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Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Hunt for Vulkan" by David Annandale

After almost three years I've decided to finish my review of "The Beast Arises" series. I've finally managed to complete it earlier this years, and I'd love to share my opinions on the whole thing with you lot.

After ""Echoes of the Long War" comes "The Hunt for Vulkan" by David Annandale. This book is almost non-stop action, as it concentrates on the last loyal Primarch who's still active in the Imperium. Koorland wants to find him to give the humans a fighting chance against the greenskins. The Lord of Drakes is kicking fungi ass on the planet Caldera, last seen in the "Promethean Sun" by Nick Kyme. Here we see that he's not holding back anymore, slaying hundreds of greenskins by himslef, like they're nothing. Annadale's portrayal of XVIIIth Legion's Primarch is primal and full of righteous fury. Fury at what happened during the Heresy of Horus. Fury at the death of his beloved brothers, and the corruption of the traitors. Vulkan is no giver of hugs here, he is a killer, Imperium's vengeance personified. He's also a very tragic hero, being unable to let go of the past and move on. One cannot help but feel sympathy for him.

One, however, can't and should not feel any sympathy for these fuckers
The High Lords are shitters as usual, bickering, scheming and being unable to protect their citizens. "The Hunt for Vulkan" has very few scenes where they're actually present, but when they do appear, the reader will instantly feel his gorge rising. It's a real tragedy, to see these weak men and women as ruleres of the Imperium, forged by a literal god who wanted nothing else but the best for his people.

The recurring heroes are as solid as ever. Koorland is a true son of Dorn, for whom nothing is more imporant than duty. Veritas, the ancient inquisitor, is playing a dangerous game in the shadows of the Throneworld, eventually trusting Koorland with a secret that might save the Imperium. Since the Beast is on Ullanor, a place of the greatest triumph of mankind during the golden age of the Great Crusade, they now need a legend of their own to fight the monster. That legend is Vulkan, Lord of Drakes, master of the XVIIIth Legion and the last loyal Primarch who's still alive in these troubled times.

This book finally feels like the humans actually have a chance against the orks. The victory is now a possibility, and Annandale makes sure to play on that hope. As in most of his books, his writing is solid and incredibly enjoyable to read. I'm in the "Damnation of Pythos was actually a good book" club, so you won't hear anything negative about his style from this geek. There's also mention about other Adeptus Astartes chapters, like the Vlka Fenryka and the glorious Ultramarines. It's nice to know that it's not only about the Fists and their successors!

This is a very solid, very good book, and one of this series stronger titles. There are still a few more to come, before we're finished, but I highly recommend reading "The Hunt for Vulkan". It's worth it for the action alone.

Vulkan lives!
Until next time!



A quick update on what is going on. Also – some major life changes incoming!

As I'm waiting for a certain interview to be finally finalized, I've decided to make a quick sit rep of what is currently going on with my RPG-related activities.

There's is quite going on! A lot, in fact. My IRL weekly Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay group is going strong, as we plow through the classic tale of "The Enemy Within". This is our last foray into the 2nd edition of WFRP, as the 4th is just so much better in almost every way possible (great job Cubicle 7!). Still, the wacky humor, the shenanigans, the sense of mild paranoia and secrecy - these are the hallmarks of our playstyle, and they truly make for some excellent experience. The gang is currently visiting Bogenhafen during the infamous Shaffenfest, and they've already left one of their own to tender mercies of the local Sigmarite clergy. Good times...

After all, they're known for the compassion and forgiving nature...
My biweekly Roll20 WFRP group from the States is having a hard time dealing with "The Thousand Thrones", although they're not stopping by any means. One of the PC's has a broken pelvis, and almost got his right knee removed by a crazy butcher's wife, wielding a cleaver. He now must walk by using a crutch, and he must hold it in his right (good) hand. The party halfling, the longest surviving member of the gang, is dying of a nasty stomach wound, and got his entire right arm removed at the shoulder by a chaos knight of Nurgle. Lukas, the party's biggest killer, now looks like Deadpool, after being engulfed by daemonic horse's acidic breath. Finally Vincent, the sombre knight of Morr, lost his eye to the villain's wicked blade. All of this, except for the broken pelvis, happened during a single session.

If you want to listen to our adventures, and have a major laugh (seriously, the humor is one of the best things about these games), then you can visit my YouTube channel which can be found here.

