And lo with a splat Aido lands back in the internet like a vengeful birdshit from on high.

I’m not going to wax rhetoric on why I disappeared, let’s just call it a study gap and leave the leaky details of my personal life in the less than secure box out in the unsupervised alleyway.

The title of this post pretty much says it all, (but it needs more punch, maybe a flash video or something. Oh I know!!!) I kinda got fixated on Castle Drachenfels a while ago and thought how much fun it would be to send my poor bastard players from my ongoing game, (which is pretty much no longer ongoing, alas) trudging through the nightmarish hell of the place, one crazy room at a time. But then I sort of looked at it, having finally bought my first actual campaign set for wfrp3, (sorry Dan, it was witch’s song) and realised I could do a bit more with this. How much more? I’m still finding out.

 

Witch’s Song finally enamored me back to one of those elements about wfrp3 that most people aren’t prepared to give the time of day to: Tracking tokens. 

Tracking tokens are kind of the final nail in the coffin for a lot of people that have taken the plunge and shelled out for the initially expensive core box for WFRP3. Visualise someone opening said box after purchase:

Ok, all the actions are on cards now? Alright, alright, I dig that. Ok, and…and everything is on cards. I’m sure that makes sense… Somehow… Could have put a bit more into the aul’ rulebooks there lads but…

Ah here…

What’s with all the feckin’ fiddly bits, I thought I bought an RPG not a bleedin’ jigsaw.

SKIT ENDS

The point is that we’re all very mature and we don’t like someone saying “just in case you forget where you are along the plot this handy tracker will help you.” Except that’s not the point at all, because if we were all very mature we wouldn’t be playing RPG’s, we’d be attending to our appalling personal hygiene and blaming back-of-the-alleyway conceptions on booze. More importantly, as my lovely wonderful S.O. is reminded every single day,

 

The Olde World League

Well well well, look who came crawling back to the internet…

If your wondering where I’ve been for the past month and a half, the answer is “working”, this is a major development for me. Unfortunately, the reason I am here posting is because I am now “not working”. This has caused me significant consternation over the past short while, but I’m going to just plow on ahead and start giving various down-lows and up-highs. (Mostly the former I fear.)

Firstly I’m still playing whfrp3 in whatever avenues I can. I have to pull together my old group after disappearing off the face of the planet for a month and a half and I hope to be able to start up where I left off, namely murdering them in whatever means I can, mostly the slow and horrible ones. I still take part in my bi-weekly online whfrp3 campaign, which has reached the interesting crossroads that one us will most likely get murdered next session. Everyone’s been pulling random careers, I strangely managed to pull the combat tank one again. Hilarious fun, by which I mean I’m shit scared and don’t want Annierra to die. *shrug* If that’s the way it’s gonna go, then that’s way it’s gonna go. But I am to make my next character decidedly un-murderable.

whfrp3 has provided very little new content over the past few months aside from Print-on-demand stuff, which is great and all but I think we all want a nice meaty supplement box to get our teeth into. The next one on the agenda is the eagerly awaited “The Enemy Within” campaign, for a number of reasons. I think myself and the other whfrp3 junkies will be waiting by our postboxes to see what the latest renditions of it will provide.

On the subject of online gaming, my elusive aussie compatriot Daniel Wise is endeavouring to set up an online, easy opt-in campaign system for whfrp3, which allows players to drop in with a character for a few sessions and make little commitment beyond that. I think this entire system is brilliant and I’m wont to write further on this, most importantly, you can find out more about it at http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/the-old-world-league. You’ll also need to sign up for the Google group, which you can the right information for on the above page. Feel free to sign on and make a character, I hope to be running a few sessions and we’ll hopefully be able to set up a nice online community through it.

Otherwise, most of my activity has involved my other major love in life, tanks. I’ve been painting a lot of Flames of War miniatures and hope to have a playable 1750 point army quite soon. I’m enjoying being really anal about having the right camouflage pattern for my SS panzerkompanie, which proving challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I’ve also been playing a lot of World of Tanks, which, as you can imagine, is right up my street. Enthusiastic efforts on my part have finally earned me a Tiger tank, which I am eagerly running about the place and shooting at people with it’s 88mm gun.

Finally, I have been watching a lot of cartoons, which I think is forming into an idea for a post in the near future, if I don’t have either a painting blog, an after action report from some online wfrp3 or a review up soon, I’ll try have an angry yet hilarious rant about why we need to go and bludgeon some anime producers to death with a box of h-games.

 

So for the moment it’s adieu, but I’d like to have something more meaty for ya’ll soon.

 

P.S. Does anyone know if I can get purple drank in Ireland?

Thought I’d have an amazingly productive Easter and post a bit more than usual. Inspired by all the lovely people that decided to follow me. Which means the more internet attention I get, the more I shoot my mouth off. Feed the vicious cycle, feeeeeeeed iiiiiiiiit…

We’re going back to my default RPG system to have a chat about it, because the issue seems to come up an awful lot for people that play it, or perhaps not enough. We’re going to talk about two mechanics that are pretty specific to wfrp3, one which doesn’t seem like a whole lot of anything and another which everyone initially thought was quite good and then decided to abandon.

Talents approached in slightly different fashion from the way they would be in a lot of other systems. When you consider some of the feats available in the likes of Pathfinder and similar systems, all wfrp3 talents let you do is do a few things slightly better, or benefit from a situation in some minor way. They don’t allow the kind of ball-crushing follow up attacks like Cleave would in a game of 3.5. Even compared to a talent in 2nd ed. wfrp such as crushing blow or strike to stun, they are decidedly mediocre. But that’s not what has caused so much consternation. What has frustrated so many players is the “socketing” mechanic. Not only did 3rd ed. nerf the talents, they also made it so you can only use so many of them at a time.

