“To Market, To Market” – WFRP, Episode 1

The striking fortress-town of Ubersreik is situated between the gloomy Grey Mountains and the depths of the Reikwald Forest. The town guards the Grey Lady Pass through to Bretonnia, and is one of the busiest trading centres of the Empire. A mighty, Dwarf-built bridge that spans the red waters of the River Teufel stands at its centre. This impressive crossing connects important trade roads from across the Empire and beyond.WFRP 4th ed. Starter Set, The Adventure Book

Continuing recaps of our long drawn-out Enemy Within campaign. Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.

Link to Session 0 – “Let Me Buy You a Drink”

Our budding adventurers, each responding to a similar invitation by the mysterious stranger, gather at the Sprinthof Coaching Inn, just outside Auerswald. The stranger, who now identifies himself as Jekel Schroeder, is in the company of a massive Kislevite missing his left ear and a stout, armored dwarf.

Godabert is the last of the four adventurers to arrive, a wisp of a young man dressed in meager attire but somehow in possession of a bulging money purse. God emphasizes his fashionably late arrival with a stool flourish that takes a tragic turn. He tumbles to the ground and spills a bag full of rocks all over the table and onto the tavern floor.

Prior to this first in-person setting, Godabert informed me that he was going to lurk about until all parties had arrived, and he was going to fill up his money purse with stones, so as to always have a supply of improvised ballistic projectiles.

I can’t remember exactly what this initial skill test was… or why I called for it… I just know that this represented our group’s first exposure to the fumble mechanic. Godabert’s first impression was hilarious on many levels, and opened our gaming in what I kept emphasizing as a “grim and perilous world” in perfect fashion.

Jekel explains that he chose each of the adventurers for a specific reason, assembling a party of mercenary investigators uniquely suited to the mission at hand.

The group is being hired to travel to Ubersreik, and locate Lena Bauer, an apprentice Bright Order wizard and member of minor noble family in Altdorf.

Continue reading “To Market, To Market” – WFRP, Episode 1

“Let Me Buy You a Drink” – 4th Edition WFRP, Episode 0

Inns and taverns are a distraction from the misery of existence for many citizens of the Empire, and an entertaining diversion for many more. They can often be places where political agitators do their work to whip up sentiment against the authorities, or where witch hunters prowl for rumours of the unnatural. Con artists and robbers also ply their trade amongst the inebriated unwary, although there is also some honest respite to be had, and the scribe is right about the pickled trotter.WFRP, 4th edition Core Rulebook

Today marks the two-year anniversary of what very well could be, if Sigmar allows, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign that I play for the rest of my life.

As mentioned in previous posts, I got back into the ttrpg hobby after decades on ice, and, after an ill-fated trio of 3rd-edition WFRP sessions, news broke of Cubicle 7’s fourth edition. Plans were hatched, long-lost first-edition tomes were reacquired on eBay, and I promised my fledgling gang of adventurers that, even if this new publisher didn’t release an adaptation, I was going to run them through the greatest rpg campaign ever written.

The Enemy Within.

The first book in The Enemy Within campaign, from WFRP first edition

We’re still going, with our 22nd session scheduled for tomorrow night, and the gang has almost arrived in Bögenhafen. The lengthy delay will make more sense as I recap two years’ worth of introductory scenarios, side-quests, and an unnecessarily complicated master timeline (that I have since become wise enough to rein in). Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.

Let’s start with those session zero character-creation meetings, and the narrative hooks that were crafted alongside my players.

Continue reading “Let Me Buy You a Drink” – 4th Edition WFRP, Episode 0

A Brief, Unspectacular Attempt at 3rd Edition WFRP

As of December 2016, I hadn’t maintained or updated my Amazon wishlist in… I don’t know… years? But my folks, who have ever endeavored to surprise me with Christmas gifts that they knew (or assumed) I wanted, and had newly discovered the ease of shopping online, found Fantasy Flight’s box set for the third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay deep within a list of graphic novels I had already since purchased (or forgotten about) and now out-of-print vinyl.

