Friday, 18 September 2020

What is Best in WFRP 1st Edition?

 The TL;DR version: Careers and Critical Hits.





The careers system is great. You have class, which is pretty much nonsense but is broken down into the various careers and with that simple role you are baked into the setting. I mean they’re not all gold but I reckon if you find yourself playing a boatman or a rat catcher then you know you’re not going be carrying any jewellery to a big volcano any time soon. In my own game of WFRP I strived to maintain a low key, low fantasy vibe. An aesthetic typified by the Joseph Manola as “alcoholic gamblers knifing cultists in back alleys.” This is WFRP to me. The player characters in my game were a trapper, a muleskinner, a member of the town militia and a thief; who were all raised in the same orphanage and found themselves caught up in the machinations of a chaos cult that was tearing itself apart.


So you get a big chunk of setting right there in character generation. After all what other game allows you a small but vicious dog as part of your starting equipment? Conveying the setting in character generation is just good design. See Troika, Electric Bastionland, Apocalypse World or Beyond the Wall for a modern interpretation. I mean you could skip Apocalypse World and it wouldn’t be the end of the..


Then we have critical hits. In combat, the damage one receives is first taken from one’s wounds score until that reaches zero or below and then we roll on the critical hits table for some graphic description of the inevitability bloody result. Generally it’s time to spend a Fate point so we can retcon that result into just being unconscious or whatever but the players love rolling on those tables when they’re  dishing it out. I did too when playing through Castle Drachenfels recently. I kept chopping arms off things like vampires and daemonettes (not so much with the aggressive, evil furniture we kept duking it out with. Seriously we fought a bed, a cuckoo clock and a sarcastic door..) 


One thing that’s mechanically nice about WFRP combat is you roll percentile dice to hit and then reverse the digits to give your hit location. So you roll a 35 to hit and that becomes a 53 which means *checks table* you strike the left arm. Well done.


I mean the magic system is garbage and the psychology rules are super harsh but we’re playing WFRP because we love the Grim (Old) World of Perilous Adventure, not because of its elegant mechanical superiority.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Spark tables and Dragon Warriors

 In his excellent RPG Electric Bastionland, Chris McDowall provides Spark Tables for the use of the referee (although he uses the term Conductor.) These are simply a few d20 tables sprinkled with setting appropriate terms to act as inspiration when you need something to kick start the imagination. When my own game prep process of staring out the window and drinking coffee fails me I resort to similar measures. After all, if someone has a good idea then I’m all about stealing it (and implying that it is my own work, ha.) 

I saw these particular tables, or perhaps early versions of them used at Dragonmeet a couple of years ago when we pressured Chris into running a game for us with zero notice. He’d brought a manuscript of Electric Bastionland to show around at the con and after a few minutes of reading it and also being long time fans of its forerunner, Into the Odd, we coerced Chris into running it there and then. He took a few moments to sketch out a map and rolled on two spark tables for each location combining the results into something Bastion appropriate for us to encounter. Then we were off and a good time was had.


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Using random tables to provide GM inspiration is as old as the hobby itself and it’s the sort of thing that I find most useful on my own prep. I’d rather create a tool for a specific session or campaign than I can reference again later, than say devise some specific story twist for this week’s game. The latter are better developed at the gaming table during play in any case. Of course you could always use something designed for this very purpose such as the Tome of Adventure Design by Matt Finch. This is filled with tables and while it has an old school D&D bent there’s a ton of material and it’s not really system or setting specific. Setting specific stuff is good though and at its best when you come up with it yourself to match the content and style of your own games.


To that end, I’m including two spark tables written for use with my own Dragon Warriors campaign. These were written back when we were still in Albion and are somewhat less useful now that the PCs are up to their necks in strife and woe in the Principalities of the Crusades.


Oh, and get Electric Bastionland. It’s really good.


Roll d20 as many times as you like on each table, combining the results to gain elements of inspiration for this week’s game.