The party sheet is another often discussed mechanic, (or indeed, not discussed enough…) that has taken a few knocks. Each PC group picks a party sheet, sometimes before they start playing, sometimes after their first session. It has a few notable aspects, first it has anywhere between one and three extra slots for you to put talents. This might allow you some extra leeway in terms of what people can benefit from. Second, the sheet has a special ability, which in most cases is pretty good and often better than your average talent. The party sheet also has a fortune pool, which measures how many fortune points the party has. The last mechanic is one that is going to get looked at in some detail, because it is a potentially really interesting one. The party tension meter measures the tension level between the group and forces a (relatively minor) penalty for the continuing escalation in tension between the group. Finally, a rule system that accommodates the fact that your group acts like a troop of randy primates? Maybe.

The reason talents get sticky is because,depending on the career you choose, you will only have access to certain talents, also you can only attach a certain number of talents to your career sheet at any one time. So which talents you pick suddenly become very important.

The ogre sheet above is typical of this, it allows two tactic talents. If an ogre character had, say, a third talent to throw about, he wouldn’t be able to use it from this sheet…

Which is about the point when people start screaming blue murder and flushing the slotting mechanic down the toilet. (Or in some cases, taking the entire core set out to a fire pit and burning it, true story.) It’s complicated even further by the fact that there are several different types of talent. The major three are reputation, focus and tactics, but there are many others depending on your chosen career. Thus potentially limiting your options even further. People are likely to be even further infuriated by the requirement to take at least one talent before being able to finish their career and move on to a new one.

Does this mechanic suck when compared to the likes of a system whereby once you have it, you can always use it mechanic? Yes. Is that a good thing?

Yes.

Firstly, by not making talents as good as they were in previous editions, they are reducing player’s reliance on them. There are very few hard and fast cheesemonger talents that someone will find themselves always using. There are some solid contenders. Footwork from Omens of War, clear minded, roll with it, to name a few. But even these, what might be considered the best of the available talents, simply allow you to use already available things in a slightly more beneficial way. They are hardly game breaking. The result is players look on their talents as something to give them a small edge under particular situations and NOT to allow them the string of attacks as part of planned sequence. What I find is that as often as not, talents aren’t taken because of the benefit they offer, they are taken because they sound cool.  That might sound stupid, but it certainly helps put the role into roleplaying.

A problem with this system does begin to emerge when the characters switch careers, which they must, if their GM isn’t killing them too quickly (a problem I am working hard to create, as it happens.) . Suddenly, you are faced with having a different talent availability from what you had used previously. There are number of ways around this, the first and most obvious is pick a following career that most suits your basic one and you’ll wind up having the same types of talent slot, and maybe even a new one to play around with. So if our maneater were to pick a new career…

Yes, there is no need to tell me that the ogre cannot ride a horse, look at the talents, that’s the example I was trying to use. Suddenly someone with perhaps three tactic talents is reduced to using only one per session. What’s our first suggestion? Obviously an ogre maneater should not become an outrider, at least for the sake of the poor horse. But also, maybe he should consider veteran, a career with two tactic talents and a reputation slot. Obviously this is much more practical for him. Even still, inconsistencies will occur. What about mercenary? It has a tactic and a focus slot for talents and most combat careers of higher tiers have only reputation slots. Would it be unfair to force the player to only use talents he has slots for? Perhaps.

The two things that are worth considering is that aside from the talents and the career ability, there is very little to actually differentiate careers from each other. A career defines which skills can be purchased but in this there is potentially a great degree of flexibility for the character. Enforcing talents does tend to compel characters to start acting within the bounds of their character, it also prevents slightly bizarre and unusual career changes, where someone careens wildly between, say, a combat career and a spellcasting career. The second thing worth considering is that a well chosen career sheet allows the players to use those talents they can no longer fit onto their sheet.

So much for talents, more towards the end.

 

The party sheet initially seemed…like a mechanic with potential. It certainly caused a few outbursts. People were angry and delighted with it in equal measure and frankly, I’m starting to laugh at all the furor, because now, several years into WFRP’s development, party sheets aren’t really getting the kind of use they should be.

It seems that a lot of people are confused and slightly annoyed by party sheets and they occupy some kind of limbo of either being too powerful or not powerful enough. So let’s have a look at how they ideally work.

 

Party tension pisses you off. A little. Not a whole lot. You bicker amongst each other and the GM moves it up a notch, ooooooooooooooh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiitt!!!!! When that tension marker reaches stage four, you get a point of stress! One! That’s enough to… Oh hang on. But you don’t really want it to be that harsh, tension between your group should have it’s own penalties like your party eventually stabbing each other in the back. If suddenly everyone was sprouting crippling injuries and insanities  then they’d stop stabbing each other in the back. You don’t want that, do you? The tension track comes down on the side of interesting, cute mechanic that doesn’t suddenly force your otherwise completely assymetric group to start cooperating like they can read each other’s minds. Despite this, I don’t use mine enough. I just forget, I guess that’s why I’m better off playing fighter characters or characters with no one-shot abilities, I just don’t think to use them. Admittedly, there are plenty of chances to use it, I’m just too busy murdering people. I may put it in the hands of someone else and see what they do with it. Maybe, seems to work with my online group.

Bloody hell when did this post get this long?

Special abilities get used… That’s really up to the PC’s to do, the troll slayer in our group used to burn through stress and fatigue like they were fine Cuban cigars at even the hint of improving his damage output. Not so much any more, I like the mechanic just because if you pick a good one, it’ll tie the group together.

Fortune points…. Right… Someone needs to come back and remind me to start putting fortune points into the pool because, again, I keep forgetting, whoops…

Talents? Yeah, I’m definitely glad about them. It’s a place where you can put that talent you can’t use. It also means you can get other people to start benefiting from your assistance. Really, it’s a way of giving everyone a little perk and tying the whole group together.

