Some thoughts on Vancian magic, alternate magic systems, and a stab at some house rules.
Here are some notes on The Elsewhere, a reality that adjoins with the world in which our campaign is played; the realities intersect, as most adventurers have reason to suspect, but your characters will probably only know hints and rumors about the following. (Still, they’ll know more than the average person.)
Your characters’ Europe is not our Europe. It’s… worse. I mean, Europe wasn’t a particularly fun place to be in the 168os: religious strife, horrible and persistent disease outbreaks, religious intolerance, plenty of mercenary and criminal activity, religious and social repression, the rising pressures of colonial expansion and of the growth of mercantile capitalism, and much more.
Wait, that’s our Europe.
Here are some resources you may, as a player, find useful:
- The art-free LotFP Rules & Magic book—essentially, the Player’s Handbook for the LotFP system—is available for free on RPGNow.
- An LotFP character generator webpage created by Ramanan Sivaranjan.
- Here are some character sheets you can use:
- The standard character sheet from the LotFP website. (From the Grindhouse Edition Boxed Set.)
- A “form-fillable” edit of the standard character sheet PDF, which you can edit in a PDF editor. (Not sure if it saves, but you should be able to print the filled out form.)
- For newbie players (and not just those new to LotFP), an annotated character sheet that explains what all the weird terms mean, courtesy of Last Gasp, with a nice explanation given for the rationale. The sheet is also quite pretty, when you turn off the green annotations layer.
I will add resources when I come across them, so check back later!
Though your characters are free to roam the world—and I’ve made a big effort to make the PC races be non-specific to Western cultures—we’ll be starting off the campaign somewhere in Europe, specifically at Bad Aachen, a hot springs resort town-turned-Early Modern “Babylon North” near the border between what’s now Germany and Belgium.
That’s just an easy jumping-off point, though, and while there’s plenty of adventure hooks in the area, including the setting of the playtest adventure we’ll be trying for our first meetup, it’s not like your characters are chained up there. (At least not yet!)
Which is to say, if you folks feel eager to have your characters wander off to parts unknown? All the better… and I have some ideas about places where fruitful adventures might be had. (See A Little Weird World Geography for some hints about those locales.) Here’s some info about the general area.
Here’s the basics of the geography for the world as your characters know it, sometime in the 1680s:
Alignment in this campaign will work as it does in LotFP, and not as it does in mainstream D&D. That is, there’s a simple set of three Alignmnts—Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic—but they don’t mean what they have conventionally meant in most D&D worlds.
How could I have known the mirror was magical? All I did was check my face, smile, and say the phrase so many say before mirrors, “C’est pas mauvais…” And suddenly, everything became très, très mauvais. Out from the mirror sprang strange beings, blue of skin and dressed in military uniforms, marching in single file, and each of them greeting me with a hello, and the heartiest of thanks for lending them such crucial aid in what they called ‘the Great Invasion!’ What could I do? How could I remedy the horror I had unleashed?
Then it struck me: as I had invited them in, they were my guests. As their host, the least I owed them was a cup of hot tea, and surely, were I to insist, they would have to stop and accept it from my hand, allowing me to be a good host. And, fortunately, I had a very, very small kettle in which to brew such a great quantity of tea. I called my brother, sending him to town “for tea leaves”… and, of course, with a message for the town guard.
Today we call someone silly if we think they’re foolish, but the original root word, “sælig,” suggested a kind of simplicity that was holy and blessed—sort of the Fool of the Tarot deck (and a lot of stories), in other words. The Alice class is the living embodiment of the link between those two ideas. Well, that plus being Unluckily Lucky, and a Weirdness Magnet.
The Alice character is basically the normal person who somehow ignorantly, cluelessly stumbles into adventure… and then somehow survives, and survives, and survives through a mixture of serendipity, luck, stubbornness, and cleverness.
This alternate PC Race is not really a PC “race” at all: I guess the best way to describe it is as a subrace of humans who have undergone a bizarre experience that has transformed them, for better and worse. It’s inspired by world folklore, as well as by the White Wolf game Changeling (though I only know a little about the game), as well as films like Night Watch and Pan’s Labyrinth. (Oh, and a little inspiration from Frank Mitchell’s Cambion race for LotFP.)
Imagine being abducted by a being like the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth, or by Elder Gods from the Cthulhu Mythos, or djinn, or the grey aliens of American UFO mythology, and kept prisoner (and slave) in their bewilderingly alien world. Imagine being changed by force to better serve them, and then imagine escaping or being spit back out into your own world, forever changed. That’s what a Changeling is.
A warning: this class is experimental, wild, and pretty complicated—and the description is long since there’s variety of possible powers and flaws available. I don’t recommend the class for a newbie player’s first character.
(The Dagonian is mainly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Doom that Came to Sarnath”… along with a whole host of mermaid, siren, sea monster, and selkie stories.)
“Some of ’em have queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, stary eyes that never seem to shut, and their skin ain’t quite right. Rough and scabby, and the sides of their necks are all shrivelled or creased up. Get bald, too, very young. The older fellows look the worst—fact is, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a very old chap of that kind. Guess they must die of looking in the glass! Animals hate ’em—they used to have lots of horse trouble before autos came in.”
“Nobody around here or in Arkham or Ipswich will have anything to do with ’em, and they act kind of offish themselves when they come to town or when anyone tries to fish on their grounds. Queer how fish are always thick off Innsmouth Harbour when there ain’t any anywhere else around—but just try to fish there yourself and see how the folks chase you off!”
—H.P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”
Dagonians are the product of ancient interbreeding between two species: human beings and a bipedal race of sea-dwellers (known by many names, including the term “Deep Ones”) whose appearance mixes elements of frogs and fish alike. Usually, it is quite far back in the Dagonian’s ancestry: rarely is a Dagonian in the present time the child of such an interbreeding, and it is never human enough to escape destruction when others are present for the birth.