Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition – A Quick Look

Recently the latest edition of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG was released, and with this being one of the two RPGs I’ve been looking forward to in recent years, I had to pick it up and have a look! I fully intend to play and perhaps run a game of this at some point in the future, but for now instead of a solid review I will share some of my initial thoughts and impressions.

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Now I’m not the most hardcore of Warhammer fans, I’ve never actually played Warhammer or any of the previous editions of the RPG, but since getting into a few of the videogames I’ve become more interested in the lore of Warhammer Fantasy. I say this because clearly this is an RPG based on previous versions. This 4th edition seems to have been based more heavily on the 1st and 2nd editions of the game, while clearly making many improvements. This is something of a revival for the system, as the 3rd edition made by Fantasy Flight Games was a complete departure from the mechanics of the previous two.

Having been published by Cubicle 7, a company I have grown very fond of, especially due to The One Ring RPG, I fully expected this book to have a great presentation and artwork. I wasn’t wrong, the layout is very clear, all the tables and little info boxes are easy to interpret. The book is crammed full of brilliant art, with something every few pages at least, but it doesn’t make things look messy or take over from the text too much. The art direction and some of the art is done by C7’s own Jon Hodgson whose style im very familiar with from the excellent art in The One Ring, and he does a similarly great job here even with such a different tone of fantasy aesthetic. In particular I love the character art done for each of the 64 careers you can choose from, all done in a suitably gritty and grimy style for Warhammer. I also like how the cover art for the book is clearly a callback to the cover of the first edition of the game from 1986. Overall the presentation really makes this a pleasure to read through. Continue reading “Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition – A Quick Look”

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Medieval Spawn and Witchblade – first taste of the mainstream lines in a long while!

Ok so today I bring you something that perhaps will be a bit bizarre for me. You know how I don’t really follow these days much of their mainstream coming book lines? Well! The thing is just a couple of months ago – in fact to be precise as of May this year – Image decided to do a wonderful mashup of two of their main characters I love: SPAWN and Witchblade. And I have been thoroughly enjoying this so far – I think I am one number behind, but even so. The thing is mediaeval or dark ages spawn was always cool with you know the metal armour, weapons, the cape that flows like an absolute badass that sometimes you don’t really get the texture of it quite right in the more modern comic storylines. And of course Witchblade has always been cool through and through, no matter what – she’s awesome. And simply because of the very nature of the Witchblade and and how this evolves and interacts with the user this fits perfectly into the medieval setting. It just draws you in: armour, metal, shine, grip, monsters, death, Darkness – you know the drill.

So, of course I was not expecting it would disappoint, not at all, but I was certainly curious to see how they were going to take it because, well, the personalities of SPAWN and Witchblade could be somewhat conflicting and I wasn’t entirely sure of exactly what excuse they were going to give for the characters to join up storylines. And perhaps – as far as my reading goes – this is my hardest criticism. The first volume essentially tells you the story as to how SPAWN appears in this mediaeval setting which, by the way, doesn’t have any specific real Middle Ages locations to it. They leave it fairly vague which I’m cool with cause, you know, the scenery and the characters scream medieval of some form and that works. (You don’t really need to know the exact world/timeline names and background, the bits and bobs suffice if you see what I mean). The second volume is specifically dedicated to explaining how which plate comes into this story, which is fair, but because of the ascetics and introduction of both characters at separate stages, it is not the easiest thing to relate and assume they are in the same place/time/story. There is one only thing that ties them up together which is the presence of this particular villain, but that’s about it. In my opinion, perhaps it would have worked out better if instead of splitting them in #1 SPAWN #2 Witchblade, they would have put them together. I think it would have made it flow a bit better just so the reader could actually understand that these two storylines are happening in parallel correlation to each other. That is really that one thing that I thought “hmm, okay, I guess”. Well, that and the fact that, unlike in the case of Witchblade, you do not get a clear definite reason and to why and how is SPAWN here. (Neither at the end of either volume which I found a bit irritating but that could be the completionist in me…plus, like I said, one volume behind…though if I have to wait for #3 to get what I perceive to be an important part of the story…it better be decent plot development…anyway, I ramble!).

