Sometimes you can crawl into a game designer's head and get a glimpse at what's going on at their table with clues as to what direction their taking their campaigns. Vacant Ritual Assembly #3 is now available and its one of my favorite Lamentations Of The Flame Princess Rpg fanzines out there. This is the zine that help me to loosen up with the LoFP system and take the game as it comes. The Red Moon Medicine show group of authors and designers headed by Clint Krause continues to impress me. There is an echoing them of down and dirty homegrown Lamentations horror in this issue and issue three echoes with it throughout. Take one part Robert Howard's Beyond The Black River, mix in the fevered imagination of an obsessive LoFP fan, stir generously with 80's and 90's cinema swords and sorcery fantasy, mix in some dark material of the darkest magick , and perhaps you might get this issue of VRA. But I doubt it. This issue reads like a temperate mix of Deliverance, Cannibal Ferox (1981), and Conan with a healthy dose of its own brand of insanity presented as a personal campaign setting. Here's what you get for four dollars!
The Legend of Dragon Trench: Is the big adventure location for this issue and covers a wide gap of material including Hex map, encounter table, rumors, NPC stats, site descriptions, and more. This is perhaps one of the best thought out bits of adventure campaign material and its a very dangerous area at that which will challenge and test adventurers to their limits.
Knights of the Dragon Clan - This knightly order are the guardians of the Dragon Trench and its environs. These are not the squeky clean paladins of OD&D but an order of adventurers,warriors, knights and survivors who are dealing with frontier life in a very dangerous world. Think Conan and company dealing with the Picts in Beyond The Black River with a LoFP twist, the Romans in ancient Britannia or the forces during the French and Indian wars in upstate New York. Life on the edge of a knife blade for your adventurers with death a hair's breath away.
The Thundercloud Druids - This is another faction with deep ties to the Dragon Trench rife with possibilities for adventurers. The Thunder Cloud Druids are the guardians of the Crystal Crater and masters of a twisted type of flute magick. At night in the wilderness of this setting the head hunting witches of the Tales of the Timberwives are detailed and these ladies are devious, dangerous, and wholly without mercy. The Grand Vespiary - This is one of the more unexpected adventures I've seen in an issue of VRA, it details a wasp cult that will leave adventurers changed forever or dead in equal measure. Its well done and very fiendish in what it does. And this is one of my favorite bits of the whole issue. The final bit of this issue is Rick's Moving Castle an interview with the creator of the cult classic video game Castle of the Winds Rick Saada. A nice interview with one of video game classics masterminds and authors. So far this is perhaps one of the most personal issues of the fanzine Clint Krause and we really get to see inside his head and his own personal campaign. This isn't a bad thing at all, we really get a sense of what's ticking off the boxes of the home game of the author and his crew at Red Moon Medicine Show. And its an interesting glimpse into the creative process for one of LoFP's more dynamic fanzines in a community of gamers that continues to bring some of the best OSR material to the table. This issue isn't for those looking for a simple set of hack and slash locations, these are adventure locations that could be used for many years to come in an LoFP or OD&D campaign. But is all of this useful? Well, that really depends upon your personal taste in gaming. Personally I would say yes and buy this issue based solely on the strengths of the author's writing on his subject matter. Vacant Ritual Assembly each issue has threaded some very deep waters and this issue goes even further into a region that is rife for potential adventures. Personally I would break out my copy of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad . This is exactly the sort of vibe that echoes through the Dragon Trench, a wilderness adventure location that is at once weird and dynamically different to take adventurers on a journey into the weird, pulptastic, and strangely different. That being said the locations that are detailed are easily used with other retroclone systems and that's part of the beauty of Vacant Ritual Assembly issue three. There are so many things that can be done with this material and issue three is rife with old school gaming goodness potential. Do yourselves a favor, go and pick this issue up ASAP, its well done and well worth the money for the Lamentations of The Flame Princess rpg system or any old school system for that matter!
Eric F Sword and Stitchery blog
[4 of 5 Stars!]