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4/15/2018

Role-playing Rants: Can't stop the beat, or how to correctly utilise music during your games

There are a lot of things that can make a single, ordinary RPG session, truly awesome. One of them is a climactic soundtrack, specifically tailored for the oncoming game. But how to utilise it to its fullest extent?

Game music (and possibly ambient sounds) is a tricky medium to master. First of all, I'd suggest to not base your entire game on it. I've known people who have created entire adventures, based on a single track from a movie or video game. While it usually worked rather well, more often than not a single derail on the PC's part made the whole thing change its course, and the final, dramatic tune had to be either abandoned or used in a different matter. Life sucks, I know. From my experience it's a great idea to base a single scene or maybe a chapter, on your favorite "Gladiator" OST. They are usually short enough to warrant success, not to mention it's easier to control what's going on during a single chapter, than an entire campaign. Just saying.

Music is important. Controlling what's going on with the world that you're creating, even more so!
Next we have the age-old problem of what kind of music to actually use? The aforementioned "Gladiator" soundtrack would probably work great for your average fantasy-based game. WFRP, Dungeons & Dragons, Conan - these are the kind of setting that could benefit from loud, epic and pompous OST's, at least for most of their sessions. It's a no-brainer really. But what about using a less than obvious tunes for our next game of "The Enemy Within"? I've got good news for you, my fellow Gamemaster, it's absolutely possible. However there's a catch - you'll need to utilise the age-old trial and error technique. The results, however, are almost always worth it. For example, in my games of WFRP I'm using a lot of Irish jigs. The "Rocky Road to Dublin" and a lot of tracks from both "Sherlock Holmes" movies with Robert Downey Jr. are a great addition to my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay games. Another example of a less-than-obvious music used right, is the entire "Deus Ex" OST, which I've been playing during my Hunter: The Reckoning sessions. They've worked wonders, especially during the night scenes and investigative parts.

In this day and age most of us are lucky enough to possess a laptop or a tablet. Smartphones are a standard part of our everyday lives. Because of this, we're having free access to apps like Spotify and online services like YouTube. Spotify is perfect for composing your very own playlists for different game systems. YouTube, however, is where it's at. It's a bloody gold mine of music for every, single occasion. Single clips or whole playlists, entire albums of every music genre ever created (I once used a Renaissance-era party music for a ball in Nuln) - YouTube has it all, and more! I especially recommend Adrian von Ziegler for all your fantasy needs and various game OST's for more modern/futuristic stuff. There are even RPG-oriented playlists, like music from taverns, forest music, winter music, sewer music etc. YouTube is your friend, when it comes to building the perfect mood by utilizing some nice, appropriate tunes. Trust me on that.

For all your RPG-music-related needs, accept no substitues
Finally there's the case of ambient sounds. It's a simple thing for me - I'm not using them. Music, good, climactic music, is all that I need in my games. If a track that's currently playing, has any ambience within it, all the better. That said, I'm not using any sort of environmental clips, as I'm not really seeing a point in doing so. Besides, I've always believed that a good GM needs to master the adventure that he's running, as well as the atmosphere and feel of the world which he creates. Being a part-time DJ should not be part of his duties, as it's simply too distracting and time-consuming. Just my two cents.

Here's hoping that you'll be able to expertly use various musical tracks in your games. It's not that hard and, just like with everything else regarding this hobby, remember to not rely solely on the tunes, no matter how good they might be. After all, they're just a part of a greater whole, an experience in which you and your players partake during your weekly sessions. It's like a meal, composed from many, different ingredients. While each of them might be tasty in its own right, only by combining them together will you be able to create a unique and truly memorable feast for the senses.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

4/01/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Solomon Kane"

On my blog I've reviewed games and books, but not any movies... until now. Let's take a look upon a quintessential Warhammer movie - "Solomon Kane".

