Wednesday 30 April 2008

Thursday 24 April 2008

WFRP: Altdorf in WAR

I have just recently begun looking into Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the MMORPG based on the world of Warhammer Fantasy. It won't be close to WFRP in tone or gameplay, but one thing that's piqued my interest is the fact that Altdorf is going to be one of the playing grounds. Evidently each faction gets their own city, and much of the game revolves around the struggle to raze the opponents' cities. And since Altdorf is in the game this means that the guys and gals and Mythic are modelling Altdorf in 3d. Here's a movie of in-game action, courtesy of GameSpy:

That movie blew my mind, and right now I'm thinking of subscribing to the game just so that I can have a fully realised Altdorf in 3d on my desktop. That would just be ... unlike anything I've seen before. How could I use it? Well, maybe take screenshots and turn into handouts ... maybe change iAltdorf to better fit with the Altdorf of the MMORPG. And I think that I will get a lot of hits from the WAR crowd looking for game info on Altdorf ... it's gonna be a challenge to supply them with interesting bits as well.

The one thing that is on my mind is what input the Mythic gang is using to model the basic geography of Altdorf. Hopefully they will use the map from WFRP but I'm not at all confident about that happening. I haven't seen enough of the city to know whether it reflects the information from GW sources, but I have seen shots of places I recognise, so there's some sort of research going on.

I'll get back to this and the Warhammer Online web site at a later date. There's plenty of good stuff to mine from there!


Monday 21 April 2008

FAL Review: The WFRP Companion

I remember one of my first moments of going "wow, this is so cool" in relation to roleplaying supplements. It was after seeing and thumbing through The Call of Cthulhu Companion for the first time. After that, I was sold on the Companion format. Rolemaster used Companions to great effect, and my own first steps as a game writer I dubbed The Unofficial Cyberpunk Companion. I did one for WFRP as well. So basically, I love Companions, and their eclectic mix of stuff that can be both enormously useful and mind-numbingly useless. But it's the mix that's the thing for me, the chance to read many different views on the game in question fills me with anticipation. So it comes as no surprise that I really like The WFRP Companion. I'll be up front about that, and about the fact that I'm a sucker for the concept. The physical book is a softbound tome, it clocks in at 128 pages and it's black and white. This is in my mind a very good format for a Companion product, to underscore its premise of "here are some stuff that might be cool for your game, but also some stuff you might not like". In the pages of the book we find an abundance background, new careers, new rules and new NPCs.

The book contains the following material, arranged in the order appearing in the following list:

  • Credits (1 page) - Of note is the bunch of writers involved. The Companion is a result of an open call for submissions that Black Industries put out, and those who frequented the BI forums recognise many of the names from there.

  • Table of Contents (1 page)

  • Introduction (1 page) - a background to the contents in the same style as the introductions in the other books.

  • A Guide to the Known World, by Owen Barnes (7 pages) - covering what's outside the Empire.

  • Freaks, Thieves and Travelling Folk, by Andrew Peregrine (8 pages) - a detailed look at the life of carnival folk.

  • Life and Death on the Reik, by Andrew Law (9 pages) - harking back to the information given in Death on the Reik, this is an expose of life on the greatest river in the Empire. Contains four new careers, Stevedore, Foreman, Wrecker and Riverwarden.

  • Advanced Trade and Commerce, by Jude Hornborg and Dan White (17 pages) - An extensive piece covering most aspects of trade in the Empire. A very nice mix of rules and background material.

  • Star Signs and their Meanings, by Kevin Hamilton with Robert J. Schwalb (7 pages) - instructions on how to use star signs in your campaign.

  • Medicine in the Empire, by Steve Darlington (8 pages) - is there a doctor in the house? If not, use this article to inflict medicine on the hapless adventurers.

  • Social Conflict and Advanced Criminal Trials, by Jude Hornborg (10 pages) - put your social skills to use, you uncouth adventuring scum! Provides a basis for clashes of wit instead of steel.

  • Sartosa, City of Pirates, by Eric Cagle (7 pages) - care for change of focus in your campaign? Send your characters to Sartosa. Enough information to get you going is presented here.

  • Tobaro: City of Sirens, City of Fools, by Andrew Kenrick (8 pages) - An exposé of the city of Tobaro in Tilea. Contains one new career, Deepwatcher.

