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A WFRP 30th anniversary special: an interview with Graeme Davis

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, so I wanted to commemorate it in some appropriate manner.

Fortunately, thanks to a gaming buddy (thanks Andy!), I've managed to land an interview with one of the original game's creators, Graeme Davis himself. It's really short, but for a WFRP geek like myself, who grew up with the game and had so much experience with it, both good and bad, this is a huge thing and a huge honor.

Happy birthday WFRP!
Without further ado, here's the whole thing. Enjoy.

Xathrodox86: Which edition of Warhammer Fantasy did you enjoyed working on the most?

Graeme Davis: First edition, definitely. For the others I was a freelancer working at home on material that others had created, but for first edition I was deep in the creative craziness that was the GW Design Studio in the 80s. It was a unique time and place and a unique team, and a fantastic experience for me.

Xathrodox86: How big was your input in the "Enemy Within" campaign for WFRP 1st edition?

Graeme Davis: Jim and Phil took the lead in creating the campaign; after Shadows Over Bogenhafen, my role became one of developer and editor. However, I was able to contribute as a writer to Death on the Reik (the River Life of the Empire section), Warhammer City (adventure seeds and other small contributions), and Something Rotten in Kislev (I added so much to Ken Rolston's manuscript that I was given credit as co-author).

Xathrodox86: What do you think about the differences between the classic, 1st and 2nd editions of Warhammer Fantasy and the 3rd edition?

Graeme Davis: Second edition did a great job of improving the game mechanics and smoothing out some of the clunky systems from First. Personally, I think the decision to set it in the aftermath of the Storm of Chaos limited the game's appeal. Third edition was so different that many existing fans were put off by the array of components - which actually worked well and cut down a lot on record keeping - and the unfamiliar dice pool mechanic.

Xathrodox86: What was the most interesting part of working on WFRP? What did you enjoyed the most? Similarly, what was the least enjoabyle thing about writing these games?

Graeme Davis: The most enjoyable part, for me, was creating new locations and characters. In particular, I had a lot of fun writing and developing material for the Marienburg series in White Dwarf. The least enjoyable... well, I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to write myself, but I was always needed to edit and develop other people's work instead.

Xathrodox86: Which adventure or campaign from Warhammer Fantasy 1st and 2nd, is your all time favorite?

Graeme Davis: Power Behind the Throne is my absolute favorite: the characters, the politics, the plots - it covers everything I like in a roleplaying adventure. "A Rough Night at the Three Feathers" is my favorite out of the adventures I have written. I wrote it as an experiment, not really knowing whether multi-plot adventures could work, and it did!

Xathrodox86: What was your opinion on Games Workshop's cancellation of Warhammer Fantasy franchise? What do you think about the Age of Sigmar and its role, as the continuation of WFB?

Graeme Davis: The Age of Sigmar is a departure from the Warhammer setting of the previous 30 years, but I can only guess that it serves GW's current needs better than the older setting. I haven't looked at it, so I don't know enough to have an opinion worth sharing.

Xathrodox86: Aside from Warhammer, what game system did you enjoyed writing about the most? Vampire: The Masquerade? Dungeons & Dragons?

Graeme Davis: Vampire was a lot of fun to write for, but the writing I have enjoyed most has not been for a specific system. I have always been interested in historical fantasy, and down the years I have been able to write articles on the Celts and Ancient Egypt for Imagine magazine, the HR1 Celts sourcebook for AD&D second edition, GURPS Vikings, Middle Ages 1, Crusades, and Faerie, and other historical fantasy titles.

Xathrodox86: Once again thank you for your willingness to answer these questions. It's an honor to write them to you.

Graeme Davis: I am the one who is honored, when so many people feel so passionate about something I wrote, even thirty years later.

So there you have it. It was a great honor and great fun to interview Mr. Davis. I also wanted to thank Andrew Dyer, with whom I play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay over Roll20. Without him this interview would never have been possible.

Also be sure to check out Graeme Davis' blog: There you'll be able to find a lot of memories about Games Workshop, as well as annoucements for his next projects. He has recently written a couple of books for the "Dark Osprey" series, such as "Nazi Moonbase" and "Werewolves: A Hunter's Guide". These are perfect for anyone who loves conspiracies and Urban Horror genre alike. Check 'em out, you won't be dissapointed.

As someone who just had his 30th birthday, this is one of the best, possible gifts that I could have imagined. Keep on rocking Warhammer Fantasy, you beautiful, sexy beast.

Until next time!



Xathrodox86 comments on the current state of 40K. Rant warning!

Would you look at the time? It's rant-o-clock and now I'm going to speak about one of the most popular wargaming franchise ever made - Warhammer 40,000.

