Monday, June 25, 2012


I'm not entirely pleased with the way WFRP 2E handles firearms.

For the Old World, it's fine, but for Thirty Years' War, they're too advanced and reliable. There's even a few paragraphs in the Old World Armoury that talks about the evolution of firearms in the Old World from hand gonnes to matchlocks to wheellocks and flintlocks and on to the "modern" handgun.  Those wheellocks and matchlocks, though, saw use in addition to flintlocks.

Unfortunately OWA doesn't do anything with them mechanically.  So, I'm going to cobble something together on my own.  At the same time, one thing I very much appreciate about WFRP is how it just says, "Whatever man, it's a Hand Weapon," and doesn't get too persnickety about details beyond that.  Weighing things down with details for details' sake isn't going to do me any favors.

Pistols and Firearms are either Matchlock, Wheellock, or Firelock (Flintlock).
  • Matchlocks - as Firearm/Pistol, but Unreliable range is 15% larger (attack rolls of 81-98 mean a roll on the Misfire Chart) and is Rare.
  • Wheellock - as Firearm/Pistol, but Unreliable range is 10% larger (attack rolls of 86-98 mean a roll on the Misfire Chart).
  • Firelock - as Firearm/Pistol, but 5% more difficult to acquire.

Wheellock86-9899-00Very Rare
Firelock96-9899-00Very Rare (-5%)

When firing an Unreliable weapon, if the roll falls within the Misfire range, regardless if the roll would have been successful, there will be a secret roll on the Misfire Chart.  Experimental weapons will roll on the Advanced Misfire Chart in Old World Armoury.

Misfire Chart
01-20Partial burn. Not all the powder catches; range and effective strength are halved (rounding fractions up) for this shot only.
21-50Charge fails to ignite; try again next round.
51-70Chage fails to ignite; reload and try again.
71-80Slow burn, or 'hang fire.' The priming goes off, but nothing else seems to happen. However the weapon will fire in the following round, with potentially dangerous consequences. Anyone who is stupid enough to look down the barrel of a gun which has hung firetakes an automatic point blank head hit.
81-90Flash in the pan. The powder around the touchhole ignites in a bright flash, but the gun does not go off. The gun must be reprimed before it can be fired again; this takes one round. The firer suffers a BS-10% on the reprimed shot, due to an understandable degree of nervousness about what is to happen next...
91-98Burn-round. The powder catches, but the shot is either insufficiently wadded or a little too small for the barrel. The net result is that the heat of the burning powder welds the shot into the barrel. The weapon is now useless and has a 50% chance of exploding if anyone tries to use it again. A successful Challenging Trade (Gunsmith) Skill Test will repair it.
99-00Weapon explodes, inflicting normal damage on the wielder and is destroyed.

Musket-Rest: Allows for a an Aim (Full Action) action.  If the following action is a Standard Attack, gain BS+20%.

The Misfire Chart in the core book is boring (it jams! it blows up!) and unrealistic (if it jams, you need a Trade roll to fix it).  The Advanced Misfire Chart in Old World Armoury is kinda brutal (40-50% chance of it blowing up); though I'm okay with it for Experimental weapons.  The above chart is effectively the Advanced Misfires Chart from WFRP 1E's Warhammer Companion.

Also: the musket-rest is key.  I love them. Gotta be there.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Harkenwold: Reaved

This past Friday's session was, as I'd hoped was the last session of the Reavers of Harkenwold campaign. As I'd expected, it ended in a TPK.

In the penultimate session, the heroes had headed to Iron Keep to kill/arrest Nazin Redthorn and cripple the Iron Circle's ambitions in the area.  They'd scouted around the keep, located the keep's sally port, and broke in.  I was pleased and surprised by this: the writer certainly hadn't accounted for the PCs avoiding the front door entirely and the sally port was on the first floor of what's effectively the final building (side-stepping a lot of fighting).

They're going to end this thing, yeah.

The folks on the other sally port put up more of a fight than the heroes expected, though, and the battle frightened several servants who ran away.  This made the party too nervous... so they hoofed it.

In the aftermath, the keep was on high alert, and sent out some patrols to find the group that snuck in, stabbed some people and left.  A plan was formed to ambush one of those patrols, murder them, and sneak into the Keep disguised as members of the Iron Circle.  (As I'd recast the Iron Circle as human supremacists, the party's dwarf and goliath would be "prisoners.)

