Veins of the Earth

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Veins of the Earth
Setting published by
Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Rule System Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Authors Patrick Stuart, Scrap Princess

Veins of the Earth is a setting for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, written largely by Patrick Stuart with "additions" and art by Scrap Princess. It's basically the Lamentations riff on the Underdark, with a focus on realistic-but-still-playable adventure gaming in caves, and the usual Lamentations focus on bastardry, cannibalism, and getting the PCs tangled up in the game deadlier than adventuring: politics.

Pariahs of the Earth[edit]

After a meditative opening on caves and how humans think of them, the first section centers on a bestiary of underground (or semi-underground) critters. Some of them are pretty rad, like that colony of spiders operating a giant spider-shaped web-mech, doglike predators whose faces are brilliant, blinding spotlights, or the packs of cave tortise-raptors that spend a lifetime slowly scraping lichen off the cave walls, ignoring PCs when encountered in small groups, only to suddenly burn a century of calories in a half-hour trying to run down and devour a party if they outnumber them, dropping dead if they fail. Some are classic Lamentations overcooked ideas, like the tachyon troll that shows up injured and needs to be attacked to full health in order to become whole and stave off paradox, or the silicon-based tourist mechs from the center of the earth who somehow can't notice that their attempts at communication are occasionally killing people and blow up for a TPK if attacked. Special mention to the knotmen, a messed-up and horrible culture of people whose ancestors sold their souls for fortune, and who now keep their kids around as an insurance policy, horrible knots appearing in their flesh whenever they try to deny that their culture is the awful nightmare it plainly represents.

Notably, the statblocks provided are abstracted, but information provided includes how the creature sounds, smells, and whether or not it is blind in order to properly interact with later rules on cave adventuring.

Cultures in the Veins[edit]

Excepting the knotmen, these are all takes on the "classic" cultures of the Underdark.

The aelf-adal are refugees from nightmares who once escaped and tried to take over the world, only to be beaten back. They desperately hate all other forms of life, but are hesitant to try to kill them all since they know they're products of dreams and aren't sure if they'd survive that genocide, so they mostly settle for plotting the reversal of the world down in the dark.

The deep janeen are decadent, evil genies of elemental earth who are flighty and artistic, occasionally stopping adventurers to ask them to review the dungeon they just traversed. They are also insanely dangerous to talk to, but just as dangerous to try to ignore once you have their interest.

The dErO are heavily based on the original Shaver stories, and do a good job of simultaneously being horrible, scary, and kind of funny in a black comedy sort of way. They behave schizophrenically, they utilize clever but twisted machines that may or may not often backfire, they do horrible things for pointless reasons in infinite feedback loops they're too stupid or crazy to notice, and they take pills that let them hear the players and GM talking, but cause them to suffer for metagaming if they at all acknowledge what they've heard. This can happen to PCs who unwisely try their drugs.

The dvargir are actually pretty much like their normal counterparts in many ways, save that they're even-more focused on working for its own sake; their totalitarian culture literally worships the concept of work and their behavior is diagrammed in an algorithm on one page, representing their computer-like mindset. One of their pictures implies they may be the only culture down here to master gunpowder, and they have a form of carbide electric lights that're also ecologically-unfriendly.

Substratals are what you get when you cast a summoning spell for earth elementals too close to the source of all Earth, and therefore pull something a bit too powerful and conscious for your own good. The party has basically just performed an alien abduction by accident and derailed the plot by getting pulled into earth elemental politics.

The gnonmen are an interesting meditation on what kind of "good" race could survive in such a harsh, alien environment so inimical to life, and an oddly-hopeful little section after like half a book's doom and gloom. They revere light, life, and action, and focus on the now, refusing to let themselves be ground down into despair.

Light and Dark[edit]

In a place of total darkness, light is everything. It provides a lot of additional rules for cave adventuring long-term, including simplified exchange rates (1 sp = one hour of light = 1 lume) for lantern fuel of various kinds, advice for how to run and describe adventuring in dark places, rules for handling darkvision/infravision (here's what it can actually do and help with, here's what it can't), initiative rules based on who has light sources (blind creatures don't need light to function, but sight has some advantages so they always go after sighted targets with light sources in combat), and lots of neat ideas for cool light sources that call to mind an adventuring party whose lamps are as diverse as their races and classes.

Also has rules for what to do when things go totally to shit and the party has to make its way in total (not near total, total) darkness. They are harsh and unforgiving, though not unsurvivable. In what will be the start of a trend, Constitution suddenly becomes the most important stat in the game, because someone needs to save vs. every ability score, and if Constitution blows then all fails are cumulative instead of the first bad result happening.

Encumbrance, Exploration, Climbing and Travel[edit]

Rules for scaling and travelling through caves, including climbing checks (using the same save system as searching in the dark), emphasis is placed on quick calls and ease of use. Also why even the duergar usually don't wear plate mail down here.

Generating the Veins[edit]

A system for mapping and generating caves, with emphasis on making it feel like an actual cavern rather than a cave-themed building. Also, rules for generating hex-maps of different kinds of caves criss-crossing each other, including weird and cool variations like fungal blooms, war-caves carved by two different sides in conflict, and gigastructures made by some lost civilization. Lots of detailed random generators here. Really good; just don't want to get bogged down with reporting every piece of a vast section.

Items, Treasure, and Spells[edit]

Big random tables again. Much like the monsters in the first section, they run the gamut from cool and thematic to "Lamentations gonna Lamentations."

Madness & Change[edit]

Opens with a rant on how the inevitable result of cave-based exploration is cannibalism and how nice he's being by downplaying the characters' caloric needs, ignoring that he's also downplaying how much efficient packing can do to prevent this sort of thing. 'Cause Lamentations gonna Lamentations. That said, the simplified hunger/starvation rules are at least easy enough to implement.

The other section includes physical mutations and mental instabilities on the same table (and various methods for how they happen, from the reasonable to the cruel), plus hypothermia rules for if you swim in an underground river and climb out without much chance to make a fire and warm back up.

Appendix[edit]

Goes into detail on earlier things, like different ways to describe different kinds of darkness and set mood, the written language of the knotsmen (it's awful just like they are), and the really detailed rules for cave generation on the micro and macro level. It also has a few other setting bits that didn't fit in anywhere else. (Why, exactly, people would hoard the knowledge that you can use poop instead of blood to generate light with luminol is an obvious question, but the answer is probably "'Cause Lamentations gonna Lamentations.")

Finale[edit]

The book outright recommends you strip it for parts rather than use it as is. And there are some fine parts in there, though most of them will probably work better when you clean away the Lamentations.