The best way I know to make a setting creepy, uncanny, and also humorous, is to use cults. Cults are a fantastic framing device: They allow us to distil ideologies, emotions, or even personality traits into a single organisation...
Whilst everyone in the Warhammer world would have been blessed at some point, and most of them often and repeatedly, few would encounter true blessings in their lives (and very very few multiple times throughout their lives). But the big thing to note is: believers think that every blessing they receive is a true blessing...
Also, don't worry, I'll post write-ups of all the characters once they're finished and we get started.
These questions are optional, of course, but they act the same as the Extra Little Worldbuilding Questions, but for player characters, rather than the GM. It's a good idea for GMs to come up with their own pointed (and loaded) questions for their own campaigns, so that they better fit the themes, but I hope my list gives you some inspiration.
- Who are your parents? Where are they now? Do they know what you are? Do they know where you've been sent? How do they feel about that?
- Do you have any siblings? Where are they now? Which ones do you remember fondly? Which ones bring up complicated feelings? Anger? Jealousy? Hatred?
- Who was your best friend? Where are they now? Why aren't they here with you?
- Who was your worst enemy? What did you do to them to inspire them to follow you? What lengths will they go to to get payback?
- What dream did you hold, that now slips through your fingers? Is it gone now, forever? What would you do if presented the chance to get it back?
But I have grown since then, as a GM and a game designer, and as such it's time to release a revision. This revision started small, and quickly grew into a mini fan-supplement much like my last one, Tides of War.
And here it is! I hope you enjoy Hammer & Anvil!
Hammer & Anvil is an unofficial fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition focusing on crafting. This system seeks to add a deep yet simple system to the core rules of WFRP that enables crafters of any variety to ply their trades. With some small substitutions, this system could be used with any roleplaying game.
I hope you enjoy Tides of War!
Tides of War is an unofficial fan supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition focusing on mass combat. This system is broad enough in scope, and general enough with mechanics, that it could easily be adapted to any RPG system, fantasy or otherwise, with minimal modification.
There are three categories of GM Tools that I'm using for On the Edge of Exile: Org Tools, Prep Tools, and Play Tools. There aren't many of them, so I'll be talking about all of them here. This discussion will be about what I'm using, and why I'm not using alternatives.
Let's begin at the top:
Facebook & Messenger Groups
That leaves me with Facebook and Messenger. All my players are already on the platform, and we can now customise them pretty extensively. The Messenger thread is being used for short form discussions, and the group is used more like a forum. Simple!
- Do something evil.
- Kill someone.
- Make someone take the fall for badness.
- The Evil Child tricks someone in town into adopting them.
- That person's business - a tavern - starts to boom with the greatest beer on tap.
- A few people have gone missing, but most people in town are in such a drunken stupor for most of the time that they don't notice.
- The Evil Child uses the missing towns folk as a sacrifice to become even eviler!
YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.But for this campaign, I am using an in-game calendar. This is part Org, part Prep, but mostly Play. I want the players to be the ones writing in this thing, noting when events will occur, and planning their travel around that. I'm not going to be too cruel on the GM side of things, and (as mentioned with Threats) I won't have things scripted purely by a clock. I will reveal dates when it is interesting to reveal them, and it's then up to the players to record and follow them.
Speaking of which, I intend to jump forward the calendar by 2-month chunks every milestone of play (the players will be in control of when this is, but it will be guided by me on the basis of something significant happened). Sometimes these will be longer jumps, depending on how many sessions it has been since the last jump. Each jump will constitute a settlement phase.
This Fantastic Character SheetI love character sheets, and often hate the standard sheets that come with most games. I don't know what it is, but almost universally, official character sheets suck. Indie games are usually the exception to this. *shrug*
So, for WFRP, many years ago I discovered this sheet! This is the one the players will be using.
A Bunch of PDFs
I wanted neither of those things. I wanted to combine the feel of Blades in the Dark downtime with Darkest Dungeon's camp phases. I wanted a simple system that could be run through, quickly, that would also force dynamic change on play.
