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2/13/2019

On the subject of Zak Smith and the abusive behaviour in the RPG industry

This article was supposed to be a movie review, but seeing what is happening in the hobby right now, I've decided to add my two cents about this whole mess.

I'm not going to write an essay about this, nor am I going to enter in a lengthy philosophical mono-debate. Any sort of abusive behaviour is condemnable and should not be present at a table, or anywhere else. If you'll ever see someone being harassed, threatened or insulted in any way - react. Don't avert your eyes, don't claim that everything's cool and "it's just a joke bro". Do something.

What Smith did was horrendous and even though it concerns mainly the DnD community, of which I am not a part, it still should be talked about and dispraised. After reading the account of his ex-partner, I've felt nothing but sadness and disgust at equal measure. That a man who's part of a community based on the ideas of mutual respect, compassion and empathy, did something like that, and for years, is truly abhorrent.

Good thins is that a lot of folks in the hobby are in outrage, demanding the sodding bastard's head. I'm pretty sure that Smith is finished in the industry, and hopefully will feel the repercusions of his vile actions for years to come. RPG heavyweights like Matt Mercer and DriveThruRPG have spoken out about his deeds, making it clear that there is no place in the hobby for "people" like Zak Smith.

As I've already written a couple of times about my experiences with some very difficult, very nasty people, with whom I've played for X ammount of time, I'd just like to say one thing. As bad and nasty as these guys were, their actions were nothing when compared to hell that Smith put a lot of people through. Being an asshole is one thing - it happens. Being an monster is something that should not and will not stand, and is utterly condemnable.

This post was supposed to be about one of my favorite movies, which I've often used as an inspiration in my games, but honest to god, I'm too crossed to even consider writing anything "nice" today. What a piece of shit that guy is.

Until next time, when the atmosphere will be a bit cleaner.

Xathrodox86

P.S. No pictures for this one, as the topic in question is not exactly fit for any sort of online memes to be present.

2/07/2019

Role-playing Rants: Min-maxing is bad and you should feel bad about it (or else I will make you)

Hell, the 2019 really went of well, didn't it? My last post was made almost a month ago! That said I did had a lot of work and am still struggling with some personal stuff, so you know... it happens.


That said I do plan to return to more frequent posting and will actually write another one next week, to make for my absence. Today, however, I would like to address a rather serious ailment, which can be found in many a RPG groups, including mine - min-maxing.

Min-maxing is probably one of the worst, and the stupidest, things that can occur around a gaming table. It is an absolute travesty and a thing that should never, ever happen. Why? Let me tell you.

Although this picture sums it up pretty nicely
A lot of people playing these games, be they newbies or hardcore vets, have this strange mindset about going to war with their GM's. Oh yeah, I'm not even kidding. After all, the Gamemasters are often too harsh, not treating their players well enough, being unfair when it comes to making verdicts and so on, and so on. Yeah, it's a just a bunch of whiny stuff most of the time. I've quite a lot Gamemasters in my lifetime, and not once did I thought: "fuck this guy, I need to teach him a lesson". Sure, I sometimes disagreed with some of them, but never treated any as my enemy. Unfortunately quite a lot of people do just that, and it's just wrong. Wrong and dumb. Why? Again - let me tell you!

I've already written about a certain toxic mindset at the table, and why it can fuck the right off. Now, going to war with another person, who's there to just enjoy a couple of hours of rolling some funny shaped dice, is simply vile. Ok, so the big, bad GM just told you that no, you can't automatically spot a hidden enemy. No, the fact that you're stereotypical Badlands Ranger with a sad and tragic backstory, can't detect others without rolling, sorry. Everyone should abide by the rules, and no one is exempted from sticking to them. However, the player with the bad ass Badlands Ranger begins to think about the huge injustice, done to his beloved and completely unoriginal character. He begins to plot and scheme, thinking about some ways to exact his revenge on the tyranical GM.