Based on the classic witch hunter character created by the legendary Robert E. Howard, author of the most famous barbarian in history, "Solomon Kane" is a perfect example of a dark fantasy movie done right. Even with its modest budget of $40 million, it manages to deliver a fantastic tale of dark fantasy-action adventure, with a great lead role and a wonderful visual style.

I need this poster in my life!
The film begins in North Africa, where Solomon Kane, a ruthless mercenary, leads his band of ne'er-do-wells against the Ottoman soldiers, occupying a fortress town. After killing all of them, Kane and his men plan to steal their sweet loot for themselves, but a bunch of mirror demons have other plans and decide to interfere. They butcher the pirates and Solomon only manages to escape, after jumping out of a window... but not before exchanging a few, prophetic words with the grim reaper himself. Damn!

Following this unfortunate event, he declines violence and seeks refuge in a monastery. However his fate has been written. Kane must die and go to hell for his sins, and so the elderly abbot expels him from the only place, where he could've been relatively safe, holy ground and all that stuff. What an asshole. Anyway, Solomon decides to return to England, but his seven years of bad luck quickly catch up with him, as he is ambushed by robbers and left for dead. Fortunately he is found by a group of friendly Puritans, who nurse him back to health and accept Kane as one of their own. Naturally this is a movie about a badass witch hunter, and not an episode of a fucking "Little House on the Prairie", so the entire family is butchered by the servants of Malachi, an eeeevil wizard and arch-asshole extraordinaire. Kane decides that he has enough of this shit, puts on the signature wide-brimmed hat, stuffs two flintlocks behind his belt and goes to town on those devil-worshipping motherfuckers, while also trying to save Meredith, the last of the family that helped him in his hour of need.

Solomon Kane is basically a Warhammer Fantasy scenario in movie format. Kane travels the bleak, desolate wildlands of England, fighting cultists, ghouls and crazy priests, before his final confrontation with Malachi, himself a fantastically looking villain (seriously, the makeup artist working on that picture did a splendid job). Along the way he befriends some of his old pirate crew, who are now fighting against the vile Malachi and his enforcer, the enigmatic Masked Rider. There's also a friendly, old witch, who treats his wounds, after a particularly nasty case of crucifixion.

The cast is solid enough, and although the only really fleshed out character is Kane himself, the rest of the actors are doing a fine enough job of their own. James Purefoy as Solomon Kane really encapsulates the spirit of this dark and brooding character, on a quest for redemption and it's a real joy to see him in a classical, witch hunter attire. Special mention goes to Jason Flemyng, who portrays the warlock Malachi. He chews the scenery so much, that it's beyond godly and every time he's on screen, he steals the show.

"I'll be shitting out wood for the next three months, after this movie is over."
"Solomon Kane" has some great fight scenes, with excellent choreography. There's no flair here, no fancy sword work. The combatants fight in a brutally realistic style, bludgeoning each other with swords, axes and maces and it really works well with the overall theme of this flick. The supernatural elements are scarce enough, but when they appear, there's this feeling of dread, of something dark and otherworldly. Even when Kane is saved by the old witch, one can only wonder what kind of magic she used on his flesh, that it was able to heal so quickly...

The soundtrack is top notch as well. I'm using it during my WFRP games, and it's really worth listening to. There are suitably dark themes, as well as more optimistic ones, playing by the end of the movie. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

My only problem with this movie, is that it takes a fair bit for Kane to become the hero that we all know and love. There are also a fare few bits of him acting all emo, and sometimes it can be a bit cringey to watch. Other than that, however, I have no complaints. "Solomon Kane" is a solid piece of action fantasy, and a great movie to watch, if you're having a writer's block on that latest WFRP scenario, that you're working on. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

3/10/2018

Role-playing Rants: Dealing with "problem players", or how I've learned that people are assholes, the hard way

Social activities are generally a lot of fun. You can spend your free time with people of similar interests, passions and attitudes. That's why RPG's are such a cool hobby. You and your fellow-minded nerds are all sitting at the table, eating Cheetos, roll some dice and... trying to be as horrible and shitty to each other, as possible?

