Monday 4 June 2012

FFS: Old World Real Estate

Off the back of a recent discussion over at the Lead Adventure Forum, I identified one of the things that triggered my disenchantment with Warhammer 8th ed. The discussion was very interesting, and included the valuable opinion of one Andy Hoare, game designer extraordinaire and one time employee of the Games Workshop design studio. Apparently his contribution to 8th ed. was very small, so we can forgive him his sins and offer him the respect he deserves - no hate mail, please.

I mention Andy not as a name drop of my brief dalliance with game design stardom, but rather, to add credence to the fact that a good discussion was had. Many opinions are present. Did I mention the time a man who looked an awful lot like Rick Priestly touched me inappropriately in a crowded tube once?

Anyway, the thing that I realised was about the bizarre workings of terrain in 8th edition. In the argument, I summarised briefly the story of a poor Imperial village baker, Hans von Bloodskullspikenstein (it seemed like a suitable name for 8th ed - it includes all their favourite things) and how the scenery around his house might affect him. I thought I might explore that story a bit more.

Lets listen in:


"Well, Mr Von Bloodskullspikenstein, as you can see, I've kept the best for last," Walther Dragonskullsplitter said. "It's a four bedroom manor house, separate ablution block, private well and it even has it's very own fortified tower. Let's just stand here and drink it in, shall we?"

Hans looked up at the behemoth. How the hell was he going to pay for that? He was just a humble baker, and the village only had about two hundred inhabitants. He'd have to bake two thousand loaves a day to pay for that, surely? The last two places they'd looked at had been single room flats. The last one was fifteen feet underground, didn't have any windows, and doubled as the neighbouring property's cess pit overflow - and he could barely afford that one. It dawned on him the reason why everyone hated estate agents.

"Its - its quite large, isn't it?" he stammered. 

"Go on. Ask me. Ask me the question." Walther beamed at Hans, nodding and grinning.

"To be honest, Mr Dragonskullsplitter, I think it's out of my price range."

"Ah, but Hans, old buddy, old pal - how long have we known each other now? Would I do such a thing? I am not so callous as to mock your frankly laughable price limit, am I? That's just mean - go on, ask the question."

Hans wasn't sure how or when he'd crossed the 'old buddy, old pal' bridge with Walther, but he was fairly sure he'd never met the ingrate before today.  

"Okay - how much is it?" he asked, wincing.

"How much for this place? This one right here?" Walther waved expansively at the property. 

Hans blinked. "Yes. How much for that one. The only property out here," he said, as he looked around at the abandoned forest flanking each side of the house and back at the dilapidated road that led here. 

Walther placed an arm over Hans' shoulder and swept him through the front gate towards the imposing front door. "This place, my good sir, is dreadfully expensive. Before I came here, and negotiated with the landlord - all for you, of course - it was said that the rent here rivalled the running costs of the Imperial Palace!-"

"Bollocks," Hans blurted. 

Walther looked wounded. "Hans, Hans, Hans. Mr Von Bloodskullspikenestein, even, seeing as how our relationship sours with every word you say - you wound me to the core! Let me finish, let me finish.  Good sir, perhaps I have been dramatic in my estimation. Imperial Palace? Okay, okay, you've got me - a little bit of creative license. Would I show you a place your paltry income could not cover? Why, Hans, even on our way here, if you had but asked about any of the houses we passed, I would have been able to show you ones you could not afford. But, that is not me. Truly, this house was devastatingly, even desperately, expensive, but now, it is affordable. Even for you, Mr Von Bloodskullspikenestein, even for you." He patted Hans on the hand. "Go on - ask me the question. Ask me."

"I think I already did."

"Ask me again. It's that special."

"How much is the bloody house?" 

"Bloody? Again, Mr Von-"

"How. Much. Is. It?" Hans hissed through clenched teeth.

Walther stepped back and looked at Hans with approving eyes. "A man who knows what he wants. Ideal! For you, Mr Von Bloodskullspikenstein, one groat. Each month, and every month thereafter, one single groat!" So broad was the grin on Walther's face that his ears disappeared around the back of his head. 

Hans was shocked. "One groat? An Imperial groat, you mean? One of these?" He produced a battered coin from his pocket. 