This is what I came up with:
Here we get the ground work. You need provisions, and you need to manage your condition. That's it in terms of resource drain for the PCs - provisions, however, are pretty expensive, so it's going to be a lot of tax if they want to mobile larger forces. This was vital. I didn't want the PCs being able to raise bands of warriors without it costing them a lot.
Here we get some of the strategic choices of the PCs. Where, how, and what are they doing during. This section mentions Weather, but that's a GM tool that I'll go into at a later date. For now (unless one of them decides to play as a Jade Magister) they have no way of affecting the Weather rules, except to get a forecast.
The first half of the Travel Actions. I wrote them in a very Apocalypse World manner so that they gave breadth without slowing down play too much. I'm imagining this to play out rather quickly in practice, with each player choosing an action (or to help an action), and then them playing out in order.
And the second half of the Travel Actions. Perhaps the most interesting part here is the Scout action, which as you can see, takes the place of an encounter check. I struggled with this, for a while, because I thought it might not make sense, but given almost always, the PCs would be attempting to evade enemies during their travel, that it worked. This also means PC Skill is more important than the randomness of the GM's dice.
And lastly we have camping. This essentially allows PCs to extend their resources, and (hopefully) recover. There are some more tactical options here, because, depending on the party, it might be safer for them to keep on the move (if they have better results with Navigate and Scout) or to try to camp as much as possible (if they have a high Perception).
The last thing to note is the tags, like Safe, Wild, Infested, etc. These are applied to Regions on the map, which are not exposed to the PCs until they go there, or gather information about a Region.
Now... That's a lot of talk about Regions. But... Huh? Here's the area map for the Valley of Blood I posted a few days back:
See those chunks formed from orange dashed lines? Each one of them is a Region, and each one has a name (like Vale of Disappointment or The Gamble). Each one also has tags on the GM's side of the screen, which tells me how many days it takes to cross, how dangerous, open, accessible it is, and also what the sources of danger and adventure there are. This allows me to run the above rules straight from the map and a list of short notes!
For the purposes of the campaign (and because some of my players read this), I can't yet expose all those notes. But, if there's interest down the line, I'd be happy to post it all here.
You can grab the full version of the above rules here:
Player Travel Sheet Download
So we've got setting, and our mechanics sorted... Next up we'll talk about some of the GM Tools being used to better run On the Edge of Exile!
- Do I know the rules well enough to understand what I'm changing?
I've run WFRP, in all, for about 6.5-7 years of weekly sessions, over the years. Not consecutively, but frequent enough that I know the rules probably better than any other system I've ever read (apart from those I've made myself). I feel confident that I know what I'm changing.
- What don't the rules model well?
Travel and resource scarcity. For a game all about famine, pestilence, and the wild places of the world, there isn't really mechanics for modelling these things. I've always thought it was weird, but I could ignore those gaps. Most of my WFRP games are enclosed city-campaigns, where there's little travel, and the PCs have a home base. Whilst this campaign definitely has a home base, it is far from safe. I'm going to need some more meat. I'm also going to need something to can handle Faction turns, and settlement management!
- Do any systems do that in a good and transferable way?
Well... Kinda. There's some cool travel mechanics in Ryuutama which have been inspirational, but they're altogether too nice. Then there's some interesting ideas in Dungeon World that can be transferred in some ways. Factions I can source from Blades in the Dark and Stars Without Number, so I have a lot to work with, but nothing that does exactly what I want... Which means I pass my three tests and can move onto hacking!
Faction Turns & Settlement Management
- It's not a nation, but a frontier.
- The rulers hold little to know legitimacy, and are little more than thugs controlling small stretches of land through force.
- The land is mostly barren, arid, and brutal. Badlands, crags, scrub land, marshes, and thorns.
- Think Wild West meets the Balkans.
