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9/18/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, part 1: the overall look

Well, here it is - the 4th edition of WFRP has arrived and already people are divided about its quality. I'm going to take a look at this newest iteration of a classic RPG and give you my honest opinion on it.

First of all - this will be a multi part review, with each part covering the different part of the rulebook. These will be written once a week, since there will be about 4 to 5 parts. I hate reading PDF's, as it makes my eyes really tired, so reading a whole rulebook on my PC's screen was a major no-no for me, sorry guys.

When the starter set eventually arrives, I'll review it as well.

In this first part of my review of WFRP 4th edition, I will concentrate on the overall look of the book, the graphics, artworks and lore, all of which can be found within its pages. I can already say - I like it a lot!

What a fantastic bunch of colorful characters!
First of all, the art is very consistent in 4th edition. It's a nice mix of a dirty, down-to-earth style, mixed with appropriately heroic themes, although not too much. Which is good! One of my biggest qualms with the 2nd and 3rd editions (not the 1st, mind you), was the fact that almost everyone portrayed in these books had a face, like they've just suffered a major constipation. It's really nice to see smiling and happy humans, dwarfs, elves and halflings in the newest rulebook. It simply makes the world more believable and approachable.

The art depicting monsters is also very solid. No complaints here. There are suitable creepy ones (the mutant and Fimir are fantastic!), as well as terrifying (the dragon!). I just hope that in the inevitable enemy sourcebook, the quality will be, at the very least, on the same level. 

I liked the artworks portraying the Old World (well, mainly Reikland, since it's the only province featured in the rulebook), albeit a few of the pieces were less than detailed for my liking. The cities and towns were fantastic to behold, while the countryside was a little drab and pale, if that makes any sense. It wasn't bad per se, but for me it might be a bit too dark in style, like the artworks from the 3rd edition.

Secondly - the layout of the text. I'm a person who gets tried really fast, when reading a tiny, cluttered text. That's why I dislike 1st editions books so much, they are simply too inconvinient for me to read. Yeah, being a short-sighted person can suck sometime. Anyway, the 4th edition has a great layout, very clear, very easy to use. The text is not too small and the spaces between the phrases are just about right. Reading this book, even on a PC, wasn't an ardous torture, and I've actually really enjoyed it. It's nice that Cubicle 7 thought about peeps with bad eyesight.

The lore portions of the book are very solid. From the letters, describing the Reikland province to various descriptions of player classes to flavor text, found next to each of said classes. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition delivers the goods, when it comes to creating the atmospheric, funny, tounge-in-cheek, but also suitably dark mood of this wonderful world. I especially like the quotes found in the player classes section. The Billy Idol/Morr reference is simply pure gold.

I'd also like to address the elephant in the room. You know - the "overly politically correct" elephant in the room. There are already cries that this edition of WFRP panders to SJW's, and that it's overly politically correct. There are lots of women presented on the artworks, as well as people of color, apparently living in the Empire. There's the "species" keyword, used instead of "race". That kind of stuff.

I couldn't care less. I have a very simple life philosophy, when it comes to these games: as long as they're good, enjoyable and well written, both lore and rules-wise, they can be as politically correct and SJW-friendly, as they wish. If anything, the wider cultural and racial diversity will help to break the, unfortunately all too common, notion of "there's only the Empire, I don't need anything else". To me, it's one of the biggest downsides of WFRP's overall community. It's really time to stop with this childish and archaic attitude.

I can already say that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition is an objectively good game, if a little clunky when it comes to combat rules. However I will be discussing that particular part, later this year.

I can safely say that, when it comes to art, lore and overall presentation, the rulebook for the 4th edition of WFRP delivers the goods. So far so good.

Until next time, when I'll be discussing the available character classes and their pre-game creation.

Xathrodox86

8/31/2018

The reckoning is coming. Here's an interview with Ed Hall!

You all know that I'm a huge Warhammer buff. That said, there's one setting which is even closer to my heart - the Classic World of Darkness. When it comes to its many splats, I've always adored Hunter: The Reckoning the most.