He reaches for the perfect tool - the min-maxing protocol. He frantically searches the rulebook for the best way to make his Badlands Ranger into an ultimate BADASS. He sniffs out the strongest item combos, buying double best quality-crafted axes and a dwarven rune of making-you-run-really-fucking-fast. He, naturally, writes on various online forums, letting people know about his master plan, gathering ideas, collecting intel and generally acting like a complete, fucking bellend.

He makes his damnest to let his Gamemaster realise just how badly he fucked up and that a retribution is coming, swift as the wind and deadlier than a woman's scorn. "You wanted a war, you bastard? Well, I'm going to give you one!"

Oh no, whatever shall I do?
It never works.

It never works because you can't win against a Gamemaster. First of all - RPG's are not some stupid dick waving contest. They're meant to bring fun to everyone at the table, making them forget, for a few hours a week, about their problems and life chores. I know that I've written this once before, but for fuck's sake - a game night is not some arseholes' personal therapy session where he can let off some steam, at the expense of his friends and their fun.

Second of all - you must be really insecure and have a mentality of a manchild to even consider going against other people in your group, in such a way. News flash - the GM has more guns than you. You've managed to give your Badlands Ranger those two best quality axes? Surprise! The next goblin tribe has these as well, and they outnumber you 5 to 1. You've acquired that much coveted rune of making-you-run-really-fucking-fast? Well it just happened that the evil wizard has a gizmo which turns off all of the runes in a hundred mile radius! Managed to up your Ballistic Skill to more than a 100, by using a combination of stat abuse and a few arcane items? That's cute, this elven assassin NPC has the exact same combo, but he can also spot you much easier, has Fate Points (more than your stupid Badlands Ranger) and there are three of them, instead of one. Whoops!

Yeah, care to tell me how exactly did you though that this is going to go your way? A GM has the power of the Golden Rule on his side and he's the one who creates the world. No one, and I do mean -no one - can win against that. No matter what kind of bullshit rules he will pull out of his ass to achieve that task, it's impossible. Mainly because the GM also has access to these rules, and he can make new ones, just to fuck with that stupid Badlands Ranger and make his life miserable. In all honesty, if someone goes full min-max to show the Gamemaster that he's better, it's not only his right but also his duty to show him his place. The hard way. So that the next time our little dare-devil friend will dispense with stupid ideas, and just concentrate on making a cool, playable, chill character, which will provide him and his friends with many hours of good, solid entertainment, instead of a toxic atmosphere at the table.

I don't mind strong characters. I like seeing my players' heroes gaining experience, becoming better at what they do and achieving success in all of their endeavours. That's what's great about RPG's, is this sense of progress and making yourself better with every new quest. I love that and it will always be one of the main reasons why I love playing these games so much. What I hate, however, is some douchebag trying to prove that he's better, because he made a really special snowflake of a character with maxed-out stats. That I can't and will not abide. Not now, not ever. Toxicity of any kinds is not welcome at my table, and yes, I know that by shoving this kind of character into dirt, I'm probably making the same mistake, as its creator. You know what - sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. If it means that a person will realise his error and make sure that next time he won't make the same, stupid mistake, I'm all for that. Even at a cost of being a killjoy and a tabletop fascist.

Deal with it or find a new hobby.

Oh, and for the record - I've never seen a min-maxed character being role-played that well. They're almost always shallow, uninteresting, one-dimensional bores with no personality, traits or anything unique about them. I guess that people who make these "heroes" put all of their creativty and strength into making sure that their little snowflake will have the best, possible stats and gear. Making him, you know, interesting and cool to RP (which is kinda the point of these games) is not as important as giving that Badlands Ranger the sword of absolute fuckery +1.

Until next time, after I let off some steam.

My name's not Bennett, but I will, thank you!
Xathrodox86

P.S. I actually really like the Badlands Ranger profession from the 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. They're awesome and really fluffy. I'd probably like to play as one, someday.

1/10/2019

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Reiksguard" by Richard Williams

Happy new year! Let's kick off 2019 with a brand, new review of "Reiksguard", a novel about, well... Reiksugard!

First things first however. Strike to Stun will soon be out of action which is a damn shame. That said, there's still hope. Not only does the fantastic Rat Catcher's Guild Discord server still going strong, but now we also have a brand new community in the form of Winds of Chaos forums. Hopefully it will gather folks from StS and continue that venerable's site legacy. Sigmar be praised.

Now to the review itself. I've finished "Reiksguard" last year and was really impressed with that book. This was my first time with Richard Williams' work and, well, he nailed it. "Reiksguard" is a very, very good book which shines a lot of light at one of the Empire's most interesting knightly orders.

This is seriously one of the coolest Warhammer covers ever made (and I know that I'm writing this statement almost every time, when I review a book)
The main protagonist of this book is Delmar Von Reinhardt, a son of a prominent Reiksguard knight, who sold his life in the service to the Emperor many years before Delmar's own induction into the venerable order. The young knight quickly makes some friends, as well as enemies, among other inductees, as he trains to be the very best of the Reiksguard Knights. Along the way he also discovers that the Emperor's own bodyguard hide more than a couple of secrets, some of which concern his dead father...

The books action takes place directly after the Storm of Chaos, although the author does not use that name in his work. It was possibly due to Games Workshop's retcon of this event, or maybe Mr. Williams' own decision. The first part takes place mainly in Altdorf and shows the gruelling and ardous training process which turns an ordinary young, noble man into a skilled and honorable warrior of the Reiksguard. For me this was the most interesting part of the book, a sort of "behind the scenes" look into the workings of a Empire knightly order. It also focuses on each aspiring knight's individual ambitions and rivalries as well as reasons for them to join the Reiksguard in the first place. It's great stuff. Of course there are a couple of cameos. Karl Franz, the big honcho himself, makes a short appearance, while Kurt Helborg, the gloriously moustached leader of the Grand Order of the Reiksguard Knights, takes a much more prominent role in the story. Fortunately the author makes sure to not overshadow the main heroes of his book with such an august and legendary character, which is a really, really good thing.

The second part of the book takes place during an engagement against the greenskins. Reiksmarshal Helborg leads his knights into the inhospitable mountains to face the threat of orcs and goblins. Along the way the new recruits will have to contend with bad weather, inhospitable terrain, mutual animosity and the lethality of the greenskin menace. This is a strict by-the-book military story, and Williams has written it expertly and with flair. Some of the most despicable heroes redeem themselves, friendships are forged on the field of battle and the loss of some of the characters really hits the readers in a hard way. There's a small sequence of men and dwarfs fighting side by side, which is always welcome in my book. The main bad guy is also rather interesting. I don't want to spoil anything, but he's not your typical grobi bastard. More often than not the greenskins are portrayed as pushovers or comic relief-like opponents. In "Reiksguard" they are a truly genuine and scary threat.

All in all I've greatly enjoyed "Reiksguard". It portrayed the most famous knightly order in a fascinating and a in-depth kind of way. I was invested in the story from the beginning to the last page, and the characters were relatable and unique in their motivations and feelings. I did liked the first part a lot more than the second, but that does not mean that the latter section of the novel was bad. It's just my inner fluff monkey taking control, as usual. Anyway - go and read "Reiksguard". It will be worth your time and your money.

You honored that banner with your work, Mr. Williams!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

12/25/2018

My hobby summary of 2018. What lies ahead?

Another year, another mark. 2018 was very a hobby-heavy period for me, but I'm not complaining. In fact I can't wait for the 2019, as it promises a lot more action for me!

First of all - I'm getting married next year. That fact alone is making me smile like a madman and I can't stress enough how happy I am about that fact. My fiancee is a wonderful human being and I'm extremely lucky to have a second half like her. This will be a completely new chapter in my life, one that I'm very keen to explore.

