Tag Archives: warhammer

Warhammer Fantasy Role Play – 4th Edition – Preorders to be open Thursday 3rd May 2018!

So obviously my last post was great timing!

Here’s the announcement from Cubicle 7:

The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition pre-order opens later this week! To whet your appetite, here are 4 things you can expect from the new edition of this beloved game.

Your Warhammer for You!
Something that is really core to *our* WFRP is that we’ve created tools for you to play *your* Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. We recognise and support that everyone plays their own version of the rules and the setting, and we fully embrace and encourage that. It’s your game! With 30 years of history under its belt, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay means a lot of things to a huge number of players.

Ideal starting point
Not much experience with RPGs? The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set is designed to be the ideal introduction, with a structured adventure to help you learn how to play. Also containing a guide to Ubersreik, there’s loads of gaming material for more experienced GMs too!

System matters
WFRP4 uses ten-sided dice, and a tuned-up version of the familiar d100 system. You can tailor the rules to your preferences or different in-game situations, choosing from a menu of fast ‘roll under’ Simple Tests, Dramatic Tests giving success levels where you need more than a ‘yes or no’ result, and even barely rolling at all, if that’s your style.

Passion for Warhammer
Our creative team are lifelong players of the three previous editions of the game, and between us we’ve worked on all these editions too! We bloomin’ love Warhammer, and we think it shows.

We’ll be bringing you more on WFRP4 regularly, so watch this space! And, very excitingly, pre-orders go live on Thursday…

Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 4th Edition – What We Know So Far and Release Date

Before Grimdark, George R R Martin et all was a thing, there was …

Warhammer – and specifically Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP) that fleshed out the Old World which was the setting for Games Workshop’s Fantasy battle game. WFRP portrayed a world much like late medieval Europe which was dirty, deadly and dark – with the corruption of chaos lurking hidden within the normal society – evoking an atmosphere similar to the paranoia of the witch crazes of the 15th/16th centuries in Europe.

Adventures such as Shadows over Bogenhafen cemented the reputation of WFRP as something more sophisticated and “realistic” than the dungeon bash D&D fare available during the 1980s. It was more a mish-mash of a Fantasy RPG and Call of Cthulhu.

And it was bloody brilliant!

Soon to be released is a 4th edition of this great RPG – and the new publishers, Cubicle 7 have promised to take the game back to its roots.

I can’t wait!

Here I’m going to collate and summarise the sketchy information we have so far about the new edition of WFRP.

Setting

A lot of assumptions have been made about this, but I don’t think anything concrete has been announced yet – it will be the Old World, we know that, but I don’t think they have given any indication what the chronology will be with vis a vis events such as Storm of Chaos or the End Times.

Most people are assuming before End Times, or at least flexible.

Design Philosophy

We have had some hints about this – Dominic McDowall, Cubicle 7 CEO has said that they are huge fans of 1e and 2e, so that should please older fans of WFRP who would like to see it go back to its roots. They have also indicated that they have given the system more of an overhaul than first planned:

“The initial plan was to make some small updates to the awesome second edition, and that would mean we would be able to release the game in 2017. We’re all huge fans of the first and second editions of WFRP, and we wanted to take the game back to those roots.

“When I got into the guts of the game I started seeing more opportunities to add in some of the things we’ve learned over the years. This more creative direction meant a longer development phase. Games Workshop are extremely supportive of us taking the time we need to make WFRP Fourth Edition the very best game it can be, and so that’s what we did. I’m very excited about the way things have come together!”

We also know that one of the old writers for WFRP, Graeme Davis, has been brought back on board to do a new version of the Enemy Within campaign for 4th edition – a kind of director’s cut.

But they have also promised there will be new material as well.

Products

Initial products will be a Starter Set and a Rulebook – cover art has been release for both, and they have also appeared in a distributor’s catalogue – with USD pricing (image from Lance Anderson on the WFRP 4e Facebook group):

Plus we know there is a new version of the Enemy Within campaign being worked on as well for all the nostalgic old timers (me included!) No more details though on that.

