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

7 opmerkingen:

  1. Great review.

    I've started a 1E Death-match arena play-by-forum type game at the Oldhammer BLOOD FORUM

    You'd be more than welcome to join the forum, and bring Priri Ecestlyk, or any other character into the arena for a fight!

    1. Well Zhu, thanks for the reply and invitation. Sounds very interesting and cool, I'll certainly take a look into it!

  2. Excellent review. I enjoyed the Redwake River Valley setting - we got a lot of mileage out of this when I first bought the game.

  3. I noticed the lack rules for Life Energy. That stat had the potential to help differentiate types of wizards. Necromancers could regain it sacrificing people, nature wizards and elves by living close to nature, or by alchemical means or pacts with demons, etc.

  4. a belated thanks for your comments!

    @ wardy-la: Nice to hear you actually played the Redwake Valley adventure! It seems to have a lot of potential if fleshed out here and there.

    @ Hedgehobbit: exactly! Life energy has a lot of potential, and there is in fact a necromancy spell "Steal Life Energy"! I like your idea's, and like to go one further: Hunger Alignment wizards could eat humanoids for their life energy (!), like headhunters/cannibals would do

  5. I downloaded some old stuff and noticed that in the first citadel compendium they give rules for vampires which includes quite a few details on how a vampire gets life energy back by either killing or long term draining (ie converting) a victim.

  6. Yes, thanks for the heads up, I almost forgot (as it is one of the articles that did not reappear in Forces of Fantasy AFAIK).
    I skimmed them again and must say that those are very characterful rules/guidelines, making for interesting Vampires. I like the characteristic requirements, your character needs to be able to pull off that whole 'aristocrat of the night'-thing (high personal characteristics) ;).
    I've actually had some experience with (eventually) 2 Vampiric PC's in WFRP, and in the end, it can be quite a hassle (split-party is guaranteed) but does bring some excitement and tension to a campaign. In my group, it resulted in the only PvP murder of a 5 year campaign (One of my PC's was a Morrite priest/witch hunter, so when he got the chance to off one of them bloodsuckers, he took it).