As for the 2018 and my hobby related stuff... it was a blast. I've finished GM'ing "The Thousand Thrones" in one group (the first of my IRL groups) and "Terror in Talabheim" in the other (Roll20), together with a bunch of one-shot scenarios. Both campaigns are for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, and both of them are long-time favorites of mine. I've also ran a demi-campaign set in Khuresh, in the far east of the Warhammer world. It was awesome. Sadly my playthrough of the "Karak Azgal" came to a premature end, as the dungeon crawl format doesn't really work when it comes to WFRP (although the supplement itself is still worthy of reading!). Because of that I'm also hesitant to try out "Lure of the Liche Lord", even tough the book itself is very interesting to read, and it's connected to the "Daemon Gates" trilogy by Aaron Rosenberg (who also wrote the campaign). Still, I might just use "Lure's..." many traps and curses, as they're really neatly described!

Dwarven rune-automatons? Yes, please!
However all is not Warhammer, as strange as it may sound. In my other two groups I'm running a chronicle for Vampire: The Masquerade: Revised edition set in Warsaw, and a series of one-shot scenarios (or "operatons", as they're also known" for the new Delta Green, which I think might be my new, favorite game system. I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft's freaky work, and a game which pits policemen, federal agents and ex-special operators against all myriads of eldritch abominations is more than ok in my books. Delta Green is a fantastic system, and one that really brings new life into the venerable Mythos. I will write more on this game in the coming months, but needless to say that my players love it. The theme, the rules and mechanics and the fact that we're playing in the setting of 80's Miami, all contribute to a truly fantastic experience. I highly recommend Delta Green to anyone who loves modern horror in their RPG's. You won't be dissapointed.

Aside from that, I'm very happy about the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay hitting the shelves. Although I think that Cubicle 7 could handle the developement process a tad better, they did an outstanding work with the final product. It truly captures that semi-riddiculous feel of the Warhammer World, while also being true to the previous editions. And the puns... the puns never end! The rulebook is filled with them to the brim, and I couldn't stop smirking, as I've devoured my way through its pages. Cubicle 7 also released a bunch of free scenarios for the 4th edition, as well as the Starter Set (although we're still waiting for the physical copies to arrive). Yeah, I'm still pretty irritated at them for all the delays, but at least they're trying their best to please their customers and that is something that I respect and approve of.

I also approve of this artwork. Fighting a bunch of squigs on rooftops is fucking hardcore!
I've written a multi-part demi-review of the 4th edition WFRP, but if you want to read a fantastic, in-depth write-up, covering this game, then head to the awesome (snicker) AWESOME LIES blog, where Gideon shares his thoughts on it. It's really worth reading and you can find it here.

As for the interviews, I was able to speak with a couple of distinguished authors, working in the gaming industry. Ed Hall, who worked on Hunter: The Reckoning RPG for the Classic World of Darkness, and David Guymer, one of the more prolific Black Library authors, have both graced me with the opportunity to ask them a bunch of questions. As always, I was fanboying more than a bit, when I've revieved the answers on my messenger app. What can I say? If someone would told me a few years ago, that I will be able to speak to the people whom helped create my favorite, fictional worlds, I would probably laugh out loud. Now it's happening, and I can assure you that in 2019 I'm planning to make even more interviews!

Finally I've been invited to the truly fantastic "Mud & Blood" podcast, ran by 9littlebees and Boganova. Together with the legendary Graeme Davis we've talked about all things Warhammer. It was the experience of a lifetime, being able to chat about one of your favorite settings with the man, who helped in creating it in the first place! You can listen to all of the episodes of the "Mud & Blood" podcast here.

These guys know their stuff. Highly recommended from yours truly!
Aside from all of the things, which I've already touched upon, 2018 was also rather 30K/40K heavy. I've joined the Horus Heresy league in Poland, and finally managed to finish my extra heretical Alpha Legion Harrow. Not only that, but I've also started a small, loyalist Emperor's Children Zone Mortalis force, and a White Scars Ordu, which is, for now, only a couple models strong, but will become a fully fledged fighting army in the coming future. Hai Chogoris!

2018 was a great year for me, both hobby and real-lifey-stuff-wise. I'm more than confident that the 2019 won't be any different. In fact it will be better in every way possible. I will see all of you guys in the coming year. Stay safe, stay healthy and... until next time.

