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


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.


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!


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.


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!


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!


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! ...


Thursday, 10 July 2008

Monday, 7 July 2008

WFRP: Proclamation (2)

"Hear! Hear! Let it be known that our Imperial Administration has uncovered counterfeit coinage in circulation within our capital! Let all be reminded that the punishment for dealing in counterfeit coinage is loss of one limb per gold coin handled, up until the removal of the head!"

- Heard from town crier outside the Imperial Mercantile Bank, in the Bankbezirk

Counterfeiting is a terrible crime in the Empire. The authorities does its best to keep any outbreaks of fake currency as isolated as possible, mostly by chopping of people's limbs if they peddle forged coins. Still, it can be very difficult to trace the occasional forgery back to its source. Just possessing a bad Karl won't be enough to condemn a man, but it will be enough to render him a good thrashing as part of him aiding the Watch in their inquiries.

Offloading a bunch of fake coins on the adventurers can be a good way to start an adventure. If not for anything else, once they discover that they have been set up and realise the danger they're in, they will be aching to track down the culprit and hand him over to the authorities ... in bits and pieces. And given that this is WFRP, most players will also ponder the potential use of hundreds of fake gold coins ...which reminds of an old adage which should fit the occasion.

"Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself."


Sunday, 6 July 2008

FAL News: Mutant Chronicles Teaser Trailer

It is a curios thing, watching the teaser trailer for Mutant Chronicles, the movie. The short scenes we see are grey and dark, not much colour left in the world, not much hope. Which is sort of what it should be like, of course.

Mutant Chronicles Movie Poster

But I can't shake the feeling that something is missing, something is very different from when I wrote the roleplaying game all those years ago.

Balance. That's it.

The movie picks up on the noir elements we introduced to the setting, but it seems as if the counter-balance to this, the garish over the top imagery, is missing. I'll ponder this while I wait for the release of the movie, and return with a review then. Until then, here's the teaser.

The Mutant Chronicles Teaser!


Friday, 4 July 2008

WFRP: Walking, looking, listening

Note that this text is an adaption of a section of the Charles Dickens story The Old Curiosity Shop. I retreived the text from the Project Gutenberg site, and made some minor alterations to fit it within a WFRP framework. I make no claim as to possess a literary talent such as Dickens did, and I am merely using his prose to experiment with finding ways to describe the city of Altdorf and enrich my game. So without further ado, here's the experiment.


Night is generally my time for walking. In the summer I often leave my room at the University as the sun settles, and roam about streets, the docks and the plazas until hunger or thirst gets the best of me. I walk, I look, I listen, to learn how the pulse of our great capital beats.

I have fallen insensibly into this habit, because it affords me the greatest opportunity of speculating on the characters and occupations of those who fill the streets. The glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to philosophical pursuits like mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight; and, if I must add the truth, night is kinder in this respect than day, which too often destroys an air-built castle at the moment of its completion, without the least ceremony or remorse.

That constant pacing to and fro, that never-ending restlessness, that incessant tread of feet wearing the rough stones smooth and glossy— is it not a wonder how the dwellers in narrow ways can bear to hear it! Think of a sick man resting in a white-washed room with an open window at the Königplatz, listening to the footsteps of the passers-by, and in the midst of pain and weariness obliged, despite himself (as though it were a task he must perform) to detect the child's step from the man's, the slipshod beggar from the booted exquisite, the lounging from the busy, the dull heel of the sauntering outcast from the quick tread of an expectant pleasure-seeker— think of the hum and noise always being present to his sense, and of the stream of life that will not stop, pouring on, on, on, through all his restless dreams, as if he were condemned to lie, dead but conscious, in a noisy churchyard, and had no hope of rest for centuries to come.

Then, the crowds for ever passing and repassing on the bridges (on those which are free of toil at last), where many stop on fine evenings looking listlessly down upon the water with some vague idea that by and by it runs between green banks which grow wider and wider until at last it turns into swamps, and then joins the broad vast sea — where some halt to rest from heavy loads and think as they look over the parapet that to smoke and lounge away one's life, and lie sleeping in the sun upon a hot tarpaulin, in a dull, slow, sluggish barge, must be happiness unalloyed — and where some, and a very different class, pause with heavier loads than they, remembering to have heard or read in old time that drowning was not a hard death, but of all means of suicide the easiest and best.

The Reikmarkt at sunrise too, in the spring or summer, when the fragrance of sweet flowers is in the air, over-powering even the unwholesome streams of last night's debauchery, and driving the dusky thrust, whose cage has hung outside a garret window all night long, half mad with joy! Poor bird! the only neighbouring thing at all akin to the other little captives, some of whom, shrinking from the hot hands of drunken purchasers, lie drooping on the path already, while others, soddened by close contact, await the time when they shall be watered and freshened up to please more sober company, and make old clerks who pass them on their road to business, wonder what has filled their breasts with visions of the country.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Wellentag, Nachgeheim 4, 2523 IC

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

WFRP: Best of the Fans (7)

As I am the creator of the iAltdorf map (which you really should check out if you haven't done so yet), I don't think anyone will be surprised to learn that I like maps. I have longed for an atlas of the WFRP world for ever and ever, even though I know it's just a pipe dream. But once again, like so many times before, the fans of the game comes to rescue. MadAlfred (interviewed recently at TAC) has devoted time to create accurate maps for the WFRP game. These maps were then turned into pieces of art by talented and generous cartographer Andreas Blicher, also known as Black Spectrum. This combination of talent has yielded some of the best maps for any roleplaying game out there. And they are all available online!

Click here for Black Spectrum's maps!

So it's not difficult to name these contributions to the game a Best of the Fans achievement!