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12/30/2016

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Karak Azgaraz"

As the current year is slowly coming to an end, I am writing the last article for 2016. Fortunately it's about a very good DLC for a very good game.

Last time I reviewed "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Drachenfels", the first DLC for "Vermintide", a fun game about killing Skaven en masse with your friends (or bots). Now it's time for the second paid addon - "Karak Azgaraz".

"Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Karak Azgaraz" (released December 15th 2016)

That's one, gorgeous looking logo!
Taking place in the titular dwarven hold, and in the areas around it, this one offers a tad different experience, than the other missions, both in the core game and "Drachenfels". The main reason is becuase it's actually snowing! Yes, finally we have our first snow missions in "Vermintide" and I must say that they look magnificent. The devs really made an incredible work on the whole "frozen landscape" part and it truly is a sight to behold.

Now interestingly Karak Azgaraz is present in the Warhammer Fantasy lore for some time now. I honestly thought that this hold was created exclusively for the DLC, but apparently there is a substantial ammount of this Karak's lore in the "Book of Grudges" sourcebook for the 3rd edition of WFRP. I know one thing: after playing through this DLC, I will certainly read all I can about "Hold of the Fearless Axes".

Situated to the southeast of Übersreik, Karak Azgaraz has been attacked by the vile Skaven. Our heroes must travel to the besieged hold and help the Dwarfs in any way they can, but also to retrieve a Cursed Rune for the city's Grey Wizard. To do all of this, they need to accomplish three tasks: light the Chain Of Fire, explore the tunnels of Khazid Kro and finally retrieve the Cursed Rune itself. All the while the Skaven are on them, without a pause nor mercy. This will be one of the toughest tests that our heroes have faced, so far.

First we have the "Chain Of Fire" mission which takes place completely outdoors. As our heroes brave the snowy wilderness of the Grey Mountains, they must light 3 dwarven signal beacons, to warn Karak Azgaraz about the impending Skaven attack. This map is incredible and easily my favorite of all 3. The frozen night, Rat-men attacking from the tunnels, digged under the snow (their fur is frozen!) and the endless, chilling white of snowy mountains - they all create an incredible atmosphere. The mission ends in a climactic battle at the top of a high peak. With one hero forced to stand on a switch, that lights the final beacon, and endless hordes of rats pouring from every direction, this is one of the most awesome and heart pounding endings of any quest in "Vermintide". Absolutely fantastic and truly memorable.

Next we have the "Khazid Kro" mission, which finally takes us inside the hold of Karak Azgaraz. Again I must complement the devs - they've made a great job of portraying both the exterior and interior of a dwarven fortress. Karak Azgaraz is, simply put, magnificent and majestic. It is a true testament to Dawi and their craftsmanship, both grandoise and functional. As the heroes wander through the corridors of the lost Karak they see wonders like powerful steam-driven trains and even steam-powered breweries! They are also witnessing a real tragedy, as they encounter scores of slain Dwarves and the bodies of countless Skaven, all fallen in a bitter, merciless battle, where no quarter was given, nor asked. "Khazid Kro" is a visually stunning mission, with very interesting parts, like repairing the brewing equipement, while the room is getting filled with huge ammounts of steam... and Skaven. However I did find this map a bit... standard. It's not bad, don't get me wrong, but it's not really memorable in any way. The Karak itself is stunning to look at, but the interiors are just ok. I think that Fatshark lost an opportunity to show us really interesting stuff, that can be found inside a dwarven hold, like the Undgrin Angkor, the legendary and impossibly large tunnels, that run between every Dawi Karak, connecting each and every one of them. "Khazid Kro" is good, but only good, which is a bit of a shame in a 9 euro DLC. Oh well...

Fortunately the outside view is really worth the money
Finally there's the "Cursed Rune" mission and this one is your pretty standard, "survive for x ammount of time, while being drown in fur" type of quest, which ends every, single "Vermintide" mission. The heroes need to fight their way to the vault, holding the Cursed Rune, retrieve it, while being attacked by endless hordes of Skaven, and escape with it to Olesya's wagon. Interestingly enough, while it does take place on the premises of Karak Azgaraz, the heroes will mainly travel on the outside of the great hold's wall, instead of its interiors. Courtyards, walls and corridors that are open to the cloudless sky will be explored fully in this quest, and it's a very nice idea, in my opinion. We already had the taste of the wild in the "Chain Of Fire" and discovered the myriad secrets of Karak Azgaraz's inner areas. Now it's time to run between high pillars, with icy wind slashing at your face, while witnessing the horror of a massed Skaven attack. Here too, are many, many dead Dwarves and their eternal enemies, lying all over the premises of the hold. The visual style and grandoise of the "Cursed Rune" are certainly impressive and I've found this quest to be a fitting end to the entire "Karak Azgaraz" DLC. Good job Fatshark.

