Bill King's return to the Black Library to write a Warhammer Fantasy trilogy about legendary Elf heroes Tyrion and Teclis will be news only to those of my readers who don't follow the Black Library blog or other F&SF news sites, where the news broke back in February.
Bill is of course best known for his 7 Slayer novels, featuring dwarf slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his human poet companion Felix Jaeger; and for his 4 Space Wolf novels, featuring Ragnar Blackmane. He may have 2 major characters to whom the phrase 'pointy ears' is simultaneously a term of abuse and a target designation, but writing about elves isn't new to Bill. He co-wrote with Andy Chambers the 4th edition Warhammer Armies: High Elves, in which he created most of what remains the canonical account of Tyrion and Teclis. And he wrote about the 40K Eldar in the novel Farseer.
Gone but not forgotten
Perhaps less well known to my readers than Bill's career as a BL writer will be his career as an RPG publisher. In 1997 he published the anime inspired Waste World through his Prague-based company Manticore Productions Limited. Waste World was quite well reviewed at the time- eg. Dan Davenport @RPG.net, and saw four supplements before Manticore folded leaving a dedicated fan base to keep its spirit alive:
Static Games here in Glasgow. I bought it without a second thought, naturally enough, and collected the full set of Waste World products just as quickly as I could.
Shock of impact
The first thing that struck me when I cracked open the covers of Waste World was a sense of utter shock: the game used d20s and nothing else. Y'see, back in the day when we were doing a lot of HERO roleplaying one feature of HERO we both liked a lot was the bell curve of the game's 3d6. We liked this because we recognised that reality is rarely linear so that the bell curve gives the game a pleasing degree of authenticity in its random generation. Bill's decision to turn to linearity for his own game therefore perplexed me mightily, to say the least.
In the end I realised that I liked it- in combat at least, for a simple reason: chaos. The thing about the bell curve is that its 'clumping' of results around the centre means that the extremes are commensurately rare. With no such 'clumping', linearity means that the extremes are every bit as likely as any other point on the scale. This is a great equaliser in combat because it means that the PCs always have to fear those 'pants-filling' dice rolls: 1's- by themselves, and 20's- by their opponents. Like I said, this is a great equaliser. It also makes combat inherently more dramatic because the extremes are more common than they are under bell-curve random number generation.
I ran the full version of Waste World just the once, using the adventure included in the GM's screen. This was quite an experience, one of my best as a GM. All glitches aside (see Dan Davenport's review for some fair comment here) character creation was quick and easy, with Bill's advice helping my novice roleplayers create strong characters as well as just doing a bit of number crunching to buy kewl powers.
The true joy came when combat broke out for the first time. We'd just come from a session of my HERO bughunter game. As much as I liked my setting and the opening scenario, running it with a bunch of novices was like pulling teeth. My players were making real heavy weather of the combat system, which didn't bode well for the hi-octane cinematic firefights I'd had in mind. So when the Waste World combat system exploded into action with precisely that style and with astonishing ease I was delighted, as you can imagine dear readers. My players liked it too.
Unfortunately we never went back to Waste World after that one session, and the over the top anime style has turned out to be not to the taste of my current players. So I've never had a chance to experience the full depths of this game which is frankly very good indeed.
Getting to the point
There are 2 prizes up for grabs in RD/KA!'s first ever prize draw:
- Grand prize: a bumper bundle of the Waste World rulebook and the Hydra sourcebook.
- Consolation prize: A Fistful of Credits, the Waste World starter digest-sized booklet, which comes complete with a mini scenario.
There are 3 ways to enter:
- Simply click here to send me your name and postal address. Please use the subject line 'Waste World'.
- Ditto, but you can wait till you win before sending me your address.
- Add a comment to this thread indicating your entry.