Sunday 30 October 2016

WFRP'd: Tony Ackland's hidden GW portraits in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rulebook

The author of this blog with the Grand Master of Chaos himself.
Here is a short and very sweet post in part of my WFRP'd series, celebrating 30 years of the seminal Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. As many enthusiasts have pointed out, nothing conveys the look and feel of the Warhammer World in 1986 like Tony Ackland's artwork. As the prime illustrator of so much of the early Warhammer mythos, his work illuminates the world we love like no other. The sweeping landscapes, the grimy backstreet taverns and the dank, desolate dungeons of the Old World spring to life (stirring our imaginations with myriad possibility) with each stroke of his pencil. 

Having had the pleasure of meeting this remarkable man several times now, I consider myself privileged to have spent some hours in his company. He is very much a walking, talking version of one of his wizardly drawings. The long beard, the twinkling eyes and the chaotic cackle that serves as his laugh. He remains a man of endless story, absentminded genius and anarchic, subversive humour. 

These elements are often present in his work, if you know where to look. If you get the chance to spend any time with Mr. Ackland and he has his portfolio of work with him you can expect detailed explanations for each piece. Some of these explanations reveal trinkets of knowledge that will fascinate the enthusiast of Old School Warhammer, others will reveal amusing anecdotes of life in the Design Studio and the (sometimes rather dubious) goings on in the background of things. 

At other times they reveal what modern folk call 'Easter Eggs', little hidden facts and tributes in artwork and background, often secreted away in pieces of work we have been familiar with for decades. When these hidden secrets are revealled to us those pieces of work suddenly take on a new and unexpected light. 

I have three such pieces for you today! 

All of us are probably familiar with the careers section of the WFRP. If you were anything like me, you'd spend hours perusing through the entries imagining characters with prolific careers in agitating, tomb robbing or coach driving. For me, it was the sheer normality of so many of the careers that made them so appealing, you could imagine people like this living in a fantasy world far more than a bunch of longhaired tight wearing men with impossibly white teeth. 

It was the artwork that accompanied these careers that would often fire the imagination, with some of the illustrations speaking more about that career path than any amount of text could. Well it seems that a number of these illustrations were caricatures of well know Citadel staff. Tony Ackland explained to me:

TA: "There was Richard (Hal) Halliwell as a beggar, Rick Priestley as a scribe, John Blanche as a cripple, and Bryan Ansell as I can't recall what. Richard Ellard was a cleric wearing the amulet of the double Volkswagen. He had two Golfs at the time. John Stallard was also featured. I can't recall any others offhand."

Now, Tony still has three of these caricatures in his possession and I can share then here with you thanks to him.

Rick Priestley the scribe. I love the tiny xerox gag on the edge of the table. 

The double Volkswagen endowed Richard Ellard masquerading as a cleric.

The mighty John Blanche brought low as a cripple. 
As for Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell or John Stallard I have yet to discover which illustrations they may be. Or indeed if any other GW alumni lurk amongst the pages of WFRP waiting to be discovered. 

Perhaps YOU dear reader could be of help? Get flicking through that rulebook!

Thanks to Tony Ackland for his contributions to this post. 


Friday 28 October 2016

The City of Lead: Change of Plans

Hello all. If you can recall, Chico, Steve, Paul and I are planning a game of Mordheim at the next BOYL event next July. We are challenged with producing a single model each month to create our warband and a piece of scenery. I chose to work with a Kislevite warband inspired by the two Russian looking models recently cast up by Foundry. 

And here is the next model in that would be warband. 

He was a bit of a struggle to complete if I'm honest. I found getting the face looking reasonable a bit of a tough call. I am still not quite happy with the result but it will do. I am much more satisfied with the way his armour turned out, especially the golden scale mail. Long term readers will know that I have been working on this particular colour and metal in general in recent months. 

I am very pleased with the green material of the chap's cloak/coat however. I like the deep yellowy green I have achieved here and it's closeness to the iconic Bilious Green in colour. I am also quite happy with the dry brushing and blending on the wolf pelt. So big thrills for Noddy all the way round.

