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Shrove Tuesday

February 25, 2020 Leave a comment

Mike

Mike Brunton: White Dwarf editor, Realm of Chaos author, Total War head writer, and shrove aficionado. Dearly missed by all who knew him.

 

It’s Shrove Tuesday, and that always makes me think of my friend Mike Brunton. Readers may know him as a legend of the UK’s games industry, and I’ll add some links to interviews at the end of this post.

We lost Mike less than a year ago, but his stories live on. Everyone who knew him can recount at least one ridiculous (but strangely believable) story he told, or quote one of his many quotable quotes, or tell of some incident or anecdote in which he figured. This is one of my favourites.

 

Shrove Tuesday is the opening of the shrove season. These small creatures overwinter on Scotland’s grouse moors, feeding on the heather to keep it from overgrowing. On this day they are cleared out so the grouse can nest without danger to their eggs. The race is on to bring the first brace of shrove to the Savoy in London!

 

Thanks, Mike, for all the laughter and silliness you brought to those around you.

 

Links

An interview from 2014 on the Realm of Chaos 80s blog.

Mike’s last interview, for the Grognard Files podcast.

 

Monday Maps #6: Peasant Cottage

February 24, 2020 2 comments

Adventurers spend a lot of time traveling through remote places, so a peasant farmer’s cottage will be a familiar sight. It may be threatened by bandits or monsters, presenting an opportunity for a Seven Samurai defence action. It may be occupied by a family whose remoteness from the world hides secret mutants or other quirks, like the cannibalism of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Or it may simply be a place to get out of the weather, and perhaps bargain for a bowl of stew.

Irish Cottage 2

This design goes back into prehistory, and is still in use today in some areas. In a medieval setting, the windows would be smaller, with curtains of skin in place of glass. Copyright Marion McGarry: used without permission.

 

In some places, a cottage is little more than a barn, divided into two parts. The animals occupy one part, and the family the other. Sometimes the sleeping quarters are in a loft above the livestock stalls, benefiting from the animals’ warmth. More prosperous farmers added hearths and chimneys to their cottages, and moved the animals into a barn across the farmyard. Other features might be added, such as a granary and vegetable store, a well, and even a smithy.

Farm 1

A medieval farm, by Dante78. Borrowed from Renderosity: click image for more information.

 

Often, there would be a surrounding wall, both for defence and to stop animals wandering off.

Farm 2

Hudson & Allen Studio’s 25mm Fortified Medieval Farmhouse. Image from Wargame Scenics. Click image for more information.

 

 

German cottage

A two-storey cottage from Germany. This is large enough to accommodate an extended family, and would probably belong to a fairly prosperous farm family.

 

Links

This page from British History Online has some useful plans of various cottage layouts, as well as a lot of information on various building types and how they were used. Scroll down to find all the plans, but if you have the patience to read the text you will find some of it useful.

 

 

Monday Maps #4: Town and City Gates

February 10, 2020 Leave a comment

In medieval Europe, and in most fantasy worlds, towns and cities are surrounded by wall to protect them from attack. The gates are the weakest part of a town wall, so they tend to be the most heavily fortified.

In a small town or walled village, the gate fortifications may be very modest. In a great and wealthy city, each gate can be a small castle in its own right.

Plan and Elevation of Monk Bar, York

From The Pictorial History of England (W & R Chambers, 1858)

This 19th-century image of Monk Bar in medieval York shows the basic components of a fortified city gate. It has a barbican with a double gate and a portcullis between: when the outer gate is breached, attackers enter a killing zone and must endure fire from all sides as they assault the portcullis. Having broken down the portcullis they must pass under an archway to reach the inner gate, and the ceiling of the archway is pierced with “murder holes” through which defenders above can fire missiles or drop boiling water or oil.

 

 

A guardhouse stands beside the gate, and outside it stairs lead up to the wall top and the room above the murder holes. The winch for raising and lowering the portcullis would often be at this level as well.

Finally, there is a sally port beside the gate, through which defenders could break out and get behind an attacking force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller towns will have more modest arrangements, like this:

 

VK-com

Borrowed from VK.com

 

 

This model would suit a medium-sized town in Warhammer’s Old World or a similar setting:

 

 

Turbosquid

Borrowed from Turbosquid.com

 

 

…and here’s a floorplan from Jason Engle, whose web site is worth a look. Find it here.

