Adapting LOTFP for Midderlands

I’m currently running an OSR game using the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules, using the excellent Midderlands campaign setting created by Glynn Seal of Monkeyblood Design & Publishing (https://plus.google.com/+MonkeyblooddesignCoUk). In Lamentations there are three non-human race-classes available, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings, that aren’t covered in great detail in the Midderlands books, but that I wanted to be available to my players in our game.

Please note: This article is not an attempt to create a definitive version of the various fantasy races for use in the Midderlands, it’s just how I’ve adapted them for my game (trying to keep the weird-fantasy vibe of the Midderlands in mind throughout).

The various races in my game use the standard rules out of LOTFP (or the Midderlands Campaign books when it comes to various types of Goblins), the details below are simply additional set-dressing/flavour.

Dwarves

The Dwarves are a strange people of living stone who dwell in the northern Highlands of Scrotland, organised into Clans with strict, regimented hierarchies. It is believed that when humans first arrived in the Havenlands that Dwarves were much more widespread and taught the first humans the ways of working metal and smithing. Strict minded and traditional in their ways, the Dwarves were first pleased with the progress humans made and then worried by their experimentation and chaotic nature, gradually withdrawing more and more from the world until now only the north has Dwarves in large numbers.

Physiology

Dwarves are shorter and stockier than humans, tending towards muscular physiques. Each of them has skin that resembles stone in colour and texture more than flesh and eyes that are pupilless vary in colour from ruby red to emerald green. Dwarven blood is thick, red and slow flowing, it takes far longer than human blood to dry, eventually transforming into a red powder like ground brick.

When a Dwarf is slain their flesh retains it’s stony texture and does not rot like the flesh of some other races, however it does crumble away over time (or if subjected to enough force) revealing the iron-like bones beneath.

Location

The few remaining Dwarfholds are situated in the Highlands of Scrotland, clustered around the mighty Mount Nevis and the Great Northern Forests. Other races most often seek out the Dwarves when they are attempting to have mighty weapons or enchanted items forged, since the Dwarves are reputed to have secret methods of working stone and forging metal that are unknown to the other races. Items of Dwarven craftmanship tend to be hard-wearing and last for hundreds of years, although they are seldom decorative or beautiful in appearance.

Culture

Dwarves are organised into a strict caste-system, their caste is chosen at birth based on their parentage, Clan affiliation and–most importantly to the Dwarves–by the metal or stonethat their skin resembled. The system is organised into three tiers:

  • Nobles: Nobles are the rarest of castes, only a handful of them being born every few years, they are the most mentally agile and creative members of the Dwarven race and have skin resembling precious metals or rare stones such as gold, silver, palladium, marble, basalt and platinum.

See the following wikipedia article for further details on precious metals.

  • Warriors: Warriors are the second most common caste, they have good tactical minds and make excellent soldiers but they generally lack creativity, preferring to relay on ancient, tried-and-proven tactics. Warriors have skin resembling ferrous metals and more commonly found stone such as wrought iron, granite, limestone and steel.

See the following wikipedia article for further details on ferrous metals.

  • Workers: The most common of the castes, workers generally spend their life performing repetitive tasks and drudgery for the day-to-day operations of their Clan, workers are proficient at their particular tasks but lack creativity or even the tactical minds of warriors, making them dull companions unless you are discussing their area of speciality. Workers have skin resembling base metals and very common stone such as iron, soapstone and tin.

See the following wikipedia article for further details on base metals.

It is forbidden to act outside the boundaries of your caste system within Dwarven society, although occasionally a Dwarf is born to a lower caste but with unexpected curiosity or intellect. This often leads to them getting in trouble with the Thanes who rule their Clan, resulting in many of them being banished to the lowlands for their trouble. Most Dwarves encountered outside of the Highlands are banished Dwarves.

Relations with Others

The Dwarves have cordial relations with their neighbours, often trading with them for items that are not available in their mountain homes. However, the days of Dwarves teaching humans forging techniques have long past, and they now guard their secrets jealously. Dwarves and Elves are often wary of each other since Dwarves are mostly of a fixed mindset whereas Elves tend to be more adaptable or changeable.

