Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Retrospective: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

I've always been a D&D man; I make no bones about it. Despite having played and written for numerous other fantasy RPGs, some of which I like very much, my heart will always belong to Gygax and Arneson's creation. Consequently, when Games Workshop released Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay back in 1986, I didn't pay it much mind. I was already familiar with Warhammer Fantasy Battle, both from having seen it on sale in various hobby shops and from articles about it in White Dwarf (not to mention advertisements in Dragon), but I didn't play the game nor was I particularly interested in doing so. I greeted the arrival of WFRP in much the same way.

In retrospect, this was probably a mistake on my part, something that, while I can't say I regret, I do feel as if I allowed my tendency toward D&D-centric prejudices to get the better of me. In my defense, I can only say that I knew a number of gamers who were very enthusiastic about WFRP -- too enthusiastic for my taste. Again, I recognize this as a fault in myself; I get turned off by fans mooning over the latest and greatest and tend to assume the worst about it, sight unseen. Likewise, many of these Warhammer fans were filled with that middle class American self-loathing that inevitably leads to the elevation of anything European as inherently better simply by virtue of its not being American and that doesn't do much to win me over either. So, for many years after the fact I didn't think much of WFRP and what little I thought of it was negative and wholly ignorant of the game itself.

It wasn't until sometime in the 90s that I actually bothered to, you know, actually read WFRP that I realized I'd been foolishly denying myself the appreciation of a very good game and indeed a very old school game, though, at the time, I doubt I'd have described it in those terms. I call WFRP "old school" for a lot of reasons, but, chief among them, I think, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. A lot of its fans clearly take it too seriously, especially here in Naggaroth, but, if you read the original rulebook, you can see that its authors have a good, if dry and often dark, sense of humor about the game and the world in which it takes place. That's to its credit and it's one of the things that I appreciated back in the 90s, when too many gamers treated their games as serious business.

There's more to the "old school-ness" of WFRP, though, than its penchant for puns and hiding jokes in bad translations into foreign languages, particularly German. Its character creation system is a thing of beauty, at once a terrific evocation of "a grim world of perilous adventure" and a subtle commentary on social role -- and life expectancy -- of adventurers. It's second only to Traveller in my affections as being an amusing game-within-a-game and, let's face it, any RPG where being a rat catcher is actually useful wins big points in my book. WFRP is a definitely a game where character death is to be expected, similar in many ways to Call of Cthulhu. It makes no bones about this and experience has taught me that a good -- or at least amusing -- death for one's character in WFRP is something to be savored, if not outright hoped for.

There's a lot more I could say, such as highlighting the game's willingness to mix and match fantasy and science fiction, its setting's ability (again, much like Call of Cthulhu) to evoke genuine heroism in characters, or the charm of "high end amateur" production values, but, ultimately, these aren't why I mention Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay today. I mention it because it's a great game that I overlooked for too long for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the game itself. It's a sin to which I am particularly prone, as I said, and I can at least take some pride in the fact that I did eventually come around to read and appreciate WFRP. Of course, it's now long out of print and its current edition, like the current edition of my own favorite fantasy RPG, doesn't seem to have most of the things I so liked in the original.

Someone needs to retro-clone this thing ...

75 comments:

  1. > Someone needs to retro-clone this thing ...

    Quite happily playing the original, thank you. Games Workshop might have a few words to say about that. To quote; "There will probably never be a OGL WFRP though, and not only because of GW paranoia".

    aside: it's worth noting, aside (as serl', I believe it was, observed recently) that "white box" W(H)FB is also a RPG.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think with the serial numbers filed off, there's not much they can do about it. Of course, without the "proper" Warhammer setting, it might lose a bit of its luster, but information about it is on wikipedia, for god's sake.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 2e WFRP is pretty good too. I certainly had a blast running the 1st edition back at release, as well as playing. Lots of laughs, lots oh CoC-like darkness, and great story arcs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've had so much fun running The Enemy Within on multiple occasions.

    I like some of the rules changes in the 2nd edition, but they "updated" the setting to match that of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and there's really no comparison to the original setting. Unfortunately, the magic system - where the really cool innovation took place, IMO - is tied to the "Colleges of Magic" conceit from late WFRP products and WFB. It requires a fair amount of fiddly work to yank it free of the moorings of the College structure, which I've always *hated*.

    Thankfully, WFRP 1e still works just fine, and it's one of the three non-D&D games I still own (the others being Classic Traveller and T&T 5th). Still have the entire TEW campaign, too ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think with the serial numbers filed off, there's not much they can do about it. Of course, without the "proper" Warhammer setting, it might lose a bit of its luster, but information about it is on wikipedia, for god's sake.