Covers

The two cover images released so far are for the Starter Set and the Rulebook. The rulebook image is certainly an homage to 1st edition, whereas the Starter Set strikes me as something that might appeal to fans of games such as Vermintide, so perhaps they’re trying to appeal to a new market of Warhammer Fantasy fans here? That can only be a good thing. I’m not sure if I love the artwork yet – it looks a bit too bright and cartoony for me. I also wonder if the archetypal hero characters displayed will give players the wrong idea about WFRP – where are the rat-catchers and artisan apprentices? Although having said that those mundane characters never appeared on the WFRP 1e cover either! WFRP 1e ended up having more of a pathetic aesthetic than perhaps the cover artwork indicated.

Rulebook Cover
Starter Set Cover

Release Date

Very possibly at UK Games Expo between 1st and 3rd June 2018 – the organisers have announced that it will be launched – see this video about the show.

Although there’s not much information, I’m excited to see what the game will look like and also to read people’s opinions as well over at the Warhammer Role Play 4th Edition Facebook Group.

UPDATE

New Teaser image published today (2nd May 2018) so including that as well as the Featured image at the top – previous image below. Looks like other careers are getting a mention!

Death on the Reik – Similarities with The Shadow over Innsmouth

WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR A 1936 NOVELLA AND 1987 RPG ADVENTURE!

I’m a big fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP for short) having played it extensively as a teenager in the 80s – I GMed the Enemy Within campaign and several other adventures too. WFRP is going through a bit of a revival at the moment with a new fourth edition due out in 2018 from Cubicle7, and I have even started GMing 1st edition WFRP again with some old friends.

For those who don’t know it WFRP has a gritty, realistic feel to it – it’s set in an Old World much like late medieval Europe and was grimdark before grimdark was a thing (I hate the grimdark tag to be honest – to me it just seems an excuse for violence and misogyny, but really should be about realism and the darker side of human nature, but that’s for another day).

Apparently one of the requests from Games Workshop management for their new RPG game when it first published was to make it more like Call of Cthulhu – the RPG set in Lovecraft’s world of dark horror and ancient evils that lay hidden. WFRP’s Enemy Within campaign certainly took on that atmosphere, with chaos cultists hidden within normal human society, ready to conjure daemons into being – much like the dark forces lurking in Lovecraft’s fiction.

I’ve only started reading Lovecraft recently having got hold of a collection of his work. It’s hard going, but also mesmerising in a way, and also very influential on other horror writers who followed.

Death on the Reik is the second main adventure in the Enemy Within campaign – in it the party follow a trial leading them to Castle Wittgenstein overlooking the river Reik. I have listed all the published adventures for WFRP 1st edition on my site – in the future I’m aiming to flesh out a few more details on each – publication history synopsis etc.

The Shadow over Innsmouth involves a traveller interested in the history of New England who makes the journey to the coastal town of Innsmouth, a place that has fallen into decline and has a bad reputation.

So what about Death on the Reik and The Shadow over Innsmouth? You’d expect with that name the influence might be more for the first main adventure in the campaign – Shadows over Bogenhafen? But actually I think there is some conscious or perhaps subconscious borrowing by the authors of Death on the Reik (Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher) from The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here’s what I think the similarities are:

  • The town of Wittgendorf and Innsmouth have fallen into decline – no one visits anymore – in fact people avoid each town
  • The inhabitants drink rotgut
  • The inhabitants are mutated in some way – chaos mutations in Wittgendorf, the Innsmouth look in Innsmouth – i.e. turning into frog creatures
  • The rulers of each place (the Marsh family and the Wittgenstein family) are recluses, undergo mutations themselves and have brought the decline of their towns upon themselves
  • In the past one of the rulers ancestors brought something back – this has resulted in the mutations – warpstone and something unexplained in Innsmouth (as far as I can tell)
  • Both towns are by the water (bit tenuous!)
  • It’s possible to travel to both places – but visitors are made to feel unwelcome. I.e. these aren’t places that are forbidden, but they are shunned by most outsiders.

