Wednesday 24 June 2009

Warhammer FRP 2nd Edition: What D&D 3.x Should Have Been

I'm enjoying running my Warhammer FRP PBEM game. Proceedings have been amusingly chaotic and the party members have an interesting tendency to attack everything on sight, which should prove entertaining in the long term.

I'm also enjoying the system, which is rare for me - generally speaking my philosophy on system is "Who gives a shit so long as you have motivated players and good characters, and we're not playing Blue Rose?" But WFRP really scratches that itch I have for realistic, gritty, low-fantasy nastiness, plus mutants, chaos gods and unreliable firearms.

The best thing about WFRP is the combat, which is both tactically fun but also pretty authentic in feel - the characters seem fragile in the same way that real people are fragile, and armour and shields are often the difference between life and death. It's a far cry from the weird D&D world of hit points, armour class and abstract mechanics - which is part of the charm, of course, but just not a proper fit for so many styles of gaming.

What interests me most about WFRP is that the combat is at least broadly similar to D&D 3.x's - everything is based on full and half actions, swift actions, free actions, etc. - but the difference is that WFRP's system just works, whereas I never felt D&D 3.x's did. Attacks of Opportunity were always annoying and fiddly; grappling and unarmed combat generally was a mess. Worse, the obsession with the tactical minutiae of combat never sat right with the level of abstraction at which the traditional mechanics existed - combat itself was exceptionally detailed tactically, but at the point at which hits and damage (the meat and bones) came into play, it suddenly morphed into something very simplistic. By contrast, WFRP combat is always at the same level of abstraction and the same level of detail, whether you're working out what actions exactly your character can do this round, or working out where he's been hurt and how badly. More importantly, its combat isn't likely to be ruined by overly powerful magic-users doing everything, or by killer class-combination "builds" dreamed up by annoying adolescent boys with nothing better to do with their time and posted on the internet.

WFRP's system is so robust and fun, in fact, that I think it would work perfectly for historical gaming, especially around the period which the Warhammer world is roughly analagous to. I can just imagine a game set in the Italian Wars, or during the Conquest of Mexico, or during the zenith of the Ottoman Empire. The fall of Byzantium, perhaps.


  1. I've seen several posts now praising WFRP and I'm curious.

    Can you post a description of combat or go into a little more detail on the points you brought up in this post.

    Is it super cruchy? (which all gritty realistic systems seem to be). Lots of rules or lite?

  2. Light but crunchy. I'll post about it maybe tomorrow if you'd like.

  3. Well I'm glad YOU'RE having fun, while I'm cowering around the corner after having been shot in the face with "dozens of sharp objects", and trying to defend myself with a sack full of marbles.

    I feel also I should say, in the party's defense, we don't ALL "attack everything on sight", just those of us on the west end of the corridor. ;)

  4. It probably says something about me that the most entertaining part of the post was the crack against Blue Rose *grinning*

    It didn't work well? ;3

  5. How similar/different is 2nd edition to 1st? WFRP 1 is my favourite RPG of all-time and my most-played by a long way. I was all set up to run not walk to the FLGS and buy the 2nd edition as soon as it arrived but looked at the price, looked at the fact that you didn't get creature statistics in the base game... and then looked at my 1st edition collection and there it stayed.

    Also, I know the clock has been wound on a bit in the game world (and Middenheim destroyed which is a git because that was my favourite part of the whole setting) but is the world like the original WFRP one or is it the Warhammer Battle one - the increasing shift to the latter caused much fanboi rage on the WFRP mailing list in days gone by.

    wv - Gaudinom. Province of Brettonia.

  6. @Coop: Mechnically there's little difference between 1E & 2E. In D&D terms it's a 1E-2E 'tune up', rather than a 2E-3E-4E reworking.

    WFRP 2E has:

    * borrowed some combat terms (half actions, free actions, and the like) from d20,
    * tinkered with weapons and armour slightly,
    * added some derived stats that make things go a little more quickly,
    * added some feat-alike enhancements to skills and abilities (Talents)
    * tinkered with the magic system.

    But it's still the deliciously misanthropic, lice-infested game we grew up with. :)

    The Headless Hollow Games WFRP GM reference sheets are a handy intro to the way the new system operates.

  7. Yes.

    I love WFRP2, and if loving WFRP2 is wrong, I don't want to be right. I own everything there is for it.

  8. WFRP v1 is also my all time favorite RPG. It is what i really cut my teeth on in the ate 80's. I have a ot of the v2 books, but have yet to play. From what I have read though I would tend to agree that it is very much D&D like.

    I would say the world is heavily influenced by WFB, but that could be fairly easily remedied. Terror in Talabheim was a very good read, and I think it would be fun to play.

  9. Glad you're enjoying the game. I'm having a blast (*snicker*), and imagine I will continue to until we get our asses handed to us...wait, that's fun too isn't it?

  10. One of the best things, in my opinion, about WHFRP combat is the pace. Everybody can pretty much do one thing per round, so the rounds go quick. By the end of 3rd Edition, D&D combat became as interminable as Hero System, to me.

  11. Zak: Well, technically only a handful of the dozens of sharp objects hit you in the face... ;)

    taichara: Don't get me started on Blue Rose. Seriously. ;)

    Coopdevil: See below. The world is basically the WFB one, but it doesn't have to be - there's nothing system-wise that prevents it taking place in the WFRP 1e world.

    Everyone else: Glad to know I'm not the only one.

  12. *cackling* See, now you tempt me ;3

  13. I love the game rules, and like, but am not totally comfortable with, using the setting. It's not quite "my" kind of fantasy setting, though it's interesting. I would love nothing more than to have WFRP2 rules but the Hyborian Age from Conan as the setting (but I'm too lazy to adapt it myself.) I think it'd be a great setting fit for the mechanics.

  14. But do you still have "the naked dwarf" problem?

    You used to be able to stick a naked dwarf in the middle of a fight and have him come out of it relatively untouched. Because Toughness was so much more valuable than Armour.

  15. Anonymous: Probably would. Really any game which needs a more gritty and realistic feel would suit the mechanics.

    Philter: Weapons do enough damage to rectify that.

  16. Yeah, I'm with taichara--now I'm genuinely curious to hear what you have to say about Blue Rose. Particularly since the setting makes an attempt to address in-game racism in the manner you were talking about in your earlier post.

    (And since I'm requesting posts/comments, I'll go ahead and chuck in a request for an explanation of what you mean when you say the CP2020 system is "broken"--you've played way more of that than I have, I'll wager, and I'm genuinely curious.)

  17. Okay, Blue Rose excoriation coming up.

    As for Cyberpunk 2020...well, I'll probably write a post on that too at some point, but suffice to say, it boils down to three major problems:

    1) You always score a critical failure on a roll of 1. But since CP 2020 uses d10s, effectively this means that 10% of all actions result in critical failure. No matter how easy the task and how skilled the actor.

    2) Netrunning is completely fucked. By which I mean, it's not only time consuming, it's also grossly boring and exceedingly fiddly. This renders a huge portion of the game basically unplayable; every CP 2020 player I know came to the conclusion about 10 minutes into their first session that Netrunners would be an NPC class and that was that.

    3) Bullet-stopping armour and cyberware is so cheaply available that it's relatively easy to make a character who can only be killed by a sponson-mounted railgun. Which kind of ruins the challenge.

    And yet despite of all this, it's still right up there with D&D challenging to be my favourite game...

  18. @Philter: WFRP 2E uses 1d10, rather than 1d6, as the basis for weapon damage. Armour now provides 1/3/5 AP, rather than the 0/1/2 schema 1E used.

  19. @Chris: Good point, that balances the arms race a bit better, can you still get a +40 Advance on toughness?

  20. On other WFRP posts I've mentioned the weird equipment pricing (is the sling made from rich Corinthian leather?) and how the wound chart favors kamikaze enemies.

  21. I like WHFRP, but I'm not fond of what little I know about the Warhammer setting, and I find it to be just a little more lethal than I like.