Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is WFRP OId School?

In this post, I am referring to WFRP 1st/2nd edition. 3rd might be a different animal all together.

Is or can Warhammer Fantasy Role Play be considered "old-school"? That is the question going through my mind. Keep in mind, the answer does not change the fact that I am a huge fan of the game regardless. For myself, I feel the rule system should be dictated by the setting. For instance, for high-fantasy sword & sorcery with lots of dungeon crawls and hidden chests full of hard won treasure, well Sir, for that I want some form of Dungeons & Dragons. I say "some form" because, again, which version (OD&D or retro-clone, Cyclopedia Rules, AD&D/OSRIC or 3/3.5 edition) is dependent upon what I want to do with the game.

Then again, if I'm in the mood for something quick and easy that I know I can make up on the fly, well then Sir, give me a helping of Tunnels & Trolls please.

If I want low-fantasy, served grim and perilous with lots of secret cults and plots within plots, well Sir, please serve me up some WFRP.

WFRP works well with some old-school styles, particularly a sand-box campaign. I guarantee, from experience, that a healthy knowledge of the Old World will enable you to set your players free and say "go where thou wouldst" and you will have several evenings of entertainment. Then again, while you could use WFRP for a Dungeon Crawl, or even a mega-dungeon crawl, you would be missing a lot of flavorful opportunities. While dungeons do serve a purpose in my WFRP games, they are not a prominent feature. I would assert that this is the case with most WFRP games.

This is one aspect of the game that makes it decidedly anti-old-school for me: it often seems there is a "wrong" way to present the world of WFRP. If you are running a dungeon based campaign where treasures are won along with magical weapons from defeating monsters guarding said treasures, well...while I wouldn't do so far as to stop you from doing so, I would claim that you are missing the point of WFRP and I would do so with the chance of seeming like a snob.

I'm not claiming that all dungeon based games are as I described them above, but I would say that mine are.

My WFRP games have decidedly few "dungeons". When running adventures in the Old World, I prefer investigation scenarios built around event based encounters. Think Call of Cthulhu with swords and you have the basic idea of what I like to throw at my players. If not that, then I like location based adventures that allow my players to interact with the world at large (or in a micro-cosom); combine a healthy dose of both, and you have in my opinion the perfect WFRP game.

There are several other factors that make me wonder, "is this beloved game of mine not old-school"? For instance, I feel a skills system is necessary for WFRP. While at the same time, for most high fantasy adventures, I prefer no skill system be implemented as this allows me to decide on the fly if the characters can figure out that trap, or better yet, let them figure it out on their own logic, not dictated by a dice roll. Skills are ingrained into the WFRP system. Without the need to gain experience points and buy skills, changing careers and/or upgrading from a basic to an advanced career becomes meaningless. Therefore, to run an WFRP campaign effectively, you must use a skills system.

While combat is brutal in WFRP, the use of Fate and Fortune points gives a WFRP character an advantage that is not present in the typical old-school OD&D game (or equivalent). When I run an old-school high fantasy game (regardless of what rules system I use) my players expect that "0" hit points equals death. Not so in WFRP. In this game, if death is certain, a player can spend a Fate point and avoid it. Granted, Fate points are a finite number rarely bolstered beyond the beginning amount (at least in my games). Fortune points work the same way. Make a bad roll that is going to cost you? Spend a fortune point and re-roll. This can be done a set number of times per session, or game day, depending upon GM preference. In my high fantasy games, all rolls stick.

So in the end, I don't have an answer, other then, the WFRP rules system just feels right for the Old World. For me, it's old-school enough.

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