There are also plenty of differences of course – but I do think the atmosphere and theme are quite alike – have a read of The Shadow over Innsmouth and see what you think – it was my favourite of the Lovecraft stories I read recently. And if you don’t know WFRP and Death on the Reik – get to it immediately – check out the PDFs on DrivethruRPG, get some friends together and start playing – you won’t be disappointed.

Writing Update – Stonehearted Plotting and Making a Fortress

I haven’t managed to post much recently – mostly because I’ve been pretty busy on stuff – which can only be good news right?

As well as editing part 3 of Stonehearted, I am also working on the plot for parts 4 and 5 and how the series will end – it’s exciting stuff and I’m really enjoying deciding what will happen with the characters. For most of the series I’ve just written it from the seat of my pants, but I’ve decided now that I need to tie everything together.

From a gaming/hobby point of view I have been working on a fortress for Hobbit Strategy Battle Game – using the templates from the LOTR rulebook. This is made out of foamboard, and I have pretty much finished the cutting out and sticking together phase. The fortress is going to feature in a mini-campaign about an attack on the Shire and a case of mistaken identity when orcs try to find Bilbo and the ring, but end up going after someone completely different. The fortress is an old Kingdom of Arnor construction that will be the centrepiece of the final battle of the campaign.

The picture above is the WIP so far.

And finally I have dug out some old Warhammer scenarios for the RP and Battle game that I wrote when I was a kid – some of them seem quite good! So I’m going to type them up and post on this site somewhere.

Hopefully will post something most substantive next week – possibly an article on Medieval Football I think.

Oldhammer C04 Thieves Picker Pete Lightfinger and Renaldo the Roof Rat

Some new pictures of figures I painted a few months ago – taken with my new lightbox. C04 Thieves Picker Pete Lightfinger and Renaldo the Roof Rat also have alternative names of Curr and Assassin as well depending on the catalogue page. See the images of those below courtesy of Stuff of Legends.

Unfortunately it looks like Ronaldo has got in for Picker Pete – perhaps the Curr is going to get assassinated!

Renaldo the Roof Rat
Renaldo the Roof Rat
Kill him
Who you looking at?
Friends
I’m gonna get you now!

 

Enemy Within Miniatures and a Heroic Fighter of the Known World

Got a new lightbox yesterday, so here’s some early attempts at photos with some basic scenery thrown in.

The photos are just via an iPhone 6 so nothing special, but I think they have come out fairly well.

The first one includes two figures from the Death on the Reik scenario pack for the Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Enemy Within campaign. Joining them is Ulrik Ulrikson, one of the Heroic Fighters of the Known World. It looks like I gave him a new shield design related to his worship of Ulric. Werner from Death on the Reik on the left sports heraldry of Karl Franz, the Emperor, while the sergeant of the Castle Wittgenstein guard has heraldry that I think must have been inspired by the scenario or appeared in a White Dwarf – I can’t find a source though! All of these figures were painted about 25 years ago, but with bases redone this year.

Oldhammer Photo - Death on the Reik and Ulrik Ulrikson

Anyone interested in the wonderful Death on the Reik adventure – you can see a copy on Scribd.

Lost Mine of Phandelver – a Critique 

First a disclaimer –this isn’t a detailed review of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure module that comes with the new D&D 5th Edition Starter Box set, but rather a bit of a critique of it based on my own expectations for new Dungeons & Dragons 

What I’m saying is that I won’t offer a detailed analysis of the adventure or go into a lot of the details of what it’s about – so you if you want that have a look elsewhere – but rather I’m going to offer some views on why the adventure, although well produced, doesn’t work as I wanted it to – and how I think it could do more.  

So a bit of a moan really! Here’s the problems I had with it: 

  • It’s still pretty much a Dungeon bash. Although there’s some links between the different locations – finding Gundrun and looking for his brothers, once there the PCs just move from room to room and fight whatever they come across. There’s no sense of something actually happening.
  • The plot is a bit weak – sure help out Gundrun and there’s someone who wants to do bad things. But actually what has the Black Spider got planned? What will he do if the PCs can’t defeat him? We don’t really know. If they knew he was going to destroy Phandalin or Neverwinter, then I think that would add to the sense of drama – and the motivation to do something about him. As it is, the plot revolves around helping some dwarves get stuff – just facilitating greed at the end of the day! The lack of plot driving and adventure has always been a problem with D&D from what I can see, and this adventure really enforces that feeling for me – Warhammer Fantasy Role Play has always done a much better job of making players feel like they’re part of an actual story – and encourage roleplaying. 

 

Lost mine of phandelver

Here’s what I Iiked about it: 

  • Great production values and art – lovely maps 
  • Good tips for new DMs and how to help players get started 
  • The pre-generated Player Characters are well balanced and have some good motivations that link to the locations in the adventure – but I think more could have been made of that in the actual adventure itself – as the DM might forget about the links and could be reminded by some help text in the adventure.  
  • The encounters, monsters and fights are fun for starting adventures – some classic monsters are included, which allows new players to enjoy D&D as it should be.

I hope this critique doesn’t put people off actually getting the D&D Starter set though – it’s a great set, has a wonderful summary of the rules. I just wish I’d taken the time to add a bit more to the adventure to make it more plot driven and exciting!

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 12 – A Better Prize

The concluding part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – Holiday in Orkrania! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you don’t know what I’m on about – go back to Part 1 to read more about the story and Part 1!

I’m planning to turn this into an eBook – just need to edit it and find a suitable cover image, but for now here’s the concluding section of the story:

 

“Let them in?” spluttered Drew. “Are you mad?”

One of the dwarves standing behind Gundrun nodded violently.

“Not mad—experienced. They’ll hack down the doors sooner than later. But if we time it right and surprise them—we’ll have the upper hand.”

Drew nodded. He could see the wisdom in the old dwarf’s words. “OK—let’s do it.”

The dwarf archers that had been picking off goblins and orcs from the upper windows came down to the courtyard again. The halflings stayed where there were and tried to pick off enemies whenever they could—no sense giving them a respite or cause for suspicion.

There were eight of them. They all loaded their crossbows and stood waiting just inside the gate. On either side the rest of the miners—forty in all stood ready with axe, pick and hammer.

Thud, thud went the axes of the orcs. The door was strong and the progress of the orcs was slows, but they would get there in the end—they’d already stopped sending their boyz over the wall—each time they were simply fodder for the dwarves axes as the clambered over.

Gundrun nodded to the two dwarves who held the heavy wooden bolt in place behind the gate. They heaved on it, pushing it up from below and then leapt back as the gate sprung open. Two large orcs, stripped to the waist stood looking surprised with axes raised high above their heads as the doors opened. Their green skin was slick with sweat.

Behind them stood a mob of heavily armed orcs—dressed in chainmail and carrying shields. But they didn’t expect to be hit by a volley of crossbows. The dwarves let fly. Both of the semi-naked axe orcs went down and at least four behind them sank to the ground as the bolts went home. Helpers passed the dwarves each another loaded crossbow and a second volley hit the orcs—barely giving them any time to get over their shock and raise their shields. Another six went down. The dwarf miners shouted their war-cry and rushed out of the gates attacking the decimated ranks of the orcs. The fight was brutal, and a number of dwarves died, but after a few short minutes it was brutal. The orcs were fleeing, leaving at least thirty—half their number on the field dead. Their long limbs carried them further and quicker than their pursuers and some discarded their armour to make their flight swifter.

A huddle of goblins on foot and a scattering of wolf-riders gave the dwarves pause, but Gundrun ordered them to close ranks and brought up his crossbows again. Two swift volleys broke the goblins as well and the wolf-riders covered their rout.

“That’s enough,” said Gundrun. “They won’t come back in a hurry, and besides we’d never catch them.”

“Well done,” said the tall aristocratic human. Two large dogs were at his side.

Gundrun’s lip curled—they were those shapeshifters—the cause of part of the dwarves trouble. He had no idea who this man was, and didn’t care to know.

Gundrun turned away. “Time to bury our dead,” he muttered and strode away to look at the bodies of his fellows—hoping to find some of the fallen still alive.

