My First Thoughts
Okay, so you may or may not be aware–based on whether or not you’ve read Eldritch Cock James Edward Raggi IV’s FreeRPG supplement for Lamentations of the Flame Princess–that there is a second edition of LotFP in the works for some date in the distant future. The Eldritch Cock supplement features two pages of playtest rules that are currently under consideration for inclusion in a 2E of my current favourite OSR system.
Readers are invited to submit their feedback so I thought that I’d put mine into a blog article.
Aims of the New Rules
According to the document the aims of the new rules are as follows:
…keep things fresh and accentuate how LotFP is different from other superficially similar games without creating an edition war.
The process of play should remain the same…
Backwards compatability is a must…
The six perennial D&D attributes are still there and, essentially, the player rolls 3D6 for each ability in turn and receives modifiers based on their score as per the standard LotFP and other OSR-style games. The idea seems to be that each Ability Score should have more of an impact on the game than previously.
How Much do we Need Ability Scores to Affect the Game?
It’s no great secret that in many OSR games your stats only have a very minor effect on the game, perhaps boosting your attack modifier a little, maybe giving you the odd additional Hit Point here and there or–if you’re using a system like LotFP that incorporates skills–perhaps giving you the odd skill boost. I’ve never really seen this as a problem in OSR games because many of the games focus on the “rulings over rules” style that is often discussed in this style of gaming.
For those of you not familiar with it, “rulings over rules” refers to an ethos of not having a specific rule for every possible situation but having a simple flexible set of rules that are almost purposefully vague in some areas, allowing the common-sense of the GM and their group to prevail when it comes to interpreting how to adjudicate situations.
So how do the new rules give a bit more bite to Attribute Scores?
- Charisma: Determines the number of D6 that you roll for your magical based Saving Throws (there only seem to be two types of Saving Throw in the new ruleset, magical and non-magical), the better your score, the more D6s you roll. When you make a Saving Throw, you roll your dice and count how many 6s you’ve rolled, if you get one 6 then you have achieved a partially successful save, if you get two or more 6s then you have made your Save successful. No 6s is a failure.
- Constitution: Determines the dice type that you roll for Hit Points, that’s right, your HP is no longer based on your class but on an Attribute, ranging from D4s up to D12s (if you’re lucky enough to have a CON of 17-18).
- Dexterity: This Attribute determines what dice type you roll for Initiative.
- Intelligence: Determines how many Skill Points you begin with. Although the focus of LotFP’s simple skill system has always been the Specialist Class, with everyone else having low or limited ranks in the various game skills, in these new rules your non-Specialist character at least gets a few points to spread around between the various skills.
- Strength: Determines how many items equal 1 Encumbrance Point. The way encumbrance works in LotFP is that a certain number of items equals an encumbrance point, you work out how many encumbrance points you are carrying and this affects your movement and abilities in certain situations. Previously this number was set, in the new rules however, the higher your Strength score, the more items you will be able to carry.
- Wisdom: Works in a similar way to Charisma but for the purposes of non-magical Saving Throws.
I quite like the idea of the Attribute Scores having more of an impact on the game, especially when–as seems to be the case here–they do so without adding a great deal of unnecessary complexity to the game. Rolling a different dice or calculating encumbrance in a slightly different way doesn’t (in my opinion) add additional complexity, nor can I see how it would slow down the game much.
Character Classes & Gaining Levels
Only the following classes exist in the new rules:
- Specialist (this is the LotFP version of the Thief Class, sort of…)
That’s right, only three classes, the Cleric and the three demihuman classes (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) have been axed in the new edition, the demihumans because apprently “this aint Tolkien” and the Cleric because “the existence of divine power defines the cosmology of an individual campaign that is best left to the Referee, not a game publisher”. These two viewpoints seem a bit of a contradiction in terms, on one hand telling you that the game definitely does not involve demihumans and putting a stern foot down, whilst on the other hand saying that it doesn’t want to impose it’s viewpoint, allowing the GM the freedom to do or do not as they see fit.
Perhaps this is the author representing the fundamental differences between everything having a Lawful plan which all things must bend towards and the churning, bubbling froth of chaos that tears down walls and allows ultimate freedom (to paraphrase the alignment descriptions from the LotFP corebook), but it must be remembered that these are only potential playtest rules. Although I remember hearing ages ago (before ever reading Eldritch Cock) that Raggi wanted to get rid of Clerics at some point and his opinion on demihumans is well known so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the author is sharpening his axe for them as well.
I suspect that this is going to divide the audience somewhat, I certainly know that–preparing for the game I’m planning to start soon–when I put it to the players they were quite keen to keep the demihumans and the Clerics. I can certainly see why this is the case, although their exclusion wouldn’t bother me terribly, they have been part of D&D and OSR games for many, many years. That said, it’s not terribly difficult to house-rule those classes to work in the new rules, I suspect the only difficulty–assuming you’re concerned with it–is that the demihumans (particularly the Elves) tended to be balanced by requiring more XP to level-up. In the new system it takes a flat 2,500XP to reach second level and double the xp required for each subsequent level.
