A look at Tanks: Modern Age

After 2020’s 10mm painting plan didn’t come together, I decided to do some Cold War Era tank combat, as I would not need many models and, as it was solo, there was no rush to paint. I also got some WW2 figs and tanks at the same time. As I don’t like playing German, I decided to go with an alternate history, an offshoot of Solway Miniatures’s “A Very British Civil War” which splits with Edward VIII not abdicating, and the UK splitting into various factions, but I would concentrate on Australia, as I had a desert terrain mat. So I have Soviet backed Republican factions for WW2 and 3, and Royalist Factions buying surplus German kit and later getting US support.

I plan to try out different rules for this, but first, “Tanks: Modern Age” a now out of print low model count game from Gale Force 9/Battlefront. I didn’t know it was out of print when I got it, but they do not make it at all obvious.

Satellite image, Royalist M1 Abrams vs Republican T-72 and T-62M

So, my first battle, a Royalist IPM1 Abrams meets up with a T-72 and a T62M near the abandoned village of Duncan’s Wells.

In the Tanks: Modern Age system, the faster tank moves last and shoots first so, barring damage, the M1 will always have that advantage.

End of turn one

Tanks can move one or two lengths of a arrow marker, which can touch the tank anywhere at the start of the move. At the end of the move the tank must be side, front or rear touching the arrow full on.

The Republicans move forward, the T-72 guarding its flank against the building whilst the T-62M starts to work its way through the oasis.

The Monarchist tank cautiously moves closer. No targets acquired yet.

The Republicans try to prepare for the Abrams, the T-72 staying still and the T-62M advancing slowly to keep itself in cover. The Abrams, however, backs off and seeks the shelter of the buildings, but manages to line up the front of the T-62M

The Tanks system uses attack dice, hit on 4/5/6 and Defence dice, cancel a hit on 4/5/6. More defence for moving and cover, less for a side/rear shot. The T-62M gets hit, the crew rattled and they have to go first next turn.

There is more manoeuvring, the Republicans attempt to catch the Monarchist in a pincer but the Monarchist uses its superior initiative to put the hill between the T-62M and itself and get a close shot onto the T-72. Both T-72 and M1 take light damage.

A 6 on an attack dice is a Critical Hit with Tanks, and you draw a Critical card for each Critical that gets through. The T-62M’s rattled crew card was repairable, so they no longer suffer its effects.

The T-62M, still seeking to close the pincer, moves up, but the Abrams takes a risk, hits the T-62M in the rear, gets a good critical hit and blows it up.

Normally the damage on the tank is equal to the number of the hit dice that get through, but some of the critical hit cards add extra damage, and that was enough to push this tank from damaged to destroyed.

This last turn, the Monarchist tank turns, but the Republicans stay still to maximise their chance of causing damage, but the M1 gets a strong hit on the T-72 and the critical hits, two of them, does for it. The village of Duncan’s Wells is claimed by the Monarchists.

This was a fast game, simple to play. Once in to it I rarely had to consult the rules. However, as Marco Arnaudo of the Marcomnigamer YouTube channel observed when trying the “World of Tanks” game, which is almost the same as this, this suffers in comparison, say, to X-Wing in that because you have the high initiative move last/fire first rule, with no programmed moves of the sort in X-Wing, then the faster initiative tank always holds a strong advantage.

The Tanks system allows for crew and equipment upgrades. Some of them may affect Initiative and I think my next game will be with some of those additions because otherwise this game might be too one sided for long term play.

The mat was a GaleForce 9 mat. The card builds bottom right, hill on the left and oasis on the top middle were 2D card printed images with is PWIW from Griffon Publishing Studio who also publish a WW2 Tanks game called “Panzerkids”. The terrain images were well worth the 1 guinea they cost (£1.05) and I think they look really effective on the mat.

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1066 by Peter Denis and Andy Callan

Using the simple, one page version of the included war game of 1066.

With apologies to Dave Elrick

1066 Wargame book

A few birthdays ago, my friend Dave got me the book 1066 by famed illustrator Peter Dennis. This is a book of gorgeous “copy and print” paper wargames miniatures and terrain, with an included set of rules by Andy Callan. Dave asked me to let him know how the rules worked as they did other periods including some that interested him. However, because of work, I never felt up to the task of scanning, printing and assembling two armies.

The figures for the game are grouped into stands and there are a respectable selection of groups of each type, so your armies shouldn’t look like a copy and paste set of sprites. Other copy and print stuff includes printable buildings, fortifications, ships, trees, streams, tokens and even a fancy turn counter in the form of a burning candle.

Sample non figure things

Wind forward a couple of years, and a Romanian company called WoFun started producing acrylic flat war games miniatures, now available in 28mm and 18mm. I can’t remember if they were Peter Dennis illustrations, but by now many of their ranges do use his and they sell a deal that comes with a PDF of the book inc rules. I got the 18mm “1066 Full Pack” with MDF bases. This has Saxons, Vikings, Normans and some Civilians, and this Good Friday I set up for the simple, one page version of the rules, which uses a “battle board” of 10 squares by 7 squares, stands of figures moving from square to square.

