I did an interview earlier this week for the Open Design podcast and that’s up already at www.opendesignpodcast.com. One of the things we talked about was licensed games and the pitfalls of dealing with someone else’s property. Something that came up on an rpg.net thread is a case in point.
When I started designing the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, one of the biggest tasks was the presentation of the setting. The question was, what should the default era of the game be? My preference was for a period of time in between world changing events, so we could set a baseline of what the Empire and the Old World were like. However, Games Workshop was pushing one of their periodic big events for the miniatures game, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, at the time. It was called the Storm of Chaos and it was the story of a new Chaos incursion into the Empire. As far as GW was concerned, the Storm of Chaos was current events in the Warhammer world and it had to be reflected in the RPG.
So what would be the best way to use the Storm of Chaos in WFRP? What I wanted to do was set the game right before the incursion. Strange things are happening all over the Empire, there are grim portents of the future, etc. This would have allowed us to still establish the baseline of the setting. Nordland is like this, Averland is like this, and so on. We then could have provided material for playing through the Storm of the Chaos. Not in mass battles (that’s for the minis game) but certainly the disruptions of a major invasion and the sense that the End Times were here would have provided plenty of fodder for adventures. It would also have neatly separated that material out, so those not interested in using the Storm of Chaos in their campaign could build off the baseline their own way.
The snag was that by the time the RPG came out the Storm of Chaos was going to be over. GW thus wanted the RPG set in the post-invasion time period. I argued that doing so was like setting a WWII game in 1946 (by which I did not mean that WFRP was a war game, but that if such an event was to take place, you should give players a chance to experience it). That was the state of the property though so thus it had to be. So we forged ahead and I think the team did a good job and put out many excellent books. It just wasn’t an ideal starting point from my point of view. When we did the Empire sourcebook, Sigmar’s Heirs, for example, huge swathes of the northeast were described as being destroyed and depopulated. If you wanted to set your game in another period, the info provided about these areas wasn’t very useful.
Towards the end of our tenure on WFRP, Rob Schwalb and I spent some time kicking around ideas about a potential third edition of the game. We thought that a cool approach might be to present three different time periods in the core rulebook so GMs had options. I believe we suggested the Age of Three Emperors, the Enemy Within period, and then the post-Storm of Chaos era from second edition. With the end of our deal and then the dissolution of Black Industries though, that vision of third edition WFRP never moved ahead. The irony is that since then GW has stopped advancing their world timeline year to year, and now keeps the “official” year static. Such are the challenges of licensed games.
Georgetown is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. It was originally a working class area near the railroad and Boeing Field, and was home to many saloons and the original Rainier Brewery. As urban decay set in, it became just the sort of place that attracted punks, artists, bikers, roller girls, and other counter culture types. Of all the neighborhoods in Seattle, it reminds me most of my beloved Lower East Side in New York. It’s home to the Fantagraphics store and Georgetown Records, cool bars like the 9 Lb. Hammer and Jules Maes, an underground punk club called the Morgue, and good eats like Stellar Pizza, Two Tarts Bakery, and the Hallava Falafel truck. Best of all, it’s quite close to my place, being down the hill and across the freeway.
The trouble with Georgetown was that it wasn’t well-served with public transit. When Nicole or Ray would drive, it was a snap to get down there. If I wanted to go on my own, it was a big pain that required taking the bus to a different neighborhood and then backtracking to Georgetown. I was therefore delighted to discover on Sunday that the new route for the 106 bus now goes through Georgetown instead of going on the I-5. This means I can hop on a bus a few blocks from my house and go directly to Airport Way, the heart of Georgetown. The timing is excellent too because this weekend Italian hardcore legends Raw Power are playing at the Morgue and now I know I can get down there easily. Thanks, Seattle Metro!
Weeks continue to fly by. Last weekend was the Penny Arcade Expo, which by all accounts was a huge success. My PAX was more miss than hit. I woke up Saturday feeling crappy. I made it in to the con in the afternoon because I had a meeting and needed to touch base with a few people. I did what I had to do, spent maybe an hour in the exhibit hall, and then went home. Nicole and Kate stayed out for the Jonathan Coulton show and didn’t get home until 3:30 am. Sunday was a bit better but let’s just say it was no GenCon for me. Next year I need a better strategy for PAX (and not getting sick would also help). They are doing a PAX East in Boston in March and I’m considering going to that. My family is in the Boston area and I have a bunch of friends there I haven’t seen in ages. Do some business, see some people; seems like a reasonable idea.
This weekend is GwenCon, which is basically a big weekend of gaming at my former co-workers Gwen Kestrel and Andy Collin’s house. It’s a good time and chance to catch up with people from the WotC diaspora, but I think I’m going to have to skip it this year. It’s been incredibly difficult to get any good work done the past month and I really need to have a solid weekend of that if I’m going to get out from under my current task load. Three years of the two job thing is wearing me thin.
Oh, and I’m really behind on e-mail at the moment. If I owe you one, I apologize. I am trying to catch up.
I guess summer’s officially over, though it doesn’t really feel like I had one.
Seventy years ago today World War II began when Germany invaded Poland. You will likely see a lot of news items and articles that talk about the war in general and its awful cost. And that’s as it should be, but I want to talk about something that often gets lost in the big picture. We remember that the war began with the invasion of Poland but forget that six years later the UK and America themselves betrayed Poland while seeking to appease Stalin.
It is ironic because the UK and France went to war over the violation of Poland’s borders. The Soviets, while eventually joining the Allies after Germany rolled east in 1941, invaded Poland from the other side on September 17, 1939 and soon after massacred 10,000 Polish officers in the Katyn Forest. Meanwhile, those Poles who escaped continued to fight on. Polish fliers played a key role in the Battle of Britain. Polish ships fought with the British Royal Navy. Later the Polish II Corps fought in the Italian campaign and it was they who finally captured Monte Cassino. Another Polish army fought under the Soviets. And no one can forget the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 or the Warsaw Uprising of the Polish Home Army in 1944, both brutally surpressed by the Nazis.
By the end of the war the Poles had the fourth largest force under arms after the Soviet Union, America, and the UK. And yet none of these soldiers, sailors, and airmen were allowed to march in the great victory parade in London lest Stalin be offended. By this point Churchill and Roosevelt had written off Poland at the Yalta Conference, conceding it as a buffer state to Stalin. So while Poland’s freedom was worth going to war over, in the end it was given away as a bargaining chip.
The motto of the Poles was “For Our Freedom and Yours.” By helping to defend England and defeat the Nazis, they hoped to liberate their own country as well. It was not to be. So while we should remember all those who suffered and died in WWII, on today of all days we should remember the Poles, their contribution to the end of Nazi tyranny, and the terrible price they paid.