Wait, what? I thought that this kind of entertainment was supposed to be fun, healthy endeavor, not a way for some asshole to vent his life frustrations out on other people. Turns out I was very, very wrong, as apparently, there are a lot of people out there who decided to play these game, solely so they can fuck with their fellow men. No regrets, no hesitation, no nothing - just an urge to be an asshole. Is there a way of dealing with the, so-called, "problem players"? Yes, yes there is. Although it ain't pretty.

Apologies for this, completely random, Overwatch art. My google-fu is not strong today. Also, this picture is not mine. Used w/o permission
First of all, what it means exactly, to be a "problem player"? There are a few definitions, but since I'm not a bloody Wikipedia editor, I'm not going to give you an exhaustive, pseudo-scientific definition of this term. To keep it short: a "problem player" is a person, who decides to be an absolute, fucking asshole to the rest of his gaming group. There, you have it. No fancy words, no bullshit, semi-psychological analysis, just the bare, honest truth. He or she is an asshole, pure and simple. Whether this kind of person decides to constantly be late to games, interrupt the GM and/or his fellow players, trying to derail the game for whatever reason or simply being an asshole, doesn't really matter. There are even players who make problems, because of how they're portraying their characters. There's nothing wrong than having a pretentious edgelord in your party, fucking up the game "because my character would totally do that". Yeah, no mate, you're just a shitty person.

I've had my share of "problem players" over the years, way too much for my liking, if I have to be honest. From drug and booze abusers to narcissists, whom felt that everything should be about them and their flawed, crappy characters to people who downright disrespected others' time, work and efforts. By "others'", I mean myself, mostly. To be completely honest, I've only begun playing "normally", in a non-toxic environment, from the early 2017 up to now. 2015, if I'm counting my Roll20 group (which I totally should!). Before that my experiences were... less pleasing. I would even use words like "shite" or "horrible" or maybe  even "a waste of fucking time". Now don't get me wrong, there were good moments, but they were more like islands in an ocean of feces. Why was that and why did I endured years of less-than-fun gaming? Well, the main reason was that I used to game with my friends. As I've already written in one of my previous articles (which I'd written completely differently now, to be honest), there are benefits and downsides to this kind of RP'ing. Unfortunately, in the long run, downsides begun to take over the good parts and so, after a few years of that particular party's dissolution (which happened mainly due to personal loss and good, old-fashioned human weakness of character) I can look back with a clear eye on the time, which I've spent in it, and... feel cheated. Cheated and disillusioned by the treatment which I've received by my colleagues and, I'm sad to say it, friends. Many of whom, if not all, were the aforementioned "problem players".

I'm a rather calm, composed person, not used to yelling at people or argue with them. I don't like it, pure and simple. Unfortunately, more than once, it has been used against me. In work, in my relationships and even in my games. While I can, or at least try to accept that in work and love, people can act like dicks, it saddens me greatly, that such a behavior takes place around the gaming table, one place, which should be free from negativity and toxic actions. After all, people play these games to relax after a hard week of work, to let their imagination run wild and to just have fun with other, likely minded fellows. At least that's what it should be like, as I personally can confess, that it's not always so. You wanna know how to spot a "problem player"? Well, let me give you a few examples.

Arrogance is always a good indicator that one of your fellow games should've probably stay at home, instead of rolling a funny shaped dice at the table. Not conforming to established set of rules (despite promising to do so, pre-game), insulting the GM and other players, when being called out on it, being physically unable to take any sort of constructive criticism and feebly trying to shift the blame on other players and GM (of course this never works, since the person in question is totally and completely inept at doing so). Thinking that everything should be about them and only them and the rules are for their benefit, not the other way around. As long as the game favors them, it's cool, but woe to GM, who kills their favorite character, for they will receive a temper tantrum, truly worthy of a spoiled manchild with ego problems.

