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Posts Tagged ‘games workshop’

Night’s Dark Terror – in Kislev!

March 2, 2017 2 comments

b10_nights_dark_terror
Remember the UK AD&D module B/X1 (a.k.a. B10) Night’s Dark Terror? It was written by Jim and Phil (with Graeme Morris) shortly before they came to GW to work on WFRP. I gave it a favorable review in White Dwarf #78, and I’ve always liked it as a campaign setup and adventure.
 
Well, Gideon at the Awesome Lies blog converted it for WFRP 1st edition recently, and set it in Kislev. Check it out here: https://awesomeliesblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/nights-dark-terror/

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

March 9, 2016 1 comment

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Ubisoft’s AAA shooter Tom Clancy’s The Division is making a big splash in the industry, and this article from Gamasutra caught my eye.

It’s a question that becomes more significant as games become more photo-realistic: how to justify the gore and high body counts that are part and parcel of a high-end shooter. Another question, asked less often, is how to develop additional and alternative ways to create tension and challenge the player so that body count is not the only leg on the stool.

the division

It reminds me of a crossroads that tabletop games faced in the mid-80s.

D&D was all about kicking in doors, slaying monsters, and collecting treasure, and then Call of Cthulhu came out, in which combat was almost never a good idea and the focus was on investigation, uncovering a backstory, and figuring out the best way to resolve a situation.

For a while, the tabletop RPG hobby was split into “irvings” (a British term of the time, equivalent to today’s “munchkin”) who loved to boast about their best kills and the obscenely high level of their character, and “rolegamers” who loved to boast about how they gamed for an entire weekend and never touched the dice once.

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One of the things we tried to do with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and the Enemy Within campaign in particular, was to take the best of both worlds. The deadliness of the combat system was a major tool in achieving this goal, since it forced players to think of more creative solutions to problems. The other vital components were a game system (range of skills, character types, spells, and equipment) and a design mindset (communicated through scenario design and, in our case, advice to GMs) that gave players a wide range of potential actions to choose from in any given situation.

Now I know that there are some fundamental differences between tabletop games and electronic games, but it is very interesting to see AAA shooters facing a choice, as a genre, that tabletop games encountered 30-odd years ago. Maybe there are some useful ideas from that time that can be used now, and maybe there will be some new solutions that leave everyone stunned. I can’t wait to see.

 

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

December 22, 2015 20 comments

Dark Future

Dark Future was released in 1988, the same year as Adeptus Titanicus. At least part of Games Workshop’s strategy was to get better at plastics before introducing them as a major part of the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 product lines. It has been claimed that Bryan Ansell was also testing the competition’s tolerance by producing games that were very similar to two major titles of the day: Steve Jackson Games’ Car Wars and FASA Corporation’s BattleTech. I don’t know if that is true, but no lawsuits resulted.

The title Dark Future came before the game. After reading William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, Jervis Johnson became very excited about the potential of a cyberpunk RPG. Cyberpunk was a very new sub-genre at the time, and no cyberpunk games existed. Marc Gascoigne and Jervis developed a whole setting for the proposed game, but the tide in Games Workshop had already turned against new RPGs and so far as I know the project never received an official green light.

Dark Future was developed by Richard Halliwell at the same time as Jervis was working on Adeptus Titanicus, and the work done for the cyberpunk RPG was grafted onto the car combat game. The spaces between Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay products were growing longer and longer, so I was drafted in as an editor/developer on both games.

Initially, no link was planned between the Dark Future setting and the Warhammer/WH40K mythos. This changed around 1990 when the first Dark Future novels appeared, with some stories featuring demons based on Realm of Chaos.

Another departure from the GW norm was the scale. This was so that players could adapt commercially-available toy cars for use in the game. The boxed set came with two types of cars: the Interceptor used by the Sanctioned Ops (the good guys), and the Renegade used by wasteland gangs such as the Mad Max style Maniax. GW never released any other cars for the game, but the line of metal miniatures included accessories for adapting other toy cars.