Walther nodded. "Correct! One of those, every month, for as long as you wish to stay! But don't decide now." He opened the front door and bundled Hans inside. "Let's first make sure the place meets your requirements!"



"So that's the place, Hans. May I call you Hans? I'm never sure where we are in this friendship of ours?"

Friendship of ours, or friendship of hours? Hans wondered. He grimaced and nodded. 

Walther jangled the keys. "You could move in tonight - as you can see, there are no occupants."

"Actually, I have some questions, if I may?"

Walther bowed, bending so far over that Hans thought for an instance he might topple over. "Of course, of course! I shall travel to the farthest corner of the world to discover the answers for you, if I don't already know them!"

"It seems awfully - cheap, for such a large place." Hans couldn't profess to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he'd done his time. He'd kept his bakery afloat during the yeast crisis of '36. When the millers went on strike in '41, he'd negotiated with elven merchants to ship flour from their own distant lands. He'd kept the mayor's sausage roll surprise fetish a close secret for many years now. Property wasn't his game, but something just didn't feel right.

"It is, it is. A very good deal, no?"

"But why is it so cheap?"

Walther's grin stalled, his face becoming expressionless. "Ah. The cost again. A man who-"

"Walther," Hans growled. 

"Yes, yes, okay. Are you a superstitious man, Mr Von Bloodskullspikenestein?"

Hans reflected on the question briefly. "No, I wouldn't say that I am. Why?"

"Well, the previous occupants have all been having problems with supernatural events, you see. Pure poppycock, of course, but that's just the sort of thing we enterprising gentlemen could capitalise on, isn't it? One man's ghost is another man's"

"Toast?" Hans suggested. 

"Yeah. Toast. That's it. Apparently, that old grade two listed building down the bottom of the garden there? The previous resident was Mrs Bluddenskulls. Have you met her before? She claimed that was a temple to the damnable gods of chaos. She claimed that one of her children went to play on the stones, was possessed by a giant daemon, and his head exploded. 

"Oh?" Hans raised an eyebrow. He knew that Mrs Bluddenskulls used to have four children. Now she had none. "So I presume that killed the child, then?"

Walther turned sombre. "Apparently, yes. Unfortuntely, when the doctor came to help, he stepped onto the stones as well, and was also possessed by a daemon. He, too, lost his head."

"Was that Dr Bloodhackenslash?" He had been missing for weeks now. 

"Again, apparently so. Of course, its complete nonsense - look at the thing. It's so small and harmless, I don't know where all these daemons would hide. If all of these people kept blowing their heads up on the thing, you wouldn't be able to see if for all the bone and brains and whatnot. Utter twaddle, if you ask me."

"Can we go and have a look?"

Walther gulped. "Er..."

He watched in horror as Hans walked towards the stone structure. Scuttling up behind him, he blurted, "What about a quick spin of the rest of the area instead? Look, there is a beautiful river, with a lovely quaint bridge. See?" Walther jabbed his finger at the dilapidated bridge. "And - there's a lovely dwarf brewery just on the other side, Let's do that instead."

Hans shrugged. "Okay."


"Okay, now the thing with the bridge is that we should only approach from this side," Walther whispered. 

"Why are you whispering?" Hans asked.

"SHHH! Shut up! Keep it down! Er... Just in case, is all," Walther forced a nervous grin. 

Hans raised an eyebrow. "Just in case of..."

"Well again, I'm sure it's completely fabricated, but you remember Mrs Bluddenskulls we were talking about earlier? Apparently - and you know her, so you know how she can make up all sorts of faerie tales - apparently, her second eldest was consumed by a huge troll that lives under the bridge." 

Walther elbowed Hans in the ribs. "I don't know where she comes up with these things! Still - let's be quiet, just in case."

"So, hang on - you're saying there're daemons in there," he pointed back to the old temple, "and trolls under that? I confess, Mr Dragonskullsplitter, I am beginning to think one groat is a little expensive..."

"Nonsense, nonsense," Walther said, patting Hans on the arm. I'm saying that Mrs Bluddenskulls is saying there are daemons in there," he pointed to the pile of rubble, "and trolls under there. Look, see how close we are to the bridge and the temple? Have any of our heads exploded? Seen any daemons? Or trolls? Utter poppycock. Not to be taken seriously. One groat is a steal!"

