Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fantasy Flight Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Also known as a billion fucking tokens.

Don't get me wrong, I love FFG, like, more than I probably should. I have many big box games, living card games, and several of their small games (Red November, Space Hulk Death Angel, Citadels, etc). I am also a HUGE fan of their 40k RPG series, specifically Rogue Trader.

And my wallet screamed...

So why would I bother with their take on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay? I mean, after all, how much different can it be from DnD or any other fantasy setting? What's the point of buying a $100 starter kit when I could just pirate the DnD/Pathfinder rules and just slap the Warhammer Fantasy IP on them?

Some might say "Well, Puffin, you obviously have some sort of game hoarding problem, undoubtedly related to your early childhood which was devoid of complex and interesting games and pop culture, driving your need to absorb as much of it as possible now that you have the disposable income (and ironically, not the time) to afford it." And, frankly, those who say that may be correct.

I personally am more of a fan of "Because the expansions were 50% off at Metro Comics so I spent $250 for around $450 worth of awesome FFG product."

I purchased the core rules, player's vault, GM's toolkit, Creature vault, The Adventurers Toolkit, and three of their expansions. Let's just say I have enough to tide me over for quite some time. Each expansion came with 1-3 books about the size of a codex from 5th edition 40k, a sizable amount of tokens, and TONS of player cards.

Now that we have seen the insight as to why I spent this much on FFG, let's crack open the boxes/books and figure out what exactly this game is all about.

Look at the box o' tokens!
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game (rpg) from the makers of such great games as: GW games from the early '90s updated to modern standards because GW wouldn't bother. Famous for their Living Card Game, where you don't have to buy random packs hoping for rare cards, so it saves you money, until you buy all 36 battle packs and 5 big box expansions instead of a car. And also from board games that take longer to set up and play than a Warhammer 40k Apocalypse game.

But seriously, I love FFG, they make very awesome looking product that is only ever so slightly bogged down by being so far it's own ass with tokens and esoteric rules it's almost annoying.

In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFP from here-on-out because I am lazy) three adventurers go on quests to help fill their purses and loot treasures before the ever ominous threat in Warhammer, "The End Times." (Or why Rick Priestley was fired from GW, whatever). Their goal is to defeat the scenarios and interactions put forward by the game master (GM) in order to experience and tell a unique story in the grim dark past of GW's oldest IP.

Basic rules:

This is a joke, there is no such thing. While at face value the system looks less complicated than Pathfinder or DnD, in truth it is not. There are 7 types of unique dice, much like Decent: Journey in the Dark, and they are FFG proprietary dice. The mechanics involve generating dice pools for different tasks, adding white dice(d6) to represent how fortunate someone may be, black dice(d6) that represent mistakes or misfortune, red dice(d10) for recklessness, green dice(d10) for caution, blue dice(d8) for your stats, yellow dice(d6) for special attributes, and purple dice(d8?) for evil or chaotic presence. Reminiscent of a game called Cones of Dunshire, they complexity is all in the mechanics, but not in the execution of the game play itself.

Character creation:

Oh man, this one is insanity. There are 4 playable races; Human, Dwarf, High Elf, and everyone's favorite race from Warhammer Fantasy.... Wood elves! *chirp chirp chirp chirp*

Someone dropped the ball here. I know that they wanted variety among players should each 3 man team wouldn't consist of the Three Hunters from Lord of the Rings, but come on... What about a lizardman? Or even a Bretonnian?

Anyway, once you have chosen (or randomly rolled) for your race it is time to pick a career. Now, most people are familiar with the holy trinity in roleplaying (tank, healer, dps) and this can be represented in the game, but it's fairly unlikely for it to occur. There are well over 100 player classes in the game, which vaguely determine your move set and specialties. From the illustrious Peasant class to the lucrative Rat Catcher career, your fun adventure is sure to heat up like a game of Agricola with a group of Amish farmers.
Players draw three career cards (there are a LOT) and pick one of the three they chose so long as their race is allowed. No human or elf can be a Troll Slayer, a Dwarf cannot be a way-watcher, and thankfully, the wizard/mage classes are not use able by Dwarves.

With the career chosen, players receive a player character sheet to keep record of their characters stats and progression.

You get a ream of like 100 character sheets in three different kits (Core, player's vault, adventurers toolkit). They are double sided, fold in half perfectly, and are probably the best looking character sheets I have EVER seen. They are half sheets, so they are small, but easily legible.

