Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Genuine "A Ha!" Moment

I have had an on-again, off-again flirtation with Lamentations of the Flame Princess since I first heard about it some years ago. I think it is bound up with my never-ending quest for S&S in my RPGs. Many of the elements I have blathered on about are present in LotFP. Magic is strange and a little scary, even for the practitioner. Any monster can be a terror, and most "monsters" are bad men. Real monsters are uncommon and unique. For some reason, though, the flirtation can never achieve critical mass, and after a brief reading session or two, I put LotFP back on the virtual shelf.

That changed yesterday when I learned something much more deep, meaningful, and immediate about the underlying design of the game. I don't even recall where I read about it now, but some article brought up LotFP classes. In the game, fighters are the only class that actually get better at hitting in combat. When I first discovered the game I thought that was an interesting idea, especially considering my fondness for the class.

It has always bothered me that every other class in any edition, iteration, or clone of D&D can do what the fighter does. They can all fight, and they all get better at it. Not as rapidly as the fighter, but they do improve. Now, before you start calling me a crybaby and pointing out how inconsequential the magic-user's combat advances are, let me flip this coin.

The flip side of it is that the fighter can't do anything the other classes can do. He can't cast spells at all, not even ineffectively or as a last resort. He can't pick locks, turn undead, or inspire his allies with a song. He can't do these things at all. It's not the same as other classes' ability to fight "but not as good at combat as the fighter". Nothing about the fighter says he can cast spells "but will never match a true magic user" or pick locks "but never be as accomplished as a real thief".

Ok, enough ranting, before I derail my own post. The point is, that was always something I loved about LotFP. Which brings us to the "A Ha!" moment. With the game's focus on bad men being the bread-and-butter type threat, even classes that don't get a lot of combat bonuses as they progress can hold their own. Common men, no matter how "bad" they are, are still common. The +1 attack bonus that non-fighters receive at 1st level should be enough of an advantage against these common foes.

The fighter really comes into his own when we start talking about the not-so-common foes. The creatures with high ACs and lots of HPs are where the fighter earns his reputation. When shit gets real, the fighter is the guy everybody wants to have on their side. He's the guy with the armor and the big ass weapon, along with the balls and skill to stand in and bring down the hurt. It actually smacks of Chainmail, wherein only Heroes and above could even enter into combat with Fantastical Creatures (ie anything not "man-type"). I don't need to tell anyone who reads my posts that I love this. In fact, I have sought (without success) to replicate this aspect many times.

Now that it has finally clicked with me just how much LotFP falls in line with what I want in a game, my relationship with the game may finally get to the next level.


  1. I do think this is a cool idea for settings that deal primarily with human/human-like antagonists. Worth noting that in a lot of OSR-type play, Fighters actually can do a lot of things that the Thief types can do- anyone can sneak & hide, scout by listening for noise, look for and thwart traps, break down doors, climb, etc. James Maliszewski has written a bit about why he actually doesn't like the thief class specifically because it effectively 'takes away' dealing with dungeon hazards from other classes: http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2008/10/i-still-dont-like-thieves.html Social interactions can also be part of the Fighter's baliwick if you're using a system that relies more on attribute checks and clever ideas and less on having the correct skill trained.

  2. Adding to what ComradeGnull posted;
    Lotfp classes ALL have the same mundane skills at a 1 in 6 chance. The Specialist (which replaces the Thief) is the only class that can increase his skills. So, a fighter CAN attempt to pick a lock... he just has a very low chance of doing so (especially if the GM gives a penalty for whatever reason).

  3. I regularly use and enjoy LotFP, and having tried a number of "retro clones" it has come out as my clear favorite. I also enjoy the atmosphere in the game, but I do not let it lock me in; sometimes I or my players want a classic dungeon crawl, such as Barrowmaze, or perhaps some science-fantasy Gonzo-style adventures such as in Anomalous Subsurface Environment. I still use the LotFP rules.

    They work like a charm, and as far as to-hit rolls vs AC go, this is really not a problem. In more traditional games, the combination of some magic weapons, boosting spells and similar factors serve to give other classes than the Fighter an edge in combat as they increase in level. They also turn the Fighter into the powerhouse he/she ought to be.