Now the gang is locked up in a abandoned coaching inn, deep in the Drakwald. It's the dead of night, a bunch of mutants just barged through the door, but at least they're friendly. However the entire beastmen warherd that's closing down on the inn is not so friendy. At least they can count on the fat priest of Sigmar and his three cowardly lackies for asistance...

Now we move onto my monthly Swedish Delta Green Roll20 group. These guys are awesome. I mean: guys and a gal. They're all excellent, and it's a nice change of style, pace and atmosphere, being able to plunge into the otherworldy horror of the Mythos. So far one of them, an agent with multiple cover identites and a light trigger finger is proving to be a sort of loose cannon, but the others are trying to rein him in. After finishing two operations in New York City they're now travelling to Miami, to face some chilling reception from a band of nasty Wendigos'. Who said that Florida must be hot and humid?

Especially with these guys running around! (original artwork by MorkarDFC)
Also we are thinking of turning our session recordings into a podcast. More info on that soon. Meanwhile you can listen to the first op here.

Finally the guys from my Horus Heresy league are enquiring me to run them a few Vampire: The Masquerade scenarios, one each month. I'm not big on V:TM, in fact I consider it one of the weaker CWoD splats, but I do like these chaps a lot, so I might relent. It would probably be a short game - 2-3 sessions max, as A) I don't have THAT much time, and B) it's Vampire, so... I don't know. I'll need to check if I'll be able to fit everything together and make it work, especially because...

I'm getting married this October. Yeah, last year I've proposed to my girlfriend, and she said yes. So this year we're travelling to her home country of Armenia to tie the knot. I don't need to tell you how excited I am. It will be a whole new chapter in my life, and I'm so happy to share it with my favorite person in the world.

Anyway, that was a quick run-down of what I'm currently up to. Things are going well, more than well in fact. Me getting married, the blog being discovered by more and more people every day, my Twitter account almost reching 700 with me tweeting only about WFRP and Delta Green (no D&D, which is all the rage on Twitter), and many other fantastic things currently happening in my life, are what's giving me joy and hope for a better tommorow. Thanks for being part of this journey people. I would not have made it without you.

I also have a couple surprises for you this year, but for now they're, well, surprises. So shhhh...

Until next time!



Xathrodox86 reviews: "Sword of Justice" by Chris Wraight

Chris Wraight is one of my all-time favorite Black Library writers. I've enjoyed all of his books so far, and I consider his "Swords of the Emperor" duology to be one of the best stories, set in the grim world of Warhammer Fantasy.

Of these, the "Sword of Justice" is the first part. Being a part of the "Warhammer Heroes" line, and centering around the dour and uncompromising Ludwig Schwarzhelm, the Emperor's Champion, it presents a tale of corruption, ambition and misguided pride - all of which can lead to the downfall of even the mightiest of heroes.

Even Ludwig Schwarzhelm...
Of all Karl Franz's servants, none is more staunchly loyal and steadfast in his duty as Ludwig Schwarzhelm. Born a common man, through the might of his arm, and the strength of his will he became one of the most powerful people in Sigmar's Holy Empire. Supposedly never having smiled once in his life, Schwarzhelm is a perfect representation of the Emperor's will - his Sword of Justice. Of course I must mention his eternal rivalry with Kurt Helborg, Reiksmarshall of the Empire and wielder of the Solland Runefang, also known as the Sword of Vengeance. Together they are the Swords of the Emperor, defenders of the Empire and warriors supreme.

The book starts with a battle sequence, something that Wright is very good at writing (and trust me, this title is chock-full of them). A garrison of Empire soldiers is being attacked by a huge force of beastmen, and things look really grim for the humans. Fortunately reinforcements arrive, led by none other than Ludwig Schwarzhelm himself. I don't like to spoil anything to my readers, but I gotta say one thing - the fight between the Emperor's Champion and a Doombull is fucking amazing. The sheer force of will and skill of arms versus the primal strength and fury. For this fight alone the "Sword of Justice" is worth picking up.

Anyway, after saving the hapless soldiers, Schwarzhelm returns to Altdorf to speak with the Emperor and his old rival, Kurt Helborg, who's also unimaginably smug. Like seriously, this guy's a jerk, but one that you can't help but admire a lot. There are clear differences between the two heroes, and while they're pleasant and cordial enough to each other, it's clear that their rivalry is strong, and will probably lead to eventual confrontation in the future. Schwarzhelm is sent by Karl Franz to Averland, to oversee the election of new count, after Marius Leitdorf was killed by the orcs. There are also reports of greenskins amassing to the east, and while Ludwig would much more prefer to join the fight against the monsters, his duty is clear - he must travel to Averheim and dive deep into Imperial politics.

