Saturday, February 29, 2020

LotFP Notes

Same drill as with OSE.  I hear LotFP has an interesting encumbrance system, so that's what I'm mostly here for.  And hey, there's a free version without art, which is perfect.

Bleh, they love alphabetizing even more than OSE did.  A big chunk of the table of contents is alphabetized, and they reordered the ability scores to alphabetical.

-3 to +3 ability score mods, standardized.  If total mods <0, roll again, but that seems to be the only reshuffling available.  Minimum HP is an interesting rule with some subtleties - helps characters with Con penalties, and fighters also seem to get a bit of a boost (since without a Con bonus they get the maximum they could roll, while most classes get half that).

Only fighters' attack throws improve with level.  Uhhh so what do dwarves get?

Interesting take on alignment.  Chaotic elves are back!


Cleric spell progression looks a lot like other B/Xy games plus an extra first level spell slot per day.  Slightly slower leveling (1750 to 2nd).  I'm not sure if there are extra blank pages in this pdf or if I'm missing a bunch of class abilities.  Maybe this was full-page art?  But that's an awful lot of art.  I don't see anything about turning.  Levels increase without bound and spell levels go up to 7 (dang).  I guess that's what you get in exchange for attack bonuses.

Saving throws seem to take multi-point jumps every couple of levels like they do in OSE.  Of course, the saves have also been renamed and alphabetized.

Fighter is still 2kXP to 2nd.  Doesn't seem to get much of anything besides being able to actually hit things and having lots of HP.  But those are pretty good things.

Mages get d6 HD at first level and then d4 per level thereafter, consistent with having been a normal man and not atrophying when they learned magic.  Spells go up to 9th level.  2250 to 2nd, so 250 slower than baseline.

Specialists / thieves get skill points that they can put into skills that everyone has a base 1-in-6 of success at.  Putting points into Sneak Attack gives you a damage multiplier (and +2 to hit).  No clear cap on Sneak Attack multiplier from class description.  The math on putting points into skills works out pretty close to this proposal, where 18+ is 1-in-6 and then putting a point into something is pretty close to +3 or +4 on a d20.  But these skills are more general ("Stealth", "Search", "Tinker" vs Hide in Shadows + Move Silently, Find Traps (and presumably secret doors), Remove Traps+Open Lock).  Four points at first level and two per level thereafter.  Encumbrance can impose a penalty to movement-related skills.  d6 HD, 1500 to 2nd.  This seems like a pretty reasonable way to do the thief.

Dwarf gets a shitload of HP, encumbrance and Con mod bonuses, and some Architecture skill.  Seems like demihumans don't actually have a level cap.  2200 to 2nd.  Class description says they're "fierce and resilient warriors" but I assume they don't actually get the to-hit of fighters?

Elf is even more confusing in this light.  3kXP to level, d6 HD, cast as a mage of their level, Search and surprise bonuses, and a class description that says "Player Character Elves are those gifted individuals that are trained as both Fighters and Magic Users."  3kXP would probably be fair for what they get without a fighter to-hit bonus, but it's weird that it says they're trained as Fighters with a capital F.

Halfling is 2kXP to 2nd, d6 HD, bonuses to Stealth, Bushcraft, Dex modifier, and AC.  Can't use large weapons.  This is the first mention I've seen of weapon or armor restrictions.  Compared to Specialist, their skills are better at low levels but they fall behind and don't have any choice about which skills they're good at, but their Dex/AC stuff remains unique.


Different prices for gear in urban vs rural areas, with a lot of stuff just not available out in the sticks.  This is a neat way to handle it without going as far as ACKS' market classes.

Unarmored is AC12...  odd.  Leather, Chain, Plate.  Shields are +1 AC, plus an extra one against missile attacks.

Generic weapons, so all the d10 two-handers don't get separate entries in the equipment list.  Sensible.

Some weapons (rapier, polearm) get bonuses or penalties against particular "unadjusted" ACs.  This is sounding like a weapons-vs-armor to-hit table.  I like that polearms are can-openers, though I'm a little surprised that generic Great Weapons don't also get that bonus (ah, but polearms do less damage than other 2H weapons).  Rapiers are like discount swords with a penalty to hit heavily-armored dudes.

