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Saturday, July 27, 2013

WFRP- 1st Edition- Small, but vicious dog

A few years back Fantasy Flight Games released the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. At first, I thought about purchasing the latest edition. The problem was, that much like when WotC went to 3rd edition with Dungeons and Dragons the move to 3rd edition WFRP resulted in  a vastly different game, and hence no sale for me. 1st and 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons are pretty much the same game and interchangeable, same for 1st and 2nd edition WFRP. 3rd edition in either case? Not so much.
Trollslayers are always cool.
In thinking about that new version, my mind harkened back to one of my best friends and the rousing games of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that we played in his basement. We adventured through the Power behind the Throne series almost to the very end and had a blast in doing so (I played a rat catcher with a whose name I forget, but I do quite clearly remember his small, but vicious dog(s): Rat hammer and Rat hammer II, after the first one bit the dust fighting some Skaven. My rat catcher had uncovered the Skaven tunneling under Bogenhaufen quite by accident while cleaning the cellar of a noble family all on his own. My rat catcher and the dog killed two Skaven and I scored a magical dagger  that had a flame attack in the bargain, also made for some interesting trophies to his ratting pole.  No, don't ask me how I remember this stuff 20+ years later...

The Enemy Within campaign series for those not in the know, is basically the Games Workshop equivalent for the classic G1-3, D1-3, Q1 series for 1st Edition AD&D in terms of the "defining adventure of the system".  It is widely hailed as one the greatest module series of all time in the pen and paper RPG areana and I agree up until Power Behind the Throne. With the next module something Rotten in Kislev it started to come off the rails and especially Empire in Flames were let downs. Empire in Flames was pretty much non-canonical and even for the inconsistent GW its fluff and background really didn't mesh. Anyways instead of Empire in Flames, which is pricy despite its meh content there is the fan made Empire at War which replaces Empire in Flames

Come to think of it I should probably write a review of all of the modules.

As a system I think WFRP was a very good. Character creation was fast and didn't require a major amount of time which was a good thing considering the short shelf-life of characters in the game. The character races were certainly not balanced with elves and dwarfs being particularly unbalanced. The crux of WFRP is that a character engages in a career, and then improves his character with experience points that he gains through (and surviving adventures). From there each basic career has a career exit.

WFRP starts with all characters in the basic career paths ranging from Agitator to Woodsman with a focus on variety. There are even regular classes like Laborer and apprentices that real reinforce the idea of regular people who set out on adventuring, can't get much grittier then that. Funny because in many corners of the web gritty play is dejour; Warhammer is far more gritty and less high adventures then any of its contemporaries, yes, including 1st AD&D.

Basic careers run the gamut from some very weak, to some very powerful. The fighting classes are probably the way to go with a few other specialized careers with an eye towards spell casting in the advanced career section. Particularly the pit fighter, protagonist, squire, soldier and mercenary amongst others that are well suited for survival. In fact we remarked that we should have just run a game with all warriors and see what the results would be, but we never did. Of course we came to this observation after a number of our characters met untimely demises and the school copier was *ahem* "getting a workout".

One of my favorite parts of WFRP was combat! Unlike AD&D (its main competitor at the time) the combat system made logical sense: armor doesn't make a character harder to hit, it absorbs damage. That is not a knock on AD&D as it was the grand daddy of them all, it just didn't make sense. In combat and major wounds could happen with messy and amusingly graphic deaths via the critical hit charts. Characters even after several advanced careers where not unstoppable killing machines except for the "naked dwarf syndrome". Armor comes in three flavors: leather, chain and plate and reduces corresponding damage the better the armor. Not all weapons are created equal and require skills to wield them effectively.

Magic was the wild card in the whole thing and the fabled Realms of Sorcery that was supposed take the place of the "stop gap magic system" in the Core Rulebook. Players and GMs had to make do with what was presented for somewhere around 17 years, Realms of Sorcery comes out, and then the game moves to 2nd edition! In terms of magic items the game was fairly low powered certainly comapred to its main rival D&D. The supplement Apochrapha Now expanded the list. Players of D&D might be disappointed in the magic system which is not as high level as D&D nor as expansive of a list for magical items.But for a gritter or low adventure system you cant get one much better.

Monsters are well thought out and most of the major ones that one would imagine to be there are  in the setting. One thing I always wondered was did GW downplay dragons in the Warhammer pantheon of monsters on purpose given the prominent nature of them in D&D, at least in spirit if not in the actual game?

Perhaps the thing that kept bringing players back was the story of the Old Word, the setting. The Old World is a near approximation of Europe with the twist of the Old Slann changing the world to suit their creations. One of GWs greatest strengths has been their IP, and fluff, but as mentioned previously not something they always keep straight.

One of the great side benefits of 1st edition WFRP was the fact that one could use 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle, The Lost and the Damned and Slaves to Darkness all together. The Losta nd the Damned and Slaves to Darkness were great resoucres and certainly great values for the price (they are outragouelsy priced on Flea Bay now). While 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle was unwieldy it still is my favorite edition of the game. GW (in an instance of doing something right) actually gave the purchaser something for his value.

"Welcome to Nuln!"
Lastly to wrap it up the art across the line was consistently great: grim, dark and moody and violent. The art really captured the time in the industry and for the edition quite well. There is a mix of color and black and white throughout and while some of them are reprints that appeared in their line previous they are still cool to look at. Plus anytime John Blanche does art for a game system its going to be cool.

For my next post I might have to review Death on the Reik first as it is probably my all time favorite Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay module, (rather then start at the beginning of  Power Behind the Throne series: Shadows of Bogenhaufen) and ranks in my Top 3 of any modules, regardless of system.


  1. There's a lot of good to like in WFRP...I owned and played the 1st edition myself (still own it). The bad, though, is definitely the magic system...I never did pick up a copy of Realms of Sorcery and the system in the core book is just unacceptable.

    Oh, yeah...I'm not a fan of their religious pantheons, either.

    I need to dig out my Enemy Within books and reread 'em. You're right: they're quite the campaign!

  2. I can see how the pantheons might not be to everyone's liking I think the interesting part is much like the rest of the fluff there are differences between WFRP and WFB.

    I think that the magic system wouldn't have been as disappointing had they not been promising Realms of Sorcery.

  3. Hello Willmark, How you doing JB? I think that you are both missing out on the best part of what WFRP gives to the everyday gamer. Before the $50 rule books of mainstream RPG's like the new and so not improved (Wizards of the coast) AD&D. WFRP gave us a good foundation in just one book. Yea the spell system was inconclusive and the pantheon sucks, but what a fantastic foundation to build on with expanded spell and magic items all built and perfected through your own House Rules. All a good DM/Story Teller or what ever you want to call yourself these days needs are basic solid rules to expand and run wild with. We (my gaming group and I)are still rocking WFRP 1st Edition, and we don't look like were stopping anytime soon. WFRP gives you a fun and easy system that helps you build your characters fast and even outfits them with their basic needs. Starting at the bottom in a random and more than likely undesirable carrier gives the player a reason to push forward and look at what they want to do next. Helping build fantastic and often in depth character backgrounds and a solid reason to move on without the whole; "Your in a bar" starting scenario. I find that running WFRP is far easier to run than other games just for the fact that the players are usually motivated to advance their characters story from the second they finish rolling their first carrier.

  4. No arguments from me, I love 1st edition WFRP, its a great game. Also I've opened up a new section on my forum for Warhammer RPGs, feel free to discuss over there too.

  5. You guys should really check out my Kickstarter for ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG. It is a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay retroclone!