zondag 10 februari 2013

Forces of Fantasy

Forces of Fantasy was the first published supplement to the Warhammer rules system. Like the basic game it was a boxed set, and included 4 booklets: Forces of Fantasy, Fighting Fantasy Battles, Arcane Magicks and the Book of Battalions. It includes all of the new rules and errata introduced in the First Citadel Compendium (except for the Mark of Chaos article and Science Fiction/Modern rules).

Overall appearance
Forces of Fantasy looks a lot more professional than the game it expands. The layout is professional, arranged in neat columns with a good font rather than the type-writer blurbs in the basic rules. The art is still very nice and varied. Blanchitsu box-cover and the art inside by various artists, include Tony Ackland, Nick Bibby and of course, John Blanche.

Forces of Fantasy
The eponymous booklet of the publication holds a large collection of army lists and includes the army selection rules and introduces a points system for organising your army into battalions of 1000 points.
It is the most wargame-oriented booklet of the set, and also introduces rules for regimental leaders and champions, banners and musicians. The rules for capturing an enemy standard are very characterful and complicated, basically a dice-off between both units, the loser suffering casualties and the winner capturing the standard. Very cinematic.
This booklet also gives the rules for the Leadership Factor characteristic.

The point system is not fully detailed as in 2nd edition/rogue trader, but a list of equipment values is given just before the army lists.
There are a lot of army lists, 4 types of humans (North, East, West and Oriental), 4 types of elves, Halflings, dwarves, gnomes, Orcs, several Goblin variant (Great Goblins, Red Goblins, Hobgoblins, Night Goblins), Chaos, Slann, lizardmen, undead, Giants and Monstrous Hosts. Each army has several troop-types on offer and details the character-models available to the armies. New special rules and abilities are also introduced as well as a 3d character type just for the Oriental Humans: the Martial Hero (basically a Wuxia Shaolin monk “class” with amazing stats). 
Once more, Chaotic attributes are mentioned but not detailed, and even the Chaos character models don't get rules in this book, the reader is once more referred to a 'forthcoming' supplement called "Realms of Chaos" to create his leader characters. The "Mark of Chaos" article from the First Citadel Compendium is presented as alternative, to use while awaiting the Realms of Chaos expansion, possibly in conjunction with the Character generation rules of FoF volume 2: Fighting Fantasy Battles.
The character profiles for heroic leaders and wizards are introduced and have a rough level system.
The wizard levels were already mentioned in Volume 3 of the basic boxed set, but are now codified into:

Mastery Level 1: Novice
Mastery Level 2: Acolyte
Mastery Level 3: Adept
Mastery Level 4: Mage

Heroes get three levels to measure their power and ability, which start at much hire characteristic scores than would later be the case:

Minor hero
(compared to normal creature: +2 WS, +1 I, +1W)
(+3 WS, +2 BS, +2W, +5I, +1A)
Mighty Hero
(+4 WS, +2BS, +1S, +1T, +2W, +8I, +2A)

Some races/armies have access to all levels of wizards/hero, while other are limited to “Acolyte” level wizards and Heroes at best. Halflings are worst of, no wizards and only up to Hero level Characters.

It is a very useful booklet as the arrangement of text and the characteristic profiles are very readable. In addition, every army-list also includes a random generation table to generate the kind of creature a party encounters in a random encounter. I.e if the GM generates a random encounter with some Orcs with the tables in Vol3. Characters, he may use Forces of Fantasy to see what kind of Orcs they are.

Each army/race gets a bit of background, but it's very summary compared to later publications. As of yet, nothing of the warhammer setting is set in stone.

Fighting Fantasy Battles
Fighting Fantasy Battles is a mixed affair, introducing new rules for siege weapons, fire, buildings (and setting them on fire) and (finally!) Personal Characteristics along with painting and wargaming advice.
We also get the long awaited rules for Fighting Defensively (which allows you to stop an enemy from attacking you), which is a very characterful rule and ideal for RPG combat.
The rules for mounted troops also add detail for small engagements if so desired.

There is also a chart to generate random hazards (animals, monsters and undead) inhabiting terrain features on the battlefield that units walk into, very much like Newhammer's terrain rules. Generally there is a 5-10% chance that any terrain feature holds some kind of creature. I think it can be useful for sandbox adventures, or when the Player characters seek out a resting place in the wilds.