 

Now on to why I’m posting about the two of these things together and why this post is STILL GOING.

What happens if you don’t use either of the above?

I’m specifically talking about abandoning the slotting mechanic and the party sheet. First, one follows the other, if you abandon the party sheet, you’ll likely wind up abandoning talent slotting later on down the line and vice versa. What happens? You’re characters become individually a lot more powerful. Without having to worry about which talent does what, you’ll find your PC’s picking up a lot more of these talents. They can benefit from all of them, why not? Also, exhausting talents carries a lot less threat than if it’s choking up one of your available slots for three rounds. Also, I’m not going to keep track of all their bloody talents so I can bet my balls to a barn dance that one the cheeky buggers will pull something out I hadn’t expected.

Your characters also don’t have their party sheet tying them together. I’m not saying they or you are going to suddenly throw your stuff into the air and wander about leaderless. I still think a little mechanic that pulls people together goes a long way. It’s got a little reward for cooperating and a bit of penalty for acting the maggot. Leave it behind and your players are more want to think about themselves over the actual group.

You’ll notice that neither of the above seem all that severe. Which means that making the decision is now in your court. It’s probably pretty obvious that I’ve made my mind up, but I can see a lot of people looking for their group to interact in a particular way. I’ll say this, nuking the slotting mechanic will give your characters a lot more ability. If you want more powerful characters, it’s worth a thought.

 

Not putting this post above 2000 words.

Thanks for reading!

First up, the guys over at Reckless Dice were cool enough to give me a shout out, which I really appreciate, if that’s what landed you here, then maybe you should head on back there and comment on one of their podcasts, because they appreciate a kind word as much as me, bless ’em.

This post is about something that is very dear to some people’s hearts and also decidedly UN-dear to others.

ELVES.

Before diving into what’s potentially good about them, I should probably lay my cards out on the table and say that I personally, do not like elves. I don’t like elves for a lot of reasons, some of them reasonably well justified and some of them not so much. Sufficed to say, too many representations of elves are, to my mind, a depiction of an unnaturally hot person with pointy ears and penchant for poetry and lying in the half light of their solarium, looking whimsical and hot. Also, elves are better at everything, always. That second point is the one that gets me most of the time.

However, if you happened to read my “Quite the character” for my online wfrp campaign you will notice my current character is not only an Elf, but I’m having quite a lot of fun playing her. I guess that makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but it also serves to point out that there may not be as much wrong with the actual concept of Elves, rather, it is their representation that seems to stick in my craw.

So let’s put on our robes and our wizard hats and deconstruct one of the most well known fantasy races and see if we can find a way of playing better elf characters. Let’s ask ourselves, what is it about elves that makes them so interesting and different?

1. Elves are hot.

Nope. I don’t accept that at all. I’ll happily accept that they have very angular features and maybe that does something for you, but that doesn’t make them hot. It just makes them angular.

2. Elves are graceful.

So is a ballerina, NEXT!!!!!

3. Elves are tall.

So if I play an ogre character will that make people write slash-fiction about me?

4. You’re not doing this right, Elves are really cool, you need to pay close attention to how amazing they are at stuff.

I’m aware that I’m arguing with myself, trust me, this is going somewhere. If you play an elf character because they can do things better than everyone else, then your not playing an elf, your playing a normal human with an agility bonus. Your not playing to the things that make elves so different from humans, which they are, otherwise, they’d just be a human with an agility bonus, wouldn’t they? Which brings us to our first REAL point.

5. Elves aren’t human.

Maybe they have a fatal allergy to soy beans, maybe they all have a third nipple, but there is definitely something inhuman about elves. This doesn’t mean they’re a shower or arseholes, (that will be covered later) but it does mean that they have developed with a seperate moral system from ours. Basically, take a concept we all understand painfully well. Let’s saaaaaaay, sadness. Now remove it from your life. You no longer feel this feeling, if I call you a dickhead, the insult flies over your head, your feelings are not hurt, because you do not feel sadness, leaving only a mild sense of confusion as to why I have claimed you have a penis sprouting from your forehead. This gives us a bit of an idea of how they act, but it probably isn’t completely accurate. I’m certainly not trying to say that elves are amoral. Maybe some of them are, but they will have a different moral compass and react to some things quite strongly, while reacting to others like they don’t even matter. If you give the character a little forethought, then this can make for quite a striking character quirk.

6. Elves don’t die.

I hasten to add, under normal circumstances. This ties well with both the above point and any reason your character has for adventuring, because as reasons go, it’d better be a good one. An elf that stays at home in said solarium doesn’t run the risk of having nothing to do for the next eternity aside from push up the daisies. I’m also fully aware that in many systems elves don’t live forever, but they certainly live longer than Wurzle T. Wurzle growing turnips out of his ears, so you’re still throwing away an awful lot. Another issue worth considering is, do Elves go to the same afterlife as us? If your looking for a truly interesting take on things, have elves go to a different sort of afterlife than humans, a la Tolkien’s “Elves get to hang around in this hall until hell freezes over, but humans? Ahhhh, they get the mystery bonus prize…” Perhaps living forever isn’t as big a problem when the veil of death is no longer such an issue.

7. Elves are really good at stuff.

Or rather Elves can be really good at stuff. This actually really annoys me, as facts go and I’m sure it annoys a lot of other people. An Elf picks up a paintbrush, oh look, another masterpiece! Elf picks up a sword, behold, a warrior without peer! Elf picks up a tube of KY jelly… The point is that elves get on everyone’s goat because they’re just better at everything. So use it. I see so few people playing Elves that are arrogant jackasses. I understand that elves can be very noble, but they can also be pumped up jerks who laugh at your every attempt to do anything. It’s likely to cause a certain amount of tension, but if you played a well rounded group who all knew their role within said group it’d be proper boring. It’s also a fantastic way of bringing up point five, as the elf struggles to understand why the humans are acting so strangely around him as he hands their ass to them at a game of chess.