  1. Cobwebs
  2. Crumbling castle
  3. Twighlight
  4. Moss
  5. Rain
  6. Mud
  7. Shadow
  8. Forest
  9. Revenant
  10. Ivy covered stone
  11. Faerie 
  12. Hollow hill
  13. Mere
  14. Hunger
  15. Rust
  16. Stone ring or henge
  17. Cairn
  18. Birds
  19. Iron
  20. Haunt



  1. Sorcery 
  2. Execution
  3. The church
  4. Tournament/disputation
  5. Crypts/tomb
  6. Statue
  7. Thorns
  8. Beasts
  9. Horns
  10. Graves
  11. Heresy
  12. Black magic
  13. Mercenaries 
  14. Bones
  15. Abandoned chapel
  16. Charcoal burners
  17. Plague
  18. Death rituals
  19. Runes
  20. Hunt

Monday, 31 August 2020

Ten Priests for Dragon Warriors

 So, following on from the ten random knights, I give you ten random priests. Except there’s really eleven, after I used one to fill a quick post in game and then added a replacement. Once again this is in the raw form I used in my own campaign.



Ten priests


1 Father Harald, tall, genial, long black hair, priest to ladies, not a monk...

"God does not deny joy"


2 Father Leopold, stern but non confrontational, keeps bees, brews mead, "fascinating creatures bees..." Tells bee parables, stretches it a bit


3 Father Rickon, blunt, black haired and bearded, "it is the will of God to suffer a fool, I am but a poor shadow of his grace" carries cudgel


4 Father Wulfric, willow thin, devoutly pacifist, sees the good in everyone even when their isn't any, trusts in God, forgiving of even the greatest sins


5 Father Osgar, brown hair, no beard, Tesshu like polymath, former knight, genuinely does not care if he lives or dies, faith is unshakeable, once took a beating from a Thulander thane to prove his faith was stronger than the man's hate, great calligrapher


6 Father Hrodgar, red faced, chubby, drinks, a lot, by turns incessantly cheerful and completely morose (now in Chapelfod's small monastery)


6a Father Llewin, cornumbrian, red hair, long drooping moustaches, great baritone, takes pity on small animals, 


7 Father Eardwulf, schemes, spies for the bishop, sees witches and heretics everywhere, secretly has them killed, renowned herbalist/clandestine poisoner,


8 Father Dunstan, tall, blonde, good looking bastard son of nobility, trained at arms but reluctant to fight, defender of the downtrodden, still has influence with his father


9 Father Cyneric, bookish, obsessed with the occult, knowledgeable but refuses to accept some things are better left alone (chapel at Saxton)


10 Father Aedelric, charming yet pure fucking evil in a cassock, sleeps with others wives, cruel to animals, revels in chaos for it's own sake and utterly self centred, although makes an outward show of piety......


Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Ten Knights for Dragon Warriors


 As my Dragon Warriors campaign is currently located half a world from Ellesland I thought I might share some of my old material in case it’s useful to other DW GMs. In any case I’m starting with this, a table on ten random knights you might meet in Northern Albion.


Ten Knights


1 Sir Readgar, mace and shield, black rose on a red field, zealous, sees heretics everywhere


2 Sir Rhaedbert, battle axe, red rose on a black field. Battle weary from the crusades, disillusioned, melancholy, thousand yard stare.


3 Sir Beornward, morning star and shield, white axe and sword on a green field. Devout, pious, dull. Very large. Montombre's man.


4 Sir Eodred, sword and shield, griffin rampant in gold on a green field. Dashing, brave, long curly hair. Has secret shame.


5 Sir Brictbald, greatsword, three stooping Hawks blue open a gold field.  Vicious, borderline robber knight.


6 Sir Caedfrith, warhammer, white lion head on an azure field. Tournament fighter, extremely strong, likes to drink fight and whore. Not a thinker.


7 Sir Eadwahl, sword, bow, two pike blue on a field of scarlet. Rough, country gentry, ancient line but poor. Fisherman knight. 


8 Sir Wilstan, axe and shield, black bear rampant on a field of argent. Gambler, owes money to merchants (including Earnwold) and others of low birth. Corrupt as a result. Raider. Sells slaves.


