Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) is the roleplaying version of Games Workshop's popular Warhammer Fantasy Battles wargame. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition was published in 1986 by Games Workshop themselves and was until 2nd Edition which was published in 2004 by a sub-division of Games Workshop. When Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) took over all non-wargaming tabletop licenses from Games Workshop in 2008, they revamped Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay into their own style. Cubicle 7's edition of WFRP is more focused on its original roots, updating and expanding on the earlier systems and adding their own feel to the game.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition has just been released by Cubicle 7 and the Core Rulebook is what we're reviewing here, it's currently only available in PDF (which is the version we are reviewing here), with physical copies due this month (October 2018). I have personally played all editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, starting with 1st Edition and spent most of my time with 2nd Edition. I bought all the products from FFG's 3rd Edition but didn't put as much time into it as other editions. Our testing for this edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was done over a few sessions with our GM using a home brew scenario.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay does for Warhammer what Dark Heresy/Inquisitor does for Warhammer 40,000, which is rather than focus on the huge never-ending war between different armies of the multiple races of the universe, it puts the players in characters who are just above the average, adventurers still, but not godlike and able to swathe through thousands of enemies without taking a blow. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is about being down in the dirt, fighting small battles, solving mysteries and thwarting plots up close, face to face with your enemies and because of that, it has always, through all its editions, had a focus on careers. Careers like nun, beggar, rat catcher, miner, boatwoman, fence or soldier.
Levelling up your character involves following a career path, learning new skills and building characteristics that your chosen role needs, like working through from Vagabond, to the lofty heights of Wandering Trader or maybe changing careers as you progress, maybe Hans the Grave Robber's adventures have made him have a change of heart, and now he wants to use his skills to be an Investigator, maybe Mary the Hunter has seen too much evil in her woods, and she joins the ranks of the Witch Hunters to help stem the tide. At its heart, the careers and their progression, along with the added details for your character are what drive the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay system, which is why a full 70 pages of the 350 in the core rulebook are about careers and advancements, listing 64 careers in all, and that's what has always made Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay great, its the brutal, down in the trenches, gritty reality feel that only a motley crew of unlikely heroes thwarting evil, or carving their infamy across the map of the Old World.
This high level of detail and choice runs through the whole of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Ed rulebook and Cubicle 7 have done an incredible job of keeping it all compact and tight. As mentioned above, it's a solid book at 350 pages, but the amount of information it contains for players and Games Masters (GMs) actually far exceeds the expectation of the page count due to some great layout work. As an example, the Bestiary at the end contains details of three beasts, non-player characters (NPCs) or enemies per page with an example stat line, skills and abilities and introductory information for each. There is still room to expand fully with future supplements, but it gives players and GMs a great start in the Warhammer world.
The rulebook begins with Character Creation and players are encouraged to randomly roll for Race, Class, Career, and Attributes. Players are able to select these themselves, but an experience (XP) bonus is awarded if you take the result of the random roll, allowing players further character advancement over those who chose rather than randomly select. Players then get Skills and Talents based on their race and career and then trappings based on class and career. Characters are then completed by players adding the final details, a physical description and choosing ambitions for their character before answering the Ten Questions that add the final flavor. Players also need to fill out some details about their adventuring party and work out how they know each other, along with what the party wants to achieve.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay uses D100 percentile rolls for working out if tasks and objectives are achieved. This is done by rolling two ten-sided dice (2D10). One of the dice gives the 10s result (00, 10, 20, 30 etc) the other gives the units result (1, 2, 3 etc). For example, if 2D10 are rolled and the results are 4 (40) and 8, the result would be 48. To achieve a task, players need to roll under their relevant characteristic. If your Elf hunter wants to hit a target and their Ballistic Skill is 60, they need to roll 60 or under on the percentile dice. The GM can also add modifiers to this roll to incorporate challenges and advantages. Want to hit a target while sliding down a staircase on a shield? You could find yourself needing to rolling under 30 rather than 60 or less. If the target is stationary and only a couple of feet in front of your character, you might find that you only fail if you roll 96 or more (01-05 is always a success and 96-100 is always a fail).