    The setting is a big part of the game's appeal, no question, but I think it too could be mimicked by an enterprising and creative person.

    ReplyDelete
  6. http://www.shadow-warriors.co.uk/Warhammer.htm#publish%20the%20campaign , for example.

    The "limits" are fairly well known and no OSR W(H)FRP was required either there, or for the publication of Warpstone.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I played this before any form of D&D, in the wake of Hero Quest and Advanced Hero Quest, and it informed pretty much all my views of fantasy adventure games. Great system and entertaining setting, but I have to admit I do not really see much point in creating a simulacrum of it, as most of the joy is in the mood. Of course, I still own the majority of stuff produced for it, so I am probably biased in some way.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have to admit I do not really see much point in creating a simulacrum of it, as most of the joy is in the mood.

    True, although a good clone of WFRP would convey some of that mood as well. At least, one would hope so!

    ReplyDelete
  9. An interesting parallel between D&D and WFRP is that both RPGs evolved out of fantasy miniatures - WFRP perhaps more deliberately so since it had more than a decade of role-playing games to build upon- but a common origin nonetheless. In fact, our gaming group got involved in WFRP via Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Like many gamers there was always a particular fascination with miniatures in our gaming group - when we were not playing D&D or Gamma World or Boot Hill, we'd break out the miniatures and play a beer and pretzels miniatures game, like Sword and the Flame, or even make up our own battle rules for miniatures. I remember buying Battlesystem but I'm not sure I ever played it - at the time it seemed overly complicated. WFB, on the other hand, was fast and easy to play and loads of fun. We'd take whatever miniatures we had lying around and create armies (which were far more flexible in 1st ed. WFB than later editions) and go at it. A handful of random D&D adventures made a wonderful phalanx of zombies. The 15mm zulus = WFB pygmies, etc.. The shift to WFRP from WFB was a only natural. It was, and still is, one of my favorite RPGs from back in the day.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 1e WFRP is my favorite fantasy rpg above all others and I have played quite a few of the others. One of my favorite aspects of the game was the characters advancing through careers insted of crunching levels. I bought into some of the 2e but didn't play any of that edition. I haven't even looked at the 3e WFRP and from what I have gathered it plays more like a board game than a rpg.

    ReplyDelete
  11. WFRP 1-2e: Blackadder II does CoC to a soundtrack of NWOBHM. Also, punk dwarves and a skill speciality called "Flee!"

    I think I'll be buried with my copy...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Man, I love he old WFRP book. I even like the smell of it. Weird, I know. But they used different paper and inks than most other books.I can identify the book sight unseen. And given the smell is so effective in triggering memories, I'll can instantly transport myself back to those days in high school when I ran the entire Enemy Within campaign.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love, love, love WFRP 1st edition. I played red box D&D and AD&D for most of my pre-teens and early teens with my school and neighborhood friends, and had a blast. But by late high school I was looking for something different and more "mature", I guess. I got introduced to WFRP by some older gamers that I worked with at a summer job, and I never looked back.

    ReplyDelete
  14. As mentioned before, when I created my first rat catcher and said, "Yes, this guy is awesome." I was hooked. Nuff said in my book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well certainly a number of classes such as ratcatcher could be cloned. I am not a big fan of the combat system itself. Too many cricticals and insta-kills to be safe for player characters. And no provisions for mopping up hordes of goblins quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Too many cricticals and insta-kills to be safe for player characters. And no provisions for mopping up hordes of goblins quickly.

    Those are minuses for some people, plusses for others. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I prefer WFR over D&D mostly because of the career paths concept. It really makes "leveling up" something to really, really, really look forward too. It was a fantastic game mechanic.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I passed it up during the day, but I'm dying to find a group running it in the Los Angeles area. Classic adventures too, from what I've read in the reviews. 1st edition, please. Anyone out there?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Never played it, but picked up a copy of the rules a few years ago, and I love the flavor of the setting. Just the fact that one can play a "bawd" is intriguing.

    "Agitator" is also an interesting career for an adventurer.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "Someone needs to retro-clone this thing ...'

    That idea is to good to pass up...

    ReplyDelete
  21. I recall thinking "this will replace D&D as the introductory fantasy RPG" when I first saw this in '86...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Phenomenal game. I got into it way late as well, and it's cost me plenty on ebay to get all of the books.

    ReplyDelete
  23. 1e WFRP is a fun game - as is 2e. The only real difference between the two is a change in the number of character careers and a switch to d10s only.

    More good memories ...

    ReplyDelete
  24. "Great system and entertaining setting, but I have to admit I do not really see much point in creating a simulacrum of it, as most of the joy is in the mood."