Recruiting Bloch, a veteran captain from the previous battle with beastmen, and seeking advice from his mentor, Heinrich Lassus, Schwarzhelm travels to Averland. All is not as it seems, though, as the streets are full of violence. The two pretenders to the throne are hiring thugs who make a horrible mess of the province's capital, while a huge drug epidemic is plunging Averheim into chaos. Schwarzhelm himself is having trouble sleeping, and his mood, and patience, begin to deteriorate. Shadow players with dark agendas work their corruption in subtle ways, and soon the entire province's fate hangs in the balance...

Chris Wraight writes strong, well developed characters in his books, and "Sword of Justice" is no exception. His portrayal of Schwarzhelm is excellent, a feat in itself, given that the Emperor's Champion can be, at a first glance, a very one dimensional hero. Nothing is further from the truth, however, and Ludwig is written as a very likeable, and troubled character. He has a lot on his shoulders, and the threat of failure weighs heavily on him. The support cast is excellent as well. Bloch is your typical gruff soldier archetype. He gets stuff done, and he's not afraid to get dirty. Verstohlen, Schwarzhelm's "Spymaster" is probably the second most interesting character in the entire book. He's brains to Bloch's brawn, and I love the fact that he's not afraid to use some very questionable methods to achieve his goals. The man's passion for his duty, and his hatred for the otherworldly corruption that is Chaos are without limit, and truly define him. I must say that I've enjoyed reading about him most of all, and would like to see this unsung hero get some stories of his own. I know that it probably won't happen, but a man can dream.

Finally there are all the other characters, like two pretenders to the provincial throne. They are both weak, scheming men, who would stop at nothing to see their ambitions realized. The big bad of the book is both sinister and composed, presenting a very realistic threat to Averland, and the Empire as a whole. Wraight has a penchant for writing Chaos in a way that is truly horrifying, especially when it comes to the youngest and most depraved of its powers. "Sword of Justice" is no exception. Schwarzhelm's main rival, Kurt "Magnificent Moustache" Helborg has very little "screen time", except a large fight, later in the book. Makes sense, since the second book, "Sword of Vengeance", is all about the Reiksmarshall and his own struggle to free Averland from the yoke of corruption. All in all, the characters in "Sword of Justice" are all excellently written. Thank you Mr. Wraight.

This book is a perfect example of how a tie-in media can be done right. It's thrilling, fascinating to read, and an utter joy to experience. It has a right blend of action and suspense, and more than a few twists along the way. Chris Wraight is one of the best that the Black Library has to offer, and this book is a great example of why it is so, at least for me. I can't wait to read "Sword of Vengeance" and share with you my opinions on the second part of this grim and fascinating tale. Hopefully it'll be sooner than later.

This cover oozes manliness and awesome
Until next time!



My honest thoughts about the collector's edition of "The Enemy Within". Also - "Kalevala Hammer" is 12 years old!

"The Enemy Within" is the quintessential WFRP campaign, and one that almost every, single fan of the franchise knows by heart. Now it's going to recieve a special, collector's edition for the 4th iteration of the game.

First things first, however. Kalevala Hammer, one of the best Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay sites, is 12 years old! How time flies. I remember reading Jackdays' excellent addons at the beginning of my GM career, and his work has greatly influenced my gaming style. Jack is such an awesome dude, that he even published my fan-made WFRP sourcebooks, not too long ago. Here's to him and his fantastic website. May it continue to inspire and help more people in the future

Happy birthday!
As for the "TEW" Collector's Edition - it looks awesome. It's beautifully made and full of additional goodies. Aside from the 5 campaign books, it will also contain 5 new companion books, full of authors' commentaries, new plot hooks, new scenarios etc. This whole thing will be packed into 5 neat slipcases with unique artworks on each of them. When you buy the whole thing, you also get all of the "TEW" PDF's, but that's pretty standard to be honest.

Oh, and the whole thing will cost 750 $.

750 dollars is... quite a lot. Actually it's a shit-ton of money, not gonna lie. I collect and play tabletop games, including Forgeworld's Horus Heresy, so I do spend rather a lot on my hobby, but 750 bucks for 10 books is... a lot. Look, I'm down with collector's editions. That's what they for - to earn their makers a lot of dosh. That said, I couldn't really justify buying that set. It's a huge chunk of my monthly pension for, what ammounts to, a few fancy art pieces and a commentary plus some additional, optional goodies.

