Friday, 14 November 2014

WFRP'd: On the Road - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's First Proper Article!

Though the launch details concerning WFRP appeared in White Dwarf 83, it wasn't until issue 85 hit the newsstands that we got the first proper fresh material published by Games Workshop. Considering that The Enemy Within was due for release and work was continuing on completing Shadows Over Bogenhafen and Death on the Reik, this first dip of the toe into producing content for the new RPG was small scale to say the least.

It weighed in at a measly 2 pages.

Rather disappointing if compared with the lavish opulence of two issues prior.

When you begin to study the first proper article in more detail you can see that Mr Graeme Davis was at the helm of the keyboard in this particular month, and he went as far to state that what was on offer were 'encounters' rather than scenarios. These were throw-away seeds of adventures that could be, with a little imagination, be used to grow something greener. Still, there are some intriguing ideas here for any GM running ANY campaign, and that includes people putting together games of WFB3 with narrative in mind.

Let's explore a little further shall we?

Emmaretta is the first of these, and documents a rather interesting character that doesn't appear to be exactly what she seems. But instead of instantly beating us over the head with chaos, spiky bites optional, Graeme opts for something different. Though she is posing as a hunter (and being alone in the woods in the Old World is an odd thing, even for a hunter) she is in fact, a werecat. A werecat on a journey to free her lover from prison. No daring escape plots no, this is WFRP after all, but a simple case of a bail payment. The danger is that her lover, also a werecat, is not yet able to control his transformations and the full moon grows ever nearer!

Now meeting a character in a strange place who isn't as they seem is hardly a new idea, but getting players to think one way and them surprising them in another is what good GM do. I think that a character like Emmaretta is perfect for small scale skirmish games. The players could meet a figure as they advance who, depending on player choice, can become an ally or an enemy. I can assure you, they won't be thinking of werecats when you describe those rustles in the bush!

Graeme wisely leaves the resolution to this meeting up to you. A couple of evening's play could probably be wrought from the scenarios suggested, with the characters lending a hand to overcome corrupt officials or overwhelmed guards with a prison block invaded by a hungry cat! Though I have never used this scenario in a game, thinking about it now I would probably hold off the fact that she is a werecat until the very end, and push my players into helping rescue the lover along with lots of tension building 'can you remove the key from the sleeping jailor's belt' type activities. I quite like the idea of the two lovers disappearing into the evening's dusk, having said their farewells to the players, only to transform into the werecat forms and dart away into the undergrowth. Of course, I would have the female cat turning back to face the bewildered PCs, raising a paw in silent thanks befroe disappearing into the night.

But that is just me.

A Friend in Need is a atmospheric if a little familiar ghost story. having run this little scenario myself, I can testify about how spooky you can make it. You can really over play the role of the Inn Keeper in warning the PCs not to wander the road at night. Just as you can easily contrive a reason for them to shun the warmth on the fireside. Once out on the road, the darkness and chittering noises in the darkness can help conjure all kinds of potential foes and getting your players to make a few random intelligence and willpower tests only helps build the tension.

Then comes the rain. I always enjoyed rewarding my players with some expensive and fragile and then destroying the said prize. And rain if a perfect tool for frustrating your players. The sodden respite that the roadside shrine can be used to introduce the fact that priceless copy of the Dus Magmentum is now a soggy ruin.

The appearance of the ghost is also great fun to run, particularly on the dark and stormy night. I always appreciated the fact that if your players paid for a costly funeral from their own funds, they were ultimately rewarded with four rubies, worth around 200 crowns in total. Of course, knowing me, there was nearly always a reason for such just rewards to be lost or otherwise confiscated!

Can encounters like this make a good transition to the tabletop? I think so, and the appearance of a model in a skirmish game or mid-sized battle who has an agenda all of their own (totally unrelated to the conflict itself) is always useful for creating subplots. I also like the idea of the players unconnected with the 'ghost' having no idea about what is going on, or what reason the 'ghost', or an appropriate character, might have for being there. Such thoughts breed questions and questions lead to great narrative opportunity!

To conclude, a simple set of encounters like this is not what one would expect to see after such an impressive launch but it is clear even at this early stage, that WFRP is not a mere hack and slash game. Both these situations favour resolution through roleplay rather than action. Something radically different to the Fantasy Battle version. The mix of fantasy and dark horror is welcome and bodes well for the future! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words! Your post prompted me to write a little about my memories from those days.