    I agree with Matt about mood. I have seen homebrew variations of HeroQuest and supplemental sets (cards and such), and it never feels right without the gritty Dark Fantasy art. Something with Gamma World when they start throwing-out Mad Max art. Art and description are huge factors in conveying a game or setting, and using something like modern WoW/4e-styled art (as an example) would not convey the feel of a WFRP retro-clone.

    For the folks who are motivated into making such a retro-clone, be forewarned the GW have no concept of Fair Use laws, as they have been cracking down on reference materials alone!

    ReplyDelete
  25. My "Desert Island Discs" RPG and my favourite cover on any RPG book. If anybody is inspired to search the bay for a copy I recommend the earlier hardbook which has lovely John Blanche colour plates disgracefully omitted from later softback printings.

    With respect to a couple of earlier comments;

    Ratcatchers/Agitators/Bawds etc - starting careers are supposed to be what the PC has left behind to start a new life as an adventurer. PC Roadwardens (policemen) don't moonlight as grave robbers and hired killers inbetween shifts on the beat. Well, maybe in Los Angeles they do...

    Actually the Ratcatcher is a brilliant background hook for a PC in WFRP - Johann spent his working life in the sewers exterminating rats but then started noticed that some of the rats were bigger, and bipedal and seemed to be able to speak and had sharp knives and were plotting things...

    As for cloning the background, recently I've thought about jettisoning the whole thing and making a parallel universe copy of the Old World. Keep the collapsed Warpgates at the poles, the Erich von Daniken ancient astronauts, the renaissance Holy Roman Empire flavour but in a different world with different geography, religions and nation states. That way I feel I could keep the Warhammer World feel (as it was in the 1980s) without being constrained by the "official" fluff.

    ReplyDelete
  26. > For the folks who are motivated into making such a retro-clone, be forewarned the GW have no concept of Fair Use laws, as they have been cracking down on reference materials alone!

    Has been said: let them learn. :)

    Still rather sad that we have a situation where a number of valiant individuals have kept supporting the system by producing materials (settings, scenarios, and an /excellent/ 'zine with sadly only one issue to go) and organising gaming conventions.
    Instead of working /with/ the most active fans, the automatic OSR knee-jerk reaction is divide and clone.
    Sure; tinkering around with game systems is fun, but it also has potential to be a huge distraction.

    Are you guys creators or destroyers, who have nothing better to do than make pastiches and deliberately trample the actual "histories and traditions" of the hobby under foot?

    my 2 brass pennies, anyhow...

    ReplyDelete
  27. > As for cloning the background, recently I've thought about jettisoning the whole thing and making a parallel universe copy of the Old World. Keep the collapsed Warpgates at the poles, the Erich von Daniken ancient astronauts, the renaissance Holy Roman Empire flavour but in a different world with different geography, religions and nation states.

    Sounds good. :)
    Do you /need/ a retroclone to run that on?

    ReplyDelete
  28. UK copyright law doesn't have "fair use", only "fair dealing" which is very limited in what it covers.

    OTOH rules mechanics are not covered by copyright, only their literary & artistic presentation.

    Also UK copyright law does not specifically protect "derivative works", only "adaptations", which is a more limited concept. Finally, loser pays winners costs.

    Also, we have real copyright-knowledgeable judges trying cases, not the case in all US states.

    The result is that if you get sued for copyright infringement in the UK, and it's not totally clear-cut, the claimant is taking a very big risk. Once the respondent has engaged counsel, the claimant is likely to be stuck with a very large bill including the respondent's legal costs.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Having owned the original "Little Black Books" edition of this and being slightly interested in giving it a go, when the hardback appeared I took one look at the cover and thought "No fucking way". I had the same thought seeing it again here. The background sucked donkey wab, as we said BitD. An incoherent mess of ideas that might have worked on their own or with some care but thrown in together, like throwing perfectly good paint into a bucket the result was a muddy useless mess. Like the Sex Pistols, the only value was in encouraging others to say "I don't need to buy this crap; I can do better crap myself".

    Other than that, I liked it :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. happy to read this, as wfrp (1st and 2nd editions) is one of my favorite rpg-systems.

    not so sure if a clone is needed, as most 2nd edition stuff should still be available online. the only major change from 1st edition were the magic rules and background stuff you can happily ignore/change.

    SKAVEN! SKAVEN!!!!!!1 SKAVEN!!!

    you speak truth-right, manling! praise-bless the master race!

    its penchant for puns and hiding jokes in bad translations into foreign languages, particularly German.

    which is pretty terrible if your native tongue happens to be german.

    Too many cricticals and insta-kills to be safe for player characters.

