The Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Starter Set Is A Great Gateway Into A Grim Game

It's time for Confessions of a Game Designer. I didn't know much about the Warhammer games or settings outside of the fact that many of my friends loved them and that they had hundreds of dollars of minis that they were never able to paint or use. I've played a few grim fantasy games in the past and heard folks speak fondly of the randomness of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's chaos. "I rolled a...

It's time for Confessions of a Game Designer. I didn't know much about the Warhammer games or settings outside of the fact that many of my friends loved them and that they had hundreds of dollars of minis that they were never able to paint or use. I've played a few grim fantasy games in the past and heard folks speak fondly of the randomness of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's chaos. "I rolled a Beggar," they'd say, "and I died from an infected wound!" This didn't sound like a ton of fun to me, but when Cubicle 7 sent me a review copy of their introductory set for their latest edition, I admit I was curious. I've always believed in playing a wide variety of games and after recently finishing a playthrough of The Witcher video game I was in the mood for something muddy and gritty.

CB72401_WFRP_STARTER_Cover_1200_m.jpg

For those unfamiliar with the Warhammer setting, it's a darker take on European fantasy that's been around since the mid 1980s. It offers many different takes on the elements of Dungeons & Dragons fantasy and has more of a Grimm's Fairy Tale feel than the heroic fantasy of Lord of the Rings. Non-human characters are fairly rare, and the game focuses instead on the squabbles of humans. The most famous adventures focus on investigation and getting caught up in the intrigues of the nobles and power players of the world rather than being sent by a shadowy figure to scrape a dungeon clean. Magic is also potent natural force rather than something industrialized into spell slots and potions. The populace fears it because of its connection to the forces of Chaos that threaten to bleed through and destroy the world. But its also a great allegory for the allure of the setting: it's risky, dangerous, but maybe if you are lucky you can ride it to becoming a legend.

The Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Starter Set comes at a time when RPG companies are once again realizing the value of a good boxed set. The Fifth Edition Starter Set and Essentials Kit are excellent introductions to the grand old dame of roleplaying games. The Alien RPG recently released a starter box that contained many of the accessories sold separately like card and dice plus an adventure originally included in the pre-order that is a great emulation of that universe. The WHFRP set doesn't skimp on production value either. It comes with gatefold character sheets, rules primers, gorgeous full color artwork and even a pair of Q Workshop dice that look like someone scribbled an illustration of D10s in an earlier edition and they just sort of fell out of the book. The cleverest bit of engineering comes for a solution to a GM screen. Rather than skipping it or offering a flimsy attempt at one, the boxed set prints the most common rules for reference on the inside box top and suggests the GM use the box as a big rolling tray with the rules stood up in an "L" shaped box formation.

The first of two books that accompany the set is the Adventure Book. The box centers around Ubersreik, a river city that offers the grime one comes to expect from the setting. The book walks players through their first combat during a marketplace riot that sets up the short campaign. Players are pressed into joining the City Watch instead of serving time for their part in the riot whether it was justified or not. These adventures as watchmen give a tour of the highs and lows of the setting from arrogant nobles and corrupt cops to the good folks trying to be a candle in an otherwise dark world. The mini campaign offers a lot of flexibility. There's a starting adventure and an ending, but the rest of the pieces can be fit anywhere during the storyline, either by players choosing the storyline or by the GM picking the next piece. There are also optional adventures sprung out of the backstories of the pre-generated characters.

The second book is a sourcebook on Ubersreik. The GM can use this to give more flavor to the main campaign but it also serves as a great resource for groups who finish the main storyline and want to keep going. It's a location based write-up, but each location also has a prominent NPC there to give the space a bit of personality. Every location also has a pair of story hooks connected to it, one of which usually is about a secret the NPC located there is trying to keep covered up. Some of the secrets are silly, some are deadly but they all help reinforce that much of the darkness in the Warhammer world comes from petty human desires instead of alignments or clear cut moral lines.

Long time fans of the game (who have likely been chuckling at my wide eyed discovery of this setting while reading) will find good resources here too. The introductory adventure is strong and combined with the hooks in the Ubersreik sourcebook combine for a decently sized campaign. Owners of the core rulebook can swap in their own characters fairly easily and use the pre-generated characters at NPCs or to have on hand for friends who might want to try it out for an evening.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set can be purchased directly from Cubicle 7 or at your Friendly Local Gaming Store.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

Seule

Explorer
The one time I tried it many years ago I rolled a beggar and then determined it was mathematically impossible for me to damage the first thing we fought. I think it was a zombie. I was not impressed. I think the GM didn't set expectations very well.
 


pming

Legend
The one time I tried it many years ago I rolled a beggar and then determined it was mathematically impossible for me to damage the first thing we fought. I think it was a zombie. I was not impressed. I think the GM didn't set expectations very well.
Hiya!

Sorry to say that you and your GM didn't do it right. :)

It's called "Additional Damage", on page 122 of the 1st Edition WHFRP. Basically, if you roll a 6, your roll your Weapon Skill again; if you succeed, you add another d6 to your damage. If THAT comes up a 6, you just keep rolling d6's until you don't get a 6 (no need to make another WS check).

Ex: WS 34%. You get a 6 for your damage, you roll % again, and get a 22. That's under your WS, you you get to add another d6 damage. Lets say that's another 6...you roll another d6, get a 6, you roll another d6, that's a 3. Your total damage would then be 6 + 6 + 6 + 3 = 21 damage. You likely just put a creature into the realm of "Critical Hits" (re: below 0 in Wounds). THAT is where the fun starts! ;)

A lot of people who try WHFRP (at least 1st edition...the version I still play) make little mistakes like this, especially if they are coming from D&D, Palladium Fantasy, Tunnels & Trolls, etc.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
Curious if anyone else has moved over to using Zweihander from 4e to run things like Enemy Within.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
I love Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I think it's the best fantasy roleplaying game. But I've always thought there was something better out there so only purchased the core book for 4E while looking for that "better" game.

But recently I realized that I was a fool, and have committed myself to rectifying my mistake. So have now purchase the first two books of the Enemy Within campaign, and the Starter. And the Starter is a very good box set.
 

DrunkonDuty

he/him
I like the setting, but I do not like the system.

I think it would be better done in HERO or GURPS.

Generally I hate random character generation, but it works here. It sets things up so that players start with limited control and have to work damn had to get from the crap-sack beginnings to somewhere they'd want to be. That's the good bit.

But the rest of the system just doesn't work for me. I really dislike is Roll % systems. It's a unreasonable prejudice, I guess. But it aint changing anytime. Also, from memory the magic system is just "Hey! Random crap happens!"

I think Warhammer works if you just want to play a high camp black comedy with a lot of bodily fluids (and sometimes I do!) but for anything else.. nah.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
Generally I hate random character generation, but it works here. It sets things up so that players start with limited control and have to work damn had to get from the crap-sack beginnings to somewhere they'd want to be. That's the good bit.

WFRP 4E character generation is no longer only random. You start by rolling, and if you accept the rolls you get extra XP. But you can always choose not to accept the rolls and just select your career/race/characteristics.
 

pogre

Legend
WFRP is one of my favorites of all time. I have played every edition, although my group was not crazy about 3rd. The new 4e materials are first rate - love the adventures thus far, and looking forward to running The Enemy Within campaign yet again.

I'm not crazy about the new combat rules - so we use 2nd edition for that. The rest of the system works very well.
 

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