[Review] Wight Power: Qui Custodit Layout Cobolorum?

Wight Power (2021)

Alex Mayo (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

How good are you at taking notes? Do you like taking notes? Is it the air you breathe? The river you swim in?

Alex Mayo is a long-time graphics designer and layout goblin, having laid his hands on the works of the superlative Zzarchov Kowolski, Dave Brockie and Jeff Rients. This current effort represents his first full foray into rpg-writing [1] and though it has good elements, this inexperience is somewhat noticeable.

Tenfootpole.org is probably the single most influential force upon the OSR. Utility and ease of reference are hammered home with each of a million reviews. I sometimes suspect that the laser focus on layout and presentation has some unintended side-effects, causing a trend of deliberately simplistic, ease-of-reference, airy material without substance, but Wight Power does hammer home the effects of neglecting this side of the process altogether. Wight Power is good at heart, but you need an entrenching tool and a chisel to get at it.

Good premise. The cirumsized foreskin of Jesus christ, a relic long thought lost, has been recovered once more, after a long, and I mean LONG, series of events, by the Priest Joseph Duverney. Duverney and his band of eccentric followers have sojourned to the Isle of Wight, in search of the catacombs of Saint Cyprian of Antioch (“the Saint of Necromancy”), in order to use the forbidden knowledge contained in the esoteric Clavis Inferni to clone the Messiah from the relic and bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately the isle is also the site of an ancient heathen massacre, and the restless spirits of the normen contained within stir with the rising of occult power. There has been a murder, and the PCs are chartered for a not-unreasonable 1000 sp/week. Onto the Isle of Wight!

This thing is too long. The backstory is effectively 9 pages (including a timeline which in itself might have sufficed) of ultra-dense material, much of which is peripheral to the adventure. I suspect this might be a Call of Cthulhu thing. The entire journey of the foreskin is plotted out, the history of the Clavis Inferni is delved into, the history of the pagan invaders, up to the identity of the Norse king. Thought was put into this. Maybe even substance. That’s good. It’s a different thing if you make something that is both too simple and too long. This has substance to it but there is no filter on what information is presented in order for you to run the adventure vs just background material. Take this sentence:

Wulfhere is defeated in battle by Ecgfrith of Northumbria, and his power over southern England greatly diminished. Æthelwealh converts to Christianity. Arwald, of the Jutish Wihtwara dynasty, becomes king of the island and re-asserts its pagan traditions.

You did genuine research. That’s a good impulse. But this is useless information to the business of running the adventure because it is almost never going to come up in play. Consider editing it and putting it in an Appendix titled Additional Background. You can get away with murder if you put things in an appendix. If people complain then you can say, you fools! It was in the appendix all along! Why did you read it?

This is, at its heart, a location with different factions with mutually incompatible objectives, the Nu-SR go too format if you don’t want to do dungeons. You have the Landsknechts (!) that guard the excavation site, the Religious Order, a ruthless adventurer who had all the workers killed to prevent any information about his crimes leaking out and a ghost, the titular Wight, possessing one of the workers and killing them. There’s rising tensions, a murder victim, the occult presence of the Womb deep in the catacombs, the party is hired to investigate but is also obstructed from entering the catacombs proper. In addition the Wight is unearthing a tunnel to a set of catacombs that contain the bodies of its pagan brethren, so we have a ticking clock and an impending zombie apocalypse.

There’s also information and how it is presented. In Deadly Fashion kind of faltered near the end but its investigation component was very tight. Relevant lines of inquiry are anticipated and bullet pointed. A few details are provided and the GM can infer or invent on the fly, a framework in which these immutable facts, relevant to the adventure, are placed. Here we get exhaustive detail and a questionable order. The womb’s influence permeates the entire area but the complete effects are only covered in the back of the book, with references to that page dotting the work. Major players are statted and described in considerable detail, but the actual killer, the possessed Landsknecht, is barely mentioned and his replies are never brought up. It is revealed the entire investigation plot is sort of a red herring, meant to draw the players to the tomb. But consider how much time and effort you have spent into cataloguing the responses of the three men to various lines, and what they know, while the point is to have the PCs investigate the catacombs and discover the true horrible secret? The offense is not horrible, the focus of the adventure is indeed delivered upon, but why all this foreplay with no payoff?