    2 remedies... fate points and caution. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I bought this years ago when it was released.
    Great game, it really brought the old mass combat
    Warhammer game straight into full blown RPG status.The main problem, in my opinion was the way the huge book was laid out.Its extremely difficult to find any relevant information and it is indeed quite complex a game system.It needed more support in relation to gaming screens and readily accessable tables, etc.Otherwise a great athmospheric RPG Game.

    ReplyDelete
  32. While the newest edition (3rd) is a completely different game than the original, there's a 2nd edition that came out in 2005 that was very similar to the original rules. It's out of print for a few years now, and might be getting hard to find.

    I'm a die-hard warhammer minis fan, so we played a bit of the original WFRP years ago. I liked the amount of detail that went into the combat rules - hit locations, tactical combat were all very well defined. However, character death happened very, very fast. One hit was essentially lethal for most characters, and we averaged a few deaths each session. Basically, if you got into a fight, there was a fair chance that someone was going to die. On the up side, the critical hit/death tables were very entertaining to read. I remember that one of the entries on the head shot table sent your head flying 1d6 squares in a random direction!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I haven't read the WFRP 1e rules in forever, but didn't the crits only kick in when the character's Wounds pool was exhausted? My impression is that the characters basically had hit points, and when those were exhausted, they started taking crits. Is this incorrect? It's been a while and my rulebook is in the garage. If this is the case, the lethality of the system is a bit overstated.

    ReplyDelete
  34. The Australian Realms fanzine created a similar but different setting for it back in the day called Unae that was just as good as the Old World, IMHO.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Of course, it's now long out of print and its current edition, like the current edition of my own favorite fantasy RPG, doesn't seem to have most of the things I so liked in the original."

    I'm afraid you might be making the same mistake again ... I play 3ed and while the system is very different from old school gaming I find it plays very much in the vein of what you describe you look for. I come from an old school background ... played a little Pathfinder a little 4ed when I got back into my gaming roots, but the only game that played the way I used to play 1ed D&D was Warhammer. Its hard to describe but if you ever get the chance I think you'll find it interesting.

    (Don't get caught up in all the cards and chits ... its just a way of preventing the need of looking things up in books and making notes on paper, the system is very role-play oriented and almost impossible to min-max.)

    Gully

    ReplyDelete
  36. Back in the late 80's when my gaming group played it, I could never afford a copy of the hardcover edition of the book published by GW. Later on in the mid 90's I picked up a softcover version of it published by Hogshead and ran a few games with some friends who had never been exposed to the game before and they rather liked it. How different is the Hogshead softcover from the GW hardcover?

    ReplyDelete
  37. This game is the definition of an RPG classic: A game everybody knows about but no one had played. Love the game, but I can never find players when I need them!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Risus Monkey said: I even like the smell of it.

    Now that you mention it... it has a distinctive smell.

    For quite a long time the 1st edition hardcover was my holy grail when it came to RPG book design. I liked everything about it, the paper quality, the layout, the vignettes, the art...

    Each one of the three campaigns I started using the system folded after less than ten sessions, though. For some reason other games worked much better for me.

    Andrew said: The Australian Realms fanzine created a similar but different setting for it back in the day called Unae that was just as good as the Old World, IMHO.

    I don't know why but I never realized that it was a WHFRP setting. I always assumed it was a gritty take on AD&D.

    ReplyDelete
  39. And given the smell is so effective in triggering memories, I'll can instantly transport myself back to those days in high school when I ran the entire Enemy Within campaign.

    Smell is a very powerful trigger for memories. I can completely relate to this.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Instead of working /with/ the most active fans, the automatic OSR knee-jerk reaction is divide and clone.

    The whole purpose of clones is to ensure that these games are available to future players, not just those who, through an accident of birth, were involved in the hobby when they were first released. As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer second-hand copies of the original books available. What happens then?

    And in case you hadn't noticed, most of the people involved in creating retro-clones are long-time, active fans of the originals. You make it seem as it guys like Stuart Marshall, Matt Finch, and Dan Proctor are interlopers rather than participants in these fan communities.

    Are you guys creators or destroyers, who have nothing better to do than make pastiches and deliberately trample the actual "histories and traditions" of the hobby under foot?

    I'm not sure what to say to this.

    ReplyDelete
  41. (Don't get caught up in all the cards and chits ... its just a way of preventing the need of looking things up in books and making notes on paper, the system is very role-play oriented and almost impossible to min-max.)

