At HelgaCon this year I ran a session of Something Stinks in Stilton, a module which proclaims to be “compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and most other old fashioned Dungeons & Dragons clones.” It’s a kind of historically based (on the real Stilton) fantasy horror game, and as such I thought it might be a nice fit for Warhammer Fantasy RPG. It turned out that in this case the module shined way brighter than the system.
Let me start with saying that the module is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. I first heard of it via its review on Fear of a Black Dragon. Based on their discussion I created some menus to hand out at the tavern scene, which went over very well with my group. Even better I stopped at a cheese shop near me, and thus when the ordered a cheese plate featuring the titular Stilton cheese, I placed before them an actual plate of Stilton. This was also received incredibly well, and perhaps eclipsed the wow-factor of the menus.
The characters I created were fantastically ridiculous by their names and lists of skills and talents , from the severe Shallyan nun Sister Evangelina of the Caustic Reprobation to the ever helpful servant Meinhard Rute (yes, there’s a German pun in there). However, when it got to actually rolling skills, and worse when combat came up, it became a very difficult juggling routine. WFRPG 4th edition has some pretty complex stuff going on in combat, and teaching that to newbies at the table during a convention game turned out to be a terrible choice.
I got through it, but only by making drastic cuts as I went. For example in the first round of combat I forgot to award advantage, and then on the fly decided to simply nix the advantage system entirely. I passed around my half-page combat cheat sheet, and then immediately realized that nobody was going to read all that dense text. I could have slowed down the first round of combat and painstakingly walked each player through it, but at that point I just wanted combat to get out of the way so I could move on to the fun stuff.
Perhaps it works better in a longer spanning campaign — and in fact in the few sessions of such that I did run I remember kind of liking the combat system. That said, I think I still really want a system that has all the flavor and content from Warhammer Fantasy, but runs as light and quick as old school D&D. I suppose I could just run OD&D in a Warhammer setting, but I suspect the advancement scheme and the spells and abilities in that system are still a bit of a mis-fit. Players in Warhammer Fantasy shouldn’t have abilities like “Fireball”, “Fly”, or “Iron Will”. They should have things like Meinhard’s talent “Beneath Notice” or skills like “Bribery” and “Consume Alcohol.”
So as I cast about looking for some custom system that’s as light as OD&D but includes darkly comical stuff like WFRPG, I realized it was staring me right in the face. Perhaps it’s time I finally read Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I’ve run several modules ostensibly written for it, and loved all of them. Maybe it’s finally time to read the system that inspired those modules.
After DCC I had sort of sworn off OSR systems as they seemed to add complexity without much good reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing in DCC games at conventions as they usually have a darker / funnier tone that straight D&D, but I don’t think they do anything you couldn’t just do in straight D&D. Do I really need silly shaped dice and hundreds of pages of custom tables for every spell? That stuff just conspires to slow the game down.
Despite those reservations, I went onto Amazon and used my accumulated credit card points to order myself a copy of the core Lamentations of the Flame Princess book. I’m very curious to see what it holds. Maybe if I’m very lucky it’ll knock my socks off and I’ll want to run it. Or maybe it will have some good inspirational bits that I can use to eventually write my own D&D / WFRPG mash-up. We shall see.