The rules on personal characteristics does not provide much rules for characteristic tests, only Willpower introduces a system for Magical Resistance, but all other characteristics are limited to providing guidelines on what psychological conditions affect a character. Leadership was detailed in the Forces... Booklet.

Intelligence determines if a character is subject to Stupidity, is a fast or slow learner, if a character can be a wizard (INT 5+ required) and how fast one learns skills or gets promoted in a day job in one of the skill professions.
Willpower introduces a system for magical resistance, and gives dwarves extra flavour by making dwarfs with WP 16 (?) so immune to magic that they cannot wield magic items, nor become wizards and cause fear to any wizard within 12”.
Cool is very much the characteristic of self-control in this edition. Characters with a particularly low Cool are subject to Frenzy while those with a high cool may be immune to Frenzy, Fear and Terror.

There is also a page detailing the random generation of mercenaries. It's interesting, but very much geared towards the wargame tier of Firsthammer rather than the RPG side of the system.

Then comes a bunch of pages detailing the tactics, organisation and uniforms of the various races, followed by the Regiments of Renown, who give us new insights in the warhammer world. Many of the regiments or characters are still around to this day, including Josef Bugmann, Menghil Manhide, Grom -the paunch of misty mountain and Golgfag and his mercenary Ogres.

The chapter that interested me the most is the chapter on randomly generating Heroes and Wizards, in a manner that is quite possibly the inspiration for the Realms of Chaos warband rules!
It has a bunch of tables to determine hero/wizard level, their characteristics, any possible magical equipment, fantastic mounts and the chance of and number of followers a character has and what kind of followers they might be (including animal/monster companions). It's not at all balanced and I can't imagine these rules to see much use in wargame battles with armies created using the battalion rules, but I can see it's value in as a character generator in an RPG or Skirmish campaign!
When used as character generation rules for an RPG variant of Firsthammer, you'd get characters that are more durable and possibly have a few magic items and/or followers. I also like the remark that the quality of randomly generated heroes is “In the hands of Goethi and Spanaal the Gods of Chance”!
There are rules for generating heroes for the three races available for player characters in the Role-play variant, Men, Elves and Dwarfs. It also gives a bit more differentiation between the 3 races, Dwarfs being slow but tough having the highest possible wound score among the three but lowest initiative levels, while elves are skilled, fast and fragile (least max. wounds) and humans are somewhere in between. The followers generation table for human characters is the most diverse and might also factor in a character's alignment, some results giving a human hero the choice between a Dwarf or Ogre or Elf or Orc as follower.
It also strikes me that elves have the lowest possible amount of followers (d8 at best for a mighty hero/mage), while Dwarves have the highest (3d10 for a Mighty Hero/Mage) and humans are again in between (2d10 for a Mighty hero/mage). It seems unfair to have a quite powerful race have the most henchmen, but in contrast to humans and elves, Dwarfs get no 'creature' followers (which includes manticores and wyverns!) like humans and elves do, nor may they have Fantasic Mounts, so the possibilities of such may balance things out.

Hey, let's make a hero!

Ackny Toland, Minor Hero
Weapon skill: 8
Bow Skill: 3
Strength: 2
Toughness: B
Wounds: 1
Initiative: 3
Attacks: 1

Magic weapon (10% chance): none
Other magic (5% chance of 2): none
Followers (20% chance): none

Arcane Magicks
The third booklet is the most Role-play oriented of the lot. We get a bunch of new magic items, magic item random generation rules, a few new spells, new creatures and a more detailed and expanded treasure generation table, detailing the possible 'treasures' found in various kinds of buildings. Points values for magic items are not all to common throughout the book, but most rules include a monetary value in gold crowns, the currency used in the Role-play variant (WH1 vol.3).
Once more magic is very much geared towards (role playing) campaign play, but has the potential to add a lot of flavour and excitement to the battle game.
I like they way magic weapons are handled in this edition, weapons often having a certain alignment (chaos, evil, neutral, good, avarice or hunger), a willpower factor and possibly even a name! All these factors must be taken into account to see if a character can wield the magic item at full effect or suffers penalties using it, a slimmed-down version of this was used in WFRP ed. 1 where you must pass a WP-test to be able to use a magic item.

