Category Archives: Random musings

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay! WTF?

Warhammer Fantasy RoleplayFantasy Flight Games will release a new version of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game at GenCon this year.

WHFRP was one of the first RPGs I played back in the day (this was still the 1st edition then). The updated 2nd edition that was released a couple of years ago, was awesome. It not only managed to fix a lot of broken rules the old edition had but it also succeeded doing so without making it a totally different game.

And when I first heard about the 3rd edition Fantasy Flight Games is about to release, I thought it was a hoax. But alas it was not. Graham McNeill has posted the following on his blog (emphasis added by me):

A coupe of weeks ago, our regular roleplaying group was privileged enough to playtest 3rd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The guys from Fantasy Flight Games were over at Games Workshop HQ, and Jay Little very kindly did a show and tell for us over at Alessio Cavatore’s house, where we saw how much the game has changed from its previous incarnation. Our gaming group has been going for some time and we were all interested to see what was new with WFRP, since we’d playtested the previous edition also. It was in interesting evening, and the game was very different to anything I’ve played before, with a lot of table space taken up by character sheets, action and ability cards, dice etc. It felt like a strange hybrid of board game and roleplaying game at first, but once the notions of the new mechanics took hold, it felt very natural. Likewise, the new dice pool system felt odd at first, but once we’d rolled a few dice it immediately became very intuitive, which is surely the holy grail of any roleplaying system.

Seriously! Is this D&D 4th Edition all over again? Why can’t they just fix things that are broken instead of making it a completely new game? At this time I still hoped for a hoax or at least a misunderstanding, but alas I was so wrong.

Now, it’s official. FFG has created a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and it’s a strange hybrid of board game and RPG and it uses dice pools, action and ability cards. And they sell it as a box for $100!!!

From the looks of it, WHFRP will be a great looking game with a nice box containing several rulebooks, custom dice and many cards. So the production value will probably be pretty awesome, but I don’t think a complete overhaul of the system was the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great from an artistic standpoint. I can’t  judge the rules, since I haven’t had the chance to check out the real thing, but I am worried. I am just worried that one of the oldest fantasy roleplaying franchises is turned into a boardgame.

I believe I sound like a total grognard right now, but why do these companies think, that we want games that use action cards and fancy dice? Does this really improve the roleplaying experience? And why is it necessary to change the WHFRP rules beyond recongnition? The box will also set you back almost $100. Obviously the industry is doing pretty fine, when you can release a $100 RPG/boardgame hybrid during a time of economical crisis! And I thought the “World of Warcraft Boardgame was expensive! Perhaps they reasoned that FFG’s strength are high production values and boardgames, so they wanted to make use of that in an overhauled Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game.

Sorry, I usually don’t rant on this blog and perhaps I am terribly wrong about all this. Perhaps the new edition of WHFRP is the best thing since sliced bread and we’ll all play and enjoy it in a few months. Or I am right and we’ll all hate it and I can say “See, I told you so!”

Stargazer signing off!

To Savage or Not to Savage

Savage Worlds FanWhen you convert an existing campaign setting or game to the Savage Worlds rules you have “savaged” the setting. But there’s one important question: does it make sense to savage every setting?

Savage Worlds is currently a very popular system. There’s almost no day without a post about Savage Worlds on our own RPG Bloggers Network. There are currently over a dozen campaign settings available for SW and a lot of fan conversions are floating around on the internet. I recently even thought about running an Eberron campaign using the Savage Worlds rules.

But is this always the best way to go? No, I don’t think so. I like Savage Worlds because it really is “fast, furious, fun” as the creators claim it to be. You can run SW with almost no preparation, especially when you use a “plot point” campaign like Rippers or Slipstream. The rules are easy to learn and still allow you to use them in almost every genre. The killer argument is the price. I don’t think you can get any other multi-genre roleplaying game for just 10 bucks (aside from a few free ones of course).

SWEE CoverSo, why do I advise against using SW for everything? There are a few things you have to keep in mind, before you convert your favorite campaign setting to SW. Sometimes you can’t separate rules from the setting completely. One example is how magic works in the official D&D settings. For a long time we had Vancian magic where magic users had to memorize their spells for the day. When a spell was cast, the magic user had to rememorize it the next day to be able to cast again. This is part of the D&D rules but nevertheless it affected how magic works in the campaign worlds. If you use the Savage World rules, the magic system is vastly different. If you don’t mind that your version of the campaign differs in that respect, you’re fine. But if you want to bring the feel of Vancian magic back, you will have either to create your own magic system or stick to D&D. An in my opinion problems arise whenever you try to convert rules and not the setting.