I will write an entire post about my all-encompassing love towards H:TR, but for now let's just say that I'm all about the common folk, facing off against the myriad terrors of the night. I've always rooted for the underdogs and the Imbued, as the hunters of this setting are known, perfectly encapsulate this term. That said, I will write a legthy post about this game, as well as the Classic World of Darkness in general, in the near future.

I have so many great memories, associated with this logo
I was very lucky to be able to interview Ed Hall, one of the original creators of Hunter: The Reckoning. He's an incredibly nice man who was patient enough to answer all of my fan-fuelled questions, and there were a lot of them! You can check 'em out yourselves below. Enjoy!

Xathrodox86: How did Hunter: The Reckoning came to be? Who came up with the idea about this game?

Ed Hall: The Wieck brothers, Steve and Stewart, were motivating forces. Also in the meetings we had were Ken Cliffe, who eventually became the game's developer, and art director Rich Thomas, as well as myself.

Other WW full-timers attended those early brainstorming sessions, but I can't recall who.

Xathrodox86: What was your original vision about the game? Did it differed vastly from the final version?

Ed Hall: I wrote a pitch that was more like "The X-Files" set in the WoD. Yes, it differed hugely, as it resembled "Project Twilight", with nonpowered agents of the FBI.  

Xathrodox86: How did the process of writing the game looked like? Did you organised brainstorming sessions? How did the communication between the authors and artists looked like?

Ed Hall: At the outset, I was the H:TR developer, and I wrote the bible for the game, which I recall being a perhaps 20-page-long document distilling the setting, imbuings, what hunters do and don't know, details on the game's version of the walking dead, hunter code (in whose design I took a very active part), etc.  

Xathrodox86: How did the publisher reacted to the idea of a not-so-normal humans fighting against the monsters? Were there any problems with convincing the higher ups to your idea of Hunter?

Ed Hall: I think Steve (and possibly Stewart) was more interested in powered hunters than I was, but I eventually came to see the numerous advantages of powered Imbued, which basically made them akin to the psychic detectives of the pulp era.  

Xathrodox86: What was the hardest part about devising the game, both lore and rules-wise?

Ed Hall: Like many WW projects, we initially looked for literary underpinnings. At some point, early on the seven ages of man and the (seven?) 'vials' from the Bible's Book of Revelation, and other such touchstones. I think Waywards and Hermits were added on to make nine Creeds in three classes.

I recall us struggling with the Visionary powers and what they might affect until I stepped up to the whiteboard and said, 'Time,' then etched several of those powers.

Whereafter Rich Thomas said, 'Look at the big old brain on Ed.'

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite thing about Hunter: The Reckoning? What truly sells this title to you and why?

Ed Hall: What other contributors brought to it. The best thing that ever happened to the game was the decision (not mine) to replace me as developer with Ken.

Ken, with his love of fishing and beer, had a foot in a world known to lots of people, but not me. I am an eccentric, and I have been since childhood. Ken brought a real everyman sense to the game that it would've lacked under my guidance.

Some of the writers who contributed to the core rule book brought to my attention what an elegant critique of policing and of waging war the game could be. Thereafter, I tried to put such ideas into anything I wrote for the game.

Xathrodox86: The Imbued are normal humans, but with extraordinary powers. One of the biggest citicisms aimed towards H:TR is that the players aren't human at all, while they should be, at least according to the theme of the game. What is your opinion about this statement?

Ed Hall: I dismiss any notion that the Imbued are not human. Again, as a metaphor for waging war, H:TR vividly presents the alienation that can come for anyone who wages combat that has fatal results for its participants. I know, because I saw what my own father's participation in WWII did to him.

Killing other people - or 'monsters' that sometimes/always resemble people - is destructive to the human psyche, unless that psyche is already afflicted with murderous desire. Remember, Waywards are not intended to be player characters. Waywards are intended to be counterexamples, uncomfortable allies, or outright adversaries to other hunters. Hunters are to Waywards as normal human beings are to serial killers.

Xathrodox86: How did you came with the idea about Huters' powers? Do you think that the Edges are stronger or weaker than, let's say, Vampires' disciplines or Garou's gifts?