Unlike the white box Vol.2: Magic, there is not a whole lot of setting-notes beside the introduction of Araby and its native magical creatures (Djinn and Efreet) and items (flying carpet, magic lamp, magic rope) and the chapter on Power weapons.
Forces of Fantasy as a whole introduces the Slann as the ancient race of 'creator god-aliens' thet build the world and brought in magic, the artefacts of the Slann being presented as Arcane Rods and Power weapons. Arcane Rods are basically storage units for magical energy that can be used to cast, enhance or resist spells. Power Weapons are more dangerous items, which can enslave weak-willed characters and drain away their willpower up to a point that the character is compelled to undertake a long journey to some Slann ruin where some ritual takes place that results in mastery of the weapon. Power weapons are a bit like the later Deamon Weapons in that way (powerful but dangerous to wielder and victim alike), but also find employ as “laser-guns” and heavy hitters. These weapons should obviously be very rare and highly sought after by ambitious characters and/or villains and may inspire a campaign arc. Finding one by random chance in a sanbox environment might add a defined plot to such a campaign if the GM is willing.

The book of battalions
This booklet details some army lists. I'll not go into details on these, for I am more concerned with the RPG aspect of things.

vrijdag 1 februari 2013

The 1st WARHAMMER, a closer look at Volume 3: Characters.

Now, volume 3 is actually the main thing of this blog. It is the booklet that inspired me to try and use warhammer as RPG!
Unfortunately it's also the least comprehensive of the 3 original booklets. It's apparently aimed at experienced role-players who want to avoid system-switching between Adventures and Mass-combat who are proficient house-rulers and home brewers as the best we get from Volume 3 are guidelines.
The worth of this booklet for WFRP scholars is however, enormous in my opinion. This is zero-edition WFRP, with the kernel of the injury tables and career system.

I have yet to use the firsthammer rules with my friends, but did some solo-games and it's quite a rules-light RPG with low character survival chances at first.

The booklet starts with some general information on how to play a role-playing game, yet gives a paragraph on the handling of the player-character's miniature and by that Warhammer remains a miniatures game even if used as RPG. And would we have it any other way?
It does bring up an interesting, board-gamist rule that only the player may move his character's figure and once moved a player may not change his mind (like in chess).

Volume 3 adds more characteristics to the game: personal characteristics. Some have no mechanical use other than determining wealth (social status) and general appearance, but Intelligence, Cool, Willpower and Leadership are implied to have mechanical effects in play. Sadly, these are barely covered and aspiring Firsthammer GM's are left in the dark as what to do with them!

A list of skills is also provided. It features shockingly few actual rules on their use, has no less than 5 naval skills, 3 of which are absolutely superfluous and the list also includes the cringe-worthy skill transvestite! I'd hate to have an immature GM/Group when I roll that skill, and of course it is also semi-superfluous as there is also an actor skill. It's an interesting skill if done well though, if a GM treats it as “disguise as opposite sex” skill, rather than implying your character to suffer gender disphoria (unless you want to role-play that of course!). It also brings up the question on what Dwarf women would look like in your campaign, as Dwarves can get this skill and male Dwarves invariably have beards while females have not, in Warhammer lore (though firsthammer is pre-canon). So, in firsthammer, do Dwarfettes have beards? I actually prefer them not to have beards... but maybe they (sometimes) wear veils?

The characteristic generation range is quite broad for certain characteristics, while others have maybe two or three options. Wounds and attacks always start at 1 and can only be advanced quite late into a campaign, making character survival precarious. The injury table is quite unforgiving too, so players would need to tread carefully to make it to the level where they finally get that additional wound point. Off course, if you get that maximum weapon skill of 6 and a good score for bow skill to boot, you might have a good chance to slaughter your way to experience level 500.
Playable races are Humans, Dwarves and Elves, and may be generated randomly (1:2 chance of human, 1:3 chance of Dwarf and 1:6 chance of elf).
What I don't like here however, is the character generation sequence given, the order in which you roll up your attributes as it is completely out of sequence with the profile-organisation in the creature list, the descriptive at the start of the chapter and the profile of sample character wulfhand. It seems all randomly arranged in a random fashion that is completely random!
But then, if anything, randomness is of course, a big part of oldskool gaming, especially Oldhammer (Realms of Chaos anyone?)!

