I was pointed to this Kickstarter project today: Early Dark, an RPG. Meanwhile, James Raggi IV is finally taking orders for his Lamentations of The Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing.
If I were going to buy one of these two games, based on what I know about them as it has been presented to me, I honestly do not know which I would pick. The both have fundamental goals I like very much. Yet both goals, while not in opposite directions of one another, require a significant detour if you want to see both.
I'm in love with the concept of Early Dark - a fantasy RPG based on world cultures beyond just the European Middle Ages. THAT is the kind of game I can see getting more people, and different kinds of people, interested in the hobby. Some would argue that D&D has done this more and more over the years, but... well, bullshit. "Oriental Adventures" is not going to appeal to a whole lot of Asian kids. Hell, I can barely get past the title. How about we change D&D to "Honkeys on Horseback" while we're at it? "Crackers and Krakens?" "Weapons and WASPS?"
No? Maybe no "Oriental Adventures" then. Sounds more like a massage parlor, says my wife. And we all know there are no "happy endings" in old-school roleplaying.
Anyway, yeah, Early Dark sounds cool - I'd love to role something like an Apache warrior or a Zulu priest. The only thing that makes me nervous is the glimpses we get of the character sheet. That looks like some hardcore crunchiness (although it was pointed out to me that may be more reference material than actual stats. And the makers do condemn d20 for being too rules heavy during the video). Still, I see some stuff on there that makes me think very much of old World of Darkness: Arcane, Mundane, Loom, Thrive? These are terms that you can only know the application of if you play the game, unlike "strength" or "magic points." WoD was TERRIBLE for this, and maybe they still are - I don't know. You practically had to be an Eastern Religions major to play "Kindred of the East."
Lamentations of The Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing
Okay... give me a second to catch my breath... I wonder if Raggi IV would be offended if I call it "Lam-Flam" from now on. Let's find out.
Lam-Flam sets out to do something very different from Early Dark. Duh - James Raggi IV is a champion of the Old-School Roleplaying Renaissance (OSR) and has very strong opinions about it. He's also not at all concerned about the fact D&D is, due to its origins, very ethnocentric. Which isn't to say he condones real-world racism, but that he doesn't see a problem with race as portrayed in the game unless you actively correlate in-game races like orcs with real-world minorities. At least, that's what I've taken away from past posts on his blog - see "D&D and Racism."
It should come as no surprise, then, that one of differences between his game, D&D and the retro-clones is that Lam-Flam actually simplifies the concept of class and race - actually, in some instances class and race are the same thing. Rather than seek to expand your options for customizing and building your character, Raggi IV has condensed everything to "pick from a list of what you want to be."
Which, actually, has an appeal all its own. Especially if you're looking to get into RPGs for the first time, or introduce some friends to the game whom you suspect would balk at the more complicated... well, from what I've heard about Lam-Flam, if it's too hard to pick up your last hope is "TWERPS."
But of course, there's another important aspect to Lam-Flam: That bit after the colon. Raggi IV apparently sought to create a game that captures the spirit of the Weird - less "Lord of the Rings" and more "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward in Medieval Europe with Swords." This, I'm very, very interested by, especially knowing that Raggi IV is a gifted writer with a strong imagination in the subject.
Why compare two games that aren't even technically out yet? Because I find it fascinating that in 2010, two new fantasy roleplaying games are growing out of the soil tilled by Gygax and Co back in the 70s. Two very different games that are also unlike any generation of the original crop. It's still good soil, and fresh ideas are still gestating within it.