For those who aren't Warhammer nuts, here's the wider map of the Old World, so you can get an idea for context:
- The Empire (the place with Nordland, Middenland, Reikland, etc.) is based on Germany,
- Kislev is based on Russia,
- Bretonnia (the place with Bastonne, Quenelles, Carcassonne, etc.) is based on France/Arthurian England,
- Estalia (the place with Obregon, Magritta, Cantonia, etc.) is based on Spain,
- and Tilea (the place with Niragliano, Trantio, Remas, etc.) is based on Italy.
- Barak Varr is the largest city in the Border Princes, and is controlled by the Dwarves. It is the only port in the region, and super well defended. The Dwarves here jealously guard their stranglehold on the Black Gulf, and don't really care about the rest of the valley so long as ore keeps flowing in from the mountains.
- The Old Silk Road is the longest road in the world, and goes all the way through the Worlds Edge Mountains, across the Dark Lands, to Cathay (*sigh*). It is a major trade route, where untold riches flow, and where lots of illegal things occur. Bandits, smuggling, extortion, and heretical magics traded.
- The Iron Rock is a huge Greenskin stronghold held by the Iron Claw Orcs, which are (or were, at least) led by one of the most terrible Greenskin Warbosses of all time, Gorbad Ironclaw. This is a great, impenetrable, super dungeon, which I can use to cool effect.
- The Black Crag is another Greenskin stronghold that used to be a Dwarf Hold. The Dwarves want it back, and it likely has lots of cool treasure in it sealed away from the Orcs. Even more fodder for adventure! Also, the Red Fang Tribe that controls it apparently hates the Iron Claw Orcs, so there's room for playing enemy factions off each other, and working for the Dwarves to help take back the Hold.
- The Badlands are on the doorstep. That means we can use the very shittiest parts of the Border Princes terrain - all that useless arid land - as a set piece. This is the Wild West. People here have hard lives, and they can barely scratch a living out of the dust. The very land they travel through will be an enemy of the PCs!
I've been running two campaigns recently: Curse of Strahd using Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and Ameshirel: A World Reforged using my own playtest Do or Dice. The former is going very well, but the latter has hit a bit of a slump. Things need to change - system reworkings, campaign re-scoping, etc. I'm putting it on indefinite hiatus, and will work on something else whilst those changes percolate in my brain.
That means, in the meantime, I have a free fortnightly slot! Last night, I pitched a few campaign ideas I had to the players of that slot, and between the three ideas, one shone out. In the interest of curiosity, the other two ideas were Short Straws using Firefly RPG (Cortex Plus), and Stockholm Syndrome using Part-Time Gods of Fate.
The idea that won out? Let me introduce to you On the Edge of Exile, a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition campaign. (Yes, that's right, I'm returning to my favourite system/setting!)
I'm hopeful to post many article about this game, in the coming months, featuring the character creation notes, my changes to the mechanics to handle various things the original Core didn't do great, my mix of GM tools I'll be using, campaign notes, and so on. For now, I'll leave you with the blurb of the campaign, and the overarching campaign question I'm using to steer this ship:
BlurbOn a far frontier, at the start of Spring – Nachexen 17th, 2524 IE – a settlement comes into view. It is a dreary place – tiny, diminished, and left to ruin. Little more than an outpost, Dunkeldorf is nonetheless suddenly very important. The reason? A porous stone found only at the bottom of the village's old well. Known as Morr's Blood, when ground and mixed with mordant, it produces a black dye that never fades. For Reikland, capitol province of the Empire – whose colours are black and white – and for a growing noble class that favours fashionable blacks, this is of the highest priority...
But not so high that they'd travel all the way out here, into the Border Principalities, to collect it themselves. No: this is a backwater.
This is a frontier haunted by every danger and horror imaginable. This is no place for folks of a finer lot. No: this is a place for folks like you.
You were something back in the Empire. You were a star pupil, a promising young cadet, a prodigy of the Colleges of Magic, a well-bred noble ready for courtly life... And then something happened – or rather, someone happened to you. You pissed someone off. Was it something you did, something you said, some consequence of your birth, or just wrong-place-wrong-time? It doesn't matter, now. You've been exiled – you've been given this highly important but inglorious position.
