Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Red & Pleasant Land By Zak S. From Lamentations Of The Flame Princess


Grab It Right

I recently asked for a copy of a Red and Pleasant from James Raggi of Lamentations Of The Flame Princess after reading Tim Brananan's blog's review of the book on his blog HERE and for the life of me I've been trying to process the whole of this  book. Its part campaign setting, part art book, and part deep end launch into Zak Smith's pick up of the Alice In Wonderland books as well as legends and fairy tales surrounding the Lewis Carroll books shoved into a blender with classic Dracula and set on nightmare and the dream setting.

What's the book about? Well to be honest the back cover explanation doesn't convey half of the feel of the campaign kit/setting. It covers in broad strokes and artful descriptions a battle that has raged across 
A terrible Red King wars with an awful Queen, and together they battle into being a rigid, wrong world… and this book has everything you need to run it. (And any other place in your first, second, third, fourth or fifth edition game that might require intrigue, hidden gardens, inside-out-rooms, scheming monarchs, puzzles or beasts, liquid floors, labyrinths, growing, shrinking, dueling, broken time, Mome Raths, blasphemy, croquet, explanations for where players who missed sessions were, or the rotting arcades and parlors of a palace that was once the size of a nation.)
Zak S, game master on I Hit It With My Axe and author of the multi award-winning Vornheim: The Complete City Kit now brings the same do-it-yourself tables-and-toolkits approach and eerie magic to an entire distorted continent.

Voivodja is an old land with its own all encompassing setting and its old, rotten to the core , and damned as well as dangerous. The place is thick with vampire courts, heroes, heroines, and things they get up to all bound within a unconventional book. Many of the characters of Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass have been re imagined as ancient creatures out of European legend. Very old and very strange vampires of royalty with their own agendas and view points of events surrounding the brand new character class that shapes the events within , 'The Alice'.  'The Alice' is a new take on the 'Specialist' from The Lamentations of the Flame Princess as a heroine lightning rod for the adventure  events surrounding Voivodja. The Alice plugs into every single heroine and princess of every dream like fairy tale and pop culture fantasy that streams through the collective unconscious. 

The OSR produces tons and tons of random tables and A Red & Pleasant land has over thirty pages of them but this book implements the tables as key parts of the setting narrative guiding the PC's into the workings of the adventure setting. They range from the general encounter style ones, to one the spot adventure creation tables that happen on the fly, there are NPC generators, and more all tied neatly back into the Voivodja setting. This happens over and over again tying the PC's into the narrative of the dreamlike decayed fairy tale setting.

I've been reading reviews of A Red and Pleasant Land over and over the last few days then referencing back to the PDF. One thing that strikes me is how each person sees their own version of the setting of the Land of Unreason. This fact highlight's the phantasmagorical  nature of  Voivodja as a campaign. The factions are at each other's throats and warfare here can take the form of a game of crochet or the exploration of the setting's adventure locations. These are not simple dungeons in the conventional sense nor are they mega dungeons with their own ecologies  instead  they're almost artifacts of some old fairy tale echoing from older dreams as well as nightmares given a DYI D&D slant. 

The book is filled top to bottom with Zak Smith's artwork which set's the tone for the entire book from top to bottom marking it as an art book as well as a roleplaying campaign setting. The book is very well done in the graphic's regard. Its a brutal art book and it takes no prisoners with its dark, decadent artwork reflecting the feel of the dreamlike land of Unreason.

We're given a tour of this setting with options to look into niches,crannies, and the dark spots but there's plenty of room to get into the deepest recesses of the dream like realm. NPC's have motives and reasons as well as complex chess like takes on the state of things in the Land Of Unreason. Sometimes these goals and grudges stretch back centuries.

One thing about Voivodja, every single DM I showed this pdf in my circles of players and DM's has a different view of the setting.  Some see it as an other classic take on the Alice novels and the vampire literature. Still others have told me that its a gate way drug setting to a brand new take on using fairy tales as campaign settings. Still others have stated that this is a breath of fresh air for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg system and boosts the powerful hero PC take that the game has had lurking in the backdrop since its release. A Red and Pleasant Land simply gives validation to this ideal with bells.

