Much like the Old World setting itself, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (especially this current edition) has seen a lot of turmoil and chaos, in and out of print, it still stands as one of the coolest systems and settings on the market today. Effectively forming the mechanical foundation for the extremely successful line of FFG’s Star Wars RPGs, this is the first RPG iteration of those funky dice mechanics many have come to know and love.
NOTE: The bits in italic quotations at the end of each section are player comments and not the expressed views of the RPG Lab coordinator.
Despite its annihilation with the coming of the Age of Sigmar, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay preserves our fond memories of the Old World setting in all its whimsical and nightmarish glory. The Empire stands and its allies stand as the final barrier to the incursions of chaos and the impending terrors of the necromancer-god Nagash. Beastmen, Greenskins, and Skaven (there are no Skaven!) feed at the crumbling edges and fairly ordinary folk must find their courage and combat them if humanity is to stand a chance. The Empire boasts powerful wizards, warrior-knights, and champions of the Emperor Karl-Franz but such lofty achievements are far from where the game starts. Rat catchers, boatmen, and halfling cooks are more the order of the day and even the small things can be deadly and infectious.
“The setting is grim, but not necessarily depressing. Things can look bad at one moment, and still offer hope for improvement later. Also, while technically a fantasy setting, it offers numerous opportunities for horror of various sorts—virtually implacable foes, conditions terrible in multiple senses of the word.”
SUPPLEMENTS AND MATERIALS — USED
For this game we mostly relied on basic careers from the core set. Insofar as races, we used the human variants from Hero’s Call as well as the halfling. Beyond that, the adventure was a custom scenario that takes place in the wealthy port of Marienberg.
So rather than using the recommended random rolling for character race, we decided to randomly select career cards. Once a career was selected, we agreed that characters would be human unless the career was exclusively for a specific race. The characters we ended up with were:
- A Human Boatman
- A Human Hunter
- A Dwarf Troll-Slayer
- A Halfling Chef
Once this was done we progressed through the point allocation that determined stats (along with racial adjustments), equipment and all of the other options specific to each character.
We also determined the party’s character. Yes. Warhammer has a party card that allows the Game Master to motivate the party with stress but also provides a special ability useable by the party. This party was a gang of “Brash Young Fools”. As the adventure unfolded, it quickly became obvious that this was the perfect choice.
“The greatest potential pitfall in character creation is selecting character class; you have to work with your other players to make sure that the group you ultimately form is diverse enough to handle much of the little stuff, but still competent enough in key areas like combat to continue moving forward.”
Despite the baroque appearance of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay dice, the mechanics are pretty elegant. Much like the Star Wars games, you have dice that are flat successes and failures. Beyond that, you also have results that determine a sort of atmospheric benefit or detriment. That way a character can fail, but still manipulate the situation so that they offer some benefit that the party can take advantage of. In addition to these basic results, you also have the Star of Chaos and the Twin-Tailed Comet of Sigmar which translate into extraordinary triumph and dismal, hell-stained failure.
Because the plot of the adventure was hinged on the remedying of a terrible chaos-tweaked disease, we also used the disease cards to model the onset of this awful pox (which was, luckily, only contracted by a single PC).
“As I mentioned above , this is not a stripped down system……But it is a cool one! The options that are available for social or combat encounters are broad and thought-provoking. The dice system is a dice- pool style with specialized dice. These dice allow for success within every situation….You could hit a Chaos-demon with a farmer’s shovel….but will it hurt it…?…Possibly. The dice pool system is a favorite of mine because it allows for many situations to be more exciting than a rolling of 1 d20 in other system’s.
Not only can you get injured but you can also become fatigued, or stressed out or corrupted…..All of which are story and mechanic driven so that your fight’s will be tougher and your social interactions will be more troublesome. The system helps pull you into the role-playing I think.”
It has to be said that the Warhammer Fantasy setting of the Old World has been largely eradicated through the lens of the miniatures game, it is still alive and well as far as the RPG is concerned. Having not run the thing for ages, I experienced a recurring joy brought about for both mechanical and narrative reasons. For those who long for the days of the Empire, the Vampire Counts and a never-ending deluge of chaos-tainted halfling baked goods, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is just the place to enjoy and re-enjoy them.
“You can’t say George was unenthusiastic about the game. He knew the material (both rules and components), had it organized for play (and so did at least one of the players), and wasn’t afraid to use them both. The situation was fairly straightforward, but not without its perils, as it should be for either a multi-session adventure or a very short-run campaign.”
George is the full-time assistant manager of Games & Stuff and the de facto GM of RPG.Lab. He is a big fan of way too many RPGs…