So, at this point, they'd (effectively) done it the easy way, decided it was too hard, and then decided to go back and do it the hard way.

In the final session, they made contact with another patrol, Bluffed them convincingly, and then accompanied them to the keep's gate.

Bluff rolls were extremely good, for the record.  Too good for the party's own good, really; they let the heroes dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole before things hit the fan.

They'd convinced the gate commander they were legitimate.  The portcullis was coming up... and one of the members of the patrol they'd bamboozled noticed something wrong with the rope "restraining" the party's dwarven cleric.

"He's getting loose!"

At this point, I expected one the other PCs to punch him in and "subdue" him.

Instead, they basically did this:

So, that happened.  The thief, tumbled under the half-raised portcullis, ran into a nearby tower, and was engaged by a clanking iron dog.  The goliath jumped high and scrambled over the rampart over the gate.

The rest of the party stuck together outside of the keep and fought the rest of the patrol they'd tricked.

To be clear, the party's now split: one guy in full view of half the keep's sentries (and their crossbows), another locked in a tower with a robot dog, and three guys sticking together but blowing their rolls and standing in front of some murderholes.

I low-balled a few things (the gatehouse door was suspiciously easy to break down, for example), but the combat started off grim and only got grimmer.  There was a whole group of sentinels, for example, in full view of the combat completely unmolested by the PCs over entirely too many turns for them not to have called for help.

So, just as they're finally getting a grip on their enemies... another wave showed up and, well, yeah.

There was a great deal of laudable, "I can get to your corpse in time!" that sadly proved untrue.  And, of course, once one PC drops, it's downhill from there.

I'm not sorry for it, though.  As I've said, I was ready to be done with the campaign, and I think the players were, too.  I'm ready for the next thing, clearly.  And, really: it was the only way things could have reasonably worked out.  I didn't go out of my way for the TPK... it was inevitable.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Do you the Devil's work"

Ulric von Bek by Rufus-Jr

Back in high school, when I first encountered Michael Moorcock, Graf Ulric von Bek was my favorite incarnation of The Eternal Champion... even more than Elric.

I keep making passes at getting into his Jerry Cornelius; this time I'm warming up to Moorcock's style by rereading The War Hound and the World's Pain.  It's also not an accident that War Hound begins in the aftermath of Magdeburg... as does my upcoming WFRP game. 

Putting aside the whole "Prince of Darkness business," the opening section really sets the stage for the game. And, since I transcribed it, I might as well share it here.
It was in that year when the fashion in cruelty demanded not only the crucifixion of peasant children, but a similar fate for their household animals, that I first met Lucifer and was transported into Hell: for the Prince of Darkness wished to strike a bargain with me.

Until May of 1631 I had commanded a troop of irregular infantry, mainly Poles Swedes and Scots. We had taken part in the destruction and looting of the city of Megdeburg, having somehow found ourselves in the army of the Catholic forces under Count Johann Tzerclaes Tilly. Wind-borne gunpowder had turned the city into one huge keg and she had gone up all of a piece, driving us out with little booty to show for our hard work.

Disappointed and belligerent, wearied by the business of rapine and slaughter, quarreling over what pathetic bits of goods they had managed to pull from the blazing houses, my men elected to split away from Tilly's forces. His had been a singularly ill-fed and badly equipped army, victim to the pride of bickering allies. It was a relief to leave it behind us.

We struck south into the foothills of the Hartz Mountains, intending to rest. However, it soon became evident to me that some of my men had contracted the Plague and I deemed it wise, therefore, to saddle my horse quietly one night and, taking what food there was, continue my journey alone.

Having deserted my men, I was not free from the presences of death or desolation. The world was in agony and shrieked its pain.

By noon I had passed seven gallows on which men and women had been hanged and four wheels on which three men and one boy had been broken. I passed the remains of a stake which some poor wretch (witch or heretic) had been burned: whitened bone peering through charred wood and flesh.

No field was untouched by fire; the very forests stank of decay. Soot lay deep upon the road, borne by the black smoke which spread from innumerable burning bodies, from sacked villages, from castles ruined by cannonade and siege; and at night my passage was often lit by fires from burning monasteries and abbeys. Day was black and grey, whether the sun shone or no; night was red as blood and white from a moon pale as a cadaver. All was dead or dying all was despair.

Life was leaving Germany and perhaps the whole world; I saw nothing by corpses. Once I observed a ragged creature stirring on the road ahead of me, fluttering and flooping like a wounded crow, but the old woman had expired before I reached her.