What I am not happy with is my warband choice. This is the result of several things. Firstly, Warlord Paul has already got in with both of these models for his warband (he hopes to paint all of the Time Warped wizards for the project) and one thing I hate are multiple examples of the same miniature on the table, unless it is for rank and file. As there are no rank and file models in Mordheim, this is going to pose a problem. Secondly, I hate Kislev. They bore me to death. 

Subsequently, I have chosen to begin again. Afresh. In the hopes of rekindling my enthusiasm for this little project and I have decided to switch from Kislev to skaven. Now the way I see it, I will need to produce four (count 'em) models over November to catch up with the other boys in the team. A model for August, September, October and November itself. 

No mean feat. 

Right, I better get cracking! 

Thursday 27 October 2016

Workbench Woes and Solving the Problem of Mess

My total painted collection in 2013, and this includes everything I painted from 2004 onwards in my pre-Oldhammer days. The ironing board is not a Citadel release. 
Despite Warhammer's reputation for social ineptitude, most Oldhammerers I meet are married career men with a brace of children, a fair sized mortgage and a loving lady at home. All atypical types really, with a strong likelihood of working in the teaching or archaeology professions, though this is by no means a requisite. One common factor that unites us all however is the problem of storage and workspace. 

Those of you with long memories may recall the welsh dresser I seconded to house my painted collection of figures some four years ago. At that time I had zero potential display space and my lovely wife decreed that whatever piece of furniture I employed for the task would need to fit in with the 'look' of our old living room. The dresser was the best solution at the time, but as my collection grew and the layers of dust accumulated I could see that this method was temporary at best, 

As beautiful as the dresser appeared, dust and space were not to be the only threats to my hard painted models. The edge of the dresser was so sharp that it was not unknown for a model to fall from the shelves. I can tell you that the sight of Lady McDeath, fully painted, bouncing off the stained wood and disappearing behind the fish tank is not a pleasant experience, nor one a passionate collector would want to repeat. 

Don't even ask me of the fates of several hand painted shields, either. They having snapped off in these tumbles to be lost forever! 

The next solution to house my ever growing collection was the now ubiquitous IKEA display cabinet. Initially, I thought these to be the perfect resolution to my problem, until I actually constructed the piece and began to use it on a day to day basis. The words insubstantial and flimsy spring to mind when generating adjectives to describe this piece of furniture. Walk past carrying anything heavier than a penny and the whole thing shakes like a chav on his sixth straight can of Red Bull. Despite these obvious flaws, and the fact that one of the glass panels bends rather disturbingly, this cabinet has kept my models safe and dust free for a year or so now. 

Having survived the house move, the IKEA display cabinet now houses most of my painted collection. The writing is on the wall for the piece though in the long run, because my wife doesn't like the way it looks. That old problem with it 'not fitting in with the rest of the decor in the room' raising its tasteful head once again. The parlour in our home was built around 1600, so the ceilings are very low in places (and there isn't a straight edge or flush wall anywhere) and finding a suitable replacement has proved a challenge as everything we have found has been too tall. 

You can see the empty cabinet here, a few days after we moved in and the desk I was using as a paint station and hobby area. Though the cabinet has had a reprieve of sorts, my painting table was condemned by the wife after about a week. The clutter of brushes, half completed projects, paint pots, files, glues and rubbish spun my wife's distaste wheel faster than our babysitter's boyfriend's escape as he sees us pulling up on the driveway, ten minutes early. 

I was told that this set up had mere weeks to live. The chair was held together with cellotape too. 

It wasn't just my desk that enflamed my wife's ire, but this 'bookcase' as well. To be honest, I can see why as if you look beyond the stacked library of Oldhammer classics on the shelves, the whole piece looks tired and cheap - which it was. With bonfire night approaching this IKEA monstrosity has a sweet date with my axe and the blessed release of autumnal fire, as my children dance around it's death-throes sparklers in hand. 

