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12/26/2014

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Vulkan's Shield" by Nick Kyme

Say what you want about Games Workshop and its subsidiaries. Their money grubbing policy may irk some, or rather most of us, but the quality of their products is a completely different thing. Usually. What I'm trying to say here, that while expensive, the stuff they are selling is usually worth it, and this is also true about Black Library, their book publishing division.

 

As someone who dosen't have a lot of time to read, I'm an avid fan of audiobooks. Fortunately Black Library has a huge selection of those and whenever they publish something new, I get in line to check it out. The quality is a mixed thing, but then again this can be said about all GW products, right?

So without further ado, let us divie right inot my first BL's audiobook review of "Vulkan's Shield" by Nick Kyme.


"Above a war torn battlefield on a distant world, Ko'tan Kadai and his Salamanders are on a mission of mercy. As the city burns, the Fireborn rescue a band of beleaguered civilians and learns what it means to be Vulkan's Shield."

When it comes to Black Library authors, Nick Kyme was always a kind of an odd duck for me. On one hand he can do Ultramarines really well, as proven by "Damnos" and "Veil of Darkness". On the other he wrote "Vulkan Lives" which many people, myself included, consider to be one of the worst Horus Heresy books ever, alongside such gems as "Battle for the Abyss" or "Fallen Angels".

That said, Nick does one thing right ("Vulkan Lives" excluded), and that is the Salamanders Legion/Chapter. As an author he can capture their fiery spirit and fierce, noble nature really well. His "Tome of Fire" is a perfect example, and is a must for any fan of the Sons of Nocturne, but so is "Vulkan's Shield", a short, yet very satisfying audiobook, that really shows just what it means to be a Salamander.

On a world besieged by the forces of Chaos, Captain Ko'tan Kadai leds his men on a mission to save a group of beleaguered civilians. With scant minutes before the Imperial Navy opens fire and obliterates the city around them, the Salamanders and their Raven Guard allies fly towards the schola, inside which a small group of humans have taken shelter. During this trip, the Sons of Nocturne explain to thier brethren from the XIXth what it means to be an addherant to the Promethean Creed.

While a short story, running for less than 11 minutes, it is nonetheless very well structured and informative, when it comes to the Salamanders chapter. Many people who are just getting into hobby tend to think that all Space Marines are inhuman, aloof weapons of war, completely devoid of emotions and compassion. Salamanders are one of the few Astartes chapter that prove this claim to be flase. Their adherence to the Promethean Creed, a form of philosophy native to their homeworld of Nocturne, teaches them to show compassion and protect the weak, no matter whom they are. This is the lesson that Ko'tan Kadai tries to explain to Sergeant Adrak Vraver of the Raven Guard.

The interaction between a Salamander and the Son of Corax is definetly the "Vulkan's Shield" strongest point. During the 11 or so minutes, we can clearly see what Ardak thinks about his brothers from he XVIIIth. With their jet black skin and red eyes, the Salamanders look more like vengeful daemons, than compassionate warriors they claim to be. Kadai counters this rather nicely. I don't want to spoil too much (this is a review after all), but after listening to "Vulkan's Shield" I began to look upon the Salamanders in a completely different way. For a short story, that can be finished during a trip to grocery store, it is a damn fine accomplishment. Unfortunately the whole thing ends with a cliffhanger, which I hate. I understand that this was supposed to be a short one, but Nick could give us 2 or 3 more minutes worth of action.

"Vulkan's Shield" is performed by a trio of excellent voice actors: Gareth Armstrong, Martyn Ellis and Jonathan Keeble. Each of them is a veteran of BL's audiobooks, including longer formats. running for many hours. In this little piece, they do their job admirably, altough the voice of Adrak Vraver could be more sinister, and less whiny. When I think Raven Guard, I think about a bunch of power armoured, stealth ninja-assassins who whisper death and doom, and not some guys who like to complain a lot. Other than that, the voice acting is top notch. Background sound is also done extremely well. Many audiobooks from Black Library tend to have ambient sound crancked up to eleven, which sometimes can hamper the listening pleasure quite a bit ("Doomseeker", incidentaly also by Nick Kyme, is a good example). This is not the case here, as all the sound effects are done well and don't interrupt the actors.

