Tuesday, 23 December 2008

FAL News: Warpstone to close after 2009

In a surprise announcement over on the Warpstone forums, John Foody yesterday communicated that number 30 will be the last issue of the smashingly fabulous independent WFRP magazine.

Read the announcement here!

The current issue is 28 and is to be released any day if it isn't already out. This leaves us with two more issues to look forward to in the coming year. Well, it's a shame and a surprise and all that, but I'll keep the tearful farewell blog post in the can until the last issue is released.

Until then, use all your powers to get hold of as many back issues of Warpstone as humanely possible. You will not regret it, even if you don't play WFRP!

And so, let the conspiracy theories begin to bloom among the WFRP fans. Why is Warpstone shutting down? Why, isn't it obvious? You see ... (insert pet theory about the evils of other people/GW/BI/WFRPv2/WFRPv1/fanboys/D&D here).

/Magnus

Friday, 19 December 2008

FAL Review: Mutant Chronicles the Movie

I have now watched the Mutant Chronicles movie, and it was great fun. It feels weird to see some of the concepts I had a part in creating being made into a feature length movie. Weird but cool, of course.

Note that this review contains spoilers of the Mutant Chronicles movie. If you don't want to have the ending spoiled, just read to the end of this paragraph and no further; to sum it up the movie is a run of the mill sci-fi action horror adventure (how's that for covering genre bases?) with predictable plot development and wooden acting. Nothing more, nothing less. If you find enjoyment in movies like Dark Side of the Moon, Split Second and Pitch Black, this could be a movie for you. There are also throwbacks to Aliens and The Matrix, but compared to those luminaries, Mutant Chronicles falls rather short.

The visuals are mostly grey and drab, to good effect. The only colour to stand out in stark relief is red, as in blood red, making the cinematography vaguely reminiscent of that found in Sin City. I did love the steampunk aspects of the movie, from the large artillery guns on the battlefields to the impossibly constructed space ships carrying our heroes into the fray.

The plot is predictable and takes a lot of inspiration from the narrative structures of video games and roleplaying games; a group of hard-ass soldiers are assembled to carry out a mission to save mankind, and after a lot of one-liners and gratitious violence one of them survives and saves mankind.

The overarching themes are heroism and sacrifice. These themes carry the most weight in the scenes picturing refugees trying to get off Earth before it is run over by the mutants, and in the unflinching heroism of the NPCs ... erm ... secondary characters, or whatever they're called in movie lingo. Sure, the main characters are heroic and all that, but that's to be expected. I feel it to be one of the strengths of the movie that it lets other characters shine ... before they are killed, as often is the case.

As one of the principal writers of the original Mutant Chronicles roleplaying game, I have mixed feelings about the movie. I think that it is a solid offering for a B-grade sci-fi flick, reminiscent of the movies that was part of my growing up. At the same time it ignores a lot of the powerful imagery and plot mechanics present in the source material. The Dark Legion is only represented by some kind of machine and a bunch of identical mutants, and the diversity of the legion's threat to mankind, both from within and without, is ignored. It also feels like a wasted opportunity not to use the first encounter background from the game, and instead invent a much weaker plot vehicle to move the film along.

The tone and graphics are spot on, even though I feel that the Mutant Chronicles setting also contains polished steel, neon and plastics to a greater extent than what is shown in the move. As it is now, the film focuses too heavily on the WWI inspiration inherent in the setting, and not enough on the sci-fi tropes that also make up the background. One thing I really liked was the inclusion of religion, faith and belief, although I feel that this could have been explored much more intricately; after all, in the Mutant Chronicles setting, divine power is a reality. Or at least, mystical power is ...

To sum it up, the setting of the movie is only inspired by some of the basic ideas of the roleplaying game, but the result is still entertaining to those who find enjoyment in strong visuals and steampunk imagery. Fans of one-liner plots with dodgy acting will love it!

/Magnus

Saturday, 13 December 2008

FAL News: WFRP Fanatics release expansion to TTT

Today I found an expansion to The Thousand Thrones, Black Industries' last official effort for WFRP: The Thousand Thrones. It's been put together by the splendid chaps at Liber Fanatica, which is a guarantee of high quality writing!

Go get it here!

/Magnus

Thursday, 11 December 2008

FAL News: Cover for next WFRP supplement revealed!

Just noticed that Steve Darlington posted the cover of the next WFRP supplement coming down the Reik:

The cover!

I'm of two ways about this: it's cool to see a cover because it means there's a book coming, but I also feel that this is not the strongest of the WFRPv2 covers. I think maybe a sinister merchant, a degenerate noble or a pious priest would have been my choice rather than the "pirate" which was chosen to pose for the painter's leisure.

Still, way to go FFG! Now get that thing to the printers!

On a related note, I have had two people ask me if I've abandoned the blog in the last couple of days. Just to let everyone know, I'm continuing the Altdorf Correspondent, I am not starting a new WH40kRP campaign as was the plan, and I'm still too overworked to focus on the blog.

Still, I've done some Warhammer-related writing for PC Gamer in Sweden, and I'm script doctoring a new computer game about to be released. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy. So it's not all work and no play, because that would make me a dull boy.

Erm ... well, be seeing you!

/Magnus

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Friday, 17 October 2008

General: Thanks to Jadrax

Today I just want to post a public thank you to Altdorf Correspondent reader Jadrax, who has alterted me to some erroneous links in the older material.

So ... eh ... thank you, Jadrax! I hope the links are fixed now, and if any of my other readers stumble upon any more errors, just post a comment and I'll be alerted.

/Magnus

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

General: Ooops!

Today I was trying to export my template for the blog, but I managed to replace my template with an older version instead. Go figure.

So until I manage to redo my changes to the template, my blog will look unfamiliar and not at all the way I want it to look.

Oh well.

UPDATE: Well, now it looks sort of normal. I'll have to fiddle with the margins and stuff like that, but mostly it's back to normal.

/Magnus

Friday, 10 October 2008

FAL General: Dungeon of Doom II (UPDATED)

At this very moment I am running the popular dungeon delve Dungeon of Doom at the Stockholm Spelkonvent, in Stockholm, Sweden, together with my friends. We've printed a map 2 meters by 2,40 meters, created by the talented Dante Algstrand and based on WotC dungeon tiles. You can catch a glimpse of it in the pictures below!

We're using the D&D 4e rules, and the players get to pick a PC at random, and then go into our dungeon facing overwhelming odds. PCs are killed left to right, and the players love it!

UPDATE: The Dungeon of Doom is a simple and very popular concept. I had the idea several years ago and together a group of friends put together a killer dungeon for D&D 3e. We had maps, kill markers, overwhelming monsters, adversarial dungeon mastering, and low level PCs. And dropin. Anyone could play, and it took about 15 minutes for their PC to get whacked. And people lined up in droves and droves.

The freewheeling manner of play, one of the basic philosophies behind my own gaming style, is a real draw. And it seems to work equally well for D&D 4e. We're running into some things that slow down play, such as Analysis Paralysis, but a firm DM hand brings things up to speed when things get bogged down.

We have one DM, one rules assistant and one player coach. One huge map, minis for the PCs and minis for the monsters. Dice, rulebooks and stuff like that. We've laminated the character sheets, so players can write on them with dry erase markers.

Works like a charm!

/Magnus



Monday, 6 October 2008

WFRP: Atypical Dwarfs (3)

Welcome to the third installment of Atypical Dwarfs, a series of posts examining dwarf demeanour and offering alternative personalities for dwarf PCs and NPCs.

Click here for installment 1 and 2!

The series is illustrated by Patrik Norrman, the talented and award-winning comic book artist and illustrator. If you enjoy his work and feel that you would like to commission his services, go to my profile and drop me an e-mail.

The Master Smith

In this third part of the series we’ll finally take a look at our first variant dwarf personality; the Master Smith. A dwarf in pursuit of knowledge about how to shape steel into formidable weapons and armour. In a world where possession of a sharp sword can mean the difference between aquisition of supreme power and ignoble defeat, and a sturdy chain mail can save your hide in the heat of battle, a Master Smith is always in demand.

And there are no greater Master Smiths than those who come from the dwarf kingdoms. The most legendary masters have even built small kingdoms of their own, where they rule by stint of their authority on the secrets of iron and fire. For those masters to carry out a commission a prospective buyer must first petition an audience and then pay a large sum of gold, silver, gems or even ancient artifacts for the task to be carried out. There are a few wandering smiths who wander the lands of man and beast, searching for the chance to express their mastery of the craft, and to add to their knowledge by observing what the other races are up to. They are the stuff of legends and are much sought after by kings and lords for their knowledge of smithing.