“Hmm, a bit rude wasn’t he,” said Hardlee to the large Doberman at his side. “I think it would be time to leave though—never know—they might come back. Where’s Shilby anway—he was the man you bit on the leg. Not like him, running off.”

The Doberman shook her head, but then the ears pricked alert. It looked back towards the inn and growled low. Hardlee turned to look. A large orc, helmeted and bearing a huge axe was striding towards them. In the distance on a rocky crag above the inn a man and a female figure stood embracing next to the body of a large winged creature. Hardlee wondered who they were—that thing, the wyvern had been clutching Meagana in its claws, and then Shilby had run off hadn’t he. Was it them?

But there were more pressing concerns. The large orc was closing on them, and at his back a mob of goblins scurried to keep up with him. The dwarves were reforming their ranks and marching back to the inn. There would be a final engagement—the orcs and goblins were not done yet.

“We should go, fast, don’t you think,” said Hardlee. “Never mind Shilby.”

The orc broke into a run. The Doberman and the pitbull barked at him as he came. Hardlee trembled. There were no dwarves nearby—they were about to close with the goblins. The sword was still at his side. He drew it—it flashed even though the sunlight was dimmed now by the clouds. It was an old sword-magical they said and always worn by the heir of Hyperia ever since the orcs were driven from the kingdom.

For a moment the orc chief paused. He pointed at the sword and shouted—“that’ll be mine,” and charged now down the hill at Hardlee, his axe raised above his head.

Hardlee held out the sword—hoping that it would protect him. He raised it to parry as the orc swung down at him. He actually closed his eyes at that moment. There was a barking and growling, and swearing in orcish and then a whimpering of canine pain. Hardlee opened his eyes to see the orc with the one dog biting at each leg. He hacked at the pit-bull with his axe, snapping its spine, and then produced a cruel, serrated dagger and lashed at the Doberman, cutting her deeply on the shoulder. She let go her jaws’ grip and wimpered away.

The orc turned on the dog and raised his axe. The dog was too injured to move fast out of the way. But then there was a noisy yapping and from the forest a dirty haired poodle ran onto the field. It flung itself at the orc’s mid-riff and caused him to stumble and let go his axe as he swung it—it flew about twenty paces away. The orc batted the poodle away from him. The dog scampered over to the Doberman and the two animals made their way to the woods. Hardlee held out his sword. He wanted to run as well.

Grim Bearit looked at the man holding the ancient sword of Shinee, something that he had dreamed of owning since ?? and looked at his own dagger. “Not a fair fight is it. Let me get my axe.”

But then there was a blast of a horn. And up the road came marching a unit of royal guard all in shining mail with halberds shouldered and a banner flying.

“What’s this?” shouted the orc. He turned back to the inn to see how his gobboes were doing. The answer was that they were done. The dwarves had killed a few with no loss and now the goblins were running to the hills—joining the rest of Grim’s army.

He roared into the sky. “A wyvern, a wyvern, my kingdom for a wyvern.” But nothing answered his call.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 11 – Beauty and the Beast

The penultimate part of my Oldhammer fiction novella – hope you have been enjoying it! Go back to Part 1 if you haven’t read any before.

Hardlee took a step back as the fierce Doberman growled. “Shilby, I need you. There’s two of them. I’m sure you can finish them. Look one of them hasn’t even got any clothes on. Shilby?”

Arfur Shilby was staring up into the sky.

“Shilby!” shouted Hardlee. The naked man sprang towards him and waved his knives at him. Hardlee stumbled backwards and fell over a bench that had been left out in the courtyard. Dazed for a moment he heard the screeching of bones and flesh and the whimpering of a dog. He opened his eyes and lifted himself to a crouch. The naked thug pushed him hard and he fell to the floor. The man stood over him. Hardlee for some reason couldn’t get his eyes off what was dangling over him. He gulped, not sure if he was more afraid of being killed or the man’s well-developed appendage.

A tall long-haired woman joined the man. Hardlee with relief turned his full attention to her. She also had no problem with nudity and her form was lithe and muscular and very attractive.

“I can pay, pay you,” he stammered.

“We know,” said the woman. “How much?”

“What?” Hardlee replied. Surprised that his offer might work. “Anything. Well within reason. I am sure my father will pay. And I have my own estates. Jewels. Name your price.”

“Hmm, yes all of that. An estate would be good—we like our privacy. But also money. Jewels are an efficient way to carry wealth so we’ll have those. In return, we’ll make sure you get out of here alive.” She looked around. “There seems to be a few complications with this job.”

She offered her hand to Hardlee, and after a moment’s hesitation he took it and she pulled him to his feet—her grasp was powerful and strong—he felt himself pulled towards her as he stood and for a moment his clothed body toucher her naked one. He sprung back quickly, but she kept a tight grip on his hand.

“We have an agreement?” she said. Her strong brown eyes fixed his. She was nearly as tall as him.

He nodded. “Yes. Absolutely.” He grinned. “That’s a relief, Shilby, eh? Shilby where are you?”

But Shilby was not paying his prince the least bit of attention. He was staring up at the wyvern. He shaded his eyes and he could see more clearly than the others that the wyvern clutched a figure of a woman in its claws. It was the prince’s girlfriend, Meagana.

Hardlee came over to him and looked up as well. “By the gods, has that creature got Meagana?”

Shilby nodded.

“Hmm, well that’s sad. A shame, a real shame. She was a lovely girl, elf-girl, whatever. But all good things come to an end. Not much we can do, eh? Mama didn’t approve after all, she’d much rather I settle down with a homely duchess—and maybe she’s right. Much too much excitement just recently.”

Shilby shrugged.

“Now, these dogs/people, whatever they are. They’re not going to kill me. In face I think they may even protect me and help us escape. So how about you and they work out a way to get me to the safety of the woods or the road, and we can get out of here?”

But Shilby ignored his prince. Nearby there was a dwarven crossbow, dropped by a miner who’d been skewered by a goblin archer. Shilby picked it up and loaded it and made for the stables.

“Hey, Shilby. What are you doing?” called Hardlee. But Shilby ignored him.

He stood on a trough and clambered onto the roof of the stables. On that side of the inn there weren’t any orcs or goblins—yet anyway. A few wolf-riders stood in the distance forming a cordon—to stop anyone escaping, he assumed. He looked up. Still the wyvern circled. He could hear Meagana’s voice crying for help. He raised the crossbow and shot high at the wyvern. He saw the rider dodge out of the way as the bolt fizzed past. The wyvern stuttered in its flight as the rider pulled hard on the reins. Even though the wyvern was several hundred feet away, at that moment the orc rider and Shilby locked eyes. Shilby could see the rider’s rage. It was only matched by his own, and the sense of outrage he felt at Hardlee’s abandonment of his lover. She didn’t deserve that.

The wyvern descended in tight arcs and came to land on a small crag of rock a hundred yards to the north of the inn up the slope of the valley. Shilby had already jumped from the stable roof over the wall of the inn and was striding purposefully up the hill through soft springy tufts of grass.

The orc-rider jumped from the back of his beast and the thing released Meagana fro its clutches. She looked fairly unharmed. Shilby couldn’t see any blood. But as she scrambled to get away, the creature hissed at her and waved a huge claw at her. She shrank behind a boulder to avoid the attack.

But the orc, a large figure, with huge muscles and thick plate armour and a wicked helmet with cruel spikes adorning it was coming at a jog to meet Shilby. Shilby dodged the first attack from the orc’s two-handed axe. He jabbed with his sword, but it glanced harmlessly off the orc’s breastplate. The orc raised his axe again and brought it down hard. Shilby managed to dodge again, but this time he slipped and he was on the ground. The orc smiled a slavering evil smile and raised his axe again, confident that the human could not slip from his grasp again.

A rock slammed into his helmet from behind. He turned and roared towards where Meagana was standing behind a boulder. Another rock was in her hand—she threw it and it hit the orc on his nose, he stumbled and fell to his knees, there was blood. Shilby dashed away and towards Meagana. Next to her the wyvern lay on the ground, it’s head curled back next to its tummy.

“You killed?” he said, incredulous.

“An old Elvish charm,” she replied. “It sleeps only.”

“Let’s go,” said Shilby, “before it wakes.”

“Not yet,” she said. And she took his arm and pulled him towards her and kissed him.

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) Part 10 – Drew and Gundrun Work Together

And here’s part 10 – go to Part 1 for the start of the story.

Drew slapped the dwarf on the shoulder. “Just move. We can sort this out later. We need to tidy up. Misunderstanding wasn’t it?”

The dwarf glared at him. He held a beer towel to his head trying to staunch the blood from a nasty looking head wound. His fellows has already exited the bar-room and were milling around in the courtyard—halflings rushed around with trays of ale cups to keep them distracted. But there were a few stubborn remainers, who simply didn’t know when to call a fight over.

“We were the aggrieved party,” muttered the dwarf. “Things need to be put right.”

Drew shrugged. “Get some air, have a pint and we’ll all talk in a minute or two once we’ve had a chance to clear up inside. We were all attacked—by those dog things and their naturist human friends.” Drew shook his head. A weird sight that had been. He shuddered to think what was going on upstairs—that’s where the intruders had gone, leaving a trail of carnage after themselves. Something to do with that nobleman and his retinue—had to be. But he’d not dared go up to see what had happened. Perhaps best to see what came out first?

The dwarf shrugged and limped out into to the courtyard. “We dwarves bear a grudge a long time—don’t you forget that—we’ll have our reckoning.”

Drew sighed. He knew that only too well. With the tourist appeal of the Orkranian mountains only stuttering into life, he was reliant on the surly custom of the dwarf miners. But every interaction with them seemed to lead to some argument or other. And Gundrun, their de facto leader, was the worst.

He looked round at the tap-room. It was a mess. There’d been fights in here before—mostly to do with dwarves. But never before had every item of furniture been smashed or shattered—some of it could be repaired, but most of it was only good for firewood. There would be a reckoning all right. And he knew just who was going to pay. He glanced out of the door at the crowd of bruised and battered dwarf miners. They had gold after all didn’t they. He waited a moment watching. Egbert and Lily both returned with their empty trays. Good. It was safe.

Drew slammed the door of the inn shut. Remarkably it had survived too much damage. It was a fine strong door. Reinforced with iron. Drew didn’t mind that it drew the attention of the dwarves.

“Hey! What’s going on?” shouted the stubborn one with a beer towel wrapped around his head.

Drew smiled and shrugged. “Drink your beer,” he shouted through the window. Most of them were, grumbling together in small groups—comparing bruises and cuts and stories of the fight. Most of them ignored the fact that a lot of the fighting had been dwarf on dwarf. Why let the truth get in the way of a good boast after all.

Drew beckoned Lily over. “Get more ale ready—should keep them calm a bit longer.”

“Yes, Drew,” she said. “I’ll get some barrels out of the cellar. But do you have the key?”

Drew glanced at the stairs. He’d left the key upstairs that morning. He didn’t fancy going up there at the moment, until he knew what was coming down. “Let’s see how it goes—we have some bottles of spirits and wine in the bar—they can have that—might knock them all out quicker!”

“Why are they drawing their weapons again?” quailed Lily. She pointed at the courtyard through the window. Drew looked. The dwarves were grasping axe and hammer handles and drawing swords in readiness for something. Two of them had climbed onto the narrow wooden walkway above the gate. They were moving in a weird way, Drew noticed as they looked over the wall, almost as if they were dancing. And then one of them stopped suddenly and fell backwards into the yard with a thud—an arrow was embedded in his shoulder. They had been trying to dodge arrows. But who? How?

Drew hesitated. Should he open the inn door and find out what was going on out there. Was it a ruse. The other dwarf on the walkway above the gate was crouched down—and peering over the wall—he was shouting at the other dwarves in the yard. To his disbelief, Drew saw that the dwarves were opening the gate—was that really such a good idea—let in whoever was shooting at you, so they could shoot at you some more?