Oh, and I almost forgot - stay sane...If you can...
Michael a.k.a. Xathrodox86

12/09/2018

It's time for the last interview of 2018. David Guymer answers all of my questions!

I can safely say that 2018 was very for me. Although the full summary will be written soon, I'd just like to say that I'm most happy for the bunch of interviews that I've managed to secure this year. Now it's time to present you to the last one - with David Guymer.

Mr. Guymer has written a bunch of fantastic stories. He's the man who has finished the Slayer saga and pushed it into the Age of Sigmar with the "Realmslayer" audiobook, in which Gotrek is voiced by Brian Blessed himself! He's also a real Skaven aficionado and his portrayal of the Iron Warriors in "The Beast Arises" series is simply awesome. On top of all of that, he also penned the "Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa" book for the "Horus Heresy: Primarchs" series! I was very lucky to have Mr. Guymer answer a couple of my questions and so here they are, for all of you to enjoy.

This is one, fine-looking cover!


Xathrodox86: I will start with a rather obvious question: how does it feel to write about Old World's most infamous duo?

David Guymer: The first time story that I wrote for Black Library (the first story I wrote!) was the Tilean’s Talisman for Gotrek & Felix: The Anthology so I’ve been around them for a while. Even so, when they asked me to write Kinslayer and Slayer, my first PROPER Gotrek & Felix novels, I still felt pretty excited. I think authors up their game for this kind of work because they now badly they’ll get it from the fans if they get it wrong. You can see that sort of thing throughout the End Times books and the Horus Heresy series. Bringing Gotrek Gurnisson back to the Age of Sigmar was something we’d discussed since wrapping up on Slayer, but it was still a nice surprise to be called back to pick up where I left off with Realmslayer.

Xathrodox86: "Realmslayer" turned out to be quite a hit. Will we see more of Gotrek in the Mortal Realms?

David Guymer: Well we’ve already had Robbie MacNiven’s novella, The Bone Desert, and a short story by Darius Hinks, and I have a short story coming out in this year’s Black Library Advent series so yes – plenty more

Xathrodox86: How did you react after finding out that Brian Blessed himself will be giving voice to the most famour Slayer of them all?

David Guymer: It was pretty awesome actually. I just wish I could have gone down to London to watch the recording. I hear it was a blast.

Xathrodox86: What was the hardest part of writing the ending to the Slayer saga? Did you consult anyone before penning the grand finale to Gotrek and Felix's epic adventures?

David Guymer: I didn’t consult anyone, but I do remember Bill King being asked at the Black Library Weekender (some years ago now) how he envisaged Gotrek finally meeting his doom: he said it would have to be doing battle with gods and daemons with the world blowing up all around him, so all in all I think I’ve been pretty true to his vision!

It’s a while ago now, so I might be looking back on this with some rose-tinted hindsight, but I don’t remember writing Slayer to be all that hard. There was a momentum going into this that sort of pushed me on to the end.

Xathrodox86: What's your recipe for writing Skaven? They've very tough to portrayal, mainly because of their insidious nature. How do you manage to make them interesting?

David Guymer: I actually don’t find them very hard.
Wait, is that not normal? Should my family be worried?

Xathrodox86: Is Queek Headtaker your typical Skaven, or does he posses some traits which make him unique, when compared to other denizens of the Under-Empire?

David Guymer: Yes and no. Every skaven character in that novel is typical for a member of the race, but with a trait so madly exaggerated as to make them appear unique. So Queek Headtaker is still just as craven as any rat-man, it’s just that his vastly swollen skaven self-confidence skews his sense of what is and isn’t a threat. His uncharacteristically loyal servant, Ska Bloodtail, is just as devious and underhanded as other skaven, it’s just that his terror of the Headtaker translates into a kind of witless devotion.
I love writing skaven. Did I mention that? You can have so much fun with them.

Xathrodox86: Are we going to see more rats in the Age of Sigmar? So far you've mainly written about the Stormcast Eternals? It'd be sweet to witness Thanquol, Queek or Snikch sowing chaos and mayhem in the Mortal Realms.

