Friday, October 2, 2009

Some More Capsule Reviews

I'm not in the review business, and haven't been since the days when I wrote several reviews and the single most boring and academic article in the brief history of Cryptych magazine. I know I got a "Hook, Line and Sinker" and I think a single review published in Shadis around issue 10, too. That's my entire career in the gaming industry, right there. It's stunning, really.

But I throwing out some quick impressions I have of Lamentation of the Flame Princess products because I think James Raggi is onto something. I'm not going to claim Raggi is the Second Coming or some crap like that. But he's putting out products that I think are really making me think hard about how to organize, present, and run my games.

I just got myself PDF copies of his No Dignity in Death: Three Brides and People of Pembrooktonshire and I have to say, I'm impressed. Like his recent Death Frost Doom, the adventures in NDIN are grim, interesting, and filled with really robust roleplaying opportunities. And his scenarios engage issues of class, race, misplaced faith in tradition, horror, and social isolation. All in a pretty small number of pages. Even if I never run his adventures, I'm pretty floored at what he has done in pretty system-neutral terms and with uncompromising clarity.

As far as PoP goes, it takes Pembrooktonshire and gives the town a litle more depth and a lot of quick characters with personal quirks and motivations that go a long way to making Pembrooktonshire the possible setting for an extended mini-campaign. Characters are described in a handful of sentences, and by creating a quick sketch that includes a quirk and a motivation, each of these characters can be a quick springboard for adventure. The people of Pembrooktonshire aren't interesting because of game mechanics (this is a pretty much systemless book), but due to the web of interweaving character motivations and potential springboards for activity in the town. In a lot of ways, this book lays the foundation for understanding how to set up a poltical or role-playing heavy sandbox setting more than anything I have read.

So even if you don't plan on running old-school RPGs, these two adventures (and hell, I still stand behind telling you to by Death Frost Doom) are worth getting your hands on. If you're a cheap bastard who hates waiting, get them off RPGnow in PDF like I did. Because these books might, if nothing else, be pretty stimulating in thinking how to set up a game that give characters meaningful, difficult choices in a dynamic setting where their actions and not a prescribed set of moments build into a personal plot that is driven by the players and not the GM. Which is pretty tough to do.