21 November 2005

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: First Session Impressions

The regular guys played our first session of WFRP just now. It was good - the irreverence in the game world was a good fit for the group. This meant that the jokes worked well, which pretty much took up the first half of the session.

Making up the characters was great fun. We have:
  • An unemployed dwarf clown (he left his previous employment for "artistic reasons").
  • An elf kithband warrior (kind of their woodland militia) who really wants to be a magician and figured that hanging out with a guy who hunts down evil ones is a good place to learn about it.
  • A human vagabond who is fighting chaos out of misplaced liberal guilt - he is trying to make up for the fact that humans are the most susceptible to corruption by the dark powers of chaos.
  • A halfling hunter who, well, he's just a bit of a weed really.
Three of the characters (our fourth is lazing around on holiday in Hawaii right now - for this he misses my game!) were given a task to prove themselves to their master Rudiger, a Witch Hunter. First they spent a bit of time making fools of themselves at the tavern he was going to meet them at (totally messing with his plans to keep it quiet). They were to track down a chaos sorcerer in the village while he dealt with more pressing matters, armed with a document that none of them can read to give them authority.

The elf headed out of town to search suspicious farms, finding nothing. The human and dwarf tried to find out things at the tavern but all they got was pointed at the local healer (due to a local thinking the dwarf had a personal problem that needed some strong herbal remedies).

They began questioning the healer, which didn't go very far until they blurted out that they were witch hunters. She immediately figured they were going to have her executed and freaked out. Following some of the random comments she blurted out they eventually found a chaos shrine in the cellar of a burnt out farmhouse. They had brought the healer (bound and gagged) with them and when the vagabond heard a scary noise he dropped her and bolted. The giant three-eyed chaos frog promptly ate her.

Our heroes gradually got their act together and slew the frog. Then they headed back to the tavern to rest (and hopefully ponder the needless death of an innocent woman).

Next morning they tracked down the chaos cultists to a hut in the wood. They assaulted it, and there was an exciting fight as the elf basically killed the three thugs and the other two captured the sorceress and finished off one guy.

The sorceress was handed over to Rudiger and all was well. Except for the healer (I think they pretty much kept quiet about her fate, hoping nobody would ever find out).

Setting is good, the Warhammer world is a grim and fun one and the new edition of the game has this shining through. Especially the careers, which are at least as cool as the ones I remember from the first edition. The mechanics work well enough, especially as I was pretty much running it as conflict resolution even though it's written as task resolution. Combat doesn't allow that, but it runs smoothly. There are a few tactical options but they're not confusing.

The only thing that annoyed me was the critical hit system... it's far to complex. After rolling to hit, the victim rolling to dodge or parry and then hit position and then damage being calculated (another roll with modifiers). Then, if it is a critical, you roll another percentage dice and look up on a table on the column for how much excess damage there was to get a number you then look up on a table for the hit position was the actual effect was. I'm pretty sure that you would get the same result with something like d10+excess damage on the critical table for the position. I'll consider checking the effects there, because it was an enormous hassle to do that. And every fight to the death will have some - you only kill people with critical hits. The system is that damage wears you down until you run out of wounds (typically 2-4 hits) and then you take criticals that can maim or kill you.

Overall: pretty good game, and a hell of a lot of fun for our group.

17 November 2005

Recent Game Impressions: Polaris and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

They're not a natural pair. In fact, it's hard to imagine a greater contrast. I haven't had time to think in detail about these games but I want to introduce them and compare.

Polaris is about somewhat elfin knights at the north pole fighting the demons that are inevitably going to destroy their kingdom. The narration duties are split up unusually. Four people play the game. For a scene about your character, the person sitting across from you creates adversity and the people to your left and right play the roles of the two types of NPCs (those you have an emotional relationship with and those who are related to you mainly by your role in society). All the main characters are doomed. Game play is highly ritualised. For example conflicts are resolved using specific phrases to let the others know what you are doing. The expectations for each player at each stage of the game are well-defined and the setting is extremely cool. The art and design of the book feed into the feel as well. My main problem at the moment is that there are five of us in my gaming group, so we can't really play the game (there are suggestions for playing with three or five players, but I feel like they would be sub-optimal). Overall, looks great.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is about various adventurers having adventures. It's the second edition but stays true to the style of the first edition back in the 1980s. The career system is still there and just as cool as I remember. It's also terrifyingly old-fashioned in other ways. It suggests that the GM may want to purchase a screen so that the players can't see you cheat, and the introductory adventure includes instructions to simply not let the player characters do certain things that will derail the climax of the story. It's pretty shocking to meet this again after playing Forge-type independent games for a while, but I am confident that all this crap can be ignored. The system is basically sound and the setting extremely fun. Tweaking task-based into conflict-based resolution won't break anything in there and I can write my own stories (by which I mean "set stuff up for the players to choose where the story goes") easily enough.

We'll be playing Warhammer for the next while, so expect a more detailed post on how it plays later.