There is a rumor table, with all of 20 tables, both true and false, but understanding is missing. Rumors in DnD are not exclusively fluff. The idea is that PCs that investigate get partial information that is relevant to the adventure and allows them, in whatever minor way, to anticipate the threats they are about to face. You intersperse that with foreshadowing, misleading information, some inane banter. There are two relevant lines of rumors in the table, one pertains to the German mercenaries, something that is immediately apparent, and one to murders in the region, which is largely irrelevant.

A young couple walking the beaches east of Fishbourne said they spied a couple of
armed men watching them from the cliffs overlooking the shore. They felt uncomfortable and left

A strange flaming object fell from the sky near Quarr Abbey. A local farmer tried to look for it but was chased off by armored men. (FALSE about the flaming object, TRUE about the armored men).

A few months back, a group of German mercenaries showed up with several wagons
full of goods. They purchased some perishable goods, caroused a bit, then departed

Also given the time dependent effects, the excavation of the dead and the completion of the Messiah, a timeline, starting from the arrival of the PCs, is essential. Consider putting it in. Conversely, the aftermath of the adventure is discussed before a description of the Site and the creatures proper. You put that in the back of the adventure, as it is likely to be of minor importance and need be referenced only once.

As mentioned, adventure proper is too long, not too dense as in the details are unwiedly, but too long as in there is too much text and peripheral detail.

The monks of Quarr Abbey tended to nearby fields and churches and used their medical training to relieve the locals of their ailments. From 1147 onward, they joined the Cistercian congregation of the
Benedictine order. The abbey survived several invasions by the French (and at one point was reinforced against such incursions), but in the end, it was a political act, the Dissolution of the Monasteries (enacted in 1536 by Henry VIII to fill his war coffers), that spelled its doom. Since then, the site has lain in ruins. Only the foundation and several ruined walls that once outlined the Abbey’s infirmary and adjoining chambers still stand.

Wight Power avoids the mistake of focusing ONLY on this sort of background detail and to its credit anticipates the type of play that is likely to occur in investigation situations like this (i.e. sneaking around, investigating, theft, gaslighting, arson etc. etc.). Every major NPC has a tent with possessions, occasional traps (very good!), alarms!, treasure to steal (thank god!) there’s distinct forces, the scenario is essentially a powderkeg that can unfold in a variety of ways, many of them satisfyingly explosive. But you are making me work for it that’s for damn sure.

A note about the map. It’s colorful and you used a scale, good, we are getting somewhere. Consider using a symbol to indicate doors. The lines that are being used in areas 7-11 for the doors are indistinguishable from walls, and I believe some part of the dungeon goes under the other part? I can infer and cross-reference the proper configuration but if I am midway into a game, then it’s a little fucked.

Catacombs proper are nu-OSR style, a.k.a short and thus a little cramped because almost everything has something going on. One room has a concealed tunnel, one room is off limits and filled with ancient riches, there’s a chokepoint that will require some PC strategizing or finesse to get past, again, a good idea, I would have liked to see coverage of some possible PC ruses to get past it (say, holding a Landsknecht at gunpoint and getting him to order the other two to open the security door). The site proper is CoC/WhFRPG a.k.a. from minor signs of shenanigans to a complete shitshow of supernatural degeneracy in 5 seconds flat, and if the formidable Embryonic Christ rises from his occult womb PC chances of success are very slim, which is something of an Lotfp staple I think.

Academic detail is often alluded too and it bloats out the dungeon.

3. Sleeping Chamber – The Jutes made this their sleeping area, as evidenced by the crude bedding littering the floor. Though primitive even by the standards of the 7th century, the Jutes did what they
could under pretty dire circumstances. If thoroughly searched, nothing of value will be turned up except for a tiny wooden carving image of Woden on a decayed leather thong, a testament to the ancient
pagan faith of those who once lived here.

How can we tell from the bedding that the Jutes did what they could and is it going to come up? Can we not infer that a figurine of Woden is a testament to the faith of the people that lived here without you pointing this out?

Que 3 pages of an Occult tome, again, good rules, very metal, you can summon the devil and make pacts with him etc. etc. but its 3 pages. Then a Fuck Nazis disclaimer, very stunning and brave, I guess maybe someone was nervous that the title would get them cancelled or something?