So my Christmas present that year was indeed a surprise.

Don’t get me wrong — I was excited to receive it. It was just that, the last time I had played WFRP was probably the summer of 1991 and, except for a brief attempt at Trinity in the early 00’s, that was the last time I had played a tabletop rpg of any kind.

My love affair with gaming during those intervening decades was as tumultuous as my human romantic relationships, and no less complicated. That’s a blog post for another time. Suffice to say while I satisfied a passion for games with a host of different collectible card games and an ever-increasing library of boardgames, I had neither the time nor the support to dive back in to ttrpg’s.

That all changed when I moved back home to San Francisco in 2012. I had reunited with a group of friends and family that loved late nights at a dining room table covered with dice, tokens, and map tiles almost as much as me. Around this same time, my brother, who had never himself played a ttrpg, but had been listening to a number of newly popular gaming podcasts, expressed a desire to start a D&D campaign. My Dungeons & Dragons experience was buried even further back in the past (last time had been… ’87?), but I do know something about this Warhammer universe and it just so happens that we’ve got this massive box of third edition WFRP goodies to explore.

Continue reading A Brief, Unspectacular Attempt at 3rd Edition WFRP

Law and Chaos: From Elric to Warhammer and Back Again

WFRP, 1st Edition, ca. 1986

I will not start at the beginning. I can’t possibly, or I’d never start writing these blogs. And I promised my pal, SolomonLox, that we’d channel some pent-up musings, reflections, or, in his case, recipes, that have been on our mind since the first incendiary sparks of a fiery 2020 rose up in mid-March, into new posts.

If I did try to start at the beginning, tracing my rejuvenated obsession with gaming and tabletop RPG’s in particular, I might never get around to reflecting on my current state of mind, my pandemic reading list, or recent Roll20 exploits. Plus, that would require too much organization on my part (so as to not upset the chronology). Another pal, HolyBeeOfEphesus, employs a workhorse mentality to his note-taking, sequencing, and thoughtful composition of blogs, evidenced most notably in his Used To Be My Playground series. I’ve seen the preparatory legal pads, ladies and gentlemen, and that guy works. Me, I’m just going to start rambling.

Let me instead start with a recent fantasy read and its connection to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. WFRP (“whuff-rupp”) for short. To borrow terminology from my favorite podcast, The Grognard Files, WFRP wasn’t my first RPG, nor was it my last, but it certainly is my everything. Future installments of this blog series will delve deeper into my adolescent explorations of TSR’s classic games and then draw a line from the Talisman boardgame through Games Workshop and into that first edition WFRP tome that I so cherished as a teenager. It may even feature game recaps from my currently underway 4th edition Enemy Within campaign.*

*It will most certainly feature those game recaps because I’m already in the habit of writing them for my players and, something else I’ve learned from The Holy Bee is that no amount of writing should go to waste. Why publish those solely for the benefit of my four friends when I could perhaps double that number by posting publicly?

Continue reading Law and Chaos: From Elric to Warhammer and Back Again

Absolutely Pretty Good and Scary

You know what? Absolute Carnage #1 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman is, actually, really pretty good. Why the qualifiers? Because I’ve never been a big fan of the character, and what little interest I did have in Spider-Man’s stable of symbiotic super-villains dropped off considerably as the ultra-violent aesthetic swallowed up the 80’s anti-hero boom and suddenly, painfully, took precedence over any kind of decent comic book storytelling or artistry. Subconsciously I think I’ve somehow equated the Punisher/Deadpool/Venom-Carnage fanbase with the same people who can’t stand seeing a Black Captain America or a Jane Foster swinging Mjolnir. I don’t have time to waste on that nonsense. So, coupled with my disinterest in the characters, I also assume any new books featuring those guys would therefore target that audience. Pass.