Dwarves seldom get along well with Goblins due to their tendency to infest abandoned Dwarfholds, although they enjoy the genial company of Halflings.

Elves

A strange and secretive race with a fey-touched air to them, the Elves are widely believed to have originated in the green lands of Emeraude. It has become common parlance in the Havenlands to describe those who perceive sprites, boggarts and the like as having Emeraude eyes. Wise in the ways of the wild, the Elves most often remain secreted in the most ancient of woodlands around the Havenlands, using magic and misdirection to prevent their hidden hollows and homes from being discovered. Wherever Elves dwell there is always the smell of flowers and summer.

Physiology

Although Elves appear superficially similar to the other races of the Havenlands, they are actually more like living plants. Elven skin is an extremely pliable form of bark resembling Silver Birch and their blood is a thick clear sap with a light foral aroma to it. Elves do not age and die naturally, but when an Elf is very old he may feel the pull of the great sleep upon him; once this happens the Elves conduct a great cermony and the subject falls into a peaceful sleep, gradually taking root in the ground and becoming a mighty tree.

In the chest of an Elf is a glowing green gemstone known colloquially as an Elfheart, this remains after their death and is reputed to be a great boon to any magics dealing with the natural world. Of course, attempting to harvest these gems is a surefire way to anger any Elves you encounter, making them an extremely dangerous ingredient for magical workings.

It is rumoured that the ancient Ents who guard the deepest forests of Havenlands were once Elves.

Winter Elves

There are actually two species of Elves in the Havenlands, both are extremely rare, but the most common are known as Summer Elves, they embody the seasons of Summer and Spring, caring for the natural world and seeking to preserve it.

Rare are the Winter Elves who embody the dark times of winter when nature seeks to conserve it’s resources and survive the coming cold. Winter Elves have night black shine and hair as white as snow, often living underground they are selfish and cruel. The Elfhearts of Winter Elves resemble black onyx or clear diamonds.

Location

Elves are most often found in hidden communities within the deepest forests of the Havenlands, protected by magic and illusions. However, some of the younger Elves have grown curious about the world outside their leafy borders and have ventured further afield, interacting with the younger races.

Culture

Found mostly in the forested regions of the Oldenwale (or Fada Siar in their own tongue), the Elves are organised into Clans delineated by shared family bloodlines and heritage. Elven Clans are rules by the eldest and wisest of their number, although their leaders recognise that their society benefits from allowing younger members of the race venturing into the wider world and bringing new knowledge to their Clan when they return home and settle down after a couple of hundred years or so.

Relations with Others

Although the Elves technically owe no allegiance to Lady Owain–ruler of Oldenwale–they generally maintain a cautious peace with the people of the Oldenwale (although this has not alway been the case). Most of the Oldenwale Clans know to give the most ancient woodlands a wide berth and this satisfies the Elves who have no wish to claim other areas, although occasionally their are skirmishes when Clans attempt to log areas sacred to the Elves.

Halflings & Goblins

There are various races of Small or Weefolk (derogatory) scattered around the Havenlands, no-one is quite sure where they came from or if they have any relationship to each other, but it is clear from ancient Goman writings that–when the Gomans arrived in the Havenlands–there were already various types of Smallfolk already living simple pastoral lives there. This has lead some to conclude that they are the original inhabitants of the Havenlands, although their impact on written history has been minor.

Physiology

There is little similarity in the appearance of the various Smallfolk, but they fall into two broad categories, Halflings (or Hobbits as they call themselves) and Goblins. Although the actual strict definition of the two categories is somewhat up for debate, in general if a Smallfolk is human-shaped and of human-like colouration they are Halflings, whereas if they have more bestial features and greenish or unusual skin colouration they are known as Goblins.

Location

Smallfolk can be found scattered all over the Havenlands, Halflings tend to live anywhere that humans are located, rubbing shoulders easily–and working alongside–their human neighbours, often bartering their talents at storyteller, brewing and making pipeweed to make a living. Goblins are more marginalised and tend to dwell on the outskirts of larger human societies, in the cracks of urban centres or in isolated wilderness.

