Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Warlock - Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play Nostalgia Done Right

A funny thing about the OSR, (Old School Revival - where old versions of D&D are continuously revamped and re-released.) I have all the versions of D&D on my shelves, but generally once a new D&D version is released, I rarely go back. The one exception that I can think of was a recent revisit of 4th Edition with fresh eyes. I feel like 4e was such a departure that it’s rarely evaluated based on its own merits. So, I wanted to give it another shot. I did. And I like it a lot more now than I used to. In fact, from a DM stand point 4E may be my favorite version of D&D, but I am still back now playing 5th Edition.

I know that other older players have gone into the OSR full tilt and never looked back. That’s cool. But, for me ... older version of D&D have their merits, but also their flaws, and those flaws tend to get in my way. I really haven’t seen any OSR revamp that I felt managed to keep D&D’s old-school simplicity and feel while getting rid of all its warts to create the perfect balance of old and new. I’m sure the magic combination exists. The perfect OSR version may be out there for me, but I have yet to find it. (I would be happy to hear recommendations.)

But, I’m not actually here to talk about D&D and the OSR, but rather a different old-school game. That game is Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. WFRP is I believe, currently in it’s 4th Edition. I bought the newest edition when it came out, and the one before that, and the one before that. And, I have gotten those editions to the table. And, the truth is, I like the first, the original edition, of the game the most. I no longer own any of the newer editions of WFRP. I only keep a copy of the original on my shelf.

Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way, because WFRP has not been ignored by the OSR community. There are some OSR “reboots” out there, and I want to talk about one of them. But, before I do, I want to give a nod to Zweihander. This is a good reinterpretation of the original WFRP that is readily available and a good alternative if you aren’t a fan of the most recent editions of the game. I don’t think it’s better than actual 1st Edition WFRP and I have a copy of that on my shelf, but I can still appreciate Zweihander for what it is.

Moving on, the game that I want to talk about isn’t a reboot of WFRP 1st Edition nor any other edition. The game I want to talk about takes inspiration from WFRP, but changes it in many significant ways, and yet it has really managed to grab my interest.

The game I am here to talk about is called, Warlock.

Warlock is a unique mishmash of British old-school dark fantasy RPG’s, being part WFRP and part Fighting Fantasy. (It takes its name from the classic, “The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain.”) Perhaps it is because it is such a departure from the original WFRP that I am interested in it. Like 4E D&D, I find that I am inclined to evaluate Warlock based on its own merits.

Warlock takes the career system from WFRP and hangs it on the simplicity of the Fighting Fantasy framework. It keeps the brutal critical hit tables for which WFRP is famous, but simplifies them. The damage tables are based on the type of weapon damage you do rather than tied to hit locations.

Combat is by opposed rolls and in melee both attacker and defender are subject to taking damage during an exchange. Ranged attacks are opposed by the Dodge skill. All checks are made on a 20 sided die and all damage is on a 6 sided die. Armor blocks damage, but any successful attack always inflicts at least one point of stamina. The damage die doesn’t explode like in WFRP but you will inflict double damage if your attack roll is greater than 3x your opponents roll.

There are a whole slew of skills and each of these are given values. They completely replace fixed ability scores which I think is a good thing. The only fixed abilities that aren’t skills are Stamina and Luck. You raise skills according to your chosen career and when the skill tied to your current career path that you have the lowest score in gets higher (no other skills are lower than it after it goes up) you gain +1 stamina. Luck is used like a skill and works as a sort of Saving Throw ability.

Character creation looks super straight forward. Players get thrown into their first career randomly, but you get to roll 4 times and then pick your favorite from there, which I think is a great way to do things, especially for new players who may find all the careers a bit much to consider.

After a player has gone through at least two careers and increased at least three skills to 10 or higher, the player can pick an advanced career. Advanced careers will raise skills much higher than is possible with basic careers, but a player can only take a new Advanced career if they have taken all the improvements it is possible to take in any previously chosen Advanced careers.

