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10/14/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, part 4: core mechanics, part 1

Let's take a look at WFRP 4th edition's core game mechanics and see how well they work. Is the current iteration of this venerable game better than the previous ones, especially the much loved 2nd edition?

First of all we have Success Levels now. What are they? They're similar to succcesses from the 2nd edition, but more important, if that makes sense. Every full "10" that goes above your character's stat is a success. The more of them, the better, and they're especially important during combat. During the fights each opponent counts the levels of successes in a counter test, and then, based on the ammount each of the combatants had gathered, SOMETHING happens. You see, there's no more "I hit you, you hit me back" type of combat, present in this edition. Now even if both of the opponents miss, some damage will be dealt. It's a great way of making the encounters more cinematic and intense, albeit with a lot more tracking and keeping score of Success Levels.

Combat is much, much more intense now. I love it!
But there's more! You see, there are advantages as well. From combat manuevers to certain weapons, you can get an advantage over your opponent in combat. Each of these grant you a 10% bonus to stabbery, but you can also lose them really easily. Fail an opposed combat roll or take some damage, and your hard-hoarded advantages go down the drain. I really like this system, as while it does add a lot to remember during fights, it also makes them  much, much more interesting and cinematic, and I love cinematic feel in my games above all else.

Damage works similar to the 2nd edition system. You take a critical hit or suffer more damage, than your total number of wounds, it's critical wound time. Take more critical wounds than your toughness bonus and its game over. Some crits can, of course, kill you faster, but the core gist is that the combat in 4th edition is much bloodier, nastier, as well as tactical and strategic. I think it just might be one of my favorite things about the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Magic has been changed rather drastically, in my opinion. No more rolling above the power level of a spell, which you want to cast. Now you're just counting Success Levels and compare them with your Comprehend Languages (Magick) skill. You can also just channel magick each turn, accumulating successes until you match the Casting Number of the spell, in which case it goes off automatically. There are ingredietns to help you with doing magical shenanigans, as well as the good, old channeling. There are miscasts as well, although once again WFRP proves to be rather light on their effects. I love the Perils of the Warp in Dark Heresy games, as they're really dangerous and potentially fatal to both the psyker and his mates. Here the miscasts are suitable grim, but not really that perilous. Oh well, here's hoping that someone will make some excellnt, fan-made miscasts tables, which will make casting spells much more hazardous, as they should be.

All in all the mechanics of the game, which I've just described, are really well made. My only complaint is that the magic miscast system is a tad too light for a world as shitty and dangerous, as Warhammer's. Still, that's not something too terrible and the excellent combat mechanics really make up for it, in my humble opinion of course.

In my next, and probably final part of WFRP 4th edition review, I will describe the corruption, psychology and disease mechanics, as well as the very cool idea of a downtime. After that I think I'll need to switch my article focus to something else, at least for a while. After all, variety is the spice of life, right?

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

10/08/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, part 3: characteristics, skills, talents and advancements

Now we're getting to it. It's time to take a look at the core rules concerning skills, talents and characteristics, as well as their advancements.

On a first glance the 4th edition looks very similar to the venerable 2nd. But wait! There are a few changes. Agility has been divided into three, separate parts, which are Agility, Dexterity and Inititative. It's a very cool concept, as each of these is used for different tests. Dexterity is utilised for complex manual work, while Agility and Initiative will be used more often than not during combat. In my opinion this is a very welcome change and adds quite a lot to the game itself, as it really distinguishes a martial character from, let's say, an artisan of any kind. Nice job C7.

Now the party can be really varied and full of unique characters!
Attributes and their developement has also been changed. In essence it now costs a lot more points to level your characters, as you always go from level 0, no matter how well did you managed to roll for the attribute in question. I think that this will really help with the power creep and munchkining, even if it means that the 4th edition is actually tailored for longer games. Nice! I also like how you can develop attributes, which haven't been "bought". It is possible, but it will be much more expensive. In 2nd edition it was a big problem for many characters, being unable to buy, for example, Dodge Blow during a combat-heavy campaign. I still remember arguing with my players about that particular case, to the point when I've decided to house rule that this skill will actually be considered a basic one. In the 4th edition there are no such problems. You'll just need to pay more to learn something that's outisde your area of expertise.

Talents and skills have also been vastly changed. Now there's a limit to how many times we can buy certain talents, depending on the first digit of the characteristic to which it is assigned. Skills are again divided into basic and advanced ones, although now you can also buy those, from beyond your "specialistaion", for double the points. In game terms, they work similarly to the 2nd edition ones. For example, if you don't have an advanced skill paid for in XP, you can't test it. Easy as that and really intuitive.