Adventure seed
The PCs are hired to escort a master smith to a Borderlands kingdom. The ancient master has been commissioned by the king himself to create a fantastic sword as a powerful symbol of his new reign. As might be imagined there are those who want to stop this, or who want to kidnap the smith and put his skills to their own use. When the PCs arrive it transpires that they have to travel to a dwarf hold close by to fetch high class steel ... but there are Beastmen in the mountains. The adventure continues!

PC suggestions

Create a dwarf who has the ambition to become the best smith in the history of the race. He travels around the world, accompanied by other adventurers to learn more about the riddle of steel, hoping to find ancient tomes of documented smithing procedures regarding weapons and armour. This PC should always have an appetite for new knowledge and should put a lot of time into developing his smithing skills and his knowledge of the legends of weaponmaking. He should also be a warrior of some renown, to truly understand the soul of the blade.

/Magnus

Thursday, 2 October 2008

WFRP: Where the fog is the thickest, the Ruinous powers hide

My shameless mining of the works of Charles Dickens continues. This time, the writing comes from Bleak House.

/Magnus

Altdorf. The Chill Month lately over, and our Lord Chancellor sitting in his gilded courts of law. Implacable Ulriczeit weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Jabberwock, forty feet long or so, waddling like a humongous lizard up Imperial Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Reikland marshes, fog on the Hagercrybs heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Drecksack pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a dwarfish balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time—as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in the Courts of Justice, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Angestag, Kaldezeit 2, 2523 IC

Monday, 29 September 2008

FAL Tip: Cool links (2)

And now for another reallt cool link to add to your collection of bookmarks! The following site is remarkable since it showcases how to reimagine popular images in new and exciting shapes.

Sillof's Workshop.

I especially like the steampunk versions of The Empire Strikes Back characters. What's your favourite?

/Magnus

Friday, 26 September 2008

WFRP: Help wanted (17)

"Guards needed for transport of 10 barrels of Imperial Stout from the Moot. Oxen and carts provided, applicants must bring own weapons and armor. No alcoholics!"

- Bruno's Brewhouse gearing up for a halfling festival. Note pinned to their door and distributed at the tables.

The competition for this job is going to be frantic, but most of those who feel called will not make the cut. Bruno's Brewhouse is looking for serious applicants only, so a good reputation is a must. Which might be difficult for many groups, actually ...

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Bruno's Brewhouse

/Magnus

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

WFRP: Gossip (16)

"The Emperor is sick! He has Neiglish Rot, and will die before the winter's end! The court physicians are doing all they can, but there's no stopping the corruption of the flesh! So they've locked the Emperor in one of the dungeons under the palace, and a look alike has taken his place!"

- By the Kaiserplatz I overheard a Palace Guard whispering traitorous gossip to a City Watchman

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Kaiserplatz

/Magnus

Saturday, 20 September 2008

WFRP: Atypical dwarfs (2)

Welcome to the second installment of Atypical Dwarfs, a series of posts examining dwarf demeanour and offering alternative personalities for dwarf PCs and NPCs.

Click here for the first installment!

I’ll kick this thing off by looking at the basic dwarf traits, and how to interpret them. I don’t want to recast the dwarfs as something entirely different as much as look at them in a different light. The following keywords define a dwarf in most fantasy settings, as well as in WFRP.

Short – Alright, it’s difficult to interpret this as anything other than ”dwarfs are short”. They are, it’s in the name of the race. This is one explanation as to why dwarfs have such a great need for asserting their competence and status in relation to the other races. This manifests in a tendency to never give up, and never back down from a challenge.

Beard – Face it, a dwarf has a beard. It’s a defining trait. The beard is a symbol of status, and is often groomed and adorned with gold or silver trinkets ... erm, jewellry. Whether or not female dwarfs have beards is open to individual interpretation.

Stubborn – Dwarfs are stubborn and they never give up. This means that they spend a lot of effort and time to figure out how things work, and their patience while investigating, researching or studying is as great as their pride in their finely cultivated beards.

Good memory
– They never forget a wrong doing, carrying Grudges forever and ever. But they also carry the memory of a friend, or of a drawing of a bridge. Or the complex secret password to open the sealed door of the hidden dwarf stronghold.

Humourless – Dwarfs don’t tolerate nonsense, and are very focused on obatining the facts of each situation. This means that they are viewed as devoid of humour by the other races, but to the dwarf this is compensated by the fact that they very, very seldom are tricked or fooled, neither by a prank or a con.

Careful – No dwarf is ever sloppy. Or maybe more accurately, those who are sloppy don’t survive in the deep mines where the slightest mistake can be fateful. Dwarfs are careful and painstakingly thorough. This also manifests as an intense dislike of any form of chaos.

Eager to learn – Dwarfs want to know how things work. They are bad at understanding how people work on a psychlogical level, but outstanding at figuring out how things fit together and what makes them tick. They spend a lot of time observering how the world is out together to try to figure out how to control it.

Love of metals – Their love of gold is the stuff of legends, but the fact is that dwarfs love all kinds of metals. They are endlessly fascinated by gold, silver, iron, steel, all sorts of minerals and what you can do with them.

Mechanical aptitude – Dwarfs love to create mechanial contraptions. This does not necessarily mean that they things they create are complicated. They us basic physical and magical laws to create simple but effective machines and tools. For example, they prefer crossbows over a simple bow.

Okay, that’s the basic personality traits of a dwarf. So what can you do with this? Amazing things actually. The next installment will tackle the first atypical dwarf personality ... so stay tuned to this channel some time next week.

/Magnus

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

WFRP: To dream of a garden of green, a sky so blue

And now for the next reworking of the writings of Charles Dickens. I turn again to a short paragraph from Nicholas Nickleby.

/Magnus

I was working late at the coaching house. I closed an account-book which lay on my desk, and, throwing myself back in my chair, gazed with an air of abstraction through the dirty window.

Some Altdorf houses have a melancholy little plot of ground behind them, usually fenced in by four high whitewashed walls, and frowned upon by stacks of chimneys: in which there withers on, from year to year, a crippled tree, that makes a show of putting forth a few leaves late in autumn when other trees shed theirs, and, drooping in the effort, lingers on, all crackled and smoke-dried, till the following season, when it repeats the same process, and perhaps, if the weather be particularly genial, even tempts some rheumatic sparrow to chirrup in its branches.

People sometimes call these dark yards 'gardens'; it is not supposed that they were ever planted, but rather that they are pieces of unreclaimed land, with the withered vegetation of the original brick-field. No man thinks of walking in this desolate place, or of turning it to any account. A few hampers, half-a-dozen broken bottles, and such-like rubbish, may be thrown there, when the tenant first moves in, but nothing more; and there they remain until he goes away again: the damp straw taking just as long to moulder as it thinks proper: and mingling with the scanty box, and stunted everbrowns, and broken flower-pots, that are scattered mournfully about — a prey to 'blacks' and dirt.


Adolphus Altdorfer
Backertag, Brauzeit 14, 2523 IC

Sunday, 14 September 2008

WFRP: The Pamphlet Template Beta 1

The other day I was reading Jadrax's comment to my latest issue of The Altdorf Truth. He mentioned that he thought these pamphlets would come in handy when the Pamphleteer career is released in Shadows over Empire, and I thought that's probably right, but what if people don't want my storylines, or aren't playing in Altdorf?

So I put together a simple HTML tool to assist Gamemasters and players all over the world to create their own pamphlets in the style of The Altdorf Truth. It's nothing fancy or advanced, but I imagine it can be a lot of fun nevertheless.

How it works is simple. Open the page and write your own newssheet in the boxes. Then print it out. That's it. Please report any problems to me by posting in the comments!

My skills at programming are severely limited, so I don't know how to create a save function ... but a guy I know does, so this beta will be further developed as time permits!

For now, you'll have to make do with the first beta release of ... The Pamphlet Template!

Thanks to Jadrax for sparking this idea!

/Magnus

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Monday, 8 September 2008

WFRP: iAltdorf service now resumed

After being contacted by fellow WFRP gamer Hans, I discovered that the download links to the iAltdorf map were still pointing at the website of my company Houdini, instead of my own private domain.

So for at least a month or so, the links have been dead (that's when we did the server reorganistion at work, and I moved my blog material to my own domain ... or so I thought).

Anyways, the map is now available again! Nothing has changed since version 1.10, but it's still a damn good map.

Thanks for the help, Hans!

/Magnus

WFRP: Gossip (15)

"Did you hear about that barge that was found adrift in the Altdorf fog last week? Maria's Heaven, that's what it's called. Right down by the Fork Wharf it was. Bloodied sails and all! The Hafenmeisterei sent out a team to investigate ... not a single soul alive was found ... the captain was a veteran of the Storm of Chaos they say, and several of his men able-bodied warriors ... so whatever killed them, was not of this world! And now ... now it is loose in Altdorf! Sigmar save us all!"