It all looks really good, really clean, and really simple. I will be sure to talk about this more after I get the game to the table.

Warlock makes me want to play it, and that’s the highest praise after all. 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Eli - Official Five By Five Sample Character

Here is an official sample character from the upcoming new version of Five By Five. Art is by my wonderfully talented daughter, Kaylee.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

New Five By Five is coming!

I have merged all the old content from Dreams and Dragons with this blog.

I plan to make the Dreams and Dragons blogsite: www.dreamsdragons.com into a proper publisher style front page as I work to bring a new version of Five By Five out in the coming months.

In the meantime, I hope to maintain an active discussion of my game designs over on my Facebook Group.

Feel free to join!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-9

On my Marvel-9 shelf, I have Thor #229, 234, 238, 240, 245 and 262, Uncanny X-Men #111, 119 and 143, and X-Men Annuals #3-5.
Thor #234 has art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnot. Loki has captured Thor and it’s Firelord to the rescue! In the end Thor and Loki go toe-to-toe in single combat. Thor denied access to his hammer must defeat his brother in 60 seconds or he will revert to the human form of Dr. Donald Blake! Exciting stuff!
In X-Men #111 the Beast comes in search of his former teammates to find the group entranced and working as sideshow freaks in a circus, but who could be the mastermind behind it all? This is the first issue of the X-Men drawn by John Byrne, and the beginning of one of the most lauded creative runs in comic book history. Sadly, it also means that these are some of the most expensive comics in my collection to replace. Right now I only have the three X-Men issues.
X-Men Annual #3 features a character named Arkon, who comes looking for Thor, but ends up enlisting the help of another god of thunder in the form of Storm (along with the rest of the X-Men!) The story is epic and features some of the finest George Perez artwork to ever grace a comic page.
That’s it for the Marvel Comics in my collection. Only 351 of these, with a full 649 issues yet to go!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-9

On my DC-9 shelf, I have Warlord #33-50, Warlord Annual #1, Wonder Woman #249-256, and 259, and World’s Finest Comics #247-251, 253-255, 262, 264, 266, and 270.
Warlord #50 brings to an end the villainous Deimos and my run of the title. Warlord Annual #1 has Morgan rescuing a kidnapped Princess with the assistance of the minstrel who loves her. It’s a comical romp, that feels more like traditional high fantasy than much of the series, and it’s a lot of fun!
In Wonder Woman 254, Diana is being tested by the gods and must battle the villainy of Angle Man. Angle Man is such a fun and bizarre character that I had to chose this issue.
World’s Finest Comics is an anthology title, and I almost chose issue #250 which combines the various features under one writer and artist to tell an epic length mega-story. That issue is amazing, but I like the anthology structure of the title, and perhaps the best of these in my collection is the previous issue #249. Every issue of World’s Finest Comics has shining moments, but every story in #249 approaches perfection.
World’s Finest Comics #249 has Batman and the Phantom Stranger dealing with a Superman Vampire. “Vampire of Steel” is drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, whose art makes the characters look like they are straight out of the Super Friends. It’s a style that I didn’t like as a kid, but I love it now! Ollie runs around dressed as the caped crusader after a villain cleverly deduces that Oliver Queen is Batman! “Will The Costume Make The Hero?” is beautifully illustrated by Trevor Von Eeden. The Creeper begins a run with this issue. “Moon Lady And The Monster” is written and drawn by Steve Ditko. I love Ditko’s Creeper! The Creeper is Ditko’s best character after Spider-Man. The final story of the issue is, “A Fire In The Sky!” It teams Wonder Woman up with Sgt. Rock and is illustrated by Mike Vosburg. Vosburg draws amazing looking powerful ladies, as evidenced by his incredible run on She-Hulk, and his Wonder Woman is stunning. (Oh! Let’s not forget the Jim Aparo cover!)
That's it for the DC Comics in my collection. 677 issues in all, with another 323 on my wishlist!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-8