The full version uses a proper wargames table with measuring, and unit types not in this demo, particularly archers and cavalry. I should point out that the “Full Pack” doesn’t have enough Leidang to do the Starter scenario, so I used Bondi to make up the numbers.

With the book you can print as many as you want. The WoFun pack talks about including “48 figures of Select Fyrd”, for example, but that is 12 stands each of which has two groups of 4 figures, so those 48 figures are equivalent to 12 stands.

The simple game is a Saxon commander, 5 stands of huscarls and 6 of Select Fyrd against a Viking Commander and their 11 stands of Leidang warriors, kind of the Norse equivalent of the Fyrd. The Viking Liedang hit harder in their attack turn, the Select Fyrd are consistant, the Hurscarls hit as hard as the Liedang in both attack and defence.

Each commander has a random number of command points used just to move the troops in a IGOUGO turn. Troops can be moved as a whole body, singly or as part of an army reform. tracks happen automatically. Each stand attacks individually, the attacker calls the attack and both sides roll their attack dice. Hits are always on a 5 or 6, the better the unit, the more dice to roll. If one side has more hits on it, then it has to roll a save for each one that got through, fail that and it is off the table. If a stand is flanked, then it gets to roll fewer dice to attack, so it is worth trying to open up gaps to get flank attacks later in that turn, as a stand that has defeated its enemy is able to flank others later in the same turn.

Top down view of the battle

Onto my test battle. The vikings, at the bottom of the board, have their commander on the right, the leidang ready to patch any holes in the line. The Saxons have the huscarls on their left, the Select Fyrd on the right, The vikings won initiative, and rolled a six for command points, which allowed the whole army to advance right up to the Saxons.

The battle goes badly for the Saxons

The next few turns saws back and forth between Norse and Saxon, with the Norse getting the better of it, the commander opening the flank as the Saxon reserves were exhausted. The battle seems certain for the Norse, now they have the numbers.

However, some luck, especially when it comes to picking fights to allow for the advantage of outflanking, turns it around for the Saxons, until only the Norse commander is left.

This is only the light, teaching, version of a light rule set, so it isn’t full of subtlety. The mail rules however, are not fantastically laid out, so i had some questions from just reading them, and this teaching aid was useful for some of the principles. This version, with counters, would be fun on a train ride or the like as it would be say to take out, play, and put away, so i am looking forward to printing out some terrain and trying the full rules.

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“Viking Fury” by Gary Graber – Minden Games

It has been a Viking heavy Christmas. We have a Julbok Christmas straw goat, I’ve been catching up with the series “Vikings”, playing “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” and in a couple of gifts from one of my oldest friends, Dave, I got a copy of the solitaire game “Viking Fury” from Minden Games , I believe they sell it in a number of formats, but mine is the ‘zip” version.

This is a game of naughty Norse nipping across the North Sea to nick stuff. You start from your home base with at least one ship, one other advantage, a ship, a raider or better Navigation or Leadership, and you undertake three Expeditions, setting a goal of the place you want to raid, though you can raid other places if you want.

Picture of components, rulebook, map, counters and with added cards and die

The rule book comes with a separate map, on a thicker paper than the rule book and thin, not perforated, card stock counter sheet that you need to cut out. The rule book has a copy of the map and the counters that I think you are intended to copy onto card if you have a version without the separate map and counter sheet. In any case it is a way to have spares. As well as book, map and counters you need a standard deck of cards and a normal six sided die. The small ziplock counter bags shown above were not included.

The goal you set gives you how many turns you get to mount your Expedition and each turn is divided into MOVE, CONFLICT and EVENTS. The cards are used to draw for movement and events, comparing the card drawn to a chart, the die is used when attacking locations. At the end of the three Expeditions you total up the Victory points you get for looting treasure, building settlements and if you achieve advancements in both Navigation and Leadership.

In MOVEMENT you divide up the movement points between your ships, pick up and drop off raiding parties and those raiders can also move.

If you end up on a location, you must attack it, the CONFLICT phase. That is resolved by rolling a die for the attacker and add any modifications, roll a die twice for the defender, it’s official die roll and a variable modifier, and the highest one wins. If the attacker wins then they will most likely, but not always gain treasure. The more important the settlement, the more likely it is to have a valuable, but also the better it resists attack.

The final phase is the EVENTS. A black card drawn will give a result that might be good, e.g. making a Settlement less likely to fail, or bad, e.g. cutting the number of movement cards drawn or the number of turns in an expedition or be neutral either because it does not apply or some advance you have made nullifies it.

During the Expedition, Raiding Parties can settle down and thus build Settlements, though these are vulnerable to failure. Once the Ships return to base, the Expedition is over and any treasure is banked for Victory Points. If the Expedition was successful then the player can spend that on another ship, or a raiding party or for one advance, either Leadership or Navigation.

Gamemap at end of second turn

The blue counters with white stars are strongholds. The White counter with the red N signifies the Navigation upgrade at my home port. The red lines at certain ports mean that I can only enter or exit ports though the connected hexes.

I have taken a risk, choosing the Navigation upgrade instead of an extra ship or raiding party, but this lets my ship get to Lindisfarne quickly for a traditional start to the Viking age.If my ship is destroyed though, it’s the end of the game for famed Viking ship captain and crossbowman, Bjarni the Bolt.