With marching orders received, I knew that I would have to do something drastic to save my precious modelling space and preserve my wife's particular tastes in interior design.

While she was out visiting friends, old Orlygg sprang into middle-aged action. First, I moved this heavy, oak chest of draws (which I despise, but here's the rub - my wife likes) over to replace the old. battered Edwardian table I had been using, though instead of placing my paint station on the top of it, I have set up the family computer on a ultra-modern angle. As this computer also serves my blogging and occasional gaming needs, having easy access to it was essential for me. You may be wondering about the wife? Well, she has an entire office all to herself upstairs and plenty of space for her computer, printer and telephone set up. 

A nineteenth century mahogany bureau was the final solution to my need to work in a cluttered space and my wife's need for order and elegance. On the outside we have a dark wood finish with pleasant patina and on the inside plentiful space for my projects and miniature bric-a-brac. There are even a few Victorian fag burns on the inside to give my workspace that bohemian feel. 

I have never owned a bureau before and have been astonished with the amount of stuff you can store neatly away inside them. The example I purchased was on the smaller size too, but between the writing area and the four drawers there is more than enough space to store my entire collection of models (which is sizable) and all of my painting and modelling things too. 

In fact, the entire bottom shelf is free for future projects and purchases. 

Here, have a look at the inside of the bureau. Originally designed as a writing desk, this space has loads of little drawers and spaces to store the numerous items required when painting and modelling. I keep unpainted models on the 'next list' inside the drawer on the left and store newly completed work on the top. Work in progress models are stored alongside and have plenty of space for drying. Tools are piled up in one of the central partitions, as are my glues and measuring items. The right pull out draw contains my as of yet unused paint brushes. 

And then there is still so much space. 

Having solved my storage problems in one fell swoop doesn't come without it's drawbacks. I have to now plan ahead in terms of colours as I have to replace the hinged work service if I want to rummage around in my paint store. I dare not keep many paints on the top of the bureau in case of leakage (I know it is unlikely) as I wouldn't want to overly damage this beautiful piece of furniture, but I can live with this now I have peace of mind - or should I say, my wife has.

And here we have my paint station in action today. I need a much larger cutting mat to protect the surface and perhaps a larger lamp too, but the eternal problem of space and mess has at last been solved. And I really do recommend these bureaus as a modelling/painting area, especially of you don't have a man cave or garage in which you can work. 

Looking back over my journey makes me wonder how other enthusiasts have solved the combined woes of mess and storage. If you have an intriguing method I would very much like to know about it. After all, it is only a matter of time until the wife changes her mind!!

Right, now I am off to do something that I should have been doing loads of but couldn't.



Wednesday 26 October 2016

WFRP'd: What the @*&% is WFRP'd? The History of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Hello all. You may have noticed me waffling on a great deal about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay recently and if you didn't know, the game is now in it's thirtieth anniversary. With such an august event looming large in my mind, I thought it appropriate to get blogging about this marvelleous game as quite frankly, no-one else seems to be! 

Now, we shall be continuing through the history of the game in much the same way as I have been doing with the Acceptable in the '80s series with Warhammer Fantasy Battle Third Edition. Only, I have blogged about several parts of the WFRP canon in the past under the title WFRP'd. As you have no doubt gathered, I am going to be continuing with this series in the coming days and I thought it apt to make reference to some of the other articles I have published relating to the game. 

And there are three. 

The first concerns the first supplement for WFRP, namely the Enemy Within Box and the starting adventure 'Mistaken Identity'. This is one of my favourite ever supplements that GW released. 

Out of the garden deals with the background of the Warhammer world's gnome population and provides details to allow players to roleplay these diminutive characters. Phil Gallagher's article if bustling with detail that many of you may not know about Gnomes in Warhammer. 

Well worth a read!

And finally, Graeme Davis launches the game in morbid style with 'On the Road' - the first two scenarios (if you can call them that) published for WFRP. 



