PrinceofNothingReviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Pt. V; Do you have a moment to talk about the Lord Crystal Dragon Jesus Christ?

The Religion section in the new game has been handled quite nicely. Entries for gods are expanded from the original, yet not to White Wolf-esque proportions to the point where it gets tiresome, and unnessecary and confusing deities have been stripped out. This section is very humanocentric and even Imperio-centric, which is good since most of your adventures will take place in humanocentristan and involve humans, so fuck you if you like playing Hobbits in Ulthuan or some other such nonsense.

First, some changes to the human pantheon proper. Taal & Rhea (the nature god and his nature wife) are described in terms of a single entry, with their priests having access to the same spells (though with different starting skills). The druidic Old faith has been done away with and more or less folded into their portfolio/replaced with Life Wizards. The most major change is the vastly expanded description of Sigmar, Hero-deity and founder of the Empire.

The game handles oracles, prayer and blessings similarly to 1e, with the possible exception that everything is left even more vague and direct intervention is even more rare. There is no fixed percentage chance to gain a blessing, the situation must be in the deity’s direct interest, be urgent and involve the sacrifice of a substance precious to the deity being invoked. Even then, blessings are fucking rare and have no outward manifestations. WHFP 2e notes that something as blatant and gauche as a direct manifestions (e.g the heavens parting or heavenly messengers appearing and so on) should be so rare that a thousand players could play a thousand lifetimes without it happening once. In addition to blessings, anyone pissing off the gods can expect to be cursed with the Bloody Flux, of which the gods have a particular fondness. My kind of fucking game.

I am rather amused at the vastly expanded amount of fluff in the religion section. The authors really tried to make a sort of coherent practice for most of the Empire, albeit it with the neccesary regional variation here and there, with certain days in the year being important to certain deities and so and so forth. Appropriate rites for all major events in a person’s life are described, some of them quite amusing (a child surviving to its 10th birthday is celebrated by making a sacrifice to Morr, during which special candles are burnt, generating smoke that will hopefully obscure the child from his gaze) or setting appropriate (2 days before Witching night is Mornlimb, when maimed soldiers gather to toast the parts of their bodies that are already in Morr’s realm).

Annyoing point. Warhammer Fantasy uses a “special” Calender of 400 days per year and 8 days per week, which is fucking inconvenient and means you have to learn a new form of timekeeping. However, nothing an excel sheet won’t fix. Important holidays are noted in detail and given terse, evocative description. The Empire also celebrates dwarven holidays (like First Quaff and Saga), given the prominence and importance of Dwarves to the rise of Sigmar and thus their close connection to eachother. The only holiday of any importance to the wretched Halflings is Pie Week, a full 8 days of gastronomic excess which has been enthusiastically adopted as a secular holiday by the Empire’s citizens.

To assuade the wrath of the gods the game provides a list of delightfully medieval acts of contrition, ranging from Bagging (the binding up of one’s head in a sack and jostled), Leeching (to suck out the sin!) and The Anvil (used by sigmar, the offended’s hand is placed upon an anvil and hit with a hammer, the size of which is dependent upon the nature of the offence).

On to the gods themselves. Though alignment has thankfully been stripped out (since in this game it would be all but vestigial), each god is described fairly succinctly. Symbol, Areas of Worship, Temperament and Stricures. The Gods themselves should be familiar by now: Manaan is god of the Sea, Morr is the Grim God of death and dreams, Myrmidia is spanish-italian Athena (and naturally the Tileans and the Estalians quibble over her place of origin), Ranald is a pacifistic trickster god secretely worshipped among the common folk, Shallya is the universally beloved godess of peace and healing (the only thing she hates is Nurgle and Isis), Taal and Rhea are dispassionate nature deities with many different aspects (from Artemis-like huntress to wise nature deity), Ulric is the kickass barbarian wolf god worshipped by the humans before they founded the empire and Verena is the lady of justice and learning. Lest I forget, Sigmar Heldenhammer takes his rightful place at the top of the pantheon, considered only a minor regional deity outside the Empire but a prominent uber-deity inside it. Sigmar’s Hammer protects mankind from the depredations of Chaos and his twin symbols of Gal Maraz the dwarven warhammer and the twin-tailed comet stand vigil. A man’s man’s deity.

A very useful addition to the Religion section is a section on the church of each deity. Details on the centre of worship, most prominent priest, different Holy Orders and sample holy days. Most cults have both a day-to-day and an adventuring Order, thereby giving you an excuse to walk around and murder the shit out of things. When I say adventuring I mean an Order that is likely to travel frequently, and engage in tasks that are not without risk, and thus could plausibly come to have an adventure, though the Order of the Silver Hammer beholden to Sigmar quite literally consist of travelling warrior priests devoted to fighting Evil.

