Sunday, 19 August 2018

Enter the Black Library

Enter the Black Library

A 9-Worlds convention follow up

At a recent 9-Worlds panel on ‘Diversity in Warhammer 40,000’ a recurring theme in the question and answer session was a desire for inclusive literature and Black Library fiction by women. To expand on the brief answer we were able to supply at the panel I committed to signposting some authors worth checking out…

Rachel Harrison

Rachel gained my utmost respect as a 40k writer with the short story ‘Execution’ which follows Commissar Severina Raine as she drives the 11th Antari rifles to achieve the seemingly impossible. If you can spare a few pounds then I highly recommend supporting her solo work with Black Library.

You may also find her work in the War for Armageddon Omnibus and Necromunda bundle; as well a few shorts under the name Ray Harrison. This is an author I sincerely hope to see more from in future Black Library publications.

James Swallow

Best known for writing about some of my favourite things in 40k; Sisters of Battle, Blood Angels and Nathaniel Garro. ‘Faith and Fire’ the defining Sisters of Battle novel has a lot of problematic content in the choice of language, jarring switches to the male gaze and the attitude of many male characters to the Sisters… however it deserves a mention for the excellent characters and the foundations it provides for future Sisters of Battle literature.

If you have a moment check out the audio drama ‘+++Corsair+++ Face of the Void’ so you can join me in eagerly awaiting further installments.

Gav Thorpe

Games Workshop legend and well known for his efforts to engage with the community and develop the characters he is writing to better represent them. I would like to draw attention to ‘Imperator: Wrath of the Omnissiah’ which features not only a prominent character of non-binary gender but also one of the most awesome women in 40k right now.

Sarah Kaiser

Whilst not part of official GW publications is a much loved webcomic in the 40k universe. You may recognise the art style from recent Warhammer Community promotional material and can expect to see more from Sarah in future Games Workshop work. This lady is one of my personal hobby heroes.

With a recent Black Library drive to find more authors and open up the 40k fiction to a more diverse range of creators I hope this list will need some serious updating before too long...

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Wrath and Glory Interview

An Interview with W. Reischl

We have been watching the development of the much anticipated Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game Wrath and Glory which was recently featured at GenCon. Set in the Dark Imperium it offers new story opportunities in a time of big changes and bigger threats for players. The main book focuses on the Gilead sector which is struggling to survive the disruption of the cicatrix maledictum, insidious influence of the ruinous powers and its own population.

You can imagine our excitement when Nighthawk had the opportunity to sit down (she was sat down whilst typing at least) and interview a member of the team responsible for creating the game. With W. Reischl (known to the Inquisition as WAR) dragged kicking and protesting into the Inquisitorial fortress the servo skulls were activated and the scribes charged their auto-quills to record his words...

Nighthawk: Thankyou so much for taking the time to chat to us at Feminist 40k about the upcoming Wrath and Glory RPG release. Since getting our hands on the preview adventure Blessings Unheralded ( we have been excited about… basically everything. As one of the people creating the game what aspects have really excited you?

WAR: Wrath and Glory has many exceptional facets, but I'll focus on the two that really set it apart in my book.

The first outstanding feature is the versatility and diversity of stories that groups can explore. Back before we were able to reveal too many details, Ross Watson used the phrase "broad and inclusive" to describe Wrath and Glory and that has carried forward. While the Imperium is core to Warhammer 40,000 and always will be, the Aeldari and Orks are available as playable characters directly in the core book. The same is also true for special classes including the Adepta Sororitas - the Sisters of Battle. My introduction to 40k came a decade ago through role playing and I'm sure that will happen for countless more players with Wrath and Glory. The team has taken many steps to embrace and uplift all players coming into the game. One other feature that I love is the Tier system. This is the overall power level of the campaign. If players want to start off with a slow burn, they can play as a squad in the Astra Militarum in a Tier 1 game where they are only just discovering the horrors that the galaxy has to offer. If players want to jump to the highest Tier in the core book, they can play Primarus Marines the new biggest badasses on the block - because oh yeah - Wrath and Glory is taking place in the Dark Imperium hand in hand with 8th Edition Warhammer 40,000. It also enables players to ascend lower Tier characters to higher Tiers to play all together seamlessly. The convention demo games I'm running are at Tier 3 which considers playable characters "Elite Guardians," it's not their first day on the job.

