Saturday, 26 April 2014

13th Age - Enter the War Forged!

Last week we left Rarity dangling on the edge of a rope while another monstrous starfish threatened to attack her. Her companions were struggling to hang onto the rope and haul her up when a second star fish appeared and attacked them too. Did they release the rope to fight the creature, or pull the now raging barbarian up?

With Rarity now lashing out at the starfish with her broad sword, Amras started hurling spells at the star fish, while the elf ranger scout who had accompanied the party from the court of the Elf Queen hauled the barbarian to safety and Jordan Young, the Buccaneer Bard, tooted on his bugle.

Both star fish were quickly dealt with once Rarity was back on firm ground and Amras had dumped a couple more spells on them. With the smell of the monsters cooking behind them, the party abseiled down to investigate the tower. It quickly became obvious that they were at the tower's base, not its summit, and that the structure had seemingly been rammed into the ground, as if more an enormous height. Amras cast light spells and they cautiously negotiated an entry.

NB - It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that our DM built a 3D cardboard model of the tower to help illustrate the crazy angle at which the rooms now presented themselves. With the aid of miniatures it helped us to visualise where we would need to climb, etc. If he ever publishes the adventure, we've suggested it should come with the plans for the structure to allow other DMs to build it. Kudos.

Inside the structure, the heroes encountered two more star fish, which were again duly engaged and dispatched, although not before they demonstrated an ability to generate sonic blasts to make the adventurers' ears bleed [ongoing damage effect]. Amras seemed to spontaneously cast some kind of infernal spell that he does not recognise and has not learned, leaving behind the ominous smell of sulphur.

At the 'top' of the tower, the party discovered a lab, with a huge, pulsing magic gate, broken furniture strewn around, and more star fish. A robed man lay here with a small star fish firmly clamped over his face. Rarity sprang to his aid, to tear the creature from his visage, while the others faced the monsters that had come through the gate. Jordan Young was felled by a punch from the star fish, and started to die, but was saved by Sartheen, who sprang to his aid, administering a healing potion. Rarity threw the small star fish through the gate, and Amras destroyed the gate with a freezing spell.

The group now searched the rubble. A recovered Jordan Young collected some of the fragments of the gate to sell on. They also found parts of a War Forged, complete with a detached talking head that introduced itself as Neon, a former monk and librarian of the Great Gold Wyrm who worked for the Wyrm in the Overworld, a land in the sky, from which this tower had indeed plunged. Neon had been enslaved by the owner of the tower, who now lay comatose on the floor of the crazily slanting lab. It was a simple matter to reunite Neon with his missing limbs.

NB - Neon is in fact a Sorceror, but is using Monk as a background.

The party assembled a stretcher for the unconscious mage and proceeded back through the forest in search of the Elf Queen's mobile court. During their trip through the woods they camped and in the night encountered a gaseous figure that whispered to Amras about a pact they had made.

Upon finally discovering the mobile court, the adventurers rested. Attempts to revive the comatose wizard from the tower proved unsuccessful. He remains with the court in the custody of the elves. Jordan Young took the opportunity to inspect how the elven sacred war axe Glazentorg is guarded - it seems to be carried by a burly elven warrior who travels with the court.

A major council had been called to discuss the attack on a stronghold in the Elf Queen's lands, and how the elves should respond. Amras spoke for the war party, and finally persuaded a majority of the court that some kind of attack be made against the Three as an appropriate response to the attempted theft of the elven artefact Glazentorg. Sartheen spied on the elven general responsible for planning the attack, suspecting he might be a spy for the Diabolist, but he seemed innocent enough.

The party have now been tasked with planning an attack on a town to the south of the elven domains that is controlled by the Three, and have been asked to assassinate its 'mayor', and leave an elven dagger at the scene as a message to the great wyrms. The mayor, it transpires, is also a blue dragon...