In poured a group of dwarven miners—many holding shields to protect their heads and backs as they scurried inside—the shields were prickled with black-feathered arrows. They all rushed in and the gates were shut hurriedly again. Drew stood on a broken table to get a better view and could see that there were others outside the gate—not dwarves but armed humanoids with green skin and large teeth—orcs! And goblins Drew noticed—riding wolves—they were the ones shooting the arrows. He grabbed his blunderbuss and the bag of shot and powder, and rushed for the door.

Gundrun was standing before him when he came out into the courtyard. He wiped some black blood off his axe head as he looked up at Drew.

“What the hell are you doing now, Gundrun—your lot have caused enough damage to my establishment and now you bring a horde of goblins and orcs to finish the job?”

Gundrun spat an answer. “How dare you—we’ll save your runty hide for you and you should be grateful—or should we open the gate again and let the greenskin scum in—tell them you’ve invited them to a high tea of roast halfing?”

A black-fletched arrow thudded into the door frame above Drew’s head. The heat of his blood ran suddenly cold. He shook his head. He hated to do this, but he’d best make peace with the cantankerous old dwarf.

“No. No, of course not. It’s just been a hard day. Come, let’s talk. How many are out there? Where did they come from? You’ve stirred up a right hornet’s nest.”

“Us?” Gundrun huffed. “They came out of the trees—from the mountain. No idea what they want. Not supposed to be any orcs much in this hills anymore—they all went to ground. But I fancy this is different—must be the start of a full invasion, by my reckoning.”

Drew shook his head. “And we’re in the way. What can we do?”

Gundrun looked at the walls of the courtyard—they were high—over ten foot and built of solid wood logs, but there was no walkway or battlement that they could guard. “Not much we can do, but wait for them to try to get over the wall and then hack ‘em down as they come. That tower over the gate is too dangerous—there’s no cover, although it’s good for seeing what’s going on. We have some crossbows and you must have some short bows? Never known a clan of Halfling to be without half a dozen bows at least. We can put some of my lads and some of your keen-eyed youngsters upstairs to fire back at the gobboes.

Drew cast an apprehensive look at the first floor windows of the inn. “I’m not sure about that. There’s been some trouble up there.”

“Trouble?” asked Gundrun.

“Same trouble that caused the bar-room brawl—well some of it went upstairs—those dogs, naked men and women—something to do with one of my guests I think. I heard some fighting going on up there. Not sure if it’s safe.”

“Hmm, and I thought it was because you’d refused some of my hard-workings boys a drink. We need to go and take a look up there though—we need to see what’s going on.”

There was a shatter of glass in the window above the inn’s main door. A second later the figure of the aristocrat fell through, a bright, shining sword falling to the ground under him. He was clutching at the window sill. Drew and Gundrun heard shouting and the man let go and dropped to the floor only a few feet below. He stumbled away looking about him in a dazed way. He saw the sword and picked it up hurriedly. There was the barking of a dog and growling and then another man tumbled out of the window and crashed to the ground. Drew recognized him as one of the aristocrat’s men. He clutched a sword and was bleeding from a wound in his leg.

There was a roar from the gate—and Drew turned to see two vicious looking orcs clamber over the top and jump to the ground inside the inn’s courtyard. Each wielded a wicked curved sword in one hand and a dagger in the other.

“For Durin!” came the war-cry of the dwarf miners and a line of axe and hammer armed dwarves charged at the orcs. More were coming over the wall and the bolts of crossbows flew to knock them back.

There was a screech in the sky above, and Drew looked up. A huge winged beast circled above them. There was a rider on its back. He grabbed Gundrun’s arm. “They’re coming at us from all sides.”

“Get your lads upstairs now!”

“But what’s still up there?”

As they spoke, the large Doberman and a naked man burst out of the tavern door. The dog looked around the courtyard and stood pawing the ground and growling when it spotted the aristocrat and his man.

“I’m guessing it might be safe now,” said Gundrun. “Harald, Oglin, gather any of the boys with crossbows and get upstairs—make more arrowslits in the walls if you have to.”

“My walls!” exclaimed Drew. “No, you’re right,” he said as Gundrun’s brows beetled, “Tolly, Lily and Sam, get your boys and go with the dwarves upstairs—shoot anything with a greenskin!”