Following on from our Off The Shelf preview of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set, we take it On The Tabletop to get our first impressions of the product. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is now in its 4th Edition and we've already reviewed the Core Rulebook.
On The Tabletop first impressions articles are preceded by an Off The Shelf preview of the product, you can read the Off The Shelf Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set article here for full details of what's in the box and how the game plays. This article will be a walk-through of our first few games, followed by feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
The On The Tabletop play-through articles catalog our initial experiences with the game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
On The TabletopHaving played Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Ed several times for our review of the Core Rulebook, I already had a good understanding of the core rules, but the players didn't, so I tried to avoid leading them too much beyond asking for skill checks as a test as to how intuitive the system is for beginners.
The Starter Set adventure requires a fair bit of preparation, even for an experienced GM. The adventure provides a huge amount of setting detail, non-player character detail as well as the story itself for the adventure. There is also a Guide to Ubersreik book that gives further information on the city and its inhabitants.
The adventure could easily be spread across many sessions, but in order to get it into a single session, we didn't do any of the 10 optional adventure hooks in the back of the adventure book. We also shortened a lot of the central adventure down to a montage of some flash scenes in order to get through it. This left the focus on the initial scenes and final scene.
There are spoilers below, so if you're a player interested in playing this adventure, I would advise waiting until after you've played through it with your group before reading it in full, just skip to the Player Thoughts at the bottom. If you're a Games Master looking at running it, then read on.
We began the session with the group choosing their characters. Kyla chose Salundra Von Drakenburg, the impetuous noble-soldier, because that's the character she always plays, even when she gets to create her own. Kit chose Molly Brandysnap, the halfling who loves hugs. Ewan chose Ferdinand Gruber, the pompous mage after seeing the word sarcastic on his character sheet and Curtis chose Gunnar Hrolfsson, the Dwarf Slayer.
The adventure begins in a crowded market place in central Ubersreik. The group are trying to push through the crowd, to a tavern they think they saw on the other side. Gunner has some success, being essentially shaped to batter people out of the way. Before they can make it very far though, a huge brawl erupts, which quickly turns into a riot and the group ends up being attacked on all sides. Most of the group are surprised by the onset of the riot and spend the first round just getting hit. Gunna, however, is ready for trouble and starts laying down blows of his own. Most of the blows from the crowd are ineffectual and Gunnar knocks a few brawlers out who get to close.
A stall of meat pies is knocked over and its contents spread across the group's area of the market, making it difficult to stay standing. There's some very ineffectual striking on all sides and then Salundra makes her commanding presence known by shouting for the crowd to get back, which works briefly, but then a huge pig blunders through the crowd, knocking Salundra and Gunnar over. Molly is able to jump onto the pig and then successfully rides it into battle. The group witness a man with a milky eye shooting a firebreather with a crossbow. Molly, from her superior position atop the pig, spots an old lady and young girl being threatened by some knife-wielding ruffians and the group rushes to aid them. No sooner have they scared them off, the law arrives and everyone is arrested.
The group is accused of starting the riot and also killing the firebreather. A lawyer appears as their court case begins, paid for by a secret patron and manages to get their sentence reduced to a few years of duty with the Watch.
The next few scenes we blast through as a montage, in order to get the details across, but also achieve it all in a single session. The group witness corruption in the watch, with bribes and taxes charges to citizens by members of the watch. They also rescue a group of people from a fire, one of which, Narbe is very thankful to them. The group are able to track down the man with the milky eye and despite all but Gunnar failing their stealth rolls, manage to get close enough so that Ferdinand can stun him. Once apprehended, he handed over to the watch.
After several weeks, the group is approached by Ilse, a Roadwarden who needs them to help her with transporting a prisoner to his execution. The prisoner in question, Maurer, has had an execution attempted twice, but an unexplained act has stopped it. If another such act stops the next attempt, Maurer will be pardoned and set free. The rest of the watch are too suspicious to help, so she's approaching the group. In return, she will have their sentences reduced so they can be free of the watch. The group readily agree and arrangements are made.
On the morning of the execution, the group arrives to transport the prisoner. They don't go far along the dockland river bank before they are attacked by a group of mutant cultists and their leader. They want Maurer to join them. The group make some fairly impressive rolls and dispatch the cultists quickly. Maurer helps, and despite his protestations of innocence, is still taken to his execution. Before the headsman's axe lowers though and pink explosion tears the execution and Maurer from sight and when the players regain their vision, both are gone. The executioner's axe is also embedded in Ilse and unfortunately, the group got nothing in writing in regards to their deal with her.
Player Thoughts[gallery columns="5" ids="264469,277982,285492,285782,294195"]
Adam - I've mentioned before, in this article and also the Off The Shelf preview prior to this. The level of detail in the Starter Set is amazing. But it can be overwhelming so a lot of preparation is required to work out where you want the adventure to go as a GM. The character sheets are fantastic and give the players a huge amount of scope for roleplaying. Playing this over several sessions would be incredible.
There are some issues though. The Adventure book constantly refers to a Gossip test, which none of the players have. An alternative isn't immediately obvious, and beginner players/GM's might spend some time discussing it, which could hamper immersion slightly. The Adventure book also refers to handout 8 right at the start of the adventure, which we didn't have. Our group wasn't interested in shopping though, so it wasn't an issue, they just wanted to find the pub.
Aside from those two points, the box is perfect. All the players were very happy after the game. It was great to run and the detail gives you a huge amount of flexibility as a GM. I would say that it's not a Beginner's Set though, definitely an incredible Starter Set, but a little too advanced for brand new GMs.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favorite games includes Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.
Kit - I'm a huge fan of Warhammer and I’ve been playing WFRP since 2nd Edition. We don’t talk about 3rd Edition.
Out of the box, the character sheets were well laid out and still had plenty of options to tailor the play experience, such as secrets and goals. Weapon attributes and the more technical parts of the characters are clear on the starter character brief. I played Molly, the happy go lucky rogue halfling. Acquired within the first encounter was my trusted steed Sir Didimus, a runaway pig in the market.
The starter scenario itself is laid out well and there is no pre-knowledge of the setting required as it lays it out nicely. Its structure progresses at a good pace and can be aimed at being played over several sessions. I did feel like it needed the full party to play properly, or maybe that we were failing so many rolls it may have helped having those extra rolls.
The system itself is smooth, it felt like old school WFRP. If I was pushed to give a negative, it would only be that I feel a skill was removed but the reference was kept in the starter. Gossip. But in honesty, it would just have given us another skill to fail at.
Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently, his favorite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.
Kyla - Even though I'm not too familiar with the Warhammer universe, I didn't feel I was somehow missing out or at a disadvantage as we played. WFRP has all the features and feel of a classic RPG that all players will be familiar with, and you'll have fun encountering the unique creatures and characters this world setting has to offer.
One of my favorite features of the game, even though we didn't have much time to use it in our short adventure, is that roleplay and staying true to your character is very much rewarded and is crucial to surviving. Whenever you do things that match your character's motivations, you are given resolve points which can be spent to remove conditions affecting your character.
The only marginal criticism I might have is that the d100 Roll Under system can be a little confusing at first, but by the end of the session we were really getting the hang of it. My thoughts on the game are overwhelmingly positive and I would definitely consider playing a campaign using this system and setting.
Kyla is a 3D Artist and VFX Compositor. She is also known around the UK convention scene for her costume and prop making work. She's been a regular DM and player of Dungeons & Dragons for the last 3 years, and when she's not busy writing her own homebrew campaigns, she can be found playing Zombicide with friends. You can find her on Instagram at @HallowStudios, and on her website.
Ewan - I'm slightly partial to some Warhammer shenanigans so I fell into this pretty fast. The Hardest part for me was choosing a character which is a first for me! I ended up choosing the wizardy one (because of his huge scythe) and quickly got punched in the face for a large chunk of life, so there's definitely no hand holding here.
For a while I did struggle with how to figure out what I needed to roll for a few things at first, it took a long time for me to figure out how modifiers changed your rolls and things like that. All in all, I loved my time playing this and can't wait to hopefully get into the full game!
Ewan is severely visually impaired, which makes playing some games difficult, especially when there is a lot of small text on the board. Having his input is very important to us as it can be something that is overlooked in gaming. He's been gaming for a while and enjoys Talisman and Camelot. He has also played a few CCGs and is currently loving Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions. He tries to get some wargames in when he can.
Curtis - This was the first time I have played an RPG since my teens. I really enjoyed the simplicity of it. You can choose from a group of pre-made characters, and I went with Gunnar the Dwarf Slayer.
The character sheet was well made with the majority of the skills written fully. The main attributes such as intelligence, strength, or weapon skill were abbreviated. Admittedly, I was a little confused at first as not being used to RPG I wasn't sure what was the difference between things like the “I” and “Int” were, I still don't to be fair. But this did not distract from the fact that the game was very easy to pick up. As the scenario played out, the GM told us which tests we had to take and to roll the dice. As long as the result of the dice was lower that the skill level, you were successful. This was great for me, as I'm usually quite terrible at dice rolling games, but not with this game! I actually turned out to be a stealthy, intelligent, and strong Slayer, who would have thought?
On the dice, the game uses two D10 rolled together for a score of between 01 and 100. We did have to use additional die as there weren't enough provided in the game for everyone. Regardless, my reaction as soon as we finished was “When are we playing again?”. This is definitely recommended for all.
Curtis has been playing video games for the majority of his life. Only recently getting into tabletop games. He doesn't play as often as he would like to due to his intensive work and therefore likes when games are fast paced and straight to the point. Jack of all trades master of none describes him best. He likes trying new games to see what's out there.
The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set used in this article was provided by Cubicle 7.
Have you played any version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay? What do you think of this Starter Set? What's your favorite RPG Starter Box? Let us know in the comments below.