WFRP'd: The View from the Design Studio

In my last post I began to chronicle the 30th anniversary of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and judging by your response this looks to be a popular series of blog posts. Today, I want to delve into a curious little article published in late '86 in our beloved White Dwarf of old. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the magazine in the dark days of the last century, it ran a series of semi-regular columns called 'Open Box' in which new RPG releases were scrutinised by members of the editoral team.

If you got into Games Workshop in the later part of the 1980s this may seem curious to you, as the magazine I discovered in 1988 ran only in house adverts (mostly). Before Bryan Ansell decided to just focus on GW products, the magazine served as the voice of roleplaying in the UK, and had done so for over ten years by the time this article was published.

Of course, the cynic will no doubt point out that the authors of the Open Box columns were in fact employees of Games Workshop LTD, and this was indeed true, but judging by the Open Box columns I have flicked through, other manufacturer's items seem to have been reviewed quite fairly and the GW bias is slight. Looking back, the influence of GW's first decade as a retailer of fantasy games is still evident in it's waning years.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. This particular issue of Open Box concentrates in 'reviewing' (if such a verb is appropriate) our beloved RPG, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Unlike the material we looked at last post, which set to advertise the product to us screaming fans, this piece seeks to explain a little about the development of the game and contains some interesting nuggets of information the Citadel historian would find interesting.

It is well worth reading. Take a look!

The first paragraph contains an interesting remark and I paraphrase when I state that WFRP was originally intended as a supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Well, I didn't know that it had it's origins there, and always assumed it was begun later. Of course, I know that lots of different hands shaped the game and different projects were merged or adapted to ease it's creation.

The second paragraph goes on to make light of the demise of TSR UK and the establishment of the famous '80s Design Studio. The BIG NAMES of WFRP are ticked off here too. If you are curious about this period of GW's history, then Paul Cockburn's interview we us is well worth reading. The link is here.

In an age before GrimDark the term 'grubby fantasy' seems to have described the background to the game and reference is made to the 'shiny, heroic' style of roleplaying prevalent in many D&D supplements and imitators. If you read on, the link between the 'rot of chaos' and the religious turmoil in Renaissance Europe is made explicit and is one that is now frankly blooming obvious, but has always alluded me. Another reference to the Lustria campaign is made here, and that it would be one of the first releases for WFRP. We all know how that one turned out.

Under the 'Chaos' subheading is evidence enough to trouble GW's lawyers in later years. Frank, unclouded admittance that Chaos and all its terrifying glory is directly inspired by the work of Michael Moorcock. 

Both Realms of Chaos (which saw release in two volumes) and Realms of Sorcery (which never saw release, at least until Hogshead did a version years later) get a mention on the second page. It is easy to laugh now at the admission that Realms of Sorcery would see print in 1988 but it is obvious now that a great many projects were planned, even developed but ultimately never saw the light of day. 

Where they all are now is a mystery. 


Thursday 13 October 2016

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: 30th Anniversary

This month is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's 30th anniversary. Way back when, in October 1986 Games Workshop's own roleplaying game slipped loose it's rancid moorings to set sail across the world, and its been spreading it's peculiar chaotic illumination ever since. What strikes me is that no-one seems to have noticed (well, at least in the journals and blogs I frequent) that such crucial event is now upon us. 

It was, ney still is, one of the greatest roleplaying games of all time, with the Enemy Within often heralded as the greatest adventure ever spawned. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant. This is an important anniversary and one that Realm of Chaos 80s will be exploring in greater depth in the coming weeks. 

But where to start? 

How about a world of perilous adventure? 

Issue 82 of White Dwarf contained one of those 'pull out' centre pieces popular in the 1980s. Flicking back through the magazine, its certainly looks impressive when compared with the other pages on offer that month, what with it's jet black background and chunky iconography. You were certainly informed that the long awaited game had arrived. Not that regular readers would have been strangers to the game - talk of it had been brewing for some time and work must have been frantic in the studio from the mid eighties onwards. Think about it now. Within about a year, development of not only Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but Warhammer Fantasy Battle Third Edition and Rogue Trader: Warhammer 40,000 reached fever pitch. All three titles were released and later received a huge amount of supplements and support in GW publications.