I love WH40K. For me it's one of the most ineresting fictional settings out there. The right ammount of miliatry fiction, sci-fi, mysticism and humor, make it so goddamn awesome. It also has a major presence in popular media, like video games, which actually means that even non-players usually know what 40K is. Robbie MacNiven written in one of his blog posts that 40K is probably the biggest, fictional science fiction franchise aside from Star Wars, and I tend to agree. It's simply huge and fantastic. The world, the lore, the mythology, the endless possibilities for creating new stories and fantastic tales - Warhammer 40,000 has it all and more. I used to hate Dark Heresy with a passion, but only lately did I realised that with the ammount of background information, and the presentation of everyday life in the Imperium, it really has a potential for being a great RPG system.

I could go on and on, about how awesome is this setting, but I will not. Instead I will speak about the technical side of 40K. Is it just as good as the fluff? Is it worth it for new players to get into it, at the moment?

The answer is simple: as much as I love the story of Warhammer 40,000, I think that its current rules and overall internal balance are horrible. I'm not saying this lightly, mind you. Since I've started playing 40K back in the times of the 5th edition, I saw some major bullshit going on with that game. It's actually hard to tell when it all began. Perhaps with the inclusion of flyers and Knights, two things that it's hard to play without nowadays? Maybe with the formations and the complete lack of balancing them? Or perhaps with obscene motion of bloating the Imperium's armies (or rather some of them) to riddiculous levels. It's hard to tell really, but in the end the result was catastrophic.

As of this day many people, myself included, are disilusioned and angry about our beloved game. It's a mess, pure and simple. The rules are needlessly convoluted, with additional rulings from various addons only adding more to the whole mess. No longer can you rely solely on the rulebook and your currennt codex, no no. Now you also need a copy of "Warzone: Damocles", a printed ruleset of Custodes and Sisters of Silence and another printed ruleset for the Heresy-era Praetor, which you can use in your games of 40K. Then you're set. Oh shit, forgot about the "Angels of Death" supplement. Need that as well chum. Yeah, this game used to be played with three books. Now you need a goddamn library and a private assistant to remember all the shit, that is needed for your army to win.

But can it win at all? Naaaaah, not unless you're playing specific armies. Oh sure, it is possible to win against anyone, but let's be honest - trying to take on a Space Marine force, full of Grav weaponry, unique and very powerful formations, like the Skyhammer Annihilation Force, Raptor Wing or (kill me) Strike Force Ultra, with your poor outdated Chaos Space Marines or Tyranids, is a chore. Seriously, the difference in quality between certain codexes is simply absurd. Armies like Nids or Orks are almost unplayable, especially when going against the top-tier armies. Which armies are these, you may ask? Well take a wild, fucking guess.

Now, before someone accuses me of hating on the Emperor's finest, but letting Eldar and Tau slide past my hatedar, I would like to remind you that yes, they are strong factions... when using a specifically tailored armies. Eldar are undoubtedly strong with their Seer Council and D-Cannon spam from Wraithguard and Tau are absolutely broken with 2+ Riptides in their forces, but other than that... They're not that strong. Hell, even with two Riptides, I still think that armies like Imperial Guard or Dark Eldar have a bigger chance of victory, than fighting against a force, which can deploy it's units in the first turn, without scatter and get a load of bonuses, because fuck you.

That's one of the problems - we've came to a point, where GW dosen't even pretend that the Astartes are their favorite faction. They literally get all the best toys, while all other armies get jack and shit. Grav weapons? Space Marine exclusive. Best formations? Same. Unique psychic powers? Shove your shitty magic up your ass, Tzeentch, you loser. Thousand Sons wish that they could fire mind bullets as powerful, as those that the Loyalists have. Don't even get me started on Tyranids and their pathetic attempts at psychic phase.

Now all of this wouldn't be so bad, and create so much dissonance between various factions, if other sides also got the equivalents of those toys/rules, but that is not the case. "Traitor's Hate" gave CSM one good formation, which allows their Raptors to charge in the same turn that they've deep striked. Aside from that it's shit. Meanwhile "Kauyon" and "Mont'ka", two very good books, I'll admit that, made the game even more unbalanced by allowing the Space Marines to take various fomrations from different chapters and using them, even if they're using a completely different set of chapter tactics! So now Iron Hands can use White Scars formations and Raven Guard formations in a single force. Classy GW, fucking classy.

Iron Snakes with Imperial Fists' chapter tactics and Ultramarines' formations: sounds awesome, right?
The whole formation spam is one, if not the main reason, whey 40K is so buttfucked right now. Aside from the example above, there is a clear and present reason for that - there are no restrictions placed on them. You can have as many of them as you like, and many of them are preferable to CAD, often allowing for exact same thing. There is also a huge difference in quality between formations - some of them are excellent, like the aformentioned Skyhammer Annihilation Force, or downright gamebreaking, like the bloody Strike Force Ultra, but some are pure shit. I mean, the Imperial Guard have two good ones, or rather viable ones, the Rampart Shield Wall and the Steel Host. But other than that? Give me a break. I'd sooner stuck a cactus up my ass, than field 10 Sentinels, one of which can issue a single order. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. Just to be clear, I also think that Blood Angels, for example, got shafted hard. Being an assault-oriented army, they don't have that many good CC options and formations, and that's a real shame. So you know, it can happen to anyone. Except vanilla SM. They're nigh on perfect.

At this point I should also mention the downright broken combos, that players can make with their codexes. Well some of them. For example the famous Iron Hands Chapter Master on a bike, who's nigh unikllable. With the "Angels of Death" supplement he became even stronger. Now if only Games Workshop would test proof their rules better, we wouldn't have such problems. Again, I also think that a D-Spam from the Eldar is bullshit, as are the Wulfen, which were introduced to 40K with a single purpose - to buy them. Not because they look good (I think they're hideous), but because they're too good not to include them. Just like the Knights and their Xenos equivalents, just like the flyers in 6th edition - you want to even stand a chance against someone who fields those units, then get your own or get the fuck out. Pay to win at its finest.

This post is running a few days late, but actually I'm happy about that, because it gives me a chance to write about a wonderful idea of introducing Custodians and Sisters of Silence to Warhammer 40,000, a trend which, I'm sure, will continue. Not only are they available only for imperial armies (which makes sense of course, but again - do most imperial armies need a buff like that?), but they're also stupidly strong and completely anti-climactic to boot. Custodians almost never leave the Imperial Palace and Sisters of Silence were active during the Heresy war and, after a retcon, during the War of the Beast. Now they're available in 40K because... reasons. Money reasons, fluff consistency and balance be damned. I would love to hear people's excuses about using those models, clearly intended for the Horus-fucking-Heresy, in 40K. "Yeah my guys are fighting on some shithole of a planet in Segmentum Pacificus, and there were these Custodes who were, ehhh, passing by. Yeah, they were passing by and decided to help out. Yeah...".

Totally legit.

Get out of here, shoo!
But wait, there's more. You think that Sisters and Manstodes coming to standard 40K is something big? Well then, what about fucking Primarchs? Or more specifically Daemon Primarchs, like Magnus the Red? Oh yeah, he's coming. The photo of the minis has been doing the rounds on various hobby sites, for some time now, but consider the following. If they're bringing Daemon Primarchs to 40K, something unheard of until now, it means that they'll also bring loyal Primarchs to balance the game, or rather to try to balance the game (they will fail). This means two things. First of all, soon there'll be Roboute Guilliman and Lion El'Jonson running in almost every Space Marine army, boosting the power level of the Astartes even more and destabilising the game even more, if such thing is even possible. Then there daemonic brothers. Back in the day Angron, Daemon Primarch of the World Eaters, had a set of rules to use him in a game... of Apocalypse. How much do you want to bet that, when Magnus comes out in December, he'll be a Lord of War choice, with stupidly broken rules, because again - it would be strange for a Daemon Primarch to not suck ass. Of course he'll still go down like a little bitch, when faced against a unit of Grav-wielding Centurions, but what do you expect? It's not like the Chaos Space Marines will suddendly become a good, respected faction with strong rules, which will make them competitive. Dream on. One model won't change shit.

Now there have been... rumours. Certain talk about a Black Crusade reaching Terra, and that it is the reason for introducing both the Silent Sisterhood and the Emperor's Lions, as well as daemonic and loyal Primarchs to the game. This, coupled with incoming 8th edition, which is supposed to streamline the game (yeah, right), means that all those people who whine about story progression will probably get their wish granted. Finally! It will be glorious, I can't see how they could scre...

Oh, right
Oh fuck me, they didn't learn a single thing, did they? Guys, a closed setting is... well, just that - a closed setting. If you progress it, only bad things can happen. Like the End Times. Like the Time of Judgement, that killed the classic World of Darkness. It never works well. Never. Not only because it's almost impossible to resolve an established status quo in a way, that will not offend people (a Black Crusade will reach Terra, just like that? Wow... I guess Horus wasn't really trying with his Heresy) but the outcome will almost certainly be disastrous and anti-climactic. You know, like when they've ended the Old World in the most offensive, lazy and uninspiring manner possible. What, you think that they will do a better job here, in 40K? That there will suddendly be a series of books, finelt detailing the death of the Emperor, the return of the Primarchs and the inevitable victory of Chaos (because Chaos is the only possible winner in 40K. Again, thanks to GW writing themselves into a corner)? Dream on. I remember all those people who were thrilled when the End Times hit the Warhammer Fantasy. "Finally something is happening" they've cried.

Now they're cursing the Age of Sigmar with their every breath, pretending that they never said the thing they've said.

Lesson learned, right guys and gals?

I'll be ending this rant now, since I'm getting tired about it, to be honest. The bottom line is: right now 40K is a cesspool, and it will, almost certainly, only get worse. GW has went full pay to win and they're not even pretend to be otherwise. Codex creep is the worst in history, without a doubt. The motion of bringing units from the Horus Heresy, a much better game I might add, to the core game, because it will generate more money, is both harmful to the already butchered rules and illogical, from the fluff standpoint. A clear and blatant favortism towards Imperium and its armies is the final straw that broke the camel's back, for me and I'm an imperial player. I wholeheartedly believe that for all players to have fun, they should have equal chances at winning. Right now it's not the case, and knowing Games Workshop it will never become possible for a Tyranids, or and Ork or IG player to compete with Space Marines on equal ground, hearing bullshit, such as "well what do you expect, this is the game's main faction" or "that's my codex, deal with it". Fortunately there's always the option to chose your opponents, and that is exactly what I'm suggesting to all those people who are fed up with pauldrons. Don't play against them, find someone who's not a douchebag, and collects other armies, than the superhuman Mary Sues, and have fun with better balanced, more enjoyable games. Or you know, find an SM player who dosen't bring a bucket of Grav weapons in his Strike Force Ultra-based army, but are there any Astartes players like that left? I don't think so.

Still, if nowadays someone would approach me and ask if it's worth it to start playing Warhammer 40,000, I would say: no. Currently the system is in shambles, and I would not suggest investing money, time and effort into a broken, badly balanced game. By all means jump right into the world. The setting of the grim and dark future is fantastic and fully worth exploring, but stay away from the core game. It's simply not worth it, at least at the moment, and possibly not ever. Sad but true.

At least the Jokaero help to mitigate the pain a bit
That said, if you have the money to spare, then the Horus Heresy presents a much better and cooler alterantive. Sure it's Space Marines 24/7, but at least there it's well explained and both the background and rules are much better written, than those of 40K. Give it a try and you won't be dissapointed.

Until next time!



Reblogged: Kalevala Hammer: 30th anniversary of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay...

Oh yeah, it's my first reblog, but don't worry! It's done for a just cause.

I'm not the one for long speeches (yeah, yeah I know - "Chaos in the Old World" review) when it comes to important things, that happen in my life, be them family matters, personal successes or hobby related. So I'll let Jack Days from Kalevala Hammer grab this one. His post about WFRP's 30th anniversary is much better, than anything that I'd ever write here. Visit his website and read his post, it'll be worth it, I guarantee it. While you're at it, go and check out his fantastic fan-made material, like the WHFRP Norsca supplement. Great stuff.

"Kalevala Hammer: 30th anniversary of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay...: This is the year, when Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay becomes 30 years old! And it might be one of these autumn days (October), when that happ..."

Altough I will add a few things from myself, why the hell not? A few posts ago I've written about my dislike for Warhammer Fantasy as a whole, or at least it could've been interpreted that way. Since that time I've met with a few opinions and comments about my implied hatred for the franchise, and how I have unreasonable expectations towards it.

To which I can only respond with a following statement: read that post again. It's true, I don't think that Warhammer Fantasy, both as the wargame and an RPG, is not a well made game, nor is it very original. Yes, it often pissed me off. Sometimes with its dumb rules, betrayal of its source material or a complete, unnecessary overhaul of core mechanics. Indeed in the last few year I was more angry at Fantasy, than anything else, but you know what?

I still want to play it.

"Seems like someone, finally came to his senses"

Yeah, I really do - both the WFB and WFRP. I honestly think that it speaks volumes about that world's immortality and timelessness, that despite its death and all its myriad flaws, people (myself included) still want to return to it. In 10 years, even if there will be no more editions of WFRP (assuming that no one will pick up the license, dropped by FFG), gamers will still play it, paint the minis and discuss the secrets of the Old World. In my opinion this is the true test of any game, that even after it is gone, there are still those who enjoy it, despite all of its shortcomings. I'm one of those people and plan on doing so ad infinitum.

Even if I'm still mad at that fat bartender, serving a pint of beer to a stocky Dwarf, who hates all the Elves. Because let's face it - being a timeless classic is no excuse for a lack of originality.

Now it's time to dust off my "The Enemy Within" books. I knew that one day, I would be able to finally use them. This time is approaching fast.

This is gonna be good

Happy birthday Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay! May you bring joy to next generations of geeks and fantasy enthusiasts, all around the world!

Until next time!