But at least it's yours. Your fates are now intrinsically tied. It's just a shame you can't trust anyone in Dunkeldorf – at least, not yet. With everything out here arrayed against you – the depredations of wicked cults, the foul Greenskins, and the greedy eyes of other Princes and worse – you have your work cut out for you.
What will it take for our heroes to betray the Empire?My prediction? Very very little.
I have a lot to discuss, but not enough time to discuss it all. So, I am going to give it all in dot points for possible later discussion!
- My group finished Marienburg: Sold Down the River. It was awesome, and I intend to let you know more about it. It involved a prison break, a fight with undead elves, summoning a dragon, and a whole lot of death.
- I started another game, called Ameshirel: A World Undone, which is currently being run live in a Hexcrawlly sort of way. Check it out on Obsidian Portal (as I've actually managed to convince my players to update it!) It is using Dungeons & Dragons 5e, which is a new and strange experience for me.
- I'm now running a game using Fragged Empire, an indie RPG in development that was successfully Kickstartered a little while back. It is being posted up in Vod form on Another Dungeon, so check it out!
- I got a new job! I now work for EA Firemonkeys in Melbourne, and am an actual paid Game Designer in full now. No more split titles here, no sir! I'm having a lot of fun, and working on Real Racing 3 for iOS and Android. You should check it out, because it is one of the best racing games on mobile.
- I'm still planning Verum Arbitus, and it should be launching in a few weeks. Very excited!
- I've been playing in lots of games, recently, including a Cthulhu Horror game using a hacked homebrew system, and a Terry Pratchett meets The Office meets Better Off Ted style game. Very odd, but loving it.
- I've been watching a crap load of itmeJP's YouTube channel, especially Steven Lumpkin's West Marches and Adam Koebel's Swan Song. Check them out.
Just a bit of a management update for now. I've finally tethered my proper email address to versamus, so from now on I will be posting from this account.
What does this mean? Well, not much, really. Not much content-wise, at least. Except that it is now far less of a hassle for me to post, so that should mean I post more often!
So that this post wasn't a waste of time for you to read, I will share a map of Rijker's Isle - the fortress prison in Marienburg - that I made this week using Campaign Cartographer 3.
Looking forward to chatting again soon.
It's been a while. It certainly has been a very long while. Much has changed, and now that the effects of Tzeentch are beginning to wear off I am finding a little more time to talk about those changes and other topics which I do love to natter on about.
So here goes...
Since I last spoke, I've: visited Japan for 2 amazing weeks; changed vocations (now professionally working for a Games Design studio in Melbourne, Australia - Twiitch); gained a housemate; radically altered (and somewhat stalled, due to increased work) my WFRP 2e campaign, Marienburg: Sold Down the River; begun work on The Sands of Athla in ernest (and hired a team to make it possible); begun freelancing for some professional tabletop ventures; and prepared myself mentally, physically (*laughs endlessly*) and emotionally for the prospect of being best man at my best friend's wedding...
So, you know, same-old.
Most (maybe all?) of these matters are topics I want to discuss more, though I wont make the mistake of promising them now. Let's just cross our fingers, shall we?
What I will give you now, however, is a monster concept that I wasn't able to jam into my latest submission (and as such it would go to waste otherwise). I give you the Hiveworm for your troubles:
Some travellers marvel at the strange formations that mountain ranges take. The educated among them often see mountains which don't quite fit with tectonic science. To some, these would be curious exceptions, but for those surveyors who have investigated, they have proven to be the source of nightmares. These 'mountains' are in truth gigantic hive-cocoons for a race of worms know as Hiveworms. Hiveworms come in three varieties; the small Slaver which coils around the necks of larger species to enslave them in protecting the hive, the horse-sized Chrysalists which devour rock and extrude it in a film to build the great mountain cocoons, and finally the mountain-sized Queens which live within the bowels of these cocoons and breed he lesser two varieties. These beasts operate towards their own goals with an almost sentient level of intelligence - certainly staring into their black beady eyes one feels a being of hate and madness staring back.Stat it up (or suggest systems that you want me to stat it up into) and enjoy!
