Posts Tagged ‘Warhammer’

I’m not Debbie. I’m not even Elfstar. But…

Sid Vicious, Red Box Dungeons & Dragons

Jack Chick would only fear this image more if it was the Virgin Mary

…Fantasy Heartbreaker is the number one Google result for “Elfstar.” This is, of course, thanks to the massive and generous linking of Whatever Happened to Elfstar?, far and away my most popular entry. Eight months later, I believe this is still the only Jack Chick femslash available. I’m rather proud.

Jack Chick’s original “Dark Dungeons” doesn’t even make the first page. I guess he needs to revisit his SEO strategy.

FH is also the number one result for “Warhammer BSDM.” I’m afraid the link is somewhat disappointing, though.

Thanks, everyone.

Open Monday: Does “adventurer” go on your resume?

I’ve written before about class-by-concept, in which a character class represents a distinct role in the game world. The king of this kind of design is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in which every career represents an actual profession.

What about the larger idea of the adventurer, though? In your worlds, is being a wandering sword or a dangerous archaeologist a recognized job that exists outside of the immediate player group? Do kids aspire to it like they aspire to be police officers, pimps, or computer programmers? How many adventurers are there, and how are they viewed by more settled people?

Ren Faires, Justin Bieber BDSM, and Christian singles

Fantasy Heartbreaker is now accumulating spam at about the same rate as actual comments. I’m amused by some of the subjects.

Ren Faire garb

Henry VIII, local version

Henry VIII, local version

This is kind of funny, because one of my favorite genres of fantasy gaming is what I call “ren faire fantasy.” The main characteristics of ren faire fantasy are a large, somewhat inexplicable middle class, pirates, lots of specialty shoppes, colorful clothing, and a lot of “cheeky wenches.”

Honestly, it’s kind of Warhammer FRP with less fantasy races and less James Wallis.1

Anyway, the odd bit here is that I’ve been meaning to do a discussion of ren faire fantasy and why it’s actually quite a lovely thing, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So it’s rather as if I’m getting spam from the future.2 Complete with wenches!

Christian Dating

AbstinenceIt’s nice to know that robots don’t believe all those Jack Chick stereotypes.3 A Christian Dating web site stopped by to tell me just how much they enjoyed “Dudes of Legend: How to be Fucking Awesome,” which I thought was sweet.

Unfortunately, I still have very little use for Christian dating, which if you believe this particular robot is very hard to do without the aid of their web site. I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but my involvement with Christianity has led me to believe that it’s the easiest way to meet people ever. There are weekly events packed with people looking for meaning in their lives. It does not take a fiendish time-traveling android intelligence to see the dating possibilities.

Someone Who Mistook the “Red Box” for a very different reference

I’m backing away quietly.

Pretentious Book Reviews

Vampire Player's Guide cover

This book cover is actually titled "To Pick a Rose," which I think we can all agree is pretentious. It hangs outside my office.

It was hard to figure out if this one was spam, because it pointed to an entirely innocent-seeming web site of some guy reading a lot of minor European novels in translation. The site had a decent theme, relevant comments, discussion… all pretty normal, right?

Well, except for the fact that it left repeated comments about discount motor scooters. Which, well, I can sort of imagine the guy who runs that web site riding one (Ben does, after all), but don’t really believe he’s trying to sell them on my Dungeons & Dragons blog.

I figure what actually happened is that the robot was trying to disguise itself by pointing at a legitimate web site, but it kinda fails in that it then didn’t leave any way of reaching wherever it was going to try and sell me the dodgy scooters.4


Atrocitus, Red Lantern

This is what hate does to you.

“This is about everything I have ever hated since creating my blog.”

Given that this site is, explicitly, about love and pain, I initially figured this was some kind of threat from my arch-nemesis. But it’s actually a sort of stock scam that you’d probably have to understand something about finance to even fall for.

So, let me state two things I don’t have time for here, for the edification of future bots:

  1. Hate
  2. Math more complicated than THAC0.5

“Justin Bieber would be my top! He is extremely sweet!”