End of the second expedition map

At the end of the first expedition, a raider was bought. This is the end of the second expedition, Iona was sacked and looted, the raiding party was dropped off in Scotland where they founded a settlement (the red counter). Flames note where Lindisfarne and Iona were. The white die on the left is how I’m recording the victory points. I made a mistake, counting the Settlement, you only do that at the end of the game in case it is destroyed.

A second ship is bought, aiming to raid two minor locations on the eastern coast of the kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons. The counters by the right hand die are the raider and treasure counters.

End of the third expedition, more fires where places used to be. The settlement survived, aided by Event cards that strengthened it. With the last two treasures retrieved, the total victory points is seven, enough to win, huzzah! It could so easily have been failure

The ship counters are in the port for the normal difficulty starting point, Kaupang. Aggersborg on the west side of Denmark is the easy starting point, Hedeby the difficult. There are other tweaks you can make to change the game, more expeditions required needing more victory points including multiple settlements, “unknown” counters so that what kind of location it is is a mystery till you get there.

This is a light game that lets you try out different strategies. Do you drop of raiding parties for settlements, go for the two ships alone and advance your techniques, risking failing to get treasure. As it is so fast and fum, you can get a few expeditions in a night, trying your ideas out.

Whilst this is a fun game, it is not a game to play night after night after night, but instead for when you have a spare hour or so and want to burn unsuspecting towns and redistribute their wealth, mostly to you. You are really going to be playing against yourself, trying ideas out and see what does well for you, maybe making things more difficult for you when you get used to it. A small footprint bit of fun that, if we ever travel again, would even be playable on a train.

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Review – Books of Battlemats Volume II, Giant and Big from Loke Battlemats

Reviewed by Colin D. Speirs

Giant Book of Battlemats Volume II – £32.99
Big Book of Battlemats Volume II – £19.99
Available direct From Loke Battlemats or from hobby and river nameD retailers

Yes, it is Giant. and the other is big

The concept of these is quite simple, A book terrain maps for the role-playing table that lie flat whatever map you choose. There are a range of maps from the company, for fantasy, including dungeons, and science fiction locations. A disclaimer though, I got these free in a prize draw from Loke, though they didn’t ask for a review or any acknowledgement in return.

These two books contain, with some differences, the same maps, or subjects of maps, with an overlaid 1 inch (2.54cm) by 1 inch grid. Although the grids are the same, these are not geomorphic, at least not with each other, books of the same size might let you connect roads on one mat with roads on another.

Big book on left, Giant on the right

There are 62 pages in the “Giant”, 60 in the “Big”, folding out to a terrain mat comprising of both facing pages. Most are the same, but those in the “Big” book are either cropped or slightly redesigned to fit. In the shipboard mat, for example, the “Big” mat has a smaller, different ship than that of the ”Giant”, the tower mat has different facing pages from the tower in each book.

Most of the mats in this book are outdoor encounter scenes, from a plain grass field, unadorned by features, to a ruined temple by a sea-shore, a road crossing, a fallen tower, a tree village and more. There are plenty of features for cover and Loke do produce a pack of reusable terrain pieces to change things, though so far that looks just to be mainly Dungeon furniture. That I have ordered for myself. The one mat in the Giant Book that isn’t in the Big is a kind of arid desert, complete with a sun-bleached cattle skull.

You could, of course put model terrain pieces on them, but I suspect cardboard houses might not sit too well on them compared to felt or normal hard terrain mats.

Big mat in skirmish action, very short range for SMLEs., even an SMG

As well as RPGs, you could do some skirmish wargaming like with a small number of figures a side. With some of the mats on the Giant Book you could use for wargaming larger battles with smaller scale figures. The proportions of the Giant book mat the traditional 6 by 4 near enough, but the field will be smaller even in proportion for the usual base sizes for 10mm or 6mm figures. However the central comb would be a problem for traditional measure and wheel type games, you can’t have a stand straddle the comb without looking silly.

10mm Battle of Five armies figures, one day I will finish them

As you can see from the photos, they are reflective, but unless taking photos that shouldn’t be an issue and that is because they are coated so they can be wiped clean, either to clean off marks you have made on the map, or just for hygiene in these pandemic times.

If you are using hex based systems then yes, the squares aren’t useful, some you could adapt, but I do not believe they offer any in a hex system at present.

These are a good idea for simple and easy encounters and you could also fold the map over in half if you are short of space, like train journeys when they are a thing again. . They are not as specialist as, say, the Dungeon books Loke produce, but they are not supposed to be.