Although most cults seem to be doing, alright (with the odd mover and shaker/internal rivalry stirring the pot every once in a while), it should come as no suprise that Sigmar’s Cult, invested with vast temporal as well as spiritual power, is a complete fucking mess, it’s Lectors (high-priests) having grown corrupt and reluctant to do his bidding and a growing slap-fest with the Cult of Ulric over a faux-pas at Karl Franz’s place threatening to provoke open violence. The addition of a rumor of the heretical Sons of Ulric cult, a secret society claiming direct blood linkeage to the deity, was a nice touch, I find it lamentable that such hooks are all too rare in this fluff fest. Overall, this section helps to firmly embedd one in the world of Warhammer Fantasy but it should be pointed out most of this is fluff and not very many adventure seeds are generated. The firmament is laid out but we have yet to see the engine (e.g the good fantasy shit that makes the GM’s brain explode with ideas for awesome adventures).

Non-human deities are still covered, but the section on them is even sparser then the one in Warhammer Fantasy 1e. All non-human deities are given a sentence, 2 at max of description. The Elven deities are identical to those of the Eldar in 40k (go figure right?) and are all very Celtic-inspired. The maiden, mother and the Crone (Isha, Morag-Hai and Lileath), the Hunter, the Blood-handed God of War and Murder (Khaine!), the Supreme deity Asuryan, the blind knowledge God Hoeth and so on and so forth. All of them sound awesome but we don’t know much about them which is for the best. The Dwarves are given an axe-fighting god for the Trollslayers to worship next to the Smithing God and token female dwarf god. Halflings are notoriously reticent about their faith and any attempt to categorize it has been met with deliberate deception and failure. Nice.

Topping off the section on religion, again with a page that is maddiningly short and cryptic, is a section on the forbidden or Chaos Gods. Worship of these nightmarish horrors is forbidden in all civilised nations, but like maggots burrowing in a corpse, they permeate every layer of the Empire. From desperate plague-victims to mutants, blood-thirsty killers to power-hungry aristocrats, Chaos touches the hearts of all men. The Pantheon stands complete now. No Malal blights the gathering of the Four. Khorne and Nurgle have been joined by Tzeentch, twister of fate and Lord of Change and Slaanesh, Dark Prince of Excess. Glory to Chaos!

There are no gods of Law. No counterweight. No mention thereof. The gods of mankind stand like tiny torches, protecting mankind from a vast, onrushing darkness. But ultimately, it is man that will have to do the fighting, not gods.

I really dig the religion section. It serves to deepen and flesh out the world of warhammer and save the game from becoming just hack and slash with beastmen and the holy roman empire. The different religions and holy days make the world feel lived in and alive. Excellent.

Join us next time as we cover the noble art of GMing the world of Warhammer Fantasy and…if we have time, might delve into some of the lore. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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5 thoughts on “PrinceofNothingReviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Pt. V; Do you have a moment to talk about the Lord Crystal Dragon Jesus Christ?

  1. “The firmament is laid out but we have yet to see the engine (e.g the good fantasy shit that makes the GM’s brain explode with ideas for awesome adventures).”

    Of course, the wise man knows this is to ensure healthy sales figures for Sigmar’s Heirs, Barony of the Damned, Night’s Dark Masters and other regional/themed gazetteer/module combo packs. Come on, Prince, get with the programme; Games Workshop does not grant its spice licence unless a flow is assured!

    (I’m more worked up about this than usual having dealt with a non-zero number of fuckwit Saga players who can’t think about a problem before gobbing off about it and are talking about ‘codex creep’ in a gazetteer-based product line. Such things hurt me in parts of my brain I seldom even USE, save to suffer.)

    “Halflings are notoriously reticent about their faith and any attempt to categorize it has been met with deliberate deception and failure. Nice.”

    No, not nice at all. The overlap between “players capable of or inclined toward making up their own religious strictures even as a convincing untruth” and “players capable of or inclined toward playing Halflings in cold blood” is probably so fine it might as well not exist. To lie convincingly one must have an inkling of the truth.

    Furthermore, “they never tell OUTSIDERS” is a twelve-carat cop-out when an Insider is a playable option. Even if you’re going to provide the True Secrets of the Short Hand or whatever in a supplement, it’s still weaksauce.

