Tabletop Review: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children (Free RPG Day 2014)

Lamentations of the Fame Princess: The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children (Free RPG Day 2014)
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Cost: Free!
Page Count: 36
Release Date: 06/21/2014
Obtained at: Victory Comics

2013’s Free RPG Day saw Lamentations of the Flame Princess take part with their controversial release, Better Than Any Man. As the back of this year’s release mentions, several stores banned or outright hid the release for their customers. I can confirm this as one of the stores I went to did just that. However, even a Pikachu loving fool like myself walked away extremely impressed with Better Than Any Man. it was a top notch solid affair from beginning to end and it walked away with our “Best Free Release” in the 2013 Tabletop Gaming Awards. This year, LotFP is back with a new adventure that is actually one of the zaniest, cruelest and funniest release they have put out yet. Born of spite and black humour, The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children is exceedingly cutthroat, extremely lethal to any character that enters it (probably best as a one shot if you are at all attached to your characters) and there is a good chance you will be massacring double digits worth of four year old as if they were goblins or orcs in some of those other fantasy style role playing games. You’ve been warned.

So not only does the adventure have one of the weirdest and most honest titles I’ve seen for a recently released adventure (Go OSR!), but it also has a great story hook. Characters enter a village where over 100 madwomen claim to have given birth to a small blonde boy named Andrew four years ago. All of these Andrews are different people mind you – it’s not the same one kid. Crazier yet, the mothers all know the different Andrews but no one else in the village knows what they are talking about and can not remember these women ever giving birth to children similar in name and look all at roughly the same time. Also, these women were quite sane up until recently, so what the hell happened? That’s why games have PCs – to figure crap like this out all while gaining an excuse to murder and pillage!

This story hook of course brings characters to the doom cave where they will indeed encounter many children with crystals embedded in their craniums. Surprisingly, this is one of the more mundane things in this adventure. You will face crazy button that will do anything from improve your stats to give your character incurable cancer via severe radiation poison. There are possible alien abductions or the extinction of all life on the planet including bacteria. Heck, both may happen in your play through. As such, I reinforce my earlier comment in this review that The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children is best played as a one shot unless you are pretty much born and bred on Dungeon Crawl Classics or LotFP and thus have learned not to invest any emotional ties to your characters at all for they exist only to die in horribly unspeakable fashion. At the very least surviving characters will end up with at least some stats switched around and having to live with the stigma of being a child murderer – even creepy semi-automaton test tube baby ones.

Aside from the children, The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children is pretty much your standard dungeon crawl in layout, form and function. It’s the specific encounters and NPCs that truly separate this adventure from the pack. For example, you don’t really have an end boss or bad guy behind the story hook. You have a guy who fucked around (literally) with strange alien doo-dads. He doesn’t really seem like a bad guy, even if he has a super villain laugh and an army of toddlers. Most bad guys destroy and murder wantonly in these fantasy games. Wiki Dot Pod…is just kind of there doing his own thing for the most part. Sure he THINKS he should rule all that he surveys, but he’s pretty content sitting and staring at a big crystal all day.

As well, there aren’t a lot of monsters or antagonists to fight in this adventure. Well, aside from the crystal headed children, but you might not end up fighting with them. They might actually become quasi allies or guides to the dungeon for your team. Unless of course, your players stick sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed first, and converse second. Then they have to deal with an army of tiny kiddies bent on their demise. No, for the most part, players will be killed by their own greed and curiosity. Death or painful maiming is in nearly every room, but it will only be encountered if characters do stupid things like explore or examine the cursory details of their surroundings. As this is a RPG, this is most likely the course of action people will take and thus their characters will die in manners ranging from a dungeon collapse caused by a sailing ship to being wiped from existence by an omniscient alien jellyfish. My personal favorite is when a character becomes The Crystal King and discovers that with great power comes a nigh permanent headstand. Treat The Doom Cave of Crystal Headed Children as you would the Tomb of Horrors in the hands of a GM who does copious amounts of hallucinogenics, because the effect WILL be similar.

Overall, I absolutely loved this adventure. It’s a very dark and funny piece. In fact, I kind of felt like I was playing HOL rather than LotFP during my time with this piece. I think it’s best kept out of the hands of young children though due to mature (and gorey) themes and gamers that treat our hobby as SERIOUS BUISNESS with no room for mirth. For everyone else, this is a terrific oneshot that really highlights how bizarre and macabre Lamentations of the Flame Princess can be. It’s such a crazy piece that I can see it polarizing some gamers, especially those new to the hobby who might walk away worrying that every adventure involves ejaculation, encountering Jesus Christ and having your feet transmogrified into those of a pachyderm. Would I play this adventure again and run it for friends? Damn right! Would I give it to someone completely new to tabletop RPGs? Oh my, no.

I do feel that The Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children was by far the best release for Free RPG Day 2014 which gives LotFP that honor two years running. Even better, if you pick this up, there a link to not only download last year’s Better Than Any Man, but also the core rulebook (sans art) for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. That’s insanely awesome and makes hunting down this adventure all the more worthwhile. I can’t wait to see what LotFP has for us next Free RPG Day as this is one area where they definitely put all the other competitors to shame.

Tags: ,