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.

Engage Smug Mode

Or “why are so many people unwilling to play anything but D&D”?

 

I’ve just been reading a post on one of the online Facebook roleplaying groups that I’m a part of, where someone asked what seems like a fairly simple question: “What are the reasons that so many people are unwilling to play anything but D&D?”

Now, I’m not the worlds biggest fan of D&D–although I’ve played all but the earliest editions and have been looking with interest at some OSR stuff recently–but even as I was preparing a reply along the lines of “well there could be numerous reasons, visibility of the game line, it’s what their friends play, etc etc” a number of responses popped up that gave me serious pause for thought. I’m not saying that all of the responses were in this vein, but there were certainly a number of posts that suggested people who stuck with D&D were afraid to play other stuff, or were too self-conscious or were subterranean Morlocks crouching in basements fearing to step into the warming light of the cool new systems in town. Okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one, but you get the idea?

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Positive/Negative Language

This is not something I’ve thought about a lot on a conscious level until recently; generally whenever I am trying to sell my players on the virtues of a new system I prefer to point out the positives of adopting the new system rather than the negatives of the old. I’ve never consciously made that as a decision, it just always seemed like a logical thing to do; for example, recently I approached my group about bring our Star Wars campaign under the umbrella of theĀ Tides of Change Star Wars RP club.

For those of you who may not be aware, Tides of Change is a roleplay club where GMs run a series of loosely linked campaigns using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG; GMs share rumours between games creating the feel of a larger universe, it also uses an innovative mechanic where in each game Tide Changes (plot twists) are proposed and the members of the club then vote on them in a facebook poll. The one with the most votes becomes the twist that occurs in the game.

Tides of Changes is chaired by Andre Martinez.

I didn’t want to spring such a change on my players so we had a series of votes in our campaign facebook group and discussions about what moving our campaign into Tides of Change would mean; I pointed out the positives of this, some of which included:

  • Being part of a larger game universe.
  • Use of the very interesting variant mechanics proposed by the group.
  • Support from a larger community.
  • Exposure to a wider audience.

At no point did I cast any aspersions on our current way of running things or say that there was anything wrong with our current method of gaming, partly because there wasn’t, but also I find that if you tend to portray things with a focus on the negative then people tend to respond negatively to them, whereas if you point out the positives then their reaction often (not always) mirrors this approach.

Contrast for instance if someone comes up to you at work and says “you’re doing this wrong”, you’re more likely to respond negatively in a knee-jerk fashion than if someone says “it might be better if you do this.”

I actively noticed this recently on a LARP Facebook group I belong to where people were setting out guidelines/dos and don’ts for the event, and I as I read them I noticed that I was becoming progressively more disenchanted with the idea of actually attending; I realised as I went through that this was due in part to the negative language being used, everything was “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”, the assumption seeming to be that people would behave like idiots, and this rankled me somewhat (although I am aware their are idiots out there).

It’s definitely something worth keeping in mind though whenever you’re trying to sell players a new game or campaign setting, focus on the positive points of whatever you’re trying to get across to them rather than the negatives of other things.