It is also worth remembering that all three systems were (technically) compatible with each other - with WFB3 and WHFR sharing the same game world and many of it's idiosyncracies. In fact, it is due to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that the background to the Old World, basically the Empire, was so wonderfully fleshed out for later generations for writers, gamers and design studio members.

What is obvious looking back, is this is very much a dark fantasy world. GrimDark has not yet become a cliche and the more British feel of the background material is a refreshing change to D&D's 'derring-do' performed by long haired men in tights. Probably with white teeth. Sure, WFRP has it's fair share of longhaired men, but reading through this early material makes you feel like they are more likely to give your syphilis than an honest helping hand.

Production values also seem high. Esoteric symbols boarder the top and bottom of the pages, along with the striking margin detailing that would become common for WFRP publications in the years to come. The pages are well arranged and peppered with artwork from the High Lords of Fantasy- Ackland and Blanche. It looks high end. I always admire the work of 'paste-up' artists, especially considering it's practically dead as a job now. All of that text, those images - the lot were most likely put together manually ahead of printing - it is now wonder that these graphic artists were called the 'fuzzy felters' at GW towers. 

The dark fantasy theme continues as we read on. This short story exemplifies the dark and dangerous Warhammer world well, complete with chaos worshippers and witchunters, showing that these themes have been with the game from the very beginning. This opening salvo is also important because it contains a neat little overview of the Warhammer world's history and includes detail about the Gods of Law, who sadly went largely unrealised during the Ansell years, and so are lost to us. 

Ultimately, Gotter's hallucinations fail to unearth the true horror waiting in the dark future for our heroes. It wouldn't be the bitter civil wars of man, elf and dwarf that would go on to destroy the world, nor would it be the malign manipulations of the warp that brought about the end. No, it would be an accountant's penstroke. Both for WFRP itself, and later the Warhammer World. 

Reading through the story again, I find it hard to have sympathy for the fanatical Gotter. Being dragged from a prison cell to the bowels of some skaven tunnel complex is certainly a dreadful end, but somehow I imagine that Gotter broke free - probably by spending a fate point. Still, the idea that human society is rampant and corrupt with chaos worship is a familiar one to any who have spent time with the game. I have said it before, but I found this view of the Warhammer world much more satisfying than what came later. Chaos became too visible. Too, well, familiar - not only the inhabitants of the Old World, but to us players in general. The concept worked best when the general population just got on with their lives, totally unaware of the awful doom that was brewing far to the north.

Chaos should always been the 'spice' of Warhammer. Not the main ingredient.

Speaking of recipes, the rest of the launch article goes on to explain the game in greater detail. Again, the art quality is ramped up and the the now iconic front cover painting (which I tracked down to Canada, some years ago) for WFRP makes more than one appearance. When I got back into GW stuff in the year 2004, I really missed the vibrant art from the 1980s. Sure John Blanche still knocked out a few good 'uns but the house style that developed for big publications was somewhat lacking. 

It looks like whoever wrote the description of the 'Background' section has been imbibing heavily on a bottle of Lovecraft - what with all the brooding, loathsome long words and abomination. Sadly, the 'projected supplements' that promised to cover the rest of the known world never materialised and Richard Halliwell's 'Lustria' campaign remained unpublished.

The careers section is what made WFRP different. Rather than just being a cleric or the ubiquitous magic user, the character you developed could go on a professional career, and if you were anything like me, you'd spend hours and hours reading through the different entries. I must have created hundreds of characters over those early years, all of whom I have long since forgotten. Actually, that is not quite true and one surly chap springs back into my mind - 'Lightfingered Rob', the house burglar and emerged from the cloudy recesses of my mind. I created him when I was GMing the Enemy Within for a school friend.