Bonus points for uttering my favorite, asinine non-reply of: "this is only a game, why are you so mad at me for acting like a dick?" Perhaps because I'm treating you fair and you're not returning the favor. Just a little hint there, moron.

How about another one. A guy, who's not really interested in playing, but just likes to hang out with the group. Ok, you'll probably say, that's fair enough. But wait! Let's make it more interesting, shall we? What if said person is not just content with sitting in silence at the table, occasionally throwing some dice? What if he decides to act as dickishly as possible? Interrupting the GM in mid sequence of explaining the plot, cracking a joke during an atmosphere build up, interrupting the game because "he totally read a cool article today" and needs immediately to inform everyone about that fact. When asked to keep it down a notch or, maybe, to leave it for the downtime, he of course gets righteously angered and makes everyone's lives at the table a living hell. Threatens to live the group many, many times, because he's a friend and knows fully well that no one will have the balls to actually kick him out.

Bonus points for coming to the game drugged and/or drunk. Oh yeah, fun times.

Want another example? I got you, fam. So imagine being a new player, who've just joined the group. People in this particular group are playing together for many years now, and you're the new guy. Naturally, the first thing that you should be doing, is to start complaining about how the game is being run, how the fights are too hard, how it's all unfair and how you would have done it all better. Make sure to also create the most broken, OP character with which you will show all the other peasants, just how big of a badass you truly are. Of course you've joined the team for a chance to play your favorite system, so when others decide to change it for something else, don't forget to start acting like a spoiled brat on every, single occasion. Some of your activities can include: not showing up to games, without a word of explanation, being constantly late, playing on your phone all the time, while grunting off a half-assed reply of: "I'm listening, what's your problem?", talking behind GM's back to change the game, because "this one's stupid, but my favorite one is not stupid" and finally, after getting a chance of run a game yourself, drop all communication with the group and be righteously offended, when they've decided to switch system.

Bonus points for leaving the group when you've finally had enough and understood that you'll never have the thing your way here. When the others decided to change the system, despite most of people having fun playing it, agree on staying (even tough your "excuse" to quit was a lack of time). Then, after a few months, quit anyway, because you've found another group and they're playing a game that you like more. "What's that? No, I don't know what "acting fair" means, why do you ask?"

One more? Well, I think I can manage that. I've had my fill of "problem players", so why not talk about it in length, eh? So you're one of the players, who's in the group from the very beginning. You've played that one, particular game, from the start and, for some reason, decided that other games are not really necessary. So when the system gets changed you begin to show your displeasure. Maybe not in the way, as the other one did, but you're still acting like an asshole, nonetheless. Make sure to speak about how the old title was a much better game and how much you despise the current one. Constantly. To everyone. No, it doesn't matter that other people might want to play something else, you KNOW BETTER. After all, you know everything. Act like a petulant child on every, single opportunity and let your fellow men know, that it is you who knows what is best for the group.

Bonus points for trying to concoct the most ludicrous, game-breaking, atmosphere-raping plots, which have zero sense and succeed in only derailing the game itself. Bravo sire, you are a definition of a spoiled, self-centered manchild.

Finally there's the last example. Another new player! Yay! You join the group and, for a time, play really well. Then another new player arrives, one of the aforementioned ones. This newcomer immediately finds himself the target of your affection. At times it is really scary, like you're almost in love with the man. Which is no bad thing of course, however the blind zeal with which you're defending his shitty actions, his constant arguments and arrogant behavior, as well as blaming others for not understanding his completely immature reactions, actually is. Meanwhile, despite promising to be respect the rules of the group, you also begin to emulate your idol. Getting late, cancelling games at the last, possible moment, getting angry when the group switches systems and many, many other examples of being a nob-head, are all your trademarks. Finally, after your guru decided to leave the group for his own, selfish reasons, you've actually managed to gather enough courage to do the same. You'd never do it alone, because of how big of a fucking coward you are, but if someone else will clear the way, then it's all good.