Bow, crossbow, and sling medium and long ranges are much greater than in OSE and ACKS.  But it's not like you're going to hit much with a -4 and no THAC0 improvement (except with crossbows, which ignore a couple points of armor, but they can only fire every couple rounds).

Ha, mules and livestock are cheaper in rural areas.  So are food and lodging.

Quite a misc equipment list.  Chalk, crampons, 10' ladder, lard, pick, shovel, nails, soap, whistle...  these are great.  What do you do with nails on an adventure?  I dunno, but I'm sure we'll find something.  I think pipe is the most confusing one.  Like, plumbing pipe?  Probably meant for tobacco, which also appears on the list.  But this is the peril of not including descriptions for your misc items.

That, and not knowing what the magnification is on the Spyglass.

It's interesting that you can buy Local and Kingdom maps.

Items don't have weights, but some are listed as unencumbering, and some are listed as oversized, presumably extra-encumbering.


Organizing this chapter alphabetically was not the best idea.  We open with Architecture, which mentions that it takes a turn to use.  I don't even know where timekeeping is in all this.

Breaking down doors only takes 1 turn for wood with an axe, or "2 or more turns" for a stone door with a pick (versus 3 turns for a standard dungeon door with an axe in ACKS).  Opening stuck doors is 1-in-6 with a Str mod, comparable to ACKS' +4 per point of Str bonus on a d20 with 18+.  No mention of evil doors.

Rules for how quickly you can dig.  Bring that shovel.

Very particular about what counts as "enemy" and "treasure" for XP purposes.  No *s for XP, just count as 1HD higher if they have special abilities or are classed.  Gaining more than one level is a session is forbidden, and you cap halfway to the next level rather than at next level minus 1XP.

No distinction between foraging and hunting, mechanically; it's just one combined activity.  Modifiers by terrain type, season, and availability of ranged weapons.  Expends ammunition, reduces movement for the day by a random percentage.

Getting Lost - 1 in 6 per day, highest Bushcraft in the party gets rolled in secret once and if you fail you're lost indefinitely.

Ability score loss happens and you die if any stat hits 0.  Aging happens and above a certain age you save every n years (presumably?) or lose a point from an ability score.

Dying - Incapacitated at 0HP, irrecoverably mortally wounded at -3 HP ("No healing, magical or otherwise, can prevent death at this point") and die in 1d10 minutes, instant death at -4 HP.  Well that seems like a missed opportunity for high-intensity gameplay, time and resource management, around saving people from near-death.

Disease - you have an incubation period and then you make a shitload of saves and lose ability score points.  Unclear if disease stat losses are permanent.  Example given involves making like 20 saves over the course of a week.

Boo falling damage is linear 1d6 per 10' rather than cumulative.

Starvation and dehydration rules are pretty reasonable, should give about the right mean time to death for most characters.  They deal Con damage though.  Ability score changes are one of my least favorite mechanics because you have to recalculate stuff (and if monsters don't have ability scores then it means that these mechanics don't work on them) and I can't say that I like that LotFP uses it for a bunch of stuff.

I'm surprised the sleep deprivation rules don't eventually just have you pass out from exhaustion and sleep 16 hours.

Natural healing is faster when you're only lightly injured.  Ability score loss recovers with bed rest.

Language skill lets you roll to know languages you encounter, so you don't have to pick during chargen and end up stuck with doppelganger or harpy as your one bonus language known.

No ring of shadowy illumination beyond the well-lit area of torches or lanterns, same in OSE but not ACKS.

Here we go, Encumbrance.  So this is a bit coarser-grained than ACKS' encumbrance; it seems like one LotFP Encumbrance Point translates to about three stone in ACKS, in terms of its effect on movement.  This also holds up with armor weights, where chain is 1 point or 4 stone and plate is 2 points or 6 stone, but breaks down a bit with other items, where you get fewer items than you would in an equivalent number of stone in ACKS, but a lot of stuff isn't tracked (backpacks, multiple small items of the same type get counted as one item, with iron spikes listed as an example, leather armor...), and big items like polearms and 10' poles that would be 1 stone in ACKS are instead a full encumbrance point.  100 coins counts as an item and you get about five separate items per point so that's about 500 coins per point or 150 coins per stone, so about one-ounce coins, which is in fact a pretty common size for modern coins made from precious metals.