NB - apologies if I missed anything. I was making teas and towards the end feeling the effects of a very busy and exhausting week at work. :(

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Imperial - when Germany went sub-prime

With four days off at Easter it was off to the ancestral estate in Berkshire. As ever, people are disappointed if I don't turn up with some interesting board games in tow, and this time around it was Settlers of Catan and Imperial. As a family we do like to play Settlers on a semi-regular basis, although aggressive dealing in commodities is now leading to fiery disputes, with abuse being hurled back and forth!

I WON Settlers this time around. This was thanks mainly to being well-placed to harvest both bricks and wood on a regular basis, and that allowed me to grab the Longest Road honours early and hold onto them despite a challenge from another player. I spotted that opportunity just from a review of the initial terrain dispositions. I also managed to ensure I had a port that could deal wool with foreign merchants, which helped me enormously in the middle game to start picking up some development cards. This strategy allowed me to acquire Largest Army for +2 VPs. A final settlement build, and the game was mine.

I love Catan because every game is slightly different. This board quickly produced a shortage of stone in the early part of the game, which was resolved later on. However, by that stage we were experiencing a wheat shortage. My port was a god send in helping me to maintain my roads and keep me in the lead.

Imperial I have blogged about before and it has been a long while since last I played it. But it is an awesome game, and once you get your head around it, has so many different avenues you need to consider. It does create the impression in the early stages that it is going to be a looooong strategy game, leading some newbies last weekend to ask whether we should set a time limit. But no, I said, you will quickly realise that this game is much faster in the second half, and can be ended sooner than you realise.

I got Germany initially and set about expanding in the Low Countries (natch). Britain seemed to be doing fairly well from the start, while Austria imploded and France struggled financially from the beginning. France changed hands and I think always lacked a serious direction, including failing to exploit the obvious opportunity in Spain until it was too, too late.

I failed to stop Russia and Britain ganging up on Germany and could see, with France allying itself - temporarily - with Britain, that Germany would soon be on a sticky wicket. I tried to quickly diversify my assets, buying British bonds and also dabbling in Russian debt, but I feel I lacked aggression here, not risking enough money to buy the big tranches.

Russia and Britain quickly became the premium paper in this game, with France securely in the sub-prime zone (I think the Russian and Italian players both managed France as something of an after thought). Everyone rightly stayed off Austria which was quickly carved up between Russia and Italy, who then started skirmishing in the Eastern Med towards the end of the game.

The British player did an awesome job. Despite having Britain bought out from under him for a couple of turns, he astutely invested in Russia, built up his cash supply through being a stateless investor, then resumed control of Britain. Finally, he ended the game by spending 12 million to travel around the order hub back to taxation in order to finish while he was still in the lead. His combined Russian and British holdings won him the game. George Soros would be proud.

I enjoyed Imperial so much, despite coming third, that I've now acquired the app, available on the iStore for £6.50. I've given it a run through and it seems like a very competently designed offering, worthy of the original board game.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

13th Age - land sharks, rum and star fish

We carried on with 13th Age on Friday. In our first session, we used the adventure in the back of the rules book. I'm not going into that session in any great detail, for fear of spoiling it for others (although our GM has taken a rather dim view of it). Instead, let us continue with our second session, where we proceed to ski off-piste.

A quick summary of our party:

  • An Aasimar Cleric, now no longer with us after being mauled by a dragon (KIA and her player has gone to Germany for a fortnight, no doubt in protest!)
  • Rarity, a Tiefling Barbarian, a former barmaid who is now an investigator for the Priestess and a close ally of the Great Gold Wyrm. She remembers legends that everyone else has forgotten, and by that I mean EVERYONE.
  • Sartheen, a Dragonic Rogue, the only red Dragonic ever to be hatched. He was a member of the Shadow Port Thieves' Guild and is on good terms with the Prince of Shadows.
  • Jordan, a Human Bard and a former regimental bugler/trumpeter. He is the only survivor of a doomed piratical expedition which discovered some mysterious islands across the western ocean, where hidden treasure lies. Also likes rum.
  • Amras, an Elf Wizard. Plays his cards close to his chest, but could be possessed by a demon.
We picked up the adventure not long after the big battle that ended our last session, in which we lost our cleric (luckily not having one is not the major problem it can be in Pathfinder or 4e). Now tooled up with an elven magic battle axe, we needed to get it to the Court of the Elf Queen, which we knew was somewhere in the elf wood we were currently hiding in. It was obvious that the Three were currently after the axe (aka Glazentorg the Bloody), so we knew we needed to keep our heads down in case there were more of their lizard men minions lurking around.