Hans nodded. The man had a point - both of their brains were still comfortably ensconced in their heads and no troll had yet materialised to gobble them up. 

"Let's go and look at this brewery, shall we?" Perhaps a sample of the local produce will help to convince you," Walther said, directing Hans towards the bridge. 



"Look, there's the brewery just there," Walther said with a grandiose gesture.

"Excellent!" Hans was parched. The walk had been longer than he'd anticipated. "I hope they're still op-"

"Wait!" Walther barked. "We, er...have to say a little rhyme in order to proceed. I almost forgot." He grinned sheepishly.

"We have to say a rhyme?" Hans said, his expression blank. "Let me guess, if we don't say a rhyme, then that old statue there will shoot a fireball at us, consuming our souls and damning them to hell?"

"Ah, so you've spoken to Mrs Bluddenskulls already, have you? That's what happened to her third."

Hans stared at Walther. 

"...Apparently," Walther added quickly. 

"Fine. Whatever. Say the rhyme."

Walther rummaged through his papers. "Here it is. This is what we say:

"As I was coming down the stair, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today - I wish that man would go away!"

He looked expectantly at Hans. 

Hans shook his head. "I'm not saying that."

"Hans. Mr Von Bloodskullspikenstein. Come now. Let us respect the local custom? Such a harmless phrase as that? Why, it makes me smile whenever I think of it. Are you planning to have kids one day? Imagine living just around the corner. One day, you can bring little Hans around here, telling him of the first time you heard that rhyme, and how you dodged daemons and trolls to hear it. It makes a wonderful story!"

Hans snorted. "Sure. Okay." He said the rhyme, glaring at the mossy statue, daring it to shoot so much as a sideways glance at him.

"There," Walther said cheerfully. "On we go!"


The brewery looked a little worse for wear, Hans thought. It was surrounded by low walls, which were probably higher at one point, but has since been robbed of their stones for various other purposes. The structure itself was windowless, made of a combination of timber and stone. The roof tiles were broken and the place generally carried a sense of forlornness about it. The remains of a sign ('rewe') dangled from a rusty chain, swaying gently in the breeze. 

"I dunno, Walther. That kinda looks abandoned to me?" Hans mumbled, frowning. He'd been looking forward to the beer. He moved to lean on the wall. 

Walther ran up to him, gesticulating wildly.

"No, no, no! Don't do that! Not on the walls like that!"

Hans stopped and sighed. He looked sideways at the little estate agent. "What's wrong with the brewery?"

Walther giggled nervously. "Nothing, nothing at all. Its just that - well, rumour has it that the walls are haunted. Apparently, a mischievous wizard bound the souls of any dwarf who got drunk during the working day to one hundred and one years of service. They may not leave the boundaries of the walls. They tend to get quite cross about that sort of thing.

"You remember Mrs Bluddenskulls? Lovely lady, Mrs Bluddenskulls, but boy-oh-boy can she make stories up. Her fourth child once came here for a drink. The story goes that he, also, leaned up against the walls, whereupon an angry dwarf ghost materialised out of nowhere, and gobbled up the boys hands!"

"Just his hands?"

"If Mrs Bluddenskulls is to be believed, yes. The poor boy, distressed as he was at the loss of the hands, staggered back home, but in so doing, forgot to say the rhyme we discussed earlier. Wouldn't you know it, that same statue that we ambled passed on our lovely country walk? That statue shot all manner of violent spells at the unlucky bugger. It put both his eyes out!"

Hans raised an eyebrow. "You don't say?"

"That's not all. Blinded, he knew not which way to approach the bridge, so of course, he enraged the troll that we clearly saw didn't live there when we crossed the bridge earlier today. Mrs Bluddenskulls tells me that the troll gripped the boy, bit off both his legs, and tossed the rest into the distance."

Hans' voice was deadpan. "Poor kid."

"Indeed, but his misfortune didn't end there. It just so happened that the followers of chaos had just at that moment summoned forth a hideous daemon at the ruined temple back at the house. The thing caught sight of Mrs Bluddenskulls' screaming child flying through the air, plucked him from the sky and swallowed him in one gulp, thus banishing him to one thousand and one years of the most mind tearing agony one could possibly imagine on the seventh level of hell."

Hans shrugged. "Just when it couldn't get any worse, eh?'

