Warhammer Fantasy Role Play – Reading Between Editions

So I was scheming a post on how I’d bring together the WFRP* that I have (Black Industries’ hardback second edition, slimmed-down, fully-coloured, and hauled into line with the Warhammer background as-is) with the WFRP that I knew and loved in my youth (Hogshead’s black-and-white behemoth, full of Fimir and Druids and Dawnstones and Malal and other stuff that’s fallen off the back of the world somewhere).

It would have been informed by a conversation I had the other day with a regular player about WFRP, and how he found the completely random character generation process abhorrent, being used to the D&D/Pathfinder model of ‘turn up for game with idea for character already in head and attempt to execute that in play’, and liking the idea of at least being able to choose what your tactical role would be to some extent.

It would have covered a few key things, like grouping the career paths together into analogues for the Big Four D&D classes so you could at least choose ‘elf fighter’ like you would for one of those hilarious Marxist-taxonimist games even if words like ‘build optimisation’ were not to be heard, and reintroducing the d6 to afford some simpler randomisation methods for things like fate points, wounds and weapon damage (as much as I like Black Industries’ system, the use-d10s-for-everything results in more look-up tables than I’d like, especially when some are of the “1-2 equals 1, 2-4 equals 2” variety – bugger that for a game o’soldiers).  It would have touched on my house rules for grappling (roll to hit, then test Strength or system equivalent instead of rolling damage) and other corner-case combat moves.

Then I remembered that Small But Vicious Dog exists.

Finally sitting down and reading Chris’ mash-up of old D&D with proper WFRP, I admit that I may have laughed aloud in several – all right, many – places.  It’s funny, it’s functional, and it’s very much built on the basis that the world is a sinkhole and the gods are only keeping you alive because your suffering amuses them.  The race/class control setup is balanced against random careers within the class, which substitute for the ‘skills’ and ‘feats’ of modern D&D, and while Chris has expressed no patience with Advanced Careers I must admit that I am tempted to put together a supplement on the topic myself just to fit them in and take characters to the dizzy heights of fourth and fifth level.

  • One thing I would do, in all likelihood, is tweak it so Dwarfs, Elves and Halflings get a class and career roll instead of advancing by race-as-class.  I admire the dedication to OD&D’s approach, but one cannot earn a living in society simply from being a Dwarf.  Nonhuman societies, communities and ghettoes need their aldermen, scribes, bodyguards, apothecaries, dunnikindivers and, yes, ratcatchers too.  This is one place where versey-multitude (see also: Erin Palette on the matter of ‘realism’ and other isms) is more important to me than adhering to the roots of D&D.
  • Similarly, I’d probably tweak the XP-per-GP mechanic in favour of the shilling rather than the crown, just because I don’t like to people my world with unfeasibly rich NPCs.  Players might have a bloody long wait for even one bonus experience point if they’re picking the bodies of characters who might have sixpence between them.
  • Finally, as a matter of pure convenience, I’d probably cludge the D&D mechanics side so that it runs off a variant that I already own.  Might unbalance things a bit, but probably not enough for me to give a Skaven’s arse over it.

It’s actually worrying how close SBVD is to being My Perfect System.  If I transferred over the World of Darkness style stat-blocks – Physical, Mental and Social cross-referenced with Power, Finesse and Resistance to provide a catch-all value which could, in this case modify the d20 roll to achieve something – it’d probably be there.

* – not the one all you D&D OSR types have been blathering about.  The real one.  The one that was here first, dammit.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

You may now commence belching

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