I love Cubicle 7, I really do, but that price is just too high, for what's on offer. I will get every, single one of the new "The Enemy Within" books, as I'm very happy that they're remaking this campaign, and that Graeme Davis is on board, doing what he does best. That said, this collector's edition, for me at least, suffers from the same problem as the limited run of the 4th edition rulebook - the price is not adeuqate to what we get for it. I honestly don't care about slipcases and leather-bound covers. When I buy a collector's item, I want goodies. Goodies like extra dice, miniatures, mugs, props etc. Ok, the extra books with commentaries are cool, but not 750 $ cool. Not for me, at least.

I still think that this is a beautiful set, and it will be pride and joy of anyone, who'll buy it. And people will buy it, make no mistake of that. Perhaps if I'd have more ammounts of disposable income, I'd grab it as well, but for that price, in my current situation, it's a no-go. Ah well, you can't have everything in this life.

Look at this beauty!
Oh, and the intereviews are coming, don't worry. There were some delays, but hopefully, next time they will be here.

Unitl next time!



Xathrodox86 reviews: "Black Death" with Sean Bean!

It's finally here. Light your pyres and crack open a casket of finest ale, because I've finally watched "Black Death", a incredibly dark and gritty medieval horror movie. Was it worth the wait?

In short: yes, yes it was. I was captivated by "Black Death" from start to finish, especially since it just oozes the grim and perilous atmosphere, which I hold especially dear to my heart. This is a movie which perfectly shows the difference between the American and European approach to medieval cinema. Throughout the whole experience the audience can almost taste the dirt, muck and shit which are omnipresent in "Black Death". They can almost smell the stench of grime and feces, of unwashed bodies and death hanging in the air. I love American cinema, but Europe simply does movies like this better.

Who is the mysterious lady in red?
Do note that it's an ugly movie. It has ugly people in it (even the normally super hot Eddie Redmayne is shown as a dirty, disheveled man), ugly places, and it shows the ugliest side of humanity - our penchant for savagery, cruelty, sadism and fanaticism. There are no "good guys" here. Everyone, both the heroes, and those they encounter during their mission are ugly. Dario Poloni and Christopher Smith, the pair of blokes who wrote this movie (although Smith, who also directed it, is uncredited in this) really brought up the worst part of our nature, and paraded it throughout the 2+ hours of "Black Death". This isn't easy to watch, and not only because of the extremely visceral and realistic violence (no CGI here!), but also because it shows just how low can a person sank, when gripped by rage, whether self-righteous or not. Be mindful of that, before you watch it. Oh, and I advise you not to eat during the screening. Trust me, you'll be better for it.

The action of "Black Death" takes place in the 14th century medieval England, during the epidemic of, well, Black Death. As if the title didn't gave this one away, eh? A young monk named Osmund, played by Eddie Redmayne, volunteers to lead a group of soldiers, commanded by a stern and uncompromising Ulric, played by the always awesome Sean Bean, to a remote village, which is said to be free of the plague. The local bishop suspects that the villagers are in league with the devil and are using necromantic practices to stave off the fould desease, and so our heroes journey through the plague-ridden countryside to discover the truth. Osmund, who's in love with a girl named Averill, is also seeking a sign from God, about what should he do next. Should he remain faithful to his creed, or should he follow his heart and desire.

The cast of the movie is incredibly solid. We have the aformentioned Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne, as our main protagonists. There's also my main man, John Lynch, portraying an aging and decent soldier named Wolfstan. He's one of the few likable characters in this flick, in that he tries to remain honorable and just in the face of the encroaching horror. Others in the group are not so nice, however. We have a mentally challenged berserker, a torturer, a scoundrel-like, shady looking fellow, and a couple of others. The movie does a good job of fleshing each of them out a bit, so we do care when some of them eventually go to join their maker.

The villagers, on the other hand are a creepy lot. They are secretive, kind people, but it's obvious from the very beginnig that something is very, very wrong with them. I won't spoil anything, you'll just have to watch the movie yourselves to find out more.

Action-wise "Black Death" is conservative but solid, when it comes to actual fights. There's no fancy sword play here. The limbs are flying, the guts fall to the ground, and people die in pain. That's how warfare looked in those times, and Smith really delivers the goods, when it comes to close combat. Some of the deaths are downright disturbing, as are the boils infesting the armpits and necks of plague victims. Makeup and costumes are incredibly well made in "Black Death", and easily one of its biggest strengths.

