What’s Been Happening? Part II Sunday, May 1 2011 

Since the events of last post, it’s been relatively clear sailing.

Old friend Adam R rather nicely invited me to see Sir Terry Pratchett speak at the Sydney Opera House, and a good time was had by all and sundry. I’ve been meaning to catch Pratchett ever since I was wee lad in Canberra, and was glad to get the chance before his Alzheimer’s exacts too great a toll.

I’ve had a short story published in Issue 19 of The Unspeakable Oath, which you can pick up in PDF, or in PDF and in print. Look for Dying Sunlight at the back of the magazine. To my knowledge, it’s the only Call of Cthulhu-related magazine currently in print, so if you’re you’re a fan of the game, please give it a look.

(No word on the fate of God Wills It Thus, however. I’m not holding out too much hope, but stranger things have happened…)

I’m also bandying about an idea for Chaosium’s 2011 Halloween Adventure Contest. Hopefully, I can get something written and playtested before the July deadline. (I also have an idea-and-a-bit for one or more MULA Monographs, but they’ll be well down the track: I need to establish a regular gaming group first.)

In other gaming related news, I attended Eyecon 2011 on Easter/ANZAC Day weekend, in and around long train commutes and the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Martin Place. Not much sleep was to be had, but the games more than made up for it. Aside from my usual staple of D&D4e Living Forgotten Realms modules, I also played the vaguely OD&D-inspired Gencon 1976 and got my first taste of GUMSHOE-powered Mutant City Blues with Law & Order: Heightened Crimes Unit.

(Katana Geldar gives a good summary of the con over at Level 1 GM, incidentally. I played Law & Order and a D&D4e game or two with her, and yes, that is my shiny pate at the bottom left of her con photo. My male-pattern baldness is famous now.)

Starting from June, I’ll be helping run Living Forgotten Realms games at Blacktown Games Day. They’re running a little short of GMs at the moment, and well, it suddenly struck me that it’s been nearly six friggin’ years since the events of the Three Years of Sundays (here and here) burnt me out.

I need to hop back on that particular horse. And besides, I’d like to get a fortnightly group going. Playtest some stuff. Maybe even run an epic Warhammer FRP 2e campaign.

And that’s about it, so far. We still need to get the rest of our stuff from Young and Cowra, and now that there’s actually work available, I need to get myself a job. Mim needs to recover from her ailments. Charmaine needs to adjust to the madhouse she’s found herself in. And the cats need to settle into their new home.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to blog in the near future, but you can always keep track of me via Twitter.

Odd Dreams are Made of This Sunday, Apr 25 2010 

Not long after getting back from today’s ANZAC Day dawn service—my first since we moved out to the country—I settled in for a nap. And, as often happens when I sleep during the day, a very odd dream loomed out of the aether to disturb my rest.

I don’t remember all of my dream, but it included such highlights as:

  • a TV news segment on a man in India who’d spent the past 20 to 25 years trying to make the most disturbing entrée ever, in this case, a bouillabaisse consisting largely of Shub-Niggurath;
  • an arthouse porn film called Sous-Vide, in which a woman in a sleeping bag spent the entire movie sitting in a jacuzzi, doing nothing—I told you it was arthouse; and
  • game designer Steve Darlington retiring to write full-time on the royalties from the operating system that ran this port of Photoshop.

This is what happens when I don’t get coffee after a dawn service. I really should stop going to bed at 2AM when I have a 4AM start that morning.

Titles of the Holy Roman Empire Monday, Feb 15 2010 

Some time ago, I posted something resembling the following on Fantasy Flight‘s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay forum. Given the new edition, it’s probably long disappeared into the ether, so—on the off chance that somebody out there might find it useful—I present it here.

The nobility in Warhammer doesn’t precisely reflect that of the historical Holy Roman Empire (or HRE), but it’s a reasonably close match. At the top, of course, we have the Emperor (or Kaiser).

The German language has two separate terms for sovereign princes (Kürfurst) and princes-of-the-blood (Prinz). The former would probably be the most appropriate title for Warhammer‘s Electors, and the latter for members of the Imperial family.

Though popular with its neighbours, the title of Grand Duke was rarely used within the HRE. The notable exception is the title that Pope Pius V bestowed on the Medici family in Tuscany, at the time subject to the HRE; most Grand Duchies, however, date from Napoleon’s conquest of central Europe. Outside the HRE, there were Grand Dukes in Sweden, Poland, Lithuania and Russia, although these might be more properly referred to as Grand Princes; the title of Grand Prince is also historically associated with Transylvania.

Although there were Archdukes in the HRE, the title was exclusively associated with the Habsburgs.

