A few weeks ago Cubicle 7 revealed the cover of the new Warhammer: Age of Sigmar roleplaying game. I stated at the time how intrigued I am to see how this pans out since the Age of Sigmar universe is hyper-stylized, yet remarkably untrodden.
After writing that post, I started thinking about how much great stuff Cubicle 7 puts together. Not only are they now the champions of my beloved favorite RPG, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but they also channel my other formative staple with The One Ring, an RPG based (as you might expect) in Middle Earth. Not only that, they’ve taken the brilliance of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and added to it with Adventures of Middle Earth.
Unfortunately, family life (and my current obsession with Warhammer Underworlds) hasn’t left me much time to get a roleplaying group around the table. I still wanted to find a way of marking the excellence that Cubicle 7, a small publisher based in Ireland, is bringing to the table. This then, is my first “Tales From the Cubicle” column, a round-up of what Cubicle 7 is up to, and hopefully as time goes on, my experiences of their games. It’s a fortuitous time to start the column as, this week, Cubicle 7 is ten years old and they are offering a host of discounts to celebrate.
10 Days of Discounts.
Starting April 23rd, Cubicle 7 will be offering 10 days of exclusive news, competitions, and special offers! Check out their website for details.
What Games Does Cubicle 7 Make?
Cubicle 7 offers several distinct systems in addition to their Warhammer and Middle Earth strands. There are a number of different Doctor Who products, including an RPG. There’s another game system centered around Joe Dever’s awesome Lone Wolf books and a number games for fans of Cthulhu. They even make a game based on Charles Stross’ Laundry Files. You’ll find the complete list of games, here.
There Be Dragons!
One of Cubicle 7’s recent releases is for Adventures in Middle Earth, the Lonely Mountain Region Guide. This is currently available as a PDF with a hardcover book to arrive in July. I have to be honest, the Lonely Mountain wouldn’t be my first choice for Middle Earth adventures; give me Gondor and Ithilien any day of the week. Nevertheless, I love the amount of lore and detail stuffed into this guide.
This is the first Middle Earth Adventures book I’ve looked at in earnest and I’m very impressed by how well it captures the feel of Tolkien’s creation, whilst opening up new areas of gaming space. The “Fellowship Phase” and journey tables seem to be particularly great ways in which to pay homage to the pastoral nature of Tolkien’s work without slowing the game down to a nice walk through some attractive woods.
The source material from the book is taken between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (I assume this is the case for the entire RPG) and begins with The Lonely Mountain itself, describing its history (Smaug!), the lands around it, and the current situation inside the mountain. This includes standard dwarven NPCs and also lots of famous characters from the books, including Dain, Balin, and Dwalin.
After the inevitable chapter about the treasures of the Dwarves, the book moves onto the city of Dale, a thriving urban space in which to run some town-based adventures. After that, the focus is on dragons. Tolkien used dragons sparingly, but there are enough hints and teases in his extend works (not to mention the great Dragons of the First Age) as to what dragons in Middle Earth might be like. Cubicle 7 has extended this into 20+ pages about creating dragons with personality to include in your Middle Earth based campaigns. These go well beyond the large and scary monster trope and will help GMs (or Loremasters) develop them into fully functioning NPCs with agenda, flaws, wants, needs, and dietary requirements. (OK. I’m not sure about the last one.)
The book closes with the history of the dwarven wars with orcs and goblins, then journey tables for traveling in and around the Lonely Mountain. Finally, there are character traits and rules modifications for Dwarves from the Iron Hills and Grey Mountains enabling you to create your own characters that hail from these iconic Dwarven outposts.
All in all, the Lonely Mountain Region Guide does everything a good sourcebook should. It provides an evocative framework with which to create interesting adventures. It draws on Tolkien’s lore without becoming ensnared in it. It builds on that lore whilst remaining faithful to it. Thorin Oakenshield would approve.
Let us have all the WFRP!
OK, so I haven’t had time to play the game yet, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting all the WFRP goodies. After all, set completion is a key feature of being a geek. There are few RPG fans who don’t love a shelf full of sourcebooks, and plenty of us who buy them just to flick through and stroke gently in a loving manner. (Hmmm. Perhaps there aren’t that many of us who do that.)
With WFRP, there are decades of excellent material to catch up on. Lots of great adventures and source material to be updated for the new shiny edition. There’s also the tantalizing prospect of an updated and revised Enemy Within campaign. If you’ve never played it, it’s worth the WFRP entry fee alone.
New Starter Box.
One thing I’m very much looking forward to grabbing a hard copy of is the forthcoming Starter Box. Many systems have these now, including D&D and FFG’s Star Wars RPGs. They’re usually a great way to introduce players who have never played an RPG. The WFRP Starter Set is no exception.
The digital version (available now) is great to read through, though I expect for introducing complete novices, it will be worth waiting for the imminent physical release. The starter set comes with some detailed maps, gatefold character sheets with impressive artwork, as well as quick reference sheets for the basic rules.
The three main documents are the “Read this First” leaflet that explains how the box works, a “Guide to the Ubersreik,” which details the area in which the events of the starter box take place, and the adventure itself. The Ubersreik guide is impressively detailed for a beginner box and, I think, conveys well the grimy nature of the WFRP setting. I particularly like the section on shadowy cults. Skulduggery and poor-life choices will still be front and center of the new system.