The second thing I appreciate about Wrath and Glory is the opportunity for narrative input from the players and give them more control over their fate in general. I come from the indie games side of the world and wanted to bring more of that into more traditional role playing systems. In the game there are two player resources called "Wrath" and "Glory" that players can leverage to their advantage. While players can use Wrath to reroll a failed test, they can also use it to insert something interesting or useful into the narrative. Wrath doesn't grant wishes (no manifesting a Titan), but is there a crucible of molten metal in this factory that just happens to be above the mob of genestealers you're about to engage - sure! Glory is a team based resource that again gives players more agency in the game. When it really matters, players can collectively decide to spend Glory to amp up attacks, damage, severity of critical hits, and seize the initiative away from the game master. As a player it sucks to wait for your turn and then whiff the dice and having nothing happen. We all want to contribute to the story and these mechanics help people to feel more effective - especially during the most important moments in the game. Additionally, the system adds Complications to the mix. While tests may still succeed when a complication occurs, something else happens that the player can choose to narrate. Complications don't have to include a mechanics based detriment, but make the scene more interesting and likely harder for the character. So far, my favorite player narrated complication was a Commissar at a formal event who had her hat destroyed. Everyone who mattered immediately knew she was out of uniform and she couldn't stand by while that happened. It was a great role playing based detriment that was meaningful to the player and their character.

Nighthawk: You describe a focus on the narrative and letting go of a centralised control in favour of collaborative play, what has this meant for you as a GM and writer?

WAR: As I mentioned before, spreading narrative control to the players is one of my favorite aspects of Wrath and Glory. While many Game Masters encourage narrative participation from their players, codifying it in the rules encourage and elicits a game culture that uplifts the ideas of all the participants. As a game master this is meaningful because it's not on me know or arbitrate every little thing. If as a GM I didn't describe the crucible of molten metal but a player spends a Wrath, it's there, that's not fudging the rules in the players favor, it is the rules. Narrative control, whether through Wrath tokens or Complications are also a special language players use to communicate what is important to them and their characters, it is an exceptional opportunity for game masters to pay attention and potentially shape a meaningful narrative in response. I think it also means that even more so than before games, even prewritten modules, will take unexpected twists that delight and surprise everyone including the game master. Players taking the game in unexpected directions is one of the great joys for me as a game master, my ability to adapt and respond keeps me more engaged especially in scenarios I run multiple times. So while on the surface spreading the narrative control is an asset to the players, it is also a gift to the game masters and writers, because we don't have to account for every possibility because there isn't a way to anticipate the amazing ideas of every player.

Nighthawk: Clearly there is a lot to love for those of us who like to explore the rich and evocative universe of the 41st millenium and the society that exists. At Feminist 40k we also exist to encourage that universe to reflect our own worlds diversity so that all are included. How has the team embraced an inclusive approach when making the game?

WAR: I think one of the things that Ulisses North America, Ross, and the whole Wrath & Glory team has done really well is expect inclusivity as the baseline. It is not up for debate, there are millions of worlds in the Imperium and in the desperate fight taking place in the Dark Imperium humanity is not turning away anyone loyal to the cause. In addition to being a writer and 40k fan, I'm also an MBA and I've spent a significant amount of time thinking about creating culture and the "tone at the top." Wrath & Glory's game book and everything it includes will speak for us for years and even decades to come. To me the tone says: everyone is invited to experience the grim darkness of the far future. When the Blessings Unheralded Free RPG Day module and characters came out, there weren't any press releases blowing the horn of diversity. This was the first product ever released for Wrath & Glory and it spoke for itself. I ran six sessions at Origins, the first public debut in on the continent, and not once did anyone complain that there were four women characters and two people of color, it wasn't even remarked on. People are excited to play Wrath & Glory and engaged in the stories we are telling, that's what it is all about.

Nighthawk: In the 'Blessings Unheralded' adventure we are introduced to the Gilead sector and the Shrine World of Enoch which is home to the Order of the Sanctified Shield. What was it like getting to breathe new life into the Adepta Sororitas and make them a prominent part of the setting?

WAR: Representation matters and having the most badass women in the Imperium included in the core book - as part of the core experience - is important. Their inclusion is of equal importance to including the Adepts Astartes. Why deny players the agency to play the badass character that they want to play? For me, the Sisters and the Battle Brothers are both iconic parts of Warhammer 40,000. By including each in the base Wrath & Glory game we are clearly asserting that both are core to the 40k experience. If you expect one you should expect the other, and Wrath & Glory delivers.