Despite developing an appreciation for the work of Donny Cates, if it hadn’t been for our “Fresh Start” focus group project, I probably wouldn’t have bothered reading the first issue of the new Venom series (see above). And then I would have missed out on arguably the hottest team in comics right now. Ryan Stegman’s work is a revelation, and the storyline involving new, unexpected layers to the symbiote lore has been everything you want from comic book fantasy. Primordial cosmic chaos, terrifying cultish machinations, and millennia-spanning mystery. And, again, totally unexpected (particularly given how terrible the most recent attempt at de-mystifying the symbiotes had been during Bendis’s Guardians of the Galaxy run).

To cut to the chase: Absolute Carnage #1 is a fantastic horror comic. Coupled with Ewing and Bennett’s Immortal Hulk, these are the kind of books that, I’d argue, we’ve never seen dressed up in cape n’ tights veneer and haven’t been worth a damn since the EC heyday.

Continue reading Absolutely Pretty Good and Scary

Hickman’s X-Men Gets Better and Better. Also, Look at these Fantastic Pins

I’m not lazy by any means. I’m swamped. “Idle time” isn’t what it once was and finding shit to write about every week has its challenges. That said, my experimental effort at a blog entry title that, much like a spontaneous tweet accompanied by an image or two, can communicate everything I need should, also, force me to blather on introspectively in the most blog-like of fashions. Which is what I just did.

Mission accomplished.

But maybe I should expand a bit while we’re here? Last week’s House of X was everything the Marvel hype machine made it out to be: big, beautiful, and portentous of exciting things for our long-maligned mutant friends. Ever since news broke that he was returning to Marvel, I have felt strongly that the company really needed Jonathan Hickman. Reading the first two issues of these interconnected titles, and I’m reminded how much the X-Men in particular needed him.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The first issue of Powers of X (read as Powers of Ten) works in tandem with House of X by painting a broader picture of mutant history and legacy. The “tens” in question are a “zero” year, ten years ahead (the present continuity), one hundred years into the future and, of course, one thousand years into the future.

Continue reading Hickman’s X-Men Gets Better and Better. Also, Look at these Fantastic Pins

Avengers Complete! Now What?

For some time now I’d been trying to transition from straightforward weekly new release bulletins to something a little more bloggy (read: pathetically self-indulgent), but related to comics all the same. That War of the Realms rundown really burned me out. Not just with writing brief four-color reviews either — I was worried that I needed a real break from superhero books. I’ve been reading and collecting comics pretty much nonstop for over thirty years and, for whatever reason, these last few months had seen my unread stacks pile up to unprecedented heights (save for the stupid WotR tie-ins, given my stubborn insistence that I read every damn page in order and on time) and my enthusiasm for reading the latest installments of some of my favorite capes n’ tights books had stalled considerably.

Then Comic Con happened.

It was another joyful blitz of pop culture enthusiasm, this time accompanied by more friends and family than any prior year. It was particularly fun to finally be able to share this experience with my kids, knowing full well that they’d find something to gravitate towards and get excited about. JDG spent a lot of time nerding out in gamer panels and demo-ing upcoming releases, and LDG drank a lot of margaritas and joined SS for a marathon of high-profile animation spectaculars.

We had our share of celebrity run-ins too. Aisha Tyler served us beer; RF and Chip Zdarsky are basically dating now; MMJ spent the weekend thinking she posed with Mark Hamill (before the Fluke Skywalker news broke). Speaking of my dear MMJ, without whom I don’t know that I would have ever been talked into this craziness in the first place, all she talked about for days leading up to Con was all that Peanuts swag. And we nailed it. She got it ALL. And, thanks to Preview Night, we got into that Star Trek transporter experience without spending half a day in line.