Apart from the 3 missions, there are also two new weapons, added in this DLC. Now players can slaughter the servants of the Horned Rat with a Warpick and Falchion. Both very iconic to Warhammer Fantasy, the Warpick can be used by the Dwarf and is a heavy, double handed weapon, that's very satisfying to utilize against the Skaven. You can even make horrible puns, while sticking them with it, like "now, now, don't be PICKY". The Witch Hunter can now equip a Falchion, which works just like Soldier's sword, perhaps slashing a bit faster. While they're not as useful as the Glaive from "Drachenfels", they are both very stylish and I'm glad that Fatshark added them to the game. For me a Witch Hunter armed with Falchion is much more badass, then a one with a Rapier. It should be mentioned tough, that both of these weapons can only be "dropped" on "Karak Azgaraz" levels, which personally I find rather strange. Ok, I get that the pick could probably be found easier inside a dwarven hold, but the Falchion? Strange move on the devs part, altough one that will certainly make the replayability of this DLC much higher, than that of "Drachenfels", that's for sure.

The new weapons really look fabulous...
"Karak Azgaraz" also came with a huge patch, and it's a good thing that the devs decided to finally adress some of the game's many problems, among them a host of performance issues, bugs and crashes. The majority of the weapons and skills got rebalanced, the Skaven and player bots are much smarter now, the game interface has been fixed a bit and the loot, that players recieve after levelling up also got improved. Now there's a chance to actually get better quality items, each time the player reaches another level and that's really, really good. You have no idea how pissed off I was, after I've got another common, white item, while reaching the 31st level with my Soldier.

Oh and Franz Lohner no longer whistles under his nose. These are the End Times, after all...

So there you have it, my review of "Karak Azgaraz". I really think that it is a very good DLC for a very good game, and unlike "Drachenfels", the missions here are almost univerally great, perhaps with the exception of "Khazid Kro", which is still decent. New weapons are cool looking, and certainly useful in a fight, and the overall balancing and fixing of "Vermintide's" many flaws and bugs was a really welcome thing to see. I hope that Fatshark will continue to make more DLC's with more great content for this game, because it certainly deserves to be further developed and expanded. Perhaps next time we could get a new enemy, like a Plague Monk, working exactly the same as the Witch from "Left 4 Dead", and maybe a new character as well? I'd love to see a Warrior Priest, making an appearance in "Vermintide", or a Master Engineer. There are still many, many possibilities in which this title can be expanded and improved, I'm sure of it.

This is the last post in 2016. I will return next year, with even more content, both for Warhammer games and other, equally geeky stuff, such as reviews, interviews and my thoughts and opinions on various things. That said, I plan to concentrate more on writing about Warhammer Fantasy in the future, since my previous bad mood, concerning the Old World, seemed to pass away, fortunately. After all, this is a blog with the word "Nuln" in it, for Sigmar's sake! That, and I really don't like the way that GW is going with 40K, altough there will be an article or two, about that particular topic, you can be sure about that.

Lastly I wanted to thank all of you, who read my blog, who visit it and decide to stick around for more. Make no mistakes, I am doing all of this for you guys and gals. I love sharing my passion and geeky knowledge with other people, and to see that so many readers brave the rains of Nuln, brings joy to my heart and soul. Thank you. All of you. Your are the reason that I'm writing these articles and rant about various things, which I hope, also bring you a healthy dose of laughter and joy.

"The rain of Nuln is made of win" as Baron Von Klatz, a good friend of mine, used to say (he also made this incredible piece, as well as my profile picture!)
Happy new year and... until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/23/2016

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

Holiday time is almost upon us, so why not give someone you like a cool present? "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide" is currently on a discount on Steam, along with all of its DLC's. But are they really worth the price?