Cubicle 7 made some changes to the health system. Now it's determined, based on Will Power, Toughness and Strength characteristics. No more random rolling for your starting HP! It adds a bit of math to the game, but all in all, I think that's a nice change to the system.

Player and party ambitions are a completely new system, developed by Cubicle 7 for the 4th edition. In essence these are the driving force behind each character's actions, as well as those of a whole party. Short-term ambitions are chosen for completion during a couple of sessions and are usually mundane and down-to-earth tasks. Long term ones are trickier, often encompassing a longer period of time as well as being much grander in scale. Some of these can (and should) be kept secret between players, to add to the fun. Party ambitions are almost always long term ones, and can be quite epic in their scope, as well as execution. All in all it's a very nice, new system, which brings a lot of potential changes to the table and can even result in some tasty, inter-party conflicts and clashes. In the Old World, these kind of things do fit rather well, in my opinion.

Finally there are two new additions to the game - Resolve and Resilence. The first one determines our characters' determination to succeed, the inner strength that forces us to move on, no matter the odds and circumstances. The second one can be used similarly to Fate, but against things which would not normally have killed us. Other than these two, new additions to the game, the good, old Fate and Fortune make a welcomed return to the game. It's good to have them back, once again.

In general, the characters develop much slower in the 4th edition. The hefty price of each advancements, coupled with rather low ammount of XP, granted after each session, means that the games in this edition should take longer to finish. I like this approach a lot, as it really helps with building a sense of advancement, learning and exploration of the Old World (and beyond, hopefully). I don't like rushing things in my campaigns and scenarions, and while I love 2nd edition to death, more often than not I've felt that I was doing just that, during my games in this system. Of course it was also my fault as a GM, but the general feel of WFRP 2nd edition's characters advancement was that of a hasty one, promoting quick developement, even at the cost of narration, overall feel and atmosphere of the game itself. 4th edition tries to break with that trend and I am very happy that it does so.

Next time we'll take a look at the game's mechanics. Also - Grimvember is coming. You know what that means - more scenario, campaign and sourcebook reviews!

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

9/30/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, part 2: the character classes

The second part of my WFRP 4th edition review will concentrate on the available classes and their choosing. Will the 4th turn out to be as diversed and interesting as my beloved 2nd? Let's find out.

First of all I highly suggest to check out Viluir's fantastic WFRP 4th edition review. It's in Polish only, but if you know the language, then you're in for a treat. The review can be found on her blog, cheekily named Rzuć 90k6! (Roll90d6!).

Now for the character creation. The standard races are all here with the small change for the elves - now there are those from the forests, the Asrai, and the ones from Ulthuan - the Asur, the High Elves. I really like that change, as anyone who knows even the bascics of the Warhammer lore, knows that these two factions are vastly different to each other.

You can roll a dice to determine which race you're going to play, in lieu of chosing. If you do so, you'll get additional 20 XP. Neat! The non-humans are a bit more specialised in certain skills or characteristics, but they're also harder to roll, if you're going for the whole "random" element.

For some the random element of the game is a huge positive quality!
Now for the classes - there's a shit ton of them, and they're all really fluffly and really fitting, when it comes to the dark and moody atmosphere of the Old World. Of course if you've chosen/rolled a human, you can only be from Reikland. That's right, save some money for the inevitable provincial sourebook. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I can already say one thing - it's absolutely great that the game promotes sticking to one career from the beginning. My beloved 2nd edition allowed swift and smooth changes from one career to another, and it wasn't always that well explained nor executed. For example a human was able to become a Shielbreaker. Like, I get it - it is technically possible, but that's the thing - only technically. In 4th edition a swap from one career to another is very expensive, points-wise. I honestly believe that this is a good idea, as it can only benefit the game in the long run.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition offers the players a standard assortment of character classes. Soldiers, knights, witch hunters, thieves, outlaws, wizards, priests, and more, are available from the start to anyone, wishing to delve into the grim world of perilous adventure. Each character starts from the very bottom and makes his way to the top, to become an absolute master in his chosen profession. This is rather self explainatory.

There are some careers, which are not available to all races. That said, a GM can decide to lift that limitation, if he so wishes. It's probably best to speak with your gamemaster about this option, before the actual rolling commences.

If a player decides to randomy choose his starting career, then a shiny 50 XP will be waiting for him to spend during his character creation. I like how the people at Cubicle 7 really give you options, when it comes to molding your chosen shmuck into a full-blown hero. Nice work!

