Game: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Publisher: Black Industries
Series: Warhammer 2nd edition
Review Dated: 2nd, April 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 45
Average Score: 7.50
“Welcome to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay” … begins the introduction. At last. This is a review of the second edition – the new – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying. I grew up with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and I, like so many gamers around the world, have had to wait years for the second edition. There’s a lot of pressure to get this right.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was a Games Workshop product which was picked up and maintained by Hogshead Publishing. Hogshead blipped when it changed owners (it closed and was then bought) and the original rights for their products reverted back and so Warhammer FRP became a Games Workshop product again. Games Workshop had not done roleplaying (in lieu of war gaming and board games) in a long time and we really did not know whether we would see Warhammer again. Games Workshop had Black Industries as a publishing wing and Black Industries turned to Chris Pramas and Green Ronin for assistance and it looked like we’d see Warhammer again. Phew. An easy way to sort out the jumble of logos on this book is simply to view Black Industries as the publisher and Green Ronin as the author. And yeah; there’s a lot of people involved in this book, the list of playtesters goes on and on.
Warhammer is grim and grittier than many fantasy roleplaying games. The original Warhammer was infamous for its gory critical hit descriptions. This issue is as deadly but not as gory. Characters and villains only have a handful of wound points. Once wounds are reduced to zero (they can’t go below) attacks begin to deal critical hits. The GM is left to add the gore to the critical hit descriptions if she chooses, there’s none in the critical hit tables here, but these tables which range in severity 1 through 10 do describe the mechanical effects of the hit. Sometimes there’s some basic “biology” in the hit description too, for example, “Ribs busted by ferocity of attack. Character takes a -10% WS penalty until medical attention is received.”
I rarely talk about the combat system for early on in a review but I’m bias by my teenage memories of playing the game. There are gamers around the world who’ll have had 15 years experience with the game and with favourite rules and persistent questions. The second edition of Warhammer FRP answers some of my persistent questions with just a few paragraphs. It’s clear just how many experience points you need to pay for +30% WS (weapon skill) if you’ve already paid for +10% WS. Before you change careers you have to have collected all the required trappings.
Warhammer uses careers as the core of the character development system. A career in Warhammer really is a career; Apprentice Wizard, Envoy, Hunter, Smuggler and Watchman, etc. Each career enables characters to spend experience points to boost attributes, buy skills and talents. If you complete a basic career then you can move on to an advanced career if you pay the experience points. The Watchman career, for example, allows exits to Mercenary, Racketeer, Roadwarden, Sergeant, Solider and Tradesman. Effort has been made to keep the advanced careers as generic as possible (in most cases) to try and facilitate easy adoption into the game, story and plot.
Your original career is random. If you don’t like what the dice suggest the first time you can role again but you must take that. Whereas some basic careers are going to appeal more than others – there are no lame ducks. The random career does make it impossible to put together a detailed character concept before character generation but it is quintessentially Warhammer and I’m pleased to see it maintained.
The magic system is very different than the first edition. Characters capable of casting spells will have a number of magic die to roll – d10 like the rest of the Warhammer system. To cast the spell the player must roll high enough to meet the spell’s casting number. Curse, for example, has a Casting Number 16. If you only have 2 die to roll then you’re not likely to successfully cast the spell but you’re welcome to try. If you have the right ingredients then you are able to add a few dots to your die total and if you have time to stop and channel then you can add a few dots to your total as well. If you’re wearing armour then you’ll subtract twice as many.
The magic system gets grim and gritty too – and I think this is superb – if you roll doubles, triples or quadruples in your magic roll then Tzeentch’s Curse has struck. Divine spellcasters face The Wrath of God instead. With Tzeentch’s Curse chaos manifests itself through the spell. Here’s a sample of a major chaos manifestation (which is less dangerous than a catastrophic one); “Chaos Foreseen: You get a glimpse of the Realm of Chaos and gain 1 Insanity Point. Any time after this event, you can spend 200 xp and gain the Dark Lore (Chaos) talent.”
Yeah. Warhammer uses Insanity Points more heavily in this edition.
Talents and skills are similar. In the original Warhammer we just had skills but they included abilities that seemed more like natural talents than learn-able skills. The second edition of Warhammer FRP simply splits the two for ease. In the magic system the would-be wizard requires the right lore to begin casting spells. There’s chaos but also the eight winds of magic and the spells from them. There are Divine Lores – such as The Lore of Morr – for priests to master. Characters can spend extra xp in specific skills to develop skill masteries. This ensures, for example, that you don’t have to be super intelligent in order to be very good at caring for animals (an intelligence based skill).
This edition of the game is in full colour.
As a reviewer I’m aware that there’s only finite space in a book. This hardback edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay feels thinner than the original softback. This is a 256-paged book follows on from a 370-paged book. Warhammer FRP second edition is slimmer than Warhammer FTP first edition. It’s the bestiary which has been most the heavily pruned section. There is a bestiary here and it focuses on the core monstrous villains; beastmen, skaven, mutants and orcs. This trimming does affect the feel of the book. By cutting out the “highly fantastic” monsters we keep the feel of the dour Warhammer world. Green Ronin might be best known for their d20 work but Warhammer FRP 2 does not feel like d20 done with 2d10. I’ll happily buy a bestiary supplement and add my cash to the Warhammer development fund.
There is space for the world of Warhammer in the roleplaying game but the book mainly deals with the Empire. As with the bestiary, I see both room and reason for world supplements later. Warhammer does well with cartography. There are some stunning maps. The world feels very real. This is a dangerous world where adventure and opportunity are both likely. This couples with a rich Religion and Belief chapter which sees the return of the traditional Warhammer gods and goddesses.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a game which people can begin their roleplaying addiction with. The book explains the basics. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a game for jaded or enthusiastic roleplaying gurus. That’s an impressive success.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay the second edition is a success. It feels like Warhammer and yet it has progressed from the original.
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