Oldhammer Fiction Update and the History of the World

As mentioned previously I have been working on a short story named Holiday in Orkrania, that was an attempt at an Oldhammer themed piece of fiction – but without an official Warhammer setting.

This was going well, but unfortunately came unstuck a bit! Partly

because I hadn’t done enough world building and character development – one of my faults sometimes as a writer is that I get too enthusiastic and just plunge into things. So I have shelved the current story. However, I may come back to it and steal some ideas from it – for instance the character Arthur Shibly (nod to Peaky Blinders) is one I enjoyed writing, and I think there’s more mileage in the exiled Orc cheiftan, Grim Bearit. But first I want to invest a bit more into the world building – enough so that it’s recognizably Oldhammer in style, but also distinct from Warhammer’s Old World setting.

So where best to start than at the very beginning – with how the world came into being. Here’s my first draft of the world’s creation myth – I don’t even know what it’s called yet – this is definitely a rough draft/WIP.

One day the creator of all things was playing. He rolled together some clay between thumb and finger and began creating worlds. Most round so that they could happily roll

Ball with Cypro-Minoan 1 inscription. Clay, La...
Ball with Cypro-Minoan 1 inscription. Clay, Late Bronze (1600–1050 BC). From Enkomi, north-western Cyprus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

around in space, some he sat on by mistake and became flat and physically impossible, but humorously wonderful, so he kept those as well. After a long day making the stars, planets and other paraphernalia of a universe, the Creator was done creating. But one of the planets he was not happy with. It was over big and there were to many bits dangling off it. Looking more closely he realised that already even in a blink of his eye, many millennia had gone past on the world already and it had developed a character and lore all of its own. The inhabitants even thought that they had their own gods and had made myths about their creation—beings from space and evil gods that brought chaos to their world.

The creator laughed. For there was no chaos, only the order of his will. Pity the mortals who did not understand this, but nevertheless it was true.

Looking more closely he was amused at the workings of the world. There many different creatures had evolved. They fought against each other, but there was humour and silliness there as well—and dare he even think it—fun! That made him pleased. It was even as if some other creators had shaped the workings of the world. But he knew that was impossible—he was the only Creator! He watched further, slowing down his own perceptions so that he could watch the goings on more carefully—for centuries he watched. He laughed and wondered at the titanic struggles, the daft names of the characters involved and their oh too fallible morality. But slowly, imperceptibly he noticed a change. The struggles on the world became more serious, more titanic. Winning at all costs was all that mattered to the protagonists who were like automatons set on achieving a result no matter the way it was played. He became bored. But then he remembered.

I am the Creator.

So he took hold of the world and putting it to his mouth he sucked out the fun of it and then blew that into a mold of another world that he had lying around baked from the very clay of the universe. And he created a new world. What happened to the old world he cared not any longer. The new world was his only concern.

The inhabitants of the new world were of similar races to the old world, but they never seemed to be able to take their lives too seriously. They were vain and proud, but fallible too—prone to error and ridiculousness. And the Creator was very happy.

The people of the world knew not their real origin, but they had some inkling of it—deep within them they knew that they were special and they made it their desire not to “spoil things” as they put it.

They told themselves that the world was the last created by the Creator because he had spent the most time on it and that they were held in special regard by him. All races, whether good or barbarous held the Creator in respect and deferred to him. He had after all made them. But they did not build temples to him or worship him—yet he was always in their minds and they hoped not to displease him. Whatever befell them was the system made by the Creator—whether sun, rain, famine or plenty.

They knew that the Creator was the source of certain special things in the world. His breath itself had given life to the world and breathed it full of magic. The breath of life and magic was everywhere and in some places and individuals it rose to the surface. The Creator’s children were those born from father, mother and the spirit of the Creator—and they were honoured by their societies.

The Creator had no wish to control any events on the world—he simply liked to watch. And like any voyeur he found it more interesting if there was conflict in the world. So he did not mind at all if those blessed with magic used their gifts for good or ill. Some set themselves up as demi-gods, and where their doings amused him he let them live as if immortal. And when he grew bored of them they would lose their immortality and die, or be mysteriously encased in ice, lava, mud or stone—put away for another day.