  • The Cult of Illumination, by Brian Clements(5 pages) - a cult to drop into your own campaign.

  • Pub Crawling, by Jody Macgregor (6 pages) - a bunch of Inns to visit.

  • Bring Up the Guns! The Imperial Gunnery School of Nuln, by Bill Bodden (7 pages) - A look at the Gunnery School, with maps and a new career, Artillerist.

  • Gugnir's Blackpowder Shop, by Eric Cagle (4 pages) - meet Gugnir. He makes and sells gunpowder.

  • Perilous Beasts, by Andrew Law and Jody Macgregor (17 pages) - a few classics and some new faces presented in the same format as The Old World Bestiary: Amoebae, Behemoth, Bloodsedges, Bog Octopi, Chameleoleeches, Doppelgangers, Mermaids, Naiads, Patchwork Men, Promethean, Reik Eels, Spites, Stirpikes, Tendrophilus Fungus, Tree Kin, Triton. Phew, quite a bunch of critters there.

  • Index (1 page)

The best, most interesting and useful articles are Freaks, Thieves and Travelling Folk; Life and Death on the Reik; Advanced Trade and Commerce; and Social Conflict and Advanced Criminal Trials. The rest of the pieces are well written and contains many fun and interesting ideas, but their utility is not as great for my campaign as the others.

Given the hit and miss of the usefulness of the articles, I think the price of the book is a bit steep. For some the mix has been a turn off, but for me the format makes The WFRP Companion an exciting book, and provides me with plenty of inspiration for my game. So with the above in mind, I highly recommend it, but also caution that you check it out as much as you can before purchasing it.


Friday 18 April 2008

WFRP: Seals and Letters Galore!

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I am a big fan of the work done by Dave Graffam to produce high quality handouts and GM aids for WFRP. Last year I posted about his seals and ribbons, and Dave has now released even more of the good stuff to print and hand out to the players, building on that Old World atmosphere. I particularily like the letters! Get them at the following links:

Ribbons 1
Ribbons 2
Ribbons 3
Ribbons 4
Ribbons 5
Ribbons 6
Seals 1

I also think any GM will find the excellent parchment backgrounds that Andreas Blicher has put together very useful. He has graciously allowed me to use the backgrounds for my own handouts, which add immensely to their look and feel. And he's offering them for download at his site!

Hochland parchment
Reikland parchment
Talabheim parchment

So with the seals, letter and ribbons from Dave and the parchment backgrounds from Andreas, a GM's got what he needs to put that authentic look on his own handouts!


Tuesday 15 April 2008

WFRP: After death, eternal damnation

Eternal suffering and damnation are the only things that are sure for all who follow the Perilous Powers, those who join the laughter of the dark gods, those who lay down their lives and their deeds in the name of Chaos. The final fate of the enemies outside our walls, as well as the enemies within. We kow precious little of this suffering and damnation, and that is as it should be. No sane man or woman can comprehend the horrors that await those who have given their souls to the boiling chaos, willingly or unwittingly. But there are some who have been sent visions by the gods, visions to warn us of ever-lasting torment, visions that reminds us all not to suffer the heretic, or he will drag you down with him! Recently I took part of the following fiery sermon from a zealot on the Altdorf streets. At first I thought his frothing and screaming betrayed a true madman, but as I came to ponder his words, I felt something stir within me. Fear. Fear of corruption, of the rot of the mind and heart. Fear of eternal damnation.