This doesn't answer one important question though - how fast can I move while carrying the body of a fallen party member?  Is that merely an oversized item?

I think it's fair to say that this encumbrance system is more abstract than ACKS' but I would expect it to yield pretty similar results (modulo different assumptions about coin weight), with exceptions around some edge cases like carrying a thousand iron spikes or a polearm.  I do like that you can mostly just count the number of entries in your gear list rather than accounting for each piece.

The encumbrance rules for mounts have confused me when it comes to pulling vehicles.  I think it's rad that you can hire Teamsters who pack your animals more efficiently though.

"Characters apply their Constitution modifier to their per-day travel distance on foot".  What, in miles?  That's...  kind of obnoxious.  Different assumptions about terrain effects on overland travel speed, road is the baseline at x1 and plains at x2/3 instead of road at x3/2 and plains at x1 in ACKS and OSE.  Weather effects on overland travel speed are reasonable.  Multi-day forced march inflicts damage and can kill your mounts!  Nice.

Stealth is much weaker than Hide in Shadows - "There must be somewhere to hide".

Same drowning rules (and examples) as OSE.

Here we go, Time, at the very end of adventuring when it should've been at the beginning.  Hmm, segments in combat.

Maritime Adventures

Again, and oddly, this gets equal rank with the main Adventuring heading.  Skipped.


Oooh boy, just looking at this table.  There's a line for Accountant.  There are separate columns for wages if they have their own housing or live in a player's household.  There's a column for square footage required in such a household.  There's a column for fractions of shares given to mercenaries, guides, sailors, and henchmen.  Some of these wages are in fractional silver pieces.

You have to pay death benefits to families of slain retainers.

A lot of these retainers are like, mandatory middle-management deadweight.  If you have five retainers in a household, you need an accountant or your costs go up.  If you have five animals, you need an animal handler.  You need an armorer per 50 troops.  If you have three different types of retainers, you need a butler or morale goes down.  If you have ten laborers, you need a foreman.  One servant per five rooms and an extra per ten residents.  Bleh.  I think these are probably obnoxious gameplay but good set-dressing; they put in mind a relatively posh, upper-crusty image of PC-run households, compared to our usual merely-crusty "we have 200 berserkers and some armorers in an otherwise empty castle and we're all out of beer."

I think it's a little funny that encumbrance got better abstraction/UI than household management.  This is probably a pattern in developing systems though - encumbrance has been around a while and sees a lot of play so it's a pain point and it makes sense to develop abstractions over it, whereas household management is relatively niche, this approach to it diverges significantly from traditional B/X domains, and there were a bunch of ideas in here but it hasn't been refined yet.  It's been fermented but not yet distilled.  One might say the same of parts of ACKS, that they are fermented but not yet distilled.

Guides give you a bonus to avoid getting lost, nice.

Henchmen must be two levels lower.  Explicitly suggested for use as replacement PCs (which I don't believe was true of OSE).

Mercenaries mostly hired in groups of 20+, good.  Mounted mercs cost 10x what normal ones do according to the text but this is not true according to the table, bad.  Have to hire sergeants and captains separately, annoying.

Physicians double natural healing rate.

Scholars and alchemists reduce time for research projects.

Spy wages are in between ACKS' and OSE's.

Retainer loyalty is rolled separately from hire/no-hire.  Reasonable I guess, sometimes you hire treacherous people.  I think by RaW you have to roll to hire your butlers, accountants, and other overhead types.  Loyalty is checked not only in the face of danger, but "when something illegal or scandalous happens".  So...  all the time.  Also when you find treasure and they have an opportunity to steal it, or when asked to do something dangerous.  So literally all the time.

Property and Finance

Very much not a domain game.  Property is a cash sink, taxes are a cash sink, investments yield returns averaging 0.5% on an annual basis (or 6% with an accountant).  Pretty awful rate of return.