JAEstudio

 

See you next Monday for more maps!

 

 

Monday Maps #3: Water Mill

February 3, 2020 5 comments

Nearly every village of any size will have a mill for grinding grain. Windmills are popular in the Wasteland and other flat, windy areas, but everywhere else, a water mill uses the power of a nearby river. The mill is a vital part of the village economy, and the miller is a respected member of the community, turning raw grain into saleable flour for a percentage of the yield.

A water mill is essentially a large machine set inside a building, and it can be a dangerous place for the unwary – especially in a fight. Even if the wheels are not turning, they present hard an unforgiving obstacles in unlooked-for places; if the mill is in operation, their gears can snag clothes and crush their wearers.

And of course, there is that big wheel outside, for those who want to recreate the iconic sequence from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - The Big Wheel Fight

This diagram is from 19th-century America, but the principles of siting a watermill and directing the flow of water are unchanged from the Middle Ages:

mill-diagram

These two images give an idea of the interior layout:

 

WFRP Maps Water Mill

Borrowed from the web site of David Darling (https://www.daviddarling.info/index.html). No challenge to copyright intended.

Watermill machinery

A side view. Notice how the central shaft drives not only the millstones but also the top floor winch, used for hauling sacks up grain up for milling. Drawing by Pippa Miller, borrowed from Norfolk Mills (http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/watermill-machinery.html). No challenge to copyright intended.

…and this more complex map includes floorplans that can easily be adapted for use in a game. It is borrowed from the Mills Archive, which has plans and drawings of many other English water mills.

WFRP Water mill

The mill at Barford St. Michael, Oxfordshire. Borrowed from the Mills Archive (https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/watermill-at-barford-st-michael). No challenge to copyright intended.

Detlef Sierck Presents: The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson

January 29, 2020 Leave a comment

subtle

 

I first got into roleplaying games through amateur theatre. I was a member of a couple of different local groups in the 70s and 80s, and while I was working at Games Workshop I joined Nottingham’s Lace Market Theatre and got a part in this play. I don’t think it inspired “A Rough Night at the Three Feathers” directly, but it is certainly similar in that it features a single location – in this case, a London town house – in which multiple plots collide over a short period of time.

The house’s owner, Mr. Lovewit, has gone to the country to escape an outbreak of plague, leaving his servant Jeremy to look after the place in his absence. Jeremy has plans of his own, though, and joins forces with two confederates to cook up a number of schemes. One is a con man named Subtle, and the other is a prostitute named Doll Common. Jeremy himself adopts the persona of Captain Face, with the social acceptability that brings, and lures prospective marks to the house.

Dapper is a lawyer’s clerk who wants better luck at the gaming tables. Subtle convinces him to seek the favor of the Queen of the Fairies (played by Doll) and the two subject him to various “fairy” tricks and humiliations while relieving him of all his valuables.

Abel Drugger is a tobacconist who wants his newly-opened shop to succeed. Under the guise of advising him on the luckiest stock and furnishings, the trio robs him of a lot of valuable tobacco.

Drugger introduces them to two acquaintances recently arrived from the country. Kastril is a quarrelsome young gentleman who wants to learn how to argue in the sophisticated manner of the town. His sister, Dame Pliant, is wealthy and recently widowed. The three smell profit in both of them.

Sir Epicure Mammon is rich, and would like to be richer – and younger, and more sexually vital. He is quickly convinced that Subtle is close to perfecting the Philosopher’s Stone that can turn all things into gold and is a key ingredient in the Elixir of Youth. Mammon hands over a fortune in household goods to pay for Subtle’s experiments. He also falls in love (or more likely, in lust) with Doll after catching an unintended glimpse of her. He is accompanied by Sir Pertinax Surly, a skeptical friend who tries without success to expose the con, dressing up as a Spanish nobleman at one point and allowing himself to be led towards a marriage with Dame Pliant.

Tribulation Wholesome and his sidekick Ananias are Anabaptists, members of a strict Protestant church with puritanical leanings. Despite this, though, they are intent on perpetrating a con of their own: using Subtle’s gold-making prowess to counterfeit Dutch money in order to advance their sect’s position there – increasing their own wealth and influence in the process.