We had picked up a number of MAGIC ITEMS after the last session. Magic items in 13th Age are a bit different - firstly, they are not standardised. Yes, Jordan has picked up an elf scimitar which gives him a +1 attack, but there is no standard magic items list per se, and hence no Ye Olde Magic Shoppe syndrome! Also, magic items can dick with your personality or appearence, for as long as you bear them. Hence, the elven axe has changed Rarity's voice, making it a lot deeper. I like this. It makes magic more individualistic, with each item having its own characteristics.

For this session, all the characters rolled their icon relationships at the start of the session. We got 6s for the Druid, the Diabolist, and the Gold Wyrm. We also had 5s (good, but with consequences) for Elf Queen (x2), Priestess (x2), and Prince of Shadows. Bearing in mind we were looking for the court of the Elf Queen, which is constantly on the move in the Dragon Empire setting, the involvement of the Elf Queen was no surprise.

On our way to the court (our elf compadre, Amras, knew where it was), we ran into a bullette / land shark, which prompted a fast and furious fight. Rarity came into her own, now that we have a better grip on her powers, and dealt a couple of heavy blows to the monster, although I think Amras also delivered a fair amount of damage to it (I was busy making tea at the time). We stopped to dismember the monster as we had heard they make good steaks (NB: Sartheen has taken the hand of the dead cleric, which he is munching on as he walks, as part of his ritual observances to the dead, a habit from his days as a swamp warrior with a barbaric Dragonic tribe).

While we camped and rested up from the battle, Rarity told us a forgotten legend about a city of benevolent sorcerors that was destroyed in a prehistoric cataclysm, and is now lost beneath the waters of the Middle Sea. They had a magic gem which may / may not now be in the possession of the Lich King. I used the Prince of Shadows' 5 to declare that the PoS has asked Sartheen to try to find out how all elves know where the court of the Elf Queen is.

We found the moving court of the Elf Queen, which thoughtfully stopped for the night to allow us to rest. We returned the axe to the Queen's courtiers (we didn't get to meet Her Highness ourselves). Another Elven Queen icon 5 got burned as the courtiers asked Amras to keep an eye on Sartheen, partly because of his potential occult importance as the only red Dragonic. Sartheen met a mysterious elven monk with tatoos but did not manage to find out who he was or what he wanted. This could have been another icon die being burned.

Jordan Young, Pirate Bard
Jordan drank far too much rum and passed out, but not before he was approached by elves who asked him to steal Glazentorg back from the Queen, for an unspecified 'mutual friend'. Sadly, Jordan was too drunk to really carry on with the conversation. We also heard rumours that the Diabolist has a spy in the court (that was the Diabolist icon 5 roll going in, I suspect), but noone seemed to know who it was (Sartheen suspects one of the dark elves, Amras keeps his own counsel).

We were then asked by the Queen's agents to investigate the appearence of strange, floating, starfish like entities in the eastern part of her domain (after we were reimbursed for returning the axe). The Queen's rangers had managed to kill one of them, and showed us its body. Accompanied by one of her rangers, we pressed on into the eastern woods, where we managed to ambush one of the creatures and slew it (some miscommunication occurred here, as Sartheen was trying to capture it using a net trap but Amras nuked it with his magic). We also started to encouter what looked like the ghost of an old man, appearing at night and seemingly warning us to turn back. We have no idea who this is, although there was some speculation from Jordan that he is a projection of the Arch Mage.