On my Marvel-8 shelf, I have ROM Spaceknight #2-46, ROM Annual #1, and Strange Tales #178-180.
ROM Spaceknight is one of my favorite comic titles of all time. It’s an odd thing, ROM was based on a toy. Marvel doesn’t publish ROM now, because the character belongs to Hasbro. Given the ownership issues surrounding the character from the very start, one would expect that the character of ROM in a comic book would have existed in isolation, in his own pocket universe, untouched by Marvel canon.
ROM’s connection to the toy was lauded in advertisements for the toy in the early issues of the title. As a reader, I really didn’t expect ROM to interact with other characters from the Marvel Universe. But, this wasn’t the case. Marvel embraced the toy character of ROM fully and folded his story into the full glory of the Marvel Universe as it existed at the time. This was unexpectedly amazing! One of the great things about ROM was the guest appearances from the Marvel library of characters. It was unprecedented! So, for my favorite issue of ROM (among 46 favorite issues!) I am going to choose #17, which teams ROM up with the Uncanny X-Men! One of many interactions that ROM would have with the Marvel Universe! ROM Annual #1 was pretty good, and it was cool to see other artists interpret the character. The issue had two stories. The first was illustrated by Pat Broderick, and the second by Greg LaRocque. Both are stunning to look at! Strange Tales #178 was the comic that introduced me to Adam Warlock and to the amazing work of Jim Starlin. Jim’s entire run of Adam Warlock that begins here in Strange Tales and ends in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 makes up some of the best comic book work ever put to paper.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-8

On the DC-8 shelf, I have Superman #400, Superman Annual #9, Superman Family #182-184, 186-188, 190-199, 201-203, 205-209, The Teen Titans #44 and 53, The New Teen Titans #1-25, The New Teen Titans Annual #1, and The Warlord #1-32.
In order to create my “dream” comic collection, it wasn’t enough to just write down all the comics that I liked and wanted. That’s how things started, but then I had to make cuts. My dream collection is going to be 2000 books. I am just over half-way toward that goal. If I had kept every comic that I wanted to put in my collection, the wishlist might have been 5000 comics or more. I made the decision to stick with the 2000 book limit because I have the shelving for that many comics. It’s enough really. If I ever get this 2000 comic collection completed, then I might revisit things. But for now, I’m good with this goal. In order to decide what to cut and what not to cut, I established some rules and guidelines. Superman #400 is the one example of a comic that breaks my rules. My comic collection contains comics from a ten year period that begins in 1974 and ends in 1983. (For me that’s age 8 ½ to age 18 ½.) Superman #400 came out in late 1984, but, this comic is just too special to cut. It’s a super-sized anthology issue that tells stories about the “myth” that Superman leaves behind him on various cultures in the far future. It contains guest art by a whole slew of amazing talents, all the best that the comic’s industry had to offer at the time. It’s a masterpiece. Superman Annual #9 is a great issue. The lead story is written by Elliot S! Maggin (who wrote issue 400 that I just gushed about) and drawn by comics legend Alex Toth (beautifully inked by Terry Austin!) The back up story, “I Flew With Superman!” is by Curt Swan, and is a story that I have already featured in its entirety. Superman Annual #9 is a true hidden gem. Superman Family #191 is the first “68 pages with no ads” Dollar Comic and adds Superboy to the title’s host of characters. It’s the start of a solid run for the series and is one of my favorites. Teen Titans #53 is an origin issue, which I love, and also the last issue of the series. The group will come back in a few years as the New Teen Titans. And, speaking of that series, I really liked the reintroduction of the original Doom Patrol that happened in New Teen Titans #13. New Teen Titans Annual #1 draws Starfire’s war with her sister to an epic conclusion. I have already mentioned this issue, but I gotta do it again. Warlord #32 introduces the character of Shakira the cat-girl, who is my favorite character from the series.