A Grim And Perilous Adventure

For a while I have been looking for the “perfect” system, a roleplaying game which better suits my needs and my current preferences. As I quickly found out, this is akin to the hunt for the proverbial white whale. Since I didn’t want to end like Captain Ahab, I took a break from this search and thought hard about what I really needed.

I have taken breaks from GMing several times, but that was not what I wanted right now. So I looked back at games that brought me a lot of enjoyment. And immediately Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition came to mind. It was basically the first roleplaying game I played (that one session of TORG at a con doesn’t count), and it’s a game I have run several times with great success.

Is it the “best thing ever”? No. Does it have quirky mechanics that sometimes don’t make any sense? You betcha! Is it fun? Hell yeah! Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition is as old-school as it gets, especially if you are not looking for a D&Dish experience. For me the world was always the main reason to play the game, closely followed by the awesome carreer system. You know, in WFRP you don’t have classes like in D&D, but your character follows several careers. Each career gives you a set of attributes to improve and skills to learn. After you’ve fulfilled the so-called advance scheme, you can move on to another career as listed in your current career’s career exits. Switching from  a career is no easy task, you have to track down the needed equipment, find a trainer, et cetera. Finding a trainer may be a campaign in its own. Also, every game in which ratcatcher is a viable career is a winner in my book!

The Warhammer World is a welcome change from all the high fantasy fare, we’re usually used to. Magic is powerful, but rare. A stranger is more likely to kick your teeth in than greet you with a friendly word. There’s dirt everywhere and let’s not speak about the smells. In WFRP you’re as likely to die in combat as to be killed by a terrible disease. If you’re lucky you end up in an insane asylum. If you know Warhammer Fantasy Battle you’ll notice that there’s a huge difference to the Warhammer World portrayed in the tabletop miniatures games (don’t get me started on Age of Sigmar!). While the world in WFRP 1st Edition is pretty bleak and dark, things are way different in the miniature games. That’s why I prefer the 1st Edition over all the others. In later games the designers tried to come closer to the Warhammer World depicted in the tabletop miniatures games. For an old-school WFRP fan like me, it’s just not what I am looking for.

Last week I sat down with my players to create a bunch of adventurers which we immediately threw into an adventure featuring a band of beastman and a strange ritualistic killing. Tomorrow they’ll continue on their way to Nuln, where further adventures await. And boy, am I excited. So far they seem to like both the rules and the world, and it feels great to run WFRP 1st Edition again. It’s like wearing those old running shoes, you always wanted to replace. They are worn, are definitely not smelling so great, BUT they are just so comfortable you want to wear them all the time. ^_^

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

6 thoughts on “A Grim And Perilous Adventure”

  1. Happy to hear but also insanely jealous! One of the RPG I always wanted to play and just never got to. I am looking at Shadow of the Demon Lord as well as it is a similar premise but much less stringent then WH. Enjoy yourself! 🙂

  2. I have to agree about the career system: it was unique and awesome! The only thing close to it was the career system in 1st and 2nd edition Mutant Chronicles (I haven’t read through the career system in the new edition to know if it’s comparable). But, even that isn’ the same.

    I’ve often thought about how to transplant that career system to other rules systems.

  3. I am pleased for you. I have found that when I go back to systems I haven’t used for years the first thing I see when I open the books are the things that turned me off the system originally.

  4. Good form sir! Good form
    There is something about that old 1st Edition isn’t there. That thick volume which had all you needed to play and more tightly packed into it. BW illustrations often depicting ragtag characters looking (in most cases) less heroic then their D&D counterparts, That setting which somehow made sense despite its many eccentricities. The 2nd edition while improved greatly in terms of rules and er… magic system, somehow lost something in transition by bringing the setting more in line with the ravaged Old World of its older, more successful sibling – the battle game. I cared less for the post Chaos invasion Old World – preferred it more with Chaos being vague and mysterious threat – stuff of scary nursery rhymes, old wives’ tales and superstition; its true reach and corruption to be discovered by players.
    1st edition left a lot of room to create your own interpretation of the grimness and peril, the second pretty much laid all cards on the table – the tone has changed, shadows took shape.
    Perhaps I was not playing it right – your mileage may vary – maybe it’s nostalgia being bulldozed by metaplot again – like it happened with pre-Avatar Forgotten Realms or pre-wireless Shadowrun. Matter of taste, and nothing’s ever lost in this hobby despite what edition war mongers pontify.
    I hope also to revisit that old Reikland one day, maybe even seek out that Oldenhaller in Nuln or visit relatives in Bogenhafen. New rules probably, but the Old World still very much old.

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