The forest started to get mistier and visibility dropped to less than 30 feet. Efforts to create more visibility by lighting our torches proved ineffective. We then encountered another monstrous floating starfish which we also managed to kill. By blundering around in the fog, we figured out that the mist lies in a roughly circular pattern and gets denser the further towards its heart you walk. Before long visibility was down to less than five feet. Feeling vulnerable, we roped the party together, with Rarity leading and Amras in the middle (our elven ranger ally brought up the rear). The ground started to rise, as if we were approaching some kind of large crater, but then turned to worked stone bricks under our feet.

Proceeding cautiously up what seemed to be a ramp, we came to the edge of a precipice. Rarity toppled over it, and ended up dangling over the precipice. She can see she is hanging over what looks like the top of a tower, which is slanting at an angle. We have not walked up a ramp, but the side of a tower that has toppled over. And there's another star fish lurking in the mist...

Friday, 11 April 2014

D&D Next - how to make it a winner

My thoughts have been turning to the next iteration of Dungeons and Dragons recently, which I'll call Next for the sake of simplicity, even if this risks confusing it with a chain of fashion stores here in the UK! It is finally heaving into view and with it I expect there to be plenty of excitement and also controversy, as the owner of a well-loved brand unveils its newest take on the original RPG system. There are. however, many vociferous doubters, particularly as 4e, Next's predecessor, left a bad taste in the mouth for many gamers.

Dungeons and Dragons is a bit like a village. Residents come and go, some never to return. The village also inevitably changes over time, partly due to a succession of mayors or builders, and partly through the activities of its residents. While the original settlers might still recognise the settlement they founded, much has changed as well. A new edition has to recognise this.

The game itself, if it is to be successful, has to be able to speak to the old school crowd that has reverted to playing the simpler game of their youth, those who joined in the 1990s or 2000s and are now probably playing Pathfinder, and also the more recent recruits who have come aboard with 4e or have been converted to it.

This is no easy task, but it could be achieved by starting with a simpler structure that resembles the old school clones like Labyrinth Lord, and then grafting on to it optional feats and a skill system, and finally some kind of more advanced system of combat powers. Groups can then pick and choose which components they would like. Basic style game but with skills? Check. Feats but no prestige classes? Check. Wizards could then expand different aspects of the game with new supplements, like a book of feats, a book of dungeoneering equipment, a book advanced player character races, etc.

One of the things that irritated me about 3e was the way feats and prestige classes were littered across numerous books. Luckily the online SRD has fixed much of this, but still, having everything you need in one volume has its advantages.

Secondly, the other big selling point should be the resurrection of many of the game's more successful commercial properties. While the choice of the Forgotten Realms as the default setting was obvious, money could be made by re-launching many of the best-loved worlds the game has brought to life, including Eberron, Athas, Ravenloft and Sigil. Heck, even Greyhawk can get the old school treatment! Each of these properties has thousands of fans who would be looking to catch up on and game in the worlds they use to delve into in earlier days.

Heck, I've not played any Dark Sun or Planescape, but I'd be interested in giving them a go at some point, just because I've heard so many good things about them.

And let's not forget the opportunities for additional spin-off merchandising, like miniatures, board games, war games, video games, etc. Wizards should really be seeking to utilise the re-launch of the game as a multi-platform effort, embracing a range of different delivery mechanisms.

Of course, they may already have plans for all of the above, which would be GREAT! Then at least the game would stand a good chance of success. If not, heck, I'll go write my own.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

13th Age - first impressions

We had our first crack at 13th Age last week and came away with mixed impressions. We played through the scenario in the rule book with five first level player characters. I'm not going to spend any time on that scenario, but will instead provide my initial impressions of the game and what we were hoping to get from it.

