I must prefix this review with a piece of advice. If you have not already heard +Barry Blatt, the author of England Upturn’d, speak then you should do so first. He’s got a fantastic accent which, once heard, it becomes impossible to not hear it when you’re reading this book which in turn adds a whole new dimension.
England Upturn’d is a LotFP published adventure set during the civil war in England, starting on Saturday the 3rd of May 1642. It’s rare that an adventure opens up with telling you an exact date to set this in but then again this isn’t an ordinary run of the mill adventure – this is an adventure steeped in real life history, with some Lamentations artistic license taken here and there. When I first received my copy I was surprised at how thick the book was: 132 pages to go by the PDF count. I had a quick flick through and was impressed at how much was there (that and the delightful artwork that reminds me of +Kelvin Green‘s ‘Forgive Us‘).
The important part to realise however is this isn’t a “memorise a ton of content then spew it over the players” style adventure, the first word that pops into my head is ‘toolkit’. The two main NPCs are explained in detail (down to their schedule) and are fantastically memorable; there’s a lot of tables to generate most things you’ll need (such as intricate rumour tables and random NPC generators), there’s rules explaining dysentery and ague, there’s even a weather table to work out what conditions the characters will be facing over the course of the adventure each day; there’s details on the different outcomes depending on who triumphs – the information you can find in Smeaton’s Victory is fantastic, for example.
This adventure has a major event that will happen, its outcome dependent on how the players get stuck in – even if they do nothing, something is going to happen. There is enough seeds to spring a campaign from this, or set into an existing Civil War campaign should you happen to be running one, but there is enough content in this book that you could use large chunks of it to run any historical adventure. The expanded information on firearms for the period are interesting to read (as well as a d12 table on what could go wrong with them), and the easy-to-comprehend explanations of the different religions and prevalent forces is very useful.
Key Things I Plan to Steal for Other Future Adventures
- Appendix 2 – Reaction and Persuasion: an expanded reaction table when dealing with NPCs.
- Pretty much all the items you can find in the Excavation table
- The rules for Ague and Dysentery
- The NPC generator
I want to run this. The amount of information seems daunting at first but its not information you’re having to memorise and regurgitate, instead its information that will help you understand how everything fits. I don’t think there’s any real requirement for the players to be fans of the era or history buffs because for the most part it boils down to a few key NPCs with different goals – the players don’t need to necessarily understand the bigger picture if they don’t want to.
Presentation is spot on, with the previously mentioned charming artwork inside by +Sarah Richardson and that delightful cover on the front by +Jason Rainville. Most importantly however is that its very easy to read and well edited. I made the comment at the start of this review about being unable to not hear Barry’s voice as I read through – and I stand by that – but its a testament to his writing abilities that he’s able to pass along so much information in detail yet without becoming tedious.
England Upturn’d is something that should be in every serious LotFP GM’s arsenal, and can be bought from the LotFP store for 16.50€ – I definitely recommend springing for the print version of this considering its usefulness at the table.