Culture

Halflings prize comfort and stability above most things and therefore look to settle down in places that are well defended by larger folk, living simple lives, getting on with their neighbours and making whatever living they can, younger Halflings occasionally get an urge to go out and explore the world and have adventures. There is much frowning from their elders and betters when this occurs.

The various Goblin races do not have much in the way of culture and tend to only exist in small family groups.

Relations with Others

Halflings maintain genial relations with most of the other races common in the Havenlands, whereas Goblins tend to be regarded as either a pest to ignore or a menace to be wiped out (depending on numbers and relative strength).

 

The icons used in this article were from Http://game-icons.net and are used as per the Creative Commons CC license.

Rose of Westhaven Sideview Map

If you’re a player in my ROSE OF WESTHAVEN campaign, please stop reading now.

As some of you may be aware, I’ve contracted map fever whilst running my OSR Midderlands LOTFP campaign; one of the things we discussed in our session zero is that the players wanted to do plenty of dungeon-crawling during the campaign, so I started off drawing a few maps and reading online tutorials. I’m getting to point now where I’m really enjoying working out how the maps link together, to this end I decided to draw a sideview map showing the various elevations and locations of the different dungeon maps in the area around Porthcrawl (our game’s Homebase).

I’ve not got round to drawing a finished version yet but have roughed out the layout using Notepad.

Quick Spell Duelling system for LOTFP

I’m reading Dungeon Crawl Classics at the moment, it’s a cool OSR game that comes in one of the biggest RPG books I’ve seen since I purchased a copy of Zweihander. The game is a bit chart-tastic for my personal tastes but it’s still a great book to read and has some really cool ideas in it.

Spell Duels

One of the ideas I love, love, love in DCC are the rules for spell duels. Essentially these happen when a wizard is about to cast some magic and another spell-caster decides to interfere and throw down with them; in DCC this involves the second caster choosing a countering spell, they both make contested spell-casting rolls and–depending on the rolls–one or more spells may take effect, along with any number of crazy effects.

There’s no doubt this a cool system and I thought that–along with how dangerous and potentially lethal the summoning spell is in LOTFP–it would help explain why magic-users are typically so outcast or persecuted in the standard LOTFP campaign setting.

However, there’s a few bits of the mechanics that–whilst fine for DCC–don’t really work for Lamentations, so I thought that I’d have a go at making a simplified version to use with LOTFP.

Spell Duelling in LOTFP

In this system, when a magic-user or a cleric casts a spell, if there is another magic-user/cleric in the area they may choose to interfere with the casting and initiate a spell duel. Once this decision has been made you resolve the duel (even if normally the duelling casters would have different initiatives).