I’ve been too busy wondering about a sword fight between Lady Gaga and Ziggy Stardust to really keep track of who Justin Bieber is, but I know he frequently trends on Twitter.

It’s nice to know that he’s a sweet top, though. I’ve always thought kindness was underrated in some BDSM circles.6

Those Margaret Weis Novels that aren’t Dragonlance

Aside from the link, all this one said was “I am not good at posting comments.”

Sexual Harassment Lawyers

The Legend of Zelda DS

Which of them needs the lawyer?

Sexual harassment — in the workplace, at school, and, yes, even in the gaming group — is a serious issue. We all have a responsibility to make the world a better place by stepping up and saying something about it. And yeah, we should sue the shit out of some folks along the way, agreed.

But… uhm… that post was about The Legend of Zelda.


  1. While Wallis probably wouldn’t want to be credited solely with the tone of the game, he’s the WFRP developer who declared that “If you find yourself in a WFRP adventure and not knee-deep in shit then duck, because another load is past due.” I tend to credit him with the interpretation of “grim” as “poop-covered gore-soaked farce,” which is certainly not what “grim” means in Warhammer 40k. Believe it or not, I mean this in an entirely complimentary fashion.
  2. Primary objective: Kill Sarah Connor. Secondary objective: Sell you Nigerian v1agra.
  3. Hopefully, they don’t believe in abstinence, either. Just saying.
  4. “Dodgy Scooter” is not a polite name for a halfling.
  5. THAC0 is kind of the cunnilingus of AD&D. People who don’t do it talk about what a ridiculous process it is, how they shouldn’t have to go through it to get at the “fun,” and so on. People who actually do it regard it as a necessary skill for growing up, and brag about it a lot without realizing that most everyone else is perfectly comfortable with it already.
  6. And all Warhammer circles.

Race, Class and type in the evolution of D&D

Today’s familiar model of class in fantasy games works like this:

  • Pick a race, determining base characteristics and/or available classes.
  • Pick a class, determining the majority of your character’s abilities and advancement path.

That’s the model Gary Gygax created for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the late 1970s. Although there have been variant models over the years, the race/class model has stayed dominant. We need look no farther than AD&D’s most popular successor, World of Warcraft, to see the influence.

The AD&D character model can be described thusly:

  • Character
    • Common attributes
    • Race
    • Class

However, not all earlier models of D&D character construction work that way, and looking at the evolution can be enlightening.

OD&D, Dwarves and Elves

The original D&D Men & Magic booklet describes characters principally in terms of their class. Taking a nonhuman race grants a couple of bonus abilities, but limits the character’s growth in levels. We might infer that this was meant to limit the playable lifespan of nonhuman characters. Take, for example, the dwarf:

Dwarves may opt only for the fighting class, and they may never progress beyond the 6th level (Myrmidon). Their advantages are:
  1. they have a high level of magic resistance, and they thus add four levels when rolling saving throws (a 6th level dwarf equals a 10th level human);
  2. they are the only characters ableto fully employ the +3 Magic War Hammer (explained in Volume II);
  3. they note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings; and
  4. they are able to speak the languages of Gnomes, Kobolds and Goblins in addition to the usual tongues (see LANGUAGES in this Volume).

That’s pretty close to the AD&D race/class model: choosing dwarf limits your class selection to fighting man and provides some innate abilities. It’s easy to envision two discrete entities that make up the character: dwarf and fighting man. The elf, on the other hand, changes things around:

Elves can begin as either Fighting-Men or Magic-Users and freely switch class whenever they choose, from adventure to adventure, but not during the course of a single game.

In this case, being an elf becomes an exception to the entire class scheme. The elf can, between adventures, change class. They apparently also have separate levels in each class:

However, they may not progress beyond 4th level Fighting-Man (Hero) nor 8th level Magic-User (Warlock).

So, in this case, being an elf changes the structure of the character. An elf is built like this:

  • Character (Elf)
    • Class 1 (Fighter)
    • Class 2 (Magic User)

What we can see here is that race is really an entire set of optional rules applied to a character, not an element of a consistent structure. Those rules vary with the race chosen.