The adventure itself looks great. The adventure book is 48 pages long, 30 of which are intended as an introductory adventure. This will take the adventures from idle shoppers at the market, to being press-ganged into the city watch. From there, they will learn that very few people in the Empire are what they seem. Corrupt officials and innocent criminals will give your players plenty of grey areas in which to operate as they try to work out the sort of people their characters are.
The rest of the book gives 10 starter hooks for new adventures, but these will need fleshing out and some will need you to own the full rulebook in order to get the most out of them.
The starter box looks to give you a full taste of roleplaying, allowing you to jump straight in. I’m hoping to try it out with my kids in the summer. The main rule WFRP book contains no adventures, so the Starter Set is definitely worth a look if lots of your players are new to the hobby.
Where to Next, Brave Adventurers?
The Enemy Within Campaign.
This week saw the very exciting announcement that the first part of The Enemy Within campaign is soon to be released. Or, I should say, re-released. My teenage roleplaying years were devoted to this campaign and I’ve played bits of it on and off since. I spoke to the WFRP lead writer at Tabletop Gaming Live! last year, and he told me that lots of parts have been rewritten, not only to change things for the revised ruleset, but also to allow people who have played the campaign through before to play it again and have a fresh experience.
Two books are set to be released: Enemy in Shadows and the Enemy in Shadows companion. This is promised to be the first of five companion books. Hinting that the final campaign will span five volumes. Both books feature new materials from Graeme Davis and Phil Gallagher, the original two authors of the campaign, and the prospect has left me salivating. You’ll find the full Enemy Within announcement, here.
Rough Days and Hard Nights.
Another updated and expanded version of more WFRP classics, featuring the popular (because it’s awesome) Rough Night at the Three Feathers adventure. Rough Days and Hard Nights is a multi-entry point campaign that can be used as standalone adventures, part of The Enemy Within, or for after the starter set capers.
Author Graeme Davis is a master at writing multi-strand adventures, the hallmark of Rough Night and Hard Nights. Many of the scenarios in the books have several simultaneous plots that, whilst they could be tricky to manage for beginner GMs, make for fantastic and frenetic roleplay as the PCs try to work out exactly what is going on. Davis has rewritten three existing adventures, two of which I remember, and added two brand new ones. They’ve been joined together to make a five-adventure campaign that takes in the opera, law courts, the house of a noble, and of course, The Three Feathers.
Something that strikes me about all the Cubicle 7 books is the production values, and how far publishing has come since WFRP 1st edition. I really hope to have the chance to play these adventures old and new, but even if I don’t, I’m looking forward to the nostalgia kick I’ll get from them and the comfortable glow from the knowledge that my favorite game is in very safe hands. The Cubicle 7 WFRP books are works of art, that very much brings the Old World back to life. Something that is definitely needed after GW unceremoniously destroyed it a few years ago!
We’re not in Altdorf anymore.
Which neatly segues, almost like I designed it that way, into Cubicle 7’s new project, the Age of Sigmar RPG. I… err… covered… the cover announcement for this tome earlier in the year, and there isn’t a huge amount of new information about it yet, but on the Cubicle 7 blog a few teasers for the game’s “archetypes” have been released. These player character options are massively different from WFRP or indeed any game I’ve seen, which fills with me with excitement that the game may feature lots of innovation, befitting of its high-fantasy setting.
So far on the Cubicle 7 blog, they’ve offered six characters that include a noble Stormcast Warrior, A Duardin (Dwarf) Kharadon Overlord (essentially Steampunk Sky Pirates), and most curiously a Gryph-Hound. I’m intrigued to see how this last one works. I’m guessing that’s not a full character option!
Following on from that, there have been two posts about of the archetypes playable in the game. Archetypes appear to be a curious mix of the traditional race and class of D&D, borrowing from the factions of Order that exist within the base Warhammer: Age of Sigmar game.
The two revealed so far borrow from the old elves and dwarfs from the Old World, reforged during the Age of Myth (maybe) into tree-like Sylvaneth and Duardin Fyreslayers.
The Sylvaneth, a Branchwych, is essentially a magic-wielding dryad. Not a million miles away from a classic druid character, the Branchwych can cast spells rooted in nature whilst wielding weapons fashioned from living wood. They even have a vicious-looking snake-like familiar.
The Duardin Doomseeker is the great-great (insert many greats here) grandson of the Old World’s Trollslayer, one of WFRP’s favorite dwarf careers. Doomseekers have sworn oaths to leave their lodge and fulfill a personal quest. They never back down from a confrontation. Which I imagine might be a little tricky if your party wants to negotiate itself out of a fight. The key to playing a successful Doomslayer will be the construction of a good backstory. “To die at the hands of a huge monster as soon as possible,” won’t leave much wiggle room for roleplaying. “To destroy the chaos warband who destroyed my village” gives the character reason to stay alive.
So that’s the end of my first Cubicle 7 round-up. I do hope you’ll check out future editions. Cubicle 7 is making excellent roleplaying content, thick and fast. There is surely lots more to come.
Disclosure: I received PDF copies of some of the material mentioned in this round-up.