imaginable at this point, plus a few that cannot be imagined), but it is somewhat fresher than most of the stuff I’ve seen. Presented for your consideration.

Last Hours at Hand for LotFP IndieGoGo

As I write this, there are less than 20 hours to go until the end of the LotFP IndieGoGo campaign. The amount raised is now nearly $14,000, and Jim has declared the Kenneth Hite adventure funded! Now is your opportunity to pledge! Perhaps you’ll be lucky and a last-minute rush will get us over the Mentzer line as well…

I’m mildly disappointed that my adventure didn’t get funded and even more disappointed that Richard Pett’s didn’t, but so it goes.

Jim has also announced another series of campaigns in July for even more adventures by a different set of writers, some of them very interesting.