Saturday, 23 January 2010

Stealing NPC Ideas

I'm finally finishing Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle Volume 1. Three or four years after I bought it. But if there is one thing I continually love about this book (and hopefully will about the complete series) is the vivid descriptions of life in the 17th century.

A lot of it perfect fodder for my WFRP game. Just one example is the historical and "common sense" descriptions of the London Bridge in its 16th and 17th century incarnation. As I read the description, Aldorf's Three Toll Bridge came to mind, so much so, I felt that Aldorf's own was inspired historically by the London Bridge.

In Quicksilver Neal Stephenson describes with detail the daily life on the bridge and dangerous currents beneath the bridge induced by the "starlings" or "sterlings." These can be seen in this rendering and the river current produced in this depiction. The businesses that could be found on the bridge inspired some fluff that I put in a campaign originating from Altdorf last year.

I especially liked how the richer denizens of London prudently opted the safer option of disembarking from river transport, climb the stairs to the street level, cross to the other side, descend to the river, and hope their original transport made the gauntlet of the starlings. On the bridge, the savvy would accost the upper class, for alms or business opportunity, as they crossed to meet, hopefully, their transport on the other side.

From this arose my vision of the Three Toll Bridge with its many merchants that crowd its wide crossing of the Reik. And as its historical complement, the Reik was channelled through the starlings of the bridge, eating the foolish and always clawing for the prudent. One can imagine the crowds that ply the nobles as they cross the bridge, or just while away the hours watching fools "run the starlings," betting and excitedly cheering, or cringing.

So my NPC idea is presented to you, the Bridge Boatman. A Boatman, ex-Ferryman (or ex-Stevedore as fits your campaign). The Bridge Boatman is the prudent navigator of the River Reik and its many bridges. The best are hired by nobles, and many nobles use regulars. Bridge Boatman are excellent masters of the broad water ways of the Empire and beyond, but know bridges exceptionally well. They know the safe starlings and the dangerous ones. They are prudent when such judgement is necessary (or their "cargo" demands it). They only take risks when they know the bridge before them, the river subtleties on the craft beneath their feet, or the payment in hand.

Many Bridge Boatman supplement income with smuggling; who better to run the currents of a particularly dangerous bridge in a pinch, or a chase. And even still, the most risk taking Bridge Boatman knows a cargo, flesh or other, not delivered does not pay and usually costs more, if not in life, in lively hood with the loss of boat, limb, sanity, or all three.

Bridges should be rated a Test Difficulty and for each mastery of Row, reduced 5%. Even the best should be challenged by bridge like the Three Toll Bridge. At night, any bridge rating suffers an additional -10% to its difficulty modifier (as high as -40%). For example:

Konrad has picked up his charge at a small pier near the Fork Wharf on the Luitpoldstrasse. A fat man dressed in finery, noble for sure, dropped a sack of silver on the floor of the boat, "Obereik, and not to-morrow," was all that he spoke. Two bridges, post haste. Konrad picked up the sack and weighed it. The Reiksbrucke (Three Toll Bridge) is rated Very Hard (-30%). Konrad is skilled in Row +10% (two mastery levels, or +10%) giving him a modified -20% to his Row skill (Strength 48%) when running the starlings of Three Toll Bridge. Konrad pushes into the current and chooses a left of center starling, sizing up the approach. Konrad needs 28 or less... he rolls... 28! The noble smiles, embracing the moment and the dangerous thrill; Konrad and the noble exit on the other side of the Three Toll Bridge drenched in the stinking water of the Reik. Konrad thinks only of the Kaiser bridge ahead (rated Challenging).
Posted by caffeinated at 1:05 PM in d10

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Baseball, Politics, and Wargames

I'm an Atlanta Braves fan. I'm not a fanatic, but I own my own official Away play Braves New Era cap (I don't live in Georgia today). I follow the Braves during the season, but do not count the days to spring training, as a fanatic might.

If you read my bio, you'll find that I'm a capitalist, right leaning, and unaffiliated voter.

And I'm a nerd. I like wargames in the old school vain: hex maps and chits. As such I follow the niche market this is wargaming, and having recently received Multiman Publishing's PanzerBlitz: Hill of Death, I follow the publisher pretty closely.

Through this "deep linking" I know that a central partner/owner of Multiman Publishing is, the Boston Red Sox's own, Curt Schilling.

I got the biggest chuckle this morning reading the NYT (yes, I read the NYT, and subscribe to WSJ) capturing the gaffe of MA Senatorial hopeful Martha Coakley suggesting Curt Schilling was a Yankee fan, Coakley on Schilling: A Yankee Fan?

Coakley made the suggestion as Schilling is "shilling" for her political opponent. Curt Schilling is, in bean town, nothing less than a Boston Red Sox fan's hero. Trust me when I say, Curt Schilling is not a Yankee's fan. Gaffes of this caliber sink candidacies.
Posted by caffeinated at 1:12 PM in 0xDECAF

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Burning Land

Bernard Cornwell has a new title in his Saxon Stories series of historical novels that piques my interest, The Burning Land.

