Grey Maze


We’ve played three consecutive sessions of Lamentations of the Flame Princess now and every one of them was a belter.

We began with:-

  • Sir Pendel Blond: 2nd level Fighter, darling of the court and leader of the clandestine mission into Vornheim to discover why priestesses of Maudlyn sent to convert the ancient city to the One True Faith keep disappearing without a trace.
  • Ergan Flintaxe: 2nd level Dwarf, emissary of the long-buried Dwarven Empire of the North, sent to build diplomatic bridges with the rich and fertile territory of the Empress Maudlyn in the south, armed with a map of the sewers beneath Vornheim.
  • Legacy Bateman: 2nd level Magic-User, only 8 ½ years old, ostensibly squire and escort to NPC Cleric of Maudlyn Sister Mordite, but given to whispering in the dark to the last remaining canine incisor of disgraced forebear the Archaeomancer Bateman, who’d defected from the Empire to the Vampire Counts during the preceding summer season of our Mighty Empires campaign.

The set-up wasn’t altogether dissimilar to that of Japanese TV show Monkey, except here the PCs were trying to relay the Word of Alcazar Arkel, and that of his bride-on-earth the Empress Maudlyn, to a city which in our campaign had been conquered first by the forces of Slaanesh and then by the Empire. The similarities between the book by Zak S. and our own narrative were remarkable: I understand from the Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast that the next iteration of Lamentations of the Flame Princess will do away with Elves and Dwarves entirely but the current edition of Rules and Magic suits our purposes wonderfully well. The guys had been reluctant to break the flow of battles with roleplay but within an hour of beginning play we were laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our faces.

After emerging in a less-than-covert manner into the bowels of the Palace Massive, the PCs murdered several patrols and two nobles negotiating a trade deal implicating Captain of the occupying forces Herbert de Beer in bribery and corruption before cutting a swathe to the bridge to the Eminent Cathedral. Forced to cut the ropes of the bridge behind them, they first executed the nuns waiting for them on the roof of the Main Chapel then the old Flagellant who was for some reason the only person guarding the exterior of the Guest Rooms, before breaking in to find the Sisters of Vorn and the soldiery of Herbert de Beer engaged in [events redacted] on behalf of the newly-transcendent Church of Titivilla, The Horned Queen, Goddess of All Flesh, whereupon [names have been changed to protect the guilty].

The PCs struggled to shake off the effects of Slaaneshi magic then headed to the nearby Tower of Eshrigel the Medusa, whom one of the nuns had named as progenitor of the huge bounties offered for the capture of visiting priestesses of Maudlyn; Legacy was turned to stone, both Pendel and Ergan were slain then healed by Sister Mordite before Pendel rolled three natural 20s – double damage in our game – to lay the Medusa low just as the Dwarf was being dissolved alive by the Plasma Ghoul. That’s when the PCs’ troubles began.

The nine statues of priestesses of Maudlyn – each like Sister Mordite gravid with the child of Alcazar Arkel, what with Maudlynism being a fertility cult and all – began giving birth… to something. The looks on the players’ faces: there was no way I was going to run a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess without using the Summon tables (Rules and Magic, pp134-143).

We ended with:-

  • Sir Pendel Blond: who, having died twice and been raised on both occasions by priestesses of Maudlyn, has become a fervent believer in his own hype. Bless, but he’s gone quite grey.
  • Legacy Bateman: bound unbeknownst to himself to a demon dog of Tzeentch with sucking antennae, forever bouncing between the effects of the spells Feeblemind and Haste.
  • Scrunchy Applechurner: 2nd level Halfling found eating his way through curds and rye in the pantry of Eshrigel’s kitchen after Steve’s Dwarf had bit the dust.
  • Oculus Rim: the 1st level Specialist I was forced to roll up on the spur of the moment when we rolled 2. Disruption of the Universal Order (p140) on summoning one of the Children of Arkel. Down with the petty tyrant!

Simon is running the game now – the first game he’s run since we all used to play together in the late 80s and early 90s. We had planned to get back to our Warhammer Fantasy Battle campaign after three or four sessions in Vornheim, but Simon has had so much fun he’s keen to keep running stories in the city, at least for a couple more sessions. We foresee switching back and forth between the Mighty Empires board game – moving your armies around on a huge map of the world with various random factors – and fighting the resulting table-top battles with miniatures, then interspersing the odd roleplaying session using Lamentations of the Flame Princess to dramatize locations and events.

Vornheim 006
Space Monkey made a wooden surround for the die-drop: I couldn’t hit a barn door with a D4.
Vornheim 016
Map is by Dyson Logos.
Vornheim 035
The Cleric calls upon Arkel to heal one of our party: she’s in for a nasty surprise.

People find it strange I arrived at the flagship game of the Old School Renaissance via Story Games – largely, it would seem, because of a perceived dichotomy between mechanism and attitude as a driver of narrative. I can only assert that I don’t find this to be the case. This is one of the reasons I like the approach taken to roleplay by the Nørwegian Style: it combines some of the best of both intentions. The mechanics of such games – Itras By and The Society of Dreamers being two examples – encourage those playing to obey both their own creative impulses and those of the others at the table. The story goes off in surprising directions while keeping everyone involved. I’ve found the same with Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

I understand the equality that games without a fixed authority figure represent: I see structural violence in settings symbolic, imaginary and real. There are however one thousand-thousand tiny temples out there, many of which are constructed from the European wreckage, and each of which means something to the person making it. The greatest beauty of a roleplaying game is generosity of spirit.

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