Hammers of the God (2010)
James Raggi IV (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Level 3 – 5
Hammers of the God, together with the old Death Frost Doom, Tower of the Stargazer, the Grinding Gear, Weird New World and No Dignity in Death, represents a sort of proto Lotfp product, retaining many elements of traditional fantasy games. Afterward there was a noticeable focus on the postulated pseudo-historical 1600 period, a more S & S or Weird take on magic and magic items, a stronger focus on horror and, overall, an effort to utilize unique monsters and magic items wherever possible.
There is also a noticeable lack of penis monsters or body horror in this adventure, though it IS a death trap so we can all breathe out and stop asking in the most annoying of sarcastic voices if indeed hell HAS frozen over. Yes, James Raggi has made something and it has elements that might be described as a death trap but more of a death trap light (you can cause a TPK with at most 3 or 4 actions, one of which has a very small probability but can take the universe along with it, a cakewalk by Loftp standards).
The introduction by James Raggi IV provides a pretty interesting viewpoint on modules, one that mirrors my own. Raggs advocates the position that if you want to become a good GM, you can only improve by running good modules written by someone else in the most stylistically faithful way possible (future James Raggi would have added something along the lines of ‘ and by good modules I mean modules published by Lotfp of course. Because FUCK YOU THATS WHY’ etc. etc.).
Hammers of the Gods is an adventure. It has dwarves. Does your campaign have dwarves? Are you one of those GMs that leaves things open and does not already know how the empire of the dwarves has fallen because it is irrelevant to the game so far? Then this adventure can be integrated seamlessly into your campaign. If not, milady will have to do some tinkering, because one of the strengths of this adventure (the possible investigative element where you discover how the empire of the dwarves fell) also makes it harder to implement. This does not mean one should not make the attempt.
The adventure proper is a dungeon crawl in a lost dwarven complex. No plot hooks are given beyond a single one that is both classic and bound to be effective. The good old treasure map. I feel like treasure maps are under-utilized in games, I know I don’t use enough of them. Treasure map, dwarf-related. Nice.
The complex proper is a quasi-linear dungeon with two main pathways and a lot of branching rooms. It has a strong atmospheric component and eschews the normal grab-bag of variety for a more narrow thematic focus. And more then one opportunity to use the Read Languages Skill to substantial advantage(as in Death Frost Doom), also something that is often overlooked in contemporary dungeons. The doors are forged from nearly unbreakable dwarven steel, the tomb is covered in knee-deep purplish fog and random encounters are restricted to the animated bodies of the dwarven dead, possessed by the loyal spirits of the guardians of the shrine.
As they progress through the dungeon, the players will (or at least CAN) gradually discover the history of this fallen civilization through runes, murals, frescoes and books, with a feeling of melancholy, fallen grandeur, secret shame (a rune on the magically concealed entrance even says “shame”) and the weight of long ages permeating the adventure. Treasure (again, a generous amount for lotfp) complements this, with golden tools of exquisite craftsmanship, delicious gemstones and some nice unique magical items making up most of the potential reward.
Almost a third of the adventure is taken up by descriptions of over a hundred dwarven tomes to be found in the library and usually about a paragraph of information that can be gleaned from it. Accompanying dates allow the players to piece together what happened to the old dwarven empire as well as gain information that should provide useful in helping to survive the dungeon proper. The history proper is fairly well done, cliches and apocalyptic cataclysm are avoided in favor of gradual decline, religious change and growing insularity.
The adventuring part proper is nice, focusing on puzzle solving, exploration and navigating traps, with the occasional fight with dwarven sentinels or other, more weird intruders to keep the party on their toes. In accordance with Good Dungeon Design 101 as showcased in the sublime and platonic Good Dungeon that is B1 In Search of the Unknown, there is a pool with random weirdness that you can fuck around with (most of it to your detriment, one of which can destroy the universe, but a hint is given beforehand, two give you perma-stat loss cancer, uncool bro).
Interesting and bizarre antagonists, another staple of Lotfp, should not be omitted from this catalog, with four monsters with interesting special abilities that exemplify the Weird sure to inspire excitement and horror in equal measure. Hammers of the Gods has its share of classic tropes (animating statues, animating tomb guardians), but these tend to work to its strength, not its detriment. Some hints of follow up adventure as well as the vengeful spirit of a dwarven emperor chasing down the party days after they have looted his tomb complete what is overall a very solid and atmospheric take on the traditional dungeon crawl.
Hammers of the Gods is a strange bird as far as Loftp is concerned, it retains many of the trappings of traditional fantasy games but manages to inject a hint of freshness, making old tropes feel relatively new. Nothing about this staunchly traditional dungeon crawl feels stale or worn, instead we get seamless alloy of atmosphere, lore, adventure and peril to quench our burning need for adventure most exciting. Like the alloys of the dwarven empires of bygone days, the metal might be old but it is as untarnished and strong now as it was before. I can’t see you having a boring time running this one.
Final Verdict: Solid and traditional atmospheric dwarven themed dungeon crawl. Recommended for anyone who is not afraid to give the tried and true tropes of D&D a satisfying joyride. 8 out of 10.
EDIT: I tend to forget art. I rarely mention it unless it is exceptionally well done or exceptionally terrible. This is well done if sparse. Monochrome and grey sketches, blurry where the new DfD was stark black and white. Evocative of the atmosphere the adventure wishes to convey. Good stuff.