And I did all the fantastic things that I love about Con. I sat through all four hours of the Eisners (dominating the pool; it’s like the other four people I was with weren’t even trying) and several more hours of scholarly Comics Art Conference discussions. I met Tom King & Mitch Gerads. Bill Sienkiewicz and I reminisced on a mid-80’s convention in San Francisco (he held up the signature line that I accidentally cut by regaling me with stories of a drunken James Doohan and foul-mouthed Mel Blanc). I got books signed by Seth and Gilbert Hernandez. Two new commissions for our coffee gallery came home courtesy of Andrew MacLean and Nooligan. And I roamed the exhibit floor for days buying so. much. stuff.

Continue reading Avengers Complete! Now What?

SDCC 2019: Top 5 Comic Book Exclusives

Once again, I’m foregoing the weekly new release column to focus on a different kind of release: the 2019 San Diego Comic Con variant. With the convention officially kicking off tomorrow, here’s a list of five special releases that are on my radar. These aren’t necessarily the most rare exclusives or even overly valuable variants. These just happen to be five that have piqued my interest.

Avengers #21 – Mondo Variant (Marvel)
I’m running out of wall space, which is why I’m probably going to pass on Rich Kelly’s “Golden Age of Marvel Comics” print from Mondo. Luckily, however, Marvel has taken that fantastic design and used it as a variant cover for the latest issue of Avengers. This particular issue of Aaron and McGuinness’s series has some War of the Realms fallout and features the latest iteration of Phil Coulson’s Squadron Supreme.

Blade Runner 2019 #1 – Artgerm Exclusive Virgin Variant (Titan Entertainment)
Stanley “Artgerm” Lau pretty much does one thing, and he does it really well. His half-body digital paintings are regularly featured as variants for the big two publishers, but I’m excited to see this cover exclusive being offered for Titan’s new Blade Runner series. The book is co-scripted by Mike Johnson, who has done a nice job on another licensed sci-fi property, IDW’s Star Trek, and, along with Michael Green, he’ll be telling new stories in neo-noir Los Angeles.

Continue reading SDCC 2019: Top 5 Comic Book Exclusives

War of the Realms: Week Twelve

This book shouldn’t be this good. It also shouldn’t only be three issues. Every year Marvel does one of these anthology tie-ins for its summer event and they’re usually a hodgepodge of tangential short stories by aspiring writers and artists that add very little to the overall storyline… and are largely forgettable to boot.

But War of the Realms: War Scrolls #3 is the last issue of this excellent mini-series, anchored by Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino’s “The God Without Fear.” Now, Mr. Zdarsky is doing a bang-up job with the new Daredevil series, and I don’t want that wrapping up any time soon… But if Aaron is looking for a solo book to tackle once his Thor opus is done, I really would love to see him take the reins for a lengthy exploration of ol’ Hornhead.

Marvel calls this a must-read companion to War of the Realms, and I tend to agree. Not only do you get more of the Heimdall-Daredevil story, but every story has been very well executed. An essential addition for sure.

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Twelve

War of the Realms: Week Eleven

What I probably should be doing is talking about the incredible Silver Surfer: Black by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore. Or at the very least, my initial impressions of DC’s Event Leviathan by Bendis and Maleev. But instead I’m rolling ahead with more quick hits on everything remotely related to Marvel’s War of the Realms. After perusing this list of crossovers and tie-ins, however, my hope is that the casual fan will forego all this tangential crap and read one of the two aforementioned books instead. I’m getting ready to bury the hammer, Marvel. Let’s wrap this shit up, yeah?

There are six different books bearing the WotR trade dress this week, and, to be honest, the only one I really think anyone should read is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 by Ryan North & Derek Charm. And that’s not even based on my prior screeds regarding the comprehensibility of superhero event books being dependent on chasing down all the key tie-ins and crossovers either. I’m labeling Squirrel Girl #45 recommended because it’s just funny as hell.

But I’ve got a feeling about Champions, as well. Not that this particular WotR crossover arc is all that compelling, mind you, but I’m recommending issue #6 of this series because I’m pretty impressed with what Jim Zub has been building since taking over the title.

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Eleven