After a brief hiatus, it is time to complete this endaevour and move on to other, grim-darker pastures. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has a sample adventure in the back of the book, meant to kickstart a beginning GM’s campaign and illustrate the mode of play.
It has the promising title of the Oldentaller contract, and I consider it a very good introductionary adventure. I shall attempt to illustrate why.
The beginning is structured very much in the way of a choose-your-own adventure scenario, with different choices in different encounters leading to different outcomes. It all ends with the same lair assault/dungeon crawl, but in what condition you end up there can vary tremendously.
The premise is fairly simple. Your heroes have literally just got off the boat, arriving in the City of Nuln off an aging riverboat, soaked to the bone and in search of adventure and treasure. A simple adventure would have just given you the hook to the actual adventure, but the Oldentaller knows how to build up some atmosphere. You immediately start in deep shit. Night is coming and all the waterside inns are full. The first person (a foreigner with a distinctive wastelander accent) you meet in a tavern is offering to help out in exchange for a couple of shillings. Do you take his offer?
The adventure introduces you to the seedy underbelly of life in Nuln, with corrupt inkeepers, footpads, cat-burglars and assholish city guards. Didn’t take the right precautions while staying at this extremely unsafe inn? Hope you got spare equipment somewhere bitch! It even has an entirely optional rooftop chase scene built into it, succesfull resolution of which can actually be of aid in completing the second section of the adventure (the dungeon assault). I unapologetically love that fucking this section up can lead to your party being stripped of all equipment, making your chances of completing the next section nil.
After barely surviving a night in the crime-ridden back alleys of Nuln, our heroes must now seek gainful employment, to be found penned to a vast and ancient elm tree in the centre of the Reiksplatz. Oldentaller is a (probably) evil merchant seeking the return of a gemstone that was stolen from him by the shady criminals (The Schatzenheimers) he hired to obtain it in the first place. The gemstone is rumoured to have belonged to the chaos god Nurgle itself and thus here you go, an echanted container with a warranty of 6 hours. You are to get it back.
The location of the bandit lair is a labyrinth of tunnels, sewers, expanded cellars and old mining tunnels running under a crumbling and decrepit part of the city. Upon your arrival you find out the Schatzenheimer gang has been brutally murdered by a rival gang of Tileans. As you investigate the plot thickens when another criminal gang of Wastelanders and the Cult of Nurgle get involved.
The adventure proper is quite good. It begins in the manner of an investigative adventure, but some elements of dungeon crawling (a trapdoor by the entrance, secret passageways etc. etc.) certainly remain. The first encounter is with a fatally wounded Schatzenheimer with a crossbow. Nice. If the characters move towards the lair of the Tileans there is a definite option to use trickery, bribery and deception, (or a secret password that can be pilfered from some Tilean burglar in the first section) allowing combat with the gang to be bypassed entirely. What begins as 16th century Scarface slowly turns into a nightmare as the Tileans are scared out of their wits. The Cult of Nurgle got involved and are moving up from the Southern tunnels yo! Despite most of the enemies being human beings, most encounters are distinct and memorable. Bullshitting with Tileans is interspersed with fleeing from giant rat swarms in old mining carts. There is even the option to team up with a band of criminals and take on Nurgle’s cult before getting the fuck out of dodge. One great point is the effect of time at the last encounter (wherein the characters try to get into a smugglers boat in a cove whilst they meet with the Cult of Nurgle). If the characters were slow in going through the adventure, he has already summoned the fearsome Beast of Nurgle, otherwise it will take him multiple rounds and the ritual may be disrupted. The cult leader is appropriately fearsome, an albino sorcerer constantly surrounded by flies emitting a hideous stench.
Fucking around with the gemstone and pawning it off instead of returning it to Oldentaller is certainly possible, the game taking into account the PCs being absolute cretins. Unfortunately, fucking around with the gemstone for a prolongued period of time causes one to contract Nurgle’s Rot, with predictable (and hilarious) results. The adventure ends with several suggestions for a follow up adventure, all very nicely done.
As an introduction to the grim dark world of Warhammer Fantasy this one hits the spot. Suprisingly not a hackfest, but a nice street-level mix of action, investigation, trickery, sorcery and intrigue. I am kind of baffled how good it is, if you consider its length and simplicity.
The book ends with several pages containing floor plans and layouts for certain types of buildings in the old world (toll gates, inns, shrines, way stations etc.), something which is useful in creating the type of versimilitude Warhammer tends to go for more often then DnD.
In general, I found Warhammer Fantasy to be a very interesting fantasy roleplaying alternative to DnD, especially considering its age. The universal attribute based resolution system is intuitive and avoids many of the odd pitfalls of the often clunky proficiency system introduced halfway through AD&D. The combat system is appropriately gritty, avoiding the power creep of 1e by capping hit points and atribute increases. The profession system is a nice addition to the class based gameplay that we all know and love and helps embed any new characters in the world they are to inhabit.
While the mechanics are superior, if more complex, to AD&D, the magic section is somewhat aenemic and the choice of magics is limited, which is a shame.
In the question of system vs setting, the setting of Warhammer Fantasy is what ultimately sells it. A grim-dark medieval world besieged by hideous and ultimately unstoppabe powers from beyond our reality. Peril, mutants, cultists, beastmen and sorcerers. The nature of the chaos gods is not explained thoroughly in the Core rulebook, which is FUCKING BULLSHIT, since Chaos remains the primary antagonist. The monster manual is nice and varied, but ultimately the setting info does more to flesh out the world then stats for a chameleoleech.
I ramble on and on but I should get to a conclusion. Is warhammer fantasy 1e fun? Yes. Is it without flaws? No. Should you play it? Yes. Is it as much fun and as well fleshed out as 2e? I don’t know. Anyone interested in Warhammer Fantasy (pre the wretched Age of Sigmar) and roleplaying could do a lot worse then Warhammer Fantasy roleplaying 1e. I’d give it an 7.5 out of 10. It’s charming, the setting is neat, the game is well thought out but the WILL BE PUBLISHED IN SUBSEQUENT BOOKS is a fucking copout and the mechanics can be a bit clunky and dense at times (there is a reason the game was streamlined for the second edition). I fucking love Warhammer to death but using only this book you won’t get the full potential. It needed an expanded section on Chaos at the very least. As it is, it is still really great, but expect to do a lot of surfing on Warhammer wikis or browsing through rulebooks and lore books to get it fully fleshed out and at its full, magnificent potential. Still a very impressive fun game.