A difficult entry to judge. Maybe related to that Sepventvm Fervium something something adventure. My initial tendency is to write it off because of the tail on it but underneath all of it is a pretty good adventure, with admirable depth and the premise is intriguing. I’m leaving this one to you, the reader. If you say, fuck no, my concentration span has been ruined by a decade of twitter, smartphones and reading your blog, its extremely not for you, if you say, fuck that! gimme my highlighter bitch! the Son of God dies tonight! then probably a yes. There is too much material coming out that is shallow, so I guess I should support work that tries to be substantial, and look beyond the considerable presentation warts. A very stern and hesitant ***

As an post-scriptum with food for thought. With a title like Wight Power I was expecting something a bit more edgy (e.g. for levels 14-88 or something) but I suppose the title alone would have angered all the right people as it has since been changed at the urging of Drivethru, so it is possible you are walking a thin line even there. Raggi’s idealistic stance on publishing almost everything is laudable, even if it comes from a quixotic desire to fight a censorship movement that has already been vanquished. You make a point of employing a cancelled artist, although we are not given to know his name. Good anti-censorship signal.
I offer a conundrum. The new censors and cancellers are the Woke, serving only the elite, we are not allowed to say that but it is true, and their battlecries are also ‘Fuck Nazis.’ With stuff like this declaration in the back, it’s a thin line between you and the Artpunkman calling you a Nazi on twitter all day.

Pictured: Perfectly normal and not at all weird things to put in a game of make-pretend

Stating your political position provides some insulation from cancellation attempts, but it also reinforces the notion that such things are neccessary and desirable. This is easy for me, an anonymous armchair internet idiot with a steady job, to remark upon but it is also true. Some day, this dichotomy, of Lotfp trying to simultaneously appease and provoke the blue-haired cat-ladies that are trying to destroy it, will have to be definetively resolved. Will you become one more drone, singing your bugspeak paean of loyalty to the ruling caste for fear of retribution and scrabble for a favorable social credit score, or will you ascend to the next level of edgemaster and become a legend twice-over? Food for thought. For now, probably focus on good adventures (not a bad run so far!).

EDIT: I want to close off with a paragraph of wisdom. I can’t remember quite who said it or where, but he was certainly correct.

Personally disavowing another person — especially a former collaborator or friend —is cowardly and evil, and any efforts to unperson someone or make them untouchable is just evil. I know it’s a big scary nonsense word, “evil,” but I can’t think of any other word for it. The people who do this are psychopaths as far as I’m concerned.

[1] I believe he contributed to a Coc Ennie-bait thing called Harlem Unbound?

25 thoughts on “[Review] Wight Power: Qui Custodit Layout Cobolorum?

  1. It’s nice to see that there are some decent outings in recent batch of LotFP stuff. Still, like you say, putting a fight with the resurrected demon-fetus clone of Jesus Christ in your elfgame adventure module might have been an edgy and transgressive thing to do back in the 90’s or 2000’s – in the Current Year it’s almost pedestrian. IMO what LotFP really needs is for Raggi himself to return to the game designer’s chair – the question is whether he has it left in him.


    1. Demon fetus Jesus or whatever is perhaps not transgressive to those of a miserable life lived chiefly on the internet, though it would be to actual play groups.

      LotFP cannot actually be transgressive because they would like to make money. True transgression has been made impossible by centralization onto DriveThruRPG, which can and will make any demands they want or deplatform you on a whisper from Satan’s own lips. There aren’t even any conventions to sell their products, although those too are increasingly aggressive in imposing their will. Untenable. If you want to be transgressive you must be willing to be poor.


      1. It kind of depends on whether they are willing to enforce their standards even on products that you don’t offer on their store. For a mom and pop OSR publisher (99%) running your own webstore is a waste of money and effort, but Lotfp certainly uses its own webstore for print, probably because of the bullshit margins. There’s Itch.io but its probably worse. I think the amount of censorship would have to get considerably more drastic before running any kind of rival platform would be worth the hosting cost of a North Korean Rpg store or whatever.


  2. Ha! I have almost same feelings about this one after reading thru. I was semi-irritated after this long intro to the adventure which turns out irrelevant.

    I had a problem with the fact that players are constantly threatened to NOT GO INTO THE FORBIDDEN AREA and yet author assumed that they will go anyway. It was especially weird since it heavily guarded and it’s too risky. And again – players are hired to do something completely different. This quest is a bit like discussing with a bitchy girlfriend who says “FIGURE IT OUT” when she’s angry at you.

