WFRP's own journal of eclectica
As many a commentator has pointed out Warpstone has redefined what a fanzine is meant to look like with its glossy card stock cover and lush and copious artwork. Of course since its recent deal with Hogshead Publishing Warpstone has left the top ranking fanzine area and entered the more difficult pasture of the prozine.
While the previous two issues have indicated that it is possible to produce good articles and still maintain a business-like approach to the matter this issue feels like too much humdrum and not enough verve. The production values of Warpstone are always rock-solid but some of the articles have a "made-to-measure" feel to them. "The Correspondent" column feels more like copy that has been handed in for deadline rather than someone enjoying their gaming. The various lecturing articles on different aspects of the WFRP background are starting to grate, especially the poorly informed one on criminal societies.
It has been said before but why not re-iterate. You cannot make a believable criminal society if your references are "Godfather" and "Goodfellas". The writer divides his groups into clearly modern lines and then provides a "thieves cant" that is filled with modern terms and ideas. Certainly WFRP can handle a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek postmodern references but this article is neither clever or funny and therefore ends up being merely embarassing.
Still at least that writer did look up some reference material. The least John Foody could have done before writing his Pit Fighters article was read one of the "hard man" books that have been doing the rounds in the bestseller charts. His bare knuckle fighters come over more like Kirk Douglas than "The G'uvnor". The limp writing conveyed no feeling at all for such a violent and demeaning life and completely failed to address why someone might want to take up such a career.
Overall there are signs here of flagging enthusiasm and writing to quota and deadline rather than getting things right. I also noted that there were a few more typos this time around.
I think this smacks a bit of "sellout" criticism. I do not feel the articles are anywhere as near as bad as you are making out. Yes, there is a slightly prostelyizing tone to the articles but that is kind of inevitable when fans write serious articles about a ficitional background. It is certainly not as bad as some of the Middle Earth articles we have come across.
There is something true in each of your criticisms but I feel that you may have been selective in what you have chosen to pick out. The article on Warpstone for example was quite good in my opinion but seemed to be carefully worded to allow the reader to pick and chose the elements and explainations they wanted to use in their game.
The Warpstone article was better than the other articles but it did break out of character half way through to introduce a very complex (and unnecessary) system of "Warp Taint" before going back into character. I feel that there was a failure in the editing there. The editors should have moved the rules to the back of the article and consolidated the "in character" material. If I am being selective then I feel that perhaps you are making excuses by saying "Well this is better than the rest of the stuff here".
Okay so we are split over the articles but I thought that we both agreed that the scenario in this issue was quite good. To paraphase: the PC's are dragged into a "private war" between two noble families. On the eve of peace between the two aging patriachs some in their own ranks are trying to destroy the peace talks and land the fatal blow on their opponents.
I liked quite a bit of this scenario, it has a genuine Middle Ages sort of feel to it with the knights of two royal families battling it out but there is a dirtier Renaissance feel in the form of the mercenaries that both families hire to bolster their forces. It has a nice balance between high and low fantasy.
Yes I did like this scenario but I felt that it wasn't without its flaws. On the positive side, yes I liked the fact that there are noble and ignoble NPC's in both senses of the words and they all contrast nicely. The situation is very well thought out with a lot of authentic touches such as the exchange of eldest sons to begin the peace talks. The two points that I felt let it down is the poor introduction - the players see two men beset by bandits and when they go to the rescue lo and behold the guys a prince! What if they wade in and kill the bandits and their victims? What if they assume that its a private quarrel? The other is that having struck this improbable friendship the prince insists on having the PC's around but their social status prevents them from plotting and intriguing with the other noble factions. It assumes and, to an extent, forces them to aid their "patron".
A GM shouldn't have much problem re-writing the scenario to suit a slightly more political level of play though and the initial encounter could be done in any number of ways. I feel that what you are saying are nit-picks, what you do not say is that the scenario is a high tension murder mystery with the fate of a kingdom at stake. It breathes "perilious adventure in a grim fantasy style" and is a standard for good Warhammer adventures. Unlike some of the "official" adventures it also stops the PC's being tourists. They remain the focus of their own story even if they are players in a bigger story. The NPC's may rely on the players to help them but they are not mindless puppets who wait for the adventurers to clean up the whole mess.
You also don't mention how the excellent artwork blends into the text of the adventure with character portraits, a superb set of maps and a lineage handout for the two families involved.
Fair enough, it's not perfect but I suppose it is one of the best Warhammer scenarios I have seen, it is definitely a marked improvement over the scenario in Issue 8. I still feel though that the best is yet to come with Warpstone scenarios. The Marianberg scenario was good and similarly presented. With a little more leeway in the way the scenario can be handled I'd say it would be very good indeed.
Warpstone is an excellent fanzine that is making a honourable progression to prozine and doing a good job of it. It is not yet perfect but it probably best described as "solid". It has a consistent level of article quality, incredible production standards and good sense of what it is about. I would whole heartedly recommend it to any WFRP fan. The only thing that holds back a universal recommendation to all roleplayers is a slightly overly reverent and lecturing tone that some of the articles have. Some of the writers could do with remembering that they are writing for the benefit of others rather than establishing how clever they are.
Warpstone Individual Issues £3 Subs £10 Back-Issues £2.50 Warpstone C/O 5a Wolseley Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex. HA3 5RZ.