My interest in Celtic history and lore started in my teens. I had been reading Penguin translations of Greek and Latin literature for a while when I discovered the Irish sagas such as The Tain and the early stories of Cu Chulainn. A wave of Irish rock was hitting the UK: Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher were having their first hits around then, and a band called Horslips released two epic concept albums based on Irish mythology: The Tain (1973) and The Book of Invasions (1976). In 1978, Jim Fitzpatrick published his lavishly-illustrated Book of Conquests, and I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. In 1979, I went to Durham University to study archaeology, intending to specialize in the British Iron Age: the Celtic-dominated era that was brought to an end by the Roman invasion. (I refuse to call it a conquest – they never got us out of the hills, by Touatis!)
My Celtic obsession followed me into the games industry, and now I could back it up with some actual learning. I wrote articles for two Celtic-themed issues of TSR UK’s now-legendary British AD&D magazine Imagine: my adventure “The Taking of Siandabhair” was reprinted in a “Best Of” issue and you can download it from my Freebies page. In 1986 I created the Fimir for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, basing them on a mix of creatures from Irish and Scottish legends including the evil Fomorians. Despite some very controversial aspects of the background I created for them, they still have fans today. When I left Games Workshop in 1990, one of my first freelance projects was the HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd edition. I also wrote an adventure for Mongoose Publishing’s Slaine RPG, based on the 2000AD comic property: back at Games Workshop, I pushed hard for a Slaine RPG to go alongside their Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper games, but to no avail. And a few years ago, I snuck some Welsh, Irish, and Scottish lore into the single-player campaign I wrote for Kabam’s hit mobile strategy game Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North.
The latest fruit of my Celtic obsession is a sourcebook for Andrea Sfiligoi’s excellent tabletop skirmish game Of Gods and Mortals. If you like mythology and miniatures, you should definitely check this game out. The rulebook, published by Osprey Publishing and widely available, is slim and affordable; the rules themselves are simple enough to pick up quickly and powerful enough to make for some interesting challenges. I liked it so much that I contacted Andrea out of the blue and asked if we could collaborate.
Celts was released today as an e-book via Andrea’s Ganesha Games web site (where you can also find several freebies for OGAM), and over the next few weeks it will become available in dead-tree form and via all the usual e-tailers. I am very pleased with it. I’m always happy to have another Celtic-themed project under my belt, and Andrea’s art for the project is fantastic. He (yes, it’s a male name in Italian) is ludicrously talented: a first-rate game designer (working in his second language, no less) and a talented artist to boot. Anything he does is worth your attention.
To tempt you further, here is the back cover blurb:
The first warp-spasm seized Cu Chulainn, and turned him into something monstrous, horrible and shapeless…
This supplement for Of Gods and Mortals delves deeper into the myths of the Celts. Within its pages you will find:
- More options for existing units, along with brief descriptions of their roles in Celtic history and mythology;
- Statistics and rules for six new Gods, 18 new Legends, and 10 new Mortal troop types, based on myths and folklore from across the Celtic world;
- Ten new traits, including a range of warrior-feats from the Irish sagas;
- Detailed rules for Celtic war-chariots;
- Optional warband lists to help you build a mythologically consistent warband;
- Allied forces for more force customization options;
- New scenarios, based on the greatest battles from the Celtic myths and sagas;
- A detailed bibliography for more information about the Celts and their gods.
Let the red rage descend, and feed the Morrigan’s crows with the bodies of your foes!
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:
Dark Future (1988) – developer, color text
White Line Fever (1988) – developer, color text
“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)
A little while ago, I was contacted by Joe McCullough at Osprey Publishing with an invitation to contribute to Osprey’s first fiction anthology.
Joe has edited all five of the books I’ve written for Osprey so far*, and I guess he must have liked my work. As well as being one of the most pleasant editors I’ve ever worked with, he’s designed a very nice little fantasy skirmish game called Frostgrave, where wizards of various schools assemble bands of minions to explore and loot an ancient city as it emerges from an icy prison. I got a sneak preview, and it looks like a lot of fun.
Tales of the Frozen City was put together to help support the game, and I’m in some distinguished company in this 11-story collection. There’s Fighting Fantasy historian Jonathan Green, fellow Games Workshop alum Matt Ward, and, as they say, many others. I’m proud to be counted among them.
I just received my author’s copy of the collection, and it looks beautiful. Both electronic and dead-tree versions are available from Osprey and from your favorite retailers and e-tailers. I hope you’ll check it out. Check out the game, too: it looks like a lot of fun.
*My books for Osprey so far:
Thor: Viking God of Thunder (Osprey Myths and Legends)
Theseus and the Minotaur (Osprey Myths and Legends)
Knights Templar: A Secret History (Dark Osprey)
Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide (Dark Osprey)
Nazi Moonbase (Dark Osprey) – scheduled for April 2016
My Osprey Adventures book Theseus and the Minotaur is getting some attention.
Here’s a link to a new review on Random House’s suvudu.com site: http://bit.ly/1w58WYr
And here’s a link to an interview about Theseus, Thor, Warhammer, and other matters, also on suvudu: http://bit.ly/1Jw8AQ8
See also http://bit.ly/1CTRe9B for my earlier post on both this book and the Werewolves book.
And here’s a link to some new Theseus options for Andrea Sfiligoi’s excellent mythological miniatures game, Of Gods and Mortals: http://bit.ly/1ASBtlO