Greyhawk and multiple class composition

The first supplement to Dungeons & Dragons, Greyhawk, clarifies and rewrites large sections of the rules, including those on race. In Greyhawk, dwarves again follow a model that looks like AD&D. Player character dwarves are again limited in levels, and again restricted to the fighter class.

(As a side note, NPC dwarves may be clerics, but also have level limits and can only resurrect other dwarves.)

Elves… well, elves are complicated.

Elves of 17 or 18 strength can work up as high as 5th level (Swashbuckler) and 6th level (Myrmidon) fighters respectively. Elves with an 18 intelligence can work up to as high as 9th level (Sorcerer) magic-users. Among the elves there are clerical types as high as 6th level (Bishop) who interact only with their own kind. These clerics (fighter/magic-user/cleric types) have magical ability limited to the 6th level (Magician).

Elves, then, are fighter/magic users whose progress is dictated by ability scores. However, they may also add cleric to their portfolio. But what about elven thieves?

Elven thieves work in all three categories at once (fighter, magic-user, and thief) unless they opt to never be anything other than in the thief category. Thus, experience is always distributed proportionately in the three categories even when the elf can no longer gain additional levels in a given category.

So elves have the option of being pure thieves or tri-classed fighter/magic user/thieves or tri-classed fighter/magic user/clerics. The drawbacks are levels and substantial XP drain. Half-elves look more like Men & Magic elves, being hybrid fighters/magic users. No mention is made of changing from adventure to adventure.

Hobbits must choose to be either fighters or thieves, but as thieves they get extra bonuses. The famous “halfling thief” is born, taking his heritage from luminaries like Bilbo Baggins.

With Greyhawk, then, race affects the entire way that a character is composed. It affects how many classes a character can have, what those classes are, and, arguably, how quickly the character advances in each. It also represents the first emergence of choices in character creation besides race and class: an elf player must choose whether to include cleric or thief in his portfolio, and whether to focus exclusively on thieving.

What we’ve seen so far is that D&D characters which add a race can change their composition entirely. Class itself has remained a neatly contained concept. That is, until we meet the paladin.

Greyhawk and the Paladin

With a strength of 18, a fighter may choose to be a paladin. (Whether fighters who have multiple classes due to race may choose to be a paladin is unclear.) “Paladin status” confers a host of additional benefits, with one restriction: the character must be Lawful and act lawful.

The paladin is essentially a “fighter plus,” with healing abilities, extra sensory abilities, and better saving throws. Paladins thus become the only “status” add-on in original D&D. You can see the roots of the prestige class there, but it will be many years before the idea appears again.

Holmes doesn’t weigh in

The Holmes Basic version of D&D simplifies a lot of these rules, but stops short of creating a formal relationship between race and class, or defining race as a discrete rules construct.

In Holmes, a dwarf or a halfling must be a fighter… unless, as the text suggests, you buy AD&D. (The assumption of compatibility there is interesting, suggesting that AD&D really was the advanced game, rather than an entirely separate one.)

Holmes also hints at the tantalizing possibility of the sub-class, something basic D&D will flirt with in different contexts for the rest of its run.

Moldvay and race as class

Finally, after AD&D, the Moldvay basic set decided to simplify things by making races into classes. A dwarf, then, was a fighter-like class. An elf was a class that combined elements of the fighter and the magic user. A character is composed very simply:

  • Character
    • Common attributes
    • Race or class

This carries through subsequent versions of non-Advanced D&D, including my beloved Rules Cyclopedia.

Honestly, this is my favorite approach. The AD&D route leads to the boring mini-game of race/class optimization, or to making race an essentially meaningless choice. There’s also nothing preventing GMs or supplement authors from creating variant or sub-classes of the racial classes. Gygax himself did it with the dwarven craftsman before race/class or race-as-class, and TSR would turn the concept into a running feature in the Gazetteer series.

The video game heirs to the Moldvay model include Gauntlet and, more recently, Warhammer Online.

Next: Yeah, but how did Arduin do it?