Free RPG Day/Playtest: Eldritch Cock Meets the Wizard’s Tower

Though I’ve got more serious news I’m still processing, this post isn’t about that. It’s game stuff. 

Sunday was a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of a day. I was signed up to run the Lamentations of the Flame Princess table at the Free RPG Day event at Dice Latte in Seoul, so I figured I might as well give that adventure I’ve been revising—the one I discussed drafting here—one more quick playtest. The adventure involve’s a wizard’s tower, which was a good fit for this year’s LotFP Free RPG book, Eldritch Cock—a book of demented, cool spells using the same spellcasting rules introduced in last year’s book (Vaginas Are Magic). I guess it’s worth noting that I helped crowdfund the book, and was happy to finally get a look at it. 

It was a great time, and the players seemed to have a lot of fun as well as to deal with the slings and arrows of miscasting with aplomb, while navigating a crazy adventure scenario. 

I was happy to end up with a good set of four players for the game. Only one had signed up for the event, I assume because someone else was running a D.C.C. game in the same timeslot, and had opened it up to something like ten players, but when people got a look at the book—which was, hands-down, the most striking of the Free RPG Day offerings, as a full-color hardback—three more people joined just out of interest. Understandably: it’s a a shockingly high production-value book, with full color plates for each spell and a hard cover. (If you’re going to troll Moralists, you might as well do it with style.) 

Since Eldritch Cock was the Free RPG Day book for LotFP, I went ahead and stole a page from Evlyn Moreau’s Le Chaudron Chromatique campaign and made the pregen characters a gang of Magic-Users with a single, shared spellbook that holds everyone’s spells, plus each player got to pick one spell from Eldritch Cock to have all to themselves. (Since it was a one-shot, I just had them choose the spells they wanted to prepare—no levels, one spell per slot, one slot per level attained, with risky casting set for all spells cast above or outside of what was prepped.)

Anyway, they took about half an hour to leaf through the books, choosing one of the Eldritch Cock spells for their character, and then picking which spells they wanted to prepare for their spell slots. (Since the characters were 3rd level, they each had three.) This was my teaser for the session concept:

Growing up together in your idyllic little village, the tower on a nearby hill loomed over your childhood, inspiring fear, gossip, and rumors of all sorts: villagers claimed that it housed evil magic, ghosts, demon worshippers, and, of course, mounds of hidden silver.

Deep down, that tower was probably what inspired you all to go adventuring together in the first place. When someone mentioned it by the campfire a few weeks ago, you all realized together how you longed to return to your native village and conquer that dark enigma of your childhood… well, or at least get your hands on some of that rumored silver and a spellbook or two… 

Given that the characters obviously had some shared history, I asked them to fill that out a little, after they introduced their characters by name—just something that each character liked about another character in the group, or something that had come to annoy them about another character. An interesting little web of connections emerged, with a couple of characters envious of certain others, a couple respectful-but-insecure toward others, and one resentful of another having “left him for dead that one time.” What was good about this was that it gave them something to build upon later, as the game continued, and they did return to those little tidbits a number of times—the character who’d left someone else for dead in the past was left for dead himself this time around, and there was a running gag about one character’s failed romance with a girl from the village.  

With that, we got right down to business, and the characters visited the tower that had drawn them home. They went in, and… well, I won’t ruin the adventure for those who’ll be seeing it in print. I will say the players burned through some of their more-familiar spells earlier on, saving the spells from Eldritch Cock until later. The spells they (and one NPC) did end up using included:

  • Chewing Through the Membranes of Time and Space (pg. 13): allows a magic user to flip dice by one face peer level of the caster. 
  • Omnipotent Crawling Chaos (pg. 31): summons a horrible, terrifying thing that refuses to touch living creatures 
  • Saturn and Sacrifice (E.C. page 37): summons celestial rings that orbit the caster (or a creature of her choosing), and can be used for defensive, offensive, or adversary-management purposes 
  • Killing Yourself to Live (E.C. page 25): essentially an escape hatch from a deadly encounter: the caster commits apparent suicide, knowing the spell will reconstitute her from her remains a few days later, and yeah, it works even if she’s eaten by an animal or monster (as long as it isn’t miscast, that is)

I think there were a total of five miscasts in the session, two of which had minor effects (spoiling perishables, and a spell basically used up with no discernible effect). However, the other three—all miscast by the same poor character—ended up almost killing him and everyone else besides: all three times, he got potentially deadly results that would have slaughtered the party if they’d been first level. Ironically (and not surprisingly), everyone really enjoyed these horrible miscast results the most.  

The adventure itself plays with memory, and the players handled that really well, calling back events that were brought up in early recollections and building on them, and also grasping the fact that they had to memorize certain things (as players) to get through the adventure. They were also very clever in their use of magic, which I was hoping for, using normally quite mundane spells to deal with situations that otherwise would have been quite dangerous. (I didn’t give them any combat-useful spells, since they were pretty well armed, and because there was little combat in the scenario; I figured creative magic-wielding would be more fun.)

In fact, a lot of the danger in the session came from hastily-made decisions and quirky choices involving risky spellcasting. That said, this is partly true because they managed to uncover a very useful bit of information, and happened to avoid a gaping pitfall (which in fact, had caused a previous playtest group serious trouble). That said, I didn’t really pull any punches, and the players were very lucky to skip a couple of things that could have very much complicated (or ended) their characters’ lives. Not counting the time spent picking spells to prep and leafing through the spell descriptions, the group managed to get through the adventure and get out—just barely—with their skins intact, in about three and a half hours.

