Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Just finished Agincourt

Bernard Cornwell's Agincourt is good. I couldn't put it down and suffered during the day from withdrawals, marking the time til I could turn the pages and return to the brutal, muddy, and cold fields of France in 1415.

If you like historical fiction, make time for reading (as I do), maybe play a game set in a 16th century Germanic fantasy world, you will like Cornwell's weaving of history with fiction. A lot.

The protagonist even feels like a character plucked from a WFRP campaign.

Posted by caffeinated at 11:00 PM in kaffehaus

Sunday, 25 January 2009

GPG key now available

I just generated my GPG key for "caffeinated." I'll link it off the menu. It will be available too by the feed. You are subscribed to the feed right?

I just pushed it to the key servers as well. The fingerprint is also present on the download link on your right.

It is: 9199 8F00 6F75 3BF0 49E9 D0B3 C193 CACA 590D E7EA.

Posted by caffeinated at 5:42 PM in kaffehaus


I picked up Bernard Cornwell's Agincourt at the local library yesterday after having read the praise given it by Ronald Maxwell at the Wall Street Journal in Victory By Longbow.

Until recently, most adolescent boys growing up in the Western world have had the dream of being a knight in shining armor, part of a world involving chivalry, damsels in distress, brightly caparisoned destriers, turreted and crenellated castle walls, tapestries, tournaments, broad swords. These elements are present in Mr. Cornwell's story, but only as a thin outer layer that gets peeled away with every turn of the page. Here the medieval world transitioning to the Renaissance is much closer to Hobbes's vision of humanity: "continual fear, danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Mr. Cornwell does not over-adorn the splendor, opulence and high art of Europe at the beginning of the 15th century. But neither does he obscure its darker side: numbing cold, clawing hunger, savage hand-to-hand fighting, the burning of heretics, the arbitrariness of justice and the arrogance of power. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

As my WFRP campaign prepares to venture across the breadth of Bretonnia in a sinister plot of evil, and having read the pulp Wahammer piece Knight Errant this historical fiction dovetails nicely. Very nicely. 100 pages in, and it is a page turner.

A strong recommendation!

Posted by caffeinated at 8:49 AM in kaffehaus

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


I have a royal blue velvet dice bag I bought in c. 1986. It has a stain (that appears to be coffee, but is really unknown). It's stitching is true even after a score of years. The dice inside the bag dates from the same era save three (purchased last year at my FLGS).

There are 21 marbled d6s. I remember buying them for my days playing Shadowrun (dice pools need lots of dice). There is a split set of opaque dice, 2 d10 and a d6, in royal blue with white numbering and polished edges. Seems it probably belonged to a tube at some time; where the others have gone to is lost to history.

Then there is a full set of Gamescience crystal clear dice. All save the d6 and 2 d10s have the original wax coloring I did 23 years ago. I know this because I just pushed the wax out of the d6 and 2 d10s to re-ink them with a fine-point Sharpie.

Soon I will have two new sets of Gamescience dice: Coal Black and Saffron Yellow. I will hand ink them in Yellow and Black (opposite their face color of course). I just like that scheme... like yellow and black striping on cautionary tape or signs.

I'm writing about this because I have become an adherent to the Gamescience philosophy of dice manufacturing and design. Have you seen the video of Colonel Louis Zocchi on dice? If not, you should. It might change your mind about the dice you use in your games.

Part 1

Part 2

Posted by caffeinated at 2:00 PM in d10

Monday, 19 January 2009

Review: Shades of Empire

I just picked up Shades of Empire: Organizations of the Old World (SoE) at my FLGS Days of Knights in Newark, DE.

The perfect bound 126 pp. source book is well done and worth the $30USD. This title is also the first book published by FFG I’ve owned and I’m duly impressed with the quality.