    I don't like too many additional components to play beyond those traditionally associated with RPGs. I realize this is purely subjective and arbitrary, but there it is. Once you start adding cards or chips -- I'm looking at you Deadlands -- I start to lose interest in the thing. Plus, I can't see myself dropping $100 (or even $50) on any RPG these days, never mind one I'm unlikely to play.

    ReplyDelete
  42. How different is the Hogshead softcover from the GW hardcover?

    The main difference, as I understand it, is that the Hogshead version lacks the color plates found in the GW version.

    ReplyDelete
  43. A game everybody knows about but no one had played.

    I knew people who played it and were quite fanatical about it, but that was a long time ago. I suspect that the actual population of people actually played it did dwindle as the years went on, even if people were still buying the products as they were released. Of course, this isn't something unique to WFRP; most RPGs seem to have more readers than actual players.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Stupid blogger. :(

    Let's try that again.

    I love WFRP to bits, even though I didn't get to play it much; my old group got about half way through The Enemy Within before we broke up, and the only member of my new group in a position to run it isn't keen.

    The thing I love the most about it is the humour. It's of a nihilist bent, certainly, but I like it. After all, if you're knee deep in mud, blood and sh*t, you're possibly dying from some unpleasant disease caught from sleeping in an abandoned goatshed, and there are goblins trying to hasten your demise at the end of their crooked daggers, what can you do but laugh? And of course, as others have said, there is so much potential for heroism in such a setting, too.

    James Raggi's scenarios would be perfect for WFRP if they contained more jokes about syphilis.

    ReplyDelete
  45. The main difference, as I understand it, is that the Hogshead version lacks the color plates found in the GW version.
    I think the Hogshead edition includes the errata too, but otherwise the changes are very minor.

    A game everybody knows about but no one had played.
    I suspect you might find more players in Britain (and Europe as a whole perhaps) than across the pond.

    Also don't forget that, unlike D&D, there was a good length of time in which WFRP was out of publication. There were two major periods in which you could not get the game, new, at all, and that has a knock-on effect on the audience. The grognards will hold on to their copies, of course, which is part of why first and second edition rulebooks go for hundreds of pounds on eBay and Amazon, but if you were a new player, you were out of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I have the soft cover non-Hogshead version, which includes all the colour plates. Very good quality binding as well, compared to the original Rogue Trader (both hard back and soft back), which had a tendency for its pages to fall out.

    One thing I realised last year is that many of my D&D house rules are (apparently subconscious) borrowings from War Hammer. The main problem I had with the system, though, was the tendency for everybody to end up as either a mercenary captain, cleric, or wizard type. We played for a long time, though.

    ReplyDelete
  47. > The whole purpose of clones is to ensure that these games are available to future players, not just those who, through an accident of birth, were involved in the hobby when they were first released. As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer second-hand copies of the original books available. What happens then?

    That may sound like a sensible at first glance, but I'm not buying it this time. The original core rule books do not evaporate and there are still hundreds around at cheap prices, unlike the validity of that clone argument for white box D&D at $100+ a pop.

    So, instead of encouraging and supporting a small but active 1e/2e WHFRP community which could benefit greatly from that revitalised interest, you'd rather have multiple clones (regardless of legality) which /all/ may fall out of fashion long before WHFRP and have achieved little or nothing to "honor" the original creation, other than confuse matters for newbies that you might wish to get on-board the old-school train?
    Would it not be "better" just to create another new (better?) RPG from scratch?

    > I'm not sure what to say to this.

    Feel free to give it a try. It was a serious question and your "someone needs to retro-clone this thing" could easily be read as just ripping the clothes of others' backs rather than having genuine, strong /justification/ for such a course of action from a fully-informed understanding of the current state of the game.

    ReplyDelete
  48. The original core rule books do not evaporate and there are still hundreds around at cheap prices
    Please enlighten me. I just looked, and the cheapest second edition I could find on eBay was £23 with five bids already, and the cheapest Amazon copy is being sold at £37.35.

    There's a first edition on Amazon for about £5, but I dread to think what kind of condition that's in. Everything else starts at about £20 again, presumably for the softcover.

    I'm quite serious. I'd like a copy, preferably the second edition, but I'm struggling to find one at a cheap price.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I just realized that not only do I have a copy of the Hogshead edition of WFRP, but I also have a copy of Apocrypha Now where they collected a bunch of White Dwarf articles and other aditional stuff for the game.

    http://rpggeek.com/rpgitem/43652/apocrypha-now

    Maybe I should go dig that out of storage and give it a re-reading. It has been ages since I looked it over. I never got to play a Wardancer. =(

    ReplyDelete
  50. As for cloning the background, recently I've thought about jettisoning the whole thing and making a parallel universe copy of the Old World. Keep the collapsed Warpgates at the poles, the Erich von Daniken ancient astronauts, the renaissance Holy Roman Empire flavour but in a different world with different geography, religions and nation states. That way I feel I could keep the Warhammer World feel (as it was in the 1980s) without being constrained by the "official" fluff.