    (I’m working through Sigmar’s Heirs and so far it has been silent on the subject of Halfling religious observations. I don’t think this is a glaring omission since Warhammer Halflings are merely fantasy-racist/classist comic relief, but I dislike on principle the half-arsing of playable races/classes, especially when it’s so blatant.)

    My beard is now moistened with rage and so I depart.

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    1. [spics must flow]

      Nu uh that is a cardinal sin. I retrocloned that from your guidlines and the result was awesome.

      [Saga]

      Sounds like an rpg to pass the time while you watch your wife getting fucked (Wasn’t marvel or Dragonlance SAGA based?).

      [Halflings]

      I dunno, Warhammer Fantasy essentially does the elfblackface thing and unfortunately for us, that seems to work the most effective when portraying demihumans. A nuanced portrayal with multiple stereotypically divided subraces is just adding more stereotypes and a nuanced portrayal is only of use if you play multiple demihuman parties (e.g only attractive to otherkin and furries).

      Halflings are a joke, but they kind of need to be. I feel almost any serious portrayal of them tends to backfire. If you know any counter-examples be sure to let me know. I still sort of guffaw at the Greenwood’s Hin from Mystara/Basic.

      [Sigmar’s Heirs]

      Sounds like an rpg to pass the time while you watch your wife getting fucked (wasn’t marvel or Dragonlance Sigmar’s Heir’s based?).

      [Rage]

      Rage.

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      1. [Cardinal Sins]

        Oh, I know it for a Sin, I’m just surprised that you missed a chance to excoriate Black Industries as was for committing it.

        [Saga]

        Possibly, but I was thinking of the Dark Ages legendary-historical wargame.

        [Halflings]

        The elfblackface approach is simplest because we can take what already exists in the world and is far more nuanced and developed than anything three neds in a shed could create, and use that as the bedrock for our understanding of what ‘elf’ is. All attempts at fleshing out elf-on-elf racism come off as a poor imitation of the Real, some more so than others (any game which directly equates species to nation is hobbling itself before it starts).

        I have never seen a halfling played straight outside the works of Tolkien and even he needed the deflatory safety valve of Samwise Gamgee: incongruous with his horrible surroundings, Gamgee achieves the basis of all humour without trying.

        [Sigmar’s Heirs]

        It’s a sourcebook for the game you’re reviewing, you stupid boy. I suspect you know that and are merely being tiresome.

        [Rage]

        I’m tired. I’ll get angry about nerd shit tomorrow.

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      2. [Excorication]

        The Excorication comes after the evidence has been presented, the judge has been bribed and the mob has been stirred up to a bloodthirsty extacy. Otherwise I must repeat the point again when I cover the aenemic monster section, the magic item section and anything else that is visibly incomplete. A good headsman needs but one blow.

        [Saga]

        Tabeltop wargames other then Warhammer are beyond my expertise. Academic Lore (nerd board games) is not my class skill. I already picked Academic Lore (elfgames), Academic Lore (retro-console games), Academic Lore (nerd elfbooks), Academic Lore (Star trek) and Academic Lore (semi-gross Anime). It’s a goddamn miracle I am under 200 pounds can hold a conversation without referring to Faffhrd and the Grey Mauser and have made love to thousands of beautiful women as it is.

        [Elfism]

        Spot on probably. The archetype is so vivid, so powerful and so enduring, that any deviation from it feels like a child clumsily aping his karate dad’s kata’s.

        [Gamgee]

        Samwise helps put everything in perspective. Every roleplaying group needs a samwise so everyone else can riff off that.

        [Sigmar’s Heirs]

        The term is needlessly obtuse and antagonistic

        [Sleep]

        Sleep.

        [Angry about nerd shit]

        Our close and personal friend has been nuked. Wundergeek lives. Yet I cannot help but smile. Perhaps it is the copy of Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner on my shelf. Perhaps it is financial weal. Perhaps it is love. Smile as you kill Von.

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      3. [Excorication]

        Hmm. Fair. My recollection of your methods has been biased by all these short-form reviews in which you show less discipline and more vitriol.

        [Build Optimisation]

        I skipped out on Consoles and never saw cross-class ranks in Anime of any sort as worth it. I needed those points for Craft (Decent Looking 28mm Trees) – a niche skill but no wargaming party is complete without it.

        [Gamgee]

        A compelling point, and had some people paid more attention to group playstyle optimisation rather than who takes the cleric bullet, they might have found their games more enduring for the ages.

        [Sigmar’s Heirs]

        Zip it, Patrick.

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