David Guymer: Well keep your eyes peeled, a verminous villain that may or not hail from the world-that-was will be crossing claws with Hamilcar Bear-Eater in Champion of the Gods out in February. I’m also written a Clan Pestilens story set in Blight City (the new Skavenblight), which I guess should see light some time soon.

Xathrodox86: Your Warhammer 40,000 work is as diverse as it is fascinating to read. What's your favorite part about this universe?

David Guymer: As a scientist, originally (I’ve a PhD in Biophysics and worked in labs for years before I somehow found myself writing Gotrek & Felix stories) so I like the chance to exercise that muscle. For the first stories I wrote in that universe I got a bit carried away with stuff like ork biology and how a Geller Field might work. I’ve calmed down since then, but I still love sneaking a bit of science into my 40K stories.

Xathrodox86: Writing about a primarch is no easy fit. What were your guidlines when describing the indomitable nature of Ferrus Manus? I've always found him to be one of the more difficult primarchs to portray in a right way.

David Guymer: I didn’t have any guidelines per se, except everything we know about the character from the various sources. I basically read Fulgrim and the Horus Heresy sourcebooks. He was quite difficult though. He’s a character that keeps a lid on what he’s thinking and feeling. he’s a lot like the Lion in that regard.

Xathrodox86: You've written quite a lot about the Iron Tenth. Are they your favorite Legion/Chapter of the Space Marines?

David Guymer: They are, and yet at the same time they are very little fun to write about. Being so cold and unemotional you have to continually look for new ways for them to express themselves outside of words (which they use sparingly) and body language (which they don’t have at all). I talked to Chris Wraight about it at Warhammer Fest once and I was glad to hear that he understood completely. He said he had to watch half a series of Glee or something after finishing Wrath of Iron. That’s not to say I don’t have my eye on writing at least one Iron Hands book for the Dark Imperium era once I’ve wrapped up my trilogy.

Xathrodox86: "Dreadwing" deals with the 1st legion waging a war against their traitorous brethren, by targeting their home worlds. Why did the Lion considered this task to be more important than reinforcing his brothers' forces on Terra?

David Guymer: It was what he agreed with Guilliman and Sanguinius to do at the end of Ruinstorm. The events of Dreadwing essentially look at the divisions that are exposed in the Dark Angels when this plan is manifestly not working.

As for why the Lion persists with it anyway, well, that’s what the book’s about!

Xathrodox86: I honestly think that the character of Warsmith Kalkator is one of the coolest portrayal of a Iron Warrior in the history of Black Library. Any chance for you writing some more about the bitter sons of Perturabo?

David Guymer: I guess everyone loves a hard as nails anti-hero. I actually know very little about the Iron Warriors as I’ve not done much work with them before. I would though. I don’t think much has been done with them in the 41st Millennium since Graham McNeill’s books so there’s an opening there. I’d hate to become the ‘iron guy’ though!

Xathrodox86: Quite a few of Black Library authors play the tabletop as well. Are you one of them? What's your favorite WH40K/AoS army?

David Guymer: Not any more, though I did. I try and get back into it every now and then but it’s tough as I live in the country and don’t have anyone to play with regularly. Just the occasional game of Necromunda with my sister.

Xathrodox86: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects? What will David Guymer write about in the future?

David Guymer: I’ve been writing so much at the moment that when I’m asked these kinds of questions it’s difficult to keep track. I’ve bene writing a ton of short stories for Advent, Inferno, and various forthcoming anthologies. Champion of the Gods is coming soon, an Idoneth Deepkin novel called Court of the Blind King will probably be released some time next year. I’m writing another audio drama, tentatively starting work on the third of my Iron Hands trilogy, Sapphire King, and will be writing my second Primarchs novel after that.

Xathrodox86: Thank you so much for answering these questions Mr. Guymer. I'll be looking to more fantastic stories from you in the future.

Well, that was a blast. Mr. Guymer will have a lot of new and cool stories for all of us, very soon. I can't wait to get my hands on them!

My next post will also be the last one for the 2018. I will see all of you soon, and... take care.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86