Bonus points for getting righteously offended when asked if, maybe, you could A) print your work schedule, so you won't forget about the next night shift and B), get one, maybe two early shifts in a week, so that you'll have an easier time coming to the game. Of course you decline, because otherwise you won't be able to get you 12 hour beauty sleep, after getting to bed at 4 A.M., because you just had to play your favorite video game.

These were some of the examples of "problem players", which I've encountered over the years. Back then I wasn't able to do much about them, since they were mostly friends and/or good buddies, and I always was very careful not to hurt their feelings, despite being constantly treated like trash in return. That was back then, however, and now I've learned my lessons. What does it mean, exactly?

That it was not worth it. The time, the effort, the nerves - none of it was worth the hassle of dealing with unfair people, and that I will never make those same mistakes again, ever. It doesn't matter if they're your friends, family, work buddies etc. If someone treats you like a rag, because he thinks that he can do that, because he doesn't care about anything or anyone else, except themselves, tell them to fuck off and never come back. Drop them and never look back, as they're not worth your time, nor your nerves.

The art of dialogue is an important thing and Lord know that it's always worth speaking to others, explaining your views, motivations and opinions. But make it so in a civilized way, leave the arrogance at home. Don't be toxic, be kind. Don't be a dick.This hobby is about mutual respect and acceptance, not to see who's the biggest alpha in the group. There's no alpha, because there shouldn't be any. There should be, however, a team, a group of fellow-minded friends or colleagues, enjoying their hobby together. Something that I'm very fortunate to be currently a part of, and for which I'm deeply grateful to my fellow players.

Pic related. I just love this art so much
I hope that all of you, my dear readers, will be fortunate enough to experience only the best aspects of this wonderful hobby. Just remember one thing: don't let frustrated, petty and childish people ruin it for you. They're not worth your nerves, nor your time. It is something that I've finally came to understand, not so long ago, but ultimately, way, way too late.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

2/17/2018

My musings on various stuff: Civilized Edition

There's a lot going on in the fandom right now. Awesome fan-made materials, official releases and news of upcoming projects - there's something for everyone, so let's go and take a look, shall we?

1. The Northmen Rules v2.0 by Jackdays from Kalevala Hammer

Let the quality content flow!
Always awesome Jackdays from the legendary Kalevala Hammer, returns once again with a content of topmost quality. His Northmen sourcebooks for WFRP are some of the best fan-made materials out there, and for a good reason. Being fascinating, extensive reads on the topic of the fearsome northern tribes of the Warhammer Fantasy world, they're a true boon to Gamemasters and players alike. A few weeks ago Jack has released a new version of this great add-on for WFRP 1, 2 and 3, and I can't stress enough how good they are. You can check them out yourselves, by visiting his website and downloading them from his rich repository of goodies. They're worth your time, trust me on that.

2. Dawn of War III bites the dust (finally)

Oh, how the might have fallen...
Wow, what a sad, sad ending DoW III has recieved. The third part in a legendary series of RTS games, set in the grim&dark future of Warhammer 40,000, this title had problems from the very beginning of its existence. From the visual spectrum to Gabriel Angelos jumping around in a terminator plate, to gameplay issues themselves - Dawn of War III was just one, big mess. Now the developers officially announced that they're canceling any work on the future DoW III releases. On one hand it's sad to see such a venerable series go out with a wet fart, but on the other... fuck this game. Seriously, after two previous titles, which were extremely good and helped in bringing a lot of new people into the hobby, this one was just... shit. Boring, inconsequential and badly made pieces of crap, deserve to be flushed down the toilet. And Dawn of War III should be definitely flushed at least twice. Good riddance.

I actually wanted to include a link to DoW III Steam page, where you can buy the game with a 66% discount, but honestly, it's not worth even a single penny, so I'm not going to advertise a stinking corpse. Sorry.

