Since reading that the LoFP Reference Book ( The old Grindhouse Edition) was available for free download. I've been drowning in the blood soaked gore of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg system goodness.
Reading through the Lamentations Of The Flame Princess Reference book today has been a tricky and skin crawling experience. This book for me at least is part manifesto, part stereo instructions for an old school rpg game, and part advice column wrapped into a weird joint by its twisted author and shoved into my brain pan with rocket. And at the moment its free. So its generous author has opened up this book in all of its grind house goodness and pushed it across the table to you. But I can hear your spare thoughts rattling through the wires of the interwebz and trickling across my hooked in spine to the collective unconscious at my back brain. Surely this book can't live up to the hype that surrounds it. But that's where your wrong. For while we're waiting for the latest edition of this book let's dive into exactly what this is. While the LoFP Referee's book only clocks in at ninety eight pages, it presents its audience with a step by step set of guidelines for being a better Dungeon Master. And it does this with wit, style, and a sense of never talking down to its audience. James Edward Raggi IV takes you through all of the processes of LoFP from the introduction to a complete introduction adventure at the end. This book should be sitting right next to your copy of the LoFP rules and magic book.
I've got a history with this book and its a tale worthy of almost walking away from rpg's all together. I had a fanzine writing project tank and that takes a certain amount of strain on a writer's confidence. Then here comes this book and its like having a friend show up and take you out for a beer. It sits you down and starts spinning out tales to you about well the ins and outs of running old school adventures. By the time I was hip deep into the 'What is a referee' chapter this line struck me -'Being a Referee is like being an artist, a manager,an accountant, and that crazy old guy that lives in the park that everyone avoids because he’s always talking to himself, all in one.Although hopefully you won’t be talking to yourself. At least not while anyone is listening'. So this book is pretty much wall to wall advice by a friend and fellow DM whose been there. He's been the guy trying to get his crap together to run in fifteen minutes and while he's not going to let you cry on his should he's going help you get your crap together and give you the guidelines for everything from how not to be a dick to getting it to work. The rules chapter is basically LoFP short hand and these are crib notes for the game as well as having the balls to present it right in front of you.
The Weird chapter is part primer on the splatter punk heart of LoFP and some guidelines on presenting the weird elements of not only LoFP but other horror and OSR games. This is a nice down to Earth chapter with some solid ideas in the background. Again with style and some actual common sense.
The Adventure chapter is actually like a mini adventure construction set and gives a step by step set and kit of guidelines for DM's. This is all done in a down to Earth manner and with a no nonsense approach that makes this chapter easy to digest and with an internal sense that the author has been here time and again. There are are several pieces of solid game advice that can save you a ton of time and energy if you read them. As with all things these may vary for you. Everything from adventure set up to trap placement is covered here with all kinds of ideas put into the mix and then some. Also this chapter gives some insight into the ideas that perhaps published adventures should be bend, folded, and mutilated as the dungeon master sees fit.
The campaign section not only gives the generalities that were outlined in the adventure chapter but expands upon them and then goes into the who, what, and where of the weird world of LoFP or should I say your take on it. An interesting thing about this chapter is the fact that gives some great insights into some of the choices that the author would go on to make with the LoFP line of products and the peudo historic world of the game. And some of the advice in here would be applied to adventure modules such as 'No Salvation For Witches'. Some of these pieces of advice can easily be used for your own worlds and campaigns which simply highlights the usefulness of this book from the stand point of any old school campaign.
This brings the pdf right into the NPC section which has lots and lots highlights from the generation, use, abuse and exploitation as well as one very important highlight of opinion. The difference between NPC's and monsters. The use of the NPC as antagonist of the party is clearly outlined right in this chapter very clearly. This chapter dovetails right into the backdrop of the chapter on Monsters. Monsters here are given a whole lot of thought by Mr. Raggi and are clearly outlined with lots of care and take down in their use, placement, and general menentence as old school campaign adventure generator. There are reasons for their being a non standard LoFP Monster Manual. The advice in this chapter is something that I think that every horror rpg DM should read. Especially Raven Loft DM's and this chapter clearly touches on one of my all time pet peeves with that setting. Namely that the weird and monsters should be incredibly special and treated with kid gloves. More is and has always been less.
One of my all time favorite chapters from this book is the Magic Item section, for not only does it have solid advice for the generating of these treasures, artifacts, and rare adventure motivators but it even includes a solid magical relic generators that can be used to randomly create thousands of horrific bits occult nastiness to get things moving in an adventure. Possibly one of the best chapters of the entire book and well worth the price of admission alone.
The Other Topics chapter is a catch up,round up, and agony aunt chapter for DM's to get a handle on running, recruiting players, and have an over all flow of the LoFP rpg system. There are several bits of solid and well thought pieces of advice in this chapter. This chapter leads into one of my other favorite bits in the Referee book, the What Else Is Out There. This is a chapter that does a whole bunch of adding and using LoFP with other OSR retroclone systems. This chapter is filled with nifty little conversion notes on using and adding elements and playing pick & choose with these retroclone systems. The fact is that Mr.Raggi has made some solid decisions regarding his opinions on how his system, classes, and fiddly bits fit with the other retroclone systems on the market. Again this is actually some very useful stuff from an OSR perspective. All of the high notes of the OSR are hit from Goodman games to Goblinoid and everyone else in between.
The final chapter is actually the LoFP basic adventure a Stranger Storm, which for a basic adventure puts the PC right into the deep end of the whole LoFP spectrum. The adventure does a fine job of taking the entire contents of the Referee book and put it into practice during play. Here is one adventure that lives up to the weirdness that is talked about throughout the book. No lie about this adventure because many of the later products to come out for LoFP princess share the pulpy and weird elements found in this adventure. This one follows the familiar LoFP patterns and there might be a PC death or two before this adventure is played out and investigated or is it survived with LoFP.
The final pieces throughout the book are the handy reference charts and let me tell you that these things are damn close to being invaluable when your running the damn game. All of the basics are covered in these.
In conclusion this book is one of the best pieces of download investment that you can make if your interested in old school horror or pulp gaming. This book itself could be thought of as an almost anti D20 manifesto because it really puts the OSR edge of LoFP right against the vein of adventure design and old school ideals that this rpg system does right in my opinion. This book has so many pieces of practical and down to Earth advice that it remains one of my all time favorites. Grab a copy and get back to playing a fun game at your table. Five out of five in my humble opinion.
Eric F from the Sword and Stitchery and Dark Corner Blogs