"When YOU die … yes, you mein herr, over there with the fancy hat, you WILL DIE! As will all of you! All of you will rot away, will age and grow weary and decrepit! And then you will DIE! And if you have a true and uncorrupted soul… yes if you are true to the gods, then the lord Morr will take your soul into his realm. But if you have SINNED against our lord, if you have opened up your heart to the lure of the songs of the everchanging POWERS, then your soul will be swallowed whole by the dark gods. Gobbled up, devoured, eaten … yes, much like you, young sire, is eating that mincemeat pie … think of that pie as your SOUL … and every bite you take, every piece you swallow takes that soul one step closer to ever-lasting SUFFERING and DAMNATION! You start, dear lady. Maybe it is because you have something to HIDE! But you can NOT HIDE anything from the dark lords of filth and muck! If your soul has a taint, you are DOOMED! And what happens to your soul, I hear you ask? After you have been eaten by the forces of all that is evil and dark and horrible and nasty … WHAT HAPPENS THEN? If you are LUCKY, your soul is obliterated, extinguished into nothing. You are made one with the ruinous powers and will become no more than a wailing banshee on the wast Chaos Wastes! If you are LUCKY! But as you are all sinners, rotten in heart and soul, irredeemably corrupt ... yes, ALL of you standing here ... that fate is not for you. You are consigned to one of the kingdoms of sin, to PAY for your evil ways!"
According to the zealot there are nine accursed Kingdoms of Sin, all populated by the souls of the wicked, ruled over by deamon kings and queens. In these kingdoms, the stench of rotten minds and heinous deeds overwhelm the senses, and the wind carries with it the cries and moans of the dead and suffering. The realms lie one after the other, each being an endless tract of land that carries a wanderer ever closer to the courts of Chaos.

When a person dies, there are several things that can happen to his or her soul. Merciful Morr might collect it, or Khaine the merciless may devour it. The souls who have given themselves entirely over to Chaos are collected for unique attention by the most trusted servants of the dark gods themselves. But then there are the tainted souls, minds that have not dared to openly embrace Chaos and the ruinous powers. These are the souls of the petty-minded crooks, the rotten souls of thugs and embezzlers, the blasphemers and cowardly heretics. For them Chaos Undivided has reserved special places in the Chaos Wastes. These souls come first to Primus, the Kingdom of Judgment, where a being known only as the Fickle Judge condemns each and every soul to the appropriate suffering in one of the other eight realms.

Secundus is the kingdom where those who have been overcome by lust are punished. These souls are blown about to and fro by a violent storm, without hope of rest. A three headed monstrous dog rules Tertius, the third kingdom, where the gluttons lie in mud, drenched on icy rain, ash snow and spiked hail. The fourth realm is Quartus, the home of Plutus, the were-wolf overlord. It is the prison of those who are subject to the rot of greed. They include the miserly, who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them.

Quintus is a realm of water, a river as wide an ocean, where the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen or slothful lie gurgling beneath the water. At the shores of Quintus lies the broken bones of legions of beastmen, who guard the roads leading into the kingdoms that lie beyond. In these realms those who have willfully comitted the most abominable sins known to man and gods are punished. Following the roads leads to the gates of Sextius, or Hereticus as it is also named. These are guarded by snake-headed women armed with barbed whips. In the kingdom beyond the gates accursed heretics are trapped in flaming tombs, burning for their treason against the true gods.

After leaving the burning flesh of the heretics behind, we come to Septus, the seventh of the lands. Septus is covered by a gnarly forest, one tree for each soul condemned to suffer here. This kingdom houses the violent; those who have laid hands on that which is precious to life, the Empire and the gods. The only way in is across a river of boiling blood, and this river is guarded by The Bull-headed King and his minions. The trees are beset by fires, by chaos beasts ripping their bark and drawing the sap, burrowing insects and furies slashing the roots with huge scythes.

Octavus is the eight kingdom. This is the final suffering for liars and decievers, who are driven bare-foot across land strewn with broken glass and infested by scorpions. The ninth realm is the last of the Kingdoms of Sin, and after this only pure and howling Chaos remain. This land is called Nonus, and is reserved for traitors of any cause or person, those who break a blood-oath or a holy wow. Each traitor is encased in ice to a different depth than the others, ranging from only the waist down to complete immersion. Vultures and ravens fly overhead, sometimes squatting on the heads of the traitors, taking bites out of their flesh.

After listening to these horrors being described, I fled the zealot. His voice has haunted my dreams ever since, and even though I may never hear him preach again, his warning to me is etched into my soul. Beware the whispered promises of Chaos, for that way only eternal suffering and damnation lies.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Marktag, Sigmarzeit 15, 2523 IC

This is the first text I write on the after-life for sinners in the WFRP world. As you undoubtedly have noticed, it is a thinly veiled extract from Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.

I feel that I want to establish such a concept for WFRP, and put names and shapes to the fear of eternal punishment. After all, the threat of damnation and the promise of salvation was a central pillar of the medieval society, and also play a big part of WFRP. So it seems logical that myths about what happens to those who are damned spring into existence. For now, this is what I will work with in my campaign. It is all a bit sketchy, and I haven't really made much work adapting it to the Old World. Hopefully I will find time to return to this at a later date.


Update: Mysterious posts

Just a short post to explain the mysterious appearance and disappearance of posts that sometimes occur at The Altdorf Correspondent. It's very simple; sometimes I'm sloppy. Blogger has recently added a feature that lets me schedule posts, so that I can keep ahead of the busy schedule of blogging, and also keep a steady flow of posts on the blog. It works great! Unless I forget to use the draft version of Blogger, or if I put in the wrong date. Which happened today, as I was working on a Best of the Fans entry.

So I pull down the offending post as fast as I can ... but ... those of you reading my blog via a feed still get to keep my mistakenly published missive. So if you wonder "what the heck was that post about?" or "where did it go?", then rest assured that it will appear sooner or later, when it's due to be published.


Saturday 12 April 2008

WFRP: Gossip (10)

"Beer is the urine of the lepers doomed to eternal suffering in the Chaos Wastes! Damnation is sure for all who drink that foul brew!"

- Zealot preaching outside the establishments on the Street of a Hundred Taverns

Wednesday 9 April 2008

WFRP: New Fan Supplement

I have two pieces of good news today. First, Dave Graffam's excellent WFRP site, known as The Encroachment of Chaos, is once again online after a short and terrifying hiatus. It turns out Dave was just in transition between hosting solutions, and that has all been sorted now. As for the second piece of good news ... to mark the return of the site, Dave has released a new fan supplement: Hugelstein’s Curiosities, a shop with a vast collection of odds and ends for your characters to buy, use and abuse. I haven't looked through the document completely yet, but any fan work that lists me as a contributor has to be brilliant! Honestly, I can't remember what I wrote when Dave asked for input, but I'm glad he's still around working his magic with word processor and layout program.

Click here for Hugelstein’s Curiosities!

And don't forget to check out Dave's other stuff. It's all there at his site, which was named Best of the Fans by The Altdorf Correspondent last year.

Click here for The Encroachment of Chaos!


Sunday 6 April 2008

FAL Review: Le Pacte des Loups

Year: 2001

Genres: Horror, Action, Historical drama.

Main cast: Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Rénier, Emilie Dequenne.

Director: Christophe Gans.

Writers: Christophe Gans, Stéphane Cabel.

Length: 137 minutes.

Le Pacte des Loups (aka The Brotherhood of the Wolf) is a strange mix of historical drama, Arthur Conan Doylesque horror and Hong Kong action. It is the epitome of a roleplaying movie, and the style, pace and plot is reminiscent of the common setup of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures. The basic plot concerns a beast that is holding the countyside of french Gévaudan in thrall. The premise has some basis in history, since there actually exists a legend of a beast of Gévaudan in real life. But apart from that nugget of historical accuracy, the rest is made up. The movie builds on the legend and introduces to the mix the main protagonists, biologist and writer Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Bihan), and his american indian companion Mani (Mark Dacascos) to solve the mystery of the beast. They are tasked with hunting down the beast and bringing security to Gévaudan and its people. This straight-forward adventure is complicated by local and national politics, a love story, secret societies, conspiracies and a dose of forbidden lust.

The pacing is sometimes awkward, and long dialogues are interspersed with violent action scenes to quicken the blood. The martial arts scenes came as some surprise to me. Mani turns out to be an accomplished warrior using some kind of martial arts to great effect, although I think that the inclusion of this element is the weakest part of the overall structure of the film. At the time leading up to the release, much was made of the beast itself and the special effects used to bring it to life. Now the effects look a bit dated, but the director did the right thing and never let the camera rest on the monster for longer times, preferring close-ups of details instead of full-figure exposition. At the times the monster is in full view, it is always moving so there is no time to dwell on the details. Well done.

To best enjoy Le Pacte des Loups you must view it without any expectations on historical logic. The movie is a fun and beatutiful action roller-coaster, with anachronistic elements. No more, no less. As an added bonus, the plot can easily adapted to serve as elements in your next fantasy horror adventure. I highly recommend it.


Thursday 3 April 2008