Dark Future was a modest success initially. A supplement, White Line Fever, was released later in 1988, and another was planned under the title Dead Man’s Curve. When sales plateaued, the Dead Man’s Curve material was published in White Dwarf 124-125. After that, the novels puttered on as a minor GW fiction line, but nothing was done with the game until 2015, when Auroch Digital announced an electronic version subtitled Blood Red States. It remains to be seen whether this will help revive the IP.

There are still Dark Future fans out there. I recently discovered the Oldhammer: Dark Future Facebook group, with over 500 members who are still modeling and converting vehicles and playing the game. There is also a fan-made wiki.

My involvement with Dark Future was brief and peripheral, but I’m still happy with it. It was a fun setting to play with during that time when cyberpunk was still new and cutting-edge, and I enjoyed writing a lot of the flash fiction and text vignettes that went into the two supplements. Here’s what I did:

Products
Dark Future (1988) – developer, color text
White Line Fever (1988) – developer, color text

Articles
“The Sand Cats,” Challenge #52, 1991 – author Buy it here
“Dead Man’s Curve” White Dwarf # 124-125, June-July 1990 – developer, color text
“Saint Louis Blues,” White Dwarf #112, May 1989 – developer, color text
“Redd Harvest,” White Dwarf #104, Sep 1988 – author

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

 

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

October 28, 2015 12 comments

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Fighting Fantasy gamebooks started in 1982 with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Over the next twelve years, a total of 59 gamebooks was published, along with a magazine, a multi-player RPG, and other spin-offs. I was by no means the most prolific contributor to the series, but here’s a list of my contributions to the gamebook craze.

Books
Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook, Puffin Books 1992 – “Rogue Mage” adventure (reprint)
Fighting Fantasy # 29: Midnight Rogue, Puffin Books 1987
The Adventures of Oss the Quick, Oxford University Press 1987 – 6 vols
The Adventures of Kern the Strong, Oxford University Press, 1986 – 6 vols

Articles
“Field of Battle,” Warlock #12 October/November 1986
“Into the Unknown,” Warlock #11, August/September 1986
“More Monster Conversions,” Warlock #10, June/July 1986
“Rogue Mage,” Warlock #10 June/July 1986
“Monster Conversions,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“Magical Items,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“The Ring of Seven Terrors,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“The Seasoned Adventurer,” Warlock #4, 1985
“Solo Voyages,” Imagine #22, Jan 1985 Download free here

Interviews
Fighting Fantazine #7 – downloadable here

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Also on this Blog
All posts tagged “Fighting Fantasy”

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

 

Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft

September 9, 2015 5 comments

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Preorders opened yesterday for the new Colonial Gothic sourcebook, Lovecraft. It is available in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats as well as the physical book. It’s also something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, and here’s why: it is the first time in almost 25 years that I got to work with Tony Ackland.

If you are a fan of Games Workshop’s products from the 80’s, you’ll be familiar with Tony’s work. Tony was instrumental in establishing the look and feel of the Warhammer world, and I worked very closely with him on the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. We also hung out a lot after work a lot, playing Go and talking about everything from World War II aircraft to the campaigns of Napoleon to fossils to classic horror books and movies. A significant quantity of Bass Ale was involved too, I recall.

It’s hard to pick a favorite out of Tony’s enormous output from those years, but I was especially impressed by his monster illustrations for the hardback 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rulebook published under license by Games Workshop in 1986. For many British players, it was the first edition they could actually afford: the earlier boxed sets, imported from Chaosium in the States, were ruinously expensive.

When he retired, Tony taught himself to use a drawing tablet by creating pictures of – you guessed it – creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. Every few days, it seemed, his friends would find another batch of unnamably blasphemous goodness in their email. And that’s when I had an idea.

I had been helping Richard Iorio of Rogue Games with the Colonial Gothic product line for a few years. We had talked about a Lovecraft-themed product often. While set in his own “present day” of the 1920s and 1930s, many of Lovecraft’s stories harked back to Colonial times, and in fact Richard had pitched “Cthulhu 1776” to Chaosium before deciding to launch Colonial Gothic through his own company. Tony’s illustrations were an opportunity too good to miss – and I think these new images hold up very well against the Call of Cthulhu bestiary from almost 30 years ago. I’m delighted to see this book come out, for personal reasons as well as professional.

