Tag Archives: WFRP

How Wizards can get this Geek back

Wizard of the Coast announced they wanted to hear from the gaming community while designing 5th Ed. Which is great, but seems to miss the point. As far as many are concerned, WotC’s slip-ups and bungling of 4th Ed is reason enough to never look again. While it is tempting to be that sort of grognard, I think the company and designers deserve to know what it would take to get me to come back around.

First, the things that WotC did wrong

The PDF debacle

The digital world is here and now. Pretending otherwise isn’t helping anyone. Taking away the ebooks and pdfs did absolutely nothing to deter or prevent people from having a digital copy. All it did was take away legit sales. All it did was alienate people. All it did was create a PR nightmare that continues to this day.

Bad communication and inconsistent messages

What was the plan with 4th and why did it get changed so frequently? What was supposed to be the core books and which were optional? What was the difference between Essentials and the Red Box? And how were those different from the core? And what was the bloody point to it all?

If something changes this needs to communicated. If something advertised is impacted, this needs to be communicated. If something gets cancelled, this needs to be communicated. And the reason needed to be communicated, too. Hiding behind press releases and allowing rumors to get started never helps maintain a brand, let alone the goodwill of the gaming community.

Lack of support

It’s great that they went back and converted many of their settings but what else was done with them? Nothing! Where was Dungeon with the latest installment of an ongoing campaign? Where was the weekly “encounter” example? Where was free intro adventure to said setting? Where was Dragon with the interesting twist on play or class?

And in conjunction with my previous point of communication, it seems to me like there should have been a greater effort to make players aware of some of these things (if they existed, which I’m not sure that they did).

Subpar products

How much errata did they release? How many times did they forget to include necessary mechanics in their books? Nothing is as frustrating as finding that the part you’ve just spent three days searching for never made it into the final product.

Cards, minis, tokens, decks. AKA: Extras

These are distractions even when they’re the central mechanic of play. Remember that all of this started with pencil and notebook paper. Add some standard dice and that is all you should ever need to play. Anything less and you have broken RPGs. Substitutions do not apply. Additions, maybe, but they have to be optional and cheap enough to buy for everybody.

Even Fantasy Flight had to relent and give players straight up books with the card info in them in order to keep selling their version of WFRP. The point being we of the RPG world don’t like being forced into buying extras to keep playing. If we wanted to do that, we’d be playing Magic (and some of us still are). Keep with making the books the sole point of information to play.

What they need to do

Convince me there’s a vision

A D&D that’s all things to all players already exists. It’s called GURPS. If I want to play that, I know how to find it. And while I am fan of Monte Cook’s work, I already have the most recent revision of his best. There needs to be something new, something different, something cool about this next version of D&D.

The thing is, no company gets customers automatically. The execs of many may think they do, going so far as to see these people as an inevitability. But that’s not how it works. You have to earn your customers and their loyalty. Nothing stands out more in this line of thought than Gabe Newel’s recent comments about Steam and his business.

He is spot on about how the media companies are killing themselves by worrying over control instead of delivering the goods to people for a price they want to pay.

The same has to happen to the culture of Hasbro and WotC. They have to let go of the control ideology and embrace an more open paradigm.

Which translates into support, support, support

They need to step up the support of digital world. That means pdfs, ebooks, and the web. Yes, people will send these to their friends. Yes, they will be on torrents. And guess what? This will happen anyways. If Hasbro/WotC wants any chance to stay relevant, they must ignore the inevitable and provide a product that people will pay for.

Also, web tools. The character generator should be out front and ready to be used by any passing browser. Don’t make the gateway to your system sit behind a paywall or a log-in. Let players make thousands of characters for the hell of it. One or two might get turned into a sale. And that’s what the goal should be.

Anything else (GM tools, maps, etc) can sit behind a log-in. Freemium at the very least with a dollar or two for 48/72 hours of unlock of extra tools. Make the tools good enough, you can start selling week/month/year subscriptions as the word spreads. These need to be available at launch. No later unless you want to hear how this is just like the 4th Ed tools that never existed.

Support also means more than settings. It means having campaigns in those settings. Sourcebooks and gazetteers are nice, but nothing beats being able to point a player to a single source of everything needed for their game night. Getting set up is a chore and one that 4th attempted to solve. But that was solving for the wrong variable. The right one is having the story ready to go.

Even better would be to match what Paizo has done with Pathfinder and have a continuing, living, open campaign to draw the players. Pick one of your many properties. Start writing and have fun with it.

