Saturday, October 21, 2023

LOTFP Review: Black Chamber

A new challenger has rattled its spurs and stepped through the batwing doors onto the dusty streets of Review Town to take on the LOTFP-verse.  This one is called Black Chamber, and features a theme of arena combat with unwitting victims popping out of the floor in an alien danger-room setting.  Maybe that's why the phrase "a new challenger approaches" is on my brain.  We'll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of this one as we break down the walls of the Black Chamber.

As usual, reviews are meant for referees, there will be spoilers.

The Good

I enjoy dystopian science fiction and horror movies like Cube, or The Platform, that unsettle the viewers with a dangerous, unknown environment, and force the characters to survive long enough to figure out what's going on and escape.  Black Chamber leans heavily into that theme, temporarily trapping the players in a pitch-dark arena where bizarre and random opponents will be thrust upon them.  Adversaries can range from zombie conquistadors, robots that grind opponents into sausage, to ordinary people who have been trapped in the dark and just want to escape.

There is a back-story to this one that involves an infectious alien intelligence that co-opts living creatures, making them part of a collective while it changes their blood and organs to black oil and coal - a kind of alien zombie.  There's a constant threat of infection to the players while fighting in the arena itself, including guidelines on handling "alien rabies".

Beyond the chamber (and it's expected the players will figure out a way to escape) there's a small dungeon, where the players can learn the ancient history of the place, find potential allies, and deal with a few powerful foes.  One of the foes is a potent magic user, controlled by the alien collective, who can cast a quirky spell called Seven Gates, which opens up seven portals throughout the dungeon.  The portals can last up to several hours once created.  You can imagine some madcap chase sequences like a Looney Tunes cartoon or a Scooby Doo chase scene, as different groups use the portals to pop around the dungeon.  Oh, and the destination each time someone enters a portal is random.  Zoinks.  Cue the Benny Hill music.

Finally, if you like the flavor of Gamma World, or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, there are hi-tech devices the players can loot, and a fair amount of treasure.  This adventure creates a balanced tone of horror, sorcery, and super science that checks off a bunch of interesting boxes.  I'd love to hear how the playtests went for this one.

The Bad

If you're in the market for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure for your 1657 Portuguese campaign during the Portuguese Restoration War, you are in luck my friend.  This one is not quite "tell me you're a one-shot without saying you're a one-shot" territory, because it wouldn't be too hard to scrub the historical context and place this in a decade or setting that actually matches your LOTFP campaign.  There are certainly cases where LOTFP authors pursue their vagaries and make obscure adventures difficult to integrate into an existing campaign.  This one isn't too bad.

The Ugly

My eyes.  I love dark mode on my computer screens and iPad, but it was a bit jarring for a game book.  I'll put a picture of one of the pages below.  The aesthetic certainly drives home the oppressive theme of black, seeping infection and gives it a metal vibe.

The Judgment

I loved this one - it's why we come to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  It's a challenging adventure, it's got horror, weird science fiction stuff, and puts interesting pressures on the characters to escape before they all succumb to infection.  I'm not sure a first level party would even make it out of the chamber, so this is probably something for a party with a little experience.  Access to cure disease would improve their long term odds.

It's a 40-page softcover, but this should have been one of the hardcovers and gotten the deluxe treatment - it's a keeper.  I think the softcovers were community submissions.  The author here is Becami Cusack.  The best of the summer LOTFP releases have been Yellow Book of Brechewold, Temple of the Wurm, and this one.   Let's see where it lands as I finish the last two new books.

You can get a PDF of Black Chamber over at DriveThruRP (DriveThru), and it looks like physical copies are available at the LOTFP web stores (LOTFP Web Store).


  1. oooooh, thank you!

    The actual initial honest to god writing of Black Chamber was done in 8 days - I had a fearsome deadline.

    The editing was done in 7 days - with me and the editor working fast.

    The art was done in about 2 days.

    I do not know how long Glynn spent on the layout - and he did not ask me anything, the black background is 100% him - and he did layout and cartography for all the summer releases - he is a beast.

    I did the map originally in black and white - myself, he just slightly upgraded it.

    Black Chamber was birthed from my love of Painkiller's track off of Gut's of a Virgin: Buried Secrets - Black Chamber.

    I used to listen to it and imagine a heavily trapped chamber.

    The pitch was just the back cover blurb + a link to that track.

    It was not community submitted.

    There was no playtest.

    Lots and lots of polishing was due to the excellent work of the editor - who prompted me to fix a lot of things.

    It was just done so fast, and was not intended to be a hardcover - it was done in a flash.

    Thank you for the kind words - they are very appreciated :)

    Also about 300 copies are in the EU store - they ship worldwide - Please buy them thank you.

  2. White text on a black background is eminently sensible for a computer and ridiculous for a book.

    This feels a lot like someone was influenced by the lesser principles of Black Mirror - i.e. making sense or being fun is subordinate to Black Mirror-ness. I am aware this critique is circular.