The Pat Loboyko cover of a pistol wielding, sword swinging member of the Imperial Navy1 in crimson red, bearing a trophy skull (as is the fashion of many denizens in WFRP sourcebooks) draws the reader into the book. It has striking resemblance to Children of the Horned Rat in framing, though I’m reserved in opinion that FFG picked as topical a subject for Shades of Empire as CotHR. That aside, Loboyko does good work and I like him only the tiniest bit more than Ralph Horsley.2

For fans of Green Ronin’s defining work in bringing WFRP back to the shelf in the 2nd edition, and particularly Chris Pramas work and passion for the game, will be pleased to see his name, and many other familiar names, in the design and writing credits. My hope is that this a hint at more work from Pramas’ pen to come under the FFG imprint (despite my rather outspoken and conspiratorial opinions on the subject of the parting of ways between Green Ronin and Games Workshop).

From the back cover, we get a preview of the organizations detailed inside:

  • Altdorf Dockers
  • The Brothers of Handrich
  • The Dreamwalkers
  • The Glorious Revolution of the People
  • Hedgefolk
  • The Imperial Navy
  • The Knights of Magritta
  • The Quinsberry Lodge
  • The Roadwardens

As I have recently used the Cult of Handrich in my campaign, and in a previous one, the Roadwardens, SoE nicely supplements my on-going use of these organizations, should they be encountered again. This makes the book immediately useful to me. The broad scope of the subjects easily makes it useful to many campaigns set in the Empire at large, as well as hints for crossing the borders into Tilea and the Mootland.

The contents of SoE is worth the cover price. Each organization is written up with a "Player’s Section" and "GM’s Section." The layout of each organization is such that GMs reading the complete details can flesh out NPCs and players can build character backgrounds. The purpose, history, structure, goals, signs, responsibilities and more is provided in each chapter (incredibly apropos to PCs starting or in a career path touched by the organization). GMs be forewarned: if your players pick up this book nothing is off-limits. Each GM’s Section provides interesting secrets, mentors (NPCs), locations and plot hooks. Spiking, twisting, or otherwise obfuscating these details is near mandatory in individual campaigns.

This last point brings up the what is most enjoyable about the sourcebook: how to layout and design your own organization or cult. A lot of GMs may fear the blank page and taking a cue from this resource is a great start. I liked this outline so much, I created a PDF template for download (on the RSS Feed... consider it bonus content).

In conclusion, I first shied away at the idea of SoE when I first read about it in the forums of FFG, hoping for an elf or dwarf source book instead. Yet having it in my hands I can now see it’s value to the GM and Player. SoE gets a recommendation from this GM of WFRP. SoE has a lot of potential to richly detail the streets of your campaign with new allies or enemies of your players. The organizations protagonists spring from the pages and offer new dangers, or riches (ha!), in associating with them.

meta-footnote-1=An editor’s assumption as pirates are not covered between the covers of the book. meta-footnote-2=Horsley is very good! I think Tome of Salvation is his best to date, The Thousand Thrones a very close second. His cover of the upcoming Career Compendium looks fantastic and all of these mentioned illustrate my point of topical cover art.
Posted by caffeinated at 3:36 PM in d10

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Posting block

I have a drafted post that I have been thinking about for some time.

The post attempts to compare WFRP combat against new and old D&D 3.5 combat rules. There is even a nod to how I think WFRP harks back to some old school concepts.

I can't put my thoughts to text like James Maliszewski over at Grognardia can. But I'm trying.

One thought that keeps me returning to the post is: wargaming. How all RPGs have this heritage, but so many pundits in podcasting and blogging seem to forget or outright ignore. Seed my recent discovery of World at War from Strategy and Tactics Press at my FLGS and my recent re-reading of the WFRP combat rules to create more challenging encounters for my players, and I'm distracted with wanting to say something.

WFRP has Warhammer Fantasy Battles. D&D has Chainmail and the games of the IFW. To me, I look at much of D&D today and it's various rule incarnations in 3.5 and 4e, and see this heritage in sharp clarity. Wahammer Fantasy Battles gets barely a nod in the 8 pages of WFRP combat rules. "Dr. Rotwang" over at I Waste the Buddha With My Crossbow might put it succinctly as, "... [WFRP] a lot less fiddly, a lot less 5 foot squares, a lot less attacks of opportunity, a lot less tactical blah-de-blah-blah ..." Of course the good doctor was not describing WFRP, but Castles and Crusades, yet it is so apropos to the thoughts stuck in my head.

Posted by caffeinated at 10:48 PM in kaffehaus