Some weaker peoples worshipped these demi-gods—although worship of them was fleeting. Always the Creator was the one that was in charge—above everything.

So uninhibited by unfounded beliefs and multitudes of false gods, progress thrived and the world changed. And again the Creator became ignored—this was not how he had wished the world to be—he did not want to see horseless carriages and flying machines—or long distance calls without the assistance of magic! So he created the forces of entropy—a freezing presence that spread from the poles of the world to slow down the rate of change and turn things back if necessary. Entropy was followed by those amongst the peoples as well and became the cause of some jolly good fights too!

Creating Virtual Miniature Wargames

First off I am no great expert on this subject, but have played around with a few different ways of doing things, so wanted to give my opinions of what works for me at least. If you’re looking for a how to do this, I’m not planning to go into detail of that now—although I might another time. However, I would say that Vassal seems to be best option as it gives a lot of flexibility, is free to use and has some miniature wargames modules already loaded that you can learn from.

Why Create Virtual Miniature Wargames?

Software like Tabletop Simulator and Vassal are designed to simulate the experience of a board, card or miniatures game on the computer. They don’t recreate a computer game where all the calculations are automated and the player doesn’t have to know the game mechanics. The idea is that you don’t have to have the pieces of card, plastic or metal in front of you to play the game—these are all represented using digital images on the screen—including the board or table.

But if that’s the case, what’s the point? There’s a few reasons.

Multiplayer

The ability to play with people at a distance rather than face to face. Not something that was an immediate need for me.

Cost

Guilty secret—it’s a way for people to play these games at low or no cost. One reason GW bans publication of Vassal modules on the Vassal site. However, other publishers are more chilled about that – the probably realise that having this version doesn’t replace the real experience, and in fact probably helps nurture it. Also I don’t think usage is that high.

Space

I don’t have space for a miniatures games table more than 2 x 3 foot, so playing larger games would be impossible any other way. At the moment for physical games I am restricted to smaller, skirmish style games – Hobbit Strategy Battle Game for instance.

Time

To play a physical tabletop game, you either need a good block of time – half a day at least perhaps, or can leave a table set-up until the next gaming session. I have been able to do that sometimes with our 2 x 3 table, but that’s not always possible. So having a virtual table that I can save and come back to is a great asset for playing a longer game.

What I wanted to do

My ideal situation was to be able to try out some wargames periods and rules sets that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to on a real tabletop – again for the reasons above. My aim was to get more familiar with some of the most popular rules on the market – for instance De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) for Ancients and Medieval, Field of Glory for several periods, Bolt Action for WW2.

The need was for something that was quite customizable and easy to use. Visual appeal would be nice to have, but not essential.

My Experiences so far

I had come across two examples of Virtual Tabletops previously – Vassal and Tabletop Simulator. Vassal is free, very customisable, but doesn’t have the 3D engine that Tabletop Simulator. That 3D engine comes at a moderate cost – I think I paid £14.99 on Steam for it, but given that amount of games you could play with it that seemed reasonable.

Tabletop Simulator

Tabletop SimulatorI’ll start with this one first. I had learnt enough about it to be able to play the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, so I decided it was time to try some of the wargames. That’s where I came a bit unstuck. When I downloaded some of the wargames modules – e.g. for Warhammer or Bolt Action, I was presented with a load of models, some of which wouldn’t load properly. That meant going and actually watching some tutorial videos and looking up why the image files wouldn’t load.

Having successfully done that I started off with a simple Horse and Musket game – really just a battle that someone had created rather than a whole game set.

The main issue with Tabletop Simulator for simulating wargames became quite clear at this stage – it doesn’t seem to have any way to actually move several individual models and keep them together. You can select several items and move them, but when you put them down again (unless you’re very careful) they tend to fall over or move around. The way round this is to create units with several figures on a base, but that requires digital modelling – something I could probably learn to do, but not at the moment!