- By the Fischmarkt, overhearing an elderly cook talking to a fisherman hawking his wares

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Fork Wharf

/Magnus

Friday, 5 September 2008

WFRP: Atypical Dwarfs (1)

How often don’t you find dwarfs in fantasy that are short, grumpy fellas with an axe strapped to their backs and a flagon of beer in their hand? This is without doubt the most popular image of the fantasy dwarf, popularised by countless roleplaying games, and maybe most importantly in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Even in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, we are often treated to the stereotypical dwarf, even though I must admit there’s a twist; they’re also homicidal maniacs with punk hair.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with using that image when you are playing a dwarf character, or portraying a non-player character. But maybe it would be fun to portray dwarfs with other roles and demeanours once in a while? After all, it is not just human societies that have a need for, or give rise to, different personality types among the population. Take a closer look at the characteristics of a dwarf, and you’ll find variations within the basic theme that you didn’t think were possible!

This is the introduction to a short series of posts aimed at presenting six somewhat unorthodox ways of looking att dwarfs as characters in WFRP, or indeed in any fantasy roleplaying game. I’ll start off in the next post by examining the basic traits that are associated with dwarfish culture, and show how these traits can give inspiration for other personalities than the common dwarf thug. The game master will be treated to adventure hooks and the players get suggestions for new personalities which break the established pattern of how to look at a dwarf character.

The series is illustrated by Patrik Norrman, the talented and award-winning comic book artist and illustrator. If you enjoy his work and feel that you would like to commission his services, go to my profile and drop me an e-mail.

Stay tuned for more on dwarfs next week!

/Magnus

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Friday, 29 August 2008

FAL News: FFG reveals name of new WH40kRP book

Ross Watson at FFG has revealed in his latest design diary that work on a new book for the WH40kRP is going smoothly.

I am very pleased to say that the next book for the Dark Heresy line is making great progress. It is called Creatures Anthema, a tome describing Aliens, Beasts, and Daemons lurking in the Calixis Sector… and how to kill them in the Emperor's Name.
No mention of a release date, but it is good to see progress being made on new books. There's still life in the game, although when it comes to WFRP and WH40kRP, history tells us to never rejoice until a book is on the shelf of our local game store!

/Magnus

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

FAL Tip: Cool links (1)

In the last few months I have stumbled on links to cool and interesting material found online that is not primarily gaming related. This series of posts will highlight the links I think are of special interest, and it can be anything from cardboard models to custom-made action figures to medieval clip-art.

Well start off with a site I think I found the link to on the FFG WFRP forum, although I'm not sure. The site is extremely cool and contains cardboard models of spooky and haunted houses! I think the models are perfect to use as props for games of Call of Cthulhu, WFRP or Unhallowed Metropolis. So go for it, download one of the models and grab those scissors!

Haunted Dimensions

/Magnus

Sunday, 24 August 2008

WFRP: Help Wanted (16)

"Help needed to secure building site for construction of luxury mansion! Able-bodied men and women welcome, food and torches supplied. Ask for the foreman at Westenstrasse Tower, next to the Ruhstatt Cemetary."

- The Stonecutters' Guild advertising for expert help.

Did you ever watch Poltergeist? This could be an adventure in that vein. Or an outing akin to The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. You could even make it into a zombie fest. Or have the problems at the site be entirely mundane; a construction rival, moisture in the foundation or even rats in the walls ...

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Ruhstatt Cemetary


/Magnus

Thursday, 21 August 2008

FAL Interview: James Wallis, publisher extra-ordinaire

I got back into WFRP during the late nineties, after a break while I worked at a paper mill outside of London. What brought me back was the fact that the game was picked up by a small outfit called Hogshead Publishing, who started issuing reprints and new material. The head of this outfit was James Wallis, and over the years he carried the banner of WFRP fans all over the world

Then suddenly it was all over, and James Wallis faded from the roleplaying scene. Well, faded is maybe the wrong way of putting it ... he left. Dramatically and entertainingly, as I think many had come to expect of him. But that was then, and this is now. James Wallis is back, and I hope it will be with a vengeance.

The Altdorf Correspondent (TAC): Thanks for doing this, and thanks for the picture of you with the adorable little troll on your back. That's the first time I've seen a picture of you, actually. Tell the readers a bit about yourself.

James Wallis (JW): I'm the guy who used to run Hogshead Publishing, the company that published Warhammer FRP between 1995 and 2003. I'm British, I live in London, and I've been writing and publishing things about RPGs since I was 14. My best-known games are the card-game Once Upon a Time, which has sold a quarter of a million copies now, and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen which is about to come out in a new edition from Mongoose Publishing. I used to hold the Guinness World Record for marathon AD&D playing. I think of myself as "tall, dark and handsome", except I'm not very dark, or handsome.

TAC: What have you been up to after your exit from the scene? Burnt any more barges?

JW: I wrote a couple of Warhammer novels for the Black Library (Mark of Damnation and Mark Of Heresy), then went to work in the film industry for a bit where I scripted some documentaries and got to write dialogue for Anthony Daniels in two short films about Star Wars. More recently I helped UK ARG supremos the Hon Brothers to set up their company Six to Start, and I'm now jointly running Spaaace, a games-consultancy that works with TV companies, film companies, government agencies and other businesses to show them how to implement games as part of what they do or sell, and Magnum Opus Press which is my new publishing company. I have not burnt any barges, or bridges.

TAC: What prompted you to come back?

JW: Steve Jackson kicked my ass. Seriously. He asked me if Steve Jackson Games could release a digital version of Baron Munchausen, and I said there were some things I wanted to fix in the basic game so I'd take a couple of weeks to update the manuscript. That was two years ago. Steve never let up. The game is now twice as long as it was before, with a variant set of rules and a version for "children, the inbred and the very drunk". And as I was doing that my friend Dave Morris and I were discussing how he could get his fantasy RPG Dragon Warriors, which had been a big hit in the UK in the 1980s, back into print; and I discovered I still had all the artwork for my own aborted fantasy-parody game Frup. It looked like there was an opportunity to make some money.

TAC: What has the reception been to the new company, Magnum Opus Press?

JW: Reaction has been good. We've only launched two books so far, but the first one--Game Night by Jonny Nexus, a very funny novel about an RPG played by the gods--was nominated for an ENnie award. And a lot of people are looking forward to seeing the new Munchausen and the revised Dragon Warriors.

TAC: What's your relationship to WFRP now? Do you play the game?

JW: I don't do any tabletop role-playing these days. I'm married with a year-old daughter, which has eaten a lot of my time. I do run an excellent World of Warcraft guild and we have a lot of fun.
TAC: What was it that primarily attracted you to WFRP as a license?

JW: Mostly it was the fact the licence was available. I wasn't a Warhammer or WFRP player. I knew the game had a strong fanbase, and I was looking for a commercial property that would give Hogshead visibility and commercial security. I'd been writing RPG material professionally for ten years, I'd seen any number of UK companies start up and go bust because they believed that having a good game was the same as having a commercial game. Back in the day starting an RPG company in the UK was incredibly hard because the UK market wasn't large enough to sustain it, and it took a lot to get the US - still the largest market for RPGs in the world - to sit up and pay attention. So I knew I needed a big name with a lot of recognition, and when a friend mentioned that the WFRP licence was available, I knew that was what I'd been looking for.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP book (any edition)?

JW: Marienburg. Anthony Ragan wrote a fantastic living, breathing city, the artists brought it to life, and I think it's a terrific piece of work.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP fan material (any edition)?

JW: Warpstone. From its earliest days it's produced material of a quality that would put a lot of actual games publishers to shame.

TAC: A catchphrase of WFRP is "Grim'n Gritty". What does this mean to you, and how does this influence your game?

JW: Well, as I said I don't actually play WFRP. The decision to publish it was a commercial one. But in game-style fantasy, for me "grim and gritty" means realistic. I can't believe in worlds filled with treasure-seeking paladins or wizards who are basically walking flamethrowers. In games, 'grim and gritty' tends to mean that stuff like falls and poison will kill you, instead of leaving you with an easy saving-throw and often no damage at all. If I wanted to play a superhero game, I'd play a superhero game.

I know I said I play World of Warcraft. That's different. I play it for the game. I hate the background and the characters. I don't know anyone who gives a damn about the background of WoW. The Warhammer world has a depth and richness that isn't just fun, it's also believable.

TAC: What's the iconic WFRP career for you?

JW: Either Witch-hunter or Rat-catcher.

TAC: What's the iconic WFRP opponent for you?

JW: Chaos in all its forms. There's a lot talked about Warhammer's debt to Michael Moorcock, but in terms of visual imagery the Games Workshop vision of Chaos is completely original, utterly distinctive, and still terrifying. And the idea of a force of Chaos that isn't balanced by an equivalent force of Law is wonderfully bleak. The idea that the inhabitants of the Warhammer world are basically fighting a rearguard action, that Chaos will eventually win and will destroy the world, and that's inevitable... I love that kind of fatalism.