Where German nobility comes into its own, though is in its system of Grafen or Counts. Initially, as in other lands, titles bore little relationship to each other; only later was an order of precedence (roughly reproduced below) imposed. Note that many of the titles also came with duties attached:

  • Markgraf (“border count”): often had military duties attached, stemming from the margraviate’s location at the edge of the empire. Being at the edges of the empire also meant opportunities to extend his domain.
  • Landgraf (“provincial count”): governs a large area, and is subject directly to the Emperor, rather than an intermediate lord.
  • Reichsgraf (“imperial count”): a Graf who, like a Landgraf, is subject directly to the Emperor.
  • Pfalzgraf (“count palatine”): manages an imperial palace and the lands that support it. Often, the Emperor would travel around the empire, rather than hold court at a single, central location.
  • Altgraf (“senior count”): a Graf of (slightly) senior rank; very rare, and historically only used by one family to differentiate their senior branch.
  • Graf (“count”).
  • Burggraf (“castle count”): governs a castle or a fortified town.
  • Vizegraf (“viscount”): a subordinate Graf, or the heir to a Graf. (The latter might also be styled Burggraf or Erbgraf; “erb-” being a prefix for hereditary or heir to [a title].)

A number of other Graf-type titles existed. A Sendgraf was an imperial envoy, whilst a Hofpfalzgraf assisted the Emperor in carrying out his duties of state; they were mostly offices, rather than titles. Wildgraf, Raugraf and Rheingraf were titles only used in connection to particular fiefs (strangely enough, by junior branches of the same family who held the lone altgraviate). A Freigraf held his lands and title free from feudal overlordship.

Beneath the Grafen were the barons and Freiherren. Originally separate titles, Freiherren (like Freigrafen, above) held their lands and title free from feudal obligation, rather than receiving them from an overlord, and then later swearing loyalty to the crown. Over time, however, the distinction vanished, Freiherr becoming the more common title. Reichsfreiherren (“imperial barons”) were subject directly to the Emperor (see “Reichsgraf,” above), and ranked slightly above other barons.

There were several ranks beneath barons; although considered nobility in the HRE, their English equivalent might more properly be considered hereditary gentry. Again, in descending order:

  • Ritter (“knight”): a closer English equivalent would be baronet.
  • Edler (“noble”): rough equivalent of the English “lord,” where the person addressed is of the nobility but lacks a greater title.
  • Junker (“junior lord”): rough equivalent of the English country gent.
  • Erbherr (“hereditary lord”): rough equivalent of the French seigneur or the English esquire.

Note that these titles were all generally hereditary.

Although Edler was considered the lowest actual rank of the nobility, Junkers were also permitted to use a nobiliary particle (such as “von,” “zu,” etc.). Junkers, however, usually only had the particle prepended to their surname; Ritters and Edlers were styled “Ritter von [surname]” and “Edler von [surname],” respectively.

Where I’ll Be at GenCon Oz Wednesday, Aug 26 2009 

In which our intrepid hero outlines a beaver’s itinerary.

GenCon Oz looks to be less hectic than it was last year, which is both a good and a bad thing. Last year, I ended up hobbling from event to event, grimacing with tremendous back pain, and sweaty and bloated from a toxic reaction to painkillers. I wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least I still smelled better than about 70% of the con.

On the other hand, the con itself is smaller, and whereas it boasted names like Tracy and Laura Hickman, Robin Laws and Peter Adkison last year (the latter pictured at right with Beave), Robert Picardo tops the bill in 2009 (who, incidentally, I still think of as “the cowboy guy” from Innerspace—now, I’m showing my age).

Only very lately does the website mention that Eberron creator Keith Baker and Paizo‘s Jason Bulmahn will be there, along with homegrown talent Steve Darlington (AKA SteveD) and David Conyers.

Either there are far fewer seminars this year, or they’re much worse at organising them. My gaming schedule is much heavier than it was last year, when I bulked out my weekend with seminars. But none of the five or so seminars listed when I booked everything this time around appealed to me, and the one I did want to attend wasn’t listed yet, either. I imagine—since I did the right thing and booked early—that seminars will start to appear en masse on the GenCon Oz rego site now. Sucks to be an early adopter.