Look at the state of his teeth! There was no colgate in middle ages
The music is haunting and used almost sparsely. It's there, but it's so in the background that you almost don't acknowledge its presence. That's not a bad thing, as the eerie and melancholic soundtrack works wonders with the cinematography, helping to create and unforgettable, but also very unsettling experience.

This is a sad movie. There is no "good" in it, only misery, death and the ending... oh my, the ending. It can leave a man depressed. It is, however, a very solid picture, and a one definitely worth watching. The acting is solid, the cinematography and music excellent, and the plot engaging and captivating. Give "Black Death" a shot. You won't be dissapointed. It's also very WFRP-like, and I can easily see it being an inspiration for a lengthy adventure, which will test each PC's morality and conviction. I will certainly rewatch it in the future.

The best part of this post is that I can finally lay the "Sean Bean is getting angry at me" joke to rest. Finally.

Next up we have an interview! This time with not one, but two mysterious gentlemen. You'll have to wait for it, but I guarantee you - it's worth it.

You're in for a treat!
Until next time!



Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Seventh Serpent" by Graham McNeill

Oh look, there was supposed to be a movie review here. About "Black Death". With Sean Bean. What happened?

Well, since my unfortunate abduction by the strange, green-armored warriors, I was forced to write everything there is about the enigmatic XXth Legion Astartes. I already knew most of this stuff (I play them, for Throne's sake!), but there are always new things to discover, when it comes to the Sons of the Hydra. My second listen to the excellent "The Seventh Serpent" by Graham McNeill, is a great example of that.

After the massacre at Istvaan V, the "Shattered Legions" continue their fight against the arch-traitor Horus, harassing his supply lines and causing havoc. When Cadmus Tyro, commander of the Strike Cruiser "Sisypheum", discovers a piece of intel which could potentialy lead to the downfall of one of the traitor primarchs, he decides to act. With his skeleton crew already stretched thin, and resources at an all time low, can Tyro really accomplish the goal of killing Alpharius? Fortuntaely the legendary warleader, Shadrak Meduson, is there to offer his help. Will they succeed in ridding the galaxy of another traitorous swine, or will their attempts fail miserably?

What can I say? I love this book. Love it, love it, love it. It's perfect. I've listened to it almost two years before buying my first Betrayal at Calth set, and I can safely say that the XXth Legiom implanted some kind of sleeper command which, in time, made me ditch the Ultramarines and change my allegiance to the Hydra. How did they do it? "The Seventh Serpent" is a perfect example of a special ops, spy-stuff novella, where the tensions are high and the game itself played for very high stakes. From the very first pages we can see that Tyro and his crew are on their last reserves of luck. Deep behind enemy lines and grossly outnumbered, the Iron Hands and their allies are fighting a losing battle. Sooner of later the traitors will box them in, but before that happens the "Sisypheum" will make sure that they'll pay a heavy price in blood.

McNeill surprises me once again, as he expertly portrayals a legion, which he almost never had worked with. His famous work centres around the Ultramarines, Iron Warriors and Emperor's Children, but his fascinating portrayal of the Iron Tenth is something to behold. Far from uncaring automatons, the sons of Ferrus Manus are full of character, passions (yes, really!) and personalities. Cadmus Tyro is desperately trying to fit in the role of a leader, knowing full well that he'll never be able to match his mortally wounded commander, Ulrach Branthan. Frater Thamatica serves as a slighltly comic relief character, but inside his steel heart there's sorrow and growing indifference, following the death of his primarch.

The support cast is strong as well. Atesh Tarsa, the Salamanders apothecary, brings a much needed human element to the cybernetics-obsessed Iron Hands, while Nykona Sharrowkyn of the XIXth Legion and Iron Father Sebik Wayland, continue their buddy cop routine, while Sharrowkyn proves once again that he's one of the most badass characters in the whole Horus Heresy series. No spoilers, but if you've read "Angel Exterminatus" and "Kryptos", then I can tell you that the stealthy Raven Guard legionnaire almost tops his performance in these stories, by being an absolute badass, and one whose actions are written in a very believable, non-Mary Sue way. This is often a hard thing to do, but the author managed to portrayal a professional, expertly trained killer in a excellent way, and one that makes the reader root for him all the way to very end of the book.

As for the Sons of the Hydra, I'll only say this - it's a damn shame that McNeill didn't wrote more about them, because their portrayal in the "Seventh Serpent" is excellent. Again - I can't really say anything more, for fear of spoilers, but the enigmatic XXth Legion really had been given justice in this book. I honestly think that it might've been this book, which ultimately made me choose the Alpha Legion as my first Horus Heresy army.

"The Seventh Serpent" is a real masterpiece and a must-read for any Wahammer 40,000 fans. I can't stress enough how good this title is, and it's a real shame that Graham McNeill is not writing any of the Siege of Terra books. I know that he's not really working for the Black Library anymore, at least not the extent that he used to, but it's a damn shame nonetheless. Hopefully we'll see some more work from him in the future. Now, I've finally been able to escape my bonds and grab a DVD copy of the "Black Death". Let's see if Sean Bean survives this movie, shall we?

Go get 'em, Sean!
Until next time!



My first WFRP sourcebooks have been published. Huge thanks to Kalevala Hammer!

Wow, what a day! I've just read that Jackdays, who's running the fantastic Warhammer Fantasy website Kalevala Hammer, has published my three unofficial sourcebooks for this venerable game!

I've created these three addons with the help of Hectorius  (thank you so much!), who was very active on the, now sadly gone, Strike to Stun forums. Without him, proofreading my work and giving me lots odf great ideas, I'd never send them to Jack (who also worked on my, not so perfect English, as well as offering me lots of awesome advice. Thank you!).

This is one of the best sites ont the whole interwebs!
There are three of them. The first one, "Blood and Silver", is a campaign template, which takes place in the lawless kingdoms of the Border Princes. This is a strictly military campaign, although there are ideas here for more clandestine, and sinister, plot hooks...

"Secrets of the Path: Disciples of the Serene King" is a sourcebook about an ancient Cathayan crime syndicate, whose members posses strange and powerful abilities. Who exactly is their leader, and just how far does their influence actually reach?

"Cultrum: Thin Red Line" is a guilty pleasure of mine. It's an addon about a special unit of the Imperial intelligence, formed from only the best of the best. These is me merging WFRP with 80's action, John Wick and Call of Duty, and loving every, single minute of it. Yeah, I just went there.

You can download all three of the sourcebooks from Jackday's epic website, which is right HERE. They don't contain any actual rules and can be used with any edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

I hope that you'll like the contents of these addons. I will be making more in the future, including a sourcebook about the accursed lands of Khuresh and a guide for a shady Manaan monastery, where nothing is really what it seems to be... Once again I want to say "thank you!" to both Jackdays and Hectorius. Without you I wouldn't made these in the first place.

Happy reading and until next time! For Sigmar!



Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Serpent Beneath" by Rob Sanders

This post was supposed to be about the awesome "Black Death" movie with Sean Bean, but a small band of sea green-armored space marines has kidnapped me, and forced me to write a book review!

Well, not a book per se. It's actually a novella, and one of my favorite Horus Heresy novellas at that! It's one of the reason why I currently have a 6000 points Alpha Legion army for Warhammer 30K, and why I love the XXth Legion so much. Without further ado, here's the review of "The Serpent Beneath" by Rob Sanders.

A simple, unassuming cover. Just as planned...
The story has apparently a pretty simple premise - the top secret Tenebrae 9-50 installation has been compromised and it's up to the Alpha Legion to save the day! Omegon (the lesser known Hydra twin) assembles a crack team of operatives, both from the Legion and the vast network of operatives, which the XXth cultivates for its own, nefarious use. Both the Legionaires and normal humans are a bunch of cool and unique individuals. Sanders writes a fantastic bunch of unlikely heroes, not only showing the legion warriors of the XXth as cool, professional specialists, but also making the reader care for them and for the human operatives as well. Of a particular note are the characters of Xalmagundi, a powerful human psyker, and Volkern Auguramus, an adept of the Mechanicum. Omegon, who's leading the mission, is shown in a very stoic, very professional manner. It's a refreshing thing to see a Primarch who's not a pompous ass, but acts as a calm and composed soldier, solely focused on his mission.

As in the previously reviewed "The Harrowing", the Alpha Legionaires in "The Serpent Beneath" are portrayed in a very cold, dispassionate and ruthless way. To them the mission takes precedence over everything else - including their lives. It's actually worth mentioning that the target of their mission, the mysterious Tenebrae base, is also garrisoned by the Alpha Legion and overseen by a Legion Librarian! This makes this novella a true dance of deception and counter deception, as Omegon's infiltrators try to outmanoevure and outsmart their (loyal?) brothers, led by the inquisitive Ursinus Echion and experienced Arvus Janik.

It's a fantastic experience, trying to guess what new, dastardly ploy will our heroes use to gain the upper hand over their rivals. Rob Sanders never loses the tempo and tension of this story, and that's why "The Serpent Beneath" is such a great read.

What can I say? I love this story. Every, single part of it just oozed atmosphere and the feel of a true, spy work could be found on every page of this masterful work. Rob Sanders once again proves that he is a true son of the Hydra, or maybe even the Alpharius himself! "The Serpent Beneath" ties in nicely with a few other Horus Heresy books and stories, mainly those concerning the White Scars Legion. There's also something for the HH conspiracy theorists, but as usual, I won't spoil anything. You'll just have to check it out yourselves, to discover the double truths and hidden meanings of the most mysterious of the Emperor's Legions.

"The Serpent Beneath" can be found in "The Primarchs" anthology.

Until next time! (when I'll finally review the "Black Death"... or will I?)

Sean here would probably, very much like for me to do so!


Why I love Delta Green so much, or: how to ventilate a cthulhian monstrosity with an MP5

This post was supposed to be about the movie "Black Death", starring Sean Bean, but I've decided to go for a slightly more optimistic tone this time. Especially since last time it was a trip to depression city with my previous post.

Delta Green... oh man, where do I begin? Ha! I know! It's the best RPG that I've played in the last 5 years. Yeah, I've just said it. I've tested a bunch of new systems over the course of a lot couple of years, including the Aegis Project and the Apocalypse World, but none have made such a strong impression on me, as Delta Green.

This art really tells you everything about the game. I love it!
To those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's the general gist. Delta Green is a game about the Lovecraftian Mythos, but instead of playing a terrified investigator, who normally works as a bookstore manager, you're playing a goverment agent, a specialist of some kind, or a badass ex-special forces operator. The titular Delta Green is a clandestine organisation, sworn to defend the world from the Mythos in all of their forms. They're doing this task by researching the damn things, evalutaing them and then sending a kill team (or a well placed airstrike) to annihilate the threat. At least that's how it's supposed to go. You see, more often than not, the spawn of the Old Ones proves too powerful for the agents to handle, which usually ends badly for them, to put it lightly. Then again - it is a game, set in the Cthulhu universe, and we all know how well a meeting with one of the Mythos creatures usually ends.

Agents of Delta Green can really only rely on their wits, training, and, to a lesser degree, on their gear and weapons. That's one of this system's biggest selling points, at least to me. There are no easy ways out, no Fate Points, no "get out of jail" cards. The operatives can only rely on themselves, and the other members of their team. It's roleplaying at its finest, and it not only discourages munchkinisms and min-maxing - it fucking annihilates them completely. It's impossible to create a munchkin-type character in Delta Green. Even with magic, or hyper-geometry, as it is known in the game, you will still be relying solely on your own wits and instinct, and that's awesome.

The rules are absurdly easy to learn, and there's a free starter kit online, courtest of the game's makers. You can find it here. Of course, if you wish to continue your adventures as an agent (or a handler, as the gamemaster is known in this game), you should buy additional books. They are exceptionally well written, and are truly a great read, so it's worth to grab 'em all. There's also the Fairfield Project website, which has a ton of free, fan-made Delta Green stuff for all you Mythos hunters out there. It can be found here. Go on, check it out. I've ran multiple scenarions from that website, and they went exceptionally well. We went for the 80's theme, and our games took place in Miami. With Crockett's theme by Jan Hammer blasting from the speakers, it was truly a unique experience. 80's music, scantily clad women, flamingos and cocaine, were paired with occult shenanigans, cultists and horrors from beyond the veil. I'll remember these sessions for years to come.

It must be said, however, that Delta Green is a incredibly lethal game. Like I've said before - there are no Fate Points or other stuff like that. Your hit points reach zero - tough luck. An automatic weapon is a death sentence for an agent, same with explosives. You see, many weapons in Delta Green will kill you instantly if the enemy will pass the lethality roll. Blam! You're dead. Kevlar? Who cares. Maybe some artifacts could help, but then again, using Mythos gear is just asking for trouble. It's probably a good idea to have a couple of extra characters handy. The character creation process is very fast and fluid, so it's no big deal.

If the claws of the monsters or the bullets and knives of cultists won't get you, then the insanity will. Delta Green really makes your character insane, to the point that even when you pass an insanity test, you'll often still loses points! Lose 5 or more during a single event and you can go temporarily crazy. It's like in the original Call of Cthulhu, only better. You can mitigate the effects of madness and recover some sanity during the downtime, between the missions. For example you can talk to your psychologist, drink with friends, take care of your family etc. Be mindful, however, that at some point, the Mythos will also excert their influence on your private life. Better get those divorce papers 

Delta Green is probably my new, favorite system. It has exceptional ruleset, is easy to learn, incredibly climactic and tense, and is just a joy to playe. I can't recommend it enough. Arc Dream Publishing - you rock. Give us more, please.

More horror, more tacticool, more everything!
Oh and the "Black Death" review will be ready for the next post. I promise.

Until next time!



Role-playing Rants: Learn to move forward, or: why nostalgia can be a bad thing

In a couple of days I'll be running the first session of "Lichemaster" for my original group (well, what's left of it anyway). It's the second time that I'm GM'ing this campaign and the last time that I'm doing so, using the 2nd edition WFRP's ruleset.

Let me be perfectly clear: I love the 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It's the game that started my whole journey into this hobby. I still have my battered, spineless rulebook that I've bought for my last money, more than a decade ago. I have almost every, single sourcebook for 2nd edition, except "The Renegade Crowns" (planning on buying that soon!). I've clocked hundreds, if not thousands of hours into this system.

And I don't want to play it anymore.

It's time to move on...
After finishing "The Thousand Thrones" in my Roll20 group, and the "Lichemaster/The Enemy Within" in my IRL group, I won't be returning to 2nd edition of WFRP. Instead, any other Warhammer Fantasy games that I'll ever GM will be run on the excellent and very well made 4th edition ruleset, created by Cubicle 7. I can't express enough my absolute enthusiasm, when it comes to the rules, governing the newest edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

But why am I exactly writing a blog post about it, other than express my gratitude towards the newest iteration of my most-played game?

Because I know first hand the dangers of wrongly handled nostalgia. You see, I'm a nostalgic person. I love reliving the past, to look to the better (and often simpler) times. Times that were happier for me and my friends. Back when we've all just begun experiencing this hobby. We didn't had a place to play in, so our first sessions (almost half a year) took place in a basement, where we had to be very quiet and make sure that the windows were covered with black fabric, so as not to be seen from the outside. I had this dingy old laptop, that was barely able to play a Winamp playlist that I've composed for the session, let alone handle a massive PDF.

Later, when the spring came, we've moved to a small summer house that belonged to the family of one of my players. The electricity was barely working, when it rained heavily we had water coming from the fireplace (which we aptly renamed "waterplace"), and even in early autumn it quickly became unbearably cold. We had to use the dirty, stiff blankets which we've managed to salvaged from piles of... stuff, that was lying around in that place. Still - it was an incredible time, and one that I'd not trade for anything else.

It'll also never return. That group disbanded long time ago. Well, most of it did. One of my players, who was also my closest friend, died of cancer. His loss affects me deeply to this day. The other decided to follow a different path than the rest of us, and I wish him all the best. The three of us that remained still enjoyt this hobby together, but... it's not the same. Not even close. It's time to move on, and we know it. That's why this is, most probably, our last game together. I've always wanted to run the legendary "The Enemy Within", preceeded by the excellent "Lichemaster", written by the late Carl Sargent, for them, but always there was something else to play, to experience. Now, as there just few of us left, we can finally experience these campaigns, even though our friends are no longer with us. In some sense, we're doing this for them as well. But after that, it'll be time to move on, for all our sakes.

Staying in the past for too long, whether it's about a former relationship, an RPG group or something else, is ultimately damaging. It prevents us from healing, from experiecing new things, new avenues of life, of learning and discovering other, equally fantastic, places, hobbies and people. I will run these two campaigns, one last time, like it was 2009 again, and for a brief moment, imagine myself sitting in that dingy basement, with an acient laptop before me, surrounded by the laughter of my friends. After that... it'll be time to move one. For theirs, and my own, sakes.

Well, that was a depressing post. Fortunately, next time I'll be writing about something less dreary, so do excuse my moment of nihilism. I've finally managed to watch the "Black Death" with Sean Bean, as was suggested to me by a couple of people on Twitter, and in my own comments section. So I will be certainly writing about this, very warhammery movie. Also, I've watched my boy James Purefoy cleave fools in the excellent "Ironclad", which is another movie, perfect for any enthusiast of all things dark and grim. Yeah, looks like "It always rains in Nuln" will be turned, even if only briefly, into a movie-related blog, albeit one that is still tabletop-related.

Not that I'm complaining, or anything...
Until next time!