Nighthawk: I can’t fully express how much it means to see the core of a game committing to inclusion. Does this mean we will be seeing more racially diverse artwork and Queer narratives in game?

WAR: As a freelancer I didn't get to see all of the artwork in advance, but everything I have seen so far is excellent and representative. I trust Ulisses and Ross have been consistent because diversity was never an afterthought, it has been in Wrath & Glory since day 1. In the "Revelations" teaser that came out at Gen Con 2017 the Adeptus Mechanicus character didn't have a stated gender in the fiction, which I think was a great first step. There are a lot of reasons this makes sense for Ad Mech considering that they are in many ways moving to change - or even move beyond - the human form. Though it is a bit ironic to think of an Ad Mech as non-binary. Of course players are empowered to play whatever kind of character they want, and with the desperate times of the Dark Imperium - we need all the heroes to step forward.

Nighthawk: Step forward we shall! Now before you go; is there anything you'd like to share with the hordes of eager fans waiting to get their hands on Wrath and Glory?

WAR: I have to say I am just as excited as everyone else to get my hands on Wrath & Glory. I'm leaving for Gen Con this morning and saw my first photo of the core book being set up in the booth at the Convention Center late last night. Trust me, it will have been worth the wait!

A huge thankyou to WAR for taking time out of his schedule running Wrath and Glory previews and being generally awesome to talk with us. Pre-orders for Wrath and Glory are now closed but if you would like to learn more and keep up to date on retail release you can find it all on the website here:

Games Workshop Retro-review E1

Games Workshop Retro-review

Episode 1 - Oi Dat’s My Leg

As we are often reminded by certain types of fan; Games Workshop is super serious and GrimDark with a strict adherence to established lore. With this in mind I dug out the ancient Pandora's box of super serious Grimdarkery that is 'Oi Dat's My Leg’ and arranged a time to share it with one of the more mature and reasonable Games Workshop fans… my five year old daughter.

Upon first opening the colourful box depicting a dismembered troll and the escapades of organ harvesting goblins; my daughter was delighted to find a riot of colour and no less than three trolls to choose from. Goblin selection was even more generous and after choosing the pink goblin for herself I was assigned the blue goblin.

To generate a suitably GrimDark atmosphere and truly immerse the player in the Battle Angel Alita style world of organ harvesting, harsh incarceration policies and a downtrodden underclass subsisting on a junk pile; Games Workshop provided a tape of thematic songs and music. Unfortunately my partner has forbidden me from playing this on pain of pain following the first sing along rendition of 'Ere We Go’ so I am unable to offer further insight into this magnetically encoded brilliance.

The objective of the game is (as your morally bankrupt goblin) to locate, steal and unearth parts of luckless trolls in an effort to build some sort of chimera and establish oneself as a demi-god on a par with Dr Frankenstein. At this point I confided in my fellow reviewer about my misgivings and the unbearable futility of existence in this dystopian world. She blew a raspberry and demanded I explain the rules.

We placed our goblins in their junk pile homestead and the selected troll in the centre of the board. Throughout the game this guardian of order would pursue us in the hope of throwing our colourful avatars in a claustrophobic and unsanitary cage. Naturally troll infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired and we enjoyed a ⅓ chance of escaping this incarceration and continuing our macabre scavenging.

Play consists of traversing the board whilst hoping one does not get trapped in the cleverly placed loop of infinite futility at the very start. Between falling back into the junk pile, returning to where we had begun our move and missing turns Games Workshop made me contemplate the cyclical nature of our endeavours and the ease with which we find ourselves back to square one regardless of our ambition. My daughter found the experience hilarious.

As our journey through the unique goblin culture progressed we began to amass an array of body parts and construct our unholy troll automata. In a thought provoking exploration of capitalism without conscience we were able to impede each others progress through the use of junk that undermined construction of a troll or theft of others hard won limbs to the cry of 'Oi Dat’s My Leg’.

Eventually my daughter emerged victorious. Having completed the two trolls required for victory she had fallen into Games Workshop's cunning trap. What benefits a goblin to create more of their oppressors? Could anyone in good conscience demand the unquestioning subservience of their perverse creation and deny them a place among trollkind? Maybe I am reading to much into it? Perhaps my daughter's elation at accomplishment is merely an illustration of the futility of our endeavours?

Daughter rates this game one hundred millionty seven. I refuse to place a quantitative value on such abstract genius in fear of cheapening the GrimDark experience.

Overall Rating: 

One Hundred Millionty Seven