    How about just dumping the "official" names for the thinly-veiled cultures, and running a game using a map of Europe?

    ReplyDelete
  51. How about just dumping the "official" names for the thinly-veiled cultures, and running a game using a map of Europe?

    My big gripe with the background (and first on the list of things to be changed) was to dump polytheism. The human societies are so close to historical ones that the whole a-god-for-every-facet thing just seems wrong.

    I'd probably go for a thinly-disguised Rhine valley (just like WFRP's thinly-disguised Rhine valley) with a lot of influence from Lone Wolf's Magnamund. And try and complete my On Her Majesty's Secret Service-inspired Warhammer Switzerland that I've been thinking about for 15 years as well!

    ReplyDelete
  52. @Baron Greystone

    (Sorry to everybody else for hijacking the thread with meetup talk)
    Your contact link isn't working. I'm in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area. Get in touch.
    http://www.google.com/profiles/simonbreak

    ReplyDelete
  53. @kelvingreen: I've picked up a couple at 99p each (rounded up heavily), another at around £2 and the French hardback for the slightly more. Yes, 1e goes cheaper than 2e but ruleset prices are well within bounds of new productions rather than the $100+ for an OCE. (UK or Europe only listings on ebay.co.uk sometimes helps).

    At a casual glance for completed sales;

    1e, under £1
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280546420410
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=160468992938
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140442624923

    2e, £5
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220658276395

    ReplyDelete
  54. Indeed, those are completed. There's nothing like those prices nowadays, likely because this apparently maligned WFRP community are holding on to their books with almost supernatural ferocity. But I shall keep looking.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Scott: "I haven't read the WFRP 1e rules in forever, but didn't the crits only kick in when the character's Wounds pool was exhausted?"

    That is correct. That meant that every time you killed someone, you got to flip to the crits table and see how they died. Also, character's Wounds pools were depleted very quickly. One hit from a big weapon was enough to deplete any starting character's wound pool completely. Even at the higher levels, you didn't have too many wounds. An unlucky character in WFRP would accumulate penalties like missing limbs, crippled legs and gouged-out eyes, which would make advancement fairly difficult.

    In the end, I found that it was a fairly severe game. The lucky characters were those that lived, while most had short, brutal careers. I'll never forget the end of the first adventure we ran, in which 4 of 5 characters died in the final encounter.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I've played 2e and now I'm playing 3e. I've heard good things about the first edition but 2nd edition is a really poorly designed game system. Obviously teh world and the career paths are a great idea and always fun (I bought the bestiary for this reason alone, I've never used it), but the 2e system is completely broken. Boring, long-winded combat followed by non-combat scenes where you literally never get anything done because you're so weak and useless.

    On the other hand, 3e has a whole new style of playing - much more abstract, much more role-playing focussed - that is very, very cool. I'm not sure yet if it's completely broken or not, but it's a very very good idea.

    ReplyDelete
  57. > Indeed, those are completed. There's nothing like those prices nowadays,

    Less than 48 hours ago for one of those noted above at 99 pence, and two others in the past week for cheap. It's not possible to search for "Roleplaying" in body text for completed listings on eBay, so I probably missed out on quite a few.

    > likely because this apparently maligned WFRP community are holding on to their books with almost supernatural ferocity.

    *lol* Warpstone effects?

    > But I shall keep looking.

    Good luck procuring a bargain from the mutants. If you blanket-bomb lowball snipes, it really shouldn't take that long (barring any additional effects from OSR blogging, that is ;)

    ReplyDelete
  58. I must admit (partially off topic) that I was mightily disappointed when dark heresy 40k rpg decided to ditch career path advancement system in favor of more rigid and DnDish class advancement system. More so because they could have gone via traveler route that seems perfect fit for dark future of 40k.

    it is one instance in which it seems that devotion to the roots of our hobby could have served as useful design tool for contemporary game.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Feel free to give it a try. It was a serious question and your "someone needs to retro-clone this thing" could easily be read as just ripping the clothes of others' backs rather than having genuine, strong /justification/ for such a course of action from a fully-informed understanding of the current state of the game.

    Enlighten me then.

    How is suggesting that there's a need for a retro-clone of one out of print RPG (namely WFRP 1e) any different than suggesting the need for another out of print RPG (namely D&D). Prior to the advent of OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and others, there was just as thriving a community of OOP D&D players as you're suggesting there is for WFRP. Does that mean that OSRIC or LL are "ripping the clothes off others' backs" too or is WFRP somehow special in needing protection?

