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Posts Tagged ‘warhammer’

WFRP Memories: A Rough Night at the Three Feathers

October 27, 2017 4 comments

 

Orlygg at the Realm of Chaos 80s blog has just posted a very nice piece about “A Rough Night at the Three Feathers,” which I wrote back in 1987. I wrote it largely as an experiment, to see whether multi-plot adventures could even work: people liked it, and it has gone on to be one of the most-reprinted pieces written for WFRP. After its original publication in White Dwarf 94, it appeared in The Restless Dead, Apocrypha Now, and – with Second Edition stats – in Plundered Vaults.

I’ve returned to the same format twice for WFRP, and once for d20. “Nastassia’s Wedding” appeared in Pyramid #19 in 1996, with stats for GURPS Fantasy was well as WFRP, and the Third Edition adventure The Edge of Night included a society party where Skaven were just one of many problems. “The Last Resort” in Green Ronin’s Tales of Freeport returns to an inn location, on a night beset with mummies, assassins, loan sharks, serpent cultists, and more.

In 1987, though, all this was in the future. My initial impetus for writing “Three Feathers” was the popularity (at the time) of bar-room brawl scenarios. White Dwarf 11 started it off with “A Bar-Room Brawl – D&D Style” by Lew Pulsipher, which was reprinted in The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios. Others followed – including “Rumble at the Tin Inn” for RuneQuest – and when WFRP was published in 1986, we knew it would need some adventures and articles in White Dwarf to support it (more on that here). One possibility was a bar-room brawl scenario – they were simple in structure and should be fairly quick to write, which was just what was needed since there was no official budget and schedule for producing WFRP support material during work hours.

I set to work, coming up with the Three Feathers inn (though in my mind, the feathers were bunched together on the inn sign, like the three ostrich plumes of the Prince of Wales’ insignia) and a diverse cast of characters, each with a reason for being there and some cross-plots that would bring them into conflict with others. But, as I always do, I had way too much fun developing the characters and plots, and the concept grew beyond the needs of a simple bar-room brawl scenario. First, I thought I would pick one plot, develop it, and file the rest away for future use – but then I had an idea: why  not use all of them at once?

In my mind, the Three Feathers’ inn sign looked a little more like this – but without the crown.

As far as I knew (and still know) it had never been done in roleplaying games before, but there were strong precedents in other media. On stage, colliding plots have been an element of farces since Roman times. One commentator described “Three Feathers” as “a classic British hotel farce,” and anyone old enough to remember the names Ben Travers and Brian Rix will know exactly what he means. I wanted to capture the manic action of farces like Fawlty Towers, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum, and so on, blending it with the sneaking action of caper comedies like The Pink Panther.

I had to think quite hard about how to present the adventure. There was no way to know what might happen with all these plots taking place at once, especially when a group of PCs got involved. So I simply described the location and the NPCs, outlined each plot, and compiled a timeline of what should happen if the PCs weren’t there. A few words of encouragement for the GM (which can be summarized in Douglas Adams’ timeless words, “Don’t Panic!”) and off it went to White Dwarf.

Honestly, I had no idea whether it would work or not. I knew that I could handle it as a GM, therefore it was theoretically workable by others, but had I set things out well enough? Would it just confuse people, or would it all come crashing down mid-game leaving players and GMs dissatisfied and angry? It was a great relief when the first positive responses began to come in.

Oh, and WFRP did get a bar-room brawl scenario of its very own, just a couple of months later. Jim Bambra and Matt Connell wrote “Mayhem at the Mermaid” for White Dwarf 96. Then the fashion for bar-room brawl scenarios faded, and as far as I know people simply stopped writing them. Today, they are a largely forgotten style of adventure: perhaps a blogger somewhere will trace the history of the form and assess its lasting contribution to RPG adventure design. I would certainly be interested to read it.

Oh, and one last piece of trivia. I got the title from a Western called A Rough Night in Jericho. I have never actually seen it, but evidently it includes a bar-room brawl scene, as I saw a still somewhere or other and the title stuck in my mind until I stole it for “Three Feathers.” Make of that what you will….

More
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography
The Restless Dead: The Forgotten WFRP Campaign

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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.

 

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 17 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.

