A few weeks ago I posted on making the Read/Write skill interestingly useful, but that just raises the question of language skills in general. Tim Eccles’s article on this topic in Warpstone #19 is excellent on the historical and linguistic implications of what we knew about (then-)canon, but this post, like the last one, is going to concentrate more on the in-game practicalities of the skills. Because, like with Read/Write, the exclusivity of the language skills may work in favour of flavour, so to speak, but against the kind of communication a game needs to flow:
This is an example of language problems used wonderfully, but unfortunately few of us are Simon Pegg or Edgar Wright!
By the time this post goes up I should be in a village in Tilea. I recently stumbled on the website of a landscape photographer who takes gorgeous pictures of that country. Many would be useful for games because they tend to lack obvious modern elements and he also avoids taking images of people, which might also spoil the illusion of peeking into a fantasy world. Here’s a sample to get you in the mood for running Tilean campaigns:
This post is about Fantasy Germany, but before we get to that, here’s a reminder to go support The Midderlands Kickstarter: it’s got 24 hours to run as of posting this. It’s not not-Germany but it’s definitely Warhammer!
The latest newsletter from Triple Ace Games announced that late next month (August) they’ll be Kickstarting a Holy Roman Empire sourcebook called ‘Satan’s Playground’ for their alt-history Gothic swashbuckling game All For One. Per the newsletter:
France is not the only country beset by demons. For 20 years, the Holy Roman Empire has been torn asunder by religious war stirred up by the forces of Hell and the greed of man. All for One: Satan’s Playground takes characters into a land ravaged by strife, famine, disease, and witchcraft – a land where honor means nothing and survival means everything.
I’ve got the Ubiquity version of this and many of the PDFs and it’s very fun, so I’ll definitely be backing this, but it did make me realise we have a lot of fantasy Englands, Frances, Arabias and Scandinavias, but how many fantasy Germanies are there?
We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, for a bit of promotion…
That’s too strong a word, since I’m not involved with this KS other than as a backer, but I think it must be of interest to anyone here reading about WFRP or Zweihänder. It’s a Kickstart for a, “green-hued, dark-fantasy, old-school mini-setting and bestiary set in a twisted middle-England.”
Here’s the video (warning: dubstep, but please don’t hold that against the project):
I’ve always had a bit of an issue with WFRP’s handling of the Read/Write skill, at least in its first and second editions. One of the strengths of the game has always been how it’s rooted its fantastical (and sometimes fantastically silly) elements in a world that felt real. Much of the heavy lifting with the latter was done by the careers system, but it was also observable in the rarity of the Read/Write skill. (Of the six pregens in The Enemy Within, only two were literate, and the Elf wasn’t one of them.) Meanwhile WFRP3 and Zweihänder both fold literacy into a more general education skill, in both cases treated as ‘advanced’. This was a world, the system tells us, dominated by illiteracy; those who could read or write were a privileged few.
But the wisdom of this approach is contradicted by the last 40 years of game design. Generally speaking, GMs now know that it is a bad idea not to give out any information because a lack of leads stalls the game. An entire rules system, Gumshoe, has been designed to address this issue. If the characters can’t read, then that immediately eliminates a major source of clues and leads to keep the action going. The problem cropped up as early as 1e’s intro adventure, The Oldenhaller Contract, itself: the scenario relies on the PCs being able to read the advertisement nailed to the Deutz Elm in Episode 12. So in this post I’m going to look at a few ways a WFRP GM can help keep the game going while still being true to the (pseudo-)historical verisimilitude of the setting.