Fighters get to roll their HP dice twice and pick the highest results at first level where the others get to roll once, giving the Fighter clear advantage when it comes to potential HP totals at first level, which makes sense. When characters advance in level they roll their new number of Hit Dice and–if the total is higher than their existing number of Hit Points–they up their total to the new number, otherwise it remains the same. I’ve encountered this rule before in the OSR sci-fi game Star Without Number written by Kevin Crawford and am a huge fan of it, since the number of dice you roll increases with each level the tendency is for your total HP to creep steadily up, however it isn’t guaranteed at each level and slows down the onset of superhero syndrome, where the PCs have enough HP to shrug injuries that would fell lesser men.
Essentially in the game there are now four categories of combat bonus:
Fighters gain +2 in each of these categories at first level and +1 in each category per level, whereas other character classes get +1 in Firearms and +1 in one of the other categories (chosen randomly); the higher combat proficiency of the Fighter Class makes sense, however the emphasis on Firearms for the other classes is a little confusing and may hint at a great involvement for firearms in this edition. Previously they were jammed at the back as an appendix, I love these rules to bits and wouldn’t run LotFP without using blackpowder firearms, but I’m guessing that these rules are going to be bought more centre-stage in the 2E of LotFP.
Like a lot of rules in this, and other, OSR systems there are a lot of random elements in this (rolling your Attributes, randomly determining where attack bonuses go, etc), some people may love this, others no so much. Again though it’s not difficult to allow people to jiggle their Attribute scores around and allow them to pick which attack category they get a bonus in.
Guarding is an interesting idea and replaces the Parry rules from the current edition of LotFP, essentially when a person chooses to Guard, they gain an AC bonus equal to their level plus their Guard rating. I like this, it’s nice and simple and gives all the Classes a way to fight defensively if they want to; however the second paragraph talks about choosing to Guard out of Initiative order and only getting half the level rounded up, plus their Guard rating, this seems unnecessary and I’m not sure it would add a lot to a game. Personally I’m not a fan of Initiative interrupts since I think that they make combats lengthier and clunkier, but it’s not exactly difficult to omit this bit.
Holding an Action
These rules allow a character to hold an action until an enemy takes a particular action then interrupt (with various penalties). As you can see above, I’m not a fan of turn interrupts, but I’d be interested to see if and how this actually works in a combat.
All weapons now do D8 damage, armour counts double against Minor and Small Weapons and half against Great Weapons and Polearms. This is interesting and seems to jibe in well with the existing weapon categories, sticking closely to the 2E rule-set’s guideline of “reverse compatibility”, although I’m not sure how it would work on Ranged Weapons and Firearms since they are not currently grouped into the same abstract categories.
In my own upcoming game I’ve chosen to ignore this rule and stick with the 1E weapon damages and rules.
The next section of the playtest rules focusses on LotFP’s simple skill system; previously Skill tests were determined by rolling a D6 and trying to get equal to or below your score, in the playtest rules you roll a D6, add your skill rank and are attempting to score a 6 or above to be successful. Each skill starts at a +0 bonus with characters receiving a +3 and a +2 bonus allocated randomly to two skills. Characters get bonus skill points (or lose them) based on their Intelligence score, Specialists get four +1s to allocate to skills of their choice and a further +2 points at every level thereafter.
There are also some additional Skills added:
- Leadership: This skill allows you to modifer hireling morale checks, a successful Skill Check providing a +2 bonus to a morale check and a failed roll giving a -2 penalty.
- Luck: Grants the player a number of re-rolls equal to their ranks in the skill per session.
- Medicine: Allows you to double the effects of healing naturally, although a failed roll on the seriously injured can result in serious consequences. Personally I find this a bit limp, I’d just have a successful roll heal D4 + the ranks in the skill or something similar, but I can see why the author doesn’t want this to become a super-skill that negates the danger of taking damage.
- Seamanship: There’s very little description to this skill beyond that it is going to be some sort of Bushcraft on the High Seas style skill, there are going to be some forthcoming rules related to this and I wouldn’t be surprised to sea them take a more central role given the authors obvious fondness for naval exploits (we can see this with how much coverage they get in the original LotFP rulebook).
This section was a little confusing, we’ve already been told that the number of dice rolled for Magic and Non-Magic Saving Throws are adjudicated by various Attribute Scores, given that the difficulty of Saving Throws is no longer based on rolling above a number but on how many 6s you roll, it seems as though their isn’t much point in the current Saving Throw classes, you really only need two (Magic and Non-Magic). Some parts of the playtest rules seem to imply this, whilst others make reference to the previous Saving Throw categories from 1E LotFP, so I’m not sure where the author is going with this, however I suspect it’ll get straightened out in the future.
So, what do I think?
I think that the rules are very interesting, some (like the Attribute, Skill and Combat Rules) I’m a big fan of, whereas others (such as Holding an Action and Weapon Damage) I’m not so fond of. For my own upcoming game we’ve made a few tweaks and ignored the Weapon Damage rules, I’ve produced a small character generation guidebook incorporating the new rules that we’re going to be using and look forward to trying them out.