In terms of background, our group has been playing a lot of Pathfinder, and we like the system. We have also played 4e Dungeons and Dragons, and were less impressed with that, for a range of reasons. I went into detail on this in my blog post on Pathfinder versus 4e.

With 13th Age I was looking for something with less complexity than Pathfinder and more emphasis on story elements and social interaction than 3e or 4e, which still lean towards a chain of combat to resolve adventures (unless you magic jar the big boss at the end of the campaign, but that's another story).

I'll go into our characters and their backgrounds in more detail in a later post, but here's what I liked about 13th Age:

I loved the icons and the way the characters can interact with these Great Powers of the campaign world. I also like the way the system can demand the GM bring these relationships into the campaign. This smells a bit like the World of Darkness, where clans / tribes played a big role in determining the politics and dynamics of the entire campaign, and players could align their characters with these powers. The same holds true for 13th Age, except you can have negative or ambiguous relationships with icons that can still benefit you.

The Three - one of the icons in 13th Age.

I also like the One Unique Thing mechanic in 13th Age, which really forces players to think about why their character is important, what makes him or her different, rather than churning out another bog standard first level rogue...this really adds colour to the characters, and in the case of my PC, quite literally (more on that later). This also replaces the alignment system, which I felt was getting a tad creaky in Pathfinder. Sadly, the alignment system is still integral to Pathfinder, and it would be hard to carve it out and replace it with icons.

I also have to say I like the way the skill system has been dropped in favour of backgrounds, and again, players are encouraged to free-form backgrounds and extrapolate skill bonuses from them. Awesome!

Armour and weapons have also been simplified, so that it feels less like a war game and has taken another step away from war gaming. And many of the nitty gritty intricacies of grid-based battles introduced in 2000 with 3e have been dropped. Fights feel less like chess, although we are still using miniatures in our game.

Finally, the escalation die, which makes it easier for characters to hit the bad dudes the longer a fight goes on, addresses the beef many players had with 4e - i.e. battles could grind down into slug fests that could consume an entire evening (although I didn't notice this personally). In our session we went through two battles, one of which would, I think, have taken much longer to play out with Pathfinder. I reckon in an average 3-4 hour evening's play, you could get through two or three decent armed encounters with these rules, which is pretty good.

Now here's what I don't like:

There is more than a resemblance to 4e here. If you play a character, you need to get to know their various powers REAL well. And running another player's character while he / she is away from the table, as sometimes happens with our group, can be a real headache! Many of the powers are sufficiently detailed that you have to be very familiar with them to get them to work properly. Some of them, are, however, extremely good - e.g. the Shadow Walk talent the Rogue gets access to. It makes it entertaining to play these characters at 1st level, while with Pathfinder you are still struggling to stay alive.

The Lich King - another icon
There are some odd abstractions, like limiting characters to one magic item per level, but that's not a deal breaker for me, and you can always simply drop that rule if you so choose.

I've no idea how difficult this game is to run, but it strikes me that it could be easier than Pathfinder, or it could be harder, especially if you are running a fight with a number of high level NPCs. I can see that becoming a real headache if one is not careful. Plus, the onus is on the GM to respond quickly to PC involvement with the icons and introduce them as plot elements. This is not a game, I fear, for inexperienced GMs.

13th Age is sitting in a very interesting place in the market right now, where it could potentially poach groups away from both Pathfinder and 4e, and in advance of the arrival of 5e. Whether it could remain a go-to system for gamers post-5e is an open question, but I for one really appreciate many of the story-driven elements that have been introduced here.

13th Age is not Pathfinder. They are quite different games. I feel there are some types of campaign which will still work better with Pathfinder rather than 13th Age (e.g. the mega dungeon). But 13th Age does feel like a better version of 4e. Some of the baggage is still there, but many of the edges have been sanded off.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Quiet Year - post-apocalyptic community-driven story telling

"We're on the road to nowhere..."