Cover small

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

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

Warhammer Prehistory: Find the Lady

June 8, 2015 20 comments

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A few weeks ago, I had occasion to scan the last AD&D adventure I wrote before I started work on the game that would become Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You can find it here.

The adventure was called Find the Lady, and it was published in issue 2 of Paul Cockburn’s AD&D magazine GameMaster Publications, which came out in December 1985, shortly before he joined Games Workshop. Paul started GM Pubs after the closure of Imagine magazine and the rest of TSR UK’s publications department; it was written by various Imagine regulars – and several former TSR UK staffers – and lasted for five issues before Paul took over as editor of White Dwarf. Like Imagine, GM Pubs only bought first rights, which is why I feel comfortable making it available online now.

GM2_cover

Rereading it thirty years later, I can see it has many of the qualities that would later become characteristic of WFRP: in fact, it wouldn’t require much work to covert it to any edition of that game, with the action set in Altdorf, Middenheim or Marienburg rather than the Pelinore setting that was born in Imagine and continued in GM Pubs. Three years ago, Coop over at the Fighting Fantasist blog made some very astute observations about Pelinore and the development of WFRP, and Phil Gallagher and I both weighed in with comments.

Like many of the early Enemy Within adventures, Find the Lady is primarily a city investigation. As with much of WFRP, I had too much fun creating colorful NPCs. I had been playing a lot of Bushido in the few years before I wrote it, and had fallen in love with the trickster fox-spirits called kitsune. I had also been running a first-edition Call of Cthulhu campaign which involved a great deal of investigation and NPC interaction and very little combat: after all, taking a D&D approach to Call of Cthulhu combat made for very short adventures! Both of these games were an influence on Find the Lady, and of course Call of Cthulhu would be a significant influence on the Enemy Within adventures.

Looking back, it’s easy to see Find the Lady as an intermediate step between AD&D and WFRP as far as my own work is concerned, but it’s also a reflection of roleplaying in general – especially, I think, British roleplaying – as it stood in the mid-80s. Several London-based fanzines led the “rolegaming” movement, which emphasized character interaction over combat and decried commercial success – including the success of WFRP – as somehow having Betrayed Art. Less vocally, roleplayers across the UK were drawn to Call of Cthulhu for the way it supported options other than combat. AD&D was still in its first edition at that time, and had a notable lack of non-combat skills.

Warhammer, of course, was – and remains – a miniatures combat game, so it is perhaps surprising that its roleplaying spinoff should have taken such a different course. Partly it’s because the WFRP combat system turned out to be so deadly and there was little time to fine-tune it, but in large measure, I think, it was a product of its time: a time when Call of Cthulhu had shown the way, and other tabletop RPGs were looking beyond the dungeon. Find the Lady is another sign of those times, and although it’s not as polished as it might be, I hope you enjoy it.

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography

May 1, 2015 26 comments

I recently had occasion to put together a complete bibliography of all my work on Warhammer, WFRP, and Advanced HeroQuest, so I thought I’d post a copy here for anyone who’s interested.

If I have time later on, I might add my work on Warhammer 40,000, Epic Scale, and related games, but for now this is just the Warhammer Fantasy related work.

WFB logo

Warhammer
Products
Warhammer rulebook, 3rd ed. (1987) – Colour text
Warhammer Siege (1988) – Colour text
Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (1988) – Contributing writer
Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned (1990) – Contributing writer

Articles
“Crush, Crumble and Chop,” White Dwarf #103, Aug 1988
“The Crude, the Mad and the Rusty,” White Dwarf #83, Dec 1986

Box Backs
Skull Crusher Goblin Trebuchet
Lead Belcher Goblin Organ Gun
Great Fire Dragon
Green Dragon
Blue Dragon
Elven Attack Chariot
Harboth’s Orc Archers
Man-Mangler Orc Mangonel
Great Imperial Dragon
The Nightmare Legion
Bugman’s Dwarf Rangers
The Skeleton Horde
Orc War Wyvern
Goblin Battle Chariots
The Dragon Masters
Skarloc’s Wood Elf Scouts
Gob-Lobber Dwarf Onager
Roglud’s Armoured Orcs
Prince Ulther’s Imperial Dwarfs
Skeleton War Machines
Snotling Pump Wagon (magazine ad)