Needless to say, the various plots collide horribly over the course of the play. The three con artists quarrel endlessly, refusing to trust each other because they are all liars and cheats. Subtle’s lab explodes at a critical moment. People from one plot arrive unexpectedly to interrupt the progress of another. In other words, farce ensues.

At the height of the chaos, the householder Lovewit returns unexpectedly. Despite his servant’s best efforts, the various plots are exposed one by one as things come undone. Subtle and Doll flee empty-handed rather than face the wrath of the law. Face – now Jeremy again – placates his master by offering him marriage to the wealthy Dame Pliant. The remaining plots are quickly wrapped up and the play ends with Lovewit triumphant and Jeremy chastened.


 

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson by Abraham van Blyenberch, circa 1617

Ben Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and this play was first performed in 1610. His language is similar to Shakespeare’s, but includes more contemporary London slang. Don’t be put off by that, though. Any edition worth its salt will come with explanations and footnotes. If you can find a stage production, you will find that the frantic pace pulls everything together beautifully. I would recommend a film or TV adaptation, but there don’t seem to be any, which is a pity.

Alchemist cover

 

So there you have it. A town setting, multiple plots, colorful characters, greed, lust, chicanery – it’s all very WFRP, even though it’s not fantasy.

Watch out for more #DetlefSierckPresents posts, and I’ll share more of the things I was watching and reading when I worked on WFRP. Perhaps they will inspire you, too.

Monday Maps #2

January 27, 2020 9 comments

It’s Monday, and here’s another map. This time, it’s from Francois Beauregard, a.k.a. Built4ever on Deviant Art. I know nothing about this artist, but the Deviant Art page is a huge trove of maps and building plans. It is well worth a visit.

Here, we have a nice little row of buildings that might be found in one of the classier areas of a fantasy city. They could be little boutique shops, perhaps with modest accommodation upstairs: shopkeepers are seldom the same class as their customers, even if they live alongside them. I particularly like the little alley entrance in the middle of the block, which could lead to all manner of intriguing locations, from the hidden oasis of a courtyard cafe to a simple yard for receiving and organizing stock. I’m sure you can come up with many other ideas.

storefronts_for_the_clove__a_town_center_by_built4ever_d5mmlw6-fullview (1)

 

The Gong Farmer: A Career for All Editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

January 22, 2020 11 comments

Updated Feb. 22nd, 2020.

With thanks to the following commenters: Onno Maat and Peter Tracey (WFRP 4th edition group, Facebook); Simon Landry and Ricky (via WordPress); and @RoderiHamilt (Twitter).

 

Ever since Our Heroes ventured into the sewers of Nuln in “The Oldenhaller Contract” way back in 1986, WFRP has had a certain association with the grimier, less pleasant (and less pleasant-smelling) aspects of life in a medieval fantasy world. Rat Catchers have come to define the anti-heroic ethos of the Old World, but there are greater heroes, as yet unsung: the silent night-time armies of gong farmers and nightsoil men (and women) who nightly move uncounted tons of human waste from those homes which have no sewer access.

A while ago, I posted a version of this career for WFRP 1, 2, and 3. Here is an improved and corrected version, with details for 4th edition added. Enjoy – and leave comments below. I’d love to have your ideas on how this career might be improved.

Gong Farmer1

The gong farmer has the least enviable job in the Old World. In towns and other settlements without a sewer system, the gong farmer gathers up all human waste and deposits it in a communal dump or cesspool outside the walls. Often permitted to work only at night, gong farmers are also known as nightsoil men.

Owing to the nature of their profession, gong farmers are able to remain calm in the face of things that would disgust and even nauseate ordinary folk. They are also well able to resist disease and poison through long exposure to the most noxious of substances.

The job is not without its compensations, but they are few and unreliable. Gong farmers have access – albeit at night and well supervised – to the houses of the great and good and can find themselves privy (pun intended) to household secrets as well as having a unique insight into their state of health. In addition, the by-laws of many communities allow gong farmers to keep any coins, small pieces of jewellery, or other items of value that they may find in the course of their work.