For anyone who is interested in Salamanders chapter this audiobbok is simply a must. It also should be said that "Vulkan's Shield" is a part of the "Tome of Fire", the first novel series concentrating on the Sons of Nocturne and their everlasting war against the enemies of the Imperium. If you want a good, albeit short, Warhammer 40,000 audiobook then look no further and may Vulkan watch over you.

Pros:

-Tight, well paced storyline
-Good characterization of the Salamanders
-Excellent sound and voice acting

Cons:

-Raven Guard voices could be less whiny
-It ends with a cliffhanger

A fine case of an audiobook done right. Highly recommended


Until next time

Xathrodox86

12/22/2014

The End Times: what went wrong? - part 2. Swearing intensifies

The End Times are in full swing. In January of 2015 we'll find out what everyone's favorite furry race will contribute to this world-shattering event. Meanwhile I still have to finish my thoughts on the whole thing and review both "Glottkin" and "Khaine" supllements. So let's get to it.

On my last post I've written about things that I didn't liked in the "Glottkin" book. There are a few of them, I'll admit that. Particualry as I'm an Empire player, many of these "revelations" irk me to no end, however they are nothing compared to the complete shitfest that is "The End Times: Khaine".

Now, just as was the case with Glottkin, this won't be a review. I'm saving my full opinion on the book's mechanics and units for later. I just want to share some of my personall thoughts about the fluff and the direction that the End Times themselves are heading to. Also I won't be talking about the "Curse of Khaine" novel by Gav Thorpe. This is strictly WFB related.

Oh, and just FYI: spoilers ahead. Major, shitty spoilers.

In "Khaine" big things are happening and the most prominent of these is the reunification of the whole elven race.

Yup, all three branches of Elves are once again united.

Under the banner of Malekith.

What the fuck?

"Trololololo you dipshits!"
Seriously, what the effin-friggin-flying fuck? This IS the worst piece of "End Times" thus far. It's abyssmal to say the least. It shits and spits on 20+ years of heavily established lore. For those of you who don't know, Malekith is practically the biggest sumbitch of Warhammer Fantasy. He's one of the vileset characters out there, responsible for attrocities that rival those of Chaos and Skaven. Malekith created the most tyrannical and hate-fueled regime in the entire Warhammer world and the Dark Elves are despised by every, single nation on the planet, including the northern tribes. You would struggle to find a bigger douchebag than the Witch King.

And you know what? He's the good guy after all. Yup. As it turned out the Son of Aenarion was the true heir to the throne. According to the newest fluff, if he'd only stayed in the Flames of Asuryan for a second longer, he would pass the test. Yeah, that's right. Sucks to be him I guess, the whiny douche just gave up before the end. Hahahaha, that Asuryan's a funny guy, that's for sure. Oh and the "rightful" Phoenix Kings? Why they are cheaters of course! Duh, what did you think? During each one's ceremony, there was a coterie of mages lurking nearby who speed healed them and casted "Protection from fire" every turn.

So when ol' Mamma's Boy decided to try for the crown one last time, he and all of his followers left Naggartoth, killed all their slaves and salted the ground, so that the upcoming Chaos Horde would not get anything from their successful invasion. On Ulthuan itself two factions arose. One was the Host of the Phoenix King, which was comprised of both Druchi and Asur, loyal to Malekith. The other was Aestyrion, the Elves who followed Tyrion, the Avatar of Khaine, including the Dark Elves following their God.

Sorry, that joke was too easy for me to pass
"Wait, wait, wait whaaaaaat?" - I hear you ask. Yup, that's right. Angered by all the shit that is happening in the world, the rise of the Witch King and the truth about his daughter's death (Teclis and Alarielle knew, tsk tsk tsk), Tyrion travels to the Blighted Isle and draws the Widowmaker, the Sword of Khaine himself, becoming the God's host in the process.