Well, I can safely say that the character creation and career options, are very well done in 4th edition. The climactic art pieces as well as unique quotes, assigned to each of the races and professions, also add a lot to the atmosphere of the game. I can't wait to read more about the actual characteristics, traits and the character advancement. Perhaps I'll be able to do so with actual, physical copy of the book, since Cubicle 7 had announced that they will be shipping these to their customers very soon!

Until next time, when we will take a further look at the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay!

Xathrodox86

9/18/2018

Xathrodox86 reviews: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition, part 1: the overall look

Well, here it is - the 4th edition of WFRP has arrived and already people are divided about its quality. I'm going to take a look at this newest iteration of a classic RPG and give you my honest opinion on it.

First of all - this will be a multi part review, with each part covering the different part of the rulebook. These will be written once a week, since there will be about 4 to 5 parts. I hate reading PDF's, as it makes my eyes really tired, so reading a whole rulebook on my PC's screen was a major no-no for me, sorry guys.

When the starter set eventually arrives, I'll review it as well.

In this first part of my review of WFRP 4th edition, I will concentrate on the overall look of the book, the graphics, artworks and lore, all of which can be found within its pages. I can already say - I like it a lot!

What a fantastic bunch of colorful characters!
First of all, the art is very consistent in 4th edition. It's a nice mix of a dirty, down-to-earth style, mixed with appropriately heroic themes, although not too much. Which is good! One of my biggest qualms with the 2nd and 3rd editions (not the 1st, mind you), was the fact that almost everyone portrayed in these books had a face, like they've just suffered a major constipation. It's really nice to see smiling and happy humans, dwarfs, elves and halflings in the newest rulebook. It simply makes the world more believable and approachable.

The art depicting monsters is also very solid. No complaints here. There are suitable creepy ones (the mutant and Fimir are fantastic!), as well as terrifying (the dragon!). I just hope that in the inevitable enemy sourcebook, the quality will be, at the very least, on the same level. 

I liked the artworks portraying the Old World (well, mainly Reikland, since it's the only province featured in the rulebook), albeit a few of the pieces were less than detailed for my liking. The cities and towns were fantastic to behold, while the countryside was a little drab and pale, if that makes any sense. It wasn't bad per se, but for me it might be a bit too dark in style, like the artworks from the 3rd edition.

Secondly - the layout of the text. I'm a person who gets tried really fast, when reading a tiny, cluttered text. That's why I dislike 1st editions books so much, they are simply too inconvinient for me to read. Yeah, being a short-sighted person can suck sometime. Anyway, the 4th edition has a great layout, very clear, very easy to use. The text is not too small and the spaces between the phrases are just about right. Reading this book, even on a PC, wasn't an ardous torture, and I've actually really enjoyed it. It's nice that Cubicle 7 thought about peeps with bad eyesight.

The lore portions of the book are very solid. From the letters, describing the Reikland province to various descriptions of player classes to flavor text, found next to each of said classes. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition delivers the goods, when it comes to creating the atmospheric, funny, tounge-in-cheek, but also suitably dark mood of this wonderful world. I especially like the quotes found in the player classes section. The Billy Idol/Morr reference is simply pure gold.

I'd also like to address the elephant in the room. You know - the "overly politically correct" elephant in the room. There are already cries that this edition of WFRP panders to SJW's, and that it's overly politically correct. There are lots of women presented on the artworks, as well as people of color, apparently living in the Empire. There's the "species" keyword, used instead of "race". That kind of stuff.

I couldn't care less. I have a very simple life philosophy, when it comes to these games: as long as they're good, enjoyable and well written, both lore and rules-wise, they can be as politically correct and SJW-friendly, as they wish. If anything, the wider cultural and racial diversity will help to break the, unfortunately all too common, notion of "there's only the Empire, I don't need anything else". To me, it's one of the biggest downsides of WFRP's overall community. It's really time to stop with this childish and archaic attitude.

I can already say that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition is an objectively good game, if a little clunky when it comes to combat rules. However I will be discussing that particular part, later this year.

I can safely say that, when it comes to art, lore and overall presentation, the rulebook for the 4th edition of WFRP delivers the goods. So far so good.

Until next time, when I'll be discussing the available character classes and their pre-game creation.

Xathrodox86

8/31/2018

The reckoning is coming. Here's an interview with Ed Hall!