The WSJ reviewed it this weekend and I got chills, thinking, "right up my alley." Fodder for grim and perilous gaming in the Old World me thinks.

Here's a link to the WSJ review by Tom Shippey, A Saxon War Story: Imagining the Battle for England as Vikings neared conquest.
Posted by caffeinated at 4:02 PM in Bohemian Breakfast

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Book Plate Zwei

Another book plate, this one with more woodcut work and a stronger WFRP flavor.

The artwork is by Dave Graffam, or someone of his acquaintance, and originally published on Encroachment of Chaos, now available on Winds of Chaos.

The wax seal shows the twin moons, Mannslieb and Morrslieb, with the word FIDENS, or "Fearless," in relief.

Download a full resolution copy of the book plate

The plate prints 2.25" x 4.75" at 300 dpi.
Posted by caffeinated at 9:18 PM in d10

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Book Plate

As I cleaned my office up today at home, I was flipping open my WFRP books. As I checked their bindings, maybe getting a little distracted (maybe a lot distracted) I noticed that I had "branded" some and not others with a "notice" of ownership.

Then it occurred to me: a nice book plate, Ex Libris-style, would be more apropos. Woodcuts came to mind. 20s and 30s art deco crossed my minds-eye too. I settled on something that tries to capture some of that... an art deco meets woodcut via Photoshop.

The font is of course the very same used for WFRP titles. The image a better than working attempt at creating a woodcut from a photo (credit to Bloodthirsty Vegetarians on Flickr).

ex libris et die
Feel free to use it or hack it to make it better. Prints 2x6 at 300 dpi.
Posted by caffeinated at 10:51 PM in d10

Friday, 8 January 2010

A year of caffeine, 2009 in summary.

I have several analytic tools running on ACD.

Google Analytics and a very robust log parser on the server side.

At the end of 2009, my log analytics reported 13,554 unique visitors. Now, this really is nothing more than 13,554 unique IPs that do not necessary mean that 13,554 unique people visited ACD, but it's not bad. In 2008, it was 10,712. That's a 28% increase.

Yet, the topics of interest that lead people to ACD changed between 2008 and 2009. In 2008, I was doing more sysadmin blogging and a lot of hits came to topics that provided some help to others trying to compile binaries on Linux.

In 2009, WFRP got the attention. My Inns of the Empire tool got a lot of hits, and I started seeing a lot of activity on my WFRP campaign wiki.

Google Analytics provides some more insight, and some sobering insight, like bounce rates. "Bouncing" shows hits that arrived and found nothing of interest and move on, immediately. It's soul crushing data.

Where people come to ACD is exciting. Britain and much of continental Europe find the website according to Google. The Map Overlay tools are always fun to use and drill down to localities.

I also started using some of the linking data in my signatures in 2009, and those linking to the Inns of the Empire tool where given special links for tracking.

For the 6 months of 2009 that used this linking (where I even went out of the way to ask that those linking to ACD update their links, which they did! Thank you Chuck and KVH), Winds of Chaos, a premier WFRP resource blog, lead the way. Kalevala Hammer followed a close second. My forum sigs also got some click throughs.

Google Analytics also told a different story about the visitor patterns, significantly changing the values of the log parser, by 10K or more. "Absolute Unique Visitors" were only 2,050! Not as exciting. Log parsers are notoriously dangerous engines to quote numbers from, so I'm inclined to look at Google's numbers with more weight. Google does validate the traffic patterns that my log parser reports, WFRP searches were big in 2009.

All said, 2009 was a good year. I really do want to make 2010 a much more exciting WFRP and ACD year!
Posted by caffeinated at 10:24 PM in 0xDECAF

Couple of new WFRP purchases

In the last two weeks I've decided to round out my WFRP library with some items from my FLGS, Days of Knights.

Karak Azgal and Barony of the Damned, both add to a near complete 2nd Edition WFRP library. This is something I did not do with 1st Edition when I first became the fan I am today, c. 1986.

My most disappointing miss was not getting the hard cover release of Tome of Corruption. I was ecstatic at the PDF release though. I think the ToC, in hindsight is a must have sourcebook for really providing depth in your campaigns, especially since certain dark and chaotic races never got complete treatment while Black Industries was publishing 2nd Edition. The brief Druchii section is enough for seeding your own imagination (without buying the WFB Army Book, oft recommended by some). With seeds, GMs can turn to forums like Strike To Stun for more ideas and help; eventually becoming one that can assist new GMs over the wall.

While the two books I just picked up are really adventures, they are couched well in source material to seed new adventures in the WFRP canon of 2nd edition. 

A canon I intend on expanding without FFG by my side.
Posted by caffeinated at 9:41 PM in d10