After that it's one, huge free for all during which many more or less important characters are killed. Korhil, who initially was faithful to Tyrion, decides that him drawing Widowmaker was a bad idea, and tries to steal it from him. He ends up tortured and decapitated by the Dragon of Cothique. Alarielle merges with Ariel and subsumes her (I'm beginning to see a pattern of High Elves being gigantic assholes in "Khaine"). Orion gets offed by Tyrion as well. Imrik and Malekith have their asses handed to them by the Avatar of Khaine, altough (HINT HINT!) Imrik manages to make a small chink in Tyrion's armour. Morathi sides with Tyrion (don't ask) and during the climax, she is dragged into the Realm of Chaos, along with Caledor the Dragontamer, by Slaanesh itself. I doubt that anyone will miss her.
Good riddance
Now here's the good part. During the final battle, Malekith faces Tyrion, who once again proceeds to wreck him utterly. Just as he is about to kill the Witch King, fucking ALITH ANAR shoots an arrow through the chink in his armour and kills him for realz, which in turn means that Khaine himself is gone (it's been established that Elven Gods are practically mortals now. In fact most of them die in this book, leaving only Lileath).

When I've first read it, I thought I was going nuts. Alith Anar, the Shadow King, the Scourge of Naggaroth, dude who hates all Dark Elves, and Malekith in general, with a passion, just saved Witch King's life. I could not make this up. Ok, granted he also shoots him with a magic arrow that is supposed to cause him immense pain (altough it gets removed later on) and babbles something about Mally being nice, "or else", but this is still outrageous. This here folks, is a perfect example of fluff-raping on an epic scale. Alith Anar and his Shadow Warriors were always my favorite High Elves, mainly because there was something savage and cruel about them. They weren't good guys, hell they weren't even High Elves per se. Such changes to their background are horrendous and completely out of character. The Naggarythe were always the biggest opposition to Malekith. Now they're "Yeah, whatever. You be good or we'll gank you asshole". While we're at it, I wonder if any of those High Elves, who are serving their new lord and master, tend to forget that he was responsible for a mass-scale genocide against their race. I bet that every single one of them lost some family and friends to Malekith.
Stick to your principals man, for God's sake!
Also what about Humans and Dwarves? When they'll find out who's running the elven race now, how will they act? Both the Dawi, as well as Empire and Bretonnia know who Malekith is. Hell, the whole War of the Beard was instigated by this douche. Nordland suffered continous raids by the Dark Elf fleets, just as the coasts of Gilles realm. Surely they won't just be cool that Malekith will be sitting next to them in Athel Loren? I can't imagine a reaction other, than a declaration of war and firing few thousand flaming cannonbals into their precious wood.

Oh, right. Sorry. I forgot. The entire Elven race now roams the woods of Loren. Why? Because the Naggaroth, as I've mentioned earlier is no more, and Ulthuan as well. You see, and this is another "awesome" thing presented in "Khaine", during the final battle Teclis UNBOUND THE VORTEX OF MAGIC.
What a dick
The same Vortex, that kept the planet from becoming a Daemon World. You know, just as how it was established in fluff for many, many years now. Yeah, it's gone. And no, the world hasn't been turned into Daemon chow. What Teclis basically did, was binding the eight winds of magic to eight, special individuals, altough he kinda fucked it up. He bound Shadow to Malekith (originally the Witch King was supposed to get Fire), the Life to Alarielle. Heavens went to Karl Franz, altough it was Sigmar who did this, not Teclis. He bound the Light wind to himself, but the rest of the Wind of Magic have eluded him and scattered throughout the world. Nagash recieved the Wind of Death. There is some speculation as whom will recieve the rest of the Winds of Magic. Skaven, Ogres, Lizardmen? Dwarfs? I know it seems retarded, but given the level of fluff coherency, I wouldn't be really surprised about that.

As for the Teclis himself, he is last seen going under the waves, holding the dead body of Tyrion. Of course he's not dead. Being the ultimate Fantasy plot device, the writers won't kill him. As to when he returns, and in what form, only time will tell, and the quality of writing, which right now is really lacking if you ask me. In all honesty this whole mess looks like a glorified fanfiction really.

After the destruction of both Ulthuan and Naggaroth, the entire Elven race finds refuge in Athel Loren. Malekith becomes the Eternity King and a consort to Alarielle. They rule all the Elves, and prepare for the final battle with Chaos. Also animals and beasts from both destroyed kingdoms, moved to the woods as well, so now we have Treemen rubbing shoulders with Hydras and Griffons. Ain't it awesome?
That was sarcasm, in case you were all wondering
For the last snippet of revelation, Lileath has sent Alaroth with some friends to resuce Shallya from Nurgle's Mansion. It turns out that Shallya is in fact Poxfulcrum, the Daemon that tastes Nurgle's plagues and whispers to mortals about the remedies to them. No, really. Anyway in the Realm of Chaos, they met Richter Kleiss, the author of Liber Chaotica and the only mortal, who can traverse it freely, and a giant, silver-armoured knight, who shoots blue fire from his gauntlet. Gee, I wonder who that might be? Anyway after they've rescued the Godess of Healing (or should I say a Daemon of Healing?), Lileath sends Alaroth and their daughter, accompanied by the souls of Grail Knights, to a completely new world, to begin the cycle of rebirth anew. Yup, as it turns out the Warhammer world wasn't the first to fall to Chaos, and it won't be the last. Each time the survivors from the last become the Gods of the new one, and prepare it for the inevitable arrival of the Four and their daemonic minions. Honestly, I've found this bit of story to be the best of all, altough it still isn't something that I think is warranted here. A completely new world is a perfect chance for GW to went full Warcraft with their Azeroth/Draenor treatment. Maybe that's the thing they're aiming for, who knows? Either way it's the only semi-decent thing in this whole mess.

Now for my quick summary of the "End Times" thus far. GW declared, rather boastfully, that "Khaine" will show everyone that "High Elves are not good guys". What we've got was an awful mess, full of inconsistencies, plot errors, complete ignorance about certain characters backgrounds and motivations, and general head-scratching stupidity. Good job guys. You've fucked up some of the more interesting factions of Warhammer Fantasy.

It's the perfect case of "progress for progress" sake. It's the worst, most lazy way of making things happening in your game. I don't mind for plot progression in both Warhammer. I mean, sure, they're settings not stories. They have been told and already there's been a conclusion to both of them. That said I think it is possible to push them forward, but not this way. It should be thought out, it should be done right. Meanwhile I see that GW is basically doing a speed run on their own game, and it suffers for it greatly. The cynic in me thinks that maybe they are testing this whole "story progression" thing on a less popular game, before they'll do the same thing in Warhammer 40K, but that setting is so much set in stone, that I can't for the love of me, envision it's eventual progress. Not to mention if it would be done in the same fasion, as the "End Times", then I'd like for 40K to stay the same for all eternity. They'd probably made Abaddon the misunderstood leader of all Space Marines or some shit like that, and no, I'm not even kidding here. Note for GW: if you want to progress your story, do it right, and not in a lazy, half-assed manner, like you're doing now. Is it too much to ask really?
I like the way Khaine looks, as he is in the process of stabbing himself in the chest. I felt similar after reading the last "End Times" book
It's worth mentioning that there are many rumours about the upcoming 9th edition. Some say that it'll take place hundreds, or even thousands years later (Steampunk Hammer?). Others that it'll be discarded completely by GW, which is highly unlikely with the release of all new models and books. There are also rumours about the merging of Fantasy with 40K, but that is simply riddiculous and wouldn't serve any purpose. The most probable rumour talks about Fantasy becoming a small scale skirmish game, more akin to titles like Infinity. I don't know if it will come to that, but I'm sure about one thing. After this whole "End Times" buisness, there's no way that Warhammer Fantasy will remain in the state it was for the last two decades. Too many changes have been made, too many characters killed and lands destroyed. Surely Games Workshop wouldn't make some kind of retcon to bring back the status quo, right?

Right?

Also this blog needs more 40K. Just sayin'.

Until next time

Xathrodox86

12/10/2014

The End Times: what went wrong? - part 1. Also swearing. A bit.

I've made myself a promise, when starting this blog, that I'd not use any major swear words. Not because I wanted to attract the 6+ demographic, but simply to avoid unnecessary cursing. However recent "revelations" concering the ongoing End Times event made me change my mind. Drastically.

I'll state this plain and simple: they've fucked it up. There, I said it. End Times are friggin attrocious and what started as an interesting, nay fascinating, plot-driven, apocalyptic scenario, turned into a half-assed, lazy, stupid, uninspired shit-fest that rapes 20+ years of established fluff with a rusty rake. 

Now if you've read my earlier posts, I was really ecstatic when the End Times debuted. Finally something happened in the good, old Warhammer world. Finally something moved forward. After the dissapointment that was the SoC retcon, us Fantasy enthusiasts had a chance to witness a brand new chapter in one of the most iconic settings in existence, and in what style none the less! Nagash himself has returend, and Archaon once again mustered his forces in the north to crush the weak lands of the south. The Skaven united for the first time in history! Shit was going down, and it really looked like a whole new and exciting chapter for Warhammer Fantasy.

Then something went very, very wrong.

For me it happened with the release of the "Glottkin" supplement. While the "Nagash" book was indeed very good and thought out, clearly linked to the "Sigmar's Blood" campaign, published a few months earlier, the "Glottkin" felt rushed as hell. The story here was about the destruction of the Empire by the armies of Nurgle, led by brothers Glott, or Glottkin as they are more commonly known. Otto, Ethrac and Ghurek were ordered by the Archaon himself in weakening the Empire for his massive invasion and they did the job very, very well by destroying Marienburg, Talabheim and Altdorf (sort of, large parts of it have been destoryed, but the city in itself still stands). They've also killed a number of less or more important heroes like Kurt Helborg and Louen Leoncouer and lost some of theirs, such as Festus and Ku'Gath.
In the end his moustaches weren't enough
Now I don't have a problem with killing off any major or minor characters. In fact the 'immortality" of such heroes as Abaddon or Marneus Calgar is what really irks me in 40K. However what I DO hate is the half-aasedenss of the whole ordeal. Simply put, the End Times are feeling rushed, and it started with the "Glottkin" book. Why, you may ask? For starters the way the GW described the whole invasion. Suddendly half of the Empire is wrecked. Just like that. No building of tension, no describing of upcoming doom, simply "those Nurgle guys are coming through the borders and fucking you up". It is very, very badly written and explained how major human cities like Marienburg and Talabheim fell. I get the general idea of Chaos legions of Nurgle to use plagues, but the way it is described is simply weak. "Lol yeah, those sorcerers out there summoned a rain of plague and shit, and it destroyed your city. Lololol, kk bye bye" is the general explanation. I wonder why only now the Chaos forces were able to cast such a spell, twice even! Talabheim, one of the most impenetrable and well fortified city in the whole of Empire, falls to exactly the same trick as Marienburg. Wow. Simply: wow. That is what I'd like to call lazy writing. Sure, the Talabhimers put up a decent fight, but in the end they're gone. Remember how the battles, victories and defeats were handled in the "Nagash" book? They were vell thought out, well described and could invoke both sadness and immense satisfaction. "Glottkin", sadly, is free of those traits.

The trio of Nurgle's champions themselves are portrayed weirdly, to say the least. On one hand we've got an awesome model, which will easily be the centerpiece of any Chaos army. On the other hand, their fluff is weak. Their mother, who is an experienced mage non the less, gives birth to three boys, who all sport a mark of Nurgle, and she dosen't know what it is? Really? The whole "Nordlanders came and slaughter their kith and kin" was taken almost directly from the Storm of Chaos character arc of Feytor the Tainted. However their weakes point is the fact that the trio are... completely underwhelming. There is literally nothing special or awe inspiring in them, nothing that marks them out as different that all the other 300967693473,98 Nurgle champions that roam the wastes. In case of Nagash and his lieutenants there was no mistaking their sheer power and lethality, earned during the long millenia of their existence. The Glott brothers on the other hand, are simply some random Chaos mooks, whom we should suddendly start taking seriously. Ummm, why?

Sigmar preserve us! It's the... wait, who are these guys again?
The only semi-redeeming thing in "Glottkin" was the battle for Altdorf, which at least was done somewhat right. Not only was it described well, it was engaging and the events were making sense (as much as they can in a Warhammer world). The death of Kurt Helborg and the near-death of Karl Franz were sitting ok with me, since even the strongest Empire heroes are still ultimately mortal (Valten may be an exception here). Unfortunately I'd preffer Altdorf to get sacked, then it being saved by the God-Emperor of Mankind in the form of Karl Franz, getting empowered by Sigmar (probably) with one of the winds of magic. To say that this sucks would be an understatement. This is fucking horrible. You've took a guy, who was always politician and a statesman first, and warrior second, and turned him into a magical ass-kicker of epic proportions, who, with a flicker of his palm, nearly destroyed the Glotts and then managed to single handedly "clear" Altdorf of all chaotic and undead presence (Vlad von Carstein used the power of convienience to escape the city some time earlier). What the fuck GW? Is that what WFB has came to? Now every faction needs to have a Super Saiyan-level character? Including the faction that was known for being about common people and their daily struggles against a world full of monsters that were, almost every time, stronger, quicker and generally more powerfull than they were? Really?
I know, I know. I've already made that joke once
 And you know where this is heading, don't you? We will need to have an epic, apocalyptic, world-shattering battle between Archaon and Karl Franz on steroids. You just know it. For me it will be the final nail to WFB's coffin.

I'll be wrapping this up now, since I'm so pissed off. I've wanted to initally write this post about both "Glottkin" and "Khaine" books, but decided to split it up into two articles. One factor was the time, of course (sorry, only one post per week, I don't have time for more) and the other was the fact, that while the second End Times book is bad, the third is simply atrocious, but also quite hilarious in its stupidity and weak-ass writing. You'll find out why, soon enough.
Don't look at me like that!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/06/2014

Role-playing Rants: so you want to be a Gamemaster...

I couldn't help myself and decided to start yet another category on my blog, focusing on role-playing games. I've been into RPG's for more than 20 years now, and during that time I've learned a lot about PnP's. Why not share some of that knowledge with others?

Bear in mind that this articles will be long and rant-like so prepare yourself for some heavy reading. I hope you'll find my opinions both entertaining and usefull, should you ever decide yourself to try some good old fashioned PnP.


One of the things I love the most about RPG's is being the Gamemaster, or GM as we are sometimes called. This mainly stems from the opportunity to create your own world, where you can do whatever the hell you like. Also I suck at playing. No really, I'm a terrible player whose every character is basically the same, no matter what system I end up in, and in the end I tend to do goofy stuff like headbutting important officials or ripping rat's throats.

Also I think it is easier to be a GM. I mean sure, you have to preapare an adventure, which sometimes means that you have to write it yourself. Then there are balance issues and you end up thinking "should I send that Red Dragon against my level 1 PC's or not?". Finally there's the organizing the actual game and making sure that all your players will be present during the final, climactic battle. Tough stuff, but for me it was always easier and more fun than thinking about my Beef McStrong's siblings and/or life aspirations, other than caving skulls of course. Beef was always awesome in that particular thing.

So what can one do to be a good Gamemaster? What should be avoided and what encouraged in the never-ending quest for GM'ing perfection? I'll try to answer this question in depth.


A good question

1. Don't abuse your power

Now I'll be first to say that yes, being a GM gives you a feeling of having "teh powah!" over your players. Whether this is good or bad really depends on Gamemaster in question. With my group, which has been active for more than five years now, we regualry joke about me being a vengefull tyrant. My players know that I can be kinda harsh and hardassed, but in the end I'm always fair or at least can acknowledge my failings, which fortunately are not common for quite some time now.
The bottom line is: you are an arbiter. A good GM does not go to war with his players if they defy him, or somehow derail his hard-written campaign. He won't use his position to take revenge for something, his player said about him earlier. He should only, and I repeat: ONLY, describe the world and make it work according to his player's actions. That's all. Yes this can, and in fact is, tricky and requires both a lot of work and a lot of self-control, especially when your guys do something that irk you on a personal level. I'll give you an example.

Some time ago I've GM'ed a "Hunter: the Reckoning" campaign in which my players were rp'ing federal agents. During this campaign they've captured a man that was suspected of espionage and stealing secrets from their agency. Also he was a foreigner and they knew that he worked for an outside agency. Now is where it gets nasty. They've tortured him. They've straped him to a chair and started torturing him. In fact this action took several hours, most of our game time and was really, really disturbing for me. It was true that they were doing this on the behest of their superior who ordered them to squeeze information from their prisoner in any way nescessary, but still: it was dark! I was both disturbed and very displeased with my players for practically jumping on the torture wagon on the first, given opportunity, especially since there were other possibilities. The game was set in modern Warsaw, their superior was simply higher in hierarchy than they were, but still... torture? That's just cruel man.
I wanted to punish them. Yeah. I wanted to send a kill squad after each of them and subject them to the same thing that guiy went through, but... I didn't. First of all it would not solve anything. What was done was done, and I could not reverse that. Another major thing that made me stay my "God hand" was the fact that one of my PC's decided to shoot himself, when  he found out that their victim was innocent. Yeah, trust me. it was one of the darker and more intense sessions in my life as GM. Altough I wouldn't consider it one of my better ones. I didn't really like the excessive cruelty and my reaction to it was also something I'd wish to not feel again. Actually after that session we've dropped H:TR and returned to WFRP some time later.

However my point is: don't act like a venegfull God if your players do something you don't like. As a GM you should be 100% neutral and fair. If they kill your favorite parrot then you can drink a beer in its memory later on. If they insult your GMPC then shrug it off and carry on. You don't want to fight them. Sure you'll win, the GM always wins, but you can be sure as hell to have a group of disgruntled people on your hands and you do not want that at all, trust me.
Did I?

2. Always be prepared. ALWAYS!

See above. If you're willing to organize a game, be sure to prepare it beforehand. There are very few Gamemasters out there who are confident or skillfull enough to run an adventure (not to mention a whole campaign!) on the go. I've been improvising myself lately and I can guarantee that it is no easy task. Not only do you need to have a synopsis, or skeleton, of your story, you also cannot forget about seemingly trivial things, such as main characters names and motivations, the general feel of your intended game and of course, the main goal, altough that generally falls under the synopsis part.

Another crucial part about being prepared is the "expect the unexpected" rule. Let's say that one of your players catches a cold or your party of murderhobos kill that one guy they were not supposed to touch, or even better the entire party stumbles upon a lair of Skaven Assassins, which was explicitly stated to be almost unacessible by the PC's (yeah, it happened to me and my group). In that kind of situation you need to flexible and decide how your players should be treated. Word of advice, don't punish them. Even if they kill  that Mayor and his entire house retinue, it is better to take away their money, flog them and throw them into a dungeon from which they can escape, than to kill them and squander your hard-prepared adventure. Just sayin'.

Oh and one more word of advice: don't leave everything to the last moment. It is literally the worst thing you can actually do and your game will suffer for it. Trust me, I know this from experience.
No wonder their system was running so well

3. Play fair or don't play at all

Yup. That's the general geist. Don't think that since you're playing God, it entitles you to cheating. Game's only fun as long as all peeps involved know that top cheat is a major no-no. A good Gamemaster should always be watchfull of his "subjects", altough not to the point of paranoia, but he himself must also obey the rules of the game. Your group's Halfling killed that big, bad Daemon with his sling, in one shot no less? It happened, deal with it. Remember that your players are always on a disadvantage when it comes to actual game. Their characters have only one life (with some exceptions, like WFRP's Fate Point system, but still) while you have a literal limitless resource of mooks at your disposal. Your players will ALWAYS be on the losing side so there is no need to rub it on them some more. Of course, if you catch them cheating, you can always dispose a little punishment in dice-fumble, yourself. That, or simply deal with it directly, which usually is a better option. Just remember that it is not worth it to go to war with your group. Sure, you'll win, as any GM always does, but you can suddendly find yourself without any players. Ask yourself if that is really worth it. I think not.
Cheating: Not Even Once

4. Have an open mind and learn to listen to others

I know that it sounds trivial, but the longer you GM, the less open you can become to various pleas and ideas by your players. Remember that you are here to bring fun and entertainment to those people, not to act like "I know what's best for you all". Of course this works to a certain degree. You should not allow the group to force you doing their bidding. It's about finding the perfect solution really. One of your players wants his character to know something he normally wouldn't have any chance knowing? Speak with him or her about this, learn their motives and witness their point of view. If it's sound and coherent let them. Modify your adventure if you have to, but let them. If it's not then tell them calmly why that is not a good idea, but maybe they'd propose something different? Always be open to suggestiuons, but learn to say "no". Aftera all, your players would do anything to prolong the lives/advance status/etc. of their PC's, so they can (and will!) do anything to convince you that "they have this awesome idea". Who knows, maybe it will be awesome, or maybe it'll be crap. One day I will write about my group's most crazy/outrageous ideas and propositions, but that is story for another post.

The above advice also reffers to game systems. When running an RPG group, there is a big chance that not all of you will want to play the same system. One player will opt for something modern, while another one tends to be a Fantasy enthusiast. As a GM there is a big chance that you will also have a preffered game system. Again, in this case diplomacy and and level headedness are keys to ensuring that both you and your group will be satisfied. Try to go for a bit of a compromise. Most of your players want a Space Opera kind of game? No problem, but make a deal with them that after, let's say half a year, you'll change systems to D&D or something other. Being a good GM is as much about diplomacy and the ability to listen, as it is about making gameplay decisions and running dynamic combat encounters.
Pictured: a closed minded GM (or a meth addict, you decide)

5. Seasons don't fear the Reaper, but your players do, so don't push it!

Learn to stay your hand. When I started GM'ing, I was still a player in my first RPG group. Our Gamemaster was, let us say, quite harsh when it came to fatalities ratio in our games. We were mainly an WFRP group, and while Warhammer Fantasy is a harsh system in itself, with our then-GM it was 100% lethal. People were dying left and right, and not to a Dragon or a Daemon, but some nameless mook with pitchfork or a rusty axe. While it made our games true to their source material, it also made them (at least for me) somewhat frustrating. So what did I do when I started to GM myself? I've made sure to inform my players that they will all die like little bitches and I kept that promise. To this day I still have a portfolio with every single one of my group's WFRP characters that died in the line of duty and glorious plunder and there are at least 50 if not more character sheets there. Back then I thought that it was the one and only way to run my games: make sure that my characters will have to fight for their lives on every single ocassion. Looking back I see that it was not right, but sometimes it is very hard for a Gamemaster to stay his hand, especially when he'll get anxious of his players becoming stronger then they should be (I was a victim of this mindset during my early years as a GM). Usually it is also the case, when a Gamemaster really likes to stick to his rulebook's rules and is not willing to improvise. A good example would be the game of Dark Heresy which I was running a few years ago. My players were on an agri-planet which was quickly heading into Daemon World territory. Rains of blood, whispers on the wind, people turning mad etc. When the Accolytes finally reached the source of the disturbance, they've spotted a huge corn harvester on the field. One of them, a Techpriest, declared that he wanted to climb to top of the huge machine as to have a better view and a decent vantage point. Of course it was raining heavily, and it was raining BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD, so I've made him do a very hard (-30) agility check. Which he failed. Repeatedly. At one point all of my players tried to convince me that with enough time, patience and carefull movement, every one of them could reach the top (Techpriest even used his mechadendrites to help himslef) but I was adamant. Either you make the test or you fall. Which of course he did fail time after time, almost losing a Fate Point a couple of times. To this day my group remembers the "Ladder of Khorne".

The above example is a perfect lesson on how NOT to GM. Today, after I've learned a thing or two and discovered that RPG's are more about dramatic narrating and creative ideas rather than rules and dice rolls, I would never repeat a mistake like that. Because it was a mistake, and I warn all of you who are Gamemasters yourselves or wish to be at some point, don't repeat it. Don't be a hardass and don't kill your players indiscriminately. Sure, a TPK (Total Party Kill for those uninitiated) can be a source of cool stories from time to time, but generally it's not worth it. Things that are worth duing a game, are mutual fun, satisfaction and excellent atmosphere. Remember that.
May Gods have mercy on their souls
So that is all for this post, the first one in a series of my, more or less, random RPG stories, tales, rants and advices. Coming up next is another End Times post, since "The End Times: Khaine" was released a while ago and I still haven't reviewed the Glottkin book. Sigmar preserve me...

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

Oh and one more thing. I do realize that when it comes to talking about a person who runs a game, a more popular term among RPG enthusiasts is probably "DM" or "Dungeonmaster". While I do acknowledge it, I also think that it should be chiefly used when talking about a person who runs a Dungeons and Dragons game. Now I have nothing against D&D, but I've never really gotten into it myself, and so will always describe a game-narrator as a Gamemaster, or simply a GM. The only exception will be made, when talking about World of Darkness games, as their GM's are known as Narrators.

Oh, and I know that the first picture in this post was from that D&D cartoon from the 80's. Bite me.