Monday, June 5, 2023

Magic Eater: LOTFP Review

There will be spoilers…

Let's begin the reviews of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess catalog.  I'm going to start from the most recent releases and work backwards.  I'm also focusing on the PDF format and items available on RPGNow… er, DriveThruRPG.  There's a range of usability of the Flame Princess stuff, so I prefer to grab the PDFs first and hold off on hardcovers for the things I really like.  Since LOTFP evolved from the golden age, almost all of the modern LOTFP adventures now assume a low-magic pseudo-historical 17th century setting.  Magic Eater is a neat little adventure that can easily be ported out of 17th century England to terrorize the players in your preferred campaign setting.  This one is less about horror and more about "the weird".

Magic Eater is written by Kelvin Green, and weighs in at 35 pages; 30 pages for the main adventures, with 5 pages added for a strange little bonus adventure, A Rough Night at the Dog & Bastard.  The premise of the main adventure is simple… a gang of thieves robs the player characters - not their persons, but the loot left behind in their hideout, rooms, or home base.  The players acquire clues that ultimately lead them to the thieves' lair; the players either assault or infiltrate the fortress; there's a climactic set-piece confrontation with the eponymous Magic Eater.  The gang of thieves, the Loquesmyths, prioritize stealing magic items, and that's what ultimately gets the players motivated (enraged).  There is a long tradition of meta-monsters that attack player's stuff, like rust monsters and disenchanters, and this adventure leans into that motif.

When I use this one, I'll try to work the elements into the campaign background, wherever the players have an investment property or home base where they keep their stuff.  Examples include underworld actors such as the cat burglar Grimalkin or the Loquesmyth's gang.  Many LOTFP seem to be targeted at the levels 1-3 crowd, but this one could be used for the next tier of levels, especially if the players are prone to aggressive negotiations - more reason to make it part of an ongoing campaign.  For that matter, the Loquesmyth hideout could become player character property at the end of the adventure, too.

The assault on the Loquesmyth's ruined castle offers the players several options - they can do a frontal assault, use stealth and infiltration, or use roleplaying to take advantage of schisms in the gang.  There is a cult within the Loquesmyths who treat the Magic Eater as a god, and their revolting practices have begun to mutate them into something more and less than human.  The cultists live in the dungeon, while the other half of the gang stays above ground, offering a chance to drive them off or co-opt them.

The Magic Eater himself is a 5HD bulk with a range of random abilities, earned by devouring magic items, and the climactic combat will engender a blend of disgust, horror, and comedy. When I run this one , I will probably portray the Magic Eater like the Mike Meyers grotesque "Fat Bastard" character from Austin Powers.  He'll have the uncanny ability to sense any magic items the players still possess and declare they need to "get in his belly".

That's a nice sword you got there.  It'd be a shame if something happened to it.

Let's pivot and discuss the writing.  Adventure writing is ultimately a type of technical writing - there's information that must be effectively communicated for the game master to run the scenario.  Once this basic requirement has been met, there's a lot of space for an author to develop a voice.  This is a strength of Kelvin's style - he'll mix in puns, self-deprecating jabs at himself, jabs at players or at LOTFP tropes, and directly address the game master via sidebars.  His books are fun to read.  There are recurring quirks of the Kelvin-verse - the ever-present Dog & Bastard, or poor Geoff (typically requiring rescue).  Perhaps the Kelvin-philes can shed some insight from the Kelvin-files (ho ho) how these things became fixtures?  I imagine the Dog & Bastard is an eldritch franchise that attracts these otherworldly forces to it's vicinity…

Speaking of that ubiquitous tavern, the book ends with a short side adventure called "Rough Night at the Dog & Bastard".  You could place it at any of the franchise locations - they're all over 1630's England and Europe.  Some kind of storm or similar external event keeps the guests and player characters stuck at the inn for a night.  It just happens to be the same night a few sex cultists happen to be there with their magic idol, along with an intertwined cast of desperados and… nuns.  For my version I'd go full Quentin Tarantino and run this like "The Hateful Eight" - I'm sure homicidal player characters will oblige - fiasco is usually the default play mode for murder hobos.  It's a peculiar vignette that could happen while traveling between adventure sites and is worth at least one night of hilarity and hijinks.

Before wrapping up the review, I will warn there are elements that push the boundaries - your threshold for gross or adult material may be less than mine.  (Everyone with the slightest taste difference from me is either a prude or a jaded and depraved maniac).  The Magic Eater cult from the first adventure does awful things with the Magic Eater's excrement (gag, barf), and the second adventure involves the hijinks of a pair of sex cultists with their blasphemous idol.  It's still tame by LOTFP standards.  But there you go.

For me, Magic Eater is a keeper - fun to read, looks fun to run.  You can get it at DriveThruRPG for $5.99 here:  Magic Eater.  Next review also takes place in the Kelvin-verse, "Bee-Ware".  Until next time - be seeing you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very kind review!

    The Dog & Bastard started out as a joke and just carried on. There is a bit more to Geoff, but no one has worked it out yet.