TAC: So ... Dragon Warriors. What's that all about?

JW: Dragon Warriors is a bit like WFRP, really. It's a 1980s game with a post-D&D ruleset, based in a world that's recognisably modelled on a historical version of Europe. The difference is that Dragon Warriors is a simpler, faster game with fewer character classes, and the background isn't pre-Renaissance, it's post-Crusades, so there are a lot of unemployed knights wandering the land looking for a fight.

The other difference is that the world of Dragon Warriors is very folkloric. Superstition and myth play an incredibly important part in people's lives, and that gives the setting a flavour and depth that I've not found in many other fantasy games.

TAC: What prompted the rerelease of Dragon Warriors?

JW: Dragon Warriors was written in the 1980s by my friends Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson, and I've talked to them off and on about reissuing it. I didn't do it at Hogshead because I felt the game was too close to Warhammer FRP and they'd have caused some confusion in the market. Once I decided that I missed publishing and thought about getting back into it, it seemed like a natural choice.

TAC: What are your publishing plans? Any supplements coming? Adventures?

JW: Dragon Warriors was originally issued as a series of six paperback-sized books, each one with some mechanics, a new character class, some new monsters and some adventures. We're reformatting it so all the classes and rules are in one book, and then there will be a separate Bestiary and three campaign-length adventures--nothing as epic as The Enemy Within, but still pretty cool. Beyond that, we're talking to several established games writers, including some old names from the Hogshead days of WFRP, about expanding the game in different directions. I can't announce anything yet, but there are many plans afoot.

TAC: What would a WFRP fan find of interest in the Dragon Warriors game?

JW:
I think they'd enjoy the setting a lot. The tone, the sense of darkness and the fact that most of the world is unknown, unknowable and probably able to kick your ass... that's all quite similar. There are no mighty armies marching across the landscape, no legendary heroes, and the world is much less organised than in WFRP - no elector-counts or anything like that, but the feudal system of lords and barons is in place, and much of the currency isn't about gold, it's about debts of honour or fealty. It'd probably be quite simple to drop the WFRP system straight onto the DW background, it would fit well and a lot of the careers would translate straight across.

TAC: What do you think about the future of WFRP?

JW: I think it's a huge shame that Games Workshop lost faith in it and cancelled the second edition, but Fantasy Flight is one of the powerhouses of the games industry these days and the game couldn't have found a better home. I look forward to seeing what they do with it, and which direction they take it. The existence of Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, the forthcoming MMORPG set in the Old World, can only be a good thing for the potential market of a tabletop version.

TAC: What do you think about the future of roleplaying games in general?

JW: Ah... I've been doing this rant for years, it's the reason I left the industry in the first place back in 2003. There is a future for RPGs, but the games industry as a whole is not interested in following it. RPGs and video-games had their infancy at about the same time. In video-games, the state of the art is World of Warcraft, GTA4, Call of Duty 4, Braid, Rock Band, Wii Fit. In RPGs, we've got to D&D 4e. Imagine if video games had taken thirty years to produce a fourth edition of Space Invaders or Pong, and that was the most-played market-leading game.

That's where the RPG market is. And that's why a typical new RPG from an established company will sell less than 2000 copies, which is not enough to make money if you're trying to do this as a proper job. We as an industry are selling a product that's almost identical to what it was thirty years ago, except for better-quality printing and nicer art. Most of the RPG market is driven by nostalgia. The number of new players coming in is negligible. Magnum Opus is around for the long haul, but don't expect us to be focusing all our energy on publishing traditional RPGs.
Wow! I never knew, or rather never bothered to find out, that James wrote Once upon a time, one of my favourite games ever! When it comes to WFRP, it was Hogshead's endorsement of Warpstone that prompted me to check the magazine out, something I have never regretted. So in more ways than one, James Wallis has added to my library of extra-ordinary game experiences. Although I never really got the hang of Baron Münchausen. I guess I was too busy reading and rereading PuppetLand. Now, I've got to get my hands on Game Night and Dragon Warriors when it is released in October. I still remember those covers from ads in White Dwarf ...

A great many thanks to James Wallis for accepting to do this interview, and we hope to see a lot more of Magnum Opus Press in the future!

/Magnus

Monday, 18 August 2008

Saturday, 16 August 2008

FAL News: ENnies 2008

The ENnie awards have been announced. You’ll find the results here.

Three lifetime awards; Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and Erick Wujcik. Of note is that Mr. Gygax and Mr. Wujick passed away this year, so it is high time to honour those that blazed the trails of our hobby before it is too late. I’m particularly pleased that Mr. Arneson was awarded, all too often he is forgotten for his contribution to the birth of D&D.

Paizo Publishing netted seven gold and one silver award, Wizards of the Coast collected five gold and three silver awards, White Wolf picked up three gold and five silver awards. The big names scored big, as usual. It’s going to be interesting to see if Paizo can keep up with their strategy and continue to be successful with the development of Pathfinder and their relations with their fans.

As for the products that were honoured, the games I’m interested in are Trail of Cthulhu and Changeling. The first was already on my radar, but the ENnies brought Changeling to my attention.

As for best fan products, Dungeon Mastering won the gold, and Flames Rising the silver! Good work!

/M

Friday, 15 August 2008

FAL News: Rogue Trader set to release 2009

News from GenCon indicates that the next core rule installment in the WH40kRP, the Rogue Trader book, is slated for the next GenCon in 2009! Interesting times, and something I look forward to immensely!

I'll comment on the contents when details are released.

EDIT 09.44 CET: Having seen a picture of the poster that FFG are displaying at GenCon, we now have a link as well: www.roguetraderrpg.com. For now it redirects to the official WH40kRP forums, but presumably some info will get posted at the new page at one time or the other.

/Magnus

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

FAL Interview: Wim van Gruisen, Fanatical Editor

One of the many things WFRP is known for is its fans. Some are fans of the first edition, some are fans of the second edition. Some are just fans of WFRP. That's how I think of Wim van Gruisen, a lauded writer of fan published scenarios and, together with Henrik Grönberg and Jude Hornborg, one of the movers and shakers behind the terrific fan publication Liber Fanatica.

I first took notice of Wim and his co-conspirators with the initial release of Liber Fanatica, and I immediately identified with the idea of fan material building bridges between the two editions that was expressed there. After that I eagerly perused the follow-up releases of the LF, and followed Wim's posts under the moniker of Whymme, on the Black Industries forums and now on the FFG forums. His posts are often thoughtful, constructive, and I have a feeling Wim is always trying to see several sides to an issue, avoiding to be locked up in one interpretation of rules or background.

The Altdorf Correspondent (TAC): Tell the readers a bit about yourself.

Wim van Gruisen (Whymme): I live in Maastricht, the Netherlands. A nice old town with lots of history, which is quite inspiring for games like WFRP. :-) I've been gaming for almost twenty years now, but have become active in fandom only recently. Mostly WFRP, but I've done some stuff for games like Cyberpunk and Over the Edge as well. Somewhere in the back of my head and buried deep in the files in my computer are some ideas to write my own RPG as well.

TAC: How and why did you start playing WFRP?

Whymme: WFRP was the first real RPG I ever encountered, really. A few years before I had found a series of "Choose your own adventure" books, somewhat like the Fighting Fantasy series, but the Bloodsword books (which you can still download from here) were better written and had a unique feature; you could play it with up to four persons, in four different roles. Anyway, back then RPGs were very unknown in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. I found a very used WFRP rulebook in the second-hand section of an English bookstore in Amsterdam, bought it, and was hooked. Wrote my first adventure not much later, and it was a terrible railroad. Back at the time you couldn't find any of those funny shaped dice; the first few sessions we played, we had a table that converted 3d6 rolls into d100 results, until I ran across some polyhedral dice in a toy store in Luxemburg. Really, back in the day I had to scrounge my RPG necessities from anywhere I could get them.

TAC: What was it that primarily attracted you to WFRP?

Whymme: Availability, mainly. As you might have gathered from the story above, RPGs were not really a dime a dozen at the time. After I got my WFRP books, some copies of D&D adventures and "Das Schwarze Auge", both translated into Dutch, began appearing in Dutch toy stores, but they didn't really become a great success. I only learned more about RPGs when I went to the UK for three months as part of a student exchange program. I saw that more games existed, found out about White Dwarf (which had just started publishing their legendary Marienburg stuff), and bought my second RPG - Cyberpunk 2020. Looking back, I don't think that it is a coincidence that my first two RPGs both were so grim and gritty.

TAC: Any other roleplaying games that you enjoy?