    100% agree that there is a cool adventure underneath all this exposition. This book should be 32 pages.

    Words of wisdom again my Prince. Take care.


  3. I hated the rumours table on this one. I was waiting for something that would help me with the adventure as a whole, but what it did was creating seeds for stuff that’s not even in the adventure itself. I would like a described encounter with the dead workers spot, but it’s not even clear where exactly they were disposed. As a whole I agree the adventure is good, but it could be a lot better if not for these tidbits.


  4. Thanks for the review! I appreciate your thoughts. For the record, my goal with the afterword was not so much a fear of cancellation as an attempt on my part to funnel criticism of the book into more productive areas than ‘Alex is some kind of crypto-fascist’. I’m not particularly worried about cancellation per se, but if someone wants to have a go at me about the book on a level other than the content I’d at least like to do what I can to ensure that ‘You’re some kind of fascist…’ isn’t on the table. As expected there were some who chose to read that into the title anyway – but most of those geniuses were throwing around crazy conspiracy theories to explain away the book’s authorship, which I think actually killed most of the criticism by lowering the bar below ground level. At the end of the day you just can’t please everyone so *shrug* I guess.


    1. From a time-efficiency point of view I can certainly see the point, and while I’ll grumble, I guess I won’t try to get you fired or unpersoned so my discontent is an acceptable price to pay.

      I hope my observations will be of some use. Keep it up and welcome to Age of Dusk!


  5. == Tenfootpole.org is probably the single most influential force upon the OSR

    All such “forces” on the OSR are negative.

    In every creative domain there is the talent, the idiot audience and the facilitators, or critics, who are the members of the idiot audience who wish they were among the talent.

    The OSR is a domain starved of talent and the facilitators, straddling a gigantic dungheap, sing:

    == La la la, look at me I am so high, on a big pile of shit == but HIGH, that’s the main thing!! == I am so high I can no longer see the talent == but ask me to distinguish shit from excrement and I’m your only man!! ==

    Would Tenfootpole and PrinceofNothing be noticed if they Mused Collaboratively on the lowly dragonsfoot and even lower KKA AD&D forums? I doubt it because Tenfootpole and PrinceofNothing have no valuable experience with AD&D. I will go further and say that everyone who has played AD&D under me as DM for at least one 8-hour session knows more than Tenfootpole and PrinceofNothing about AD&D.

    Folks, let’s put reviewers back in their place, energetic excitable talentless.


    1. First, I will neglect to point out you are drunk because that is a given. Second, I have played more AD&D 1e in 3 months then you have in 3 years. In addition: People from K&KA actually DO read my blog. In addition: What a fascinating take, do you have a blog somewhere where people can read these takes? In addition: Cringe + Ratio’d + you fell off + Irish + etc. etc. etc.

      Deboonk me Kent. Write something good. All this armchair bullshit is wearing thin. Do something constructive instead of bitching.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. God, when Kent had a blog… when the glimpses it offered into AD&D a la Kent – however fragmented – gave some substance to all this posturing… those were the days. I *still* think about some of those posts.

        What a fallen world it is in which we live, eh?


      2. 1– This is what you said,

        == Tenfootpole.org is probably the single most influential force upon the OSR

        That is utter shite, and barely conceals what you think of yourself as second-monkey. Tenfootpole.org has a negative influence on the OSR because he has no standards, every sort of garbage is admitted for review because he would be exposed as a reviewer if he limited himself to appraising what was worthwhile.

        2– == I have played more AD&D 1e in 3 months then you have in 3 years

        I played AD&D with the friends I grew up with in the 1980s and 1990s in person around a table. You are playing it 30 years after the fact, online through zoom, with random internet people who probably know less about AD&D than you do. You have no grounding. You are a Johnny-come-lately. You and Bryce should be ashamed to pretend otherwise.

        3– == Deboonk me Kent. Write something good.

        Are you suggesting that in order to comment on other peoples material one should have produced acclaimed material? Is that what you and Bryce have done?

        I have for over a decade argued that the private campaign is the high water mark, not the module, and the best way to communicate AD&D is through supremely well written play reports as Premier did for Melan on Dragonsfoot. What Premier did is on the same level as Jaquays but he could not have written it if the private campaign was not of the highest level so it requires true collaboration, an excellent writer springboarding from a great DM’s campaign.


