I spent some of my gains from ReviewMe on a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It cost the princely sum of £1.99 (around $4) plus postage and a few days’ wait. The cover was pretty battered, so job number one was to recover it. 15 minutes later, it’s done and I now have a role-playing game in a plain brown wrapper
WFRPG is a fantasy role-playing game (I guess the name gives that away, eh?) much like D&D, but with a grittier, more earthy feel. The heroes start their careers as fishermen, beggars, pedlars and – the perennial favourite – rat catchers. There’s over 60 beginning careers altogether ranging from the low-life up to nobles, mercenaries and Wizard’s Apprentice. Toss in another 40 advanced career (analogous but lower powered than D&D’s Prestige Classes) and you’ve a terrific urban focused system that lets you create pretty much any character you want. There’s around 130 skills too, though these are more akin to D&D Feats than skills as a d20 gamer would know them.
In many ways, WFRPG is superior to D&D; it’s a one-book system (though many supplements exist) which provides character generation, magic, a world guide (more on that later), monsters and a decent starting adventure in 370-ish pages. Role-playing is strongly emphasised over power-gaming, with many players favouring the “weaker” classes over the better-in-combat-but-more-boring careers such as Mercenary.
Combat is not miniatures based, but concentrates on imaginative play over boardgame simulation. The damage system is much more detailed than D&D – there are critical hit locations for each body part that vary in severity from “Your opponent pulls the arm back to avoid serious injury, but drops anything held in that hand in the process” to “Your blow smashes your opponent’s spine and abdomen, tearing muscle and shattering bone so that your opponent falls to the ground in two separate places.”. Nice.
Despite the level of complexity it’s very fast to run through combats, with few of the delays and rules squabbles that D&D seems so good at sparking.
Magic is equally comprehensive, with spell lists for Wizards, Demonologists, Elementalists, Illusionists, Necromancers, Alchemists, Clerics and Druids (phew!). While their aren’t many spells (compared to D&D), they cover all bases more than adequately. Additional supplements greatly expand the list. Spells cost Magic Points, and the cost can vary even for same-level spells. It’s a good system that doesn’t spend too much time worrying whether all level 2 spells are of equal power; just give them a different cost, and move on. Simple.
The Bestiary doesn’t spend too much time personalising the monsters. If you want a more powerful beastie, just add the modifiers for Champion, Minor Hero or Major Hero and you’re done. The monster list itself sparkles with terrific monsters including the mist-shrouded Fimir, reptilian Zoats and Skaven ratmen.
When it comes to the overall feel of the word presented in WFRPG, it’s gritty, grimy and downright disease ridden. It’s set in a fantasy version of the Middle Ages and has a distinctive Germanic slant to the Empire. If you want to game in Albion, far off Araby or even the New World, these places are mapped and lightly documented too. There are plenty of spaces on the map to make your own if you don’t fancy gaming in the “default” corrupt and crumbling Old World.
It’s a long while since I’ve player Warhammer – I gave my original copy of this rule-book away to a friend many, many years ago. I’m not going to make that mistake again!
Gotta love eBay.