Whymme: There are lots of good, almost perfect RPGs around. I have some of them here, on my shelves, but I doubt that I'd ever play them. I like Ars Magica for the interesting setting (our medieval world, but with the legends being true) and the great magic system. Pendragon for the evocative Arthurian setting (sorry, but Knights of the Grail just doesn't cut it). Amber for showing me new possibilities to play and to GM, and Feng Shui to a lesser extent similarly. Blue Planet and GURPS Transhuman Space are brilliant SF settings, and Over the Edge is a great rules-light, story-focused game, and I'd love to run a campaign one time using that system, and a setting fueled by GURPS Voodoo, GURPS CABAL, GURPS Illuminati, and so on.

But ultimately, a game is as good as the players it gets. The most brilliant setting and game mechanics get dulled if played by an uninspired group, while a good group will have fun playing almost anything.

TAC: Tell us a bit about the Liber Fanatica project.

Whymme: Well, it's lots of fun. What more do you want to know?

TAC: What prompted the creation of LF?

Whymme: The playtest for version 2, really. That playtest, the way it was set up and executed, is a story in itself. But in the end, we playtesters were presented a final version of the rules as they were going to be, and a number of us were not really satisfied with that. During the playtest Henrik Grönberg and I often found ourselves having the same opinions on issues, and we started showing each other alternate rules that we'd written. And we decided to work together on a set of additional and alternative rules and comments.

Jude Hornborg, Herr Arnulfe on the forums, had presented a cool article during the playtests. Henrik and I liked it a lot, and we asked Jude permission to use that article and invited him to join us. He accepted and became the third member of the group.

Some others wanted to cooperate as well, and joined, but several dropped out again. We ended up with four members, the fourth one being James Walkerdine, who is mostly responsible for our lay-out.

TAC: How hard is it to get people to contribute to LF?


Whymme: Well, LF VI is really the first time where we are actively looking for people to write new stuff. Much more often we have decided on a theme and we find that people are already presenting ideas on the internet that fit that theme. And so we ask them for permission to use those ideas in our issues. And most of the time they have no objection, and are happy to have an outlet for their ideas, to see it being published.

LF V, as you probably know, will present a detailed overview of Wurtbad, the finest city in the Empire. The next issue will have a number of adventures set in that city. Mainly Cthulhu-like investigative/horror scenarios (a type of adventure that has been neglected so far). And we are open for people who would like to contribute such a scenario. Anyone who would like to write such a scenario for LF VI can contact me.


TAC: Are there any other creations of yours that you are especially proud of?


Whymme: Well, I like my WFRP website. And the adventures that I've written; I've written and mastered two scenarios for TimCon (the world's largest roleplaying convention that is wholly dedicated to WFRP - there are about twenty participants each year) which both have been great successes, and a third scenario has been runner-up in last year's scenario competition.

TAC: What's the advantages and disadvantages of creating fan material?

Whymme: The advantage is that you can share your ideas with a larger group of fans. And if they tell you that they like what you've done, it's quite an ego boost :-)
The main disadvantage is the time it costs. When I write something and get it ready for publication, I want it not only to be a good idea, but also well executed, with pretty pictures, good writing, spiffy lay-out. And that only adds to the time.

TAC: A catchphrase of WFRP is "Grim'n Gritty". What does this mean to you, and how does this influence your game?

Whymme: I think that this is a bit overblown, really. Some people make it seem like WFRP is all about blood and mud and grit, everyone's poor and it's raining all the time, and your favourite pet just died or mutated into some Chaos monster. I see WFRP generally as quite a bit lighter and more optimistic than that. It is just not a game for ancient Greek style of heroes, people who are clearly superior to normal people and who eat giants and three-headed hydra's for breakfast. My standard WFRP is about people who try to make a living, but in doing so get hindered by all sorts of problems and inconveniences that, looking back years later, can be described as 'adventures'. I'm not a big fan of the idea proposed in the rulebook (both in first and second edition) that the PCs are ex-ratcatchers, tradesmen, and so on, who willingly stop doing what they did for a living and instead voluntarily go looking for the discomfort and danger that is referred to as "adventure". People who willingly do that, giving up their daily life in order to get into mortal situations, should start the game with more than a few insanity points, IMHO. Notwithstanding what I said at the beginning of this paragraph, the Warhammer world is still one where death is cheap and omnipresent, and you'd be a fool to look it up out of boredom.

One important part of WFRP is the humor. Or at least, it used to be so in the first edition. There were those awful puns, but also some great situations like a goblin wearing the dress and jewelry of a sorceress, thinking that they'd give him magic power. It was great to describe the scene when the PCs ran into this transvestite goblin waving his hands and muttering an arcane language. This humor is something I miss in much of the second edition.

TAC: How much humour do you inject into you WFRP game, and how do you do it?

Whymme: The amount of humour depends on the game and the players. Most of the games I run tend to have a lot of humour in them, but a large part of that comes from the players. A GM shouldn't be funny; he should present the opportunity for the players to be funny. The GM shouldn't present a clown throwing cream pies; he should just tell the PCs that there is a table with cream pies and wait until they start throwing.

I admit a weakness for puns and for obscure (and not so obscure) references, though. There are usually a lot of those in my scenarios. "Arrows of Outrageous Fortune" has a bookmaker called Wilhelm Hügel - that is a direct translation of William Hill, the UK betting agent. That scenario was rife with silly names like that. I toned things down quite a bit for "The Legend of Wolfgang von Horn", but I couldn't resist naming the bard Robert Zimmermann. If you don't see why that is funny (or, well, groanworthy), google for the name.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP book (any edition)?

Whymme: Difficult question. There are a number of good books; for WFRP1 I love the first three parts of the TEW setting, and the Marienburg sourcebook is a thing of wonder. Second edition ... I think that I'd go with both the Tome of Corruption and the Tome of Salvation. They do an excellent job in deepening the WFRP world. That said, Sigmar's Heirs is very good as well; I think that it loses a few points for not including maps of the regions it describes.

There are a number of other good books on my shelf, but I haven't read them all yet. Books like Children of the Horned Rat or Realm of the Ice Queen look like they're good, but they cover a rather specialised part of the setting, and as long as my group doesn't go there, the information just isn't as interesting to me as those books that I do need.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP fan material (any edition)?

Whymme: Apart from the Liber Fanatica and my own website, you mean? Then I'd go with the things that kept WFRP alive after Games Workshop gave up printing RPGs (the first time), and after Hogshead did the same. The products of that fan community, like Warpstone, TimCon and Strike to Stun have been very important for WFRP, and still are.

TAC: What's the iconic WFRP opponent for you?


Whymme: Humans. All those rats and goblins and bloodthirsters are very nice and all, but for me WFRP has always been about the evil that people do to each other. We were talking about grim and gritty, and I believe that showing what man is capable of is far grittier than introducing bumbling orcish sword fodder or a skaven society that seems to have walked straight out of Paranoia. Sure, the beastmen and chaos gods and such are great decoration, but in the end what makes adventures interesting are human weaknesses and the problems they cause.

TAC: What could we have more of in WFRP?

Whymme: Good adventures, good setting information. A very active fan base. Can we ever have enough of that?

TAC: What could we have less of in WFRP?

Whymme: The simplistic part of the imagery in WFB. Bad adventures. Game companies that stop producing WFRP.

TAC: What's the status of WFRP in your home country?

Whymme: Not sure, really. If you look at the forums, you see that a number of active posters come from the Netherlands. So there must be more groups playing WFRP than just mine. I just never met them.

A couple of years ago we tried to organise a WFRP-con for Dutch-speaking WFRP players (from the Netherlands and Belgium - and we planned to run a line of English language adventures for furriners who wanted to join), but in the end that attempt fell flat. Perhaps we should try again some time.

TAC: What are your hopes for the future of WFRP?

Whymme: WFRP has always been a fan effort. It was fan community that made the game survive when the publishers gave up on it, and it was that same community that gave the game its tone and themes. And even when the game got new life and a new edition, lots of worthwhile material has been produced by fans of the game. If anything, I hope that this fan material and the fan community will continue to be a big part of the game; I cannot imagine WFRP without it.
A WFRP without an active fan community is indeed a bleak prospect. Projects like Liber Fanatica are incredibly important to that community, both for the creativity it showcases and for the wealth of additional background and source material it creates, but also because it brings fans together to write, to create, to build on the community. Wim's, Henrik's and Jude's enthusiasm and their attitude of "it can be done" is contagious, and I hope many more catch the disease!

So if you haven't done so yet, download the Liber Fanatica releases. They'll make your game richer and more exciting, and what else can we wish for?

I thank Wim for taking his time, and eagerly await the next installment in the Liber Fanatica series!

/Magnus

Saturday, 9 August 2008

WFRP: The friendless tides, the empty faces

This installment of my reworkings of the writings of Charles Dickens turns to a short paragraph from Nicholas Nickleby. It neatly illustrates the bleak aspect of Altdorf that is present in many texts covering the city.