In any case, I think it’s pretty cool and I am really enjoying it. I really like the art work: but that is obvious, you know, a classic Brian Haberlin piece. He is a legend and has developed this aesthetic over years. I believe it’s the reason why it fits the medieval setting so well: not because of the dark and gloomy feel, which we could agree to a point to be cliche. But I think he adds to that romantic, stoic, hard core valiant epicness, full of blues and shiny silvers and golds. The balance and contrast in colour is delightful, even in scenes where you could get a certain feeling of monochromatic look, everything is distinct, and outlined to fit together harmoniously. In fact, at stages the general graphic composition starts reminding me of videogames of a fantasy setting – I’m particularly thinking of Skyrim here. It is difficult to explain without showing you the pictures, so just go buy the thing. The other thing that I liked was that with just a few lines of succinct and precise text, all the characters are well defined and understood. There is a bit of.an archetypal thing going on in that regards, but it does suit the genre and makes good use of tropes and motives in the medieval/fantasy sphere so, it works 🙂

Therefore, if you want something current, mainstream, and yet with a twist to read and enjoy visually, go get ’em Medieval Spawn and Witchblade – and then drop by tell me what you think.

Geek Etymology – Orcs!

Here I am back at it again taking a look at the origins behind some of our favourite geekiest words. Today I’ll be tackling a seemingly straightforward word, and that is ‘orc’. As everybody should know, this is yet another fantasy creature, and should prove to have a relatively simple history behind it, but where does the word actually come from?

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Orcs from LotR: The Two Towers

Before we start, we should first define what an orc actually is. Orcs, sometimes spelled ‘orks’ tend to be brutish and violent, if not evil, humanoid creatures that are generally depicted with somewhat animalistic features such as tusks, snouts, or sometimes with an ape-like appearance. They are popularly depicted as green-skinned but also are sometimes black, grey or brown in colour. They are also commonly seen as large muscular figures, usually much larger than a human, but are also often small and scrawny and akin to a goblin. It can be hard to define their appearance overall, as they are depicted with a very wide range of characteristics, often even within the same piece of fiction.
Continue reading “Geek Etymology – Orcs!”

Some Thoughts on David Gemmel Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

I’ve spent the last 3 months consuming literature like if there was no tomorrow. I usually read a lot for research purposes, but it was a great relief to actually have some time to just enjoy a good book. I decided that I hadn’t had a chance to read much fantasy lately, so I decided to follow that road. A lot of the books I’ve read are not new at all, save the last one perhaps, but they were things I haven’t had the chance to actually dedicate time to in the past, so it was good in any case. Nevertheless, I noticed that the vast majority of these books I’ve been reading had rather unsatisfactory endings. I don’t know if that was just me being too picky…One of them I am certain is an authorship problem from what I have heard from other people, but it seems to me that in many of these cases, there was so much to the story that by the time it needed to be wrapped up, everything as a bit rushed and that almost made the entire experience a bit bittersweet. So, I’ll just give you some thoughts on the books I’ve been reading and what I made of them so you can see where I am coming from.

David Gemmell

I appreciate I am probably very late to join in this party but for whatever reason I had never heard of him until recently. My boyfriend and one of my friends really like him, they swore by the narrative so I thought, okay let’s give this a go. In general, I liked the stories. I found that a lot of them are reworkings in different contextualisation and with different characters of well known folk tales and other old stories, but he does it in a very refreshing way so I did not mind knowing how the plot was going to go. I often find this annoying if I can predict the outcome of the story, but the details were interesting enough to make me see beyond that. I started with Legend – which I have ben told is perhaps not the best one to start with, but as it was the first one he wrote, it made sense. Then I made my way through Morning Star and Knights of Dark Renown. I must said I liked the last 2 better than Legend. I know Druss is epic, but I just couldn’t get to sympathise with any of the characters in the stories – except perhaps the Thirty, who are a very interesting bunch. However, then I jump on to Morning Star and found that Owen Odell is a nice character to guide you through the story, not just because he is the bard and the breaking of the fourth wall can be quite insightful and amusing at stages, but also because of that first person approach to how any narrative develops. He is just as clueless as you are when the plot begins so his own insecurities kinda mingles with yours. It is a good readers trip in that sense, if you follow me. Morning Star was certainly my favourite just cause Jarek Mace is funny in his picaresque and outrageous way, and the entire gang are very relatable…but then again this is essentially Robin Hood without so much cheesiness to it so, it ought to be. I moved to Knights of Dark Renown and I must say out of the three, I think this one has the best pacing. I felt every character was given equal and relevant importance in appropriate correlation to their characters impact in the story, which I do not feel the other three necessarily did.