Acknowledging the past

I have no idea about the actual costs, but with the rise of the retroclones, it is obvious that there are players craving something of the old-school. And since there’s this gigantic back catalog there is absolutely no sense in not tapping it. In keeping with my first point, this also means digitizing it. Make it available and make it cheap. Suck it up, figure out the maze of royalties, and give your customers what they so obviously want.

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It's been too long

But I think it’s worth the wait. Presenting the completely rewritten WFRP 2 mod, A House in the Woods Certs and Handouts can be found under the fold. And trust me, you’ll want them.

Certs and Handouts:

HitW_Handouts

HitW_Certs

Creative Commons License
A House in the Woods by Matthew Parmeter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at brewngames.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://brewngames.com.

As promised, The Faire

The Faire is an introduction to both the campaign and to WFRP v2. It is a very basic module but it should get players familiar with the setting and the system quickly. There is a separate file for the certs for the module that you’ll want to grab as well. Also included in this update is the character creation guide for the campaign. It too is aimed at beginners but I ask that anyone playing along at home observe them as well.

The Faire
Creative Commons License
The Faire by Matthew Parmeter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at brewngames.com.

Faire_Certs

Campaign Character Guide

When writing an adventure module

The things I think about when writing an adventure module can be summed into three categories. Those are Story, Survivability, and Reward. Each one has different considerations to balance and address and each one can be a little overwhelming if taken too seriously. Inside I take each of these topics separately and the areas I address when working on the WFRP campaign.

Story: Does there have to be an overarching story? Yes, but more than that I think there should be up to three story lines going at any given moment. This way you can address the three elements most people seem to be interested in: Combat, Diplomacy, and Roleplaying. The overarching story ties the entire season or whatever you want to call it together and the other two side stories to keep people interested in playing. Ideally, I think that the overarching story has a mix of the three elements in each adventure as a way of making sure all players have a stake in what is happening. In your two off stories you can concentrate on one of the elements more to your liking. In attempting that mix you have to realize that Combat and Diplomacy are closely related. If you are not careful in using them much of what gets decided is decided by the dice and not your players. So this gets extra attention in how much it affects the story’s outcome. Also attempting to keep as many players involved in the game itself, you have allow for the different character archetypes to each get a chance to shine. While WRFP does not formalize them as much as, say, L5R has, carving out some time for the Burghers, Politicians, and Courtiers to practice their silver-tongued deviltry is something I try to keep in mind as the plotting moves along.

Survivability: The survival of the characters is a major concern that I come back to when writing WFRP modules. The reasons it comes up is twofold. WRFP is a system which can be very lethal to PCs. One good Ulric’s Fury and you’re staring at a dead table. This can be a serious detriment for players. Part of having a living campaign is to give your players a chance to step deeply into their character’s world. Having the character investment be shallow means you get the same shallow buy-in to your campaign. That is not something I want. Secondly, Fate Points are there to help counter this but they are an extremely limited player currency. I don’t want to force my PCs to use them unless it is completely necessary and I don’t want to hand them out continually. Unless the drama of that module calls for it, the use of FP is something I actively look to write around. This tension between the system’s lethality and the needs of a long term campaign can be a difficult balance to achieve. If this was a system that was still being actively published, a better understanding of creatures and how to craft combat encounters is something that I would take to the developers. As it stands, having to refine it takes a backseat to the many other tasks as the series keeps going forward.

Rewards: Rewarding players and character in an ongoing campaign effectively is the final tough point. In the campaign, I am terming the rewards as “Opportunities”. These include the ability to create new characters in races not set forth in the campaign guide, careers created for the campaign, experience, items, and of course Dwarven Magic, er, gold. In this WFRP campaign, one of the first decisions I made was to make all starting characters human by default and to take away a few of the careers. Not to get into all of the reasons for doing such, but the big was that this is the human Empire. I want this version of it to be populated and saved mostly by them. In doing this, it made setting up a dwarf or elf character as a reward. And in the first module, The Faire, (soon to be out, just give me another day or two) part of the rewards are careers which are specifically created for the campaign. Experience is something I’m working on standardizing. On the whole my thoughts are that a single session should have the potential for one advancement. In doing so, it should be become predictable in how far characters are able to advance at any given point in the campaign. The same goes for items and gold. It may seem cheep to want to control these things but this goes right back to player enjoyment and trying to have a certain sense of fairness.

A question of value

To supply my Warhammer group with the materials needed to play the next version, over $150 is going to have to be spent. I have five people at minimum, but most of the time I have seven. According to FFG’s official reckoning I’m going to  need the core box set, the adventure’s set, and at least one extra set of dice. While they have said that you can play with as many people as you like with the core box set, this appears to be incredibly awkward to do, so I consider it necessary to get the expansion. This is a tremendous amount of money just to get basic functionality. Because of this, I have been thinking of the value of the new system when compared to the old and other RPGs.