      3. I see those were centre of mass. Good. You have earned them.


        I literally point out that Bryce’s focus on utility probably has an unfortunate side effect, but also point out that there is a point to paying attention to utility + presentation in this case.


        I play AD&D with Melan, Settembrini and some others guys you would probably recognize actually. I brought up the game to point out you don’t play anymore, you haven’t played in a long fucking while, and it is clouding your appreciation of what makes this game fun and it is clouding how you interact with people. It is over intellectualized pornographic bullshit. You wouldn’t even be able to fucking sit down at a table and play like a normal fucking human without snarling. You have lost sight of the communal experience. Pick your ass up and rekindle that spirit.

        I am not claiming to know more on the subject then any oldschoolers. But you bet your ass I have played enough B/X, Lotfp, Carcosa and other material to have a well-formed opinion, and I shall continue, publically, for purposes of discourse, promotion and to learn more about the craft of adventure writing.


        I am suggesting that you are stricken by a deep self-loathing and insecurity, to such an extent that you delete your own work, and in your envy, do little but spew invective and poison at anyone not so crippled. I am saying that you need to get your ass out of your armchair and do something besides moan at the few people that still put up with you.

        I’m more then happy to talk with you about the highest form of DnD, the detriment of the Utility standard or whatever stuff I have done or what constitutes as ‘acclaim’ but I will do that when you have demonstrated the ability to not act like a histrionic spinster.

        Do you know why you are no longer banned on Bryce’s blog? Do you know who asked that? Do you know who keeps giving you second chances? What do you want, and why? What is the idealized outcome of this interaction?


        Liked by 1 person

      4. == I am suggesting that you are stricken by a deep self-loathing and insecurity, to such an extent that you delete your own work, and in your envy, do little but spew invective and poison at anyone not so crippled.

        Don’t confuse the internet with real life. Focusing on a tiny part of the web, because of hobby I love, I despise what I see and enjoy expressing my contempt. The evolution of the D&D Grifter amuses me.

        == Disgraceful.

        We live now in a world where it is disgraceful not to be widely banned online if you are honest.


      5. [Kent]

        If you genuinely loved this hobby this would manifest itself into something positive. You would try to encourage what you considered good, or blog, or put something out, or talk about things you enjoyed, or at the very least play. But your defining characteristic is not the 5% of good observations that are the reason I have not written you off, it is the moping and moaning. ‘Ah but I enjoy this,’ is the battle cry. No you don’t. You aren’t even funny anymore dude. Read your old posts and do the comparison yourself. Shakespearean, precise, creative. The mirthful mockery of a superior intellect. And now sperging, coupled with claims of noble martyrdom, because in a post I note (correctly) that Tenfootpole is a huge influence on the OSR, and that this has possibly detrimental side effects, but that there is a point to looking at Utility (also true).


        ‘I’m just telling the truth’ is always the last refuge of the uncouth buffoon when he has been kicked out of polite company for going on yet another jew-rant during some poor shmuck’s 11-year old daughter’s birthday party. ‘I’m a hero,’ he says to himself, as former friends avert their eyes in shame, desperate to not be associated with this unhinged shit-covered embaressment. Your wounds are self-inflicted and you enjoy your martyrdom because it is a good excuse for inaction. There are a million different ways you could further what you see is right. You always choose this one.

        Do better.


    2. …the suggestion that creation implies or requires talent is the refuge of the talentless with no ability to improve their work.

      Also, constructive criticism is creative, in the same way that editing is. If you don’t think editing is creative, you don’t know how to edit properly.

      As others have said, if you’re so fucking clever produce something? Or back up the complaining about how no one else really understands how to D&D properly but you do?


  6. You called this genre at least 2 different things in this review. Nu-SR, Nu-OSR. Since the OSR is dead, maybe we should move these kinds of content to the next one over? Old School Baroque?


    1. Fuck I don’t know. As long as there is a difference between traditional oldschool style (i.e. dungeons, hexes) and newer material (More naturalistic locations with different factions/powderkegs) with CoC + WHF influences which I guess is Lotfp-housestyle and maybe Artpunk.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Should I ever publish anything RPG-related, I will be very tempted to say “If you’re a neo-Nazi, please do play this game. I’d much rather you spent your time and money on this than on something where actual people get hurt.”


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