    ReplyDelete
  60. There's no OGL for WFRP.

    Nor is there one for Gamma World, Marvel Super Heroes, James Bond 007, and many other old games and yet we have retro-clones of them all.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Not trying to stake out any moral high ground or anything, considering I maintain a blog about a setting based on Wilderlands of High Fantasy. But there's a fine line between publishing material for use with someone else's hard work and simply co-opting it. I'm not comfortable at all with non-OGL retroclones unless the original creators have given their sanction, as that seems to step over the line. I think GW has been pretty clear that they consider the Old World and WFRP "theirs."

    The fact that it may be legal to copy rules without the OGL doesn't make it right. The OGL may be unnecessary, but it does lend legitimacy and sanction to D&D-based retroclones that I don't think the others can claim.

    Then again, OD&D itself was a pastiche of what could charitably be termed syncretism and not so charitably termed plagiarism, so what the hell do I know. :)

    ReplyDelete
  62. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  64. As you can imagine,I adore this game; it was what finally gave me the open door to leave D&D (which, to be honest, had grown stale for us) and try something fresh. I agree with everything you wrote about the careers system: its loosening of the typical character-class system carried flashes of brilliance (Rat-catcher is my personal favorite), and the rules, though not without some serious problems, were wonderfully simple.

    The crowning glory for me, though, was the setting itself: 16th-century Europe meets Hammer Films, Pulp fantasy, swashbuckling adventure, and post-modern humor in one package. The Renaissance is my favorite period of European History, and when you add giant ratmen* to the mix (the Skaven)... Well, take me, I'm yours.

    *(And snotlings! Who doesn't like snotlings?)

    And I'm glad you touched on the science-fantasy elements, because these were among the early big selling points for me: Amazons with laser guns; giant sapient frogs who changed the world with their super-science; the possibility of hidden remnants of that science in the dark corners of the world, or working in the present day, but misunderstood as magic (a la Tekumel). Back in the 70s I went through a period when I actually believed Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" nonsense, so you can bet I loved seeing it used in a game - Chariots of the Frogs! It's a shame GW largely scrubbed it from the setting in later versions. (In fact, starting with WFB 4, they pretty much homogenized the world and removed much of its quirky flavor. Hence my sympathies with your comments about what makes early D&D special, James.)

    As for re-cloning it, I don't know if it could be done with a D&D-style game, but it should be easily doable with basic D20 mechanics or (my preference) BRP. One of these days I'll get around to it.

    Great review, and thanks for showing WFRP some love.

    ReplyDelete
  65. > Enlighten me then.
    > How is suggesting that there's a need for a retro-clone of one out of print RPG (namely WFRP 1e) any different than suggesting the need for another out of print RPG (namely D&D).

    I still don't think you've laid down any convincing reason for the "need" for a retroclone, James. "Someone needs to retro-clone this thing" reads as a strong call to me, and implies that you must have strong reasons for making such a call.

    Your claim that "The whole purpose of clones is to ensure that these games are available to future players, not just those who, through an accident of birth, were involved in the hobby when they were first released. As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer second-hand copies of the original books available. What happens then?" still appears to be a weak one.
    There are many cheap copies of the ruleset available (vastly cheaper than LotFP, anyhow, if that's claiming to be keeping OSR company) and, as noted, 20 years down the line who is going to ensure that these multiple retroclones are going to be more available than the "original" will be then?
    A scenario where encouraging new players to play "old-style" on a given OSR system and then having that system lose general support or vanish isn't exactly ideal.

    Take, for example, your own observation that the new edition of S&W is still only another 300 copies in the first instance; of which a larger number may end up salted away by collectors than find their way into the hands of new-old school players.

    > Prior to the advent of OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and others, there was just as thriving a community of OOP D&D players as you're suggesting there is for WFRP.

    No; and apologies if you misread or were unaware of the current state-of-play with regards to WHFRP 1e/2e. Even if not, "a number of valiant individuals" would hopefully imply that things were rather more restricted and tightly-knit than the xD&D juggernaut.

    > Does that mean that OSRIC or LL are "ripping the clothes off others' backs" too or is WFRP somehow special in needing protection?

    Yes. At present, with the publication of 3e WHFRP and Warpstone winding up, the 1e/2e WHFRP community is at a turning point and would be far more likely to benefit from a general profile boost and strong support for existing and new material for those old systems, rather than have an unnecessary multiple fragmentation scenario and accompanying uncertainties "forced" upon it.
    (Even if "full" retroclones were possible given GW's extremely aggressive copyright protection policy, of course).

    xD&D (x<3), on the other hand, has a far wider community base and has grown up with a greater degree of house rules, variants and scenario applications since before day 1. That has /relatively/ little difficulty co-existing alongside and even if the OSR explodes, any fallout is unlikely to damage the "original".