Resolving the Duel

  • Each of the spell-casters chooses a spell slot that they sacrifice to power their part of the duel.
    • The first spell cast (before the duel began) does not count for this purpose, but the first caster may choose to sacrifice another spell slot to empower themselves for duelling if they wish.
  • Each participant in the duel rolls 1d20 and adds the level of the spell-slot that they sacrificed.
  • The winner inflicts 1D6+the level of the spell slot they sacrificed in HP of damage on the loser, if the first caster wins then their original spell takes effect as well.
  • Either of the participants may choose to continue the duel on the next round, in which case repeat the process.
  • If both of the duelling rolls (without modifiers) are equal then the spell energy combines in a strange manner, none of the participants take damage this round and roll on the table below to see what occurs:
Unstable Arcane Energy Table
1D6 Roll Effect
1 Random Spell. Whichever caster had the highest result with modifiers (or determine randomly if they were the same) fires off a random spell, randomly determine a spell that is the same level as the spell slot the chosen caster sacrificed (or level 1 if they didn't sacrifice a slot). The spell chosen effects a random person in the area. Please note: the randomly determined spell needn't be one the caster possesses, however–once the duel if over–the magic-user may transcribe the random spell into their spell book if they wish as though transcribing it from a scroll.
2 Supernatural Effects. A part of another realm is pulled through and super-imposed on the local landscape, generally this should be extremely unsettling, if you need further guidance roll a further 1D6: (1) Trees gain eyes, mouths and a hunger for flesh (2) Clouds in the area rain blood, frogs or other unlikely substances (3) Animals give birth to mutated young (4) All water in the area transforms into bile, pus or another unwholesome substance (5) Holy icons or objects of worship in the area appears tarnished or befouled (6) Milk is fouled, crops fail and other supernatural effects take place.
3 Spells Merge. This requires some adjudication from the GM, randomly choose a spell for each spell slot sacrificed, these spells combine (along with any original spell) and create a strange effect. Generally it is either twice as powerful as the normal spell (if both spells are the same or similar) or some strange conglomeration of the two. The effect is centred directly between the duelling casters.
4 Summoning. The combined magic pulls through a supernatural creature (statted by the GM), roll a further 1D6 to determine the nature of the creature: (1)Elemental (2)Celestial/Angelic (3)Demonic (4)Undead (5)Wild animal (6)Abomination.
5 Backlash. The original spell fails and both participants take damage equal to 1D6 plus the total of spell slot levels sacrificed.
6 Demonic Incursion. The unstable energies have attracted attention from the netherworld, a tear in reality opens between the casters and 1D6 demons or creatures of the outer darkness (statted by the GM) spill out into our world.

I’m sure this system isn’t complete by any means and it could certainly be expanded on, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas for your own LOTFP games.

Quick NPCs for LOTFP

The rules for creating NPCs in LOTFP are fairly streamlined, but I was looking for a method of creating NPCs that were a little more different stat-wise without adding an undue amount of complexity to the game, to do this I’ve drawn on my experiences with the Fate RPG system.

Method for Creating Quick NPC

  • Name your NPC

Don’t agonise over this when you’re trying to make a quick NPC, fire up a random name generator and click a few times until you find a name you like, or take bits out of a couple of names and combine them together, whatever works for you. Here are a few I’ve found useful:

  1. D&D Human Name Generator
  2. There are some great real-world historically inspired name generators available
  3. Dwarf Name Generator
  4. Elf Name Generator
  5. Hobbit Name Generator
  • Choose your NPCs class/race

If your NPC is a human then make them a level 0 Fighter, otherwise make them a level 0 version of the appropriate demi-human class.

  • Fill in your NPCs saving throws, HP, attack bonuses and skills

This information should be available on the class chart that you have chosen so should be easy to find.

  • Give your NPC something extra they are good at

Everything’s been pretty standard in this post so far, here’s where we add a bit extra though, jot down on the NPC’s sheet one or two things that they are good at, when the NPC is required to make a roll for something related to these things add +2 to their roll. This doesn’t have to be their job (although this can be a useful guideline) but it could be based on their physical characteristics or a piece of equipment they have. What they are good at should be fairly specific (‘forging weapons’ is fine, but ‘making stuff’ is a bit too broad) and it should not affect things like combat bonuses or saving throws since these are already covered by the rules although–as ever–it’s your game, so if you want to have an NPC who is a practiced archer, feel free.

If you want to detail the NPC a little further you can also give them one or two things they’re bad at, and give them a -2 penalty when in situations related to them.

And that’s pretty much it, dead simple and it can be done on the fly when you just need to jot down some NPCs one the spur of the moment, or when you want them to have a little bit of extra detailing but without having to add a load of skills or anything like that.

Dungeon Change Chart

I’m really into OSR gaming at the moment, which means I’ve been reading a lot about how to create dungeons and keep them fresh. One of the things that is often mentioned is that dungeons are not static, they are working eco-systems that change and evolve as time passes, this can pose a potential problem for a GM. Some times when your PCs are re-visiting a dungeon, events in the campaign make it obvious was it likely to have changed in the area.

For example: Last time the heroes visiting the bandits lair they killed most of them, this has lead to the lair being abandoned and it is now colonised by natural creatures who moved in after the bandits departed.

