PrinceofNothingReviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition Pt. II: Next level Grim-dark shit.

I was to discuss career advancements and the accompanying advanced classess within this post, as well as the newfangled skills and talents mechanics. Advancement has been simplified somewhat, without doing away with the core mechanic. All skills, talents, ability score advancements (+5%) and secondary ability score advancements may be bought for the paltry price of 100 xp. As with oldhammer, new career paths must be completed before one can progress, though it is always possible to switch career-tracks to a basic career of one’s choosing for 200 xp, though this is more of a suboptimal cop-out penalty that you take after character creation.*

For those of you who are fans of that sort of thing, there are even more advanced careers  (53!) then there were in the 1st edition (though not that many more), and none too shabby too. I never mentioned this in 1e but I like how natural the careers feel. Forget things like the Arcane Archer or the Dwarven nutgobbler or whatever the fuck you could pick in 3e to get yourself a bonus metamagic feat each level and +1 DC to all of your necromancy spells, these occupations, while sometimes very awesome, are very much embedded in the low magical grimdark fantasy setting.

While the obvious career paths like the Wizard, Master Thief, Captain and Priest paths, each consisting of several advanced careers, do make their dread comeuppance, there are plenty of advanced classes like Engineer, Navigator, Guildmaster, Innkeeper and Flagellant to keep shit interesting. This was true of the 1st edition and it is true now. Some of the more redundant professions have been folded together (no more Freelance and the various grifters, slavers and forgers have been folded into the Charlatan, the Racketeer and the Fence) and even more political/social classes have been added, professions that, indeed, one would expect in the grimdark world of the Empire. Politicians, Demagogues, Noble Lords and Stewards make their appearance. My only point of criticism is that most of these classes tend to feel sort of samey after a while, there are several with fairly unique abilities but you are always going to get classes like the Herald, Courtier or the Steward which are just kind of Meh. Giving each class a unique ability would have helped with this somewhat.

I am pleased to say the ridiculously complex Druid class seems to have been exterminated and the needlessly balkanized wizard class has been folded into a generic Collegium wizard class with access to various lores (and a monthly tuition fee). It should be noted that while for a man the achievement of the Master Wizard career is the event of a lifetime, for an elf it merely represents an introductionary apprenticeship into the arts of High Magic which can only be learned on the Island of Ulthuan, where everyone is smug.

Far from a game where every class is focused on murdering the shit out of eachother, it is perfectly possible to play Warhammer Fantasy as a game of courtly intrigue, espionage, assasination and betrayal ah la Game of Thrones, with only occasional murdering. The question becomes WHY IN THE NAME OF SHYALLA FIERCEBALLS WOULD ONE DO THIS TERRIBLE THING?

Warhammer fantasy is about an eyepatch wearing 45 year old pikeman, a prostitute with a hatchet and a peg leg, a drunk wizard and a plague-ridden religious extremist foiling the plans of a 9-foot tall black armoured dude and his band of 300 screaming tattooed berserkers that plan to burn Burgdorf to the ground so he can unearth the Eye of Iythraghabhur from its ancient elven prison and getting themselves hanged because they were disrespectful to the captured Reiksritter with the broken leg they freed along the way.

Nevertheless, people like Von and his loathsome brood have been known to play elfgames too when all the techno clubs are closed and their monthly allowance has already been spent in the frivolous acquisition of black eyeliner and hot topic apparel thus it is neccesary and even commendable that these things exist. On the other hand of the spectrum, I got a kick out of the Elven Ghost Walker (really really silent archer), the Pistoleer (Nothing says class like riding into an enemy and double barreling him with flintlocks), the Daemon Slayer (troll slayers that do not die become Giant Slayers which eventually become the psychotic daemon slayers. Career entry: Giant Slayer. Career Exit: Glorious Death) and the Judicial Champion (for when your trial by combat needs to work in a civilised society).

The skill system has been streamlined somewhat. Skills have now been subdivided into Skills (based on your ability scores) and Talents (more like feats or passive buffs). Skills are further divided into Basic Skills and Advanced Skills. Anyone can use a basic skill (say…Haggle or Concealment) but if you lack the relevant Skill, the Ability you have to roll under to succeed at a test is halved (so your Fel of 33% now counts as 17%). Advanced skills cover specialist skills like Metallurgy or Heal and cannot be performed without the relevant skill in question. When comparing 1e characters to 2e characters, one will find that beginning 2e characters tend to be REALLY shit at a lot of seeminly basic things like dodging and climbing.

Degrees of succes have been added to rolling particularly high can have a very beneficial effect in some cases and a general table has been provided for the GM to estimate what bonus or penalty he should give to a roll. Anyone wanting to improve a skill can ALWAYS spend 100 xp to purchase it again for a maximum of 3 (giving you a +20% bonus on the test).

Actual skill descriptors are remarkably light and far more in line with something like 1e then with the DC and modifier fest of 3e. In keeping with the old game, the Heal skill is overpowered as fuck and heals 1d10 points of damage per combat on a succesful test (with no definite drawback like the brutal rules in 1e). In fact this stuff is so light, lacking all but the most neccesary stats and leaving almost everything else up to the GM that I stand kind of in awe. I am used to Dark Heresy, where degrees of succes and various effects and their durations are listed almost compulsively. In WF 2e they kind of expect you to figure it out, you are a big boy. Torture goes on fellowship, is advanced and your victim can make a willpower test to resist. That’s about it. Times have changed.

