The Staffortonfhire Trading Company Works of John Williams (2021)
Glynn Seal (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Lotfp has changed. It’s initial status as OSR all-star brand and vehicle for wild abandon, the Vertigo Comics of the OSR, only with even more tiddies and rape, has passed for the foreseeable future. I would have declared TSTCWoJW a bold step in a new direction for Lotfp, were it not that it was originally comissioned January 2016. Regardless, Staffortonfhire marks a phase change. Lotfp’s strength used to be its modules, with most of its source books being on the weak side (I don’t care for Vornheim, but it is the only one that I have seen mentioned as being used fairly often, feel free to comment if you use another etc. etc.). Edgy, Wacky, Provocative and Wild stuff. Staffortonshire is none of that. So what is it?
Inside Lotfp there are two wolves. One wolf sleeps on a matress inside a dirty room, subsists on vanilla vape-juice and cum, doesn’t shower, lives in a Coastal metropolis in the US, enjoys colourful lights, candy, has pink hair and piercings, has a short attention span, and loves modules. The other wolf sleeps on a matress inside a dirty room, subsists on vodka and raw meat, doesn’t shower, lives in Eastern Europe, enjoys wargames, history & Warhammer Fantasy, wears an adidas track suit and a gold chain, has a scarily long attention span and likes long campaigns. And by golly it’s nice to see Lotfp throw a bone to the other wolf every once in a while.
Staffortonshire is almost 130 pages of maps of historical buildings, ships, fortresses, prisons, basillica and the fucking Taj Mahal. There is a meta-narrative framework of a captured architect making maps of buildings as he makes a grand tour of Europe, Asia & North America to collect valuable intelligence, but this is only a framework. The draw are the maps themselves. And, well, look at them.
Part of the challenge of running a historical campaign, particularly in a period that is not widely disseminated in pop culture (like say, the era of the Roman Empire is), is visualizing the setting and injecting it with detail so players can get properly immersed. This balance is delicate. A single modernism can do great violence to the reality of the setting. GM’s have enough trouble with well known periods like the Dark Ages or Iron Age Rome, let alone the bewildering period of the Early Modern, requiring quite a bit of research before one is fully comfortable, but what better way to inject this created world with life then with floorplans, each marked with interesting historical tidbits, containing within them manifold buried assumptions and hints of the wonderful world of 16–?
There is one major gripe. There is a scale, but no grid to any of the maps, adding an inconvenience to their use in play. I suspect adding a grid to all the maps would have made the book spectacularly ugly, so I understand its omission, but I will stand on general principle of being able to use material in actual play, particularly material covering such a broad range of topics.
The range of subjects is diverse, covering everything from common buildings (schools, houses, churches), military structures (fortresses, powder rooms, watchtowers, castles), famous monuments (London Bridge, the Taj Mahal, the Bastille, the Louvre, a london Cathedral) to more esoteric subjects (anatomical theatres, bear baiting rings, American colony towns). The mind wanders and is urged to creativity: What can I use this map for? They are each of them potential adventures waiting for a fertile imagination to breathe life into them.
Staffortonshire is a challenge. It presents whiffs and crumbs of a rich and exotic world of new frontiers, metropoli, anatomical theatres, war torn pastoral lands watched over by star shaped fortifications, wide open seas and dark alleyways and challenges you, the prospective GM, to make use of this. If your campaign is open, set against the backdrop of Early Modern Europe, and you are reasonably, or perhaps autistically, serious about the historical emulation bit this is a godsend. A god of godsends. The golden god.
Conversely, if you run your game like I did (a series of loosely connected module adventures, held together by a world map, occasional side-treks, guestimated distances, tape, bribes, threats and gaslighting) you might not get much use out of it. But why not? Why not elevate your game? Start writing again you illiterate fucks. Several 3rd party Lotfp ventures have been great!
I should give some sort of shoutout for not only covering a wide range of subjects, but a wide range of areas as well. Spanish, French, Dutch, English, American, Italian, Ottoman, fucking Indian, Russia (the Kremlin!), Germany, Holland, Denmark, this is splendid stuff. I am a larger Holy Roman/Swedish influence considering these are major players in the Thirty Years War so often used as a backdrop but of course any book is can only convey a limited range of subjects and both the range and the subject matter can be inferred and adjusted so there is hardly any shame in this.
The book ends with a humble list of hooks, many of which are variants of the Alamo (i.e. a small garrison is fighting against an insurmountable force, thou must defend), or involve historical events (the Storming of the Bastille and the missing Roanoke Colony) and have only minor occult influences if any. This section might spur the odd quick session or so but could have used a bit more oomph. The historical influences are touching but Lotfp is at its core, a game of weird fantasy against a natural backdrop. I shall reward partial points for mention of the Witch Trials (Witchcraft hysteria was, of course, at an all time high during the early modern period, and is EMMINENTLY suitable for Lotfp conversion).
But still, an impressive background work of not inconsiderable substance, lengthy, gorgeous in an unassuming way, and likely to be of interest to more dad-games oriented purveyors, of which, let’s face it, our little neck of the woods is still primarily composed. I want to congratulate Mr. Seal on not focusing exclusively on the obvious material like Churches and Castles but to include material like Blubber Ovens, Foundries, Alms-houses and a whole host of other civilian buildings, to give a diverse overview of the rich world of early modern europe.
It probably goes without saying that while this is made for Lotfp it can be used with any historical early modern period game (Gabor Lux’s Helveczia comes to mind) as there are no statts, but plentiful freshness contained therein. Considering the subject-matter this material is very niche but if you are that rare target demographic this is fine work, and the list of sources in the back should provide a good starting point for further elaboration, should you too get bitten by the history bug. Ample background material to serve as enrichment for a historical campaign. Impressive. Now someone write up an Lotfp adventure in the Kremlin!