The book covers the best-known gods and beasts of the Cthulhu Mythos, but there are many things that we couldn’t touch for copyright reasons (click here for more on the complex copyright issues surrounding his work and those of the other Mythos authors). If you should happen to want to use another Mythos creature in a Colonial Gothic adventure of your own, converting the stats from Call of Cthulhu is a fairly simple matter. Here is a rough method based on creatures that are common to both systems: the GM may need to make minor adjustments according to personal taste and preferred play style, but this will provide a reasonable starting-point.

Note: these guidelines are given for personal use only, and are not intended to challenge any copyrights held by Chaosium, Inc, or any other party.

Attributes
Might = CoC STR x 0.6
Nimble = CoC DEX x 0.46
Vigor = CoC CON x 0.44
Reason = CoC INT x 0.57
Resolution has no directly comparable stat in Call of Cthulhu. I recommend picking something suitable, bearing in mind that the human average is 7.

Skills
Start with the governing attribute score and adjust according to the needs of the adventure. For more accurate conversions, Call of Cthulhu uses a percentile skill system, so GMs with good math skills can calculate the odds of 2d12 results and come up with a conversion table if they wish.

Attacks
Colonial Gothic non-weapon attacks are attribute-based, so it is easy to assign attack damage. If the GM doesn’t mind a little work, it is possible to derive a damage score by cross-referencing CoC damage with damage from weapons that are common to both Colonial Gothic and Call of Cthulhu (or another Basic Role Playing game, such as Runequest).

Traits
Most creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos have Fear and Horrific Visage to reflect their effect on an observer’s Sanity. The severity of each of these Traits should be proportional to the creature’s SAN loss rating in Call of Cthulhu. Use the creatures from Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft as a guide. Other Traits are at the GM’s option: the book lists several new Traits for Cthulhu Mythos creatures.

Atlatl – A New Weapon for Lustrian Slann

August 19, 2015 4 comments

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The Slann are long gone from Warhammer: I think the last time they were seen was in 3rd edition, back in the 80s. Still, this may be of interest to any Oldhammer fans who have a Slann army.

I’ve known about the Central American atlatl, or spear-thrower, for some time. Basically it’s a stick that slots into the base of a spear-sized, feathered dart and gives the throwing action more force. Just recently, though, I found out a little more thanks to an SCA demonstration, and I was impressed by what this very simple weapon can do. As far as I’ve been able to find out, Citadel never released any Slann atlatl troops, and that’s a shame: from what I’ve learned, they could be quite effective on the battlefield, as well as adding to the Mesoamerican look and feel of a Slann force.

Here are the notes I took at the time, slightly tidied up. I haven’t attempted to derive game stats for Warhammer or WFRP, preferring to leave that to those who are better at such things. Still, I hope you Oldhammer gamers and modelers find this information inspiring, or at least interesting.

Picture borrowed from Richard Keatinge under the WikiMedia  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Picture borrowed from Richard Keatinge under the WikiMedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

In Aztec society, the atlatl was considered a “weapon of the gods.” The troops who used it, called Cuachicque or “shorn ones” (presumably from a distinctive haircut?) were elite warriors who had already captured at least six enemies on the battlefield.

Atlatl darts look like oversized arrows, 4-7 feet long and fletched. The atlatl gives these darts surprising range and hitting power. According to the World Atlatl Association forums, effective range is 10-15 yards/meters but a missile thrown in a high arc can reach as far as 50 yards. This may not sound like much considering that the current Olympic javelin record is almost 100 meters, but the atlatl only needs a one-step run-up and the Olympic javelin is thrown for distance without much regard for accuracy. Experiments have shown that an atlatl dart has significant range and hitting power. Though it cannot pierce a steel breastplate, it could wreak havoc on lightly-armored troops. Here’s a link to an actual test.

Has anyone converted or used Slann atlatl troops in a game? How did they work out? If you have rules for them, please add a link in the comments section. Or maybe we can crowdsource some workable rules right here.

