Mudlarks & Mohocks

In the Lamentations of the Flame Princess game I’m running now, everyone runs a homeless tween girl 1 living rough on the streets of Bad Aachen. We’re only halfway into our second adventure—it’s been a rough month as far as getting any gaming in is concerned—but I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to do with the group.

While I haven’t pulled my punches—it’s still LotFP-flavored horror-fantasy—I’m not really happy with running it as a straight-up dungeoneering group. I’ve been thinking about trying a different approach that would make adventure scenarios, XP rules, and their interactions with the city more organic and natural for what is essentially a group of street kids: after all, where would they put all that silver they’re supposed to being trying to accumulate according to the rules-as-written? Besides, urban adventures is a subgenre I’ve never really tried to run seriously, and I think it’d be fun to give it a shot.

I mean, these are homeless kids in a town littered with Roman crypts and Frankish ruins—so, yeah, they will crawl some dungeons, I’m sure—but there’s also drunk rich folks in town for the spas, and corrupt ancient houses harboring treasures and secrets, and brothels and crime rings galore: for these characters, I suspect adventuring their way through all of that is kind of the equivalent of selling gin on the streets in early 18th century London: a way to get one’s head above water for the moment that happens to be dangerous and ugly, but preferable to the more dangerous and uglier alternatives. Plus in a city like Bad Aachen, there’s just as many human threats to deal with, in the form of street gangs, predatory adults, authoritarian institutions (which are always way more authoritarian when it comes to kids), and all the other homeless kids, too.

The rules-as-written (which mandate treasure stolen from regular people or houses doesn’t count for XP) aren’t going to stop them ripping off a nobleman (or me running that adventure, which I think could be fun as hell), but in an urban-adventuring game where characters are interacting with the city, those XP rules will need an overhaul anyway. Even then, the question remains of what they’re supposed to do with whatever loot they do manage to acquire.

Which brings me back to how to incentivize interactions with the city and its residents and institutions: I want characters to have a reason to really deal with the people living alongside them on those streets, or the shopkeepers, or the authorities, or the other street kids, and I want combat to be occasional in that arena. Clearly, the game’s advancement and rewards system for character actions needs to be reworked to fit this kind of game.

I was talking about this with my friend Justin and he described a campaign concept he’d seen on written up online that addressed some of that, where characters belonged to a kind of commune, and their ailing village with them… and where benefits paid off for player characters who did invest in their village in this way. Apparently the original design was aimed at producing a game where player character altruism was rewarded, but honestly, to me it just seems like a commonsense hack for characters from a background where riding around on horses and boozing their way through gazillions of silver pieces just doesn’t make any damned sense: homeless tween girls in a hostile, dangerous city, say.

(Actually, the parallels with a group of characters in my ongoing novel project—a band of female revolutionaries who flee London, and then return over a decade later with radical political plans in mind—were startling.)

At first he couldn’t find the post my friend mentioned, but I did find something interesting by Mateo Diaz Torres over at gloomtrain, which outlines a similar set of house rules for a campaign. Then Justin found the site: Adam Dray’s City of Brass game writeup over on Obsidian Portal. I was a bit surprised to find how naturally my own efforts to hack and expand the ideas from the former had slid toward toward some of the same tricks and structures embodied in the latter.

The following house rules below are a work in progress, and a riff on that, phrased to be relatively setting-agnostic (though, as I’ve said, my own game is set in Bad Aachen, and there’s definitely a European cultural vibe to a lot of it). Here we go:

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Our New Setting: The Impenetrable Taiga

Goodbye Bad Aachen, and hello to the Ural Mountain Range! Last time we ended our game with a TPK (total party kill) and in the discussion that followed, you all decided you wanted to keep on playing in the Russia wilderness.

Since you’re going to be developing new characters for the setting, here’s some things to consider:

1. The setting is brutal.

Like, exiled from civilization, winter’s a living hell, summer’s a bug-ridden hell, the mountains are nasty, the marshes are gooey, the woods are terrifying, and the whole region’s basically the stuff of nightmares.

Which is to say:

Characters who willingly go into such a region had better have a few points in the Bushcraft and Medicine skills, at the very least. There can be good character reasons for a lack of such skills: an exiled baron from Estonia or a fleeing courtier from Moscow probably would lack them… but most PCs in the region will have at least a little skill in these areas.

We will also definitely be using the encumbrance rules for LotFP, and I recommend you pay attention to the gear you have and may need. (Some of the mishaps of the last game session could have been avoided by the judicious use of those 50′ ropes you guys all carry around!) I’ll provide you with a sheet where you can note your gear and its locations, and track encumbrance, rations, ammo, etc.