Finally…

I still hold that elves are really annoying, because anyone that lives that long is probably going to be a tremendous jackass, but what I’m trying to do here is appeal to those of you that like a roleplaying challenge instead of appealing to people that have a thing for writing appalling slash-fiction, (so help me god if you post any in the comments I WILL FIND YOU and make your world a slash-reality.) and giving you food for thought for maybe your next character down the line. If this happens to spawn some amazing character generation gold, then by all means post something in the comments and I’ll see about doing a “quite the character” on them. Dwarves next time? It’s worth a look right?

 

Thanks for reading!

What to say about this particular post? It’s a piece about gaming, but not wfrp3? Aido, have you lost your mind? Yes, I have, did you know I just say “call me Aido” to most people and within a week most are referring to me as Crazy Aido? True story.

Aaaaaaanyway, bitterness aside, I picked up the L5r corebook today. Why? Because I figured it would look nice on my shelf full of core books for games I would love to play but never actually will. *sigh* Stupid miniscule Irish gaming scene. Regardless, I thought I would also give you all a brief idea of what the book is like and hopefully from this you can figure out for yourselves whether this might be the next system for you.

Currently I’m still tearing through the book snorting up the marvelous new-book-smell that always comes with these purchases. But I’ve digested enough of the book to be able to give an educated opinion of it.

First of all, you didn’t buy this book if you don’t like Samurai or Japanese culture. So we’ll just sort that part out right now. L5R is based in Japanese history, mythology and Shintoism, to varying degrees. If you for some bizarre reason don’t like these things, then I hope you kept your receipt. That said, the background of L5R is not actually based in feudal Japan. It is definitely based quite strongly on it, but likes to take certain artistic licence in some areas. (Samurai are all round decent guys. When the foreigners show up, they get their tails handed to them, samurai have absolutely no time whatsoever for gunpowder weaponry, I can assure you the last of these facts is complete bullshit.) However, what they have done with the vast swathes of information that exists on all these topics is quite exemplary. There is a decent history section at the beginning of the book, more importantly, there is a more considerable section on behaviour, something that lay at the core of feudal Japanese life. It stands to reason that if you want to run a game based in faux-samurai setting, you’d want to do more than just say your character wears his hair in a topknot and bows a lot. So the setting is quite well fleshed out, right down to the book being split into five sections based on the various “rings” in question. It’s also beautifully illustrated with really high quality art, calligraphy as well as each page having a traditional Japanese watercolour “look” to it, which I think is a really classy touch. All of this goes towards creating the background, so now then, what of the actual rules.

The dice mechanic for L5R hits something of a soft spot of mine, I’ve always been somewhat of a sucker for d10 based mechanics. M0st of those that I have encountered however, have been in the style of white wolf games, where you usually need to bring a reasonably sized bucket of said dice with you to work everything out (especially if your playing something like Exalted). L5R’s is different and interesting in equal measure and allows for a fairly varied degree of flexibility even within basic actions and that’s something I’m more than happy to get behind. Getting to the jist of it, L5R uses a “roll and keep” system that seems initially quite confusing and difficult, but seems like it would become fairly intuitive after only a short period of time. Essentially, each skill check takes the form of “XkY” “X” is the number of dice you roll, which can, potentially, be quite a lot. But hold your horses. The “Y” is the amount of dice you are allowed “keep”, so if you roll 10k2, you roll ten dice, but you are only allowed keep two, for the purpose of figuring out what you actually scored. These “kept” dice are then added up to work out the exact score you rolled, if it beats the target number of action, (lower for easier actions, higher for actions like convincing people to gargle scorpions.) then the action succeeds. If your feeling brave, (or indeed, stupid.) then you can add a raise. A raise raises the target number by five, with the benefit that you can gain an additional bonus from performing said action. It also gives you a hefty run of things you can do with all these raises, from having an extra sugar in your tea to disembowelling yourself in a very honourable fashion.

 

Character creation. Right off the bat, characters seem a lot less super powered than their other d10 based counterparts. Aside from the roll and keep mechanic making rolls decidedly more hairy, there is a lot less to play around with than would be given as part of, say, a “Vampire: The Masquerade” character. A really good attribute in this game is a five. If you have that, you’re either an horrendous cheese monger or you’ve gimped every other stat you have, which will have consequences down the line. There are some additions to your base attributes, (which all start at two.) but after that, your meager stats and skills have to be upgraded with an even more meager series of experience points, then BAM, you have a character. You’ll more than likely get a very good “roleplaying” charactt er, good at what he does, not so great at everything else and likely to have a secondary thing that you thought “screw it I’m not doing anything else with the points.” that you dumped your last few xp into. There are also advantages and disadvantages. They add certain flesh to your character and also give critical advantages within certain other areas. You obviously want to be a pain resistant Samurai, you don’t mind being a bit crass. There are some great tweaks to add here as well.

 

Finally, the devil is in the detail, how does actually running to game work, for the GM and for the players? Well, I don’t know, I’ve nobody to play the game with, BUT, there is an adventure at the back of the book, so let’s ruin that for you. The starter adventure however, is incredibly interesting because it potentially has no combat. None. Not even a spitball. There is the possibility of a duel at the end, but you can either work your way around it or even get another NPC to fight it, (you don’t want to actually fight the guy, he’ll tan your hide.) but what makes this little adventure much more interesting is how they load on the aspect of L5R so potentially interesting. Etiquette. In particular, Japanese etiquette, which stands alone as the most reserved, archaic form of respect imaginable. Did you know you are expected to refuse a gift three times before accepting it? You do now. That’s the first of a huge long series of social moors you’re expected to stick by. Amusing isn’t it? Suddenly you’re not playing Moritomi the slanty-eyed swordsman, you’re getting into the game and learning what it actually meant to be an anally retentive samurai. I purposely kept this bit from the character creation part because it seems to be more a factor of playing the game than character generation, but there is a long section on honour, glory and status. In short, your character has a personal record that he needs to be mindful of as he acts, because one false move and people start talking about you like you’re covered in bees. This is a whole aspect of the game that a lot of people might overlook, but it’s what really makes it for me. After all, you can play pathfinder mods for an eastern setting till your blue in the face, but this setting seems to have done all the work for you.