9 Sir Oslyn, spear, black boar's head of a white field. Proud, quick to anger, spoiling for a fight.


10 Sir Godward, mace, had a shield but constantly loses it. Three black crosses on a scarlet field. Drunk, friendly, not especially competent...

 

Don’t @ me about my descriptions of heraldry, if you want it done properly I cordially invite you to look elsewhere. 


I don’t tend to include stats in these sorts of things, I just eyeball the Stats for an Average Knight in the rulebook and decide what’s appropriate at the time.


In my campaign Sir Beornward was a feature for a while, as part of a rival group of adventurers in the service of Montombre. The PCs ripped off the others’ Holy Book heist before they could get there, and ended up in a confrontation with the group outside the small church in Igham. Churches seem to feature in a lot in this groups violent actions.


Art by @kekaikotaki on twitter 

Monday, 24 August 2020

Lockdown Gaming

During the lockdown I have gamed extensively, four times a week. Week in, week out. This has seen me actually use my Dungeon Crawl Classics rulebook for something other than a convenient perch for iPad. Also doing some real, actual playing as a player in other people’s games rather than just being the GM/referee all of the time.

I’ve been running Anomalous Subsurface Environment, the old school megadungeon written for Labyrinth Lord (although we’ve been using Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules because I have them in hard copy and they are easier to reference in that form.) This is my first and, probably only, attempt at running a megadungeon. It’s pretty great overall. The science-fantasy setting includes all sorts of weirdness, which might put off some more pure-fantasy mixed folks but I say give me a world ruled by despotic wizards and filled with cyborgs, dinosaurs and rejects from the sci-fi pop culture of yesteryear. It’s not that serious a game, just good fun.


Get this, it’s good


I’ve been playing, and also trying my hand at running DCC. I played through The Chained Coffin scenario with one group (and also a nice home-brewed pulp 1940s adventure). With another group we ran through Hole in the Sky, Well of the Worm and are hex crawling the Treasure Vaults of Zababad. DCC has been a bit of a revelation to me, I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and even drafted and run my own funnel; Crashed Black Ziggurat From Outer Space. This has led to sort of running a Crawljammer style game where I also ran Cry Freedom and Let Slip the Batmen of Venus from the Crawljammer zine #1. Thanks are due to J├╝rgen and Alex for introducing me to this excellent game.


Cool Peter Mullen Cover


Meanwhile my Dragon Warriors campaign has continued at an increased pace due to lack of social complications. This has seen the PCs leave the uncomfortable confines of Ellesland to pursue adventures in Ferromaine, briefly Molasaria and currently the Principalities of the Crusades. Much has been accomplished in this time but death has been a constant companion and only one character survives from the original four that set off to find funds to repair a church roof back in 2016. Interest in Dragon Warriors seems to be at a high point with an active discord server and more online games being played, plus the new zine Casket of Fays and the prospect of a new rule set designed specifically for Legend by Dave Morris in the works in the form of the Jewelspider RPG. Good times.


Jon Hodgson, killing it


And last but by no means least I’m currently exploring Castle Drachenfels in WFRP 1st edition as a player. I finally ran WFRP in 2019 but what was meant to be a short campaign seemed cursed with many cancelled sessions and took nearly a whole year to work through even if we didn’t play that often. Castle Drachenfels is a contrast in that it’s high level stuff (or third career stuff in WFRP parlance) the other characters having already played through the entire Enemy Within campaign. Other people keep commenting to me that Castle Drachenfels is not that great an adventure but we’re having a great time with it, so cheers to Tom for running it.


John Blanche, for oldhammer hipster points

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Social distancing and playing RPGs online

So in these bizarre times of Coronavirus and social distancing, self isolation and even quarantine, I thought it might be pertinent to share how I run my online games. Just in case it helps someone who either has a regular face to face group they no longer attend because of the virus or is just interested in playing RPGs while their usual social activities are on hiatus.
Step one: Google hangouts. This is a video conference calling app. Get it. Arrange with your players what time the call starts and then get on it together. Now you’re sat around a virtual table. It’s a bit different from a face to face game because you need to get disciplined around only one person talking at a time, however there is text chat that you can use simultaneously in addition to the video call if required. Use some sort of headset. I run my games off the hangouts app on my iPad with some headphones plugged in or connected via Bluetooth. That just stops echo from the speakers being picked up by the mic. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t use headphones , just a bit annoying. Many of the people I play with have proper headsets with built in microphones plugged into their computers, which is cool if you’ve got it but I don’t need it.
Just some super cool Pete Mullen art, because why not?

Step two: Dice. I use the honour system. You roll your dice and you tell me what you got. I trust you not to cheat, because if you’re a grown adult who needs to cheat at dungeons and dragons to maintain your self esteem, then ultimately I’m ok with that unless it ruins things for everyone else. However there is an online dice roller in hangouts chat that you can use and everyone sees the result.

Step three: You’re on your own now. Play your game the way you would play it face to face. Hold stuff up to the camera if necessary, pull faces, do voices, or don’t. It’s your game, play it how you think it should be played. Have fun. Stay safe. Wash your hands.

 p.s. I know lots of people who go deep into this stuff and no doubt provide a great online experience with the likes of roll20 or fantasy grounds. They give loads of great options around displaying maps and character sheets and positioning for battles etc. It’s good stuff but it’s also work. I’m too lazy for all that so I go with the most basic option. Whatever floats your boat is good.

Enjoy your gaming.

Also for some bizarre reason I can’t reply to comments on this blog at the moment but I’m on Twitter @domjnicrpg if you have questions.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Half the Story

Your job as GM/DM/Referee is to write half the story. The player characters are the other half. If you find yourself writing their bit then YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG*. The GM presents the problems, the players provide the solutions. If their solutions don’t match your expectations you are honour bound by the Great GM Code Article 1 to play them out regardless. 

Now, I realise that this may seem elementary to my three or so regular readers but from my consumption of RPG related social media (here read Twitter in particular) it seems to have been lost somewhere along the way in certain GMing circles. What I’m saying is no matter how much you think it will make the game better, do not railroad the players. Even in secret. They’ll work it out and fun will cease. 

Old School GMs be like...


I like fantasy fiction as much as the next nerd but stories and games are two separate things. A game is played, that’s how you find out what happens, then you have a story. Not the other way round. The player characters must be able to make meaningful choices, even if the choices they make are rubbish ones. Even if it means the game gets a bit shit for a while, even if they all die, even if it short circuits the Really Cool Encounter you had planned. If the players choices don’t matter then you aren’t really playing a game with them, you are subjecting them to your fantasy fiction and trust me, despite what your mum told you, it’s probably not even good.

Now, obviously it’s your game and you can run it however you want. If your players are cool with being railroaded all the time, or even some of the time, then also that’s fine I guess. It’s not my sort of fun but each to their own. The so called agency of the players is important to me, they must be able to make their own choices and for those choices to have meaning.



What that means if you’re a player in my game is that sometimes you might face problems, dilemmas or obstacles that I have no idea how you’re going to surmount. That’s good. Especially as every time I think “The players will probably do X at this point...” they almost universally do not. That element of uncertainty is good for a GM, it is the thing that allows you to actually play the game. When the player characters do something unexpected, play it out. Improvising around PC actions is some of the best fun you can have as the referee. You can make it easier for yourself by having a decent understanding of NPC motivations, so that they react realistically to PC behaviour. Also by having at least a vague idea of what will happen if the PCs do not interact with your hook. The world should carry on. It can often be worked out later (between sessions) what the consequences of the PCs action/inaction and this will be fuelling your prep for the next session. 

One of the great things about RPGs is that they can go anywhere. There is no board. No boundaries. Don’t shackle the game to your preconceived story. Do not limit the possibilities, embrace them.



*This is just my opinion, there is no objective “right way” to play RPGs.