I must admit - I love "Vermintide" to death. This is THE Warhammer game, that I've been waiting for ages to get my hands on. The atmosphere is perfect, the gameplay rocks and I love the characters. Oh and the music - it's simply great. Sure there are a couple of things that can irk your average player (I'm looking at you, loot drop system), but in the end they aren't that significant, when it comes to the overall quality of this title. In my opinion "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide" is the only, good thing that came out of all that End Times nonsense. Given the overall quality of the send-off that Warhammer Fantasy did recieved, that's really saying something.

However there's the question of "Vermnintide's" DLC content. Is it on the same level as the base game? Is it better or worse? Let's take a look, shall we?

"Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Drachenfels" (released May 26th 2016)

Lookin' spooky!
The first full DLC released for the game takes place in the legendary Drachenfels castle, the home of the Great Enchanter himself. Drachenfels supposedly walked the Old World, even before the time of Sigmar. He's probably best known to fans of Warhammer Fantasy from the series of books about Genevieve the vampire, written by Jack Yeovil. There was also an incredibly hard adventure for the 1st edition of WFRP, which took place in the Drachenfels' castle. Infamously known for its obscene level of difficulty, it none the less remains a classic position in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay repertoire. Now the vile Skaven took interest in his crib and made themselves comfortable inside. Are you a bad enough dude or dudette, to wreck their shit?

With a big name like Drachenfels, you might think that the DLC will be something truly stunning and memorable. Well... on the most part it's good, altough there are, shall we say, downsides to it. The DLC consists of 3 maps. The first one takes place in the castle itself and it is easily the best one of all. You can feel the evil of Drachenfels in the air, in the rocks themselves, everywhere. The atmosphere of the map is simply astounding and I loved every, single minute of playing it. Your party's task is to retrieve a magical chalice and get out of the castle in one piece. Of course the vile Ratmen won't let you accomplish your task without a fight, and the place itself seem to be fighting you as well. There are traps here and there, sometimes you can hear the Great Enchanter's roar from beyond the grave (or is it?) and the escape is tense and full of obstacles, as if the castle wants to make sure that you'll not escape its haunted halls and corridors. Splendid stuff.

Oh and there are pools of blood, which are endlessly refilled. Like, I know the old Drachy was supposed to be evil, but come one!

The second map also takes place inside the castle. Your team is, again, tasked with retrieving a couple of trinkets and make a run for it. This time however there's a catch - you'll have to traverse the castle's enchanted catacombs, which are drown in magical darkness. The only way to navigate it, is for one of the heroes to grab a mystical torch and light the way through the labyrinthine tunnels, while the other protect him from the Skaven and try not to get lost.

Are you having fun yet?
This map I liked the least of all, honestly. I think the magical torch is a cheap gimmick to take out one of the players from any fight and artificially make the game harder. Sure, you can drop the torch and defend yourself at any given time, but this is really incovenient and tiresome. I mean, I get what the creators wanted to do, but couldn't they just allowed for the flame bearer to use his OTHER arm to wield a weapon, assuming he didn't packed a two-handed piece? Why don't the Bright Wizard's flames, which are, you know, magical, light the darkness? Yeah, in the end, this one was a miss for me. Sure, it was tense and hard, but the difficulty felt artifical and that's bad. I probably won't be replaying that map too often.

Finally there's the final mission atop the Summoner's Peak, overlooking the Castle Drachenfels. This is a straightforward one: go up there and blow stuff, the stuff in question being a trio of portals, which the Skaven use to deploy reinforcements. That's it. In the end, this one was ok, but nothing spectacular. I mean, there's nothing here, which connects it in any way to Drachenfels. At least the other two missions took place in the castle itself and there were dialogue lines, which referenced famous events, which took place in the dreaded bastion of evil. Here we only see the place from a distance, and that's it. Don't get me wrong, it's an ok mission, but it dosen't have the vibe of the other two, even the poorly made second mission.

Sadly "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Drachenfels" dosen't include any new enemies. There are new weapons tough, a Glaive for the Waywatcher and a Volley Crossbow for the Witch Hunter. They're both interesting, altough the Glaive was considered broken for a long time, right until the latest patch. Now it's less killy, altough still one of the best weapon options for Kerillian. The other new features are the torch, which sucks, and traps, which are ok, altough right now they're not that dangerous. Also the Skaven seem not to trigger them, which is weird. I hope the guys at Fatshark will fix that issue in the near future.

Kudos to the developers for making the game's weapons look so awesome!
So here are my opinions on "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Drachenfels". Is it worth your money? Honestly, I'm not so sure. While the first quest is excellent, the other two are not so hot. The second mission is gimmicky for a gimmick's sake and the third dosen't really feel, like it should belong in a DLC about the Great Enchanter. The new weapons are nice, especially the Glaive, but the other, advertised features are nothing truly unique, especially the bloody torches. Oh, and they're not used anywhere, besides this DLC, which makes advertising them rather strange.

If you have some cash to spare and really, really like Drachenfels, for some odd reason (guy was a real asshole, you know), then by all means grab this DLC. Waiting for a Steam sale might also help, however I would not recommend it to anyone, with only a slight interest in the "Vermintide". It's simply not worth it, and you'll probably end up regretting the purchase, after completing the 3,very uneven missions.

Next time I'll review the latest "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide" DLC, which takes place in a frozen Karak, swarming with Rats! Stay tuned for more content, which will be released at the end of this year. In the meantime, I wanted to wish you all happy Holidays. Take care people and have a good one.

Until next time! Ho ho ho!

Xathrodox86

12/11/2016

An early holiday present: surprise interview with William King!

Holidays are coming, but on my little slice of internet they're already here. I present to you an interview with one of the biggest legends of fantasy writing - William King.

Now before you'll read the interview itself, I just wanted to say that for me, getting interested in Warhammer would be impossible without the classic "Gotrek and Felix" series, about the infamous Old World duo. Before that I only really knew a bit of elven lore and... that was prestty much it. After reading the first two omnibuses however, I've understood that there is so much more to Warhammer Fantasy, than just army book. Novels, short stories, the classic RPG's - it all became known to me, beacuse many years ago I've decided to pick up two big books in a bookstore in London, and give them a go. It was a choice that I've never regretted. So I wanted to say: thank you Mr. King. Thank you for bringing so many people into this hobby with your talent and writing skill. We owe you a lot.

Mainly those two, legendary chaps!
Now... just read the interview, and I hope you'll like it.

Xathrodox86: What was your inspiration for creating the characters of Gotrek and Felix?

William King: They came from running a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Campaign back when the game first came out in 1986/7. The most popular player character type with my players were slayers. When I got involved in the original Warhammer fiction project,  a dwarven slayer seemed like a good choice.

My first thought was to make Felix an elf to get the maximum chalk and cheese comedy from the pairing, but somehow a human just seemed to work better. After many years of reflection, I can see why. A human character provides a baseline point of view character for the reader who is probably easier to empathise with, and it certainly made it easier to explain the background of the Empire and point out Gotrek’s quirks. This would have been a lot more difficult with two non-human leads.

Xathrodox86: Did you had to convince your editors to let you write that iconic duo the way you wanted?

William King: None at all. Everybody really liked them from the get-go.

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite Slayer novel/story? Which one was the most fun to write?

William King: My favourite is Daemonslayer. I brooded on it for many years before I wrote it. It’s between it and Skavenslayer which was the most fun to write.

Xathrodox86: Did you had an ending in mind, when you began writing their tales? If so, what was it?
William King: I had no real ending in mind when I started, and I came up and discarded many alternative endings while I was writing.

Xathrodox86: Would Felix ever settle down and start a family? Would it be possible for him to lead a normal life, away from adventures?

William King: Yes. I think he would. The main reason Felix went adventuring was because he was forced into it by his oath to Gotrek. If under any circumstances he was released from the oath, he would probably head back to the Empire, settle down and write up his adventures. I see him as being a bit like Bilbo or Sam in Lord of the Rings in this respect. I think he would probably be nostalgic about his adventures and miss them but as he got older comfort would be more and more important to him. I speak from experience here.

Xathrodox86: You've also written the "Space Wolf" saga. Where did you seek inspiration for the character of Ragnar?

William King: I worked on the original Space Wolf army book with Andy Chambers. Ragnar was one of the characters. He seemed like a logical one to tackle when GW asked me to write a 40K novel.

The main thing about Ragnar was he was not really a typical Space Marine or even Space Wolf. He was always a bit of an outsider, mainly because it is usually easier to explain an exotic society or organization such as the Space Wolves from the point of view of someone who is slightly out of sync with it. This may seem to contradict some of what I said about Felix and the origins of Felix and Gotrek above, but Felix is an outsider in his own way too.

Xathrodox86: Which character from Ragnar's saga, apart from himself, was the most fun for you to write? Which one was the most interesting?

William King: There was a demon in the second book, Botchulaz, I think his name was, what always amused me. Aside from that, Sven and most of the flawed Space Wolves in the fourth book. Usually it’s the ones who make me laugh who are my favourites. That’s why we saw so much of Grey Seer Thanquol in the fantasy stuff.

Xathrodox86: What was the main difference in writing a posthuman, like Ragnar and ordinary men and women, like those in your "Macharius" trilogy?

William King: With the Space Wolves, the main difference is their senses, which are so much keener than a human’s. That affects the texture and style of the writing most. There’s also the fact that they are basically super-heroes. They exist in a different and more epic sort of world from normal people.

Xathrodox86: Lord Solar Macharius was one of the greatest commanders in the Imperium's history. What was your main goal, when you were writing his tales? To showcase his greatness, or the inevitable end of his dreams, just like it was in the case of his predecessor, Alexander the Great?

William King: I used Alexander as a model because he actually was the original model of Macharius. What I was trying to do in the series was show just how awesomely horrific the 41st millennium is, if you are an ordinary human soldier. It’s a sort of cross between Lovecraft and WW1. Not sure I managed it!

Xathrodox86: Was it especially difficult for you to write the characters of Tyrion and Teclis, them being elves and all? Where did you seek the inspiration for their stories?

William King: The thing with non-humans is they usually take a bit more thought to portray than a human. With Felix, mostly I just asked myself what I would do in any given situation (if I was a lot braver and better looking than I actually am.) With Tyrion and Teclis, I had to think what does it mean to be a semi-immortal demigod. I was fortunate in that I worked on the original High Elves book with Jes Goodwin and a number of other very talented and thoughtful people. We spent a lot of time trying to imagine a feudal, magic driven society peopled by extremely long-lived people, so I had some answers. If I had to point to two sources of inspiration for Tyrion and Teclis, it would be Michael Moorcock’s fantasy stuff and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. Weirdly, when I was writing Tyrion, I used to ask myself what James Bond would do.

Xathrodox86: You've also included the character of Teclis in "Giantslayer", your last Gotrek and Felix novel. Do you think that in the end, Gotrek respected the elven mage for all his work in defeating the minions of Chaos? Would it be possible for them to work together, in the future?

William King: They could work together against a common enemy, sure, but at the end of the day Gotrek is a dwarf and Teclis is an elf. In the Warhammer world that carries a lot of baggage. Respect? I am not sure Gotrek really respects anything except perhaps his commitment to his oath. He’s always struck me as a bit of a nihilist.

Xathrodox86: Did you ever worked on any kind of RPG? Did you play them?

William King: I’ve played RPGs since 1977. I’ve no idea of how many different RPGs I have played but it’s a lot. The last game I played was Robert Schwalb’s brilliant Shadow of the Demon Lord, a couple of months back. Mostly I play World of Warcraft these days.

I worked on The Mutant Chronicles RPG and Waste World. Recently I wrote some fiction for Shadow of the Demon Lord. I also backed the Kickstarter. I really like the world.

Xathrodox86: Are you going to write more fiction for Black Library? If so, what will it be?

William King: No plans. I sort of feel like GW has gone in one direction and I have gone in another. It used to be very easy for me to write Warhammer fiction because I had a lot of the background at my fingertips. That is no longer the case.

Xathrodox86: If given the chance, would you return to any of your earlier works? In which direction would you take them?

William King: I’ve never really thought about. Most series take on a momentum all of their own and suggest their own directions. I had no idea Gotrek and Felix would end up where they did when I first started. Ditto Ragnar. I did with Macharius, of course, but that was baked in.

Xathrodox86: Of all your works, which one is the one that you enjoy the most to this day?

William King: Usually the one I am writing now. It’s that way with most writers, I think.

Xathrodox86: Apart from various Warhammer novels and stories, what are your other works?

William King: I have written a grimdark, gunpowder and magic series called The Terrarch Chronicles set in a world ruled by what might best be described as Nazi elves. The closest approximation I can think of is Glen Cook’s Black Company books.

I’ve written a grimdark sword and sorcery series about a human monster hunter called Kormak. It’s reached ten books now with another two on the way. It’s been a lot of fun to write.

I am just about to release a cyberpunk military SF series about a super-soldier called Stormtrooper 13. It might best be described as an unholy hybrid of Judge Dredd and Starship Troopers. This one made me laugh a lot.

I wrote the World of Warcraft novel Illidan last year.

Thanks for the questions!

Xathrodox86: Thank you Mr. King. It's been an honor.

So there you have it. Wow... I must say that writing this interview was quite a task. I usually don't like using that word, but I really did felt like a squealing fanboy. I'd like to thank Mr. King for the chance to ask him all those questions and for the wonderful answers, that I've recieved from him. If you want to see what the author of "Gotrek and Felix" and "Space Wolf" is up to now, visit his website. William King can also be found on Facebook, and he always answers any questions that are directed his way, by many, many people. It's so great to see authors who actually interact with their fans and care about their questions and opinions. Thank you once again for all your hard work, Mr. King.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/09/2016

It's Grimvember time! Fear not the "Heralds of Woe"!

Let's end the very first edition of Grimvember with a bang! I've recently ran a fantastic adventures by Hectorius, named "Heralds of Woe".

Right at the start I would like to state, that this particular scenario took me, and my group, almost half a year to finish. Granted we're playing once every two weeks for 3 hours tops, but still - for a single scenario that is quite something, and it wasn't spent on pointless backtracking or some other kind of adventure filler. Far from it, I honestly think that "Heralds of Woe" was one of more interesting and captivating adventures, that I had the pleasure to run.

The scenario's action takes place in Altdorf, altough it can be placed in any of the Empire's bigger cities. We've played it in Nuln (obviously) and it worked like a charm. The heroes are hired by the College of Heralds, an ancient an venerable institution that keeps track of any inheritance claims and cases. It sends out the titular Heralds to ascertain each inheritor's case and then, after collecting all of the evidence, present their common verdict in public. This is a tricky task however, as the majority of society views Heralds in less than positive light, and dosen't really like them. Not only that, many of the claimants are dangerous people, such as crime lords, mercenaries, common thieves and... wizard lords. Yeah, the wizards are the worst, especially those that keep a Fenbeast in their backyard... Fortunately the Heralds' tough and miserable job, can be made a bit easier, thanks to common and unashamed bribery, which is almost a certain thing, during the course of their investigations.

The Fenbeast, however, is not bribable
The College itself is a mysterious institution. The PC's handler, one Crimson Gryphon Rampant (yup, that's his name) hands them out their assignments and offers good pay (and tasty meals in "The Tabbard" Inn, run by friendly Ulric Baumann), but it is pretty clear from his speech, that they are being hired for a short term only. Of course there is a chance for contract renewal, but after the three cases, that they'll need to settle, there is little chance for the heroes to want more! Why is that? Well, apart from all the crap that they'll have to endure from common citizens, the claimants are really, really, shall we say, "unique". There's a common thug, who has a whole bunch of lesser thugs under his command. There's a mercenary knight, with an entire retinue. There are also religious fanatics, and the aforementioned wizard. Wait, make that two wizards! However only one has a status of wizard lord, so it's not that bad, is it? It is inevitable that the PC's will get on some of those peeps bad side, and it's only up to them and their wits to keep their heads in one piece! Antagonising an entire band of sigmarite flagellants? Yeah, not so great a idea, is it?

What I like about the characters in "HoW", is the fact that each of them has an extensive backstory, and really complex motivations for their actions. There are no one-dimensional, boring and predictable people here. They all fell alive, they feel like each of them really has a personal stake in those claims, that the Heralds are investigating. For a short scenario, this is quite a unique thing, and Hectorius really managed to nail his NPC's right. Well done sir. Particualy well written are the two wizards, Schaumer and Schumacher, for whom the author created a unique set of magical items, which can be freely used in any other WFRP game. Now that's what I like to see in a fan-made material - cool, little details like that always work and make the supplement itself much more interesting.

The claims themselves are cool and interesting, altough they're not anything earthshaking... just like they're supoosed to be. When reading this scenario for the first time, I was afraid that some of the cases will involve daemon infested castles, vampire mansions and cultist dens. Instead I've got your typical land claims, with one party interested in grabbing it for either a financial or religious purpose. Particulary interesting was the case of the village of Sigmarshame in Talabecland, rumored to be the place, where Sigmar himself once lived, for a short while. Hectorius knows all too well not to place too much attention on the locations themselves, but on each individual claimant's struggle to grab them for him or herself. There was a very easy way for the author to fall into that trap, but he managed to avoid it and for that I applaud him thoroughly.

Heralds will need to discover each claimant's motivations and legal claims, before making their verdict in public. This means that they'll almost certainly will have to visit the Landes Kommission, with which the College of Heralds has ancient, ongoing rivalry. Inside this institution, the PC's will have to go through many books, ledgers and manuscripts, in order to help their cause and place the final judgement. Oh yeah, I almost forgot - it's mandatory that at least one of the heroes knows how to read and write, otherwise their task will become much, much harder, if not nigh on impossible.

There's only so far that the brute strength will get you, after all
Each case should take no more than a month to complete, but my group finished all three in about three weeks, in game time of course. I didn't really fancied to needlessly prolong each case, but I did not rush any of them either. In fact, I did add a few, shall we say, side quests, but they were connected to the main storyline and gave my players many, new opportunities and angles to advance their cause. In the end, they were successful and managed to finish their task for the College. I was especially proud of them, for not resorting to violence during this scenario. In fact none of them drew their weapons, not even once! I think that's the first WFRP adventure, in which the heroes finished their quest with not a drop of blood on their hands. Oh sure, many people kicked the bucket, before the game has ended, but my players did not killed any of them. Again - kudos to the author for constructing his story in such a way, that it was possible to achieve that, very impressive, feat.

"Heralds of Woe" is a great scenario, perfect for either a one-shot, or as a filler during a long campaign. Hectorius made wonderful job of creating not only an interesting adventure, which makes you want to come back for more, but also to fill it with equally interesting, if not fascinating set of memorable characters. Drachilda Gebauer, the famous "Dragonlady", the decadent Tillman Rohrig, dark and brooding Lupold Baumann and mighty Alaric Schumacher, a mighty Wizard Lord - these are only some of the ensemble cast, presented in "Heralds of Woe", that those who'll play this adventure, will surely never forget, and rightly so, for each of them is unique and fascinating. Even tough that I've run this scenario online, over Roll20, I could hear my players interact with those NPC's with real, genuine interest and curiosity. That's a staple of a well written scenario, no mistake about that.

Give yourselves an early Holiday present, and download this gem of an adventure here, from the Daily Empire blog, which also has many other, cool addons for the classic WFRP. You won't be dissapointed, trust me.

So this concludes this year's Grimvember. I must say that it was really, really fun and I can't wait to return to it, at the beginning of the 2017's november. Until then however, there will be much more stuff for me to show you, and I hope you'll like it. I'll see you all this sunday, with a special surprise.

Yup, you can probably guess what it'll be, can you?
Oh, and whatever you'll do, watch out for Ernst and the Room 212 in the College itself. Trust me, it's for your own good.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/07/2016

It's Grimvember time! Into the Eye of the Forest we go!

So far I've been reviewing only short scenarios for WFRP. So let's change that, shall we? I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite campaigns for WFRP 2nd Edition - "Terror in Talabheim".

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had many great campaigns, made for it over the years. Some of them achieved legendary status, like the famous "The Enemy Within". Others however, were not so lucky. "Terror in Talabheim" is in the second group, and unfairly so, I might add. This is a really excellent campaign and sourcebook, all in one.

I just love those freaky covers so much!
"ToT" is divided into two parts. First we have a section, detailing the history of the ancient city, supposedly created, when Taal brought down a mighty dragon from the skies and the resulting impact created the crater, in which the city is located. Talabheim is pretty unique, when it comes to settlements in the Empire, for the fact it is almost entirely placed within the walls of a mighty crater. Because of that, it has never been conquered, the steep slopes of its natural defences, all but impossible for any army to breach.

Of course there are areas lying outside of the crater. The Taalagad, full of desperate refugees, is a good example and the first place that PC's will likely visit, during their adventures in the "Eye of the Forest". It is described as overflooded with people, desperate to get inside the Talabheim, living in squalor and poverty. Tensions increase as kislevite refugees are looked down on by the native Talabeclanders, who view them as nothing more than vermin. Taalagad is also home to the famous inn called "The Ten Tailed Cat", which debuted in the venerable Warhammer Monthly magazine, many years ago. It's a nice easter egg of sorts and a nod towards the older enthusiasts of the hobby.

The Talabheim itself is described in a great detail. It's diverted into a few districts, each different from the other. Being a city of lawmakers, the majority of Talabheim is dedicated to law and the cult of Verena is incredibly popular within the walls of Taalbaston. The Eye of the Forest is presented as a much more organised city, then, let's say, Altdorf or Nuln, with strong emphasis on order. Now there are still parts of the city, that ordinary, decent folk should avoid like a plague. The Tallows and Ratholds districts are overcrowded, dangerous and emanate a sense of desperation and hoplessness, in direct opposition to reach and prosperous God's Row and Merchants Quarters. Talabheim is perfect to remind players, that the Empire, with all its cosmopolitan glory, is still a place of social odds and injustice. Bravo to the authors for delivering that message well.

Oh, I almost forgot - the Talabheim itself occupies only a part of the great crater. The rest is covered in fields, forests and smaller villiages. It really works well to present the scale of the mighty crater, and its sheer, enormous size. Talabheim really is a truly unique city, a gem amongst the Empire's settlements. A bastion of hope within a sea of trees, able to withstand any siege and emerge victorious. A seat of Taal's power and symbol of his everlasting might.

That mass of stone? Yeah, those are Talabheim's walls. Below you can see Taalagad in all its decrepit glory
The second part of the book contains the campaign itself. It is separated into multiple chapters and there's a handy reference for Gamemasters, used to track certain events which will happen during the course of the game. I really liked the structure of this campaign. PC's don't start initially in the Eye of the Forest itself. No, no - they have to find a way to enter the city and that's a tricky task in itself, requiring them to make some friends... and enemies. However things turn from bad to worse, as a new and deadly plague begins to devastate Taalagad... and the city of Talabheim itself. No one is safe from it, not even the heroes. It also turns out that the outbreak has been orchestrated by a powerful enemy, who wishes to close the Eye of the Forest forever...

Now I don't want to spoil too much, but veterans of Warhammer Fantasy can probably guess the nature of this campaign's adversaries, just by looking at the cover. This is no bad thing however, as "Terror in Talabheim" keeps players on their toes, right to the very end. It's just a perfect combination of classic WFRP-style intrigue and a military-themed gameplay, altough the latter dosen't come into light, until the very end of campaign. I also know that this part can be a bit... dissapointing. Especially if players are accustomed to more traditional Warhammer Fantasy adventures, revolving around intrigue and investigation, and not sword fighting and military tactics. Still, for me and my group it was a nice refreshment from your typical WFRP game, so no one was complaining. In the words of Tzeentch himself: "sometimes you just need a small change in your life". Bear in mind tough, that the second part of "TiT" is much, much harder and more merciless than the first, and players will have to think fast, if they'll want to leave Talabheim alive, and with at least a single Fate Point in their possession.

"Terror in Talabheim" is a very cool sourcebook/campaign and there's really no doubt about it. It details the Eye of the Forest in a interesting and thorough way and presents both the GM and his players, with a great and interesting adventure to boot. Altough it can be a bit disorentating near its second half, its overall quality, the choices it forces upon players and its dynamism and oppressivenes, all make for an excellent and heart pounding experience and I recommend it to anyone, who loves a good, albeit difficult and demanding, WFRP campaign. Try it out and you won't be dissapointed.

Now for a few words of explanation. I know that it's already December and I still have one last Grimvember entry to make. Unfortunately real life stuff go in the way, and so I was forced to move my schedule back a bit, but don't worry - there'll be one, last Grimvember entry this friday, 9th of December, and then, on sunday, I'll have a special treat for all of you wonderful people, for whom I love to write and share my passions with. Stay tuned, because good times are coming.

Very good times indeed...
Until next time!

Xathrodox86