Review: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e Pt. VII; Adventure and Summary

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.

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5 thoughts on “Review: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e Pt. VII; Adventure and Summary

  1. “It has the promising title of the Oldentaller contract, and I consider it a very good introductionary adventure.”

    FUCKING GLAD TO HEAR THAT ’cause otherwise I might break my saintly vows and visit you in the night with the ancestral weapon of my people, to whit the bit of wood with fishhooks in it.

    Bottom line: I have run this same adventure at least three times in my life, and on every occasion there has been potential for a campaign on the other end of it, and the implied structure and happenings of those campaigns has been quite different. I even actually ran two of them. (Sadly, the SJW group fears long-term campaigning as alien to their boardgame-addled minds, otherwise I’d have pushed for this or Ravenloft.)

    Wastelander – Swamp German, of course. It would be remiss of me not to point this out.

    “the magic section is somewhat aenemic and the choice of magics is limited, which is a shame.”

    Shut the fuck up. You only think that because you have been conditioned by the Man to accept and even welcome books where a quarter of the fucking page count is lists of arcane and divine spells separated by school. The Old World is defiantly low magic and there is no shame in that whatsoever. There’s enough here for you to put together a decent crop of evil sorcerers and hapless apprentices and what the fuck more do you need?

    Although, since Graeme Davis obviously agrees with you, I should of course make one final recommendation for (all together) Apocrypha! Boatloads of crap like magic Arrows of VerbNouning in there if you really must have magic items coming out of your cauliflower ears.

    “I fucking love Warhammer to death but using only this book you won’t get the full potential.”

    … agreed, actually. The number of times I’ve had to shill for Apocrypha, Realms of Sorcery, Realms of Chaos, or Sold Down The River indicates there’s a lot of stuff missing from this game, or at least a lot of stuff that wasn’t done in time for first edition.

    Second edition WFRP is one of those rare volumes which is a) shorter and b) better than its predecessor, even if it has unpleasant modern glossy paper that refuses my intruding pencil. The grogs hate it because it’s resolutely Middlehammer in its setting and I do feel that some of the… greebling, I suppose, the space at the edges of nations and faiths where interesting stuff happens to PCs, is absent from Kirby’s more faction-focused vision, but it works fine and it’s not a humourless trudge. I even award it points for improving on the magic by allowing multiple routes in (the traditional ‘apprentice to a Collegiate wizard’ route coexisting very nicely with the Hedge Wizard and at least one other that’s temporarily escaped my mind).

    Frankly, there is no such thing as a bad WFRP, and I hope that Cubicle 7 are reading this because if I turn out to be wrong in a year’s time, it’s the shillelagh for them and all.

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    1. [Oldentaller]

      Yeah it bears re-iterating but for an introductionary back of the book adventure Oldentaller is almost a platonic example of doing it right. You give everyone some time to adjust and get in character with a bunch of encounters that set the stage, do not immediately result in fatalities if anyone fucks up because of inexperience (Raggi take note) and at the resolution stage you have several ways of going about it.

      [Wastelanders]

      The name should have clued me in but it makes so much fucking sense. Aargh, my work-addled wits are softening. Fortunately the next product should rekindle the star-hot fires of judgement from its heart-shaped pile of cinders within my breast.

      [Magic]

      Nu-uh. The spells available are all very basic bitch shit. If you are going to make the low-magic argument you should at least have the decency to dress it up properly and make it all mysterious and subtle or huge and impressive and giving everyone DnD spells with the serial numbers filed off means you get treated the same as any other imposter. None of that affirmative action bullshit in my reviews. You want to be treated differently you gotta put in the work son.

      Having said that, I got the low magic vibe straightaway, not being a filthy casual. Wizards are hot shit in WHF and rare as a good avalanche product.

      [Evil sorcerers]

      Bitch where are my chaos spells/mutations?

      [Apocrypha]

      Added to my journal.

      [Badhammer]

      I have heard dreadful whispers of its hateful 3rd iteration that I dare not repeat within these hallowed halls.

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      1. [The Platonic Adventure]

        No arguments on my watch. To be honest WFRP adventures are generally pretty well done, bar the constant shilling for The Enemy Within campaign. I’m having a dekko at Dying Of The Light at the moment because the stars have come round again and I feel like a trip to Swamp Germany might do me good.

        [The Next One]

        That Zweihander or are you looking at another of its founding products first?

        [Magic]

        Now that you’ve been courteous enough to define what you meant by ‘anemic’ I forgive you. WFRP magic as printed is Fit For Purpose but I agree it lacks a unique flavour… oh god, I feel the Change overtaking me… look, one of the few things the Bastard Kirby did RIGHT was properly introduce the eight colours of magic to the setting with fourth edition WFB. For all that he was a copper-bottomed swine, his efforts to cement a definitively Warhammer Intellectual Property thing had their benefits, and one of them was a good hard look at how to make the magic less derivative. As usual with WFRP.1 one has to shill and shell for a supplement and this, my bog-dwelling associate, is why it was such a travesty that Realms of Sorcery had such a belated, short run.

        [Chaos Spells/Mutations]

        We had this conversation a couple of entries back. If you want an Evil Sorcerer you have Demonology and Necromancy, like in the first two editions of WFB. (Remember, this game is way more hooked into WFB’s second edition, even if it ends up weirdly bridging second and third because GW at the time was a bunch of Midlanders in a shed not knowing which way up their arses went.) The production circumstances around WFB.3, WFRP.1 and 40K.1 were a shambles and all those products are weirdly deformed by their circumstances, but I still don’t think it’s fair to hold up what Chaos would later become and accuse this book, which pre-dates that development, of not living up to that.

        [Apocrypha]

        With all the belching I’ve done about them I should really be reviewing them myself.

        [WFRP.3]

        I’ve played it and reviewed it from the player perspective – https://kaptainvon.com/2014/10/26/actual-play-review-warhammer-fantasy-role-play-third-edition-fantasy-flight/ – and I’d say it’s not Bad, but it is Weird. I want to try running it for my usual group of neurodivergent addlepates and see how they take to what’s essentially an analogue MMO.

        A Bad RPG would be something so incoherent or pedantic that it’s hard to find the functional game (FATAL, Rifts), or bullshit where you can spend an hour making a character and then have random factors determine they’re unplayable (FATAL, poss. Traveller), or something that skews obnoxiously in one ideological direction or the other (FATAL, Blue Rose, anything Chubby Funster has ever done).

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  2. Fuck me with a rusty rake I really want to play and run this. Even more so than ACKS, even if it doesn’t have the politrickery and domain building that gets me hard. Besides that it seems to check all my boxes. An old-school grimdark, anthropocentric, low-magic, completely fleshed out gameworld with gritty combat, mostly random character generation, limited powercreep and enough lack of streamlining and necessary supplements to keep casuals away.

    She’s perfect.

    Added to that is a starting adventure that can take away the players gear, effectively TPKing them before they even get to the first dungeon you say? I think I’m in love.

    Also Kudos for your most elaborate review so far faggot. Your power level is clearly increasing and you even got some new commenters and readers to show for it apparently. Besides that it, inspired me to make a new house rule so expect more horrific maiming in our spacetrucker simulator from now on. Good thing you’re a doctor.

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