Search This Blog

7/21/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Slayer of the Storm God" by Nathan Long

Gotrek & Felix - the most infamous, Old World duo. They are the posterboys of Warhammer Fantasy and, soon, the Age of Sigmar.

My adventure with the fantasy franchise created by Games Workshop began with these two heroes. Back in 2007 I've bought two omnibuses in a London bookstore and... well here I am, more than a decade later. Still a huge and avid fan of Warhammer Fantasy, albeit a one that also recognizes its many flaws. That said, without the Slayer and his human companion I would probably never have picked up the WFRP books, never installed games such as "Shadow of the Horned Rat" and "Dark Omen" on my PC, not to mention "Vermintide." It is to Gotrek and Felix that I should owe my passion as a RPG enthusiast and gamer.

When it comes to their adventures, I've only read the books by William King and Nathan Long. I'm not familiar with any of their later exploits and quests. Thart said, there are two stories, concerning our restless heroes, made in audio format - "Slayer of the Storm God" by Nathan Long and "Curse of the Everliving" by David Guymer. Today I'll be looking at the first one. Is it any good? Is it worth picking up?

Read the review and you shall find out!
"Slayer of the Storm God" takes place in the great port city of Marineburg, right after the ending of "Elfslayer" (also penned by Mr. Long). Gotrek and Felix are searching for some incriminating papers, concerning the young(?) poet's father, who, as it turned out, was smuggling forbidden tomes. Rumagging through the house of a man, who was blackmailing Felix's father, they've found the papers and a hefty ammount of loot, including a strange bracelet. Later in a tavern, an old sailor approaches them and asks for the price of said bracelet, being interested in buying it. Gotrek, faithful to his nature, tells the man that it's not for sale. A bar brawl follows quickly and our heroes are thrown deep into a conspiracy, perpetrated by the cult of Stromfels, the Shark God of the Deeps, the Lord of Storms.

The action is very nicely paced and, well, there's a lot of it, crammed into 73 minutes of high quality audio recording. From the fight at the tavern to a vicious and brutal duel in the duo's rented room to, finally, a grand finale in the marshes, surrounding Marienburg. The combat is brutal, visceral and nicely shows the differences between Gotrek and his human remembrancer. Where Felix is a fine swordsman and duelist, Gurnisson is a wrecking ball of a fighter, plowing through his enemies with brute strength and murderous intent. The combat sections are certainly some of the strongest points of this audio drama.

The same can't be said about the voice work. Now don't get me wrong - for most part the actors are making a stellar job. However the goddamn background sound, coupled with a certain important character's voice effects, make a big portion of this book rather hard to listen. It's not a big deal, but I've finished "Slayer of the Storm God" three times, and every single one of them, I had no fucking idea what said character was saying.

The ending was also kinda strange. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I can't fathom why a bunch of Marienburgers, who are normally in a much better financial position than your average Old World citizen, would decide to effectively become living sacrifices for not-Cthulhu. What, because their city will be free of storms? Well, they won't care either way, since they won't be alive to enjoy the nice weather! Yeah, the ending... didn't really made much sense. Sorry.

All in all this audio is a very solid postion in the Black Library offer and one of the only few audiobooks (unfortunately), ever produced for the Warhammer Fantasy franchise. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good, short and entertaining story about a Slayer and his poet pal, fighting monsters, grabbing loot and saving people from not-Cthulhu monsters. Despite a few flaws here and there, it was ultimately a very fun and engaging tale, set in the grim and perilous Old World.

You can't go wrong with these two fellas!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

6/25/2018

My hundredth post. Let's talk about... "The Enemy Within"

Wow, how time flies, eh? For me it was only yesterday, when I've decided to create this blog. Now, almost 4 years later, here I am - writing my hundreth post.

Initially this blog was created to help me cope with things and to calm my mind and my heart. Things change and something that I thought would be temporary, has evolved and became a permanent part of my life. I've written about a lot of things - End Times, gaming tips, tie-in products, problem players and video games that could make awesome RPG's. I've reviewed a couple of my favorite fantasy authors and game designers. I've raged and I've cried. It was an incredible ride, one that I will always remember with fondness. It brought a lot of fantastic people into my life. Folks from sites such as Warhammer-Empire, Strike-to-Stun and many more.

Most of all, I've believed in myself enough to make it work, to make it a constant (semi) regular thing in my daily routine. That's the biggest prize of all and one that I will cherish till the end of my life.

So, before I will jump into the actual meat of this article, I wanted to say: thank you. All of you, who read my posts, who commented on them, who made me want to write more and more, better stuff - you're awesome. I wanted to thank Jackdays from Kalevala Hammer for endless inspiration and being one of the most passionate 'Hammer players out there. I wanted to thank the entire staff and member of the Warhammer-Empire and Strike-to-Stun forums. Without your constant encouragement I would not have made it this far. I wanted to thank my Roll20 players: Brian, Andy, Sean and Jason. Playing with you guys is an experience of a life time and I'm grateful for your endless passion and willingness to roll some funny-shaped, virtual dice with me.

I also wanted to thank my old RPG group - Martin, Chris and Lukas. It wasn't always easy with you guys, but it was worth it.

Finally I wanted to thank my dear friend Mark, for everything that he had ever done for me. Thank you for your friendship brother. May we meet each other on the other side.

Thank you, all of you. From the very bottom of my heart. You're all awesome and keep on rocking!

Now, without further ado, let's talk about the most popular campaign for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. One, which is known even to the players of other systems. One, which inspired hundreds of hammerers around the world to write their own modules. A wonder child of Phil Gallagher, Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra, Carl Sargent and Ken Rolston. The one, the only, "The Enemy Within."

This is, without a doubt, a truly legendary RPG module. The question is: is its reputation justified? After all it has been released between the years 1986 and 1989, almost 30 years ago. A lot has changed in the RPG world, since then. I'd like to take a closer look at this venerable campaign, and I'd like for you folks to join me. There will be minor spoilers, but I'll try to not give away too much.

First of all, I've played "TEW" two times - once as a player and once as a GM. Both times I had a lot of fun, but there were issues and there's no denying that this campaign has them. Quite a lot of them, in fact. Does this mean that it's bad? Let's take a look and find out, shall we?

"The Enemy Within" is divided into six parts: "The Enemy Within/Mistaken Identity","Shadows over Bogenhafen", "Death on the Reik", "Power Behind the Throne", "Something Rotten in Kislev" and "Empire in Flames." Each of them provides a lot of great content and allows for a truly wonderful RPG experience, but not all of them are equal in quality. I will look at each of them, one by one and talk briefly about each's strengths and weaknesses.

1. "The Enemy Within/Mistaken Identity"

I love this artwork so much. Why? Because it's Nuln, baby!
This is the very beggining of the campaign. It's also incredibly short. Half of the book is about the Empire and its people, and this hefty ammount of info is really great. The adventure part itself is really short and centres around... the mistaken indentity. Ha, I'm sure that you did not saw that one coming. While this is an interesting  concept, it's also rather risky. The GM might have small trouble to deal with later, if the character who's very similar to the man found near the forest road, gets killed later. It is a salvageable kind of situation, but it can be a bit tricky. Like I've said, it's a very short scenario, but a solid one as well. It would even work well as a standalone adventure.

2. "Shadows over Bogenhafen"

To this day I find this cover incredibly creepy...
My favorite part of the entire campaign. This scenario sees players visiting the merchant town of Bogenhafen, during a festival. There's a lot going on here, as the entire community is celebrating, drinking, eating copious ammounts of sausages and generally having a great time. There are, however, shadowy things taking place in the city and our heroes will have to challenge the most powerful men of Bogenhafen, if they'll want to save not only it, but the surrounding lands as well.

This is a great scenario with huge emphasis on investigation and exploration of Bogenhafen's many facets. From the dank and dangerous canals to the city's grand hall, the many manors of its ruling councils and more. There's a feel of dread and of urgency in the air. With each passing day, the town gets ever closer to become a place of the lost and the damned. I love the pace that this scenario creates and it's easily my most favorite part of all. The only downside is that it's a bit too linear at times, not to mention it can end very quickly, if the players decide to drink, eat and gamble, rather than explore and sniff around a bit.

The small, but informative part, describing the city itself is very interesting and a really cool read. It can easily be used to describe other, similar places in the Empire and beyond.

3. "Death on the Reik"

Interesting fact: this artwork has been used as a cover for the polish version of the 1st edition WFRP rulebook
This is probably the longest part of all. It's a sandbox-like module, with a huge, hex map to help the PC's plan where to go next. It also details the river life in the Empire, something that I've always found really interesting. There are a lot of river encounters, listed on the pages of "DotR" and each of them is truly great. For that section alone, this scenario is worth picking up.
The adventure itself is... good. It finally pits the players fully against the evil cults that wish to bring madness and death to the lands of Sigmar. However, there are some problems here, which made this part of "TEW" a medicore for me, storywise.

First it's the sandbox aspect. This is a scenario about chasing cultist. So, naturally, the players get their hands on a river barge, right at the beginning of the game. They are actually encouraged to sell its contents, a shit ton of wool, as soon as possible, and then continue the search for the cultists, while also being a lot richer. This all sounds fine and dany, until you realise that... there's no point for them to actually hunt the cultists at all. Sure, the mistaken-identity person gets threats from random cultists, doing really stupid hand signs and there's a friendly magician, who actually sends the PC's after a renegade wizard, belonging to another, evil faction, but... that's it. There's no real preassure, no high stakes and no real danger for our heroes to loose the barge and follow on a merry cultist chase. I've actually know a lot of gamemasters who either skipped the barge part completely, or destroyed it rather quickly, usually with fire. I don't mind this kind of "divine intervention", since, truth be told, without a firm action on GM's part, "DotR" can loose its tension and atmosphere very, very quickly.

The main cult in question, the Purple Hand, is just absurd and completely non-threatening. They are supposed to be everywhere (literally) but there's no explanation how and why exactly they've managed to achieve all these things. They also have a fucking stupid way of communicating, which screams "I am a cultist!". Fortunately the good and honest folk of the Empire are even dumber than they are, so the Purple Hand continues to be the biggest danger to the lands of Sigmar... for some reason.

I also love the fact, how many of their old friends and acquaintances can our heroes run into. It's almost like they're in a very small village, and not the bloody Empire. There' s a lucky meeting by pure, sheer chance and there's a complete suspension of disbelief. In the case of "TEW" it's the latter and it becomes bothersome really, really quickly.

Despite these flaws, I think that "Death on the Reik" is a really nice scenario, one that allows the players to visit a huge part of the Empire, partake in some truly epic quests (the final battle is simply incredible) and the river life part is great, really, really great. It's the whole sandbox part that bothers me. It's not done too well and it certainly does not encourage the PC's to follow the cultists' trail. Without a lot of work and effort, your average GM might find himself in a bit of a pickle. Vigilance is needed, while running this module.

4. "Power Behind the Throne"

Of all the covers of "TEW", I find this one to be the weakest
My second, favorite part of "TEW." "Power Behind the Throne" takes place in Middenheim, the City of the White Wolf, during a huge festival. Not only that, but the city's rulers have passed a series of strange and harmful laws, aimed towards the dwarfs and the magicians, resulting in two groups leaving the place en masse. Our heroes are thrust right into this cauldron of debauchery, racial animosities and rising tensions. They will meet a lot of important people from count Boris Todbringer's court, discover a sinister plot which can threaten the enitrety of Middenland and see just how far the Purple Hand's influence can reach.

This is a timed scenario. The PC's have a limited window of opportunity to accomplish their tasks and will need to think fast if they'll want over the minions of Chaos. Normally I hate playing or even running games, where the clock is ticking. "PBtT" is different, however. It's so well structured and paced, that there's no palpable feeling of time running out... until the players discover that they have only scant hours to save the city! Yes, this is a scenario, which can more often than not become the final one in the whole campaign. There's nothing bad with that. A decade ago my group have failed in our quest at this point, during the playthrough of the "Power Behind the Throne." Even so, it was one of our best games of all time.

This adventure has the biggest number of NPC's of all. It's a good idea for the GM to have their list printed and kept somwhere close by, just in case. The sheer ammount of contacts, dependencies, animosities and passionate feelings between these characters is huge. I'd recommend to any gamemaster, who wishes to run this scenario, to read it at least twice. Otherwise he might get lost in the ammount of plot strands.

Other than the scenario itself, there's a huge section, describing Middenheim itself and it's a great read. For this part of "PBtT" alone, it's worth purchasing it.

5. "Something Rotten in Kislev"

If only this scenario was as interesting as its cover artwork...
Whooo boy, the fun part's over. Yeah, the last two parts of "The Enemy Within" are considered extremely poorly written and for a good reason. First we have "Something Rotten in Kislev", a scenario which is nothing more than a ordinary (and ordinarily made) filler. It's essentialy that - a time skipping mechanism. The PC's are sent to Kislev, in the aftermath of their actions in Middenheim. There they can... do stuff. Look, there's a reason why so many of gamemasters just skip this part altogether, myself included. Hell, my GM of old did that as well! Aside from absolutely nothing happening, there's a immortal enemy present, which is always fun.

Except that it's not.

Filler-type of adventures are almost always bad and this one is no exception. It's simply not necessary, yet there it is, taking a lot of GM's and players' valuable time. It's almost like a bad joke aimed at the people, who've decided to play "The Enemy Within."

The only good thing about this scenario is the section about Kislev. Back in the day it was the only source of information about this fascinating country. Unfortunately "Realm of the Ice Queen" blows "SRiK" back to the stone age, when it comes to Kislev lore, so I can't even recommned to buy this book for the fluff section alone. I have it, since I'm a collector and always wanted to have the complete "TEW" set, but... "Something Rotten in Kislev" is just bad. I'm sorry to say that, but it's true and I'm not to only one who thinks so.

6. "Empire in Flames"

Another great cover for a book, that's nearly not as good as it should've been...
The grand finale is here... and it's a really weak one. Yup, the end to this grand campaign of epic scale is simply poor. Our heroes return from their completely unnecessary trip to Kislev, only to find that the Empire is tearing itself apart. Civil war is imminent and the PC's must find a way to stop it, before its too late!

The premise itself is quite interesting. The execution... not so much. The PC's are usually feeling a bit off, after their "adeventure" in Kislev and the tone of this last part is also a lot different, than int the previous scenarios. Needless to say, there's a dude with the flying carpet present in this module. The final boss is also extremely dissapointing. Sufficed to say, if you want to pit the PC's against a greater daemon of Tzeentch, make sure that he can fucking cast spells and is not locked in a room with over a dozen, burly dudes, armed with potent, magical weapons. Seriously, it's a like a Brazzers gangbang at the end of this campaign.

"Empire in Flames" recieved so many poor reactions, mainly due to the shift in atmosphere, as well as its linearity, that a completely new, fan-made ending has been created, named "Empire at War." While being far from perfect, it is, by a long shot, a much better finale to "The Enemy Within." I recommend running it to anyone, who's interested in trying out "TEW", instead of its canonical ending. Trust me, it's much, much better.

Interestingly enough, when Hogshead publishing held the licensce for WFRP, there were plans to create an alternative to "Empire in Flames", called "Empire in Chaos." Unfortunately they were scrapped, when the rights to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay were returned to Games Workshop.

My final thoughts about "The Enemy Within" are as follows: it's a legendary RPG milestone, one of the most important campaigns in the whole genre. It also aged really, really badly and any GM who wishes to run it, must prepare for a lot of work, fixing its many plot holes, errors and archaic mechanisms. It's only normal that an almost 30-year old module might require a lot of work to make it playable, so that's not really a brickbat on my part. "TEW" aged badly, pure and simple. There are, however, a lot of fan made "patches", which can be found online and which will help with its many problems. I seriosuly recommend checking out the "Empire at War", as well as Gideon's excellent "The Enemy Within" Companion. It's a godsend to both GM's and players alike.

I know that there have been a completely new "The Enemy Within", written for the 3rd edition of WFRP by Fantasy Flight Games. Unfortunately I've never played it, so I can't really comment on its quality.

Cubicle 7 have announced some time ago, that a new version of "TEW" will be released for the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Graeme Davis is involved in this project, so my expectations are high. Even better they'll almost certainly change the last two modules, perhaps dropping them completely and replacing them with new and better ones. I can only say that it's a good thing, since the original "TEW's" biggest drawback is its shitty ending.

So there you have it - my hundredth post. Wow... what a ride it has been. Oh well, back to work. I have articles to write, authors to interview and things to bitch about. Stick around and you'll be able to enjoy this crazy, crazy ride with me. Of course, if you want to. I know that I do, and I'd be honored if you would like to join me, riding shotgun.

Let's do this!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

6/04/2018

Let's talk about "Warhammer Adventures". Short rant incoming!

Whooo boy, what a time to be alive, eh? GW is in full swing, releasing tons of new minis, tie-in games and... children books? Wait, what?

I know what you're thinking right now, after reading these first, few lines of intro text. "I bet that you hate them children's books, ya cranky sod!"

No, no I do not. I honestly think that the upcoming "Warhammer Adventures" series is one of the best things that Games Workshop ever made. No joke, no irony on my part, I'm 100% serious here. This is simply awesome and a clear sign that the Nottingham company thinks a couple steps forward. Simply put - they are making sure that today's children will, at the coming of age, jump from adorable kids stories to stuff like Gaunt's Ghosts or the Ciaphas Cain series. Sure, Warhammer as a whole is marketed towards children, but let's be honest - some of this stuff is not suitable for youngsters. Daemonculaba? Slaanesh? Hell, even the Imperium with its totalitarian flair is probably not something that you'd want to expose little Timmy to.

Unless you bright it up a bit first!
This however, this is great. A perfect way for children to start skimming the borders of these fantastic worlds and for their parents to reminisce with nostalgia how they themselves have gotten into the hobby. That's what I love about this hobby - passing the torch to newer generations of passionate players and enthusiasts. GW is helping with that process by releasing products like "Warhammer Adventures" and making sure that a talented, competent author is behind the wheel of such project. Cavan Scott is the man responsible for "Doom Flight" a very solid short story about aerial duel between a Sotrmtalon squadron and some crafty Ork pilots. He also contributed to the "Plagues of Orath" trilogy, as well as the "Sanctus Reach" series. I like his writing style a lot, thus I'm confident that he'll do "Warhammer Adventures" justice. All in all, this looks like a very promising project.

So of course, naturally, the 40K fandom had to once again prove how utterly shite it can be. "Waaaaah, books for kids in muh grimderp universe!", "Games Workshop is being bought out by Disney!" and my favorite one: "Why are we getting this shit, instead of plastic Sisters of Battle?"

Seriously people? Seriously?

Why not sneer some more, eh? Be even more obnoxiously edgy and self-righteous? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that your shitty, one-dimensional waifu faction recieved a mighty blow from a fucking children's book, from which it will surely not be able to recover. Oh no, this is a sabotage! Our grim and dark universe, which originated from parodies of American right-wing sci-fi books, is under attack! By kids! Whatever shall we do?

Nothing's better than a completely one-dimensional, boring faction with zero personality whatsoever!
People... chill out. Nothing bad is happening to the hobby. Really, nothing at all. All Games Workshopm is doing, is making sure that they will have new, eagre customers in 10-20 years from now, guys and a gals who've read "Warhammer Adventures" as children and now, as young adults, are ready to discover the more mature themes of both AoS and WH40K. There's nothing to worry about, there's nothing wrong with that kind of policy from a company, which quite clearly looks into the future, when it comes to buisness management. If anything, you should be glad that GW is doing this sort of thing, for one day you might be able to introduce your kids to these fantastic universes. I know I will and the "Warhammer Adventures" series will surely help me with that a lot.

Until next time... for the hundredth time!

Xathrodox86

5/14/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide: Death on the Reik"

It's time to take a look at the last DLC for "Vermintide", a game that took a lot from "Left 4 Dead" and mixed it with good, old Warhammer Fantasy sauce. The end result is more than excellent.


However I'm not going to talk about how much I love this game (100+ hours clocked in already). Instead I want to take a look at the last DLC released for the first part of "Vermintide". A few months ago Fatshark has released "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide 2" and yes, I will review it at some point in the future. I finally have the rig to do that, so you know - good things are coming.

As for now, let's take a look at "Death on the Reik". I had a lot of expectation towards this one. The title itself is a big deal, being a clear reference to the original "The Enemy Within". In fact "DotR" is my second favorite part of this campaign, right after "Shadows over Bogenhafen". The makers of this DLC even used the classic "TEW" font for the title. How cool is that? With that simple, little nostalgia trip, Fatshark made a hell of a impression on me. Good job guys.

Now THAT'S how you do it right!
The plot of the DLC is quite simple. One of Franz Lohner's servants managed to snatch some very dangerous documents (do I smell heresy?) and made a run for it. The inkeeper sends his favorite band of heroes to retrieve them, before the Ratmen manage to get their furry paws on his intel. Victor, Markus, Sienna, Kerillian and Bardin must find the "Dawnrunner", a river barge, on which the thief will try to make his escape.

"Death on the Reik" consists of only two missions, which is kinda dissapointing. For a price of this DLC, I would expect three, like in "Karak Azgaraz" or "Drachenfels". That said, both of the quests are excellent and very climactic. First we have the Reikwald Forest, a gloomy, dark mission among the sprawling trees of Reikland's greatest forest. Darkness soon falls over the canopy of the ancient wood and foul things begin to assail our heroes. First they've stumbled upon a captured Imperial fort, enduring a never ending wave of Ratmen. After that it's time to visit a burning town and a gloomy swamp, all infested with disgusting servants of the Horned Rat. This mission is extremely atmospheric with fantastic lighting and fog effects. Trekking through Reikwald with Skaven scurrying all around you is an eerie experience, albeit one that I've already repeated twice. This mission is certainly worth more than a single replay.

The second quest takes place on the titular River Reik. Well, mostly, since our heroes begin their mission on solid ground, but soon find themselves sailing on the waters of Empire's greatest river, being chased by Skaven ramschackle ships! This is probably one my favorite missions in all of the game. The Reik is mighty, positively imposing and inspiring awe in anyone who'll rest their eyes on its majestic splendor. This quest takes place in the middle of the night, and the banks of the Reik are barely visible from the ship. The feeling of being small and insignificant follows players right to the very end of the game, but that's what Warhammer is all about - being awestruck by the grim world all around us. Kudos to Fathshark for making such an impressive and epic mission.

The atmosphere is what makes this DLC so goddamn good
After blowing up the Skaven ships and finding the "Dawnrunner", our heroes retrieve the documents and torch the whole thing for a good measure. "Death on the Reik" connects the plot of the first "Vermintide" game with its sequel, but I'm not going to say anything more. You'll just have to experience it for yourselves.

There's also a new weapon added in this DLC - the Ceremonial Dagger, which ignites enemies, struck by it. Only Sienna can use this wicked blade and it can only be found in "Death on the Reik". As was the case with "exclusive" weapons in "Karak Azgaraz", I don't like the fact that one needs to essentialy grind countless hours of this DLC to get a new weapon. That fact, combined with "Vermintide's" crappy loot system, means that "DotR's" appeal suffers slightly, which is a shame, as there was no need for such decision. While I can understand the idea that unique, dwarven weapons can only be found inside a Karak, I don't get why a wave-shaped dagger can only be discovered near the banks of the River Reik. Seriously.

Fire-infused blades can only be found near rivers, lakes and streams. True story
Oh and the dead soldiers, found in this DLC, are wearing red and white uniforms, which would make them Talabheimers. Meanwhile the setting of "Death on the Reik" takes place in Reikland (duh), so yeah... I'm nitpicking, but that kinds stuff bugs me, even if it's not that important.

All in all I thoroughly recommend "Death on the Reik" DLC. It is worth purchasing and playing for the atmosphere alone. I love the little nod towards the classic "The Enemy Within" campaign, I love the gloomy atmosphere of the Reikwald Forest and I absolutely adore the Reik itself. The crew at Fatshark have managed to finish the first "Vermintide" in a perfect, dignified way. This game deserved a grand finale to its (mostly) excellent run and I'm very happy that ir recieved just that.

Soon I will write my 100th post on this blog. It will be something very special, so stay tuned.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

5/02/2018

Role-playing Rants: Bring out your inner beast!

Those pesky Beastmen, they're so adorable, aren't they? Funny goat-men who sometimes try to ruin the adventurer's day by jumping out of the forest, screaming "oogah boogah boogah!"

At least that is how they're usually portrayed: as a bunch of inbred dumbasses, who are only threatening to level 1 characters, and only on a very bad day. It doesn't matter if we are talking about official or fan-made publications - the Beastmen always get the shaft.

What if I'd told you that it is possible to make them a formidable, scary and unique threat to your players? Is it even possible?

Yes, yes it is. For that we'll have to reach out to our boy, H.P. Lovecraft himself and steal a bit of his ideas and, more importantly, the atmosphere of primeval horror, which he was able to include in his works with unparalleled skill.

You see, the Beastmen are not men with hooves. They're not men with animal heads, wearing shit-stained loincloths and brandishing flint-bladed spears. They're not stupid drunks who only like to shag and smear feces over the altars of civilized races.

They're so much more than that
They're the primal force of the world. They're the true children of the gods. They are the cry of dark and forgotten places, where no man, elf or dwarf has ever ventured.

The Beastmen are the last remnants of a world, from before the advent of civilization. When the nature was untouched by the hands of "smoothskins" and the wild places were untamed and majestic in their raw, unblemished splendor.

The weak and deviant Asrai would probably disagree, but they know nothing about true nature. Theirs is but a single forest, while the Beastkin own all of them. Wild lands, dark expanses of endless trees and fog-shrouded mires and meadows - these are the domains of a race, which lives closest to the four great gods of the north. One, whose shamans are able to walk the realms behind the veil and converse with powers that dwell there. They don't use humanity's names for them, for they are crude and simple.

The Beastmen know the truth about the nature of the Four much better than other, more "enlightened" races ever will. Because they have their blessings, thundering through their veins and hear their song in every corner of the globe. They see their influence all around them, not just in some dusty basement, filled with robed cultists, clumsily chanting gibberish from some old, poorly-written tome. Fools, they don't even know half of the truths to which the Beastkin are privy. Their weak, soft minds would bend and break, if they'd ever to discover them. For they were never meant for them but only for the true children of the gods.

Beastmen don't need books to know the wishes and thoughts of their gods. The world all around them is ripe with the signs of their will, their intent towards mortal races and their fate. Beastkin know where to look for them, even if the other "faithful" do not.

Deep in the ancient forests and dark groves, beneath the shadows of endless mountains, the true children of the gods show their devotion to their deities, by constructing altars to their greatness and eternal will. Chthonic obelisks and otherworldly idols can be found in those places, although woe betide those who discover them amongst the dark and gnarled trees. For their makers will snatch such a individual and make him see the truth, which lurks behind the veil, just before they'll end his existence.

"I now walk in the shadows between worlds...and it is there I have finally glimpsed upon what lives in the dark corners of the Earth..."
Or perhaps not? Perhaps they will allow him to live, so that he may see the truth of existence and the real power, flowing through the dark corners of the world. In time he too might change into a being, whose form is more pleasing to the eternal gods of the void. Another soul enlightened. Another lost sheep brought back into the fold.

The Norsii may speak about "waking up" after dying, in a land of the gods, but the Beastmen know that true enlightenment can be attained during one's life. After all, they do accept abandoned children, left on the edges of the forests by their terrified parents, scared out of their wits by the deformities, present on their progeny's flesh. Deformities, stigmata? They are blessings, not curses. Clear signs of the Four's favor, here to be cherished and nurtured, not "cleansed" with fire and silver. If only more "smoothskins" would understood that obvious truth, the world would be a better, purer place, existing in accordance to the wishes of the true gods.

The Beastmen are honorable, not only to those who are marked by the ancient powers, but also to those who prove themselves worthy. There is a tale of a human youngster, getting lost in the forest and stumbling upon a herdstone, guarded by a Minotaur. The guardian of this forgotten place let him leave, showing the child one of the ancient routes, leading back to civilization. He told the human to return, once he'll get older, when he will be a worthier adversary... and a more tasteful meal.

Don't think about the Beastmen as mindless brutes, who are only fit to rut, drink and kill. If you want to spice up your games, make them more interesting, use them as guardians of the last, few wild and untamed places. They are the primal force of nature, eternally raging against the encroachment of civilization, not a bunch of inbred goatpeople who like killing.

Though to be fair, they've very good at it, as well!
This post was inspired by a fantastic thread on the Strike to Stun forums, which I fully recommend. Join the community and leave your thoughts on this and many other, WFRP-related subjects. The 4th edition will premiere soon, so now is the best time to do so.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86