 

In conclusion, if you like samurai, eastern settings and have watched altogether far to much anime and Akira Korosawa films in your formative years, then this is the game for you. If you like uncomplicated, hack and slash games, it probably isn’t, and your money is better spent on another pathfinder sourcebook, If you are looking for a genuine roleplaying challenge, then I recommend this book.

People that know me, (that could be you, don’t be shy, make a comment) know I have a lot of esoteric interests. One of them is RPG’s. Another is giant, terrifying spiders. Yet another is warfare. I’ve rattled on about the first to some degree and doubt I’d get much interest about the second, (philistines.) so I figured I’d blather on about the third. In particular, siege warfare has a special place in my heart. Nothing excites the blood like massive curtain walls, intimidating gates and crenelations. I figured I’d share some of my enthusiasm with you by detailing just a few of the more interesting castles and sieges throughout history. Some of these will seem obvious, but hopefully some much less so. I hope to cover the castles construction, it’s intended purpose and also hopefully, any major shit-kicking sessions that occurred in it’s vicinity.

I’m covering Maynooth first for several reasons, the first is that nobody, aside from those of us that live under it’s baleful shadow, are really aware that Maynooth has a castle. This allows me to make several first-attempt-at-this-sort-of-thing cock ups and not have to worry about the internet finding and hacking into my… I dunno… twitter account? The second reason was probably given away within the first in that I live under the baleful shadow of castle Maynooth. That sounded really dramatic for something that is, in no way, dramatic. You can eat lunch in the grounds. They have a small iron railing that keeps precisely nobody out. It’s actually quite an idyllic spot. Finally, this should be brief given that in terms of history and development, Maynooth castle basically got built, hung around for a short while and then, in terms of resisting besieging forces, rolled over and died.

Maynooth castle shows up early in the thirteenth century when the area is granted to the Fitzgeralds. It remains a linchpin for their control over Ireland throughout their not-quite-a-reign. As castle construction goes however, it suffers. It’s as well built as any castle of the period and location could be, but it has one major flaw and that is: Location. Meath and parts of Kildare close to Meath like Maynooth are flat, featureless and defensible as the Catholic church’s sex abuse policy. It is awfully apparent when the castle is initially built that it has been been put there as more of a placeholder for the Fitzgeralds than anything else. It is neither put in any kind commanding high ground nor given any more investment than is strictly necessary. Admittedly, there isn’t a huge amount of high ground to speak of, but a more commanding position could certainly have been found. As it was, the castle is built where a river and stream join together, in order to give itself the somewhat dubious protection of half a moat. It occurred to me that I could get all holier than thou on this issue and start talking about better castles out there or something else equally stupid, instead, I’ll talk a bit about moats.

Firstly, who gives a flying toss about moats. I mean really, it’s a little river around your castle, whoop-dee-f*cking-doo, what good is that aside from giving anyone that falls off a bath? They certainly aren’t filled with crocodiles and probably stink the place up something rotten in summer. Well, actually they do provide an absolutely amazing defence and not just in terms of making life difficult for anyone assaulting the walls. Undermining is a significant part of the medieval siege arsenal, a certain amount of digging can go alot further towards creating a practical breach in the walls than, say, sending people up a flimsy ladder. A moat makes all of this more difficult by forcing anyone trying to dig under the walls do dig that much deeper, as well as raising the water table in the immediate area and making tunnels more likely collapse. So moats are good, in short.

 

Maynooth castle is built with undermining in mind, like many castles of a similar generation, it’s foundations flair out from underneath it. Some of the earth has worn away from around the keep and visitors can see parts of this addition to the foundations. These additions were likely added when the castle was rebuilt by the Fitzgeralds in the fifteenth century. You can scratch out a lot of the boundaries of the castle from the ruins that are left behind. There are the two impressive gatehouses and the keep, and the boundaries of the rivers further down. Within, aside from the keep, there are the ruins of some other buildings.

None of this was really any use for poor aul’ Maynooth castle though. It has the somewhat unfortunate honour of being the first castle in Ireland to be reduced by gunpowder weapons.

“Reduced?” I hear you cry. “But it’s still standing! There it is! The gatehouses aren’t even knocked down!” Which is certainly an optimistic appraisal of the situation and also an excellent way of assessing gunpowder weapons at the time. (The first firearm having only been used in combat at the start of the century.) When the Earl of Kildare (“Silken” Thomas Fitzgerald, on account of his excellent wardrobe,) decided he’d had enough of this patronising bullshit from the English monarchy, he went off to Dublin to see what their siege defences were like. He came back in short order, the answer to his question being “pretty f*cking good actually,” he now attempted to rally more troops to continue his campaign. While he was doing that, Sir William Skeffington showed up with an early modern siege train and blew the everliving hell out of the walls before storming them.

It’s important to realise, at this stage, that when Maynooth gets besieged it is the year 1535. It’s already well after Luther has kicked up his little stink. America has been discovered. All over Europe, architects are looking at their previously impervious fortress and quaking with fear. Gunpowder weapons have been very firmly established all over Europe as THE siege weapon. In response to this, at the start of the sixteenth century, a new style of fortress is developed known as the trace italienne, or the star-fort.