Perhaps I should reproduce him in miniature form one day?

There is a  quote on this page that I love: 'developing Warhammer into the most complete and enjoyable fantasy game available.' There always seems to me to be an undertone of this attitude ringing through our period. Though commercial requirements would no doubt have dominated motives at GW, there was at least an earnest opinion on producing high quality, versatile games that stood out from the fore. WFRP does this in droves.

Having had a great number of conversations with gamers the world over about WFB3 (and by extension WFRP) the general opinion can be generalised into a single world. Potential. These two games gave the player almost total freedom to design, adapt and play a huge variety of games and scenarios. You are limited by your imagination alone. Obviously, to the causal gamer this reeks of trouble. There is little balance, and some of the option available are game-breakingly powerful. Restraint is a key part of old school style gaming, as many of us have learnt, though sadly there will always be those 'powergamer' types whose sole purpose when rolling dice is to win.

And no lamentations of the women for those players either, just an ever decreasing circle of associates, until squalid and alone, they exist solely alongside the other greasy oiks of their creed. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay often strikes a problem chord with these types, for the game quite clearly states its Warhammer but with little or no meta (or cheesey lists) the game can seem empty and confusing. After all, WFRP is a social game. It is about not only character interaction in an invented universe, but about people pretending to be other people for mutual enjoyment. The shared experience is key here, as it is in early versions of Warhammer, only with WFRP the spectacle is in the mind alone.

Looking back on a near twenty plus year love affair with Warhammer's roleplaying game, I can certainly recall plenty of spectacular moments. Unlike with my miniature endeavours, these affairs are on a much smaller scale and have been far more intimate. I can recall leading my adventurers through the grimy corridors of Castle Wittgenstein as GM, feeling creeped out by the story I was weaving. My old wooden stereo speakers choose this as the moment they would collapse from my bedroom wall in an almighty thud. My players and I nearly jumped out of our skins in fright, so enraptured by the game were we. 

Just one of many, many fine moments of gaming. 

Looking back over this article with fresh eyes brings that word back into my mind. Potential. Just reading through the blurb on offer her inspires me all over again and encourages me to once more delve into my dusty old tomes to enjoy the adventure again. But some of that potential is, alas, forever unfulfilled. Glancing across the 'coming soon' text above the coupon reveals another one of those 'lost projects' we have become accustomed too here at Realm of Chaos 80s. 

And I quote.

"Blood for the Blood God - a battlepack for use with Realm of Chaos. The army is camped in the chaos wastes preparing to raid the empire, but dissension is growing and blood must be spilled before the differences can be resolved. Scheme and battle your way to supremacy of the chaos army in this unique adventure which combines Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rules with Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules."

How intriguing, eh?

Sunday 9 October 2016

Macrocosm Multi-Part Dwarf Crowdfund

Chris Nicholls, of Macrocosm, asked me to share with you his latest kickstarter. It is a quaint little project which hopes to produce not-so-quaint multi-part dwarfs. There are distinct whiffs of the Perry Brothers and the late, great Wayne England about these models, as you will have seen in the image above. 

Like his previous projects, this is a small scale endeavour with very clear goals. But rather than read my blatherings about Macrocosm, I shall hand you over to MR. BIG himself, Chris Nicholls. 

CH: "Macrocosm Miniatures is a small company based in Tewkesbury in the UK. We set up last year with the goal of bringing a retro style of miniatures to your tabletop. We have already run 3 successful Kickstarters in the past and we are hoping to make it a 4th with this project.We are looking to get £2000 of funding to pay for the moulding and production of several new multipart miniature ranges of 28mm Dwarves.

By joining our project as a backer you will be receiving your miniatures at a 20%+ discount (some are 33% like the Halfling horde!) on getting them at retail. You will also be reciving them well before their release dates to retail (several months in some cases). "
The project has already funded. So taking the plunge has few risks. If you fancy picking up some of these handsome little chaps just follow the link below.