Ed Hall: We strove to keep hunter powers pretty limited. Doing so followed lines of logic both in game and not: The Messengers had previous experience with bestowing supernatural powers upon mortals (I believe "Exalted" was intended to portray such an episode), and it didn't work out so well. Limiting the powers of the Imbued was the Messengers' way of increasing the likelihood of mutually lethal interactions between hunters and supernaturals (self-tidying minions, you see). Leaving a lone hunter unable to subdue most WoD critters makes for group cohesion among players, too.  

Xathrodox86: Another thing about Hunter: The Reckoning, that many people disliked, is the artwork. In the rulebook we see pictures of the Imbued tanking three Werewolves, while the theme of this game is about your ordinary Joe suddendly waking up to a living nightmare. Why was the rulebook's art made like this?

Ed Hall: Art often proved a disappointment to me in the H:TR books ... but the only piece of original WW art I own came from H:TR! It's the full-pager Mitch Byrd drew for my Haiti-set chapter in "The Walking Dead". Exquisite!

Some of the other moody pieces work really well, too. I'm thinking of a portrait of a bearded hunter with a baseball cap who stands and smokes in the dark, outside his home, as the silhouette of a woman is backlit at the door while she clearly watches him watch for ...what? We don't know, she doesn't know, and he might not know, but he knows what's out there ... and he can't tell her.

Xathrodox86: The Imbiued are facing the myriad dangers, found in the World of Darkness. There are rules for different enemies, both in the rulebook, and in the dedicated enemy books. However like other classic World of Darkness books, H:TR is not really suitable to be used in conjecture with other splats. Were there ever any ideas about using this particular game with, let's say, Wraith: The Oblivion or Vampire: The Masquerade?

Ed Hall: Not from me. There's a lot of Wraith in Hunter, but rules were never my area of primary interest. We devoted whole books to integrating other WoD critters ("The Moonstruck" et alia), but whether those creatures are Garou, Kindred, etc., as such, is at the discretion of the H:TR storyteller.  

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite Hunter: The Reckoning title, including the novels?

Ed Hall: "Wayward". I never read any H:TR novels, tho'.  

Xathrodox86: Hunter: The Reckoning hasn't been grandly portrayed, when it comes to Time of Judgement. How would you've written the definitive ending to this particular World of Darkness game?

Ed Hall: Because I still dream of running a hunter-centric game set at the Time of Judgment, I'll forgo answering this one.

Anybody wanna play a game?

Xathrodox86: Which one of all the Imbued described in the books is your favorite, and why? Which one did you disliked the most?

Ed Hall: I like the military men, Soldier and Shaka, neither of whom I created, but both of whom I had the honor and pleasure of fleshing out.  

Xathrodox86: Hunter: The Reckoning has been adapted to a couple of older video game consoles. Did you worked on any of these adaptations? What do you think about them?

Ed Hall: Because the video version of H:TR was a first-person shooter (as I recall), I felt it couldn't possibly capture the nuances of the tabletop game, and I avoided it entirely.  

Xathrodox86: Do you think if we will ever see Hunter: The Reckoning 20th anniversary edition? What would you like to see in it? Do you think that the game should be modified, in order to suit the more modern times of smartphones, drones and wideband internet?

Ed Hall: I have no skin in the WW game(s) these days. I glanced at "Vigil" but felt no affinity for it. An anniversary version? I have no opinion.  

Xathrodox86: Just one more quick question. What was your inspiration when it came to the creation of Hunter code and Hunter.net. Was the actual online website your idea?

Ed Hall: Hunter code has roots in a Piers Anthony novel called "0X". The pattern entities in that book were my basis for the Messengers' appearance. On a certain level, hunter code and the Messengers are different aspects of the same beings.

The Messengers, in other words, were "sentient messages".

Have a look at the endpapers of the core rule book and see what Rich Thomas did with that idea.

Xathrodox86: Thank you for your time and answers. Hunter: The Reckoning is my favorite World of Darkness game of all time and it was an honor to be able to interview one of its creators. 