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

July 1, 2015 16 comments

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I had been playing AD&D for about four years when the first edition of Call of Cthulhu was published in 1981. Although I wasn’t terribly familiar with Lovecraft’s work at the time, I liked the fact that it was a horror game set in the real world of the 20th century. Initially I thought it could be used to play Hammer-horror style games, but as I read more Lovecraft I quickly came to realize how perfectly Call of Cthulhu was designed for Lovecraft’s more cerebral style of horror – and most importantly, I think, how first edition Call of Cthulhu forced players to think beyond combat as a first response.

Although my college gaming group continued to focus mainly on AD&D, I started to run an occasional Call of Cthulhu campaign. Another member of the group picked up Bushido. This was right around the time that the Shogun mini-series and the theatrical release of Kurosawa’s Kagemusha propelled feudal Japan to 80s geek prominence, and – though you young’uns might not credit it – it was about the first that most folks in the West had ever heard of ninjas. My friend’s Bushido campaign focused as much on etiquette and social interaction as it did on combat.

As I’ve already said in various places (including the previous post), Call of Cthulhu went on to become a major influence on my own writing for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Arguably, Bushido was an equally strong influence on my later writing for Vampire: The Masquerade, where players had to negotiate the minefield of vampire society and politics – but that’s a subject for another time.

Although Games Workshop published various titles for Call of Cthulhu during my time there (the best, in my opinion, was the hardback rulebook with bestiary art by Tony Ackland), I only got to work on one GW CoC product, and that was before I joined the staff. At work my time was fully taken up, at first by WFRP and later by other games, so everything I wrote for Call of Cthulhu, I wrote on my own time. I did send an adventure to Chaosium around 1986-87, and I got a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen saying he wanted to use it in the Cthulhu Companion, but it was cut at the last minute and it’s languished ever since in a to-be-developed pile. Only last month I looked at it again, and I think I have a plan for what to do with it. Watch this space.

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Strangely, 2015 has been a very Cthulhu-ful year so far. I finally finished the Colonial Gothic Lovecraft supplement (once again illustrated by Tony Ackland, which makes me very happy indeed): it’s due for release in September. I submitted a story for a Lovecraftian anthology by Stone Skin Press: it didn’t make the cut (although the editors were kind enough to say it came very close), so it’s on the pile for a gentle reworking before I start trying to find it a home elsewhere. I wrote my first ever adventure for Achtung! Cthulhu: it’s still under NDA so all I’ll say is that while there may be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover, there’s something underneath that’s altogether stranger.

UPDATE: Titled “Under the Gun,” this adventure has just been made available for free to backers of an Achtung! Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. Click here for more details.

But I digress. What I started out to say is that although my bibliography for Call of Cthulhu is shorter than for most other games, I still regard it as one of my favorites. Although opportunities to write for it didn’t come my way very often, it’s still a great game and, as I’ve said before, a milestone in the history of tabletop RPG design. I think of it as the first game of the second generation, when RPG design crawled out of the dungeon, stood upright, and began to do more than just hit things with swords.

Fiction
The Investigators of Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flight Games, 2016 – contributor Buy it here

Products
Cthulhu Confidential, Pelgrane Press, 2016 – editor Buy it here
Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft, Rogue Games, 2015 – co-author Buy it here
Green & Pleasant Land, Games Workshop 1987 – contributing author

Articles
“Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic,” blog, March 2016 Download free here
“A Green, Unpleasant Land,” blog, January 2016 Download free here
“Out of the Ordinary,” Shadis #41, Oct 1996
“Mind Over Matter,” Shadis #38, Jul 1996 Download free here
“Spirit of the Mountain,” White Dwarf #99, Apr 1988
“Trilogy of Terror,” White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“The Worm Stones,” Fantasy Chronicles #5, November 1986 – co-author
“Ghost Jackal Kill,” White Dwarf #79, Aug 1986
“Crawling Chaos,” White Dwarf #68, Sep 1985 – contributor
“Haunters of the Dark,” White Dwarf #67, Aug 1985

Video Games
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Bethesda Softworks 2005 – pickup writer (in-game documents)

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs