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12/28/2017

It's the end of the year! Let's sum up the 2017. What lies ahead?

Right before the end of December, I look back on the whole year and sum up my entire hobby endeavors.

It was a crazy year. Some personal stuff aside, I can easily call it a success, when it comes to hobby related stuff. Let's take a closer look on some of the more important points of 2017.

1. Starting a new RPG group.

Time to step back into that familiar tavern...
One year ago I've returned to running WFRP live. Until then, for a year I only GM'ed it on Roll20 (and I still do!), but I wanted to return to "real life" experience. Needless to say, it went well. I've gathered a fantastic group of fellow hobby enthusiasts and we're playing once a week for a year now. There were a few changes in the group's composition at the very beginning, but right now it's all stable. During that single year we've managed to complete two classic 1st edition campaigns - "Lichemaster" and the entire "The Enemy Within"! Not only that but we've also managed to start "The Thousand Thrones", which is going better than great. The boys are already on chapter three and they've also finished a timeless classic - "The Lord of Lost Heart". We've even managed to play a couple games of 6th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (we're playing the classic campaign "Dark Shadows"), something that I'm very happy about!
Finding a group of passionate, friendly and enthusiastic people has been a real boon to my hobby life. From here I would like to thank Kuba, Czarek, Paweł and Andrzej for a fantastic year and, potentialy, many more to come. Thank you guys. For everything.

2. Successfully continuing my Roll20 experience.

A good advice, if I ever saw one
When I've started my online WFRP group on the Roll20, more than two years ago now, I did not expect it to last more than a couple of months. Well, whaddya know, it's still going strong! There were a few player swaps here and there, but for a long time now, the crew is tight and works together really well. Not only do I love to play with those guys, but I also love the fact that we're RP'ing in English, since all of them are from the USA. It gives me a great opportunity to work on my language and improvisation skills, since GM'ing through a microphone is a completely different thing, than doing that live (FYI we are not using webcams). This year we've played many, classic WFRP titles. There was the legendary "A rough night at the Three Feathers", "The Haunting Horror" and a one-shot in Araby of my own devising. Finally they've reached Talabheim for a grand-scale campaign, which slowly comes to an end.
As for what will come next, who knows? We shall see. Again, a huge thanks to my fantastic players - Andy, Bryan, Jason and Sean. You rock!

3. Expanding my RPG collection.

One day I will have a similar number of RPG books
This year I've managed to greatly improve the amount of my role-playing books and gadgets. Right now I only have 3 books left to finish my 2nd edition WFRP collection. This summer a very special package came to me from Finland. Inside was a bunch of OOP books, including "Lure of the Liche Lord", "The WFRP Companion" and "The Career Compendium" among others. From here I would very much like to thank Konrad from Warhammer-Empire for a chance to purchase these beauties. I'm still hoping that you'll find "Night's Dark Masters" and "Tome of Salvation", as they're amongst the few left, that I don't have in my possession.

Aside from some WFRP titles, I've also managed to grab a bunch of Neuroshima books from a pal, which I'm very happy about. Neuroshima is a polish post-apocalyptic RPG, with a theme similar to "Fallout" and "Mad Max" series. It has some of the most well-written gaming books, ever released and the atmosphere is just awesome. I will surely buy more sourcebooks for Neuroshima, as I intend to have the whole collection, one day.

Finally there are gadgets... lots and lots of new gadgets to include in my games. I've found out that at least a quarter of satisfaction and atmosphere-building, can be achieved by using props and cool, climactic gadgets. There will be a whole article about this soon, but for now let me just say that printing a bunch of maps and laminating them, was one of my best, hobby ideas that I ever had. Then there is also "THE CHEST", a very nicely crafted, custom wooden box, for storing my whole GM paraphernalia, including dice, paper coins, leather pouches and other stuff. My players absolutely love these additional props and they really do add a lot to the game itself.

4. Continuing work on my 30K Alpha Legion army.

None more loyal!
I wasn't much of a modeler or painter this year, since I've decided to concentrate on my RPG passion. That said. I did managed to assemble and paint to a certain level, nearly all of my XXth Legion force, which consists of over a hundred Marines, two Contemptor Dreadnoughts, three Scimitar Jetbikes and a Mastodon. Oh and there's a Rhino and a Whirlwind as well, almost forgot about these. That said, only my infantry received the basic colors and the vehicles are next in line. I would very much like to thank Michał for letting me use his painting gear, without which I wouldn't be able to achieve this goal. Next year, if everything goes well, I plan to finish this army and move on to my remaining two - my mixed Imperial Guard and my Empire, with some classic Dogs of War support. Yeah, I already regret buying so many models, but at least I'm playing with them, so that's a plus. You know, as opposed to my normal Space Marine army, which I'm trying to sell for quite some time now. Never buy too many armies, folks. It's not worth it, seriously.

5. Contributing to the Warhammer Fantasy community in one way or another.

I've been very active on a couple of fan sites, dedicated to Warhammer Fantasy, both the RPG and the tabletop strategy game. For me interacting with fellow 'Hammer enthusiasts is a great thing, really positive and it brings me a lot of joy to see so many passionate people, continuing to write, argue about and contribute to this wonderful and fascinating, fantasy world. It was thanks to them, that I've managed to shake off my aversion for WFB/WFRP, which came upon me around the middle of 2014. While I still think that these games have a lot of flaws and are not that unique or original, I'm fine with that. For me Warhammer Fantasy is like a comfort food. I know it really well, I can cook it fast and easy, it's not something special or unique, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I'm cool with that.
Sites and blogs like Kalevala HammerStrike to Stun, Warhammer-Empire, AWESOME LIES and The Daily Empire, are all doing a great job of keeping the flame alive. Now, with just a few months before the release o WFRP 4th edition, these communities received even more attention from gamers, both old and new, who wish to learn more about Warhammer Fantasy. I can't stress how great and important, this kind of attention is, to the hobby. I'm trying to do my part, answering questions, taking part in discussions and even working on a few, fan-made supplements, which I hope to finish next year, around spring. Warhammer Fantasy is alive and kicking. Let's make sure that it stays that way.

So there you have it, a summary of my hobby-related activities in 2017. I hope that 2018 will be just as interesting and busy, when it comes to RPGs and tabletop games. That said, there are major life changes heading my way and I may have to slow down on a couple of things, including my hobbies. After all, they're just that - hobbies, but worry I shall not. For even if there will be some downtime, there is always a chance for a comeback. I'm quite optimistic about that and, of course, I will inform you about any, major changes on the pages of this fine blog, my very own slice of internet that I'm lucky to share with all you, fine, fine people.

I wanted to thank all of you, my readers, for coming back to this blog, reading my crazy, sometimes downright incoherent, ramblings and returning for more. I'm writing for you and for you alone and I intend to do it, for many more years to come. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

All of you
Until next time... in 2018! Stay safe, people and take care.

Xathrodox86

12/15/2017

Role-playing Rants: My honest thoughts on the 4th edition of WFRP

A few weeks ago Cubicle 7 have released the covers for the 4th edition of WFRP, along with some news, regarding the first campaign, that they'll be releasing. Let's take a closer look at what we've been told.

Right at the start I want to make one thing abundantly clear - I'm very happy for the release of next edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I think that the 3rd one was a mediocre effort and a new edition will have a chance to wash that stain away. If it will be done right, of course.

So first of all we have the covers. One for the starter set, one for the rulebook itself. They compliment each other nicely and I definitely like the shout-out to the first edition of the game. From the covers alone a lot can be told and I think that Cubicle 7 gives us subtle hints about the tone of the game. On one hand we have a bunch of classic Warhammer heroes, doing ordinary Warhammer stuff, which is always nice and gives this setting a feel of normality, of everyday social struggles. Then again we have an action packed cover, where the heroes are fighting off a bunch of vile ratmen! This certainly shows that the 4th edition won't stray from everyone's favorite combat-heavy aspect of the game.

When nostalgia kicks in hard!
The color palette is interesting as well. Cubicle 7 clearly intends this game to be more "child friendly" than "grim-dark" and it shows. Yeah, we have the usual Old World squalor and gloom, presented on both covers, but on the other hand the whole thing is pretty colorful and heroic. I get a strong comic book vibes, just from looking at these covers. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. As long as they won't take it too far, I'm all cool with that style.

4th edition's mechanics will be a mix of rules from the 1st and 2nd editions, with a bit of the 3rd, thrown for good measure, apparently. It clearly shows one thing - Cubicle 7 aims this game not to new players, but to the "Old Guard". They know how nostalgic their target fanbase really is and, in a very well thought-out move, decide not to make a complete makeover, like FFG did with the 3rd edition. I honestly think that this is a... very risky move. Sure, on one hand they will get massive interest from the older players, the veterans of Warhammer Fantasy. On the other, however, not focusing on gaining the attention of new players is a dangerous thing to do. After all, focusing your product on a sake of nostalgia alone, does not equal success, or at least doesn't have to. I hope that the guys and gals at Cubicle 7 know what they're doing.

Another thing that I'm not 100% ok with, is the choice of the first campaign for the 4th edition. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to "The Enemy Within"! For the third, fucking time. My god, how much can you milk a single module? Why Cubicle 7, for the love of Sigmar, why? You had a clean start, a clean slate and you had to choose the most obvious and boring way imaginable. Don't get me wrong, I love "The Enemy Within", I really do. I GM'ed it this year and it was a blast. But this campaign is more than 30 years old, it's been known to every player out there, including those, playing other systems. FFG did their own version of it, it's been fan-remade (well, at least some parts of it were), there is nothing new or original about "TEW". Ok, so Cubicle 7 got Graeme Davis on board and that's a great thing, as he's the perfect man for this job, but that's still not enough for me, to justify resurrecting a fossil of that magnitude. I'm sorry, but a "director's cut" of "TEW" is a wasted opportunity, in my opinion. You could've given Mr. Davis a task to write something new and original, and MAYBE give us a refreshed version of some old campaigns later in the run. But no, you had to try and score a couple more "nostalgia" points from the old school players. I'm disappointed. Not pissed, or anything, just... disappointed.

Hopefully their next modules will give us something new and fresh. I understand that Cubicle 7 wants to reach mainly to us, old timers, but even so, they will need to present some fresh and unique content. Something never seen before. They've promised elven and Lustria supplements and that makes me very happy, but then again, I still remember the page from the 2nd editions rulebook, on which it was written that the elves will get their own book, one day. This never happened, as I'm sure many people know. Sure, there are a few great fan-made supplements about the High and Wood Elves, like the "Defenders of the Forest" and "The Book of the Asur", but nothing official. I hope that Cubicle 7 will change that. I also hope that we'll see sourcebooks for lands beyond the Old World. Lustria is a start, but I want to see more details about Albion, Cathay, Ind and Nippon. I want a whole, huge book about the fascinating Southlands and the myriad wonders and dangers, that can be found on this mysterious continent.

Hey, Cubicle 7, please make it happen!
I want something else than the usual Old World stew with Beastmen hiding in the woods, grim Witch Hunters and tired, moustached innkeepers. I want to see a lot of originality, even if "real" WFRP players and gamemasters will grimace with distaste, at the sight of a Cathay supplement. The thing that drove me away from Warhammer Fantasy, a few years back, was the lack of originality and the endless, boring cycle of "same old same old" attitude from the fanbase. Cubicle 7 has a chance to change that, nay they need to change that. Even if the 4th edition will be marketed mainly to the "old guard", it needs to show something new, something that has never been seen before. If it won't then... Well, then it will suffer the fate of the previous edition, as a interesting, but ultimately pointless game. At least that's my opinion on this subject.

I have a lot of hopes when it comes to the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but also a lot of doubts. I seriously hope that the developers won't fuck this up and they will treat us, their consumers, with dignity and respect and not like a bunch of tools, who will buy anything with a Warhammer logo printed on the cover. You know, like FFG did. I will have to wait a couple months more to see if I'm right, or that my initial enthusiasm was a mistake. Only time will tell.

Oh, one more thing. I've updated both my WFRP and 40K RPG collections. You can download a bunch of new, free and 100% legal stuff from here and here. As usual, all the credit goes to the fantastic community members, who spent their time, working on these supplements. Thank you.

You're awesome!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/04/2017

Grimvember 2017 is here! The sinister "Order of the Feathered Lord" comes for you!

Let's end this year's Grimvember with a bang. So far I've only reviewed scenarios and campaigns, but now I'll take a closer look at a sourcebook of sorts - the "Order of the Feathered Lord" by Sami Uusitalo.

Every scenario is only as good as its villain, or maybe that's just my opinion. Anyway, I love a well-written bad guy in my adventures. Boring, one-dimensional villains are usually more harmful to the overall structure of the scenario, than they're to the PC's themselves. Fortunately the "Order of the Feathered Lord" presents gamemasters with a right bunch of evil a-holes, who are incredibly well written and very cool to use in almost any game of WFRP.

They also serve the coolest Chaos God of them all!
The "Order of the Feathered Lord" is the first part in the "Blasphemous Cults" series, created by Sami Uusitalo. Unfortunately I only have volumes 1 and 3 (Cult of  the Possessed). If anyone out there has the second volume of this fantastic series, I'd be more than happy to add it to my extensive collection and, by extension, make it available for all of the 'Hammer fans, out there.

The document itself is very nicely written. The first half consists of notes of Samael Neuhauser, a Witch Hunter of Sigmar, whose notes on the cult are both fascinating and repugnant. Fascinating, because Uusitalo managed to create an exceptionally well written Templar of Sigmar. Seriously, the first part of this sourcebook alone is worth your time. Although bear in mind, the Witch Hunter in question is of the more... overzealous kind and his methods are downright disturbing. Cutting out a scribe's tongue and branding his hands with a sign of a twin-tailed comet? Yeah, he does that and writes about in a completely casual manner. Creepy bastard.

The Templar writes about a mysterious cult, named the Order of the Feathered Lord. During a routine investigation in Altdorf, he encountered a horrifyingly mutilated body of a priest of Manaan. Later, while chasing down a sorcerer through the gloomy streets of Talagaad, Neuhauser encountered similar, grisly scene in the docks of this wretched place. Finally deciding to delve deeper into this dark mystery, he eventually reached Marienburg, where, with the help of priests of Manaan, he found out about the Order of the Feathered Lord. Without much spoilers, this horrible cult was the result of jealousy, blind ambition and resentment. Sounds vague and unoriginal? Trust me, this organisation is anything but these things, but I won't spoil too much for you. You'll just have to read this fine document yourselves.

The "Order of the Feathered Lord" presents the GM with a very interesting idea - a chaos cult, with aquatic theme. Normally when one thinks about evil organisations with a sea motif, one generally imagines a cult of Stromfels. Meanwhile the Order of the Feathered Lord shows us that Chaos doesn't need to be contained only to dank cellars and gloomy temples - it can also be present at sea! Uusitalo describes a believable, realistic chaotic organisation, which operates under the guise of a Navigator Guild, and from Nuln, of all places! This, of course, makes them immediately 100 times more awesome than they already are. And they're pretty awesome, as you might already tell from my beaming review of this document.

The second part of the "Order of the Feathered Lord" contains the rules section. In here the reader will find info on Melkior Federkleiden, the cult's leader (every single one them, throughout history, took upon that name) as well as his stats. Of course we are talking about a cult dedicated to Tzeentch, so Federkleiden should probably be used as a "enemy within" type of antagonist. We also have the Chief Navigators, order's inner council of vile douchebags and the "standard" Navigators, who are no less evil. It's worth mentioning that all of these enemies are mages and all are mutants. The author presents interesting ideas, about how such an socially influential group could've hidden their mutations with relative ease, so it's worth checking them out, especially if you're running a game with lots of cultists. The Order's enforcers are converted, Empire mercenaries, known as the Cult of Khar-Nak, a bunch of filthy, Khorne worshippers. Yup, Federkleiden is so hardcore, that enlisted the help of a bunch of khornates. What a guy.

Finally Uusitalo gives us the description of a sextant, a daemonicly infused artifcat, used by the evil Navigators to ply their trade, by observing the vile moon Morrslieb and the many faces, which could be seen on its surface. Freaky! Oh and Melkior Federkleiden's sextant can have a single Pink Horror inside, ready to serve his mutated master. How cool is that?

The "Order of the Feathered Lord" concludes with a bunch of encounter ideas, that incorporate this villainous organisation of Navigators (including one, where PC's are the cultists!) and a single campaign concept. They're all excellent and a true testament to Uusitalo's skill as a WFRP author. In keeping with the atmosphere of this fine document, the "author", Samael Neuhauser, cites all of the sources that he used in composing this treaty. They include, among others, "Liber Chaotica" by Richter Kleiss and "Tome of Corruption" by Hrodbert of Hochland. Neuhauser even consulted his work with Mathias Thulmann, know from C.L. Werner's series of excellent books. Now that's what I call a good kind of meta!

What can I say? Grab it, read it, use it in your games. This is seriously one of the coolest, fan-made supplements for WFRP that was ever written. You can download it from the Daily Empire, or from here. Hope that you'll all enjoy it as much as I did.

So there you have it - the conclusion of 2017's Grimvember. And yeah, I know that it's December already, but, sadly, real life sometimes gets in the way. Anyway, I'll be back soon with more thoughts on the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and maybe Warhammer 40,000? Who knows. Anyway, I'll catch you all later.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86