Ed Hall: Thank you, Michał! I appreciate your interest in the game and the part I had in making it a reality.

Wow, I'm sitting here, typing these letters... and I still can't believe that I was able to interview the man who's responsible for one of my favorite RPG's of all time. Life can be good. I would like to once again thank Mr. Hall for his willingness and time to answer all of my questions. It was quite an experience. I'd advise you to visit the (Old) Classic World of Darkness fanpage on Facebook. It has everything that any fan of the classic, gothic horror might want... and more!

Oh and you can also find Mr. Hall there, so that's an even bigger incentive to visit this place.

Next post will be a review of the newest edition of Warhammer Fantast Roleplay. Stay tuned.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

8/14/2018

Various musings about current stuff: civilised edition

Quite a lot of things is happening right now in our fandom. The 4th edition ofWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay is right around the corner, Zweihander will recieve yet another expansion and Titanicus is making everyone sweaty!

I will try and cover it all in no particular order, but first we must talk about some very sad news. After many years online, the fantastic Strike to Stun forums will be closing down this year. It's all because of the European Union's privacy policies, potentialy aimed towards the social media giants like Facebook. In reality, as is often the case, the main victims of such a law are relatively small internet communities, like StS. It's very sad to see it go. For many years it was home to people who loved WFRP, as well as those who created various editions of this venerable game. There are alternatives, like the Ratchater's Guild Discord server and the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay reddit community, but Strike to Stun is one of a kind. It will be archived for some time, so at least that's a plus. A small one. I plan to spend as much time as possible on this site, before it closes forever, as I'm afraid that with it gone, we won't see another one like it, ever.

Farewell. You will be missed
With that sad part of our post out of the way, let's move to the angrier one. Namely the WFRP 4th edition and the constant delays that are plaguing this game. Some time ago Cubicle 7 have released the "beta" version of the 4th and the reactions to that have been rather mixed. I, for one, really appreciate the devs making such a move. The unfinished book has enough material for us to sink our teeth into, as well as some fantastic art to look at! However, for the love of Sigmar, why are you so uncommunicative C7!? Why!? Wrath and Glory, which sucks, at least has a dev team that is in constant communication with its fanbase and buyers. Meanwhile, there's almost nothing from the Cubicle 7 about the final date of the 4th edition's release, not to mention the heavily anticipated physical copies. Please, this is a terrible way of marketing your newest, and probably one of the most important, products to us, your buyers, your fans. I don't want to be a false prophet, but this doesn't bode that well for the final version of the game, especially since a lot of people are already complaining about great many things, which are wrong with the 4th edition...

Release the damn game already!
To change the tone slightly, why not watch Graeme Davis' seminar on the legendary "The Enemy Within" campaign from this year's Gen Con? It's certainly worth it!


Finally we have the fantastic Zweihander RPG by Daniel Fox. Daniel is the exact opposite of Cubicle 7 when it comes to communicating with his fans. He tweets regulary with people, he announces stuff, he shows that he's incredibly enthusiastic about his magnum opus and it works. It works, because people see that he cares. I'm a huge fan of the Zweihander and its "Dark Astral" sci-fi addon, so I was ecstatic to see the annoucement of "Main Gauche", another expansion, this time focusing on the cultists! You know, when I hear the words "grim" and "perilous", I immediately think about shady looking motherfuckers in long robes, carrying wicked knives and chanting eldritch nonsense. I can't wait to get my hands on the "Main Gauche" and use some of the ideas presented there (or maybe all of them) in my own games! Especially since "Tome of Corruption" didn't really covered the cultist stuff all that well. Sure, there were motivations and structures of this kind of organisations, but what I always found lacking, was the absence of a table or a chapter, which would help people create their own cult. I hope that "Main Gauche" will have this kind of thing among its many pages.

It has been funded in 7 hours!
Dan, if you're reading this, keep on being awesome! Your work is an inspiration to us all, and congratulations on winning the 2018 ENnies. You and your entire staff deserved it.

The long and fantastic trailer for "Main Gauche" can be watched here:


Oh, while we're at it, let me just say one thing about Zweihander and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: you can like both of these games. I know, that's crazy, but admiring one, doesn't make you a traitor to the other. I've seen a lot of people online, mainly the fans of WFRP, dissing the Zweihander as a "hack" game or a badly written copy of Warhammer Fantasy RPG. I honestly think that it's incredibly fucking stupid to say things like that, as they're simply bullshit. Zweihander is a love letter to old school WFRP-like games, while at the same time making it it's own, unique thing. Daniel is a fan of Warhammer Fantasy, which he proved often enough (he was a regular on the Strike to Stun forums), and he made his magnum opus as an homage, of sorts, to this venerable game. So, yeah...

You can like both. There's no shame in that. Also - no. Daniel does not pay me for advertising Zweihander. Wish that he would, as my finances could really use a boost.

Anyway, that's it for today. Just a quick recap of all the major, hobby-related (in my opinion) things, that are happening right now. Next time... there will be another interview.

The Hunt never stops...
Oh yeah.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

7/29/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Curse of the Everliving" by David Guymer

What is this? A simple audiobook review while the world celebrates the release of the 4th edition of WFRP? Have I gone mad?

Not really. You see, while I'm very happy about the newest iteration of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay to finally see the light of day, I won't review it. At least not yet. The reason is simple and there are actually two of them - first of all, it's not a finished product and second, I can't read PDF files too well on a PC screen. While I will probably have to do so anyway, for now it's making me incredibly uncomfortable to do so, so now 4th edition review from me for now, at least.

So, without further ado, let's check out the second Gotrek & Felix audiobook with a very metal title: "Curse of the Everliving".

The cover's pretty metal as well!
This one has been written by the talented David Guymer and is  from the "newer" line of Gotrek and Felix, i.e. the reader can place it at any time he wants. This book is not set chronologicaly between any of the major series releases, which is kinda cool, as the "Curse..." itself is a very standalone-type of title with a very distinctive feel to it.

Gotrek and Felix are travelling through the frozen Oblast of Kislev, searching for a Hobgoblin treasure. A mad, old dwarf had sold them a map, leading to a vast ammount of wealth... or at least that's what he claimed! Gotrek is optimistic as a dwarf would never have lied to another of his race, while Felix would just love to go somewhere where it's a tad warmer than -30 degrees Celsius. Soon they encounter a frozen knight and a mysterious castle Bilenkov, inside which resides an eccentric man, known as Count Viktor. Soon strange phenomena begin to assail our heroes as the old man reveals who, or rather what, he truly is...

I love this audiobook. No joke, I think it's one of the best G&F titles ever released. It's written in a very pulpy, semi-horror style, which works wonders, mainly because of the setting. Guymer really emphasises the coldly otherworldliness of Kislev, its harsh beauty and the many dangers that this land presents, especially in the latter part of the audiobook. This is a country where only the hardiest of people can survive and the reader really gets that feeling from reading "The Curse...".

Now there are two, main themes in this book. One is the mind control, while the other centres around the horror of the unknown. They mix together really well, especially with the aforementioned harsh and merciless atmosphere of Kislev itself. When listening to this audio drama I was on the verge of my seat! The tension and atmosphere are top notch. The fights, while relatively few, when compared to "Slayer of the Storm God", are tense and dynamic. However it's the feeling of dread which makes "Curse of the Everliving" so damn good.

Besides Gotrek and Felix there are only two, other characters present in the book, bar some cannon fodder for the Slayer's runic axe. The eccentric Count Viktor is hammy enough to be enjoyable, especially in his latter incarnation. The other, a Kilsevite huntsman, wears a red shirt so big that it's more than clear what kind of fate will befall him. It's not that he's a badly written character, just a useless one. He doesn't contribute anything to the story, except a slight doze of comic relief and a painful death.

The voice acting and music are very solid, except two, minor issues. First of all, the bad guy once again can't be fucking understood when he speaks. It's rather infuriating. Secondly, Felix must really love Kislev and its people, because he sports a hardy, Russian accent throughout the entire recording. I'm not even kidding, it's hilarious. Oh and it's also one of those fake, stereotypical Eastern European accents, so thick and hard that it's really fun to listen to. Still, I'd probably preffer Herr Jaeger to stick to Ye Olde English in any, future recordings.

To sum it all up - "Curse of the Everliving" rocks. It's a guilty pleasure of sorts, a fun, pulpy book about a Slayer and his pet poet, travelling through not-Russia and kicking ass. It's fun to listen to, thoroughly enjoyable and I highly recommend it to anyone, who's a fan of Warhammer Fantasy and the fantasy genre in general.

You can't go wrong with these two scoundrels!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

7/21/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Slayer of the Storm God" by Nathan Long

Gotrek & Felix - the most infamous, Old World duo. They are the posterboys of Warhammer Fantasy and, soon, the Age of Sigmar.

My adventure with the fantasy franchise created by Games Workshop began with these two heroes. Back in 2007 I've bought two omnibuses in a London bookstore and... well here I am, more than a decade later. Still a huge and avid fan of Warhammer Fantasy, albeit a one that also recognizes its many flaws. That said, without the Slayer and his human companion I would probably never have picked up the WFRP books, never installed games such as "Shadow of the Horned Rat" and "Dark Omen" on my PC, not to mention "Vermintide." It is to Gotrek and Felix that I should owe my passion as a RPG enthusiast and gamer.

When it comes to their adventures, I've only read the books by William King and Nathan Long. I'm not familiar with any of their later exploits and quests. Thart said, there are two stories, concerning our restless heroes, made in audio format - "Slayer of the Storm God" by Nathan Long and "Curse of the Everliving" by David Guymer. Today I'll be looking at the first one. Is it any good? Is it worth picking up?

Read the review and you shall find out!
"Slayer of the Storm God" takes place in the great port city of Marineburg, right after the ending of "Elfslayer" (also penned by Mr. Long). Gotrek and Felix are searching for some incriminating papers, concerning the young(?) poet's father, who, as it turned out, was smuggling forbidden tomes. Rumagging through the house of a man, who was blackmailing Felix's father, they've found the papers and a hefty ammount of loot, including a strange bracelet. Later in a tavern, an old sailor approaches them and asks for the price of said bracelet, being interested in buying it. Gotrek, faithful to his nature, tells the man that it's not for sale. A bar brawl follows quickly and our heroes are thrown deep into a conspiracy, perpetrated by the cult of Stromfels, the Shark God of the Deeps, the Lord of Storms.

The action is very nicely paced and, well, there's a lot of it, crammed into 73 minutes of high quality audio recording. From the fight at the tavern to a vicious and brutal duel in the duo's rented room to, finally, a grand finale in the marshes, surrounding Marienburg. The combat is brutal, visceral and nicely shows the differences between Gotrek and his human remembrancer. Where Felix is a fine swordsman and duelist, Gurnisson is a wrecking ball of a fighter, plowing through his enemies with brute strength and murderous intent. The combat sections are certainly some of the strongest points of this audio drama.

The same can't be said about the voice work. Now don't get me wrong - for most part the actors are making a stellar job. However the goddamn background sound, coupled with a certain important character's voice effects, make a big portion of this book rather hard to listen. It's not a big deal, but I've finished "Slayer of the Storm God" three times, and every single one of them, I had no fucking idea what said character was saying.

The ending was also kinda strange. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I can't fathom why a bunch of Marienburgers, who are normally in a much better financial position than your average Old World citizen, would decide to effectively become living sacrifices for not-Cthulhu. What, because their city will be free of storms for a single year? Well, they won't care either way, since they won't be alive to enjoy the nice weather! Yeah, the ending... didn't really made much sense. Sorry.

All in all this audio is a very solid postion in the Black Library offer and one of the only few audiobooks (unfortunately), ever produced for the Warhammer Fantasy franchise. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good, short and entertaining story about a Slayer and his poet pal, fighting monsters, grabbing loot and saving people from not-Cthulhu monsters. Despite a few flaws here and there, it was ultimately a very fun and engaging tale, set in the grim and perilous Old World.

You can't go wrong with these two fellas!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86