First, the previous version of WFRP was $40 plus tax. It gave all of the careers, all of the races, a starting adventure to play through and a thin GM section. With it I could create everything needed for a campaign, no extras needed. All anyone coming to play need is some dice. This has been the traditional setup for RPGs and it delivers quite a bit of value for the money.

D&D 4th edition is the next natural choice to compare. The core set of books can run you as much as $105 + tax without any discounts. However, looking on Amazon, I can get each one for $23 for a total of about $70 before taxes. And I can check it out ahead of time by going to WotC’s website and getting a free pdf which introduces much of the core concepts and a free adventure to try it out with. In practical terms, a group of five to seven can easily play with just the initial outlay although an additional PHB may be needed. Overall, not bad bang for one’s buck if one is able to get the discounted versions online or even secondhand.

Pathfinder offers a nearly all-in-one tome for $50 that has everything but a monster manual. Much like WotC’s D&D not much more is needed to keep a group of players going after the initial purchase. Currently there’s no free taste but considering it’s built off of the freely available 3.5 SRD one doesn’t really need an official version to try out. Despite this, the amount of flavor put in there by Paizo makes the price well worth it.

GURPS has a two book set, Characters & Campaigns, comprising its core system. Both are listed at Amazon for a total of about $50 before taxes. Together the two have a page count of nearly 600 pages of yummy RPG goodness. Designed for the DIY crowd, the Campaign book goes to great lengths to help the GM get going. Players with a lot of imagination (and more than a little time on their hands) have a dizzying array of options to go with. There is absolutely nothing more needed to play. This is another system that offers a free pdf to give a taste before buying.

In looking at how much is packed into these two books, it is hard not to say that GURPS may represent the most bang for one’s buck. The only drawback is the the amount of time needed for world-building.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. The HERO 6th edition core set is $70 if both books are purchased together. Rifts is currently going for $30. This doesn’t even touch free systems such as FUDGE or FATE. Nor does it address the hundreds of small/independent RPGs, many of which are $30 or less.

So I am skeptical, very skeptical, that the next version of WFRP is going to have a comparable value for my money.

GenCon 2009

Gencon 2009 was very fun. While there were a few disappointments they did not detract from the overall experience. My wife and I went in well prepared, having learned from our first experience in 2007 and from going to DragonCon last year. Snacks, backup breakfasts, and various supplements came along. Left behind were all of the rpg books that are dead weight. Laptops were kept locked in safes back at the hotel, and only what we needed each day was taken along. It helped.

Wensday night brought the first disappointment after passes were picked up. The swag bag, a long traditional greeting of many a gaming convention serves both as an advertisement for the various vendors and companies attending, but also as a way for those running the con to thank all of those who paid to attend. This year’s consisted of several handfuls of postcards and single page fliers, an anemic coupon book, and finally a six pack of M:tG cards. There was much grumbling as people walked away from that line. In contrast, 2007’s swag bag had a starter deck of World of Warcraft’s CCG latest expansion, two full packs of M:tG cards, a pack of Axis & Allies minis, hundreds of flies, and a hefty coupon book.

However that did not diminish the fun. Thursday came too quickly and not quickly enough as we were up at the crack of dawn to get going. Friends needed to be at the con by 7:30 am and I had an 8:00 am seminar to attend. My time in seminars was split between writing ones and game design this year. I was able to get into the dealer’s room around 10:30 in the morning and it was a great feeling. Being there and in the middle of this wonderful gaming environment gave me goosebumps.

Of course that didn’t last very long. I shortly found out about the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The dice and cards and everything was put on display.

I need to put this out there: I am doing my best to keep an open mind about this new version of the game. However, I am disapointed in the lack of information about it. Likewise there is a absence of outreach to the many WFRP communities. Fantasy Flight, to their credit did hold several seminars at GenCon and has put those on the web for the curious. Hopefully those in charge will be relenting on the information hold and will soon allow those that have participated in the development to speak more about it.

The highlight of the day was getting to meet another gaming blog group, the Brilliant Gameologists. They were recording a podcast in one of the seminars. When it goes up, I’ll set a link here.

Friday was likewise busy with more seminars and a little bit of shopping. Saturday was the final two seminars and the L5R interactive. Unfortunately with the way events unfolded that day, I was unable to get to the costume parade or contest. So no pictures of that this year. By this point, everyone I was there with was exhausted. We passed the last few hours of Saturday with a bout of the new Pathfinder. It was nice to spin a few d20s before heading back to the hotel for one last night. Sunday morning was a slow affair. It started with a trip to a restaurant discovered on Wednesday night for one last meal. We did not reach the dealer’s hall until close to 11 that morning.  A couple of hours was spent running around picking up last minute buys. Dice, a new map grid, and a few games. Once upon a time, a storytelling card game published by Atlas Games, the Pathfinder core book, Forbidden Kingdoms, the d20 version and finally The Prince by Phalanx and Kragmortha (a Rigor Mortis game) published by Mayfair games.

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Progress on the living campaign front

Part of what makes Warhammer an interesting RPG to play is the Career system of character advancement. Instead of gaining “levels” characters instead go through “careers”. Each career has a number of places where the player can spend experience to increase their character’s stats or gain skills and talents. What makes this even more interesting for a GM is the question of how to manage the direction your players decide to take their characters in.

Through the course of a normal campaign the player can decide to some target career as a goal to achieve. This could be something like the Witch Hunter or Wizard Lord or one of the various knighted orders. And in the normal course of the campaign the GM can write the story to fit those circumstances to allow for that progression. In a living campaign, this gets much harder as your target audience is going to be far more general than specific. My solution for this is to create “Opportunities” as part of many of the adventure modules to serve as entries points for these and other careers.

This makes more work for me as I have to make sure I write mods that create these opportunities for all of the characters and not just some of them. At some point I will have to write a module where the characters can be recognized in the peerage of some noble or have the chance to gather a number of grimoires so that they can advance to that career goal. But to be precise in this matter, I would rather have this extra work than to run a campaign where a few people are ruining the fun of everyone else.

For the Opportunities that are presented to the players at the end of The Faire, I have been crafting several careers to start the campaign off with a bonus instead of picking all of the careers from the standard book. I hope to use a couple of my custom careers in story lines in the future. I also want give my players a look into different aspects of the Empire (as I imagine it) through these careers.

Here are two the basic careers I have been working on.

Apprentice Brewmeister — Basic – This is someone who has begun their training in the arts of how to brew beers, ales, and other fermented alcoholic beverages. The knowledge of this individual has been trained in include the basics of brewing and much of the daily chores. They have yet to earn the right to know the Brewmeister’s secret recipes and are forever the subject for the Brewmeister’s many test batches that get made on a daily basis. Though still very much in the peasant, even Apprentices of Brewmeisters are held in some honor for if they are able to complete their training and achieve recognition by the Brew Guild then their talent for turning water into something drinkable are very much be in demand across the Empire and beyond.

Advances:

WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
+5% +5% +10% +10% +10%
A W SB TB M Mag IP FP
+2

Skills: Haggle, Evaluate, Read/Write, Perception, Trade (Brewer (Int)), Consume Alcohol, Gossip or Charm
Talents: Dealmaker or Savvy, Super Numerate or Streetwise, Etiquette or Schemer
Trappings: Notebook, Good quality writing set, Bung Hammer
Career Entries: None, the character must be invited to join.
Career Exits: Brewmiester, Tradesman (other than brewer), Student, Smuggler, Burgher

Apprentice Chef — Basic – Someone who has had basic training in culinary arts. This is someone who is a lackey in the kitchen doing whatever tasks the head chef has decided they don’t want to dirty themselves doing. In exchange for this constant, demeaning work the apprentice gets exposure to the workings of a kitchen and some cooking. Thanks to the chance to observe the character has gained some experience in how to judge the quality of butchered meats, select and identify eatable herbs and vegetables, and prepare some simple meals.

WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
+5% +5% +10% +10% +10%
A W SB TB M Mag IP FP
+2

Talents: Dealmaker or Savvy, Resistance to Poison, Streetwise, Luck or Flee!
Skills: Trade (Cook (Int)), Haggle or Evaluate, Perception, Charm or Gossip, Read/Write,
Trappings: Good quality set of pots and pans
Career Entries: None, the character must be invited to join this.
Career Exits: Chef, Student, Valet, Tradesman (other than Chef), Servant


A few things to note. I did some research, going over the career section of the main WFRP book in the hopes of finding a pattern to how the careers were constructed. And at least with the Basic careers there are some. For instance, every basic career has a +2 Wounds advance. Most Basic careers have an average of 20 advances total, 7 of which are primary attribute advances, the previously mentioned 2 wounds, leaving the rest to be split the skills and talents. As for the skills and talents portion, the number of skills varies between 6 and 9, depending on what sort of career it is. Talents usually have a lot of either/or choices presented so in theory a character could get all six talents before exiting the career instead of the proscribed three.