Also note: Specialists aren’t necessarily just the LotFP version of the Thief class as found in classic D&D. The Specialist class can also be used to build a pretty good Ranger-type character (albeit with no spells), or a “Barbarian” type character with a lot of Bushcraft, climbing, and hiding skills.

Oh. and on skills: everyone can ride horses, but not everyone knows how to ride a horse into Combat. Horsemanship will be a new skill for that type of thing.

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One-Shot Options

Alright, folks. We’re going to meet once more this summer before we break till the fall. Here are the options we can explore before then:

1. A one-shot LotFP adventure for characters that aren’t ours. I have one or two “canned” adventures that could work, if you feel like a straight-up, brutal dungeon crawl with characters you don’t mind seeing torn to absolute shreds. (And actually, I have a pretty cool one-shot adventure I’d love to try with you guys.)

OR we could try Fiasco and Dread:

To jog your memory, Fiasco is the game designed basically to emulate a Coen Brothers heist-gone-wrong movie like Fargo. The best example video online is the three-parter on TableTop:

… and…

Dread is basically a horror RPG that uses Jenga instead of dice as a resolution mechanic. I have on scenario ready for that, but would probably do up another since I have an idea all ready to go:

Which option to you prefer? A wacky LotFP one-shot, or a session where we try to play Fiasco and, if there’s time, Dread?

By the way, I have a few other games in mind for future one-shots:



… and Microscope:


… and, maybe, a one-shot Vampire the Masquerade game, except nobody would be playing vampires. (Or vampire-hunters.) Vampire with a twist. Here’s a hint:



In the world of our campaign, most people know that workers of magic—witches, mages, warlocks, sorcerors, conjurers: all these names are interchangeable to common folk—tend to live in special buildings infused with magic… places into which it is dangerous for mere mortals to trespass.

They are right. But in adventuring circles, a little more is known of such places.

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About Clerics

In this game world, clerics are not simply clergy members with divine magic. Rather, they are very rare individuals who are more like messianic figures, bodhisattvas and saints, monks to whom mystical feats are attributed, but also random people who seem touched by transcendent, mystical power.

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Gearing Up

Alright, in the wake of the playtest, let’s try get a campaign going.

  1. Here’s a Doodle poll for setting up the next game day/night. Please select whatever times work for you, so Chris and I can schedule the next event.
  2. Make yourself a character.
    • We’re starting with new Level 1 characters for the next game.
    • Check out this rundown on what class/race combinations are available, and char-gen methods to use:
      1. If you’re new to tabletop RPGs, I’d suggest going with a basic Human character in a core class—Fighter, Specialist, or Magic-User—and come up with a compelling backstory for the setting.
      2. If you’re playing a non-human race (Dagonian, Changeling, or Revenant) please check the writeup linked from the page linked above.
  3. You can read up on the setting here. Long story short, it’s a weird alternate history 1680s setting.
  4. Check out the good old Rumor Mill for info your characters will have heard about by the time game day rolls around.

Finally: yes, the playtest is canon, and forms the backdrop of the beginnings of our campaign. Which is to say, that tower and the monastery? They’re both still there… muhahaha.

And there’s other various rumors floating around. You know where to look for that.

The Revenant: An Undead PC “Race”

I woke already in the ground. I knew that I ought to have been terrified, to be frightened that I might die in my coffin, and yet I was calm. In my very depths, some part of me felt assured that I would emerge from the ground, and return to my home, and see my husband, and all would be well.

As I clawed my way through the wood of the coffin, and burrowed by body up out of the ground—my lungs burning, my fingers bleeding, and my eyes blinded by dirt—something else stirred within me. It was… I can only call it a conviction that there was something I had to do. Something I absolutely had to do. But I could not remember what it was, or why I had to do it. It was like a name forgotten, one you are certain will return to your memories at any moment. I put it out of my mind, and, finding myself in the churchyard outside my village, I hurried home with only the light of the moon to guide me.

When I got there, I found my husband with another woman… another wife. “Where have you been?” he cried, and then, “Is it really you…” He hesitated, and I saw it then: he was older. He had aged, even in the time I’d been unconscious. There was grey in his hair, and lines on his face. How long had I slept? Why had I not woken sooner?

Then he answered my question for me, his voice shaking as he whispered, “But you’ve been dead for ten years…”


The Revenant is an alternate PC race for our campaign—a replacement for the demi-humans we won’t be using.

Though it is undead, it’s not a “revenant” of the sort that’s traditional in D&D—another flavor of undead antaognist, that is. The PC revenant is undead, and it is driven by some unfulfilled impetus that drove it in life: to protect a loved one, to finish a project, to save a village, to destroy a specific enemy, but that vengeful impulse doesn’t define the revenant one-dimensionally.

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