Even the ravens of the battlegrounds had fallen dead upon the remains of their carrion, bits of rotting flesh still in their beaks, their bodies stiff, their eyes dull as they stared into the meaningless void, neither Heaven, Hell nor yet Limbo (which there is, after all, still a little hope).

I began to believe that my horse and myself were the only creatures allowed, by some whim of Our Lord, to remain as witnesses to the doom of His Creation.
- The War Hound and the World's Pain, Michael Moorcock

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adventure Log

So, I've been following along with Jim Pacek's DM Prep Page posts, mostly because the first one caught my attention.

I normally scribble notes on some scratch paper as we play and they're maybe legible an hour later (never mind by the time the next session rolls around).  Stuff like, "How much XP do we have," always comes up (not throwing stones, I suck at tracking it as a player, too).

So, some structure & format to notes can only be a good thing.  They'll help make session recap (the next time, or here) simpler viable.   Jim's got a neat little sheet, so I stole (the idea of) it.

(His other prep stuff so far is pretty OSR specific.  While the pregenerated hit dice rolls are inspired, they're not especially useful to a WFRP game; though they did motivate me to throw together a spreadsheet of random d10 rolls.  We'll see if that speeds anything up.)

Anyway, here's what I've got so far.

Adventure Log v1.0

It's intended to be printed, double-sided on 11"x17" and folded along and with the center line on the inside.  That leaves a space to hole-punch to keep it in a binder.

I'm hoping that some additional structure emerges, but currently it's some session notes on the outside and space on the inside to track stuff that happens during combat or whatever.  I'm kinda doing what Jim does with the hit dice over there on the right with blocking off rows for NPCs and such.

Like I said, there's still room for structure to emerge.

I'll be giving it a spin on Friday (with the last session of the 4E game), so we'll see if it's useful (or turns out to a waste of an afternoon).

Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Metamorphica is neat!

I picked up The Metamorphica the other week; it's a lengthy collection of (as far as I can tell) totally system agnostic random tables, as well as some notes on how to leverage them.  I'd be leery of calling them "random mutation" tables: they cover that, but also insanities, super powers and psionics.

Anyway, the PDF is free, but I ordered the book because I'm a sucker for random tables, books in A5, system agnostic stuff (and it was easy to add to a Lulu order I was going to place anyway).

This thing is great.  When I say these tables are all over the place: I'm not kidding.  Entries look like this:

I could get into the specific contents (there are 104 body: form entries, 164 body: function entries, etc), but I'm not sure how useful those sorts of metrics are... and it's free, so I'm sure you can figure that stuff out.

At a high level, though: it's mostly mutations/psychoses/powers sorted into groups.  Appendix #1 is a bunch of tables for random stuff (plants! colors! animals! body parts!), #2 provides alternate arrangements of mutations & powers, #3 provides instructions for theming those mutations & powers to different settings and #4 provides instructions for creating specific types of creatures (like beastmen, demons, and plants).  Again, all of it system agnostic.

Really though, let's do stuff with it.

Here's a mutant: d6 mutations gave me 4.
780Lights nearby are brighter and more violet
775Crystalline Body

So, it's a medium-sized crystalline blob that draws power from the sun, sucking away entire spectrums of light as it refracts through its hideous form.  That'll do.

I've got WFRP on the mind, with its myriad and enthusiastic chaos/mutation systems, so I rolled up a few chaos characters.  Fortunately, Realms of Chaos is in Metzger's bibliography, so there's a page in Appendix 3 about creating chaos-y characters.

First, a  Chaos  Sorcerer:
Gift of Chaos3Demonic Weapon
Telltale61Turns to stone in sunlight
Mutation671Psychic Detection

Nothing mind shattering here, but definitely kinda creepy.  I can't find a "demonic weapon" table anywhere, which feels like an omission, but at the same time, even though Slaves to Darkness has something like 18 pages on creating Daemonic Weapons, "has a weapon that's a demon" is kind of enough, you know?

And now, a Chaos Lord:
Demonic Phenomenon61Food and drink spoils
Telltale27Plants move and try to grab the mutant
Gift of Chaos1Blood Rage
Gift of Chaos8Wings
Gift of Chaos7Pallid Siphon
Mutation661Pain Broadcast

The Chaos Lord is more evocative: food spoils in its presence, nature itself attempts to strike at it.  It's fickle, and reacts with a violent tantrum when injured.  It's got wings and a pallid, colorless siphon, so I guess that makes it a loathsome mothman.  