Walther grinned. "Exactly! Oh, I do enjoy talking to Mrs Bluddenskulls, even if she is barking mad. Anyway, that's the surrounding area. Shall we return to the house?"


"So, as you can see, what we have here is a lovely country manor, with a beautiful location on some of the most characterful countryside we have. Double garage, south facing, brass knocker, the whole shebang. All for one groat a month, available immediately, no deposit. What do you say?"

Hans looked up at the old house. There was something unsettling about it, but, come-on - one groat? It'd have to be pretty unsettling to beat that. And besides, Mrs Bluddenskulls was renowned for her delusional ranting. Come to think about it - how would she have had any kids anyway? Who the hell would have married her?

Walther smiled at Hans. He held out an open hand. 

"Um..." Hans said. 

"I'll throw in the doormat?"

Hand looked at the doormat. It had 'Hi. I'm Mat' emblazoned across its surface. He sniggered. "Okay, okay. I'll take it!"

Walther beamed up at Hans as he passed the keys over.

"You won't regret it, Mr Bloodskullspikenstein! An excellent choice indeed..."


"You know, I just don't know how that Walther does it," Pattrik Swae-See the ghost said, watching Hans accept the keys from the shadow of the ruin. 

"I know. It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?" agreed Choppychoppyfukemupbludanskullsanshitforthebludgodde the bloodthirster. "That man could sell ice to an eskimo. We ought to send him a ham or something, don't you think?"

The bloodthirster nudged Twinky the troll. Twinky was intent on biting her toenail, and didn't appear to have an opinion one way or the other. 

"Yeah," Pattrik said, "Let's send a ham..."


  1. Good stuff!
    That manor house kit is the wrong kind of ridiculous.

    I do kind of like the plastic forest kit though.

  2. I like the way you think! I have discovered your blog a few months back, and I immediately book marked it. I have lurked around for a few months and just now I have decided to post in reply:

    I think the 3rd edition was one of the better editions. The new edition (8th)is, shall we say, a step backward in time. While it is easy to dismiss the 8th edition as the same as before with a few tweaks - I think the new releases are vast change of course for Games Workshop and their game of fantasy battles.

    So while the game, as it is now, is miles away from 1987; GW needs to undue all of the damage it has done over the years. Trying to market their games like a Card Game Tournament has led the newer players to only know a tournament environment- and thus, the players are horribly crippled in the areas of creative story building.

    So while the terrain chart is rather silly - it is a building block for those players who need to be spoon-fed every bit of creativity.

  3. well written Gaj,

    Reminded me of the style my friends i roleplay in sometimes :)

    as a side note...i started to write a vent about GW in your comments section Gaj, but decided it would be better placed on the lead adventure thread.


  4. I always enjoy your amusing narratives, Gaj, and this was no exception. Starforge has hit the spot there, spoon fed creativity is something all to prevalent in modern GW games, which is a real shame as it cripples players, modellers and collectors alike. Having prepared and played a number of 3rd games in recent months (after many years of 6th, 7th and 8th) I found the whole experience utterly inspirational (and nostalgic) and rediscovered that sense of freedom that has been sadly lacking for many years.

    The 3rd edition rulesets have been called toolkits by others, and I feel that this is very true. To truly get the most out of the system (like any craftsman) you have to become proficient, even skilled, with those tools. 3rd edition has also been described as clunky and awkward to play, I disagree with this, it simply needs you to work and prepare on the game in advance, you cannot simply just pick up and play. This, obviously, is sequel to the fact that 3rd was heavily influenced by the 80s roleplaying scene with its abundance of rules, dice rolls and percentage charts.

    If you are prepared to spend time digesting the rules, creating a scenario, writing up profiles and preparing the models and scenery in a more intelligent way, 3rd edition becomes the most complex and satisfying version of Warhammer playable.

  5. A very entertaining read. I enjoyed it, thanks for posting.

  6. Thanks, chaps. Timewise, it would have been closer to the actual discussion thread on LAF, but, you know, new dad and all. At least it was posted in the same season...

    @Orlygg - you're very right. You have to be skilled with the toolset. In fact, it's that skill, or at least, the desire to attain that skill, that I refer to when I titled this blog 'Warhammer for Adults' - the 'Adults' part very much refers to the attainment of that skill. To be a mature gamer - not in years, but in toolkit, and in the dual responsibility each player has for their opponent and the fun they plan to have.

