[UPDATE 1/6/21: I no longer support spending money on products that benefit Zak S, or giving him positive attention and connection. The short version is that I find credible claims that he has engaged in unacceptable behavior and not made up for it. For more detail, see here for the core of the accusations. To get Zak's side of things, he maintains this separate blog from his main one to post updates on the legal status of these complaints.
Please consider these claims and make your own decision on their validity, and the implications thereof, before either supporting or shunning Zak.]
I'm going through the old Warhammer City: Middenheim supplement and awesoming it. Before we dive in, let me explain how I got here.
So, a while back I was inspired to think about my campaign's big city Mickleheim (there's a lot of "heims" in this post, so buckle up) by Logan Knight's awesome Corpathium post and subsequently by the districts thereof: the Rookery and the Fogwalk. I had already read and loved Vornheim, and seeing another good example of tools that are useful for running a city in play, I figured I better get on that. But I like to do research (which is a fancy word for "read other people's stuff to put off making your own") so I started with "Warhammer City: Middenheim".
Considering it's a first edition WFRP product, it's got a lot of solid gold weirdness and setting material (and tons of great art!). Unfortunately, being a first edition WFRP product, it's also got a lot of extraneous details, some scripted adventure ideas, and a mixed bag of advice on running adventures in a city. I started reading it with the sole purpose of finding cool ideas or tools to use for Mickleheim, but I ended up deciding to try to make a fun, playable Middenheim thing as a sort of dry run in terms of what to include, how to present it and organize it, and so on.
In the process, I arrived at a few guiding principles to help sort through the material (because there is a lot of material in there for a ~100 page book).
- Err on the side of brevity: GMs can figure most stuff on their own
- System Neutral: Since I'm more interested in applying this stuff to D&D than in running or playing WFRP with it, I'm leaving out the rules system specific stuff, like careers and skills and basic stat lines. I figure WFRP GMs can probably wing that stuff as well as DMs can wing hit dice and armor class in D&D, even if it is a little more stats and skills oriented
- Focus on interesting/weird stuff, and take it to 11: There's a lot of pretty mundane stuff in the original that can pretty much be summarized as "it's like a German renaissance city except for the exceptions we describe." There's also a lot of potentially interesting or juicy stuff that the authors cut short, like "You might think this guy is corrupt, but he's not, he's totally legit". I want to maximize the potential for everything included to create a dynamic, interesting environment the players can interact with in fun ways
- Canon? We don't need no stinking canon: Because of Warhammer's immense body of setting material and its huge popularity, there is a temptation to make sure everything is "right". While I do want my finished product to still specifically be about Middenheim, a city in the north of the Empire in the Old World, if there's ever a conflict between "interesting and useful" and "doing it right", I'm erring on the "interesting and useful" side
- People: Most of the best stuff in WCM revolves around interesting NPCs and intrigue. So while I'm going to cut back on stuff like thorough physical descriptions and warnings that players would never get an audience with so-and-so, I am going to include some specific folks with specific intrigues. Instead of presenting them as part of the landscape that must be memorized, however, I'm going to present them as an adventure hook
- Tools, not Reference: A point Zak makes in Vornheim is that it's better to provide a way to make something up on the fly than provide something you have to look up or remember. When you think "I know I've read that somewhere before, if I could only find it", it becomes incredibly tempting to stop to look it up, even if you're strongly committed to "I'll make stuff up as I need it"
For Part II, I'll put up an outline/table of contents.