So, this stuff is pretty cool.  The doc is great, and Lulu prints high quality books.  Definitely check it out.  This is one of the neatest supplements I've run into in a while.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Seriously, I freaking hate G+.  I got in to it pretty early, stuck around for a bit, then bailed because it wasn't doing anything new and it was a dang desert.

Worse, Google decided to castrate the social features of its most useful of applications, Google Reader, in an effort to drive traffic to their mediocre, desolate social network.  This was, quite literally, the end of the honeymoon between Mountain View and me.  Google, who could do no wrong, really fucking had.

So, I killed my G+ account quite some time shortly soon after.

Anyway, it sounds like G+ is still a desolate inbred wasteland, but it also sounds like there are some interesting RPG-related things happening there.  So... I'm probably going to reactivate my account to see what's up.  I'm definitely going to hate myself for it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Zak S's image dump posts always look like fun to make.  Since I've got some inspiration for the game I'm eyeballing at running next, I feel like doing one of my own:

Books feeding in to what I'm thinking of doing (at the moment):

Reavers of Harkenwold

As the sidebar indicates, I'm currently in the process of running Reavers of Harkenwold (from the 4E Essentials Dungeons Master's Kit) for a group of six (that hovers around four to five per session due to real life).

I'm running it because 1) I wanted to play some 4E and nobody else was running it and 2) I wanted to see how running a game based on a module would work.  My previous 4E effort felt like it required more active preparation than I really have bandwidth to perform said active preparation, and module does all the work, right?

Also, I'm functionally a new GM.  I've stabbed at running games infrequently over the years, but nothing truly extended.  It's something I want to do, partly because it's something I want to do and partly because there are games I want to play and if I don't run 'em nobody will.  The only way to go from being an inexperienced, poor GM is practice.  (Well, maybe not the only way, but you take my meaning.)

Reavers is wrapping up, approaching its climax.  I have some thoughts on the game.

People who think 4E is not deadly are NUTS.  I'm running a published scenario, one that is judged to be "good."  Without ever intending to, I kill a player almost every game.

I don't go out of my way to make fights difficult. Encounters always have "Tactics" sections; I never get to them. I fumble around, pushing NPCs across the grid and rolling dice for them and making quiet "derp" noises.  And, in doing so, I'm butchering PCs left and right like I hate my goddamn players, heaping their mangled corpses like firewood by the dungeon entrance.

That "Death Saving Throw" thing neckbeards like to complain about?  :shudder: According to Untimately (though I don't think he realizes it), that sucker makes 4E more deadly than AD&D, 3E, and a heap of retroclones. In most of these games, you have a range between -X and 0 in which you're down but not dead.  4E has the the same... but with a timer: fail three Death Saving Throws and you're gone. On average, it should take 7 DSTs (I think?) to kill a character.  At my table, with my players and with their dice, it runs more towards the 4-5.

Heck, I even had one character go from "standing" to "greasy, scorched stain on the cavern wall" in a single hit, with damage that blew past zero and then moved on to negative bloodied.

Worse: because encounters in 4E are intended to be difficult, having a PC drop at the wrong moment makes everything harder for everyone still standing... and makes it that much more likely that someone is about to go down.

Of six starting characters (and a dog) , two of them might see the end of the module.  (Not the dog.)

We decided, from the beginning, that we were going to let the dice do their thing, but I don't actually want my games to be quite as deadly as this 4E game has been.  I'd like the threat of character death to be real and present, but I'd like to have players have the chance to get a little invested in their characters before their ripped apart by bullywugs.

Fights, fights, fights. Nobody will argue that 4E module design leaves something to be desired.  They focus on encounters and not much else (which, frankly, isn't terribly different from the OSR modules I've read, but still).  Since I'm approaching the module from a "save me time" perspective, this inevitably meant that the game was about getting from Fight 1 to Fight 2 to Fight 3... lamentable.

This is as much my fault as the module's though.  I'm confident that, if I were running something where I had more room to improvise, less direction about fight this then that then this other thing, and room for my players to become attached to their characters, I'd have been more satisfied with the game.

The Module saved me time? I'm not sure it did.  Yes, it saved me from having to plan out encounters (:cough:), but I had to review half the dang module before every session to make sure I (relatively unsuccessfully) kept the details and facts about what was going down straight.