Ireland at this stage is in something of an intellectual backwater. The only power with access to gunpowder weapons previous to this are the Fitzgeralds themselves, so they more than likely weren’t all that bothered with tearing down and rebuilding a castle for the sake of weapons that none of their perceived enemies controlled.  Obviously, that changed when Skeffington showed up.

Maynooth held out against bombardment for a total of ten days. In siege terms, that’s not an awful lot. A decent amount of time would be several months, the idea being that winter sets in and drives the attackers off, or else they lose moral from disease, starvation and being forced to attack a heavily fortified position over and again. The record shows that the walls were taken by assault, so the troops put up a fight, but there’s only so much fight you can put up when someone is ripping your walls down around you. The survivors of this first attack, thirty seven men, fled into the keep. It was here they accepted what was later referred to as a “Maynooth pardon” upon being offered clemency by their attackers, they emerged from the keep, only to be executed and, by some accounts, hung from the rafters of the castle itself.

Maynooth castle is a great example of not keeping up with current trends of warfare. Perhaps Thomas Fitzgerald cannot be blamed for allowing his main fortress to fall behind continental Europe, seeing as Ireland is hardly making leaps and bounds in terms of military hardware. Like many fortresses in Ireland, Maynooth castle is not a greatly impressive structure when compared with others of the same period throughout the continent. So perhaps Maynooth was simply doomed always to be lagging behind. Her ruins now stand in the centre of Maynooth, next to the south campus of the university, a telling reminder of presumption on Thomas’ part.

My dear old aussie chum Daniel Wise’ character get killed a few sessions ago. He was nice enough, between mourning, to fill out another “quite the character” for me.

First Question, what’s your character’s name?

Glade.  (He really doesn’t have a name, the humans around him in the bandit camp where he joined the party called him Glade.  One party member calls him Elf, and the other calls him Mr Tall)

In one sentence please, what’s their race, class, career, gender and any other statistical muck we need to get an “on paper” definition for them?

A male wood elf waywatcher who shoots bows and throws knives

What was your idea of the character when you first created it?

A character who could not speak

How did that work out for you?

Hilariously well.

GM: “You feel like your party is being followed”.  Me: “I say nothing”

PC: “Ok Mr Tall what did you see?” Me: “I draw a picture on the ground”

Me: OOC – “I’ll intimidate him”. IC: “I look at him with my elf eyes”.  GM villager: “Oh god don’t hurt me you monster!!  Don’t take my children!!!”

My character can speak and understand several human nation’s languages.  He just chooses not to sully his tongue with their foul words.

What do you think of your relationship with your GM?

Good.  Now we get in hilariously bad situations because I’m not taking lead all the time

What do you think of your relationship with the other players?

In game one of them is afraid of me, the other one keeps their distance or gets frustrated when I don’t rise to his taunts or even when he tries to talk to me at all.

Has your character had a defining moment that made you rethink how you played them?

Yes actually, in the past I’d try and help my fellow Pc’s out and I was going to be the same, then I realised I don’t care about ugly humans and ditched my party in the middle of a burglary when it was going sour (our grey wizard miscast an invisibility spell and the entire place started to rain frogs and attracted everyone in the house hold, the wizard then tried climb out of a 2nd story window, fell down from it and was chased by the guards).

Right, before I start here, I’d like to thank everyone for reading my blog over the past few days. I’m not saying I’m internet famous, but there does appear to be slightly more interest than there was the week before, I’ve got you guys to thank for that, cheers. Nice to get some acknowledgement.

I decided I’d write something on internet gaming since, if you’ve perused the glorious links above my page, you’ll see at least one of them is an internet campaign. There might even be another one after the weekend is out, I’m just that busy soulcrushingly bored.

I’ll be speaking mostly for real-time gaming because unfortunately, I have yet to get into a solid play-by-post game, I’m certainly not saying those are bad, but when I do sign up for one they tend to fall on their face a bit quickly, which brings me to the first, most important point about internet RPG’s.

1. PREPARE FOR DISAPPOINTMENT.

Did that sound a bit harsh? I didn’t really mean it, honest. However, if you are trawling the 1nt4rtub35 for games, then, yes, be prepared for disappointment. The reason for this being that nine out of ten games are going to fall flat on their faces. Some are going to die in the looking for players phase, some are going to get strangled by international timelines others are going to get tantalisingly close to actually running and then the GM or half the players are going to fall off this plane of existence. (I like to play games with myself at this stage and imagine what horrible crime they have commited that has forced them to flee into dark corners of the world.) But to put it plainly, don’t get excited until your actually sitting in front of the computer, playing the game. Even then, see above, prepare for disappointment, because a lot of games tend to go screaming in flames into the deck after only the first session. The best way to prevent this is:

2. Communicate with EVERYONE.

The more you get along with everyone, the better the game will run. Endeavour to communicate with your GM at least once via voice chat before the game itself runs. Get his e-mail address so you can harass his ass when he doesn’t show up. If you are the GM, harass everyone else in return. Leaving everything on a forum seems have a horrible death knell of “Oh we were about to run the game then I disappeared off the face of the planet for six weeks, LAAAAAWL.” See about setting up some communication for the sake of character gen and JUST GET TALKING. This is easy enough for someone like me, because as everyone who knows me knows: I am an incurable loudmouth. I know some other people might not like the idea of shouting at others, but it’s what a  lot of other people go on to the internet specifically to do, so you will have to overcome your inhibitions somehow. Neither am I saying you will be shouting, but talking is going to take up a huge amount of this game, so get into it. Also, if, like me, your too cheap to pay for video feed on multiple channel conversations on Skype, then you’ll find yourself talking over other people a lot so getting over your first game nerves will be interesting. Speaking of Skype…

3. Use ALL the tools!

You’ll obviously need some kind of chat… thingy to make this thing work, but don’t stop with just that, because there is potential for you all to get a lot more out of your games by using the various tools that are out there and some of them are really great. You can see our group has an Obsidian Portal page, those are great for doing after game shenanigans and write ups and fluff for your character. If everyone has maptools then you can run a game that’s heavy on the gridboxes like D&D or pathfinder. There are loads of other tools that you can use as well, the most immediate that comes to mind is Fantasy grounds, but bear in mind you and the other players will have to pay for it, I’ve put the stuff I know about down below.

Obsidian Portal.

Maptools

Fantasy Grounds.

Added to this are the rake of online dice pool rollers, character sheet files and rolling verification sites, basically, if you want to run a game and you’re thinking, maybe I don’t have the facilities, or certain parts of this game will be more difficult to run over the web, chances are someone out there with infinitely more skill with computers has created a program to do it and is probably offering it on the web for free, or at least for half nothing. What are you doing, not supporting indie computer development? Get out there and buy some of their stuff before Bill Gates and Steve Job’s ghost take over their brains…

In conclusion…

Internet gaming like this and play by post games are likely to really develop in relation to their face to face version since getting groups together can sometimes be difficult, especially with the wide variety of systems out there, how do you know your system will be the one that anyone nearby will have. I responded to the initial advertisement for a game because I couldn’t find anyone to play wfrp3 with, anywhere throughout Ireland. Now there is a slowly growing community, (which I like to think I played a part in encouraging, checks made out to cash please FFG) but I still love my online campaign. I think most RPG developers are going to have move into future with the idea that a lot of the players playing their games will be doing so over the internet featuring strongly in their planning. I don’t like to boast* but our current game has players from three continents. So, take heed of the above, stay the course and you’ll finally get that game you were looking for…

I’d like to ask anyone that read this if you know any helpful applications or websites that can be used for online RPG’s, if you’d like to stick a link in the comments, that would be great. Cheers.

Aido.

**Edit: I haven’t done this page justice without mentioning the ocean of forums that support pen and paper gaming and huge LFP and LFG functions, get your lazy butt out there and check them out, they are leading the charge with these things.

The tangled web. (Personal favourite, spiders, yadayadayada)

Pen and paper games.

RPG.net

That’s a brief smattering if you want more, post me some suggestions!

Alright, so I’ve spilled the beans on all the stuff for players without giving you any functional information to use the box, now it’s time to ruin the GM’s bits as well.

 

The first thing I should get out of the way is the somewhat pointless rules they put in for improved levels of challenge. Namely that you can now swap Chaos stars for challanges, and four chaos stars is an auto fail. Because we hadn’t already guessed that from having played the game. Chaos stars are probably one of the most feared results to come up on a dice, especially for a wizard. (Silly, silly fast firing wizards.) Having four of them show up on a roll should indicate a horror the likes of which mortal minds cannot comprehend appearing and handing you a summons order. So yeah, I thought those rules were already sort of a given.

 

Monsters…or rather NPC’s. But more specifically, ARCHAON THE MOTHERF*CKING EVERCHOSEN. The herald of the END TIMES. The Destroyer, the ultimate BADASS of the Old World, is stated and stuck in here and acting like he pays rent. Well, I suppose he’s not that big a badass, after all Grimgor Ironhide did slap him around like he…oh, hey, he’s in here too! Hey, there’s Mannfred Von Carstien! Sitting out to catch some rays… Whaddaya know, there’s Gaulrauch the great Drake, lazing by the pool. I’m annoyed, well, that is to say, I’m slightly miffed. I never really wanted to see the great and the terrifying of the warhammer world rendered down to characters that the PC’s can fight. It seems a mite gimicky. I’m also sorta worried someone out there might actually take on Archaon and win. Crazy, I know, that I would care about games that have no effect on me whatsoever, but I feel it’s figures like this that are part of the great wfrp background and that this brings them into the foreground. It’s a personal gripe more than anything. Admittedly, all the perpetual badasses portrayed are next to impossible to kill, having the same amount of wounds as some of the larger monsters in the creature guide. But they are still only next to impossible to kill. Which leads me to believe I’ll be chatting with someone on the FFG forums at some stage and hear them say “oh yeah, Archaon, we killed him easy,” just putting it here, I called it.

The other monster mechanics, on the other hand, I am very happy with. Mostly because they actually only give you three or four other nondescript baddies to deal with. (All of which are excellent, including the potentially unkillable Hell Pit Thing, and my favourite, the Arachnorak Spider, and as everyone knows, I do love a spider.) These are all somewhat supplemental to the dreaded monster career sheets. Want to make an all powerful commander? stick his monster card in the “lord” career, +2 to ALL his stats, another 10 wounds, extra soak, damage, all that fun stuff. It adds a huge degree of mallability to an already multifaceted monster pool. This is another jewel in the crown for this box. Making encounters so much more varied with relatively simple mechanic, well done all round.

Other stuff worth considering from the box? It’s mostly in the accompanying book, which mostly concerns running epic level adventures and dealing with epic level…stuff.  The writers do make a fairly big deal out of the fact that once characters hit rank four, they seem to gain some kind of celebrity status. I kind of prefer to think of them as being on their first steps towards attaining this kind of fame. I definitely don’t like the idea of them being as hard-ass as Luthor Huss, (he smacked Archaon in the face for God’s sake, do you have any idea how hard that guy is? Oh, wait, nevermind.) so maybe, I don’t know, this gets them an invitation to the next Heroes-‘R-Us convention but they don’t get invited to the after party. Basically, the way I see it, it’s nice to see all the hard work and adventuring pay off, but you’re not sitting on the throne yet monkey boy.

Other handy mechanics include the interesting large-scale-beneath-my-attention rolling system that can be used for battles, investigations and possibly sending minions to make you a sammich. Basically, a quick lesson in building a dice pool for an event that nobody is arsed actually seeing all the way through. What’s not to like about that?

