Wednesday, November 22, 2023

ACKS 2 Kickstarter - Last 24 Hours

Before I forget - Adventurer Conqueror King is coming out with a second edition.  The kickstarter is in the last 24 hours.  Alex had been posting playtest versions of the rules and we've been using them in our bi-weekly Greyhawk game - he's created procedures for thief skills and dungeon crawling that we've found immediately useful in our Temple of Elemental Evil campaign, so I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing.  ACKS takes the promise of the BECMI line - Basic Expert Companion Master Immortal - with tiers of play where players engage in domain building and conquest - and packs the main arc into a concise levels 1-14 like the original red box/blue box Basic-Expert rules.  It captures those high level campaign elements in a way that no other clone game has embraced, while still being a fully realized dungeon crawler if that's the end-all be-all for your style.

The two games I'm running - Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Adventurer Conqueror King - come at old school gaming and D&D from radically different places.  It's worth a discussion!  I'll write about it this weekend as I'll have some time.  In the meantime get over to the ACKS kickstarter before the clock runs out:  ACKS 2 Kickstarter - Last 24 Hours

Sunday, November 19, 2023

LOTFP Review: Winnie the Shit

Get yourself a blender, pour in a parody of Winnie the Pooh, a heap of The Island of Dr Moreau, a pinch of seasoning from Animal Farm, and some references to the Kelvin-Verse, and you've got the adventure locale for Winnie the Shit, Kelvin Green's latest offering for the LOTFP line.  This one is a 48 page hardcover with Kelvin doing the writing, cover, and interior art.  This is a solid addition to the Kelvin-verse; I don't rate it up there with the big three - Strict Time Records, Forgive Us, or Green Messiah - but it definitely has play and should go in your "Kelvin-verse" sandbox.  You can get the hardcopy at the LOTFP webstore (here) or DriveThruRPG (here)

The book describes a mini sandbox area in a place called Lancaster Great Park (modern day Ashdown Forest) in early 17th-century England.  A misanthropic sorcerer, AA Moreau, had fled to the forest to work on his master spell, The Ascendant Synthesis of the New Man, which creates sorcerous human-animal hybrids.  He had hopes of replacing humanity with a newer, better race.  At the start of the adventure, Moreau's creations, the New Men, have imprisoned him and depopulated the nearby village of Hartfield of its people who were used as raw materials for more New Men.  Their sadistic leader, Edward Bear, tortures AA Moreau and forces him to cast the spell each day to create another hybrid (assuming the New Men have a ready human victim and animal to synthesize).  There are several loose plot hooks that can get players investigating the area, but the moment the characters run into a few violent hybrids, the game is afoot, as they say.  There's something extremely satisfying as a referee to imagine wailing on the player characters with a hatchet-wielding Piglet or a savage Winnie the Pooh.  The sandbox gameable content includes lairs of the various main characters (all allusions to the main characters from the 100 Acre Wood, after being re-envisioned as misanthropic human-animal hybrids), and some places to explore like AA Moreau's house, Rabbit's underground warren, or the creepy Woozle's spinney.

There is something solid and accessible about the adventures set in the Kelvin-verse.  When you open a non-Kelvin LOTFP book, there's a risk of being confronted with a tortuous premise such as... "This adventure takes place in July of 1647 in a Swiss chateau overlooking the Bodensee on the exact day before that year's solar eclipse..." and you're wondering, "neat idea but how am I ever going to fit this thing into an actual campaign?"  Many of the Kelvin-verse adventures are set in England and feature an uncanny locale where something nefarious is happening - that looseness makes them extremely referee-friendly to place and establish.  The premises allude to pop culture in a fun way; there will be puns and humor (checking off the box "entertaining for the referee to read"); you'll still get a dose of horror and weirdness before you're through.  Over time they've started to reference their own Kelvin-verse mythology that connects to other locales in the Kelvin-verse... John Dee's 'Men in Black' from Green Messiah make an appearance in the 100 Acre Wood, for instance.  I suppose the highest praise I'd offer is that I'm actively working several books from the Kelvin-verse into my 1630's York game - we'll feature Bee-Ware, Magic Eater, Strict Time Records, Green Messiah, Fish F*ckers, and this fella, Winnie the Shit, just off the top of my head, along with some of the LOTFP classics.

With this review done, I've finally finished looking at the summer's batch of LOTFP books.  I still think The Yellow Book of Brechewold is my pick for favorite new book from the past summer.  Both the ACKS Greyhawk game and LOTFP York 1630 are going strong, so I don't know that we'll get to visit Brechewold any time soon (unless I make time travel a thing for the York crowd...) but Brechewold is high on the list to get the campaign treatment in the future.  Apologies for the glacial pace of my blog of late; the end of year has been quite busy in the real world (the pay the bills world) but have some time off with the USA's upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  I'll be getting back to older LOTFP reviews next, starting either with something called The Obsidian Anti-Pharos or The Curious Conundrum of the Conflagrated Condottiero.  Should be fun.  Oh, and I'll get some game reports posted - the players are chugging along in Greyhawk and York. See you soon.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

LOTFP Review: Galileo 2: Judgment Day

Let's establish something right from the start - this is mostly set up as a one-shot adventure designed to evoke a vibe that blends slasher horror and a little dark humor.  The player characters are ostensibly deep in debt to the Inquisition, destitute and working off their debt by carrying out surveillance against a man under house arrest - the famous scientist Galileo Galilee.  They watch his villa day and night, until one evening they see him fleeing into the night, disguised poorly as a nun.  They're faced with a crucial decision… do they recapture Galileo, or use his escape attempt as a chance to ditch their post and loot his wealthy villa?

Unbeknownst to the players, Galileo's villa has hosted a prison warden for the past several years, a merciless automaton created by the Church and equipped to use the voice of Galileo's oppressor, Pope Urban VIII.  When you are a fictionalized version of the Church, of course you can invest untold sums into manufacturing a weird science robot to torture enemies of the state.  The scenario kicks off when Galileo has zapped the mechanical terror with a kit-bashed device to give him time to escape.  If the players explore the villa looking for loot, they'll need to deal with the automaton as it reawakens; if they head off into the night in pursuit of Galileo, the automation emerges from the villa to track them through the woods and into the nearby city.

The meat of the scenario involves chase rules and the tactics and capabilities of a powerful opponent with a series of pro-wrestling style finishing moves and a sadistic streak.  Depending on whether the players loot the house or hit the road with Galileo, there are opportunities to introduce bystanders and similar 3rd parties to get in the way of the automaton and allow it to demonstrate its killing potential.  As a 9 HD terror, it's probably a death sentence if the players assume they can beat it without wearing it down, luring it into water, getting it to fall from a high place, or some other clever environmental tactic.  (Galileo used an electrical device in his basement to zap it, so players looting the villa may also chance upon that device).

That's about it for this one.  If you believe your referee style could create a suspenseful adventure portraying a ruthless automaton with the voice of Pope Urban VIII relentlessly pursuing the characters, while executing deadly wrestling finishing moves with panache and showmanship, this could be a fun one shot scenario.  Even in the realm of dedicated horror games, there aren't too many scenarios that capture the "relentless killer" vibe, putting this in a rarified spot.

So what do I think about it?  Well, I don't typically run convention games or one-shots, so I'm probably not the ideal target audience.  I do think a creative referee could integrate this into a campaign without too much trouble… its 1637, Galileo is a brilliant scientist under house arrest, and he may be in possession of books or knowledge a typical group of early modern LOTFP adventurers (or their patron) could require, necessitating a side trip to Florence and a mission to evade the spies of the Inquisition and secure a surreptitious audience with Galileo.  It could be like a heist or infiltration adventure that transposes into a slasher horror.  It's a short scenario and would probably get done in a 2-3 hour sitting.  There are a few thousand XP available for looting the villa, and a similar amount in payment for helping Galileo escape.

Galileo 2:  Judgment Day is available in hardcover (40 pages) at the LOTFP web store or PDF over a DriveThruRPG.  It's written by Bradley Anahua (a LOTFP rookie) with art by Charlie Gillespie.

The Automaton