Talents are sort of like feats and often provide passive bonuses. Some are incredibly lame by merely providing percentage chance increases to certain skills but others provide you with the ability to cast spells while armoured, influence a crowd with your social skills, work yourself into a berserker rage and so on. The abilities lack somewhat the flavour of something like Dark Heresy, and overal very utilitarian. Something like Strong-minded (take more insanity) or Strike to Stun is nice but lacks flavour (which was rather strong in the career section). The one exception is the ability to channel dark magic in order to increase the power of your spells at the risk of increasing the Wrath of Tzeentch, that one is awesome.

A trend is starting to form. WHF 2e is more streamlined and better designed then its predecessor but something may have been left on the cutting room floor. More to follow in part 3. Stay tuned.

*Say you have always wanted to become a motherfucking sorcerer but you start out as Rag-picker and glance despairingly at the steps needed to get yourself halfway educated. You can then decide to just pay 200 xp, take no advancements, and switch to apprentice wizard, GM permitting. A coward’s tactic.

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5 thoughts on “PrinceofNothingReviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition Pt. II: Next level Grim-dark shit.

  1. [My loathsome brood]

    WFRP is ALSO about Chaos cults, Vampire agents of the undying Queen, inexplicable Skaven-worshippers and petty Necromancers burrowing into your society like weevils while the nobility flounce and dither in their lofty palaces, me bucko, so I’ll have less of your lip. I have yet to go full “who is in charge of the Old World” with a game but I would like to at some stage. On the other hand I also want to play this Morbog’s Marauders/Terror of the Lichemaster plus Chaos mashup you’ve envisioned, there’s nothing wrong with that even if it smells a bit more Fantasy Battle than Fantasy Role Play in its scale.

    [Numbers]

    “Degrees of success have been added to rolling particularly high can have a very beneficial effect in some cases and a general table has been provided for the GM to estimate what bonus or penalty he should give to a roll”

    This is the part that people always overlook in Black Industries games, I find. (I’m not accusing you of this, I know you run Dark Heresy and have a functioning brain somewhere underneath the whore scabs and heroin stains). Yes, entry-level WFRP.2 characters are dogshit at base deeds like swimming and climbing but they can also count on a +30 for routine instances of these activities and so the situation is not as bleak as their character sheets make it appear.

    It causes such consternation in the RPG community that I can only assume it’s like “roll low for this and high for that”, one of those counter-intuitive little things which vex the minds of even those who cannot enumerate their grievances. Even if the numbers square up once the modifier is included, we kind of want Our Dude’s Numbers to indicate his routine capability and modifiers to apply only in unusual cases. One of those bedrock assumptions which you don’t notice until a system does things differently?

    [Cheating and Swinishness]

    I think the cop=out option is there for the sort of person who thinks they buy into random character generation but actually always plays a Wizard and wants an out without betraying their Swinish features. Personally I give not a monkey’s toot and would rather just let them play a fucking Hedge Wizard in the first place if it’s that important to them, but what do I know?

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    1. THREAD NECROMANCY INCOMING.

      [Loathsome brood]

      If one wished to make the case that WHFRP is, at its heart, an investigative adventure game I would not contradict him, it is far better suited to investigative adventuring then endurance/resource based dungeon exploration.

      [Degrees]

      Aye, It depends greatly on what you consider to be a challenging task, a routine roll or a very hard task and this is left a bit too ambiguous at times. Nevertheless, Prince’s Lazy GM behavioural theory predicts that most rolls will be challenging rolls and Prince’s Suspense theory predicts that competent GM’s will handwave most routine tasks.

      [SWINE-AH]

      I do not in actuality care about it that much. If someone casually asks if they could play a certain character I would ask why first and if the reason is halfway decent and not posed in a whiny, entitled beta-bitch sort of way I would certainly consider granting the request after weighing the long term effects on campaign, team spirit and future player behaviour.

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      1. [Investigative adventure game]

        Such is the case this one would humbly present, O Prince. I’m down with a dungeon-like environment somewhere in the game but very much as a “go in, achieve objective defined through investigative play” thing, not a sprawling exploration for its own sake.

        [Competent GM]

        If such a creature exists it has already learned the great lesson: roll only when failure would be interesting.

        [The Swine]

        Most of the time I am with you and let people play what the hell they like because time is short, the Horsemen ride, and who gives that much of a fuck? I’m more likely to design a game after I know what characters people are bringing to the table.I only insist on randomness when it’s part of a game’s charm, as it is with WFRP, but even here I would stretch a point if the player is clearly enthused about part of the world or likely to sleep with me.

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      2. [Investigative]

        “Following in the footsteps of the Apostate Lector turned Necromancer Ludwig Taufenstein in an effort to discover a means of destroying the abominable Black Grail, we travelled deep into ancient Khemri, seeking out the Tomb of the Usurper Priest-King Rakesh. Whatever warp-borne lore took hold of Taufenstein originated here, beneath these ancient sands.”

        [Roll only]

        Correct!

        [Time is short]

        You have a point there. Time is too short for stupid garbage.

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