In a typical Lamentations of the Flame Princess game (at least by the rules-as-written), loot is the primary metric that determines success. The players laid eyes on a fair amount of the tower’s valuables(maybe 60-65% of them), recognized maybe 40% of that as valuable, and hauled out about 25-30% of it, mainly in the form of really obvious, quickly-portable loot (silver and jewelry, essentially). As a player commented, “This is a one-shot; if we were playing a campaign, I’d be stripping this place bare.” That’s music to my ears, since during revisions I’ve added notes about how to make recurrent visits to the tower interesting, as well as because some of the treasure is explicitly designed to be nothing but trouble for the characters drive further adventures later on. 

There was still a fair bit they didn’t uncover, and they only managed to piece together parts of the backstory of the place, which was what I’d set as a design goal: for there to be enough for the tower to sustain multiple visits, to be relatively low on the deadliness scale (but still a place where PCs can die and a TPK is possible if they get stupid, and to require players to work hard to sort out whether the hints they uncover inside the tower contradict or confirm about the rumors they’ve heard about the place.  

But, honestly, my metric for success was whether people had a good time, and it was pretty clear that they did, so… well, hooray for that. Beyond being grateful to Joey Croner for hosting the Free RPG Day event at Dice Latte, I’m grateful to my players for the session—Nahid Taheri, John Campbell, Adam Harpham, Brent Meske.


Oh, by the way, here’s a list of handy resources I used for this game:

For miscasts for spells from the Rules & Magic rulebook (which, of course, lack custom miscast results), I found this online:

That’s the miscast result chart from Red Dice Diaries’ Rose of Westhaven game, which includes generic miscast results for a full range of 1d12 results, rather than just the 7-12 included in the generic chart of Vaginas Are Magic and Eldritch Cock. You can get a PDF of the miscast chart by following that link just above. Rose of Westhaven is, by the way, one of the most listenable Actual Plays of LotFP I’ve come across, though it’s only available on Youtube at the moment.  

(I also ruled that if anyone failed the Risky Casting saving throw by rolling a natural 1, I’d use my own online magical surge generator to generate a result, but that didn’t happen.)

Ramanan Sivarajan’s Summon spell webapp came in handy because, yes, one of the deadly miscasts results that came up with a summon spell. (It was a 4HD Crab Demon, automatically out of control and angry at the caster who accidentally summoned it.) 

Aside from each player freely choosing a spell from Eldritch Cock, I limited the spells in the characters’ collective spellbook to those designated as 1st-2nd level in LotFP Rules & Magic book. I printed off some A5 booklet copies of the Magic-User spell list from this post on Tales to Astound, and highlighted the spells the characters had in common; that is, the spells in their collective “coven” spellbook. It’s a handy shorthand for the frequency of the spell appearing in recovered spellbooks, if you haven’t time to redo the entire spell list converted to the V.A.M./E.C. system: the higher level the spell, the less likely it is to appear in any given spellbook. 

(The whole “shared spellbook/coven” game concept worked well enough that if I went with a Le Chaudron Chromatique-styled setup again for something, I’d do up a custom coven spellbook myself using copy & paste, both as a player reference and as a Referee reference: I found it useful to be able to quickly look up details of spells the players had cast. It also would make the work of creating miscast tables for players’ spells just a little less onerous, since it’d be a limited number of spells to start with. That said, I probably would also make an effort to mix in some others (“rarer” ones adapted from higher-level Rules & Magic spells, from the supplementary adventures and spellbooks, and one or two completely unique ones), and I’d have players roll to see which of the collective spells they could learn, just to reduce overlap a little.) 

Finally, for the pregen characters I used Ethan Fulbright’s wonderful character generator. Here’s an example of a character generated by using it (and you can click the smaller image to see the full-sized PDF page):

Not too shabby, huh?

This software uses Ramanan Shivaranjan’s excellent LotFP character generator to fill out the brilliantly-designed LotFP character sheet from Last Gasp. I like how the Last Gasp sheet makes certain aspects of the game system obvious to players new to the system.1 The automation of character generation probably saved me an hour or two of work: all I had to do to get the characters game ready as (fully-prepped, ready-to-go) pregens was to manually add in skill points and increase the characters’ hit points for their level-ups: otherwise all the work had been done for me. (Ethan’s software even pregenerates spellbooks for Magic-Users and spell prep sheets for Clerics; though I didn’t use them, I definitely would in campaign play!)

Ethan was also kind enough to rush the thing back online so I could use it, and I appreciate that.  He’ll be moving it to a different location online at some point, but I’ll update this site when that happens so anyone following the link will be able to use the generator. Also, the repo for the code is over at Github, though he’s still working on cleaning it up a bit, I think. (Another version of the same code, as part of a bigger project, is here.)

I also plan on modifying the Last Gasp sheet a little, as well as forking Ethan’s and hacking it a bit to produce an expanded version capable of generating other types of PCs, including alternate classes, different-level characters, and setting-specific ranges of characters, as well as a little bit of info on each character’s appearance, which I find helpful for nailing the flavor of the game. I may even do up A5 sized NPC  But all that is a project for when I know a bit more Python than I do now. I may jigger it a bit so it can also generate characters using the Veins of the Earth character sheet, or some other custom sheet I may decide to use for a setting I’ll be playtesting in the future, but we’ll have to see about that. 


  1. Last Gasp’s a pretty great site: the treatment of the clerics class—specifically the concept of Mystics, as elaborated in these few posts—is inspiring enough to make me willing to consider having clerics in my game again, actually, at least in the form of Last-Gasp-styled Mystics.

2 thoughts on “Free RPG Day/Playtest: Eldritch Cock Meets the Wizard’s Tower

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *