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8/15/2017

Role-playing Rants: my top 5 video game universes, which should have RPG's based on them

There are many, great RPG's out there, just waiting to be played. But what about fictional universes, which don't have a tie-in role-playing game?

I'v just returned from my vacation, which was great. I've managed to charge my batteries, relax and find a new perspective on a couple of things - you know, enjoy life. So now I'm back with a list of some of my favorite fictional, video game worlds, which I'd love to run a few games in. Bear in mind, I'll only write about the settings themselves, and not mechanics. I believe that without a good, interesting setting, even  the best game system dosen't matter a single bit. Anyway, without further ado, here's the list. Read and enjoy.

5. "S.T.A.L.K.E.R."


I'm a huge fan of the "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." series. The idea of a bunch of people, running around Chernobyl, collecting strange artifacts, fending off mutants and bandits and generally having a grand, merry time, always appealed to me. Brutal, visceral combat, mixed with well developed economic system, travelling through the Zone, coupled with horror and a sense of the unknown - what more could you wish for? Of, I know - the anomalies of course, "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s" signature, paranormal weird shit! I'm aware of a couple of fan-made RPG's, set in this world, but I'd love to get my hands on a official "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." tie-in game. It's one of my favorite worlds, and I'd love to see it in a pen-and-paper format. Such is life in the Zone.

4. "Call of Duty: Ghosts"


I know what you're probably thinking - what the hell does CoD has with role-playing? Well, quite a lot, if you take the setting of certain of its titles, into consideration. While most Call of Duty games have a paper-thin storyline and boring characters (looking at you, "Modern Warfare" series), there are a few with geunienly well fleshed-out worlds, or at least ones that have great potential. For me, "Ghosts" is one of those titles, that are just begging for a transition to a tabletop game. The idea is awesome - the United States are a shattered, former superpower, struggling against a newly risen Federation, a coalition of South American countries, hell-bent on wiping their northern neighbour from the face of the Earth. The last line of defense are the titular Ghosts, remnants of the US Tier 1 special forces. With limited resources, they must rely on their training, their wits and their determination in a doomed fight, against a stronger, ruthless opponent. Can they win, or just prolong the inevitable?
"CoD: Ghosts" would make for a great, mil-sim RPG, with a fast-paced, dynamic action. From raids deep behind enemy lines in Venezuela, to defending the ruins of Los Angeles, "Ghosts" could make a for a thrilling, intense military experience, and one, which I'd love to take part in.

3. "Metro 2033" and "Metro: Last Light"


Much like the "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." universe, from which it took a lot of inspiration, the Eastern European, post-apocalyptic world of "Metro", created by Dmitry Glukhovsky is simply meant for a PnP transition. This RPG could explore the politics between various, Moscow's underground stations, the relations between all the different groups, which took shelter in the tunnels, when the bombs fell. Combat against the mutated beasts that now roam the surface, and infest the tunnels, as well as bandits (for men are still the worst monsters of all) would be brutal, claustrophobic and utterly lethal. I personally envision this game to be very deadly to your average player, with a high mortality rate. However the exploration of the unknown, together with a sense of a world lost, and a glimmer of hoper, would make for a truly terrific role-playing experience. Just remember: if it's hostile, kill it.

2. "Illusion of Gaia"


Now that's a world, in which I'd immerse myself completely. "Illusion of Gaia" is an action role-playing game, taking place in a slightly fantasy-based version of our Earth, with historic themes, thrown in for a good measure. The ultimate quest for the Tower of Babel takes our heroes from one historical location to another. From the Izcan ruins to the great, Egyptian pyramids, Will and his friends travel the world and uncover its secrets. It's a very mystical, and at times, surprisingly mature and dark adventure, which would work really well in a tabletop-based game. Granted it would probably require a certain mindset of its players (playing as group of children can be strange and difficult), but I think that a potential is there and that the "Illusion of Gaia" could become a fantastic RPG system.

1. "Dark Souls" and "Bloodborne"


I love these two series. I adore them absolutely. For me these two present some of the most interesting, fictional worlds of the past few years. Dark, gritty and utterly hopeless, but with an unlimited potential - bot the "Dark Souls" and "Bloodborne" ask their players certain, not always comfortable questions, about what it means to be human and never leave them unsatisfied. Despite the bleakness and horror of both of these settings, there are rays of hope in each of them, something which makes fighting everyday struggles a worthy task. Now granted, these would probably work better a comabt-oriented games, with some philosophy on the side, not to mention personall horror, but they'd still work. No matter if you're looking for the Lords of Cinder or are a hunter of the Beasts, both the "Souls" series and "Bloodborne" are more than perfect to be turned into role-playing games.

So that's it for this list. Thoughts, comments? I'd love to know what you think about my choices and I promise there will be more in the future. Next, I will present a list of my top 5 movies, which should find their way to tabletop. Stay tuned folks.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

7/26/2017

Food for thought, or how to feed your players the right way

Let's face it: we gamers tend to eat horribly. Your usual tabletop diet consists of crisps, cookies, soft drinks and a occasional fast food. Perhaps it is time to change it?

I know what you're thinking right now: "has Xathrodox went mad? I don't have time to cook!" If that is so, then it is truly regretable, but fear not - these few recipes are neither hard to use, nor time consuming. Some of them are definetly not, what one might call "healthy food", but they are certainly better than another pack of Cheetos.

For years, since I've begun my adventure with RPG's and tabletop war games, I never even considered eating differently. Until recently however, my stance on junk food on sessions, has changed. You see, one of the players in my new group is a cook, and a damn good one. He often brings all sorts of delicious things to our games. A certain session of "Death on the Reik", which we've played for a whole night in a friend's garden, will always be remembered with fondness, for the delicious chicken breasts, that this fine fellow brought with him, and which were put on grill, along with many other, choice meats.

I'm posting links to various culinary sites and blogs, so feel free to check 'em out and try out various other recipes, that they might have there. I'd also like to point, that I'm not sponsored by any of these sites, but I really wish that I would! It would help with the bills and my plastic crack addiction.

1. Blins (pancakes)



There's nothing better than a plate full of freshly made blins, which are traditional pancakes in slavic countries. You only really need water, eggs, flour and milk to make these babies, plus some kind of filling. I personally love spicy blins, filled with minced meat, cheddar and tomatoes but you can also make them with nutella or fresh fruit. It's a good idea to chop the ready pancakes, after filling them with your choice of goodies, so that they'll become a bite-size treat for all, around the gaming table.

2. Tarator (Balkan cold soup)



Delicious, refreshing and oh-so-easy to make. Tarator is a cold soup, which main ingridient is plain yogurt. Add some dill, a few fresh cucumbers, a spoon of crushed walnuts and you're ready to go! Skip the garlic tough, as RPG's tend to be a social thing, and it's not cool to breathe garlic fumes into other players faces.

3. Spaghetti Carbonara (a timeless classic)



This one's a true classic. Make a full pot of this delicious meal, and your players will stay full for the whole game session, even if you're running a lengthy dungeon crawl. Its preparation time is less than half an hour, and you only really need some pasta, a few garlic cloves (optional, for obvious reasons), some bacon, eggs and cream. It is a truly delicious, easy to make meal and you can't go wrong with it.

4. Chicken bites of various types (delicious and tasty)



Oh yeah, the ultimate party snack can also work wonders on a table, surrounded by funny shaped dice, and monster manuals. Tortilla wraps, chicken, some creamy cheese and lots and lots of spices - these are the basic ingridients of this kind of dish. I personally love 'em hot and spicy, with a nice dip on the side. You can always substitute tortillas with pancakes, but this will lengthen the preparation process. Still, cooking is all about having fun, so maybe spare an extra hour, before a weekend game and make some blin.

5. Shashlik (meat on a stick!)



This one's a traditional, slav dish, perfect for a weekend grill session. You can also make it at home, in your oven, tough you'll probably need to scrape it clean, afterwards. Shashlik consists of a various pieces of marinated meat, skewered on a stick, with addition of vegetables like paprika, onion, eggplant and zucchini. This one's a bit more time consuming to make, but the end results are worth the time and effort, put into them. Always prepare a creamy dip, for it works wonders with the shashlik and don't forget about preparing the meat first, in just the right way. It's often a good idea to let it stay in the marinade for a whole night, before putting it on a grill (or in the oven).

6. Ayran (cold, yogurt-based drink)



It's a well know fact that the RPG players can operate solely on Mountain Dew, but there are alternatives. Ayran is a traditional refreshing drink from Turkey, but it's also very popular in Balkan countries, Greece and Armenia. You only need 3 ingridients: water, yogurt and salt. Fresh cucumber and garlic are optional ingredients, as is crushed mint. Just mix everything in a shaker, or beat in a bowl, and serve in tall glasses. Ayran is wonderfully refreshing and tasty, and a great alternative to soft drinks. Try it out, you won't be dissapointed.

7. Sunflower seeds (author's delight!)


Ok, so it's not a recipe per se. Dried sunflower seeds, covered in salt, are a fantastic snack, for just about any occasion. Watching a football game, reading your favorite book or trying to bash a Troll's head during a session of Warhammer - the addition of sunflower seeds will defintely improve any form of spending one's free time. I personally suggest to always pick up your seeds with salt, they're just better that way, if a bit less healthy.

So there you have it, few ideas on how to improve your tabletop eating habits. In the future I might make a couple more articles like this one, we'll see. As for now, I'll visit my kitchen and prepare a whole bunch of tasty dishes for tommorow, to take with me to work. For there are a few, better and cooler ways to spend your time, than to cook and enjoy the effects of your kitchen labours.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

7/11/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide: Stromdorf"

I'm a huge fan of "Vermintide". This game helped to rekindle my affection for Warhammer Fantasy. A few weeks ago, the good people from Fatshark released another DLC for this grim and perilous title - "Stromdorf".

I really liked the previous two DLC's for "Vermintide". Both "Drachenfels" and "Karak Azgaraz" brought new content to the game and I did not felt that I've wasted my money on them. So how's "Stromdorf" looking in comparison to them?

Is it worth your money?
The titular town is a miserable, rainy place, which evokes that unique feel of Warhammer Fantasy. It's dark, gritty and generally depressing. I love it. As a side fact, the town of Stromdorf has been futured in "The Gathering Storm" campaign for WFRP 3rd edition. Check it out, if you want to learn more about this wonderful shithole. Anyway, the Skave are up to something, as usual, and Franz Lohner, the not-imperial-intelligence-officer, is sending our delightful party to investigate. Soon our heroes discover a sinister plot, involving human collaborators working with the foul ratmen, which could threaten much more, than just Stromdorf itself.

So here's the general premise of this DLC. I really like it, by the way. The excellent 2nd edition sourcebook "Children of the Horned Rat" has a rather extensive part of it, dedicated to humans, working with the Skaven. We also should not forget about the classic Gotrek & Felix book "Skavenslayer" by William King, which includes similar theme among its pages.

"Stromdorf" is very effective when it comes to visuals. Altough it starts on a sunny day, the weather soon becomes foul and rain begins to pour down from the heavens, threatening to drown both our heroes and the ratmen as well! This DLC was a bit more aggravating for my system, than the previous two, but I'm not surprised really. With all the particle effects, no one can blame performance issues on bad coding, but simply should understand that games like this will require more memory to run smoothly, as well as a better graphics card.

The rains of Stromdorf are constant and unforgiving in their intensity!
The Fatshark team created a true masterpiece when it comes to maps in this DLC. The first one starts outside the city, when the weather is still decent. Later, after a long trek through the hills surrounding the town of Stromdorf, the adventurers finally arrive in the titular place, only to become soaking wet, from the horrible downpour. The atmosphere of fighting Skaven in a heavy rain, during a climactic thunderstorm really is something, let me tell you. Eventually our heroes discover a corpse of the messenger, whom Lohner wanted them to find. After checking for clues, they uncover a possible Skaven plot, which includes a human collaborator, or even a bunch of them! Without hesitation they rush deeper into the rainy town, to intercept a meeting between the vile traitors and a clan Fester emissary. Navigating their way through winding streets of Stromdorf, fighting Stormvermin in tight alleys and using roof to surprise unsuspecting ratmen, were some of the best experiences that I ever had with "Vermintide". The final battle with the emissary, a massive Skaven Warlord, armed with a Warpstone Glaive, was intense and very satisfying. Naturally, after defeating the fiend, I wanted so much more to happen, like finding the collaborators and handing them over to Lohner for interrogation. Sadly, the game decided that enough was enough.

Yeah, that's right - "Stromdorf" consists of only two maps, and that is it's main (only?) weakness. For a price of 7 dollars I really expected more content for my buck. Sure, the maps are great, probably the best out of all DLCs so far. The presence of a new enemy is also really welcome, as well as the new weapon for Markus Kruber - the intimidating and mighty Executioners Sword. There are also a few, new achievements and lore pages, unique to this DLC's titular location. However all of that is just not enough man, plain and simple. They really could've added a third, final map, even a short one, to this DLC. I've managed to beat "Stromdorf" in less than an hour, with extensive roaming in search of tomes and grimoires as well as easter eggs and other goodies. In the end I honestly felt kinda ripped-off. Still, at least my money went to a developer who helps in keeping the Warhammer Fantasy alive, but... I seriously hope that their next, paid DLC will include much, much more meat, because despite my positive feelings, playing "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide: Stromdorf" felt like recieving a light, fit meal, after going hungry for the whole day, in anticipation for a feast. Tasty and satisfying, but leaving a kind of need in one's stomach nonetheless.

At least Kruber finally recieved some love. This sword is awesome!
Until next time...which will also be about food, coincidentally.

Xathrodox86

7/03/2017

Sharing is caring! On the topic of my WH40K RPG's collection

Some time ago I've decided to share a bunch of fan-made materials for WFRP. Now it's time for my 40K RPG's resource collection.

I've played a couple of FFG's role-playing games, set in the grim darkness of the far future. Despite a rocky start (a shitty player was its cause), from the perspective of time I consider them good games. Sure they have a number of flaws, but all in all they're very decent titles and work well in introducing others to the universe of Warhammer 40,00. Not to mention that the Dark Heresy is a perfect way of showing people that the galaxy of 40K is more than just "only war".

It's also about looking fabulous, even in a heavy rain!
But I digress. Even tough the FFG's 40K titles are much younger than WFRP, fans from all around the world still created a lot of quality resources for these games. The now-defunct sites like Dark Reign and Roll for Heresy were a great source of hundreds of various, fan-made files for Rogue Trader, Deathwatch and other 40K games. I was lucky enough to download quite many of them, before their hosting services went down, which is a shame really. WFRP has a lot of cool fan-sites, while role=playing games, set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000, seem to struggle in that department. I hope this will change in near future, providing the fans of WH40K with great, many communities, filled with wonderful people and high quality content.

As with my WFRP collection, I'm only sharing 100% FAN-MADE stuff. So no illegal, scanned shit. Don't ask me for that, as I will simply not reply to anyone, who'd like to get his hands on a shiny Only War rulebook PDF, or any other, official material from Fantasy Flight Games (or Black Industries, for that matter).

I'm also not taking any credit for the stuff that I'm sharing here. I've never created a single, fan-made supplement for 40K (maybe one day, but not yet), so any rights and credits go to the respective creators of these fan-made projects. If any of their authors would like me to remove their content from my collection, please send me a message and I will do this immediately. Remember that I'm posting this stuff so it will not dissapear in the endless waves of the internet, especially now, when there are no 40K RPG fan-sites available, as far as I know.

Here's the link to my collection. Enjoy and share, as that's what this whole stuff is all about - sharing your passion with other people.


Hopefully, I will also manage to upload both of my RPG collections to a FTP server, but that is something for a (near) future.

There has also been a small update, concerning my WFRP data base: I've uploaded lots of new stuff there! So get it, while it's hot and share the wealth with other geeks and freaks. As usual, there will be updates to these data-vaults, probably around early winter. I will keep everyone posted on my blog, so check it out from time to time, and you won't miss anything. I guarantee that.

Next post will take us to a particulary rainy village in Reikland. Stay tuned and praise the Emperor.

Oh, and pass the ammunition!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

6/23/2017

Role-playing Rants: was Warhammer Fantasy "too dark" for its own good?

Most of the old and middlehammerers know the evolution of Warhammer Fantasy. From the grim and down-to-earth, but also absurd fantasy game, it evolved into... Yeah, into what exactly?

I won't pretend to be one of the "old guard". Sure, in my youth I used to play WFRP 1st edition from time tom time. It was an extremly popular game in Poland, still is really. However these first forays into the Old World are shrouded in the mist of childhood and obscurity. I don't remember too much about these games, except for the fact that I've once played a Zoat. Good times.

Anyway, I had a chance to re-read the 1st edition rulebook, some time ago. Aside from a nostalgia trip, I've noticed how different the arts were, from the latter incarnations of this game system. Skulls were few and in between. People were actually smiling, while those in the 2nd edition books look, like they have a constant constipation. The atmosphere was just... fantastic. In that it resembled a typical fantasy world, but with a historical twist. Meanwhile, the 2nd edition arts are...

Ahhhhh!!!
Yeah, they are almost all like that. Don't get me wrong, I love the 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy, but to be honest, very few artworks really work for me in this game. While some of them are taken straight from WFB's army books, mainly those of 6th editon Fantasy Battle, whith which WFRP 2nd shares a bond, the new arts are just... goofy. Goofy and really boring. There are skulls everywhere. Literally - on the buildings, on the clothing, on weapons. Hell, there are probably skulls within skulls with skulls on them. You think that I'm joking? No way.

Both the WFB 6th and WFRP 2nd were trying too hard to become like 40K, which started to eclipse its older brother at the time of their popularity. In 40K there are skulls and cherubs and weird shit everywhere, but that is something to be expected of that setting. Cathedrals in space? Sure, why not? Now imagine if in Warhammer Fantasy there'd be galleons with cathedrals on them. That would just be silly now, wouldn't it? Still, Games Workshop might not have put churches on ships, but they tried. Oh, how they've tried to do things like that...

Actually both the WFB 6th and WFRP 2nd editions recieved quite a mild treatment in the whole
"grimdark wannabe" process. Sure the omnipresent skulls were kinda annoying and character's faces were looking kinda silly, as well as the decrepit look of almost every building and dress in the Empire, but here and there one could still see the old Warhammer look, the down-to-earth fantasy game, without any pretence and with just the right ammount of dark humor.

Then the 8th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle came. Oh sweet Sigmar...

Where do I start? How about here?

is he riding through the Warp?
Or here?

Meanwhile in World of Warcraft...
Or maybe here?

"One cannot fire rockets, when the floor is chaos" - ancient sigmarite proverb
This is not gritty. This is not dark nor is it grim. This simply looks dumb and not "so bad that it's actually fun" kinda dumb. It looks dumb. It looks as if a 6-year old, who just read his first, "serious book", decided to sculpt a wargame terrain piece. There is nothing funny about it, there is nothing intimidating or scary about it. It looks like a shitty, cheap-ass toy and the worst part is that all of the 8th edition looked like that. Fake as hell, trying too hard to imitate 40K, a completly different game with a different atmosphere and style. Give me a break.

When the WFRP 3rd edition came to stores, it generally carried on the style of the wargame on its pages. While the artwork was nice and of a much higher quality, then in the previous two iterations of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, it also lacked... something. Perhaps it was the continous absence of smiles on character's faces, or the ever present doom and gloom, presented on every art piece, I don't know. Certainly the portrayal of the Old World by FFG didn't managed to help in halting the decline of interest of its fans, and in bringing new, fresh blood into the fandom. I recall a story from the 3rd edition about a village struck by a nurglite sickness which forced them to dance until death claimed their exhausted bodies. Sisters of Shallya came to help the poor people, by enacting a powerful ritual that cleansed them from the plague. Their joy from helping others soon vanished, as an Empire army, led by a zealous Warrior Priest, arrived and decimated the village, killing every one of its inhabitants. Grim and dark, right? No, not really - just very poorly written. There were more stories like this one, presented on the pages of many of 3rd editions sourcebooks and adventures, poorly imitating Dark Heresy's and other 40K RPG's style. None of it really worked, none was at the literary level of Dan Abnett's introductory short piece in WFRP 2nd Edition's rulebook, which was dark, gritty but also believable and excellently written. Shame, really.

Back when we could feast our eyes on awesome art pieces, like this one...
I know that I've written about it already, but I'm going to say it one more time - at one point, both the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, have lost their identities. They've tried to mimick or imitate, however you want to call it, a vastly different game, with a very unique style and presentation - the Warhammer 40,000. They've failed spectaculary and now, aside from a few, successful video game adaptations, they're dead. Age of Sigmar has replaced them and while it is still struggling with its own style and sense of identity, it is getting somewhere. I might not like the game, but I do have to acknowledge that it is changing and evolving, while also not falling blindly into the "ctrl+c, ctrl+v" territory, that old Warhammer Fantasy games did. Very soon we'll get our hands on the 4th edition of WFRP. I just hope that Cubicle 7 won't make the same mistakes, as their predecessors, for all of our sakes. It would be tragic, to see a potential rebirth of Warhammer Fantasy and the rekindling of old flames of passion, die before they'll even get a chance to spread throughout the RPG fandom.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86