You all know that I'm a huge Warhammer buff. That said, there's one setting which is even closer to my heart - the Classic World of Darkness. When it comes to its many splats, I've always adored Hunter: The Reckoning the most.

I will write an entire post about my all-encompassing love towards H:TR, but for now let's just say that I'm all about the common folk, facing off against the myriad terrors of the night. I've always rooted for the underdogs and the Imbued, as the hunters of this setting are known, perfectly encapsulate this term. That said, I will write a legthy post about this game, as well as the Classic World of Darkness in general, in the near future.

I have so many great memories, associated with this logo
I was very lucky to be able to interview Ed Hall, one of the original creators of Hunter: The Reckoning. He's an incredibly nice man who was patient enough to answer all of my fan-fuelled questions, and there were a lot of them! You can check 'em out yourselves below. Enjoy!

Xathrodox86: How did Hunter: The Reckoning came to be? Who came up with the idea about this game?

Ed Hall: The Wieck brothers, Steve and Stewart, were motivating forces. Also in the meetings we had were Ken Cliffe, who eventually became the game's developer, and art director Rich Thomas, as well as myself.

Other WW full-timers attended those early brainstorming sessions, but I can't recall who.

Xathrodox86: What was your original vision about the game? Did it differed vastly from the final version?

Ed Hall: I wrote a pitch that was more like "The X-Files" set in the WoD. Yes, it differed hugely, as it resembled "Project Twilight", with nonpowered agents of the FBI.  

Xathrodox86: How did the process of writing the game looked like? Did you organised brainstorming sessions? How did the communication between the authors and artists looked like?

Ed Hall: At the outset, I was the H:TR developer, and I wrote the bible for the game, which I recall being a perhaps 20-page-long document distilling the setting, imbuings, what hunters do and don't know, details on the game's version of the walking dead, hunter code (in whose design I took a very active part), etc.  

Xathrodox86: How did the publisher reacted to the idea of a not-so-normal humans fighting against the monsters? Were there any problems with convincing the higher ups to your idea of Hunter?

Ed Hall: I think Steve (and possibly Stewart) was more interested in powered hunters than I was, but I eventually came to see the numerous advantages of powered Imbued, which basically made them akin to the psychic detectives of the pulp era.  

Xathrodox86: What was the hardest part about devising the game, both lore and rules-wise?

Ed Hall: Like many WW projects, we initially looked for literary underpinnings. At some point, early on the seven ages of man and the (seven?) 'vials' from the Bible's Book of Revelation, and other such touchstones. I think Waywards and Hermits were added on to make nine Creeds in three classes.

I recall us struggling with the Visionary powers and what they might affect until I stepped up to the whiteboard and said, 'Time,' then etched several of those powers.

Whereafter Rich Thomas said, 'Look at the big old brain on Ed.'

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite thing about Hunter: The Reckoning? What truly sells this title to you and why?

Ed Hall: What other contributors brought to it. The best thing that ever happened to the game was the decision (not mine) to replace me as developer with Ken.

Ken, with his love of fishing and beer, had a foot in a world known to lots of people, but not me. I am an eccentric, and I have been since childhood. Ken brought a real everyman sense to the game that it would've lacked under my guidance.

Some of the writers who contributed to the core rule book brought to my attention what an elegant critique of policing and of waging war the game could be. Thereafter, I tried to put such ideas into anything I wrote for the game.

Xathrodox86: The Imbued are normal humans, but with extraordinary powers. One of the biggest citicisms aimed towards H:TR is that the players aren't human at all, while they should be, at least according to the theme of the game. What is your opinion about this statement?

Ed Hall: I dismiss any notion that the Imbued are not human. Again, as a metaphor for waging war, H:TR vividly presents the alienation that can come for anyone who wages combat that has fatal results for its participants. I know, because I saw what my own father's participation in WWII did to him.

Killing other people - or 'monsters' that sometimes/always resemble people - is destructive to the human psyche, unless that psyche is already afflicted with murderous desire. Remember, Waywards are not intended to be player characters. Waywards are intended to be counterexamples, uncomfortable allies, or outright adversaries to other hunters. Hunters are to Waywards as normal human beings are to serial killers.

Xathrodox86: How did you came with the idea about Huters' powers? Do you think that the Edges are stronger or weaker than, let's say, Vampires' disciplines or Garou's gifts?