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Products

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3rd Edition
The Enemy Within (2012) – Co-author Buy it here
The Edge of Night (2010) – Author Buy it here

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2nd Edition
Plundered Vaults (2005) – Contributor (reprint) Buy it here
Paths of the Damned: Ashes of Middenheim (2005) – Author Buy it here
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Second Edition (2005) – Contributor (adventure) Buy it here

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1st Edition
Fear the Worst (2002: Hogshead) – Developer Download free here
Dwarfs: Stone and Steel (2002: Hogshead) – Developer
Corrupting Influence (2002: Hogshead/Warpstone) – Contributor (reprint)
Apocrypha 2 (2000: Hogshead) – Editor/contributor
Gamemaster’s Screen (1997: Hogshead) – Author (insert booklet)
Apocrypha Now (1995: Hogshead) – Contributor (reprint)
Castle Drachenfels (1991: Flame) – Developer
Death’s Dark Shadow (1991: Flame) – Developer
Warhammer Companion (1990: Flame) – Editor/contributor
Doomstones: Dwarf Wars (1990: Flame) – Developer
Doomstones: Death Rock (1990: Flame) – Developer
Doomstones: Blood in Darkness (1990: Flame) – Developer
Character Pack, 2nd edition (1990: Flame) – Author (insert booklet)
Doomstones: Fire in the Mountains (1989: Flame) – Developer
Lichemaster (1989: Flame) – Developer
Empire in Flames (1989: GW) – Contributor (author brief)
The Restless Dead (1989: GW) – Contributor (reprint)
Something Rotten in Kislev (1988: GW) – Developer/co-author
Warhammer City (1987: GW) – Contributor
Character Pack, 1st edition (1990: Flame) – Developer (insert booklet)
Death on the Reik (1987: GW) – Co-author/developer
Dungeon Lairs (1987: GW) – Author (booklet)
Shadows over Bogenhafen (1986: GW) – Author
The Enemy Within (1986: GW) – Developer
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1986: GW) – Co-author/developer
Dungeon Rooms (1986: GW) – Developer (booklet)


Articles

“The Exorcist,” personal blog (https://graemedavis.wordpress.com), November 2015
“The Gong Farmer,” personal blog (https://graemedavis.wordpress.com), August 2013
“Secrets of the WFRP Writers, Part 2,” Warpstone #15, Winter 2000-2001
“Secrets of the WFRP Writers, Part 1,” Warpstone #14, Summer 2000
“Secrets of the Warhammer Artists,” Warpstone #6, Summer 1997
“The Warpstone Interview,” Warpstone #5, Spring 1997
“Nastassia’s Wedding,” Pyramid #19, May/June 1996 Buy it here
“Pit Fighting,” White Wolf Inphobia #57, August 1995
“Social Level Rules,” White Dwarf #138, Jul 1991
“The King Beneath the Hill,” White Wolf #26, Apr 1991
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #135, Apr 1991
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #133, Feb 1991
“Ironstone Pass,” White Dwarf #132, Jan 1991
“The Great Hospice,” White Dwarf #130, Nov 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #128, Sep 1990
“The Emperor Luitpold,” White Dwarf #122, Mar 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #121, Feb 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #120, Jan 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #119, Dec 1989
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #118, Nov 1989
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #103, Aug 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #102, Jul 1988
“Fimir,” White Dwarf #102, Jul 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #98, Mar 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“A Rough Night at the Three Feathers,” White Dwarf #94, Nov 1987
“A Fistful of Misprunts,” White Dwarf #92, Sept 1987
“Oops!,” White Dwarf #91, Aug 1987
“Onwards & Upwards,” White Dwarf #89, Jun 1987
“Hand of Destiny,” White Dwarf #88, May 1987
“On the Road,” White Dwarf #85, Feb 1987

heroquest logo
AHQ logo


HeroQuest/Advanced HeroQuest

Products
HeroQuest (Milton Bradley, 1989) – Contributor (initial consulting)
Advanced Heroquest (1989) – Developer
Terror in the Dark (1991) – Author

Articles

“Treasure,” White Dwarf #139, Aug 1991
“Henchmen,” White Dwarf #138, Jul 1991

Also on this Blog
All posts tagged “Warhammer”

Other Bibliography Posts

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 Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends