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Wednesday 16 May 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: Black Dogs #1

This is a review of the RPG periodical "Black Dogs" issue #1, which is a collection of "unofficial house-rules and materials for Lamentations of the Flame Princess". The periodical is written by Davide Pignedoli, and published by Daimon Games. It is stamped as an "LotFP Compatible Product".

The product is in pamphlet format, with a nice glossy hard cover, featuring a renaissance drawing of a man loading a rifle. The interior has sparse black & white illustrations, and clocks in at 44 pages.

The first few pages contain the author's introduction and house-rule guidelines. He focuses less on horror than standard LotFP, has fewer fights, focus on wilderness travel and interacting with communities.

Black Dogs takes place in a late-medieval time frame, has "good guys" fighting monsters and demons, multiple characters per player are recommended.  Huh. That sounds almost more like the Lion & Dragon and Dark Albion setting than LotFP. His "about the setting" section sounds like it could be describing Dark Albion directly. But OK, whatever.

As for what the "black dogs" are, they're an informal organization of warriors, rogues, sorcerers and clerics put together by the church to fight witchcraft. Hmm, sounds a lot like the setup for my Cults of Chaos campaign.
One big difference is that the black dogs are "not formally recognized as an authority", and are often despised by the local powers and even the church itself (because it seems to have disowned them).

Character creation has everyone making two characters, which they can choose to play at the start of each session. That's just what I do in my game; but the author adds that the GM also makes two characters, and that at the start of each session everyone can pick ANY character anyone has made to play, as long as it's not the same one they played last time. This strikes me as an awful idea, because it discourages immersion into specific characters, which is a big feature of rpg play.

A handy sheet is provided for making characters.

Each ability score is connected to three secondary scores: luck, talent, and save. Luck is burned to make re-rolls. Talent is used to increase base ability scores or saves when leveling up. Save is the saving throw, which in these house rules is rolled on a D6 instead of the standard D20 method. Options are given if you don't want to use talent or luck in your campaign.

Starting money is based on your Charisma score. That's a house rule I kind of like.

There follows further house-rules. This includes things like making ability checks (roll under), and having advantage and disadvantage in the 5e style; none of this is anything really novel or exciting.

I feel like I have to note something else. Being now at the half-way mark of the booklet, I get the strong sense that English is not the author's first language. The writing has a number of small but significant grammatical errors, and there's plenty of spelling errors. I get that this is a labor of love, and probably not a high-income project, so it might be unfair to suggest that the author should have gotten himself a decent editor; but I do think I feel like I have to mention this for any potential buyers.

The next section of the booklet is called "Flussburg", and details a "small village with political troubles and a greater menace looming on the horizon".  It is meant to serve as an introductory adventure to the Black Dogs campaign concept.

Flussburg is described as a small village, though it has an old palace and a Guild (features which wouldn't be in a small village, as a rule, if we were worrying about medieval-authenticity).The town is a conservative kind of place; and a central feature of the town is an old imperial bridge in a bad state of repair.

We're also introduced to the family who runs a large blacksmith's shop in the town, the Schmieds. This family wants to repair the bridge to improve the town's prosperity and have the opposition of the rest of the town fathers.

There's also a dangerous gang of trolls in the wilderness on the other side of the bridge.  Beyond that, there's another ancient evil that desires ill for the town, the specific details of which I won't get into here so as not to produce spoilers.

You get a short random table featuring a few of the villagers for encounters in town.There's also a list of things to discover. After this, a list of events as they unfold in the village.  The whole detailing of the scenario is decent enough as a very basic kind of sandbox, albeit a bit light on explaining the motivations the PCs could have to get involved.

The book ends with stats for the monsters from the scenario.  There's only a couple of creatures, but they are interesting takes on the standards they're inspired by.  The scenario's version of Trolls is quite clever, for example.

So, on the whole, what to say about Black Dogs #1?  I think that it has a couple of interesting details, but on the whole it felt a little bit underwhelming. A lot of it felt like retreads on ground that has already been covered before. I mean, it's not bad, but not entirely enrapturing.

If you're looking for an inexpensive book ($3) with a few house rules for LoTFP and a relatively interesting scenario, then you could certainly do worse. But at the same time, I don't think anything here is going to radically alter your perspective on Lamentations, the OSR, or anything else. As long as you don't go in expecting that, and you don't mind a lack of editing, Black Dogs might be adequate.


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