I’ve been hinting to relatives about getting me the first volume of the Giant book for some time, and I think others in the range will be the next thing I will be hinting about. For these two books, at about £1 a map for the Giant book and £0.67 for the Big book, I can see situations for most maps and I am glad I have them

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LOCS C&S Geek code circa 2000

Andy Staples commented on C&S 5 abbreviations. In the days of steam internet, even being a fan could involve abbreviations…

ADV = Adventurer GM = Gamesmaster GMA = GM/ADV
M/C = Mix/Custom


SB= Sourcebook LoTRS = Land of the Rising Sun
B & G = Bireme and Galley R & D= Rapier and Dagger
S & S = Sword and Sorcerors C & H = Castles and Hovels
SA = Saurians DE = Destrier
CV = Chevalier AD = Arden
SM = Songsmith DL = Dragonlord
TfT = Towers for Tyrants (Judges Guild ?) GMH = GM’s Handbook (3rd ed)
GMS3 = GM’s Shield (3rd ed) GMS = GM’s Shield (1st ed)
SW = Stormwatch DRM = Dragon Reaches of Marakush
BES = Bestiary AND = Anderia
GMSL = GM’s Shield (C&S; Light) MGD = Magical Devices
KnC = Knights’ Companion ARM = Armourers’ Companion
ElC = Elves’ Companion DwC = Dwarves’ Companion
WHFTT = Where Heroes Fear to Tread UTCG = Under the Castle Gates

Campaign Styles

Code Definition Code Definition Code Definition
EF Early Feudal HC High Chivalry LF Late Feudal
ER Early Renaissance FN Fantasie Noir HF High Fantasy
SB Swashbuckling DC Dungeon Crawl MR Renaissance
ArM Ars Magica TSy Troupe Style MY Mythic
HM Horror/Mystery A Any N None Stated

Campaign Settings

Code Definition Code Definition Code Definition
T Tolkien JE High Fantasy (Jordan/Eddings) PL Mix n Match
TW World of Tannoth IB Islamic/Byzantine J Japanese Fantasy
HY Hyborian Age HA Harn KK Kingdoms of Kalanor
DA Dark Ages SD Self-Designed CR Central Europe/Russia
GH Greyhawk CO City-State Inv. Overlord HC “High Crusade”
AR Arthurian SA Saurian VI Videssos
(Harry Turtledove)
MO Moorcock MT Mystery AW Archworld
+R Romantic IA Iron Age JF Japanese Feudal
AE Alternate Earth MK Marakush +E External Cultures
(eg Feudal with Norse and Mongols)
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My first Chivalry and Sorcery campaign

I first obtained the Chivalry and Sorcery 1st edition in 1980, a second hand copy with a red cover that no other copy I have ever seen had. Certainly it mystified Ed and Wilf when they saw it.

scan of a 36 year old photocopy.

I quickly got the rest of the books that I could for first, and, like many, set about creating a world. Also like many at the time, that world was created with a map, The Thrankhurian Continent , which was drawn by filling in a lot of a page of graph paper.

To complement that I filled a spare school jotter with background history, perhaps a bit in the style of the Appendices to Lord of the Rings.

I also created my own alphabet. Later, thye Futhark version I learned from “Swords and Sorcerors” would be used on my Viking shields. Luckily the mother in one battle didn’t get time to transliterate “pòg mo thòin” when her daughter asked her what the runes said.

The big fantasy literature influences on me at the time were Lord of the Rings, Conan and Elric, my world was an ancient one, the two major powers on the continent had been competitors for centuries, with the smaller, satellite nations driting in and out of independence, or vassalage depending on the fortunes of war and politics.

However the big event was the fall of the northern Empire of Khandar, a nation of Sorceror Kings that had once ruled all others. In the aftermath of the conflict that overthrew that Empire, many of the ruling class fled (becoming part of the background of Akheron, my adoption of the Archaeron of Ed Simbalist) and laws were made forbidding any mage from the higher ranks of the refounded Kingdom of Khandar.

Part of that came about because my first character, rolled in plain sight of others, was the next in line to a throne. A cousin of the King, but that king had no other heirs, and my character was the eldest survivor of his line. That complicated things a bit, but, although it was my creation, the world was shared, so at least I had a character to take part in our world.

And I wanted him to be a Necromancer because C&S had Necromancers! So Sellar became an exile, still technically the heir but only until such times as the King and Queen had family, and many of the nobles would prefer that the crown would go to another. That gave him an excuse to go adventuring.

So much for the “Elric” influence. The Conan influence was evident in the other major power, Korondar, a naval power with overtones of the 15th Century Spanish Empire via Argos and Zingara from Conan, and a certain Aquilonian like structure to “modern” Khandar.

The world grew with other works. “Swords and Sorcerors” provided Northern Nations, it gave more detail to my already planned Druidic clan federation, Axioros, and brought in steppe nomads, some of whom had long ago been conquered by the refugee Khandarese Sorceror Kings and became the nucleus of the Akheron Empire. The Ardenese were the descendants of an offshoot of the Empire of Khandar, founded by those who had fled those same Sorceror Kings and, later, a bit miffed when their descendants of expanded West. To the East, connected by trade routes that traversed the steppes and the northern kingdoms, was the Land of the Rising Sun, thanks to Lee Gold and, across the Western Sea, the land of the Saurians, though that campaign never really interacted with the main campaign.

While the Hss’Taathi and Kulun Ssatha from Saurians never interacted with the main campaign, some dinosaurs did exist on the main continent, in a region unknown to the rest, shrouded by impassible mountains to the West, and a treacherous coast to the West. Later on those mountains became, in my head canon if not in the game, part of the way to a control room of the Engineers who had built such an unlikely planet, whose size and gravity did not make sense by standard rules. There were elements of The Fantasy Trip’s Cidri bleeding through there.

