Lamentations of the Power Creep

We all have seen it: Parties that have become so ridiculously strong that the GM has no other option than to ramp up the opposition to even more ridiculous levels. Then the party stacks up on magical combat items. So the opposition needs them too.

Only: whenever the party wins, they loot those enemy magical items and become ever more powerful. Suddenly most challenges are just not that challenging any more. Falling off a tower is not such a big deal any more, because after a little rest and a healing spell or two you are ready to get cracking again.

In the end the GM is forced to send gods against the players to elicit at least some reaction, and when they have killed the whole pantheon, they lift their gaze at the universe, or you have to abort the game and start fresh.

The hard way

This is quite common, but it does not typically happen in Lamentations of Flame Princess – even if the group rises to advanced levels.

Why? Because of certain specific quirks of the rules in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

This video from back in 2017 explains it very well:

Now once more in short and quickly (and also with some points not addressed in the video):

  1. Only the fighter rises in attack bonuses.
  2. but he still can only attack once per round.
  3. Magic users can use all kinds of weapons and armor,
  4. The magic user can use attack spells, but then he opens himself up to auto-hit attacks at full damage (“completely helpless”), so he needs meatshields to protect him while casting, or he can’t hex during a fight.
  5. Levelling up raises hit points,
  6. but Advancement in Levels comes slow and gets ever slower as the thresholds grow farther apart.
  7. (Ascending) Armor Class starts at 12 for unarmored and ends at 18 for (very expensive) plate, or 20 for plate with great helmet and shield. That is only a relatively small band of protection, and even a person in plate must expect a high level fighter (with his growing bonuses) to crack the shell.
  8. The cleric has few combat-useful spells.
  9. Gunpowder. Pistols and arquebuses shave 5 AC off your armor, so even against weak opponents, if you look into the wrong side of a barrel, you must weigh your options. While not yet the great equalizer, even early gunpowder weapons can take down a high level character down some notches.

These limitations sound harsh, and players routinely complain about the slow levelling, the lack of multiattacks to overcome superior numbers of weaker foes, the lack of combat advancement for non-fighters, or the lack of magic items (which are very rare, because creating them is quite costly for magic users!)

They have many spells that can be utilized well, and they have other advantages, like the fact that the magic user can use whatever weapon he likes. But they cannot level armies, and they have to remain on their toes. Even at level six, or seven, a PC can die fast if he is not careful and lucky.

That only sounds bad if you want to hack and slash yourself through line after line of hapless goons like Sly Stallone. Do that in FATE.

It sounds very good if you like the so-called “Fantasy Vietnam” approach of “Adventuring is Dangerous”, even deadly. If you want to find clever solutions to avoid combat and still succeed.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is extremely well balanced.

Each character type has strengths that are unique.

Each character type has weaknesses that can bring it down.

Tinkering with that (like I have done when I let the players fast-talk me into maximum HP per level) upsets that balance and quickly summons the very demon that these fantastic rules have banished so well: Power Creep.

Picture: Victor Freitas, Unsplash.

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