Advanced careers do not seem to have much of a pattern to them. There is a few constants however, and I have one quick observation. Except for two careers, there is always a +4 wound advance in these careers. I could not tell you why the Artisan and Journeyman Wizard got the shaft on this, except to say that they could. Everything else is up for grabs in those careers. As far as I can tell there is no rhyme or reason to their construction. Some careers have over twenty primary stat advancements, while one of them has a mere 14. Skills and talents likewise have no real relation in number between the various careers. It seems that whatever rule system was used to create the Basic careers was abandoned when it came to the Advanced ones. Perhaps it became too burdensome and restricted their creative vision for the game. I really don’t know.

In any case, this analysis I did made it look like at some point there were going to a set of Middle careers to bridge the gap between the current two. There is a certain set that only get 4 wounds and no Action advancements while another set get 5 to 8 wounds and 2 actions. Maybe there is something in the entries/exits that can be shown to form a pattern. Something to look at later, I guess.

Warhammer living campaign update

I have been working on getting a second adventure for the WFRP living campaign written up. So far I have spent a couple of days on it and I feel sheepish for what happened. I had one written. In fact, I had the next three outlines written up and ready to flesh out before now. But the file I had them stored in is gone. I have no idea what happened to it. I don’t know if I just left it behind at my last job or if I deleted it accidentally or what. For the life of me I could have sworn I put it in my google docs so I could jump on and start writing it at any time.

That is a good hint for those of you out there writing modules of whatever sort. It is not enough to keep a good notebook with you at all times but to also have back up of some sort. I personally like using g-docs as it is something that should never be that hard to get to as long as there is a computer present. There are other cloud-related places out there to store documents and there is also the ever popular remoting into your home computer from work that serves much the same purpose.

Back to the campaign. I am still driving at opening up the world for the players. Part of the underlying function to what I am calling “Season One” of the campaign is to get players introduced to the WFRP setting. I am going with the assumption that the players may have heard of WFRP but have limited or no experience with it. That a friend or a friend of a friend has talked them into trying it out for one session. The second module, thematically is dealing with corruption and introduces the Skaven. Both of which are major plot points in WFRP.

With this mod that I have been working on, and I think I am going to continue it with subsequent ones, is to put a note that gives the GM an idea what the players and their characters should get thematically from the mod. Right now it serves two purposes. It keeps me on task when writing the mod. Nothing like starting out with one idea and ending up in a completely different place. It throws off players expectations. And while that can make for interesting play every now and again, doing it constantly can actively drive players off.

The second is to help out those who come after me. Right now I am doing both the writing and GM duties. At some point someone else is going to be doing the GM part. Giving them some additional insight into the plot should help them run it better and hopefully give them a sense of where they can be flexible with the plotted events.

For the most part I don’t really care if the player experiences everything as I have written it exactly. I realize that I am not the world’s best writer nor am I going to be able to please everyone with some of the directions I take things. Add to that the knowledge that the best GMs are the ones who can re-write the plot on the fly to make things more interesting or centered better on their players and well, you get the idea. Mod writers can’t get too much ego invested in their work. You do that and you’re just setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment in the future. Not to mention a few fights as you come across players who have a good GM that brought the plot to the players instead of the other way around.

The last thing I want to bring up today for discussion is campaign rewards.

Campaign rewards has always been a tricky thing to do. I have friends that have participated in large living campaigns in the past where the power Munchkins have been able to ruin a lot of the fun by getting their hands on weapons and other items which break even the best written mods. Nothing like solving that Liche issue with a ring of wishing! Warhammer adds an extra layer of complication to the matter with how the characters progress through the game. Each new career needs what are termed “Trappings” as part of the requirements for the career. In a regular group this is something that is far easier dealt with since the GM can write up an adventure when it becomes time for their players to have something off of the list. A large campaign does not really have that flexibility.

For the time being, my solution is to have as part of the module a section called “Opportunities” which list the various career trappings which can be purchased as part of the completion of the module. It is my hope that I can use this for just about all of the careers save a few. Okay, maybe not so few now that I look at the book. (For instance how does one write a LC mod about giving a PC a legion of troops or a criminal organization?) But that is where I can get the motivation for players to contribute a story idea or module of their own. They need another 3 Grimoires to get into that Wizard Lord career, so write me a mod that ends with your character finding them. Sounds a bit underhanded but it gives people a chance to be involved which is the whole idea to begin with.