/Magnus

There are people enough in the world, Heaven knows! and even in Altdorf, but few complaints prevail, of the population being scanty. It is extraordinary how long a man may look among the crowd without discovering the face of a friend, but it is no less true. Everyday I look, and look, till my eyes become sore as my heart, but no friend appears; and when, growing tired of the search, I turn my eyes homeward, I see very little there to relieve my weary vision. A painter who has gazed too long upon some glaring colour, refreshes his dazzled sight by looking upon a darker and more sombre tint; but everything that meet my gaze wear so black and gloomy a hue, that I will be beyond description refreshed by the very reverse of the contrast. Some colour, some freshness, some vitality to lend succor to my troubled mind.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Backertag, Erntezeit 12, 2523 IC

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

WFRP: A View from a Pram

It is all so easy to forget that Altdorf is a city divided by the broad River Reik. In the summer, when I walk about the crowded streets, among the alleys and walkways, the sheer bustle of the city whisks all thoughts of open spaces and cool waters. But always, the deep black waters of the Reik are there, waiting for me as I take an unexpected turn and end up by the banks of the river.

It is a fact of life, and while it serves as the life blood of our capital, at the same time it reinforces the social and cultural boundaries dividing the working class from the nobles and their servants of the Imperial administration.

The bridges of Altdorf serve as gateways between different worlds. They are officially under the jurisdiction of the City Watch, but since they straddle the Reik, powers are working to put the River Watch in charge of the bridges as well. This, and the fact that a bridge connects two Bezirks and therefore often fall under two City Watch jurisdictions,  means that the bridges more often than not are havens for crooks and criminals, while the powers that be squabble over who has the responsibility of keeping order ... and who will get the money for doing it.

Adolphus Altdorfer

Wellentag, Erntezeit 9, 2523 IC

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Werksviertel Bezirk


/Magnus

Sunday, 3 August 2008

WFRP: Abbreviations common to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

WFRP is a game where much of the source material is referred to by the fans by using abbreviations of the books' titles. This tradition has created a common ground for referring to the rules and books among players of the game, and I wanted to collect this in one place, for my own convenience. Here follows a list of common abbreviations found in relation to the WFRP roleplaying game. This list covers both the first and the second edition of the game.

I have collected these abbreviations from the Internet, but I'm not sure how widespread some of them really are. Feel free to post corrections and additions in the comments!

The game

v1 - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition
v2 - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Second Edition
WFRP – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
WFRPv1 – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition
WFRPv2 – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Second Edition

Publishers

BI - Black Industries (former publishers of WFRPv2)
BL – Black Library (publishes Warhammer fiction)
FFG - Fantasy Flight Games (current publishers of WFRPv2)
Flame – Flame Publications (former publishers of WFRPv1)
GW – Games Workshop (original publishers of WFRPv1)
HH – Hogshead Publishing (former publishers of WFRPv1, see also Hogshead)
Hogshead – Hogshead Publishing (Former publisher of WFRPv1, see also HH)

Fan material

LF – Liber Fanatica
LFI – Liber Fanatica 1
LFII – Liber Fanatica 2
LFIII – Liber Fanatica 3
LFIV – Liber Fanatica 4
StS – Strike to Stun
TAC – The Altdorf Correspondent
WS – Warpstone Magazine

Books

A2 - Apocrypha 2: Charts of Darkness (Hogshead Publishing)
AN - Apocrypha Now (Hogshead Publishing)
AoM - Ashes of Middenheim (Part 1 of the Paths of the Damned)
BotD - Barony of the Damned
BotR - Blood on the Reik (BL)
CI - Corruping Influence
CotHR - Children of the Horned Rat, the Guide to Skaven
CotWW - Warhammer City – Middenheim/City of the White Wolf (Games Workshop)
CP – Character Pack (varies with context, see also RULES)
D:BitD – Doomstones: Blood in Darkness (Hogshead Publishing)
D:DR – Doomstones: Death Rock (Flame Publications)
D:DW – Doomstones: Dwarf Wars (Flame Publications)
D:FaB – Doomstones: Fire and Blood (Hogshead Publishing)
D:FitM – Doomstones: Fire in the Mountains (Flame Publications)
D:HoC – Doomstones: Heart of Chaos (Hogshead Publishing)
D:S&S – Dwarfs: Stone and Steel (Hogshead Publishing)
D:WaD – Doomstones: War and Death (Hogshead Publishing)
DDS - Deaths' Dark Shadow (Games Workshop, Hogshead Publishing)
DH - Dark Heresy, the Warhammer 40k RPG with similar mechanics to WFRP
DotL - Dying of the Light (Hogshead Publishing)
DotR - Death on the Reik (Games Workshop)
DR - Darkness Rising
EiC - Empire in Chaos (Unpublished, Hogshead Publications)
EiF - Empire in Flames (Flame Publications)
FoN - Forges of Nuln (Part 3 of the Paths of the Damned)
GMP - Game Master's Pack
GMT - Game Master's Toolkit
GR - Green Ronin, former writers/publishers of WFRP 2nd Edition alongside BI
GW - Games Workshop
KA - Karak Azgal
KotG - Knights of the Grail, the Guide to Bretonnia
LC – Liber Chaotica
LC:C - Liber Chaotica: Collected Edition
LC:K - Liber Chaotica: Khorne
LC:N - Liber Chaotica: Nurgle
LC:S - Liber Chaotica: Slaneesh
LC:T - Liber Chaotica: Tzeentch
LLL - Lure of the Liche Lord (see also LotLL)
LotLL - Lure of the Liche Lord (see also LLL)
M:SDtR – Marienburg: Sold Down the River (Hogshead Publishing)
NDM - Night's Dark Masters
OWA - Old World Armory
OWB - Old World Bestiary
PBtT - Power Behind the Throne (Games Workshop, Hogshead Publishing)
PotD - Paths of the Damned (series, usually inclusive)
PV - Plundered Vaults
RC - Renegade Crowns, the Guide to the Border Princes
RoC - Realm of Chaos (Games Workshop)
RoC:LatD - Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned (Volume 2) (GamesWorkshop)
RoC:StD - Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (Volume 1) (Games Workshop)
RoS - Realms of Sorcery
RoS:HH - Realms of Sorcery (Hogshead)
RoSv1 – Realms of Sorcery, for WFRPv1 (HH)
RoSv2 – Realms of Sorcery for WFRPv2 (BI)
RotIQ - Realm of the Ice Queen, the Guide to Kislev
SH - Sigmar's Heirs, the Guide to the Empire
SoA - Spires of Altdorf (Part 2 of the Paths of the Damned)
SoB - Shadows over Bogenhafen (Games Workshop)
SoC - Storm of Chaos
SoE - Shades of Empire (unreleased)
SRiK - Something Rotten in Kislev (Games Workshop, Hogshead)
TEW - The Enemy Within, a WFRP v1 campaign (Games Workshop, Hogshead).
TiT - Terror in Talabheim
tLRaatVK - the Loathesome Ratmen and all their Vile Kin (BL)
ToC - Tome of Corruption
ToS - Tome of Salvation
ToT - Tomb of Thieves (unreleased)
TTT - The Thousand Thrones
WC - The WFRP Companion (see also WComp)
WComp - The WFRP Companion (see also WC)
WC-F - Warhammer Companion (Flame Publications)
WD - White Dwarf, with 'x' as the issue number (Games Workshop)
WFB - Warhammer Fantasy Battle (Games Workshop)
WFRPv1 – The core rulebook of first edition WFRP (varies with context, see also THE GAME)
WFRPv2 – The core rulebook of second edition WFRP (varies with context, see also THE GAME)

Rules

AP - Armor Points
CN – Casting Number
Core - Core Rulebook, the WFRP main rules
CP – Career Path (varies with context, see also BOOKS)
CV - Critical Value
DoS - Degrees of Success
EP - Encumbrance Points
FP - Fate or Fortune Points
GC - Gold Crowns, a unit of currency in WFRP
GM - Game Master
HtH - Hand to hand combat
NPC - Non player character
PC - Player character
RAW - Rules As Written (i.e without house rules, "by the book")
WA - Warp Artefacts
XP - Experience Points
IP – Insanity Points

/Magnus

Thursday, 31 July 2008

WFRP: Gossip (14)

"The scandalous painter Johann Weissen has been commissioned by the Emperor to paint a depiction of the last stand against the Storm of Chaos at Middenheim! Weissen is bringing in goblins, mutants and even dragons to pose for his pleasure! It's an outrage!"

- A speaker from The Crusade for All That is Right speaking from on top of an upturned barrel on the Three Toll Bridge


Johann Weissen is a famous painter, surrounded by scandals and indiscretions. His studio is located in the Domplatz Bezirk.

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!