However, I have the same issue with all of them: the ending. What is up with his endings?! Legend was perhaps the least abrupt and more satisfactory, I guess that is because after such a great war and battle there are only so many possible outcomes. I feel that every character that survives does it rightfully so and their lives proceed as they should. You understand where the rest of the story goes – okay; cool. But with the other two, I felt that something was missing or better said; dismissed. I guess it is not so bad in Morning Star, as everyone is given a brief explanation as to what their futures bring and what not. Even so the last 30 pages of the book seem to go at a whole different speed than the rest and I just wanted more of the consistency of the story up until that moment in time. This was the point that the plot was driving towards and suddenly it’s upon you and there you go, story ended. It is similar but much worse, I feel, in Knights of Dark Renown, which in my opinion had a better pace. However, when it gets to the end a lot of the characters get sidelined and the ending is done in hardly a couple of pages. Also I don’t really like the fact that the people that survive in this one are just given these lame couple of lines explanations as to what happens next after they defeat the ultimate force of evil…plus the book leaves a fair few questions open, or not entirely answered.

So in general, I really enjoyed reading the books, and then the end kinda made me think…what have I been reading the last 270 pages for? Its is a bit like what I mentioned in a previous update about Orphan Black and Falling Skies…

But, I guess the art of writing is a delicate one and as much as someone may be really good at writing a story, in general, they don’t have to be great at every single aspect of it. In any case, I would like to leave the open question to the floor. Is this a thing anyone else had noticed or a problem shared by others? If so, please exchange your experiences with us.

And we shall see you on the next one 🙂

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – An RPG actually for Roleplayers

The latest PC RPG in the Divinity series by Larian Studios was released a few weeks ago. It’s a true RPG in the classic style, with a top-down view, turn-based tactical combat, and plenty of dialogue and story to sink your teeth into. We’ve had quite a few RPGs of this classic style appear in recent years. Original Sin 2 doesn’t just aim to bring back that classic experience though, it really takes things to the next level, with excellent modern graphics, full (and hilarious) voice acting, and a bunch of slick modern updates to the formula in terms of combat, UI, and design. The game was in Steam’s Early Access before this full release for just a year and has been successfully launched with a high level of polish, showing all the other Early Access developers how it’s done.

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I’m just going to jump straight in and tell you the what the best thing about this game is, as alluded to by the title; the roleplaying potential, and the story. These days it feels like most RPGs are missing what their purpose should be. Especially with the lines becoming increasingly blurred between genres, which isn’t a bad thing, but there are so many games with ‘RPG elements’ which seems to just mean that there’s a bunch of stats, loot, and grindy leveling. If that’s the average impression of what identifies an RPG, then something is terribly wrong here. What I’m getting at here is that Original Sin 2 seems to actually aim to realise the true purpose of an RPG, which is quite simply, Roleplaying! Continue reading “Divinity: Original Sin 2 – An RPG actually for Roleplayers”

Geek Etymology – Drow and Dark Elves

Time to have another crack at looking at the origins of geeky terminology. This time I’ll be looking at where the ‘Drow’ came from, as well as taking this as an opportunity to look at where the concept of a ‘Dark Elf’ originates and how the two terms came to be linked.

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First of all we should establish what the current understanding of the term ‘Drow’ is. The Drow are a fantasy race that are dark skinned, usually white-haired, and share most other characteristics with other Elves. They are generally depicted as being evil and living deep underground, and having an affinity for dark magic, stealth, and spiders. The D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook says of them:
“Descended from an earlier subrace of dark-skinned elves; the drow were banished from the surface world for following the goddess Lolth down the path to evil and corruption.”
As I mentioned, the Drow are also referred to as ‘Dark Elves’, a term that is used far more widely than ‘Drow’, which is mostly limited to Dungeons & Dragons and things that take inspiration directly from it. There are Dark Elves in many other fantasy settings, including The Elder Scrolls, Warhammer, Kingdoms of Amalur, and the ‘Night Elves’ of Warcraft share a resemblance.
Continue reading “Geek Etymology – Drow and Dark Elves”

My Top 5 Actual Play RPG Podcasts

If you like RPGs, but can rarely get a group together to play, or even have yet to try one, then you may be able to scratch the roleplaying itch with an ‘actual play’ podcast. This is essentially just a recording of someone’s RPG session, rather than something scripted or otherwise retold, hence ‘actual play’.

These kind of podcasts can be really useful to give you ideas and even show you a good example of what playing an RPG is like if you’ve never had the chance. Before I started playing RPGs several years ago I looked for something to show me how it’s done and I stumbled across an actual play podcast called ‘Critical Hit’ from majorspoilers.com, and that gave me a pretty good idea of D&D 4th Edition, which is what I started with. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them now, as I haven’t listened to them in over 5 years, but you can find all the podcasts at their website HERE. They are still going to this day.

High Rollers D&D
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The first I would really recommend on my list, in no particular order, isn’t technically a podcast, but more of a Twitch stream and youtube series, but it can be easily converted to audio. This is High Rollers D&D, done by a few people from the Yogscast from Youtube. Continue reading “My Top 5 Actual Play RPG Podcasts”