Hopefully we will talk again soon (and I will get a chance to show you some of what I've been up to!)
It's been a little while since I last posted. A great many things have happened, and in the end they got in the way of the last few posts I was going to do on the Marienburg A-to-Z. But, I am here to let you know what was happening, and what will happen next.
First of all, as I may have mentioned, Impossible Worlds was experiencing some problems. They are far to myriad and complex to go into here, so I am posting the link to the Post-Mortem for you all to read if you so wish:
Additionally, I am here to let you know that I am currently working on a PDF of the entire Marienburg A-to-Z series. This will include a polished up version of the posts made between A-U, as well as the unposted V-Z. I will release this freely on versamus, for all viewing pleasure.
On this, I am looking for a couple of artworks to scatter throughout. I might end up using some of the stuff in the Marienburg: Sold Down the River book, but if you know of any artwork that would be fitting, please let me know.
I hope everything settles down soon, and I can get back to my regular posting.
All the best, and I hope you have time to get in some gaming soon!
Last night I finally held my first WFRP related event since the end of Praag, and it felt awesome. Everyone gathered around at our usual gaming table, and we had a Round Table Character Creation session. We discussed the campaign, and I handed out the Starter Kits, and everything was in good WFRP cheer!
The collaborative Character Creation, though, was a lot more successful than I thought it would be. This is what I did:
- Everyone around the table had the chance to give a 1 sentence explanation of their character. This ranged from submissions as succinct as "Pirate", to multi-clause sentences about Half-Ogres and Blood Bowl teams.
- Everyone got the chance to veto or question any of the choices. Some questions were thrown, and ideas changed dramatically (I kid you not, one of the characters went from "Axe Cop", to what is essentially Vinculus from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - a charlatan who dabbles in fake magic, gambling, and anything to make a quick copper).
- Everyone expanded on their ideas, and added bits of flavour. This was anything to additions of back story, or what have you.
- Again, everyone could veto or question.
- Everyone described what they would be doing during a usual session, and we got some clear ideas of the party intentions. Surprisingly, there was very little combat focus, so the campaign is going to be more Everyman than I expected, which could be very interesting!
- I then laid out two scenarios for the party, and asked them where they would fit into the scenes - they got to colourfully describe what they would be doing*:
- The first was a bar fight, where all patrons are being involved in the scrap.
- The second was a carnival on a holy day, which was full of attractions that they could make up.
- Second to last, the players had to pair off with two different other players and create "memories"**.
- How this worked was that each player joins up with one other and creates a memory that they both share which is a "good memory". They need not know each other was involved, just so long as it is a shared experience in their past which they both find good. We had players inadvertently helping each other out, and some who became friends before the start of the campaign.
- The second was the same, but with a "bad memory", and another PC. This meant that every player would have a good and a bad memory, and would be linked to two other players. This necessitates that talking to any one of the players means that you can trace a web of interactions to every other player.
- And last of all, we rolled up our characters, using the Expanded Character Module as an aid in random skills, talents, trappings, and doomings.
** This was perhaps the best thing I've ever done during character creation, and I will likely write an entire article about this. It allowed the players to really understand each other, and to build a shared history for the city.
- A male Halfling "Carpet Salesman" who specialises in rolling up corpses and throwing them off bridges.
- A male Marienburg-born Norscan Bouncer who shares his Minstrel father's love of the innocent.
- A male Tilean Painter / Art Forger who has deep ties with both the underworld and the upper class.
- A male Marienburger Ferryman / Smuggler / Family Man who is always on the look out for more money-making schemes.
- A female 15-year-old Bretonnian Pirate who has already done way worse things than any of the other characters have even seen in their lives.
- A male Marienburger Charlatan / Mystic / Gambler / anything else that can con people out of money.
- A male Half-Ogre Blood Bowl Quarterback who is looking for a leg up in the competitions.
- A female Marienburger Ex-Black Cap / Rat-Catcher who is searching for the man who framed her, and a way to make her massively extended family proud.