    @Starforge - following on from my comment to Orlygg - you're right. By absolving themselves of the responsibility to the other player (i.e. only responsible to the rules, as it were), these tournament players dismiss any ability to change the game to make it look more sensible. Do that enough times and you'll start seeing players becoming creatively impaired, using only the material provided by GW to shape their list. To be honest, how many peopel would bother with fluff if it didn't score points in tournaments?

    @The One - also a good point about the publicly listed company. Shareholders are some mean bitches.

    All in all, a very interesting discussion indeed.

    1. "By absolving themselves of the responsibility to the other player (i.e. only responsible to the rules, as it were), these tournament players dismiss any ability to change the game to make it look more sensible."

      This sums up the entire discussion.

  7. I don't quite get the arguement. Yes, you COULD build a giant manor house...or a chapel, watchtower and fence kit. You have to see that this is a deal wich provides you with the majority of a tables required terrain.

    So you dont like the terrain chart? Fine, dont use it, no ones making you. Walk through that thicket with no penalty. Oh, you want to use magic terrain, but don't like the GW equivelant rules? Make up your own.

    I'm not rabid GW fanboy, but I just get fed up of people complaining about everything they do. "spoonfeeding hobby" is a fairly new complaint, generally from wizened old gamers who had entire lead regiments marching across their tables on goblin green bases before the internet happened.

    8th is the first edition I have played, but I have fun doing so as the ruleset has been taken away from the competative nature Gw went with for almost a decade. After years of 40K, I can honestly say 8th is the most fun I've had in this hobby for a long while.Silly houses or millions of skulls or not.

  8. Delightful writing as usual!

    While I have never played 8th I always like to think those houses are deserted because the spookiness started after they were built.

    There is a delightful vampire hunting scenario in one of the compendiums for what, 6th edition? It has a town backed by a haunted burial mound to the northeast and a haunted graveyard to the southeast. Surely they weren't frequented by a Strigoi and ghouls when the place was being built?

    On a side note been quite intrigued by second edition lately. Just played a game where musket armed orcs were menaced by fanatical spear wielding halflings...

    Carry on! Fatherhood is the way forward!

  9. @Simonster - apologies for the late reply - the BOJ* is struggling to get to sleep, which means that we're struggling to get anything done.

    Firstly, thanks for the comment - it's great to get the other side of the story. I think you're quite lucky, if 8th ed, is your first WFB experience. You are able to consume the rules with a relatively unbiased view, and I do think the rules have been well written (as in, they're easy to consume and therefore enable one to get into the game quite well).

    In your post, you mentioned the following:

    "So you dont like the terrain chart? Fine, dont use it, no ones making you."

    Unfortunately, this is not my experience. You're right - on paper, I should be able to suggest to someone in a rational manner that the terrain rules don't make sense in this particular case, why don't we two discerning adults make up our own to suit the table and the game? I've never successfully achieved this outcome. Never.

    And I guess it goes back to my previous comment so generously highlighted by thestarforge - players these days tend to refer any responsibility for their opponent to the ruleset, thus absolving themselves of their own obligation to the opponent and their opponent's enjoyment of the game. When that happens, all you get are players who can't think outside the box anymore, causing a scenario where, if you want to play Warhammer, actually, these players can _make_ you use the terrain chart - the alternative is no Warhammer, or trying to find a different crowd who are more sensible. I explored this route before starting the blog.

    The fact that this blog is the outcome tells you how that went. The consistent pattern I found in the end is that most open minded gamers, who seemed to think the way I did, and were able to free themselves the ruleset in order to collaborate with their opponent to have fun, were people who played older editions of Warhammer (or other fantasy rule sets- none currently in production).

    In all of the previous editions of Warhammer, terrain had real tactical implications on the table. Today, I assert that the terrain rules have been unashamedly written to sell GW products. I get that - GW is a business (as pointed out by The One), but I still think they could have written some tactical effects of scenery into the game. It's not as if they had to make new ones up, they have seven previous editions to refer to.

    @MC Monkey-Dew: What's this I hear? Orcs with guns? Careful mate, the next thing you know, someone will have orcs with guns in space...