 

FIRST EDITION PROFILE

 

Advance Scheme

M WS BS S T W I A Dex Ld Int Cl WP Fel
+2 +2 +10 +10

Gong Farmer 3

Skills
Immunity to Disease
Immunity to Poison
Very Resilient

Trappings
Ragged clothing
Shovel
Wheelbarrow
Lantern

Career Exits
Agitator
Beggar
Grave Robber
Labourer
Rat Catcher
Rogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND EDITION PROFILE

 

Main Profile
WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
+10% +10%
Secondary Profile
A W SB TB M Mag IP FP
+2

 

Skills: Common Knowledge (local community), Perception

Talents: Night Vision, No Sense of Smell (see above), Resistance to Disease, Resistance to Poison, Strong-Minded

Trappings: Ragged clothing, Shovel, Wheelbarrow, Lantern

Career Entries: Bone Picker, Peasant

Career Exits: Agitator, Bone Picker, Grave Robber, Rat Catcher, Rogue, Sewer Jack (Ashes of Middenheim), Vagabond

 

 

THIRD EDITION PROFILE

 

Basic Career: Human, Halfling

Basic, Menial, Social, Urban

Primary Characteristics: Toughness, Willpower

Career Skills: Athletics, Discipline, Folklore (local area), No Sense of Smell (see box), Observation, Resilience

Talent Slots: Focus, Resilience

Stance Meter: 3 Conservative, 1 Reckless

Advances

Action Talent
2 1
Skill Fortune
2 1
Conservative Reckless
2 1
Wound
1

 

Typical Trappings: Ragged clothing, Shovel, Wheelbarrow, Lantern

Career Ability: Your Resilience checks gain 1 fortune die when resisting disease.

 

 

 

FOURTH EDITION PROFILE

 

This four-level career is based on an account of the “nightmen” of medieval Leiden in the Netherlands (see “Further Reading” below). The “hole-man” climbed into the cess pit and scooped out the waste, passing it up to two “tub-men” who transferred it to their barge under the supervision of their foreman. The city of Ghent employed an official known as “the King of Dirt” to ensure that all sanitation regulations were followed.

The gong farmer is a Burgher class career. If random generation is being used, a player who rolls a beggar may choose a gong farmer instead if the GM agrees.

Gong Farmer Advance Scheme

WS BS S T I Agi Dex Int WP Fel
💀

Career Path

Hole-Dropper — Brass 1

Skills: Athletics, Climb, Consume Alcohol, Cool, Dodge, Endurance, Melee (Basic), Perception

Talents: Beneath Notice, Night Vision, Resistance (Disease), Very Resilient

Trappings: Bucket, 20ft Rope, Shovel

Tubber — Brass 3

Skills: Drive or Sail, Gamble, Gossip, Haggle, Stealth, Swim

Talents: Coolheaded, Hardy, Resistance (Poison), Sturdy

Trappings: Leather apron, Barrow, Lantern and Oil

💀 Foreman — Brass 5

Skills: Bribery, Charm, Evaluate, Intuition

Talents: Acute Sense (Sight), Blather, Coolheaded, Dealmaker

Trappings: Gong Farmer Crew, Boat or Cart, Hand weapon (Boat Hook), Leather Jack

King of Dirt — Silver 2

Skills: Intimidate, Leadership

Talents: Commanding Presence, Etiquette (Guilder), Read/Write, Wealthy

Trappings: Badge and Diploma of Office, Crew of Assistants (Tax Collectors)

 


No Sense of Smell (Optional Rule)

The character literally has no sense of smell. Their olfactory sense has been completely destroyed by long exposure to foul-smelling substances or through some other circumstance. They automatically fail any dice roll that depends upon smell — but they are also unaffected even by the most nauseating smells they encounter, or by alluring scents that might be used to entrap others. Poisonous gases and drugs in vaporous form affect the character normally.


 

FURTHER READING

 

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gong_farmer

2nd edition version by Colin Chapman: http://www.scribd.com/doc/156852704/Warhammer-Fantasy-2nd-Edition-Gong-Farmer

Archaeology Magazine “Of Cesspits and Sewers: Exploring the unlikely history of sanitation management in medieval Holland”: https://www.archaeology.org/issues/327-1901/letter-from/7205-letter-from-leiden

 


 

Images taken from 18th century nightmen’s cards (Wikimedia Commons).

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and WFRP are trademarks owned by Games Workshop Ltd. This article is a fan work and is not intended to be official or to challenge any trademark or copyright of Games Workshop or any of its licensees.