However–at other times–there’s not an obvious change that could have occurred, but you don’t want the dungeon to feel static and unchanging, as though it only exists for the few brief moments when the PCs decide to grab their lanterns and venture into the dark depths. To help with this I’ve created a simple D6 roll table.

How to use the table

When the PCs return to a dungeon and a significant period of time 1 has passed, make a roll on the table to see what changes have occurred, these changes don’t specify specific creatures or areas affected by tunnel collapses and flooding but are intending to serve as a springboard to the GM’s imagination.

Dungeon Change Chart


  1. The exact length of the time interval is left to the GM, but generally if more than a few days have passed since the PCs have visited the dungeon then you should make a roll. If they’ve been away for a really long period then you may wish to make multiple rolls. 

Writer’s Block

Okay, so I’m sat at work at the moment on my dinner break, still suffering from lack of sleep/sleep apnea (hospital appointment soon) and thinking about some particularly non-exciting work I have to do this afternoon, I’ve also got the first game for a 5E Ravenloft (not Curse of Strahd) game I’m running tomorrow and also my regular LOTFP game to run on Sunday. It’s at this point when the dreaded writer’s block strikes.

I’ve already sent out some basic campaign details for the Kingdom of Angels Ravenloft campaign and I have a fair idea of what my PCs are going to do in our Westhaven LOTFP campaign:

  • Kingdom of Angels: Groups of people who have somehow failed their deity find themselves pulled into a dark realm ruled over by the religious tyrant known as the Pontifex.
  • Rose of Westhaven: The PCs are planning to explore the catacombs below the church in Porthcrawl, they also have been summoned to a meeting with the local Lord at the start of the session.

Writer’s block always annoys me, particularly at the moment when I’m reading more books (fiction and non-fiction), comics and watching more films than I do normally, if anything I should have a surfeit of ideas, unfortunately my sleep-deprived brain doesn’t work like that. So this is what I’m going to do in order to try and beat my writer’s block:

  • Jot down some random ideas that I find interesting.
  • Use these to create a very rough sessions plan.
  • Have a skim through some of my RP books that have a similar flavour to what I want.
  • Have a look at the Big List of RPG Plots.
  • Go through the player character sheets and background to see if there are any threads I can pull on there.
  • Have a scroll through Pinterest and look for some inspiring images.

I’ll let you know how I get on 🙂

In the meantime, post in the comments and let me know how you deal with writer’s block, or are you one of the lucky few who never suffers from it?

A few things I’ve learnt about LOTFP low-level dungeon crawling

As you may or may not be aware, I’m currently running a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign called Rose of Westhaven, the aim of the campaign was to get me some more experience at running OSR and also to do a game where old-school dungeon-crawling was a big part of it. Currently we’ve had a few sessions to establish a bit about the world background (you can find out more here in the player handout if you’re interested) and a couple of sessions ago the discovery of a corrupted and partially ruined Elven Temple lead to the characters encountering their first larger dungeon.

I’ve had great fun running the game, my players seem to be enjoying it and I’ve already learnt the following about low-level dungeon-crawling in LOTFP:

  • Low-level characters are extremely fragile, if even a basic human antagonist gets a lucky hit in during combat then someone is going down.
  • Healing is extremely hard to come by necessitating a lot of resting.
  • The importance of the Cleric cannot be overstated, that single cure light wounds spell can allow the party to continue for far longer than they otherwise might.
  • Having a 10′ pole to check for traps, along with lanterns and ample supplies of oil is an absolute necessity.
  • As a GM tracking how many turns the characters lanterns are going to be burning for (and knocking a turn off about every minute when they’re not in combat rounds) is actually perversely enjoyable.
  • Having people track rations and stuff like is far more important in a dungeon environment where the players can’t just pop into town and re-supply.