This campaign carried on into Second Edition, and that coincided with the random family events table showing that Sellar’s cousin died, he was now King. He went , with trepidation, to his coronation and as it turned out, with good cause. There an assassination was attempted, heralding the start of a civil war, hello C&S wargames rules. Although he was winning the civil war, an invasion by Korondar made things desperate. He met with the nobles, abdicated on condition that they united against the Korondarians and renegade Khandarians.

The influence rules in C&S got a lot of work out in that game of politics and war. That wargames campaign continued, but the character element was downplayed compared to before.

That freed my character back into playability, and he went into exile, to Sanctuary, where he stayed for some adventures before the campaign ended.

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Seeking Sanctuary in RPGs

On the way to work this morning, I listened to the podcast by “Dirk the Dice” ( @thegrognardfiles ) and friends on Cities in RPGs and on the “Thieves’ World” multi-system RPG supplement. That podcast is here .

In case you didn’t know, “Thieves’ World” is a shared world anthology series from the late 1970s and 80s. The name is the nickname for the city of Sanctuary, founded by runaway slaves from the Kingdom of Ilsig, later conquered by the Ilsigi and then later by the new power in the area, the Rankan Empire. Sanctuary has fallen on hard times, and is now a hive of scum and villainy to which the step-brother of the Rankan Emperor has been effectively exiled as the new Governor, an indication that as well as tales of larceny and magic, the stories will be inspired by the uncertain political situation, which even leads to the Gods of Ilsig and the Rankans clashing.

My first introduction to city based fantasy was the occasional city based Conan story or the Fritz Leiber “Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series”, but for RPGing it was Judges Guild’s “City State of the Invincible Overlord” which I used for AD&D and The Fantasy Trip. Where the city and surround became not only a place for the adventurers to return between adventures, but also where thievery, underground excursions and dirty dealings could take place.

Judges Guild City State of the Invincible Overlord

Random tables helped this along, including the slightly comical tables in the JG “Ready Ref sheets” (designed for original D&D) and tables in the DMG, but in in the early 80s, I was switching to Chivalry and Sorcery. My campaign was based on lots of sources, including Middle-Earth, The Young Kingdoms and historical nations, and into that got coopted “Sanctuary” as an outpost of the sea-faring Korondarian Empire, with the Rankan and Ilsigi elements lightly adapted.

"Cities" from Chaosium

“Thieves’ Word” gave the GM background for the city and characters, it had essays on topics such as portraying fantasy realistically (you can read that one here ) or how you might portray aspects of Sanctuary life, it had tables for City encounters that would see life separately later on in the Midkemia Press/Chaosium “Cities” supplement (itself rebranded as RQ Cities at some point) and, importantly, among the nine systems for which character statistics were provided, was my FRPG of choice, Chivalry and Sorcery” by one of the original authors, Wes Ives. They were very bare bones, not many of the derived statistics or information that C&S was famed for, but I figured the numbers out as I need them

Like “Dirk the Dice” and his chums said, it was a puzzle at first on how to adapt this. We had a group of characters who were basically wandering exiles, but well connected, much as Prince Kadakithis was to his brother. So a mini campaign developed around a diplomatic mission that intruded in a power struggle between factions, Rankan, Ilsigi, criminal Hawkmasks and the mysterious cult of Dyareela. A chance to use the C&S influence and favour rules!

But once that finished, what to do? The characters were visitors to the city with no reason to stay. They moved on and Sanctuary played very little part from then on. I lost my copy in the intervening years, though I still read the original books now and again.

"In the Labyrinth" - The GM's book for "The Fantasy Trip" RPG

Wind forward nearly thirty years. For my birthday my most Excellent friend Dave Elrick bought me a copy of the Thieves’ World set and the Companion, which extended the information into the time of a later invasion by the mysterious Beysibs. I had been thinking about starting a solo RPG campaign using “The Fantasy Trip” (coincidentally I was thinking of starting with the multi-part City based adventure “Irillian”, published in White Dwarf and also mentioned in the podcast) but the arrival of this set gave me a better idea.

Central casting - Heroes of Legend by Jenelle Jaquays

Instead of my planned old-fashioned dungeon bashing campaign, I decided to create characters not in the depths of the criminal society of Sanctuary, but on the fringes, hovering between respectable lower class and the actual villains. So a freelance mercenary bodyguard, an apprentice mage, a scribe ok one actual thief. A few others. The mix in any adventure could change anyway through depending how the action went. I used tables from “Thieves’ World”, “Cities”, Jennelle Jaquay’s “Central Casting – Heroes of Legend” and other resources, mostly story/plot generating tools. Employers came and went with missions of varying legality and danger and so far it’s been lot of fun.

I can recommend that to anyone else wanting to use Thieves’World. Don’t necessarily get involved with the main characters and events, the whole series is predicated on the colourful nature of the fringes of society, so go for that and the location seems to have a much longer longevity.

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To a more realistic medieval RPG

The new Chivalry and Sorcery will include, for the first time, rules for characters of the Jewish and Islamic religions. These will be enough for character generation and more in-depth supplements may be produced later.

Now, there was a question about why do this, wasn’t medieval Europe a monocultural Christian world, not exposed to differences in culture or religion, where men fought and women tended the hearth.