3. Cubicle 7 continues to release more classic WFRP modules!

There are no brakes on the hype train!
Why is Cubicle 7 so based? I don't know, but they're certainly making their way to the top of my "Favorite RPG companies" list. Not only is the 4th edition of WFRP shaping up to be a very good title, they've also decided to re-release some old classics, from the time of the 1st edition. This time we have the legendary "Power behind the Throne" module, set in the grim, northern city of Middenheim, the holy place of all followers of Ulric. You can grab the high quality PDF from DriveThruRPG.com, for a very reasonable price. It's worth it for the fantastic quality of this book alone.

4. News about the upcoming Necromunda game

Dat skull...
Necromunda: Underhive Wars is a title that quite a lot of people are waiting for. Not only is the Necromunda franchise taking the tabletop community by storm, with GW resurrecting this venerable franchise (and FW making a whole bunch of goodies for it!), but Rogue Factor, the developers behind the fantastic Mordheim: City of the Damned title, are working on a video game adaptation as well! In fact a few days ago we've been shown a bunch of very cool, in-game materials, and they look lovely. I personally can't wait for this title to hit the shelves. Not only am I a huge Necromunda fan (I have two, old-school gangs), but I also love the Mordheim PC game to death. I've actually bought it in early access and... it was probably a mistake, since my ancient PC had real trouble running it. That said, after the official release, there are no problems at all, and I'm fully positive that Necromunda will be made just as well. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

I think that 2018 is going to be a very interesting year, when it comes to RPG and tabletop games. WFRP 4th edition is coming, as well as the Age of Sigmar role-playing game. Vermintide 2 is on the horizon and there will be more stuff for Total War: Warhammer 2. On the other hand there are more, fascinating news about the upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse video game, something that I'm really waiting for. I will most certainly write all about these things, and more! Stay tuned people.

"When will you rage?"
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

1/29/2018

Sharing is caring! On the topic of my Classic World of Darkness collection

I'm a huge fan of the White Wolf's Classic World of Darkness. I love the lore, I love the characters and I love the overgrown metaplot. Since I have a few fan-made addons for CWoD laying on my HD, I've decided to share them with a wider world.

Of all my RPG collections, this one is certainly the smallest of all. It's hard to find any, remaining old World of Darkness fansites, those from the really old day. Many of them Geocities-based and many other were closed, due to legal reasons, even if not all of the materials that were available on them, were illegal. I guess it's not completely true what people say about the internet - things tend to disappear from it. I, however, intend to save as many of them, as possible. Well... at least those, related to the hobby, anyway.

This girl is having as much fun, as I am, every time I'm reading a CWoD book
Anyway, with some help from the people on Old (Classic) World of Darkness fanpage on Facebook (which I thoroughly recommend, by the way) and after some intense searching by yours truly, I've came up with a small collection of fan-made Classic World of Darkness material. I hope that you'll find them to your liking.


As usual, none of this stuff has been made by me and credits go to all of the respective authors. Once again, I'm only posting 100% FAN-MADE goodies, no official White Wolf stuff. If, by some chance, any author of said addons would find this collection and decide that he or she doesn't want to see their work, being included in such a way in it, please contact me and I will immediately take it down.

As I've said before - the Classic World of Darkness may very well be my favorite RPG of all time. I love that it takes place in our world, and yet is full of supernatural mysteries, secret cults, monsters being present within our societies and horrors, that are lurking in every shadow and, sometimes, almost in plain sight of the ignorant masses. There is no other game that tends to work on my imagination in a way that the World of Darkness does. As I've mentioned in one of my earlier posts: I will never be able to run out of ideas for CWoD chronicles. Never. All it takes is a simple walk in the city and voila! - 10, maybe 20 new ideas for my games, based on the locations that I've passed by or went into.

That's why this game is so good. It mixes the known with the fantastic, the ordinary with the uncanny, the everyday, boring life-stuff with supernatural horror. It does all of those things and it does them better than any, other role-playing system. It is truly, a marvel amongst RPG's and I will never stop loving it for its fantastic and unique style.

If a bit creepy, sometimes... Still, that's the point of this whole setting!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86