I recently stumbled across a rather intriguing - albeit over-priced - game called The Quiet Year. It is the creation of Avery Mcdaldno at Buried Without Ceremony, although you can still find a copy of it at Leisure Games if you live in the UK. I've been reading at bit of Robin Laws' Hillfolk recently, a game I'd still like to run at some point (although I'm currently prepping for an upcoming Deadlands Noir mini-campaign), and I realise that Hillfolk, as a story-telling game, may require quite a big jump for people who might have been used to traditional RPGs where the GM exercises a large degree of control over the setting and the plot.

I touched on this aspect of player-driven narrative a little when I ran Cold City and later Hot War , but in both cases I think we did not really get sufficiently under the skin of these games. These settings were, frankly, awesome, but we tended to play them as if we were playing Call of Cthulhu. More recently, I've been experimenting with adventure cards in Savage Worlds, which I like because of the way they introduce more of an element of plot control for the players. I felt these worked really well in a recent pulp game I ran, andI plan to employ them again when I run Deadlands Noir.

The Quiet Year - not just about one man and his dog!

Which brings me to The Quiet Year. TQY, as I shall refer to it, is not an RPG but nor is it a card game. It uses a post-apocalyptic setting, and players work together using a deck of cards and a map, to chronicle the events surrounding a struggling community of 60-80 human beings trying to survive after an apocalypse. There is no GM. Players work together to create the environment and the surroundings of their community. The map is also used to record events and revelations in the course of the game.

The 'quiet year' of the title is divided up into four seasons: each suit of cards represents one season, with play beginning in spring. Players take it in turns to draw cards which begin to build the setting and the story, introducing characters and situations. There is minimal preparation time required, and the whole game is very rules light, focusing much more on the narrative. There is no pre-written plot, it is very much driven by the players and the cards. I can see how you could do something very similar for colonists on a new world, as in the TV series Outlanders.

Two other mechanics are used apart from the cards: tokens are used to track tensions within the community, and dice are used to track the progress of any projects the community attempts (each project - e.g. digging a well - can take between 1-6 weeks to complete).

You don't play just one character in TQY - you can play several. Characters emerge in the course of the story, and their fate can be determined by more than one player. The game is community-driven, not character driven. In Hillfolk you still have one character to manager, in TQY you oversee the entire community of survivors.

TQY is definitely not Mad Max. It feels more like Jericho (the TV series) or The Road meets The Village. I would not say it is NOT depressing, it is a post-apocalyptic game after all, but whether you have biker gangs in it - or not - is down to the players. One of its more appealing aspects for me is that you can play TQY, from start to finish, in one evening. It does not require a huge amount of time allotted to it over several sessions, and this I like. It IS expensive for what you get, at least in the UK, and here it may fall down. I'm also not sufficiently clear on whether the community should suffer penalties for higher levels of intra-community tension - there doesn't seem to be one. Perhaps the community fragments once you run out of tension tokens? One to consider.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Enemy Within - another season rumoured....

Well, our Enemy Within 2.0 campaign has finished. Those still interested in what happened in the closing stages of the campaign are advised to visit our GM's excellent blog, where he tells all, often with his spectacular illustrations to support his tale. As regular visitors to this blog will know, we were playing the Fantasy Flight version of the campaign, with the old 2.0 version of the game, as our group is composed of both grognards and newbies (although we just generally prefer this edition).

Having played a character all the way through the campaign, I'd like to deliver my impressions on the WFRP 2.0 rules system in particular, but also on the TEW campaign.

Let's start with the campaign. I'm not going to include many spoilers here, and I also have to say I'm not sure exactly how much of what we encountered was slung at us by our GM, and how much stemmed from the written plot.