This turns out not to be the case, Jews were in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire, even on the borders, in modern Cologne, there was a Jewish community in the 4th Century CE

They existed in the Frankish kingdoms and elsewhere, and it was not until the First Crusade that things started to get really nasty in the Christian kingdoms, even then the Pope Callixtus II, in the early 12th Century, issued a Papal Bull to protect them.

It got worse though, more restrictive laws were passed, but the fact that those laws were passed tells you one thing, that there were Jews there, part of society, to be discriminated against, it was not just a Christian only land.

As to Islam, not only did Spain have Muslim Kingdoms, but the Feudal Europeans came into contact with Muslims in a little set of ventures called the Crusades. Not only did Europeans fight the Muslims, they traded with them, the routes to the wars were the routes the spices took to Europe and the kingdoms of Outremer, as well as having Muslim populations, traded with Muslim kingdoms.

Muslim rulers had Christian troops fighting for them . Terry Jones, in his book \”Chaucer’s Knight\” puts forward his thesis that the Knight of Chaucer’s take was a bloody handed mercenary who had fought, at times for Muslims.

Women did, at times, fight.Sometimes disguised as men, sometimes not. Khawlah bint al-Azwar led a troop of women against the Byzantines in the 7th Century. OK, a bit early for C&S, so there is  Sikelgaita of Salerno, commanded sieges, at times took up arms and was wounded in battle.  Isabel of Conches in the 11th Century rode armed and armoured amongst her knights. In Beauvais, women defended the walls against Charles the Bold, notable Jeanne (La Hatchette) Laisne.

The Feudal European world was not isolated, any more than today’s is. It was varied, there were the exceptional, and your characters can be amongst those exceptions, and be historically accurate in doing so.

The Chivalry and Sorcery 5th kickstarter was here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cns5/chivalry-and-sorcery-the-medieval-role-playing-game

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Rosalie Smith

This was first written on a Psion 3a during commutes between cities to work and was published in “Alarums and Excursions” and later in the C&S “Armourer’s Companion”

This form is the one from the Armourer’s Companion and was edited to fit the space

Rosalie, youngest of the children of Lucas the Smith, was the very
apple of her father’s eye. Alone of his two sons and three daughters,
she had the natural talent and broad back required to be great in his

She was riveting the cuff onto a gauntlet when Alois D’Astogne led
his lame horse into the courtyard of the smithy. What, you do not
recognise the name of Alois D’Astogne, well he is the same Alois
One-arm that is now Lord of the manor of Verloise, but was then Duc
of Perlegne et Brionelle.

Anyhow, where was I, yes Alois. His horse had shed its right forehoof
shoe and of course he wanted it fixed. Lucas along with Rosalie’s
siblings were at the fair in Ville de Tonais so Rosalie offered to shoe
the beast.

His Grace of Perlegne et Brionelle was adamant that only a Master
Smith or at least a Journeyman of high standing was fit to attend to
his horse, Chasseur, not some untried girl who would be unable to
hold the hoof of a quiet mare, nevermind a war-trained stallion like

He knew he was being unfair for all the Duchy had heard of Rosalie
as she was not only a Journeyman in the crafts of Blacksmithing,
Weaponsmithing and Armoury, but would soon be a master with her
own forge. That is after she had finished the suit of armour she was
making for the younger son of the Count DeLesquilles and persuaded
that miserly noble to part with the one hundred and fifty Carls D’Or
that were its price.

Seeking to humiliate Rosalie, the Duc proposed a wager that, if she
lost, she would abandon the life of a smith and live a life he considered more “fitting” to a woman. So Rosalie agreed saying that she
would pass any fair test and that should she win, she would shoe all
feet on Chasseur that day. Alois then revealed the task he wished
Rosalie to perform. Since the shoe on Chasseur’s rear right hoof
was coming off anyway, she should reshoe it in ice.

Well, Rosalie thought and thought then agreed. She took off the old
shoe, cleaned the hoof and measured it. Then she took some clay
her mother had and made a mould as if to make another shoe from
a cast rather than hammering it in the forge. This she filled with
water and some sawdust from the charcoal pile. Having done this,
she banked the fires of the forge, plunged the old shoe deep into its
heart, pumped the bellows like fury with the other hand and started
chanting in a low voice so Alois could not distinguish the words. The
air blasted through the fire till the shoe was white hot and still Rosalie
held her chant, then, when the shoe started to melt and lose its
shape the chant grew louder and she plunged the shoe into the
quenching barrel.

Steam roared and hissed as half of the water disappeared from the
barrel in a violent cloud, steam also shot from the water in the clay
as it was instantly turned to ice. Alois brought the horse forward and
turned it round ready for the shoeing.

With the application of the fluids of her body, she then took the ice
shoe and with sweat pouring from her brow, she barked three words
of power, and cemented the shoe to the hoof.

Alois blanched but he could not withdraw now, mounting Chasseur
he told Rosalie that he would gallop five times around the village to
test her work. It took half an hour but Alois was forced to admit the
efficiency of her work, and agree to let her shoe Chasseur properly.
With a sigh of relief, Rosalie spoke a word that unbound her spell
and the shoe melted away.

True to her word she re-shod Chasseur in proper iron horseshoes,
and so well that he seemed restless to gallop some more. Alois
mounted, then said to Rosalie that he anticipated meeting again, for
by now he had conceived a lust for her.

To this young Rosalie replied that was Alois not going to keep to his
bargain. This puzzled him and he asked what she meant by such a
strange question. She laughed, grabbed hold of Alois’s right leg and
dragged him off the horse for her bargain was to “shoe all feet on
Chasseur that day” and, as she told Alois, that certainly included his

Alois struggled and pleaded but the muscles of a master smith are
stronger than those of a seasoned warrior and he found himself hopping behind her to the forge. He tried to strike her with various tools
but she laughed and plucked them from his grasp as easily as taking
grapes from the vine.

Now she did not mean to shoe the Duc in the same manner as a
horse but with that type of metal shoe called sollerets that knights
wear. She had a pair discarded from an old suit that was to be
melted down for steel so she tore his boots off and placed him in
these sollerets as easily as I might put socks on a baby and then she
riveted them shut. Struggle as he might, Alois was trapped. No
twisting or kicking could free him, no plea or entreaty could dissuade
her from her intent.

After speaking some more words, she released Alois so suddenly
that he dropped to the ground like an old sack, but he did not lie
down for long. He leapt up and, as if syncopated to some rhythm
only he could hear, started dancing. He capered and jigged and
pranced all with a look of horror on his face. He skipped and spun
into the woods, bouncing and hurdling over roots and rocks as he
cavorted back to the chateau at Perlegne where the spell finally expired and he lay exhausted for five days before returning to the forge
to humbly beg Rosalie to remove the enchanted footwear.

And that, mes enfants, is why Alois One-Arm never dances and it is
also one reason that Rosalie Smith is now Smith for the Marquis
d’Embrion, the most powerful noble of the land.

What ma petite vielle, you want to know why he is Alois One-Arm. I
think I’ll leave that for tomorrow night. Goodnight.

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That is not dead which can eternal lie…

No one would have believed in the last years of the twentieth century
That internet arguments fuelled by alcohol could lead one to do silly things….

Actually, all too believable

The year 2000 was, actually, the last year of the C20th and I was one of a group of people writing a 4th edition of the venerable role-playing game “Chivalry and Sorcery”, a tidied up version of 3rd trying to recapture the feel of the 2nd.

In the world of the biggest gorilla in the room, Wizards of the Coast had just released 3rd edition D&D, with the innovation that its system could be used as the basis for games by other companies as part of its “Open Game Licence”.

Somewhere, probably on Usenet, this was being discussed, and a comment by Matt Johnston, an RPG author for, at that point, Crucible Designs, asked why not, rather than write a niche game with its own system, instead get on the d20 OGL system bandwagon, and produce a worldbook to give D&D players a proper medieval game world.

It is a question that deserves a better answer than it got, the short version being one that it would mean starting again from scratch, the original authors would not have supported that and it would have meant perhaps losing the game’s unique identity. However, I had been drinking, so my actual answer was to try and produce a version of Chivalry and Sorcery that used a d20. Now it didn’t use the WoTC d20 system, in part because I didn’t know that system until years later, it used my own d20 system.

I knew I couldn’t recreate all of C&S, I was aiming for one page, and so went for “general feel”. As it turned out, that was too ambitions. I got it down to four sides of paper and that was with using a tiny font, which is fair enough, C&S 1st edition also had a tiny font.

So that was finished the next week, as C&S Essence, and went onto the Brittannia Game Designs website as a free download. I could do that as I was webmaster at the time and actually wrote or, at least, transcribed, a lot of the content. You can see the final version of the website here http://www.its-them.me.uk/marak/ with C&S Essence under “Freebies”.

That was well received. The fan club, the “Loyal Order of Chivalry and Sorcery” was still active, and two members did translations, Stefano Bartoletti translated it into Italian, Guy-Franck Richard into French. More than that, we found out that an anonymous Italian person had produced a version sent in a Fantasy Imperial Rome. This was without asking us and only years later did I find out that the setting, Lex Arcanum, was actually an existing RPG by Francesco Nepitello (renowned, rightly so, for “The One Ring” RPG).

For some reason, I don’t know why, but I suspect because I had been reading far too much “Flashman” at the time, I used the same system for a game of Victorian adventure, “Vis Imperium Victoriana” (ViV). Given the character background based on the Flashman version of Lady Sale in the First Afghan War, that has to be it. This was also available on the BGD website.

One weird thing to come from that was that someone started, but did not finish, a version of ViV for “The Fantasy Trip“, itself kickstartered back to life in 2018. Being a game of Imperial Adventure Literature, I put into the game that the attitudes of the time were racist and sexist, and the opportunities for characters reflected this. A review spoke of this as how unfun it was, and discussions later on convinced me that I had handled this badly.

I ran C&S Essence for the group I was with. I did that in the “Darken” setting I was writing for as a Dragon ruled kingdom of Men, Orcs and other usually enemy folk for BGD’s “Marakush” Game world, so the additions I made for the system were low fantasy and gritty.

Having written a more modern game with the system, Steve Turner of BGD asked if I would write a Science-Fiction version, well, Ed Simbalist, one of the authors of C&S had written the classic “Space Opera” SF RPG. I thought it would be 32 pages and quickly done, but I ended up trying to do my game as Pulp SF covering a similar scope to “Space Opera” and it took two years, play-testing it with the group I was playing with then.