Then there is the obligatory adventure that…I haven’t read through fully yet. I live in vain hope that someone will run it for me. I do love being the player occasionally.Ok, I read it, but not all of it, however, it does seem to keep to fantasy flight’s well run scheme of games up to this point. Uses all the useful stuff from the book, seems like it would be fun to play/run. Has some memorable characters. *shrug*

 

So job done. That’s the box for you, if you plan on letting your players live past career 3, go buy it because it fill in all the blanks as well as giving you halflings.

I give it Idon’tgivethingsmarksoutoftenpissoff out of ten.

For those of you that know me in person you will have experienced the constant, high pitched whining as I griped and complained about the fact that Hero’s Call, the most recent boxed supplement to be released by Fantasy Flight Games, (owners of my kidney and liver in perpetuity) was still not in my greasy mitts yet.

 

Well the waiting is over but the pitch still won’t drop because I finally managed to get my hands on it yesterday and seeing as I had the blog already, I have no reason not to write a quick review of the latest addition to the game.

 

Obviously, FFG has done their usual stand-up job of releasing good quality, fairly resilient cards and components. (In my most recent game, one of my players up-ended a glass of lemonade all over the the table. I was predictably less than impressed, but the cards all dried off quickly and didn’t soak anything up, so I’m happy now.) There are the typical few extra components, tokens and tracking pieces, which I actually appreciate since Fiachra seems to make a habit of chewing on them before game.

The box can be split into two parts from there. There is the half that can be used by players, which contains extra careers, the new races and a good few new actions that allow you to unleash all the epic, all the time. Then there is the half that can be used by the GM, allowing you to chew down your laughs behind the GM screen as your players vainly assume they have some daft hope of success now they have reached the epic tier.

The player stuff is good. My big disappointment is the careers. I wanted more. Maybe four or five more, also, there are only two rank six careers in the box, which doesn’t really feel like enough. But this runs down to an overall, underlying discontent with careers in general, since a lot of players would like to stick around in their careers for a good deal longer. I’d more than likely like to proxy in some rules to do that. At some stage. Soon. Which I will post here. Don’t I do nice things for you?  Wizard and priest get six of the new careers in the box, which cheeses me off something rotten. It works if your playing FFG’s ideal scenario of three to four players to a group where one or two are either or both of those careers. But I have a five/six player group with only the one full time wizard. So if your not running this ideal scenario, which a lot of people are not, you get kinda jipped. Hopefully this gets fixed by a print of demand release, or some such. The other careers are general enough that they can serve almost any career advancement scheme. I noticed a lack of a woodsman/marksman archetype, but you can’t keep everyone happy, especially if you don’t put more careers in the box, wink wink, nudge nudge.

Moving on, actions are a little thin on the ground. I say a little, but I don’t really look at this as all that bad. There are three spells/blessings per school and they are all suitably epic. I even get something like conflageration of doom back, glee! The spells and blessings take a back seat to the other actions though, despite there being more of the former. There are a grand total of twelve actions for the plebs to take, which isn’t especially grand. But they are almost universally useful for all parties concerned and probably the most functional are the three enhances that are available, I’m particularly happy a social advance has been included. Giving me that little bit more to do in social combat. Another suitably epic action is Not Done Yet. Which allows you to keep fighting until the end of the encounter, at which point you die. Suitably epic and interesting.

 

What we lose out on actions, we more than make up for in a series of absolutely glorious talents. Which will have you salivating with glee. Talents get a lot of stick in wfrp3, so I’m really glad that these have come out because they are enough to make everyone start spending their advances on them again. Ouch, I say, good sir, ouch. Also, some of the talents aren’t listed as epic, so you can start using them almost right away. BRILLIANT. Anierra just got more bent.

 

Finally, something that needs to be discussed is:What about skill training? Well, the skill mastery rules have been chucked in for good measure as well. Definitely something that makes skill tests a more interesting enterprise. Buy the book and read about it, but it makes the thing worth doing and, importantly, alot of the epic talents/actions/career checks require skill mastery.

 

Is there anything else worth mentioning for our beleaguered players? Of course! What we have been waiting on for so long! Halflings* have finally been introduced as a playable race! Which we have been waiting for for donkey’s ages. I don’t know anyone that wasn’t raging about the failure to include these lovable midgets* as a playable race. I think we all feel the game is a bit more complete now they’re back.

 

*and ogres, don’t forget ogres, they’re here too.

*I’m not sure how people felt about these gigantic, flesh consuming giants, but they’re here as well.

 

Oh yeah, ogres. Ogres are bent broken and everyone is goin…wait a second, let me put down the rant-o-phone and actually read their rules… Oooooooooooh, that’s not so bad at all really. This….This is not something to complain about. Ogres have lower mental stats and high starting physical stats, they also have a  lot of wounds. But as I look at it… This isn’t bad. I can see people salivating at the chops to get their game-breaking min-maxing teeth into these guys, but wfrp3 was never about min-maxing anyway, since the only stat you ever really dare to dump is fellowship. Also, the cheeky cheese-swine have to deal with one of the most interesting game mechanics I’ve seen in some time: Ogres must consume one pound of meat every hour, or suffer a penalty to ALL actions. This… This is really good stuff. Ogres have loads of solid background anyway, a reason to be wandering around the Empire,(Which has been supported by the fluff for some time) and they are, all in all, characters. If I want to play a combat killing machine I’ll play a troll slayer, maybe an shieldbreaker. I’ll have two rolls to play in a party, killing stuff and getting drunk, the two dimensions of the cardboard cutout that is the dwarf slayer cult. But this? Ogres are giant hairy cannibalistic versions of Santa Clause. They might be as dumb as mud but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun to play. After all, you have to do something social every day as you desperately hunt down more meat. I think we have something here folks. Yes we do.

 

So that’s the player’s half of the box, tune in again when I tear apart the GM’s stuff.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.