Back in the 80s, a few friends and I, having done the requisite time in our early teens playing Dungeons & Dragons, were looking for a system a little more gritty, ‘realistic’, and ‘mature’ with which to enjoy our roleplaying sessions. And along came Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay with the tagline ‘A Grim World of Perilous Adventure’, which fitted the bill perfectly with its grotty 15th century German-ish milieu. There followed a campaign that, off and on, lasted years, and featured some of the most hilarious and enjoyable moments I’ve ever had with a group of friends.
It’s been a good ten years since I did much in the way of running a roleplaying campaign, but with the release of the new 2nd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that group of friends is clamouring to get playing again (in between jobs, wives and lives). And with the same beloved characters—so pretty soon, the so-called ‘Merry Pranksters’ should once again start terrorizing peasants, cultists and nobility alike: Lucidius Lavarar, a flamboyant raconteur with a preference for polka-dot shirts and fleecing innocents of their money, Alitl Flagelant, a smelly, embarrassing dwarf, Fatuus Fitzue, a shabby, nondescript wizard, and Robert Lacy D’Aghuitlam duCourt, a once-noble elf with a brief drug problem.
I was worried the new edition might have seen WFRP‘s distinctive atmosphere swallowed up by the money-making behemoth that is Games Workshop and their kiddy version of the Warhammer World. To my relief however the new book is excellent—well written and well designed, some of the clunkier rules streamlined and, despite a few changes to the background material and history I won’t be using, the atmosphere still thick and—well, grim. The new combat system, while I have yet to try it out, seems smart. It divides the combat round up into half actions, full actions, and free actions, thus forcing the player to think a little more about the options than just “I take a swing at ‘im.” Combat is still very deadly, as it should be, which keeps the emphasis on roleplaying and story. The new magic system seems simple, but introduces all manner of frightening side effects that make magic use dangerous and unpredictable. Everything has been standardised to use a ten-sided dice, and both skill use and combat can easily be modified by an across-the-board ‘easy to hard’ set of standard modifiers. Simple.
But WFRP isn’t really about rules, though these are very good. It’s about superior story, atmosphere and character. A new campaign is on the way (along with a Bestiary and Gamemaster’s Pack; two other releases, a Character Pack and Plundered Vaults, a set of mini-adventures, are already on the shelves), and if it’s anything near as good as the old Enemy Within campaign, they’ll be many very enjoyable evenings gathered around a table laughing our heads off to come.