One of the personal characteristics I have tinkered with most before writing the blog was Social Status. In Firsthammer you generate your social class which determines wealth and in some cases starting equipment... and that's it. While your character may be a Duke or Dwarf Royal Prince, nothing says you have a castle and retinue, just more wealth. I first considered nobles to have a chance on having estates and/or retainers, or instead of rolling for skills rolling for privileges, offices and titles but in the end I settled on something simpler as there's only a 10% (20% for dwarves and elves) that a character is generated with an aristocratic social standing. My house rule for aristocrats would be that instead of having a skill, they may have a servant-henchman with that skill, especially if a skill is a commoner's profession. Could vary by race: human and elfish nobles would sneer at blacksmithing being a peasant's job, while a dwarf noble might take great pride in his family's forge!
I have a lot more thoughts on Firsthammer character generation I'll write up in another post (this one is long already).

Character advancement is one of the more incomplete chapters of Firsthammer. For starters, remember volume 2 where the writer tells us he will give a (more) detailed explanation Life Energy in Volume 3? Well he lied! All we get is the life energy generation rules and nothing about the effects of losing large amounts of life energy.

Aside from experience for killing mook NPC's (standard creatures) and acquiring wealth, experience points are to be randomly generated if we follow the rules. This might be okay in sandbox-style play where every encounter is randomly generated, though for prepared adventures a GM should predetermine the amount of XP based on what he throws at the party.

The advancement tables are a variant of D&D, I can see it no other way. There are no “levels” mentioned though, but I might use “levels” as in D&D for ease of use, as XP accumulates and at certain thresholds advances are gained. The tables go up to “level 10”, but would obviously be expanded on when WFRP were to be released. Would it? ;)
Wizards get their own table for the magical stats, but also progress on the fighter chart at double cost at the same time (so at XP100 a wizard can advance both Constitution and Initiative). The table for wizards is a bit different though.
Absent from the advancement tables are strength and toughness and personal characteristics, so I might make my own variants to improve them.

Alignment is done a bit differently in Firsthammer. Chaos is not yet an alignment, we get Good, Neutral, Evil, Avarice and Hunger as alignments, and all but Neutral alignment affect experience rewards in some ways or other. Good aligned characters gain double XP for killing evil creatures but penalties for slaying Good ones while Evil characters get double XP for killing good creatures and triple points for harming allies and friends!
Avarice alignment characters get double points for acquiring money but nothing for acts of courage, bravery or self-sacrifice.
Hunger aligned characters get quadruple points for eating defeated enemies though the alignment is only available for Human player characters, though the chance of getting it using the random table is pretty slim.
As in WFRP, a GM is encouraged to reward players for role playing alignment accurately.
There is also a full-page table for randomly generating alignment of many creatures, though for some creatures the inclusion in the table is quite pointless, some having 100% chance of being of Hunger alignment (though nice for reference).

As characters are stuck with one wound for quite a while, the booklet provides an injury table so characters are not killed outright but might survive with a (possibly) debilitating injury instead. The example description of the injury table in use is a bit grating as it presents us with a high level character slaying 20 orcs and only suffering injury after taking no less than 3 wounds, implying Rothnik 'Mad Hacker' Redbeard to be at least level 8 (1250 total XP). How did he get that far? Why is there no mention of niggling previous injuries? What a lucky bastard that Rothnik is!

The Creating Adventures chapter gives us some tiny plot hooks and summary GM-prep-advice, but also a nice price list and employment chart which may double as guidelines for henchmen fees.

The Encounter charts provided are nice, but generic. It does give a table to determine the direction the creatures come from though, something I haven't seen in RPG rules before.

The random treasure table is neat too, and includes all items described in volume 2.

Volume 3 concludes with the rough outline of a sandbox style warhammer adventure in the Redwake River valley. Once more a lot is left to the GM running the game to elaborate on and prepare, but the adventure has a start and a finish and the potential to be a multi-session campaign rather than a single adventure, with a few plot twists to boot!


Priri Ecestlyk

Social status: Free Elf
Age: 30
sex: male
Alignment: Good
Intelligence: 7
Cool: 12
Willpower: 8
Leadership: 3

Attacks: 1
Wounds: 1
Initiative: 5
Weapon skill (secondary skill): 4
Bow Skill (Primary skill): 6 (being an elf gives a +2bonus to the 2d6 roll on the bow skill generation table)
Strength: 2
Toughness: B
Move: 4½

Money: C30 (gold)
Weapons: Sword, bow (elf standard equipment).

Skills: pickpocket, trapper