Better Than Any Man (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Page Count: 96
Release Date: 06/15/2013
Our last look at this year’s Free RPG Day is with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. We’ve had high praise for the game, along with releases like Carcosa and Vornheim. What can I say? James Edward Raggi IV and the other people involved put out some high quality stuff.
I have to admit I thought it was odd that LotFP was participating in Free RPG Day as the event is generally geared to bring either new gamers into the hobby or old gamers to a new system. Considering how polarizing LotFP can be I was curious how they were going to run their offering. LotFP isn’t the most rules heavy system and oftentimes, Raggi’s stuff can be classified as system neutral because you can fit it into many a setting with little to no work, so how would Quick Start Rules work? Well, it turns out LotFP said, “Fuck the Quick Start Rules! Here’s a full fledged adventure that you’d normally pay a big wad of cash for. Thanks for buying our crazy stuff!” In truth, Better Than Any Man feels like it was written for those who already are into Flame Princess releases as a reward for supporting the company rather than a, “Psst. Hey you. Buy our core Rulebook!” However, the astute reader will note that inside the adventure is a link to download the full core rulebook for LotFP, albeit art free. So while at first glance, Better Than Any Man seems to be the least welcoming release to newcomers out of the Free RPG offerings, a closer inspection shows that it’s the MOST. After all, what would YOU rather have? A sixteen page set of scaled back rules for a game meant to make you buy a fifty-sixty dollar book, or a full length, nigh 100 page adventure that also gives you a digital copy of the core rulebook FOR FREE? It’s wasn’t a hard choice people.
That said, the reputation of Lamentations of the Flame Princess might have hurt the Free RPG Day release a bit. At the first gaming store I went to, the proprietor hid his copies of Better Than Any Man which he said he did to prevent kids from looking at the art. You had to specifically ask for it by name to pick it up, which kind of defeats the point of getting into a NEW gaming system, no? While I was there, only a single person asked for it while no one else thought to. They were too busy debating between Star Wars, Pathfinder and Shadowrun Quick Start Rules. At the next store, which was a comic store, Better Than Any Man was on full display because the store was more than a little ignorant on role playing games. They had a small game section but it was mostly board games and a little bit of D&D and Pathfinder. Well, I did get to see the amusement of a nine year old picking up Raggi’s adventure and flipping through it, see the extremely well done pictures of severed heads, severed hands, a guy’s wang being infested with insects and so on. Well, the parent of said child wasn’t too happy something with a big “18+: EXPLICIT CONTENT” red circle on it was open for perusing and made the kid pick something else (I think it was Star Wars), but you could see the kid was completely mystified by the pretty pictures which shows that sometimes, it’s the art, not the rules that first draw a person into a system. I can’t imagine a group of nine years olds actually PLAYING LotFP although I really do want a video podcast of someone attempting this now… My point of both of these stories is that in each case, LotFP lost potential new fans because of the game’s reputation and/or presentation. I’m not saying Raggi should care and I’m definitely not saying LotFP should make things more open to a younger audience – just that it’s interesting to note how people, both brand new to the industry and who actually revolve their lives around it react to this game.
Now, on for the adventure! Clocking in at a whopping ninety-six pages, Better Than Any Man is not only the biggest Free RPG Day release of the year, but it’s actually bigger than some LoTFP adventures I’ve purchased. That’s an insane deal of awesome proportions. The adventure itself is extremely detailed and could, in fact, be considered a campaign rather than an adventure due to the inclusion of eight different dungeons, a potential open-ended time travel aspect of the adventure and the fact characters will spend eight days running around a big chunk of Germany trying to limit the damage done by invading Swedes and a malevolent Insect God who wishes to engage in a pretty hefty amount of genocide. I can’t even begin to imagine how someone would run this highly detailed and intricate affair in a single gaming session – unless all the characters die horribly in that first day’s attempt. Now that might be intimidating to people picking up a LotFP release for the first time, but I personally think it’s great. You’re not getting a four hour one-shot freebie but something that will last you weeks or even months simply for going, “I want the one with the hentai monster on it” as your Free RPG Day releaser of choice. There’s just so much content in this thing I don’t know where to begin!
Better Than Any Man is a pretty open ended adventure. You’re giving a rough timeline of events for how things will go if the PCs fail to make any progress and/or die horribly, but other than that, you are given locations, dungeons and random encounters that can occur in any order the person running the adventure sees fit. As Better Than Any Man is so open ended, it’s something only a highly experienced DM/GS/Storyteller/Keeper/Whatever will be able to run smoothly, and even then, only after reading the adventure several times and scrawling out how his or her version of the adventure will flow. Besides the whole inclusion of The Thirty Years War and some real players from it, PCs will also encounter a town run by seven sorceresses and their strange monstrous sidekick/pets, an ancient God wishing harm on all of humanity, a time travelling wizard who likes cutting up children and may be the lesser of multiple evils and even more crazy crap being thrown at them. Players may have to gather information via weird sex acts or some light BDSM. They might engage in a battle with Scooby-Doo style zombies. One might get transformed into an Avatar of the Insect God. One might come away from this with a pair of hands growing out of his nut sac. As I said, there is a lot of weird shit in this adventure that is highly memorable and will either having you fully embracing Lamentations of the Flame Princess or declaring that your first exposure will be your last. I can’t honestly say this is my favorite adventure for the system, but it’s definitely one that will help you make your mind up about whether you want to invest in the game or not almost immediately, which is what I feel a Free RPG Day Release should do.
Artwise, there are some graphic images, but nowhere near the level of gore and nudity you’d find in other LotFP releases. I can honestly say I think this is the least amount of genitals I’ve seen in a LotFP release of this size! Your feelings on eviscerated vaginas aside, the art really is spectacular in the piece, which is all the more impressive because it’s a free release to the general public lucky enough to scoop one up. Just the sheer attention to detail, quality and production values makes this my favorite release from Free RPG 2013 and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to even pick this up until I got there. You damn near got an (ick) Pathfinder review instead of this!
I should also add that the cover of this adventure comes off, because when my wife picked it up to see what it was (and grimaced when she saw it was a LotFP release…) the actual adventure slid out onto the floor and she remaked, “Wow, that’s some bad production values right there.” In fact, it’s not. The inside cover is a map of the region you and your troupe will be playing in and the cover is designed to come off to provide both a visual aid to the gamers and to help a DM know where everything is in location to each other and with handy dandy page references to each. I like this, but I will admit that if you don’t except this, you probably will drop the content onto the floor the first time you pick it up.
All in all, I was thoroughly impressed by Better Than Any Man. While it’s not my favorite LotFP offering, it is by far the most impressive offering out of the Free RPG Day 2013 offerings. You’re getting a full campaign AND a digital version of the (art free) core rulebook! How could you pass this up. While I’m not sure if Better Than Any Man will be released outside of this Free RPG Day event, either physically or digitally, it is well worth tracking down even if you have to pay a few bucks for it. This is an adventure that will not only test players, but the DM running it as well. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the system, albeit less so for people who are unaware of what LotFP is all about. This might not be your first foray into the system.