Voivodja is a mix of all of the above and then some. Does it break new ground? Yes and it does it with style as a campaign setting. Do I think that it will set the world on fire? Perhaps as a way to show other game companies that there is more then a few ways of creating graphic design as a gateway for presenting your game as a both an exhibit for your product ideals and as a character within the campaign setting. A Red and Pleasant Land is as much an rpg artifact as a campaign setting.

The longer I read a Red and Pleasant Land the more the setting plays and begs to be run. There are bits of horror, fairytale, and lurking spillage of a world that runs right below the mirrors and places of shadow right behind our own world. The setting has as much of the modern running through its narrative as an alternative dimension as a it is a D&D setting.
There are so many hooks lurking in the back drop of the book that it begs to be connected with the rest of the Lamentations of The Flame Princess system but it could really be used with a great variety of other retroclones as well.
There are so many ways that this book could be plugged into games as a horror setting or as a completely different take on fairy tales. The author gives the DM everything he needs to take this setting and use it as everything from tool kit to complete campaign. The book can be dipped into a bit at a time or taken as a whole and used completely. My advice is to take the PC's there for a short visit and let them kick the tires of the setting and then see where this book takes them.

There is enough conflict for several years worth of play at least here with plenty to deal with if not more.

I don't think that A Red and Pleasant Land is a perfect role playing book but I do think that its one of the best to come out for 2014. Its a good and solid hit for the Lamentations of The Flame Princess.
Do I think that you should buy this book? Yes and I'm going to purchase a physical copy as soon as possible. 


  1. I would like to see this recast as A Red and Pleasant System for Machinations of the Space Princess.

    Gaming or otherwise, is there anything out there that says "Alice in Wonderspace" to you, Needles?

  2. I understand where your coming from Rainswept, and that system doesn't get enough love at all. You can really take your choice of influences from right over here.

    Personally I think that this might do it for you with some severe modification to shoe horn in the space elements from Machinations of The Space Princess.

    This mightbe right up your alley.-
    Grade 4-7–When her parents, the king and queen of Wonderland, are killed by her Aunt Redd, Alyss Heart escapes by jumping into the Pool of Tears. Her jump takes her to Victorian Oxford, where she emerges from a puddle, lives as a street urchin, and is eventually adopted by Reverend and Mrs. Liddell. Unable to make anyone believe her fantastic story, she finally confides in Charles Dodgson, who says he will write a book about her. When she discovers that Alice's Adventures Underground is full of make-believe, and not her story or her real name, she sadly resigns herself to life as a Victorian girl of privilege. Meanwhile, back in Wonderland, the Alyssians form a resistance movement and attempt to overthrow the despotic Redd. For years, Hatter Madigan searches the world for Alyss so she can return to Wonderland as Queen. In the end, the Alyssians prevail, but only after much graphic bloodshed and many brutal battles involving card soldiers who transform into warriors, chessmen, blades that whirl and slash, vicious Jabberwocks, and even carnivorous roses. The tale is clever and flows like an animated film where action is more important than character development. However, it bears little resemblance to Lewis Carroll's original story. Beddor has usurped the characters and setting and changed them for his own purposes, keeping only the story's frame and not much of that. Still, the fantasy will appeal to those readers who like battles and weapons and good vs. evil on and on and on.
    Right over here

  3. Some of the text mentions LC's whimsy. I don't think he had evil vampire wars and surprise taxation in mind. Even if you boil the story in D&D juices, you rarely expect invincible monsters and inescapable troubles. The twisted tone isn't new from this publisher; players should expect more wincing than whimsy.

  4. Well given my predilection for horror and vampires. This really doesn't surprise me at all. I'm hoping for more wincing then whimsy but I haven't even begun yet with the Lewis Carol or the fairy tale angle. More coming up soon Lee.