Anyway, enough gushing.

Based on your character's race and career characteristics you get to enter your starting stats. This is fairly straight forward. Humans have "2" in each stat and 25 points with which to increase their stats. Dwarfs, High Elves, and Woodelves have 20 creation points, but two of their stats are increased to "3". Then the career you chose also has "primary characteristics" which net you another 1 point in each of the two stats. Lastly, players receive a career special ability card. It is sort of the defining skill of your career. The High Elf Swordmaster, for example, receives a Greatsword of Hoeth. Once your basic stats have been allocated, it is now time to see how rich you aren't.

There are 4 levels of wealth: Broke, Poor, Comfortable, and Affluent. Each level no only determines your starting equipment, coin, and smuggness-level, it also determines how many skills, specializations, talents, and additional actions you can preform.

Broke: This one costs you 0 creation points, gets you a dagger, some dirty rags, 5 pennies, 1 skill, 0 talents, and 1 action.

Poor: This will cost 1 creation point, gets you your choice of 4 weapons, some dirty clothes, 50 silver, 2 skills, 1 talent, and 2 actions.

Comfortable: This will cost 2 creation points, gets your some clothes, a bag, some candles, a tinderbox, the same choice of weapons as the poor wealth level, and 2 gold coins. You will also receive 3 skills, one specialized skill, 2 talents and 3 actions.

Affluent: This is a whopping 3 creation points, gets you 2 sets of fancy clothes, some better weapon choices, and 5 gold coins. You also get 4 skills, 2 specializations, 3 talents and 4 actions.

Once you have chosen your wealth level, you then assign your skills, choose your talents, and pick your action cards.

The skills you choose from are listed on your career card. You may ONLY choose from these skills during your character creation. If you have any specializations you will pick skills you have trained and create a specialized skill for it. If, say, your character has athletics, you can specialize in sprinting or swimming. It's a nice touch that allows players a little more control over the vagueness of "Your good at athletics."

Talents are next. There are tons of these little talent cards, and every career has different mixtures of talents available, based on what they are good at. There are a bunch of talent categories including Reputation, Order, Faith, Tactic, Focus, etc. These are basically minor skills or abilities that further define your character's style of play. They are usually exhaustible cards which give you some advantage in either encounter or social interactions.

Finally we have our actions. All players receive a set of basic actions, such as "Melee attack" and "Ranged attack." Actions are how you preform things while in combat and use an interesting "cool down" mechanic you don't normally see in table top RPGs. After you have received your basic actions, you now get to choose additional actions based on your wealth level we established earlier.

I wish I took a picture of the piles of action cards... It's a little silly. I believe there are well over 400 unique action cards, and while it seems a little daunting, they are quick to read and a good way to build a character. Instead of rifling through a book to find, and reference, your abilities, you instead of cards that you can just play to represent your characters abilities.

Finally, once you have completed the card drawing, you are now able to spend your remaining creation points on your stats. Each upgrade costs the number of points equal to the stat level you wish to upgrade to. IE: if your strength is currently 3 and you wish to be strength 4, you must spend 4 creation points. Likewise, if you are Fellowship 2 and wish to become Fellowship 4 you must spend 3 points to move to 3 and an additional 4 points to move to 4, costing a total of 7 points. Pretty simple.

We are ALMOST DONE with character creation, but now it's time for your party to choose a dynamic. This dynamic allows your party to share talents and gives you an idea of how your party preforms together. Are they a band of brothers? Mercenaries? Bitter rivals? Each team dynamic is interesting and can really create good storytelling backbone as well as add tension to the game using the "tension" mechanic. As your party progresses you will begin to become frustrated with one another. As you fail your party gains tension tokens which eventually cause your party to take fatigue or stress damage. It's a pretty unique way of punishing players for failing.

Lastly, players need to create their stance track. The stance track is an interesting mechanic I will go into further detail one later, but for now, each action card has two sides, a conservative green side and a reckless red side. Depending on your stance you will play one of these two sides. Conservative stanced cards are usually more likely to succeed but tend to do so at a lower effectiveness. Reckless stanced cards are very powerful, but tend to back fire as common as they succeed. It's a cool risk/reward system that I am excited to see develop within a party.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this synopsis of character creation and basic rules. I did it all from memory after only reading the book once and helping 5 people create characters. The rules and tokens look challenging and frightening, but underneath is a simple mechanic that I believe will be a lot of fun to explore.

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