A few days ago we had a talk on Twitter about playing a Fallout pen & paper game. My first idea was to use Savage Worlds. But there are a few things to consider first. A lot of the feel of the computer games comes from the SPECIAL system used. I have to admit that on a second thought a SW conversion might actually lose some of the games’ appeal. But on the other hand, the SW rules would probably work just fine in a post-apocalyptic setting. Tough call…

You also have to keep in mind that the SW combat rules don’t use hitpoints like a lot of other systems. When you are used to long drawn-out combats where the players slowly reduce their enemies hitpoints, you’ll be shocked when you realize that you won’t have that experience using SW combat. The whole combat dynamic of SW is different from most other roleplaying games I’ve played. This is of course not a bad thing per se, but if you prefer killing your dragons one hitpoint at a time, you should avoid using Savage Worlds.

So, when should you think about converting an existing setting to Savage Worlds? If you ask me, you can convert everything to SW as long as you can live with the fact that the rules will definitely have an impact on the feel of the world. Especially the combat and magic rules will probably have a big impact. If you don’t mind these changes, go ahead and give it a try. In most cases using the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition will suffice. If you are going to play in a fantasy setting, you might pick up the new Fantasy Companion or at least have a look at the free Wizards & Warriors supplement.

Converting settings to SW is less work than probably expected and could be great fun, but you have to accept the consequences. Especially when the setting you want to convert is tied to certain rules to make sense (like D&D’s Vancian magic), you will either have to create variant rules or just accept that some things work different, when “savaged”.

When in doubt, use RISUS

RISUS - The Anything RPG
RISUS - The Anything RPG by S. John Ross

During the creation of my one-page dungeon “The Horror of Leatherbury House” I thought about easy ways to provide stats for the different NPCs without using a specific set of rules. One idea that kept coming up was just using RISUS instead of going system-less.

As you all know, I didn’t include any game statistics in my final version of the dungeon (mostly because I ran out of space and the rules specifically said that the dungeon should be in a system-less format), but I still like the idea.

So, how does RISUS work? Let me quote from the rulebook:

Characters are defined by Clichés (sometimes several of them). Clichés are a shorthand which describe what a character knows how to do. The character classes” of the Neolithic Period of RPGs were Clichés: Fighter and Magic-User, Space Marine and Star Merchant. You can take Clichés like that, or choose a more contemporary one, such as Biker, Spy, Computer Nerd, Supermodel, or William Shatner (formerly an actor – now just a Cliché). Which Clichés are permitted are up to the GM.
Clichés are defined in terms of Dice (by which we mean the ordinary six-sided kind you can scavenge from your old Yahtzee set). This is the number of dice that you roll whenever your skill as a Fighter, Supermodel, or William Shatner (for instance) is challenged. See Game System,” below. Three dice is professional. Six dice is mastery. One die is a putz.

Characters are defined by Clichés (sometimes several of them). Clichés are a shorthand which describe what a character knows how to do. The “character classes” of the Neolithic Period of RPGs were Clichés: Fighter and Magic-User, Space Marine and Star Merchant. You can take Clichés like that, or choose a more contemporary one, such as Biker, Spy, Computer Nerd, Supermodel, or William Shatner (formerly an actor – now just a Cliché). Which Clichés are permitted are up to the GM.

Clichés are defined in terms of Dice (by which we mean the ordinary six-sided kind you can scavenge from your old Yahtzee set). This is the number of dice that you roll whenever your skill as a Fighter, Supermodel, or William Shatner (for instance) is challenged. See Game System,” below. Three dice is professional. Six dice is mastery. One die is a putz.

The cool thing is that you don’t even have to understand more than that about RISUS to understand what a RISUS character is about, when you read something like that: Grolfnar Vainsson the Viking; Viking (4), Womanizer (2), Gambler (3), Poet (1).

Don’t you think this could come in handy when creating an adventure or even a complete campaign, but you’re unsure what system you want to use? Now imagine, you want to use Grolfnar in your D&D campaign. Let’s look at the most defining cliché: Viking. There’s no Viking class, but Fighter or Barbarian may fit, so let’s use this. If you play 4th Edition D&D, Womanizer, Gambler and Poet won’t be reflected in the stats that much, but you should keep those clichés in the back of your head when you roleplay the character. In other systems, those Clichés may be represented by certain skills, edges, drawbacks, et cetera. In most cases you probably won’t need any detailed statistics (for example when you don’t intend the players to fight that NPC), so the Clichés serve as a reminder on how to play that character.

And there’s another advantage to using RISUS: your adventure or campaign can easily be played as a RISUS game. So, if you want to run an adventure you’ve written at a game convention for example, you don’t have to take your heavy D&D books with you. Just print out a copy of RISUS (which fits on three sheets of paper) and you’re done.

What do you think? Is using RISUS for your “system-less stuff” a good alternative?