Johann Weissen's Studio


/Magnus

Monday, 28 July 2008

WFRP: Help wanted (15)

"My dear Hilda has disappeared! Last seen near the Imperial Palace, all by herself and trying to make contact with sympathetic souls! I miss her company dearly, and will pay 50 Karls to anyone who can bring her back safe! Please contact Jan Wachtmiser in the Palast Bezirk! Hurry, hurry!"

- A somewhat unusual advertisement in the Altdorf Presse.

Who is Hilda? Or should I say, what is Hilda? Is it Wachtmiser's fiance? Or daughter? Or dog? Or even a cat? Only the GM knows, and what his choice is will shape the adventure to follow. And remember, roaming about Altdorf trying to find a dog called Hilda can provide the players with hours of fun ... and frustration, I suspect.

/Magnus

Friday, 25 July 2008

FAL GM tip: Turning the tables on genre conventions

We go through a lot of roleplaying games in our weekly gaming group. Lately we've been enjoying several sessions of Call of Cthulhu, the Gaslight version. Great fun and all that, but as things progress steadily downwards for the PCs, we are once again faced with the conundrum plaguing this classic roleplaying game: why not alert the authorities? This problem is accentuated as one of the players is playing an honest lawyer, who sees the civil authorities as rock solid pillars of the Empire. To him, the casual dismissal of the police force and proper authorities is devastating. While this problem might seem to be limited to this one investigator, it highlights a fundamental problem in Call of Cthulhu:
To get things done, an investigator needs to repeatedly break the law.
 Very seldom does this requirement fit with the investigators being played. We have librarians, lawyers,  authors, accountants, some crooks of course, but still ... the logical thing for investigators to do when faced with horrible things should be to go to the authorities. And if we play crooks and bad guys, why should we get involved in the first place? Of course, it is possible to structure a Call of Cthulhu game so that this problem does not occur, for example by isolating the investigators in a backwards mountain area, which I have done on several occasions, or put them on a time schedule, or other such tricks. But after playing Call of Cthulhu for 24 years or so, this becomes a tad bit predictable.

So I'm going to try something different. I'm setting up a campaign I'm tentatively calling Cults of Cthulhu. I'm going to turn the tables on the premise and let the players take the role of cultists. I think this can be as fun as playing investigators, and a real kick to get to think as the bad guys do. And have all the problems that bad guys do, with the authorities, investigators, insanity an rivalling cults. Because just like the investigators, the cultists loose their sanity, they get embroiled in things they know nothing about, the meddle in magic, they take enormous risks ... but for them, all this has a purpose, unlike for many investigators who would rather call the police and curl up under the bed, praying to an uncaring and probably non-existent God.

The purpose of the cultist makes their actions seem logical and beliavable..And the premise neatly explains why you can't call the authorities, and why you must avoid the police, the clergy, the investigators, the enemies of the occult ... or of the cult, as the case might very well be. Another great thing is that it is possible to use the same adventures as always, with only minor modifications: the cult is to be protected and strengthened. Find out who stole the artifact from the museum, because you want it for yourself! Who killed the old librarian, your cult mentor? Stop the cult from raising Nyarlathotep, because you want to do it yourself! And so on, so forth.

I'm sure I'm not the first one to try this, so weigh in with with your thoughts and tips in the comments!

/Magnus

Thursday, 24 July 2008

FAL News: N. Robin Crossby, 1954-2008

N. Robin Crossby has passed on. He is remembered for his creation of HarnWorld, a detailed fantasy world firmly grounded in the pursuit of realism in a fantasy environment. Crossby was passionate about his creation, and his writings brought joy and adventure to countless fans. He will be sorely missed by his fans.

You can read more about this here and here.

/Magnus

Saturday, 19 July 2008

WFRP: Charts and Tables (1)

One thing that's really cool when playing a campaign set in the same place all the time ... well, most of the time ... is that the players start to recognise places and people. Given that they pay enough attention to the milieu you will soon hear words like "this is the same inn we ended up at last time!" and "that's the halfling that sold us that dodgy pie!" and so on so forth every so often. But sometimes it's a drag to have to come up with new NPCs at the drop of a hat, and that's when charts and tables come in handy. In this ongoing series of posts, I will provide amusing and useful charts and tables for the GM to use when reacting to random requests for information from the players.

Such as "we call for the City Watch!" Innocent enough, but wouldn't it be fun if you could tell the players what members of the City Watch that show up? And if you use the same table every time, the players will soon expect familiar faces, for good or bad. Let's take a look at the first table, that'll explain it a lot better.

City Watch in Neiderhafen Bezirk

If the characters call for the City Watch in the Niederhafen Bezirk, roll a d10 and consult the following table.

1. A big fat man (Heinz) and his thin cohort (Franz). This dynamic duo is enthusiastic but ineffectual.

2. A group of three rowdy Watchmen show up. Their leader is a big bully named Adolf, and he is accompanied at all times by his sycophantic colleagues Bastian and Rupert. These three are thoroughly corrupt and abuse their authority at every chance they get.

3. Gerke and Otto come running. Curt and effective Watchmen, they are loathe to take any action without first calling in reinforcements (roll another d10, reroll any result of 3).

4. A lonely Watchman shows up. This is Viggo, a loner with a serious attitude problem versus anyone he thinks is breaking the law. Uses his status as a Watchman to get into fights as often as he can, but he is an effective investigator as well.

5. First nothing happens. Then after some time, Uto, Urban and Viktor show up. Thesy are three enthusiastic young Watchmen without any experience or useful skills. They are eager to help, but are more likely to make any situation worse with their efforts.

6. Two towering giants with gigantic beards loom before the characters. Olaf and Valdemar are two Norscan warriors trying to make a living patrolling the streets of Altdorf. They rely on simple tactics, preferring to beat any suspect senseless with their clubs before throwing them in a cell for further questioning. They speak Reikspiel very, very badly.

7. Klaus and Kastor sneak out of a nearby alley. Corrupt to the bone, they will take the side of any thug or criminal who belongs to a gang or criminal organisation, hoping to get paid for their troubles.

8. From the nearest inn, Jost and Henkel emerges, probably still holding their tankards of beer. Two tragic alcoholics, they still retain a sliver of professional pride, which will probably get them killed one of these days since they are constantly intoxicated while patrolling the streets.

9. Grosse Goran lumbers up to the scene of the action. This giant Kislevite is not too bright, but his enormous strength and simplistic approach to dealing with those who break the law has earned him a lot of respect on the docks. Most people leave the scene or sober up real fast if Grosse Goran appears.

10. Gottwin, Horst and Holger marches up to the characters. They are dressed in perfect uniforms, their helmets are polished to a shine and they carry out their duties with military precision. If they have any fault it's the fact that they don't really listen to what people are telling them, unless the person in question is a higher ranked individual (professional or social rank).

So that's it. Simple enough, just use it lots of times and the players will bemoan their fates as they run into Jost and Henkel for the third time in a row!

Magnus

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

FAL Interview: A short chat with Steve Darlington

The first time I was made aware of Steve Darlington was at RPGnet. He posted in what turned into one of the funniest threads ever on any site, and after a few good additions to the thread in question he wrote a Monty Python riff based on the spanish inquisition sketch. Pure genius. Ahem ... well it was laugh out loud funny at least. Lines from that post still grace my sig at RPGnet.



After that I followed Steve's posts with some interest, mostly to see if he would deliver more funny moments. Which he did, again and again. And in between that he posted thoughts about gaming and plot seeds and what have you. Posts that became one of the many reasons for visiting RPGnet, apart from the highly amusing flame wars.



So when it came to my attention that Steve was writing on WFRP supplements, I considered that some very good news. It was interesting to see what he would come up with, and for sure, his work on Children of the Horned Rat (with Rob Schwalb and Gary Astleford) and Night's Dark Masters (with Jody MacGregor) didn't disappoint me. I have yet to read through Realm of the Ice Queen (a collaboration with David Chart, Andy Law and Graham McNeill) but I'm sure I'll enjoy that book too. And there are other fans out there, who asked me to do an interview with the distant Aussie. Steve volunteered and I quickly shot off the questions. He managed to return the answers in between being a guest of honour at GenCon Oz and trying to get some well-earned sleep. He also sent a picture of him holding a ... beaver of some sorts, I think.

The Altdorf Correspondent (TAC): Tell the readers a bit about yourself.



Steve Darlington: I live in Brisbane, Australia. I have been gaming for twenty something years but am relatively new to freelancing. I've worked on Children of the Horned Rat, Realm of the Ice Queen and Night's Dark Masters. I've also worked on a few other products like Freeport and Grimm and I'm just about to do some work for Vampire.



TAC: How and why did you start playing WFRP?



Steve Darlington: That's far too complicated a question to really answer here, because it took about ten years from the first time I encountered the game to the first time I actually got to play it. The first time I encountered it I didn't get to play but my friend did and the next day he told me about how cool it was using the Curse spell to turn people's hair purple, which sounded pretty awesome.



TAC: What was it that primarily attracted you to WFRP?



Steve Darlington: Adventures. I've always had a lot of trouble writing these things and as a young gamer I would buy any module I could find. I stumbled onto an awesome double pack in the bargain bin of my old gaming store: The Enemy Within/Shadows of Bogenhafen book and the Restless Dead book bundled into one. As an incredibly stroke of luck, these books contain some of the best adventures ever written for anything in them. I was hooked.



TAC: How did you land the job of writing for WFRP?



Steve Darlington: The same way anyone gets a writing job: I sent off a resume and a sample to the line developer. I had a friend who was working on Freeport with some Green Ronin staff and he'd heard they were looking for freelancers. It was pretty intimidating to start with my favourite company and my favourite game, but the passion for this game is also what carried me through the fear.



TAC: What are your strengths as a writer/designer?



Steve Darlington: Hmm, a tricky question - I'm much better at spotting my weaknesses. I think my strength comes from my passion for the Warhammer world and its style. I love so much about it, and I love crawling into it again and again and doing everything I can to communicate all the joy and wonder and terror I get from the world to others. I could spend the rest of my life writing Warhammer and consider myself blessed.



TAC: Primary inspirations?



Steve Darlington: History. Geography. Humanity. Politics. The world is my sourcebook.



TAC: A catchphrase of WFRP is "Grim'n Gritty". What does this mean to you, and how does this influence your game?



Steve Darlington: Grim and Gritty has many aspects. For me, it's about highlighting the more "mundane" aspects of the world - ours and the Warhammer one. It is a sad casualty of many fantasy worlds that the mundane, the small, the quotidian and the base are swept aside in the pursuit of the epic and the grandiose. Warhammer reminds us all that the mundane and the small and the base are full of just enough evil - and more than enough heroism - to tell the greatest stories imaginable.



TAC: How much humour do you inject into you WFRP game, and how do you do it?



Steve Darlington: I don't really inject humour. I find that games are full of humour anyway, players are just naturally funny. What makes WFRP unique among fantasy RPGs is that that humour is very often in character, instead of just out of character. The humour also comes out of the darkness too, just as the darkness comes out of the humour.



TAC: What is your favourite WFRP book?



Steve Darlington: For 2nd ed, Plundered Vaults, no question. It's probably the most used and most valuable book I've ever bought, except for the core rulebook. For 1st ed, Shadows Over Bogenhafen. Did I mention I love adventures?



TAC: What is your favourite WFRP fan material?



Steve Darlington: Whymme's excellent time-loop adventure for last year's competition. I've forgotten the name but it was gorgeous.



TAC: What's the status of WFRP in Australia?



Steve Darlington: That I couldn't really tell you. I think the battle games are very popular though, and everyone I talked to was jazzed about Dark Heresy, so it seems to be as popular as any non-D&D RPG is these days.



TAC: Have you looked at Warhammer Online? Any comments on that?



Steve Darlington: I don't know a lot about MMORPGs and my computer would melt if it tried to run it...but I am insanely keen to see this game in action. I can't imagine anything cooler than walking around the WFRP world. Also, from some hints I've got, I think my work in Realms of the Ice Queen might have ended up in the game, since one of the main areas is Praag.



TAC: What are your hopes for the future of WFRP?



Steve Darlington: That it goes on. One of WFRP's great strengths has become its legendary tenacity and long-toothedness. The greatest RPGs may just be those that refuse to die the longest. I want WFRP to keep going - and still be on its 2nd ed - long after D&D 20th edition is gone and forgotten.
And that's it, a short chat with Steve Darlington. A few surprises there, especially the bit about Plundered Vaults, a book I haven't heard anyone else list as their favourite for WFRPv2. It's good to see the initial releases get some loving as well! Thanks for your time, Steve, and get some rest now!



/Magnus

Sunday, 13 July 2008

FAL Interview: Interview with Jay Little

Those who are following the development of WFRP at the hands of Fantasy Flight Games will know that they appointed a new Senior RPG Developer for the game. I took the opportunity to send a few questions to this new name on the WFRP scene, and the result was a designer diary that was published on the official web site. FFG graciously allowed me to post the interview here as well, and here it is, in most of its former glory! Look for more interviews with other WFRP personalities to appear as I get this format settled!

To read the interview as it appeared at the WFRP web site, with a picture of the man himself, go to this page here!

Recently Adolphus Altdorfer, well-known scholar from the Empire's grandest city and pen behind the Altdorf Correspondent leaflets, sat down with Jay Little, the new Senior RPG Developer for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, for a discussion. Adolphus was gracious enough to record the conversation to share with his fellow scholars.

The Altdorf Correspondent (TAC): Tell the readers a bit about yourself.

Jay Little: I've been an avid gamer for most of my life, and really enjoy the challenges that games provide — they really exercise your mind and creativity. I am also an active game collector. I have well over 650 board games in my collection, ranging from old school Games Workshop classics, some out of print rarities, and a large number of newer Euro and designer-style games. But as much as I enjoy board gaming, roleplaying has always been my true gaming love. My collection of rpgs used to be much larger, but right now hovers around 800 items — which includes different systems, supplements, sourcebooks, modules and accessories.

TAC: How and why did you start playing WFRP

Jay: I actually got into Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay via Games Workshop's board games. My buddies and I were diehard Talisman and Dungeonquest players when I was younger. In fact, we played so often we literally wore out my first copy of Talisman 2nd edition. At the time, our roleplaying was essentially the D&D red box and a smattering of other games. When I saw a copy of the WFRP 1st Edition rulebook in my local hobby shop, I recognized the art style and setting so I picked it up and thumbed through it — that's when I first fell in love with it.

TAC: What was it that primarily attracted you to WFRP?

Jay: Initially, it was the artwork. The foreboding, eerie work of Wil Rees' “Shadows Over Bogenhafen” and John Blanche's “Hrothyogg's Tower” really grabbed my attention. And I had never played a game that was so dark and gritty. In other games, the player characters were always altruistic heroes who knew they were heroes. In Warhammer, it was immediately engaging to realize that you might just be a humble rat-catcher or pedlar trying to just stay alive — someone who more likely stumbled into a web of intrigue or dangerous encounter rather than a hero actively seeking fame and glory. That sort of mindset made for a very compelling game environment, and it really found traction with our players.

TAC: What does it mean to be a senior developer at FFG? What are your responsibilities?

Jay: In many ways, it's not all that different from being a good GM — just the sense of scale changes a bit. There's a lot of research, preparation and dedication required for both roles. Plus, you have to wear a lot of hats. As a GM, you're managing NPCs, adjudicating rules, developing storylines for your players, and trying to create a memorable experience. As a Senior RPG Developer, I'll be managing and working with freelancers and artists, clarifying and consolidating the rules system, fleshing out concepts that will grow into new, exciting WFRP products and working with Games Workshop to ensure that the roleplaying game lives up to their high standards and properly reflects the Warhammer setting, while also creating the most compelling, enjoyable gameplay experience we can muster.

TAC: What prompted you to apply for the job?

Jay: It was a no-brainer… A chance to work on a great game license like Warhammer and work for a great company like Fantasy Flight games? What's not to love? And the timing could not have been better. When Fantasy Flight first contacted me to discuss the position, I quickly realized it really was the perfect combination of factors.

TAC: What are your strengths as a developer?

Jay: I think my lifelong fanaticism for gaming is a big plus. I have a wide and varied background both playing and developing board games, card games and roleplaying games. With that broad base of experience, I think I do a good job of seeing “big picture” elements and anticipating how proposed rules/content will affect the game experience. I'm also excellent at playing the devil's advocate to really stress test concepts; I have a lot of experience as a rigorous playtester.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP book?

Jay: That's a tough call. It's probably a tie between Tome of Corruption and Sigmar's Heirs. Both offer a lot of great flavor content to help bring the Old World to life, and both have lots of really neat plot ideas a GM can integrate into their game.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP fan material?

Jay: Without a doubt it's A Compendious Guide to Old World Coachmen, the career pamphlet by Dave Allen. The Coachman is one of my favorite WFRP careers, and adding the different coaching lines and business elements to this thriving Old World industry adds a lot of depth and realism to the game.

TAC: What are your hopes for the future of WFRP?

Jay: To keep the Old World grim, dark and dangerous — the kind of place you wouldn't want to live, but as a player, you can't wait to visit (again and again). I'd like to really expand the player base and share my personal favorite roleplaying game with even more people around the world. The Warhammer games have some of the most dedicated fans and forumites for any game I've seen, and I'd love to find even more ways to interact with them and get great content into their hands. And of course, work on all those wonderful, secretive things that I can't share yet!

That's it for this time! Let me thank Jay Little for his time, and readiness to answer my questions, and for letting fans read them at the WFRP web site! Let's see now, who's next ... hey, that chap over there! ...

/Magnus