Preparing an ambush lets you get surprised on 1-4 on d6, nice.

Long encounter distances (3d6x10 instead of 2d6x10 feet), or line of sight in dungeons.

Defensive fighting and aggressive fighting, trading between to-hit and AC, are available to fighters, elves, and dwarves, but you take -4 to get +2 so it's not something to use haphazardly.

Casting a spell takes a whole round but you don't have to pre-declare; there are certain things that you can't do at the beginning of the round, and if you take damage before you act you can't cast, but I don't see anything about committing to using a slot and then getting hit and having it fizzle.

Charge is double damage instead of +2 to hit.

A lot of this combat stuff seems kinda fiddly, like -2 to hit if you drew your weapon this round, or taking multiple rounds to retrieve an item from a pouch, or spending a round aiming to shift the probabilities on who you hit when firing into melee.

Oil is nerfed, only does d4 usually.

Pursuit/evasion rules seem less player-friendly than ACKS/OSE, but this is unsurprising given weird/horror genre.

Notably absent: withdraw / retreat from melee.


You know I think I'm good.  There's like a hundred pages of spell research and scribing scrolls and spell descriptions and I don't feel compelled to read it all.  Looking at the lists, most of the spells are pretty standard D&D stuff.  Skimming the spells:

Army of One sounded promising but I think it might be a stand-in for Tenser's Transformation.

Dispel Magic is different for mages vs clerics; clerics can use theirs to shut down mage and monster casting for 2d6 turns, while mage dispel magic can't even dispel cleric spells.

Forget is sort of neat, but niche.

Identify can only be cast in a laboratory with 1ksp and costs 100sp per cast, and reveals one property.  Doesn't work correctly on cursed items.

Magic Missile is 1d4/level, uncapped.

Permanency has a list of spells it can work on, 3.5-style.  And it costs you Con, permanently.

Seven Gates is the sort of Mark-and-Recall magic that I would like to see more of, but seems like a hassle if I'm understanding it correctly as "it sends you out of a random one of the seven gates".

Why is there a Strange Waters II but no Strange Waters I?  Also this is the epitome of Unreliable Spell which I couldn't really see using except in very desperate straits indeed.

Summon is...  different.  And 10 pages long.

Ahhh, Turn Undead is a 1st level cleric spell.  So that one spell per day they get at first level can be used to turn...  once.  I think this might be a loss, honestly, compared to being able to turn multiple times per day.

No returning from the dead, that I saw.


I have no desire to play this game.  To borrow a phrase from this post on tiki and early D&D, LotFP has "metal's earnestness", and none of Warhammer's tongue-in-cheek humor to offset the implied darkness of the setting.  LotFP really wants its players to take it seriously - to not just murderhobo it up (as implied by the rules on what constitutes treasure and XP), to spend four rounds fumbling gear out of pouches in combat, to reflect on the families of their slain hirelings, and to hire an accountant.

One might retort, "Said the ACKS kettle to the LotFP pot."  And that wouldn't be baseless; ACKS takes its simulation of parts of the game-world very seriously.  But ACKS doesn't expect as much emotional seriousness or realism of action from its players, I think.  Arbiter of Worlds talks about a time when Alex's players "built a fantasy stealth bomber out of Tenser's Floating Disk and a centaur with Fly cast on him".  I get the feeling that that's the sort of thing that is Not Supposed to Happen in LotFP games (examples of preemptive counter-cheese: oil and Permanency nerfs).  Horror isn't about winning; horror is about feelings, for example dread as the vampire closes while you're trying to get the garlic out of your pouch.  LotFP wants players to feel remorse when their henchmen die, and be afraid of getting caught when they do illegal things; realistic feelings.

I can't help but wonder, though, if asking players to take the game seriously, to not munchkin or murderhobo or tourist, to encourage DMs to discourage those behaviors, is a fool's errand.  Players gonna play.  Get the tourists in the door, let them have some fun, spin the wheel, taste real victory, and get invested, and then you have some leverage.  Organic seriousness emerging from unseriousness.

I suppose it might also be worth having a look at the free version of their DM's book, to see if I have totally misunderstood the philosophy which seemed implicit in the player's material.

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