At the beginning of the campaign we had to answer quite a few background questions, which I thought was great, as it really helped to set the scene. Why were the characters in Averheim to start with? What was their relationship to each other, and to the major NPCs? I feel this is a superb way to start a campaign, as it helps integrate the characters into the plot from the first whistle, rather than have them all stumble into each other in a smokey tavern. We focused less on our background and relationships as the campaign continued, and the characters became more embroiled in the plot. Some of our back stories - like Magnar's mysterious disgrace and exile, or Rudiger's quest for his missing brother - were touched on but didn't become major plot elements. I guess this will always be the case in a published scenario, but hope that some threads might get explored further should another story arc be in the offing.

I was impressed how the PCs became considerably more powerful as they entered their third or fourth careers. They did not possess the power levels of a mid-level Pathfinder party, but they were still able to do a considerable amount of damage, and even when split into two groups and attacked at separate locations, inflicted suitable amounts of carnage (e.g. tackling Chaos Beastmen and Trolls at locations separated by several miles of forest).

The campaign involved more fighting than I expected - I had been led to believe that the power levels in WFRP were more akin to a game like Call of Cthulhu, but am revising my opinions. In just one trip down the river from Middenheim to Altdorf we had a number of bloody encounters, including an ambush by orcs which nearly did for us.

Healing was more of a problem. PCs that get hurt in WFRP stay hurt, unless like us you spend a lot of money with the priestesses of Shallya or retain a surgeon as part of your party. This latter option served us well, and I really don't see how it would be possible to complete a campaign of this scope without at least one surgeon or doctor traveling with the group. Honest.
We never worked out who this was...

Where I think we missed an opportunity is perhaps with the career system. From a player's perspective, this is a big part of a campaign, as it represents character advancement and the expenditure of XP. Acquiring the right trappings becomes critical, and forms the focus of any shopping expedition. But some careers also require that other objectives are met - a Troll Slayer needs to kill a Giant to become a Giant Slayer. If you're playing a Troll Slayer in a campaign with no giants in it, then you're a tad stuck, as this is, IIRC, the only career exit for a Troll Slayer. Luckily, our Troll Slayer Thorek managed to track down some forest Giants who obligingly allowed themselves to be slain in the interests of career progression, but he died within sight of the 'demon of note' he needed for the Demon Slayer career.

My character Rudiger forced a side-quest to go rob some tombs when he became a Tomb Robber (all in the interests of proper role playing, although IIRC Magnar was also interested in looting tombs for armour), although sadly no vampires were forthcoming once Rudiger graduated to Vampire Hunter (I still expected one to manifest in Altdorf towards the end there).

I like the career progression in WFRP, don't get me wrong. I think it provides more - realistic - characters than the level based advancement of Pathfinder. The careers also deliver more of a flavour of the Warhammer Old World and its people. And they don't feel at all 'samey'. But as a player you always have one eye on your character's motivation - why did Rudiger Adler become a Vampire Hunter? I justified this on the basis of the encounters with the undead in the barrow we raided in Stirland. The shift represented Rudiger's growing awareness of the evil in the world, and the need to stop it, rather than his previous focus in Averheim on simply making enough money to get by. His Road to Damascus moment probably came in Middenheim, when he turned his back on the opportunity for some skulduggery to become a Vampire Hunter.

Rudiger on the prowl!
The careers, as with Traveller, also provide your character with a richer background to look back on. Hence, Rudiger was an Outlaw in Averland (having deserted from the Mad Count's army after the Battle of Black Fire Pass), then became a Thief in Averheim with his brother Ralf and Magnar (another PC). Entering the service of the Elf Lord Aelric (yes, another PC), he turned to tomb robbing, before finally dedicating himself to vampire hunting in the later stages of the campaign (although really he was on the trail of a Chaos conspiracy).

All in all, I really enjoyed this campaign. I didn't have a clue what was going on half the time, and it really only all fell into place right in the penultimate session. We lost one PC (Thorek) and another looks doomed to become a Chaos mutant spawn sooner rather than later, but hey, that's WFRP! Our GM is also muttering about continuing the campaign in a second season, focusing on the new overlord of Black Fire Pass (Aelric), but he'll have to talk to the studio bosses about funding!