    Question, aside: Is there an accepted, unwritten agreement that the OSR is also meant to encourage play of the original games, or is old-style RPG /playing/ the thing? If the latter, why is there a "need" for retroclones of other systems where the focus is meant to be on the gameplay rather than the "crunch"?
    OD&D was the GURPS of its day, after all...
    *
    "The whole purpose of clones is to ensure that these games are available to future players" was an interesting statement, too, in the context of this question.

    02c as ever, anyhow. :)

    ReplyDelete
  66. statement that 0D&D was the GURPS of its days is pretty lame analogy. 0D&D was the game back in the days.

    I think that WFRP community could only benefit from retro-cloning and serious scholar research into game design decisions and their consequences. after all current wisdom is that WFRP3e is better because it is thought out accumulation of RPG design progress and thus obviously superior to earlier incarnations. If someone would bother to retro clone 1e and try to distill it to its pure essence it would show that this rules are no less thought out or even modern then its 'contemporary' cousin.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Thanks for the thoughts...

    > statement that 0D&D was the GURPS of its days is pretty lame analogy. 0D&D was the game back in the days.

    No, not a lame analogy, but making a deliberate point that many people are either unaware of, or choose to ignore. Many new gamers have a pre-conceived impression either of what D&D /is/ at present and retrofit that, or else fall back into gaming cliches, whereas in those first few years (and just before) it was actually applied across a far wider range of fields/approaches with houserulings and variants being part of that culture. Yes, it /was/ the only game in town and thus D&D /had/ to be "more than it was", going by the incomplete ruleset in the books, because there was nothing else.
    WHFRP, on the other hand, has a very strong identification with a particular milieu and approach to gaming.

    > I think that WFRP community could only benefit from retro-cloning and serious scholar research into game design decisions and their consequences.... If someone would bother to retro clone 1e and try to distill it to its pure essence it would show that this rules are no less thought out or even modern then its 'contemporary' cousin.

    Is that "pure essence" to be found only in the ruleset, or in any strongly-identified-with milieu? OD&D is definitely not the same as WHFRP in /that/ context.

    Also, is retrocloning now tending more towards an academic game design exercise or is it still more to encourage - what I believed was the initial purpose of the OSR - playing in the "old style", where one of the specific hurdles to doing so was deemed to be the lack of availability /at reasonable cost/ of the original OD&D ruleset?
    Fragmenting 1e/2e WHFRP further without any obvious beneficial input to existing/ongoing work on those systems certainly doesn't seem to me to the best way of encouraging the "old school" community in that domain, anyhow...

    ReplyDelete
  68. Yep, I Liked it in the 1st and 2nd edition. With the 3rd edition the thrill is gone, so sad they turned it into a card game with unncessarily difficult game mechanics...

    The race of humanity has does a lot of strange things to make more money (than it needs?)

    ReplyDelete
  69. This is, I know, something like a year and a half necro-post, but re: "
    Someone needs to retro-clone this thing"... someone is.  Zweihänder's (http://forum.strike-to-stun.net/viewforum.php?f=23&sid=8de19701b417a0fb740ef480de4288c0) a rewrite of 1E/2E WFRP, minus the "Warhammer."  


    Not entirely sure the end result will map well to what you want out of a game, but someone's working on it.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Zweihander is a retro line of Wfrpg. Check out http://www.grimandperilous.com

    ReplyDelete
  71. I'd like to support the retro clone of Warhammer. There has been a lot of talk at Strike to Stun about Zweihander grim and perilous. It looks like wfrp 2e with a number of borrowed elements from Dark Heresy and Warhammer 1e.

    ReplyDelete
  72. James,


    Sorry to barge in on a very old thread here, I'm the creator of Zweihänder Grim & Perilous. I was referred here to this specific thread by one of my play testers that follows your blog. If you have time, please take a look at what's going on with the development of Zweihänder at http://www.grimandperilous.com I wouldn't call it a true "retroclone" of Warhammer, but it comes pretty close to it. It borrows elements from all version of Warhammer and Dark Heresy, but embraces an old school feel. I'm a red box original dungeon master myself, and like others, I feel that there's something missing from "big box" publishers. It's why I decided to take my kitbashed version of Warhammer I'd been running for years and polish it up for publication. I'd love to get your thoughts on what's been presented thus far. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon.
    Best,Daniel

    ReplyDelete
  73. I'm really, really looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.