I think for skirmish games such as W40k, Bolt Action this would be OK, but since I am not planning to learn the rules for those games just yet, at this point I decided to leave the flashy 3D graphics of Tabletop Simulator behind and try Vassal.

Vassal

VassalTo my surprise and delight I found that there was actually a Vassal Module for De Bellis Antiquitatis. I hadn’t read the rules yet, but I knew that the unit bases for it would work well with One Hour Wargames rules that I had used with some card cut outs. So I plunged into this. As setting up a game was a simple process of dragging bits of scenery and units onto a board and then moving them around using the ruler provided, that was pretty simple. However, I then realised that I had no easy way of recording One Hour Wargamingcasualties. The One Hour Wargames system gives each unit 15 hits before it is destroyed. The module for De Bellis Antiquitatis naturally didn’t allow me to record that, so I had to think about being able to customise the module somewhat to ease the bookkeeping – I didn’t want to try to keep track of hits outside the actual Vassal software – after all it felt that the point of having a simulator was to help with the paperwork too! I read the whole Vassal module creation manual – about 150 pages, but actually quite a quick read and easy to follow, and fairly soon I had the skills to add a text box to each unit that I could edit when they took casualties. See below for a picture!

Vassal Screenshot

I was quite proud of that achievement and decided that Vassal would probably be the system I would work with for the moment – I was competent enough to either edit current modules, or maybe even create my own to make the wargames I wanted to.

What next?

Having tested editing a module in Vassal. I think the next step for me is to use it to play a few games of DBA and learn that system. Then I would like to take a look at Bolt Action as there’s a module for that too – and then probably work through creating some modules for a few Ancients and Medieval rules such as Field of Glory, Warmaster and Warhammer Ancient Battles. These would be for personal use – I wouldn’t post on Vassal given the copyright issues!

Progress on February Publication Plans

My aim for February was to get two titles published – Alt Hist Issue 10 and the second volume of Stonehearted, By Fire and Sword. I managed to knuckle down and get Alt Hist Issue 10 finished in February – not formally announced yet on the Alt Hist website as I am still waiting for Smashwords to approve it and send the files to Barnes & Noble and itunes – they seem much slower this time round at doing that so maybe I will have to chase them soon – that would normally happen within a few days, but its been a week so far. Once that’s done, I can close the lid on Alt Hist – I am actually going to cease publication of it as its simply taking too much of my compared to my own writing.

As a case in point, I didn’t manage to complete my second publication task of February, which was the publication of By Fire and Sword. I have done some of the editing, but don’t have a cover yet. However, I did do the blurb today, so at least that’s done. For some reason I always find the blurb one of the most difficult parts of publishing my own work—odd when I have a marketing background! Perhaps its something to do with finding it hard to separate the writing and promotion sides?

Here it is anyway:

The year is 1370. The English have again brought fire and sword to the country of France. An army devastates the country on its march south to Paris, hungry for loot and glory. But redemption is what Richard Stone seeks—having  run away from home after a family tragedy for which he is responsible. The French resist as best they can—but to stand and fight the English they learn is a fools game.

Eolande, neighbour of Richard’s, has also left home—in search of the father that was captured years ago and never returned. But even Calais the bastion of the English in France, is not welcoming to her.

By Fire and Sword is the second volume of Stonehearted.

Hopefully this should see the light in the middle of March.

Writing

I have been making steady, but slow progress on my Oldhammer short story—Holiday in Orkrania – I have managed to write most days of the working week, which is good, but at about 2,000 words a week that still feels quite slow, and although I am about 60% done, I am at the stage where I am starting to lose a little bit of interest in the project and thinking about other things. I have been trying a few tactics to overcome that—one being updating my blog and writing the blurb for By Fire and Sword—so working on other things—and the other to plan out the next fight scene in Orkrania using a simple map—I actually need to do this as I don’t have a clear picture in my mind of where the rooms in a building are and who is where—so I hope that will make the next part of the narrative go more smoothly.

As for plans for March? That would be a separate post, but will have to be adjusted to take into account the slippage of By Fire and Sword. But hey—publishing schedules always slip don’t they?