Some of us even play-tested the spaceship combat system at our local wargames club.

Part of the problem with the system I wrote is that I am, or was, I am getting old, fairly handy with mental arithmetic, and the system had mechanics like “how much did you succeed by mechanic” and derived range and magic effect statistics that were a necessity of lack of space in the original C&S Essence. This new game, “Rocket Jocks”, simplified the skill success mechanic, and that made it more playable for everyone.

That did not see the light of day. The reasons why are valid, and not in the main, mine to tell, but years were to pass, and we come from 2003 to 2011. Over the years I had suggested to Steve Turner than sites like DrivethruRPG and RPGNow, might be good sales venues for his products. Print on Demand had matured to be worth considering too. Nothing happened though.

Suddenly he had this bright idea “Maybe sites like DrivethruRPG and delivery methods like Print on Demand are worth doing! Colin, why didn’t you suggest that”. He is lucky he doesn’t live in slapping distance ;). He started putting BGD products on DriveThruRpg and in 2011 asked about putting up C&S Essence.

I agreed, and started to increase the font size, add in some clip art and update the system to that found in, the still unpublished, “Rocket Jocks”. Steve then told me he planned to put it up for sale. For actual money. For that I thought it needed some more stuff in it before asking people to part with their hard earned cash. So I added in the Darken “enemy character” information and an adventure I had written years ago.

That got published, nominated for an award but some of the reaction was that the system/setting was too low key and the adventure had no obvious lead in. I did a free download to address the adventure lead in and add some extras to the system. I then thought about the lack of a “High Fantasy” fee to it and decided to create one or rather to use the Arthurian Mythos, as “everyone knows that”!

Famous last words. Turns out I don’t generally know as much as I thought I did about the Arthurian mythos and, in any case, it morphs, changes, twists with less concern for continuity than Brannon Braga. However, I got on with it, first as a setting for C&S Essence and later as a complete game with system in its own right. However work got more involved and I had less time to devote to this and, by late 2013 I got burned out, with most of the game written and I just couldn’t continue.

2013 seeing me with an insane early commute, knowing I couldn’t devote time to this, I asked Andy Staples if he would finish it for me. He told me, straight out, that he did not have much time himself, but if I could accept that then he would try his best.

A few years wind on. Andy’s situation doesn’t let him do much, which is as he warned me, and I took the Arthurian project back in 2016. Around that time Steve told me that he was finally able to get “Rocket Jocks” into getting edited and later on, actually have art commissioned. A bit of a change from my art-free or clipart games of the past.

I was a bit apprehensive about this. Since I had delivered the manuscript Pulp SF had become a bit of a thing again. There was even a game in the interim called “Rocket Jocks”, so the “Unique selling point” of my game was no longer there. Moreover, I was aware that my system written in 2000, would be a bit crunchy and old fashioned by today’s standards. However by late 2018, when I started to see the art, I reread my manuscript for the first time in years, and I was heartened that the system, apart from Psionics, wasn’t that bad, and the level of my corny sense of humour, I hope, makes it a lot more fun.

I also wrote a spaceship combat game, but I do not know if it will ever see the light of day. It is a complex, Star Fleet Battles/B5 Wars kind of box marking system for damage. If I can ever figure out a lighter system for this, and a way to get counter art, I may get this published as a free download later.

So, at the turn of 2019, Rocket Jocks – Blast into the Future is now available as a PDF and it, and C&S Essence v1.1 are to be made available as Print on Demand books and then Steve Turner asks me, “You remember that ‘Vis Imperium Victoriana’? Could we publish that again?”.

Obviously the basic answer is “Yes”. I had thought about doing it again back in 2011. Believe it or not I had even spoken to a musician to see if I could write his character into the new version. However I needed to correct the flaws identified all those years ago, to make opportunities more even for characters, without denying the inequality of the colonial age.

Changes to the system were fairly simple, to update it and to reduce some of the maths. The biggest time spent has been in research, to try and give enough of a feel of the time, without turning it into a sixty volume setting series covering seven continents and eighty years of history.

This is intended not to be free, but “Pay what you want” which puts me into “adding more of value” mode. Clipart has been added, free to use fonts for flavour used and I even put some photos of my own through filters to try and make them of the time and made a few pieces of art to illustrate it, Amazing given my own lack of talent in drawing.

It’s been a weird road. Basically three pieces of work written between 2000 and 2003 coming back to life nearly two decades later. It has involved machines using MacOS, Linux of various flavours, iOS, Android and several generations of Windows, storage systems including Floppy Disks, Zip Disks, USB Flash drives and cloud, and all sorts of text editors. Changed world.

I was planning to finish the Arthurian book this year, still do, but first ViV needs to be completed, and then I have promised myself that I will write a short story, just to get back into fiction.

Thanks then to Ed Simbalist, Wilf Backhaus, Wes Ives, Matt Gilbert, Phil McGregor, Mark Ratner and, accidentally, Matt Johnston for getting me down that strange road. And doubly thanks for all the contributors, translators, readers and play-testers for their help.

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