We played the first session of Jim Raggi’s Tower of the Stargazer tonight. It will be the introductory adventure included with Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, out this autumn. The gaming groups is also the playtest group for the RPG as a whole. Of the five players, four were veterans of Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill playtest. The fifth, Tuukka, was a new guy, who’s previous role-playing experiences were mostly World of Darkness and Cyberpunk.
NB! The following write-up contains spoiler material about the module, so if you plan on playing it yourself at some point, read no further!
The characters we created, or, to use the game’s own jargon, “discovered” were Xi Tuc the Specialist, Llielnth the Elf, Loke the Fighter, Agnieszka the Cleric, and my character Njall the Outcast, the Dwarf. To get the ball rolling faster, it was decided that the characters had known each other for some time before starting adventuring. The term discovered is accurate for this particular method of character creation. Rolling for abilities means you don’t necessarily get what you intended, so instead of deciding on a character concept, and then getting disappointed with the ability rolls, you discover your character as you go along.
The group started out in the Free City of Grallides, a city of some 10,000 people in the north-east of the campaign world Jim’s been creating and re-creating for the past 20 years. Grallides is a coastal bastion of civilization surrounded by tribal lands. I got the impression that the “tech level” of Grallides is about equal to the late medieval or early renaissance period. The tribes inhabiting the plains, hills and forest all around seemed akin to pre-Norman era Northmen or Celts, with even more barbaric “berserker tribes” further up north. I’ll have to check back with Jim to see if my impressions were accurate.
The adventurers had heard rumors of a prospector having discovered a strange, unnatural-seeming tower some fifteen miles south of the city. To beat another group of adventurers to the punch, we decided to look up this prospector asap, so that we could get a head start on the exploration of said tower. After some nosing around taverns frequented by prospectors, we had the information we needed (“For two gold, I’ll mark it on your map!”), and off we went!
At this point we had a discussion about the encumbrance rules in the rules version 0.04 we were using. The general impressions were that at the moment the rules were too complicated, and stringent, since following them to the letter meant that pretty much all of the characters would be heavily encumbered or overencumbered. The basic idea of Jim’s encumbrance rules is good and sound, it just needs a bit of fine-tuning.
The tower was located in the middle of a mostly barren wasteland frequented by unnatural lightning storms. We deducted that the tower itself was the reason for the arcane phenomena, as its architecture was totally alien looking with a huge, metal orb with lightning conductors topping the stonework. Further investigation revealed the body of a man, who, according to the group’s Specialist was that of a thief of some renown. The tower only had one entrance, a pair of doors with iron rings (“Look at those huge knockers!”), which opened by themselves when our Specialist Xi Tuc knocked. Definite proof of sorcery!
We proceeded to investigate the interiors of the tower, finding a rather grizzly necromantic laboratory of sorts, where we had our first combat encounter, a flock of animated inner organs and intestines flying out of the chest cavity of a cadaver. After getting over the initial cool factor of said monster, we proceeded to hack the undead thing into small pieces. Further discoveries included gaol cells inhabited by restless spirits, strange mechanical apparatus, mind-bending mirrors, and of all things conceivable, an elevator!
On the second or third floor, I forget which, our Specialist got hit by a poison dart while picking the lock on a treasure chest. The player promptly failed his saving throw, so the character turned purple in the face, and died. Classic!
On the fourth floor (or is third if you count the ground floor as zero), we discovered the apparent owner of the tower, a Magic-user trapped inside his own protective circle. The old codger tried to persuade us to release him from his prison, but suspicious as we were (As most sane adventurers are!), we decided to leave him be for the time being. We proceeded to investigate the top-most floor of the tower, discovering among other things, a huge telescope pointed skywards, a pool of acid with alien fish in it, and a book about the fauna of an alien world. At around this time we decided to call it a day.
All in all the rules system is very familiar (It should!), albeit with a few innovations, like the d6-based Specialist skills and the rules for encumbrance. I rather like both of these changes myself. In addition the encumbrance rules, which I already mentioned, the demi-human classes, especially the Dwarf (which is just a weaker Fighter at the moment) need some work. The adventure is quite straightforward, but then again, its an introductory adventure, so it should be.