Where I improvised and inserted details that worked well ("The Iron Circle are a bunch of anti-demihuman racists!") were, inevitably, contradicted by the module ("Except for all the Tieflings and Dragonborn running around the final fortress!"), which made (at least a bit) more work for me.

I like 4E.  A lot.  I don't think there's any game out there that does combat as tactical and interesting as it does.  (That I like it is a good thing; the shelf full of 4E books proves I'm invested in the system.)  As I spent the bulk of my free time fiddling with miniatures, I very much value systems that use them.  I don't think the problems I've had with this game are endemic to 4E, either.

I do think that the module experiment has run its course, though.  Hopefully we'll wrap things up with the next session (and, the way things are going, it likely will, with a TPK :/ ) so I can move on to the next thing.

Monday, June 4, 2012


As I might've mentioned, I've been ramping up on the OSR thing.  There's some interesting stuff going on there, and I'm a sucker for random tables (and, now, drop tables).

That means that my Google Reader account's bloated the heck up with a ton of OSR blogs (looks like my RPG folder's got 60+ feeds in it at the moment).  That's where the thinking's going on, right?  And, unlike any other RPG phenomena, it really seems to be driven by individuals rocking out on blogs.

Related: I suggest that @SlyFlourish's definition of "Grognard" is off; there's nothing wrong with liking old stuff. The transition from "fan of something old" to "grognard" happens when someone hates something new, because it is new and they like something old.

Nobody has to like 4E. As with "Tastes great!" vs. "Less filling!" or Breaking Bad vs. Mad Men: different strokes for different folks.  It's cool; whatevs!

What drives me up a dang wall, though, is uninformed bitching about it. You don't have to like it, but if you're going to complain about it... please don't be talking out of your ass when you do it. Comparing 4E to an MMO, for example, flags you as someone who just doesn't know what they're talking about.

And that's the problem I'm running into with OSR blogs: these are folks who keep getting derailed from talking about things they love by a need to complain about things they believe they hate. (I say "believe they hate" because, if they're demonstrably ignorant about something, can they really hate it? Or just their imperfect understanding of it?)

I want to read these folks because, when they're talking about something they love: they're interesting and informative.  I come away with new ideas and perspectives; at the very least about what the game was like. When they sidetrack themselves, not only does it sidetrack me (because someone's wrong on the internet), but their peevish ignorance undercuts their authority.

On Warpstone Pile, I try very hard to be positive. There's a lot of miniature hobby stuff out there that I don't like / kinda hate (Warmachine, the current state of 40K, comp systems for Fantasy), but bitching about it isn't going to change anything except possibly alienate a reader. Going off about how little I care for Colossals isn't going to motivate anyone to look at my painted toy soldiers. (I don't always succeed, but I very much actively avoid negativity there.)

I probably shouldn't let it bug me that much... it's hardly a new phenomena, and there are better places to vent about it. But, as my RSS reader's filling up with this stuff (particularly with the D&D 5E stuff rattling around lately), it's starting to get unbearable.

tl;dr - Positivity good! Negativity (particularly uninformed negativity) bad!

Zweihänder Update Feed

I'm super-excited about Zweihänder the Warhammerless revision/rewrite of the WFRP system. It's been on my radar for a bit, but because I'm terrible about checking in on Strike-to-Stun... it's not easy for me to keep up with it.  And I'd like to keep up with it, 'cause I want to be able to order it when it drops.

So, I set up an RSS Pipe that reports whenever Moniker (the developer) posts to the Zweihänder subforum. It catches every post, not just "Order Zweihänder now!", but it's in my (RSS reader's) face without drowning me in notices every time anyone posts there.

If this is something you'd find useful: here's the feed. (And, if the pipe itself is useful to you, here's the pipe.)

Moving from Tumblr

This blog was originally started as a Tumblr; a place to dump interesting tidbits I stumbled on.  Since then, as OneNote's stepped up as a much better tool for that sort of thing, and I'd like to support more of a conversation than I'm able to get Tumblr to support.

Rather than manually moving posts from the Tumblr to here, I'm just going to link to it.  It's just as well; do I really need to repost that a Masters of the Universe 4E game "It's gonna happen" at Madicon 21 (~3 months ago)?  'Cause it didn't.

I'll repost significant, useful posts, but that's about it.

Anyway, if you're curious, the Tumblr can be found here: