Friday, May 27, 2016

Review & Commentary On England Upturn'd By Barry Blatt For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG System

Blood, thunder, violence, and the nastiness of war explodes across the page as we look into England Upturn'd by Barry Blatt From  Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

"The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists over, principally, the manner of its government." According to the internet and the combatants were simply the  Cavalier, & Roundheads 
But like many events in history the reality is far more complex especially with your party of adventurers caught right in the cross hairs of history with a dark and dangerous Lamentations twist to the whole affair. 

This was one of the most dangerous periods in English history and one that hasn't been tackled by too many old school retroclone systems. Like many other Lamentations of the Flame Princess products this is not simply another adventure; here's the thing about Lamentations products on the surface they can appear to be simple adventures when in fact there is a bit more meat on the beast's bones. In this case it's a bloody and quite complex beast of an adventure with the PC's taking part in the back scenes of the events of history & legend. Barry Blatt does an exceptional job created a campaign kit as well as an adventure based around the events of the English Civil War.
 Because this is a Lamentations product the political & religions factions of history are tackled head on. These powers and factions are central to the plot of England Up Turn'd as are the supernatural and occult elements of the adventure. This adventure takes the events of history and twists them through the lens of  the Lamentations system in such a way as to be both workable and unique in its approaches to the events of history.
According to the author; "While the Civil War changed little in itself, it
marked out the issues that the Glorious Revolution   of 1688 eventually resolved. The waves
of emigration immediately preceding, during, and after it exported those same issues to the
American colonies, which had a few rebellions and riots of their own at this time. Lamentations of the Flame Princess does the Early Modern period well enough already, but in the appendices you will find optional  setting specific rules to give an English Civil War game a bit more flavour should the Referee
wish to expand on this adventure and run a full blown Civil War campaign. Needless to say the author is not a historian and various small liberties have been taken
with the facts in the interests of fun and not boring the arse off’ the reader with too much
tedious historical exposition. This adventure features real locations in Lincolnshire and refers to real people alive at the time; my fictional depictions are just that - fictional, no offense is meant, and hopefully none will
be taken. This adventure owes an obvious debt to the film A Field in England directed by Ben Wheatley, what with the alchemy, the buried treasure, mud, and hallucinogenic ending. If you haven’t seen it, do so."

When it comes to the material the author borrows heavily from history and pop culture while giving the whole affair a Gothic horror and occult spin.A spin that could have the PC ending up in one of the many mass graves scattered across the sea of history of England Upturn'd.
The material pulls deeply from the alternative occult legends and mythologies of England whist vexing the PC's deep into the plot it does indeed remind me of  the film "A Field In England".

Much of the material is both real world and alternative roles in history of the PC's in the adventure set against the events of the English Civil War and it does it very well. The adventure takes great advantage of the usual tropes of OD&D's magic system and spins them into a different occult direction to great effect. But is it worth the download?

Well yes it is and in fact its a damn fine product and here are some of the reasons why :
  • The England Upturn'd product is a major turning point for the Lamentations line in my opinion it lays out a sprawling LoFP campaign option for the DM. 
  • There are literally several adventures tucked into one book Russian doll style. The adventures are linked via the plot line and have a thread of adventure, blood shed, & politics running through them. 
  • These are quite nicely the age of rebellion in English history with the War of the Roses being a close second in terms of adventure opportunity for a Lamentations style game. 
  • The occult is quite central to the adventures and much of the material revolves around the axis of the first half of the English Civil War. There are plot and adventure hooks that are scattered throughout the text to move things towards the next end of history. 
Magical treasures and occult items in England Upturn'd are very in keeping with the times and circumstances of the history of the era. An example of this are as follows; Crocodile boots—made in Amsterdam by a
cobbler with access to exotic Egyptian wares, these fashionable riding boots grant +1 Armour,
and once a day can be commanded with the words ‘Ik denk dat ik moet vertrekken’ (‘I
think I should leave’ in Dutch), to allow the wearer to walk on water for a minute."  Its all of the little touches that add up to creating a veneer of weirdness and pulpy strangeness in England Upturn'd that makes this adventure campaign so damn fun to read. It also makes me want to run this adventure and this is the book where factions, weirdness, and history all collide in a more then dangerous mix of the supernatural and adventure. Parties of adventurers are going to hard pressed to not get dragged into the politic of the history of England Upturn'd.

Oliver Cromwell

Note that even though England Up Turn'd is steeped in real world history the myths, legends, and mythologies of England the classic literature of Europe is in evidence throughout the adventure source book. I'm sure that some folks might compare England Upturn'd to Dark Albion because of the historical aspects of these product but they are very different animals. England Upturn'd is set in  the real world history of the English Civil War with fantastical and occult elements thrown in. Whist  Dark Albion takes a much different approach by creating an entire world setting around its own version of the  historical events of the War of The Roses even though that book follows the War's events exactly.
England Upturn'd is a party's chance to make their own mark within the campaign world and make it well if they are very lucky and play their cards right. There are lots of opportunities for the forces in this book to quite nicely kill off a party. Between the moments of violence and horrors of the events of England Upturn'd there is a solidly done book with lots of well written bits that will keep a party busy for months and months of play.

Do I think its worth your time and money? In a word yes in spades, this a well written and dangerously devilish designed & will provide a well set piece of weird horror adventure for both Lamentations of the Flame Princess DM's and players. Five out of five for England Upturn'd.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.
The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.
‘Protest Ballad, Anon. circa 1635’

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