WFRPG Starter Set Review: Nailing the Fundamentals

There are a few fairly simple elements needed to make a solid RPG starter set, and while Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4E’s attempt won’t blow any minds it absolutely nails the fundamentals that new players need to get a game running.


When you prise open the box – or possibly unzip the PDFs – you’ll be met with a couple of slim booklets, a half-dozen pre-generated character sheets and a small pile of notes. What you won’t find, however, is an intimidating rulebook or GM’s guide to sift through, as all the core rules of WFRPG have been condensed down to fit on just three reference sheets.

Naturally this means that the experience is rather pared down when compared to the full game, with the most noticeable absences probably being the magic system and any semblance of character progression. While this may limit the set’s appeal to more experienced players looking to fiddle with the new system, it does a great job of simplifying and streamlining the rules for its intended audience of fresh-faced adventurers.

On the subject of adventurers, the pre-gens included with the set are just as solid as the rules. They cover all the bases you’d expect from Warhammer’s blend of shameless pulp fantasy and over-the-top darkness, and it’s hard to imagine any setting where a giggling halfling thief and a brooding witch hunter could party up without either of them seeming out of place. Mechanically, the characters are all fairly simple, but each of them comes laden with a range of motivations, secrets and links to other party members that can help ease the way into roleplaying.

The players aren’t the only ones to receive goodies in the starter set, however, as the GM gets their hands on the two chunkiest items in the box – a 64-page setting guide for the town of Ubersreik and a 40-page adventure book.

The setting guide is – once again – solid, dependable stuff. Ubersreik is a well-built town stuffed with locations to visit, NPCs to talk with and local politics to negotiate. Newcomers to the Warhammer setting may be taken aback by how filthy, corrupt and generally depressing everything is, but if they stick it out, they should soon find that a current of bleak satire and gallows humour that takes the edge off the darkness.

This is perhaps the one part of the box set that suffers from its length, as there’s a lot of information to absorb if you plan on reading it from cover to cover. However, this is balanced out by the fact that every single location in the town has a pair of adventure hooks attached to it, which can prove invaluable if the party is searching for a challenge.

The starter adventure itself is a mini-campaign that sees the heroes dragooned into the town watch, and should keep a group entertained for a decent run of sessions – perhaps three to six nights of gaming depending on how things shake out. The opening itself runs on a fairly tight railroad that can frustrate gamers looking for a more open experience, but once the party takes up their roles the middle third or so of the adventure should give the party a chance to play around in the grimy sandbox that is Ubersreik.

There’s also a set of 10 mini-adventures included in the box for more experienced GMs, but once a party has run through the main quest they’ll probably start running up against the limits of the starter set and be ready to move on to the core rules. Which, come to think of it, is probably a sign that the starter set did exactly what it was meant to.

This article was contributed by Richard Jansen-Parkes (Winghorn) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
Richard Jansen-Parkes

Comments

Retreater

Adventurer
I got the PDFs. I found the material hard to wrap my mind around. It could be different if I had a hard copy, but the rules seemed not very straightforward. There were charts, hit locations, different lasting injury tracks, and the necessity to do multiple maths on the same roll (add these numbers, then subtract this number from it, then divide that total from this number, etc). It just seems a little convoluted and impossible to run without constantly scrolling on a screen or flipping through books.
 

Winghorn

Villager
I got the PDFs. I found the material hard to wrap my mind around. It could be different if I had a hard copy, but the rules seemed not very straightforward. There were charts, hit locations, different lasting injury tracks, and the necessity to do multiple maths on the same roll (add these numbers, then subtract this number from it, then divide that total from this number, etc). It just seems a little convoluted and impossible to run without constantly scrolling on a screen or flipping through books.
I agree that the corebook can be a little dense, but I was quite pleased that they manged to get the main rules down to a couple of reference sheets for this starter set.

Like any mid-ish weight RPG it can take some getting used to, but the reference sheets should always be handy during your first couple games and the amount of faffing about you need to do with attack rolls is balanced out by the fact that there aren't any damage rolls.
 
The pdf's are great, but I really want a physical copy of it whenever it finally arrives in stores.
I'm with you on that. It's on my to-buy list. Well, so is all the WFRP 4th stuff, but I'm likely to start with the starter set. Then the main rules and hopefully by then the remake of The Enemy Within will be visible at the horizont (or really any other published adventures).
 

Winghorn

Villager
I thought they'd killed off the original Warhammer Fantasy setting?
They did, but apparently the RPG side of things is a little different so they get to keep it going? Games Workshop is an inscrutable beast...

C7 are also working on an Age of Sigmar game too, which is scheduled to hit shelves this year I think. They said it's going to be a completely different system to WFRPG rather than just a re-skin, so that should be interesting.
 

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