Sometimes players need to know to what degree they've succeeded or failed, and this comes in the form of Dramatic Tests and Success Levels (SL). To find the level of success, the players take away the 10s roll from the characteristic being tested. In our example above, if Kalsar the Elf hunter needed 60 or less to hit his target and rolls 25, he would get +4 SL (6-2=4). If Astrid the Witch Hunter needs 30 to sway a crowd to her side and rolls 83, she would get -5 SL (3-8=-5) and things could get very bad for her very fast.
The rulebook also contains just short of 20 pages on injuries, disease, corruption, and psychology, which very much keeps Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in the dark side of fantasy. Some of the injuries and corruption are detailed and brutal and those worried that Warhammer was made more fluffy with Age of Sigmar, need not be concerned with WFRP 4th Ed. It can be as grim and dark as players and GMs would like it to be.
The rest of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay core rulebook crams in a huge amount of detail on the Warhammer setting, including details on Gods and Religion, Magic in all its form from the winds to necromancy, Hedgecraft and Witchcraft to the magic of the Chaos Gods. Only Reikland is covered in terms of geography, but that will almost certainly be expanded upon in future supplements, and there is only so much they can fit in the core rulebook. There's a small Games Masters section to get the group started and again this will almost certainly be expanded upon in a dedicated Games Masters Guide or Kit. The last of the rulebook is made up with the consumer's guide, for all your adventuring needs and the previously mentioned bestiary.
In terms of crunch, which is a term used to describe a high level of detail in the rules, WFRP is quite crunchy, there are a lot of options written in sidebars throughout the book to streamline play if players and Games Masters want less crunch, but as the first two editions had a fair level of crunch, it is very in keeping with those (FFG's 3rd Edition was very token/component heavy, which did reduce some of the crunch). If you're used to extremely stream-lined systems that are less rulesy, you will notice a difference with WFRP, however, if you're used to this level of crunch, you won't notice at all. We didn't notice during our test sessions, and it was only during this write up when we were considering the rules details and character options that it came up. For new players it doesn't mean that play is slow or even rules focused, but characters/NPCs do have a few options for actions/effects/results that can require looking some things up for the first few games and it provides a very realistic system in terms of player actions and injuries.
The one thing initially noted as missing was a sample scenario to get players going, but its omission from the core rulebook is probably a good thing. For one, there's a Beginners Kit planned, which includes an adventure and pre-made characters, but mainly because once you've played the adventure, you rarely refer to those pages again. With the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay book already being a solid size, those extra pages would add needless weight, when they can release dedicated adventure products to be carried or left at the player's and Games Master's desire.
Cubicle 7 hasn't changed the world with the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Core Rulebook, the rules and system won't blow players minds, but that isn't what they were aiming for. What Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition is, is incredibly straight-forward and crammed with a huge amount of information for new and veteran players alike. The strength of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is in the depth of the information, that allows Games Masters and players to build their worlds, combined with easy to learn system for combat and actions. The leveling up system also feels real, adding to your career path and then progressing along it, either being promoted within that path or striking out on a new path, feels incredibly realistic, which has been a stable factor throughout all editions of WFRP and what has kept it so strong. The fact that they've also taken Warhammer back to the original grimdark setting, and haven't updated it to the new Age of Sigmar says a lot about which market they are aiming for and will also give Cubicle 7 a lot more freedom in terms of the products they release.
The Bottom Line:
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition takes Warhammer back to the dark and corrupted form of the original setting. The core rulebook has a wealth of information contained within its pages, set within a straight-forward and effective percentile system. The layout of the book is very well done and the huge amount of information, background and options are well presented. There is a great amount of choice for players between the races, classes, and careers available, as well as a solid leveling up system. Games Masters will have to expand with a dedicated guide later on as the core rulebook only touches briefly on the role, so players looking to Games Master for the first time should look towards the Beginners Kit (available soon) before expanding into the full rulebook. This isn't a major criticism though, but it is worth noting. The Core Rulebook does exactly what it needs to, which is provide a solid core from which to adventure in the world of Warhammer.
Get this game if:
You want to roleplay in the worlds of Warhammer.
You want a realistic leveling up system.
You loved earlier editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
Avoid this game if:
You're new to roleplaying or Games Mastering, start with the Beginners Pack that's planned soon and build up to this.
You want a Sci-Fi setting.
This copy of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition was reviewed on PDF and was provided by Cubicle 7.
Have you played any of the previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay? Which was your favorite and why? What do you think about the latest edition and where Cubicle 7 are taking it? Let us know in the comments below.