More one-shots for 2018

I generally don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions very much, in my opinion most of them get broken shortly afterwards so I’ve never really seen the point in enshrining them as a resolution, if you’re going to do something then just do it. That said there are a few things–gaming wise–that I would like to do in 2018:

  • Continue my Westhaven LOTFP campaign: all being well we’ll be doing session 6 of this campaign this weekend, the game has been going well and there’s only been a single PC fatality so far. I’ve recently transferred some of the campaign data onto this site and am very much enjoying my first taste of OSR GM-ing, I’m hoping to keep the campaign going for some time.
  • Start up two Ravenloft 5E campaigns: I’ve been enjoying playing 5E recently as part of the Role with Advantage Facebook community, and it’s inspired me to have a go at running a campaign. I decided to go for a Ravenloft-style campaign, because who doesn’t like gothic horror? Just to put the idea of the game out there and try to generate a bit more interest I “advertised” it on my normal Facebook page as well as my Red Dice Diaries page and in various RP communities that I frequent online, the response was great with more people than I can cram into a single group expressing interest. To accommodate the interested parties I’ve split them into two groups and plan to have two separate groups of adventurers knocking around my version of Ravenloft, each game is only going to run once a month so I’m hoping this should be manageable.
  • Continue playing 5E with RWA: Speaking of Role with Advantage, I’m having great fun playing in some excellent games ran by AndrĂ© Martinez and hope these continue well into the New Year.
  • Run more one-shots in 2018: I’ve always found running low(er) prep one-shots and pick-up games to be enjoying and challenging in equal measures (many of the one-shots I’ve run can be found here on my YouTube channel) but found herding players and the other various bits of admin a real chore that could suck away enthusiasm faster than Dracula sucks down the red stuff. To try and make things a bit easier on myself in 2018 I’ve made a Facebook group featuring people who have played in my games in the recent past and who I have found to be reliable, my hope is that by advertising my games in this group first I’m more likely to get players; of course if that fails to secure enough players then I’ll advertise the remaining places in the usual communities online.
  • Release Storm & Sail: The pirate-fantasy campaign for Fate written by myself and Lloyd Gyan is pretty much ready to go, all the writing is done we’re just waiting for a final few pieces of artwork, after that it’s a few last minute layout tweaks and I should be able to release the PDF onto Drivethru RPG.
  • Release more Fate Thins: I really enjoyed writing and releasing my Fate mini-campaign books as PWYW PDFs on Drivethru, I’m hoping to release some more in 2018.
  • Expand my RPG writing: I’ve been playing several different games over the last year and going into 2018, I’m considering expanding my RPG writing beyond the Fate system, although I think to do so it’d have to be a system that I was really familiar with.

So those are my current roleplaying plans for 2018, let me know what your are in the comments 🙂

Is OSR combat deadlier than 5E?

I’ve been running my Rose of Westhaven LOTFP campaign for a little while now, we’re running every other week (schedules allowing) and have just wrapped up session 4 (as of the time of writing this blog).

Prior to running this campaign my experience of playing OSR style games was minimal and my experience with running it was non-existent, although I’ve been a fan of the idea of OSR for a while and have been steadily accumulating games such as White Star, ASSH 2E, LOTFP and the like, so I’m by no means an expert. Given that I’m still finding my way around the whole OSR deal–although my players seem to be enjoying it at the moment–and having come more from a background of highly cinematic games such as Fate, one thing that I have noticed is that the combat in OSR games seems to be extremely deadly. Continue reading

October 2017 Blog Carnival – Superstitions

I’ve not written anything on the Blog Carnival for a while, I finally put pen to paper (well fingers to keyboard but you get the idea) when I read a post on Of Dice and Dragons talking about superstitions in RPG campaign worlds. In the post a challenge was thrown down to write about a superstition in our own campaign world. I’ve just started up my Rose of Westhaven, Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign set in a fantasy world roughly based on Civil War/Tudor England. Lamentations has three non-human races by default: Dwarves, Elves and Halflings, to create a slightly more phobic and close-minded atmosphere I wanted to make these races a little more eerie and inhuman.

The race where this is most obvious at the moment (because a player rolled one as a character) is the Elves, they have bluish skin and bleed a clear liquid that smells like elder-flowers.

When it comes to the Elves in my setting there are a few superstitions that may or may not be true:

Continue reading