Ed Hall: We strove to keep hunter powers pretty limited. Doing so followed lines of logic both in game and not: The Messengers had previous experience with bestowing supernatural powers upon mortals (I believe "Exalted" was intended to portray such an episode), and it didn't work out so well. Limiting the powers of the Imbued was the Messengers' way of increasing the likelihood of mutually lethal interactions between hunters and supernaturals (self-tidying minions, you see). Leaving a lone hunter unable to subdue most WoD critters makes for group cohesion among players, too.  

Xathrodox86: Another thing about Hunter: The Reckoning, that many people disliked, is the artwork. In the rulebook we see pictures of the Imbued tanking three Werewolves, while the theme of this game is about your ordinary Joe suddendly waking up to a living nightmare. Why was the rulebook's art made like this?

Ed Hall: Art often proved a disappointment to me in the H:TR books ... but the only piece of original WW art I own came from H:TR! It's the full-pager Mitch Byrd drew for my Haiti-set chapter in "The Walking Dead". Exquisite!

Some of the other moody pieces work really well, too. I'm thinking of a portrait of a bearded hunter with a baseball cap who stands and smokes in the dark, outside his home, as the silhouette of a woman is backlit at the door while she clearly watches him watch for ...what? We don't know, she doesn't know, and he might not know, but he knows what's out there ... and he can't tell her.

Xathrodox86: The Imbiued are facing the myriad dangers, found in the World of Darkness. There are rules for different enemies, both in the rulebook, and in the dedicated enemy books. However like other classic World of Darkness books, H:TR is not really suitable to be used in conjecture with other splats. Were there ever any ideas about using this particular game with, let's say, Wraith: The Oblivion or Vampire: The Masquerade?

Ed Hall: Not from me. There's a lot of Wraith in Hunter, but rules were never my area of primary interest. We devoted whole books to integrating other WoD critters ("The Moonstruck" et alia), but whether those creatures are Garou, Kindred, etc., as such, is at the discretion of the H:TR storyteller.  

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite Hunter: The Reckoning title, including the novels?

Ed Hall: "Wayward". I never read any H:TR novels, tho'.  

Xathrodox86: Hunter: The Reckoning hasn't been grandly portrayed, when it comes to Time of Judgement. How would you've written the definitive ending to this particular World of Darkness game?

Ed Hall: Because I still dream of running a hunter-centric game set at the Time of Judgment, I'll forgo answering this one.

Anybody wanna play a game?

Xathrodox86: Which one of all the Imbued described in the books is your favorite, and why? Which one did you disliked the most?

Ed Hall: I like the military men, Soldier and Shaka, neither of whom I created, but both of whom I had the honor and pleasure of fleshing out.  

Xathrodox86: Hunter: The Reckoning has been adapted to a couple of older video game consoles. Did you worked on any of these adaptations? What do you think about them?

Ed Hall: Because the video version of H:TR was a first-person shooter (as I recall), I felt it couldn't possibly capture the nuances of the tabletop game, and I avoided it entirely.  

Xathrodox86: Do you think if we will ever see Hunter: The Reckoning 20th anniversary edition? What would you like to see in it? Do you think that the game should be modified, in order to suit the more modern times of smartphones, drones and wideband internet?

Ed Hall: I have no skin in the WW game(s) these days. I glanced at "Vigil" but felt no affinity for it. An anniversary version? I have no opinion.  

Xathrodox86: Just one more quick question. What was your inspiration when it came to the creation of Hunter code and Hunter.net. Was the actual online website your idea?

Ed Hall: Hunter code has roots in a Piers Anthony novel called "0X". The pattern entities in that book were my basis for the Messengers' appearance. On a certain level, hunter code and the Messengers are different aspects of the same beings.

The Messengers, in other words, were "sentient messages".

Have a look at the endpapers of the core rule book and see what Rich Thomas did with that idea.

Xathrodox86: Thank you for your time and answers. Hunter: The Reckoning is my favorite World of Darkness game of all time and it was an honor to be able to interview one of its creators. 

Ed Hall: Thank you, Michał! I appreciate your interest in the game and the part I had in making it a reality.

Wow, I'm sitting here, typing these letters... and I still can't believe that I was able to interview the man who's responsible for one of my favorite RPG's of all time. Life can be good. I would like to once again thank Mr. Hall for his willingness and time to answer all of my questions. It was quite an experience. I'd advise you to visit the (Old) Classic World of Darkness fanpage on Facebook. It has everything that any fan of the classic, gothic horror might want... and more!

Oh and you can also find Mr. Hall there, so that's an even bigger incentive to visit this place.

Next post will be a review of the newest edition of Warhammer Fantast Roleplay. Stay tuned.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86