Bitching done, so on the off chance that anyone reading this would like to catch up and say hi at GenCon Oz, here’s my schedule for the weekend:

  • Thu Sep 17, 2pm-11pm: Stirring the Embers. My main reason for playing this (and Burning Scent, below) is that I’m itching to try out the monk class from the PHB3 preview, but don’t want to take too much of the spotlight away from my regular Living Forgotten Realms character. Plus, I’m curious to see how the six-double-session Embers of Dawn story arc develops—a much longer arc, it seems, than any previous quests in LFR.
  • Fri Sep 18, 9am-5pm: Dark Age of Nerath. Normally, I’d be more inclined to try out some indie games, but I have an ongoing discussion with a con organiser here in Sydney regarding D&D4e. She claims (not without reason) that there’s no demand at gaming conventions for D&D games lasting more than 4 hours, whereas I contend that many of the perceived problems with 4e actually stem from poor GMing and LFR’s rigid writers’ guidelines.As an 8-hour, non-RPGA, D&D4e event, Dark Age is the perfect opportunity to test both hypotheses.
  • Sat Sep 19, 9am-1pm: Ghosts of the Past. Since Mim K/W can’t make it to GenCon Oz, I guess I have to do something to convince myself it isn’t a holiday. Hopefully, Ghosts may be sufficient to nudge my aforementioned, regular LFR character—Deus X, the warforged invoker of Gond-cum-artificer—somewhere up into the higher reaches of level 6. See? Character maintenance is hard work!
  • Sat Sep 19, 2pm-5.30pm: Miser’s Run. The blurb for Miser’s promises gritty, low-fantasy action. Given that D&D4e—moreso than other editions of the game—strikes me as particularly high-magic sword-and-sorcery, I’m curious as to whether the designer pulls this off purely through narration, by limiting PC choices to martial characters, or through the skillful application of system-mechanics jiggerypokery.Consider this a research mission. Or, at the very least, a prime opportunity to use the word jiggerypokery in a sentence.
  • Sat Sep 19, 7pm-11pm: Jailbreak. I’ve been a fan of Unknown Armies forever, and Jailbreak is the iconic UA convention scenario. Given the speed with which it sold out, I guess that I’ll be playing with other UA fans—something of a rarity here in Australia, but a very welcome change. Last time I played UA at a con, some three or four years ago, the other players seemed to think it was some sort of permutation of d20 Modern.Not long after I booked the slot, however, SteveD reminded me of his WHFRP freeform, Sunset Claws. But as I was about to change the booking, I discovered that Mim K/W had paid the phone bill with my debit card, so I was pretty much broke. That, and the fact that it’s a costume freeform—and therefore would entail time, money and luggage weight I don’t currently have—sort of ruled it out. Which is a damn shame, as Beaver already has the perfect halberdier uniform to go with it.

    All that said, however, SteveD’s a great writer and a great guy, and you could do much, much worse than spending three hours in his capable care. Give the characters a look and grab yourself a spot.

  • Sun Sep 20, 9am-5pm: The Burning Scent of Perfumed Swords. Part two of the Embers of Dawn mini-campaign (see Stirring the Embers, above), which we antipodean RPGAers apparently get a few days ahead of everyone else. Woot. Does anyone else’s Freud gland go haywire when they read that title?

If you’d still like to catch up, but aren’t playing in any of the above, then I should be pretty easy to spot around the con—I’ll be the guy conspicuously displaying his plush beaver. Which sounds a lot worse than it is, I admit.

Of course, there’s a possibility that more than one beaver-wielding freak will be in attendance; on the other hand, if the universe sees fit to inflict a surfeit of plush beavers on the one unsuspecting con, then who am I to rectify the ensuing chaos?

Too Late for Christmas Monday, Nov 24 2008 

In which our intrepid hero crosses a couple of Warhammer FRP books off his wishlist.

I just took a saunter over to FFG‘s relatively recently renovated site, in the vague hope that I might find something newish and interesting in time for Yuletide, such as the alluded-to Shades of Empire or Career Compendium for WHFRP.

Sadly not—Shades won’t be out until January; Creatures Anathema (for Dark Heresy) will be out around the same time. So neither will be in my Solstice tentacle. Oh well, it’s not as if I was good for a whole year anyway.

(In the interim, though, another Dark Heresy book will come out: Disciples of the Dark Gods releases this month, and should be on shelves out here in the Antipodes sometime before Christmas 2150. Just order it direct from FFG. Seriously.

Who knows when the Career Compendium is due.)

Tangential to Shades of Empire, co-author Steve D (interviewed here and appearing with our very own Beaver) has mint-condition, autographed copies of WHFRP sourcebooks Night’s Dark Masters, Realm of the Ice Queen and The Warhammer Companion for sale; you can check it out on his blog here.

No, I mean go there now. Give yourself (or someone you love) the gift of Warhammer this Christmas. And give Steve the gift of cold, hard cash so he can buy something he wants but otherwise couldn’t justify to himself.

His soul bleeds so he can bring you gamerly goodness. Buy his stuff. Now.

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