zaterdag 8 juni 2013


The first edition warhammer rules provide us with but 2 classes, Fighter and Wizard, and in many ways the Warhammer fantasy battle system has always been about those two classes and its variants.
In fact, the skill system of Firsthammer provides some additional flavours to both classes, as certain skills would make your character also a ranger (trapper, tracker, woodsman), bard (Actor, Minstral) or rogue (pickpocket, conman, transvestite).
The few related publications of WD and a few miniature boxed sets also provide us with the idea that a Wizard may be role-played as priest (Thistlewood Scenario, WD45) and Fighters as Thieves (Thistlewood, Dorian Redhorn & the Lizard King -lizardmen boxed set, Watch Out There's a Thief about -WD51). But aside from the “ Watch Out There's a Thief about” article, both the cleric class and thief class can be viewed as a role-played variant of the wizard and fighter class respectively.
In many ways, this is fine. It requires some creativity of the players and GM, but one can easily figure out that an Avarice aligned Fighter or Wizard with the Pickpocket and/or Conman skill(s) can be role-played as Rogue more than Fighter or Wizard, or a player may decide his Good Aligned Wizard is actually a priest of some religion, rather than a student of the arcane... But how would the Firsthammer skills come in to play for Clerics? Well, a wizard with the sailor skill might be a priest to a Sea God, a wizard with the Trader skill might have turned his back on his previous profession of greed to tend to the needs of the soul. Smart players and GM's can work something out.
In the 2nd edition scenario pack Bloodbath at Orc's Drift, we are presented with another kind of thief-type character, the Half-Orc spy and also a (drunken) Druid.
Let's take a deeper look at how these other classes are handled in Oldhammer scenario's and articles.

WD 45: Thistlewood, Meet the Oldhammer Cleric and Warhammer's first Thief
Thistlewood is the first White Dwarf published scenario for Warhammer, and provides us with the First Cleric: Bishop Milendon, and the first Thief: Foro Malas (NPC).
Bishop Milendon is what one might call a 'themed character', a Mastery 4 wizard whose spells are chosen based on what the scenario designer found fitting for a cleric. Such as they are: Cure Light injury, Blessing, gift of tongues, flight, aura of mighty resistance, Telepathy, aura of steadfastness, hold door, mystic mists, aura of invisibility, banish undead, invisibility, inspiration and wall shaker. He has some religiously themed trappings in the form of a silver crucifix and the Mace of the White Lord (magic weapon, +2 to hit and kill) and has a heroic characteristics profile. A bad-ass character this, though he lacks armour (may be remedied by spells). Also, he is unaffected by Fear and Terror.
The Cleric as “themed wizard” has remained a staple for WFB scenario writers throughout editions to handle priests, and there are a few WD and Citadel Journal scenario's were Priests are featured as wizards using particular spells or lores. For example, the priest of Taal in the 5th/6th edition versions of the Maisontaal Abbey scenario is treated as Level 2 or 3 wizard with the Amber/Beast lore of magic. I think this is also influenced by 1st edition WFRP, where most priests use, with some restrictions, the basic magic types, rather than having special priest spells although Druids get their own lore of Druidic magic.
So, being a Cleric in Firsthammer is an option for players, but mainly as character background and theme than a mechanical decision like in D&D.

Bishop Milendon is pursuing a thief named Foro Malas, who is in fact, a Fighter with Move 5 (rather than 4 as normal for humans), WS, BS and I of 8, 2 wounds and 1 attack. His equipment is a light crossbow and a curved dagger, nothing else. Also, no mention is made of any thieving skills, only that he managed to make off with a relic of the Bishop's temple.
In any case, one must house-rule firsthammer thievery anyway, so why not base it around initiative tests to accomplish certain tasks, or just have player ingenuity decide things with ad hoc GM rulings when special situations pop up?

Lizardmen Boxed set: Dorian Redhorn
Dorian Redhorn is another “themed” character, nothing in his characteristics clearly mark him out as thief (he's just a basic hero more or less), but his choice of magic items in the scenario he stars in have definitely a roguish, thieving-based theme.

WD51: Watch out, there's a Thief about, WFRP design notes
This article in WD 51 gives a set of tables and skills to generate Thieves in Warhammer games, pre-WFRP, and is in fact, presented as a sneak peek of the 'forthcoming WFRP rules'. The rules are said to have been play-tested, but I can't imagine them to be “balanced” for a role playing campaign as presented in Volume 3 of the white box. The reason I think so is because of the random characteristic bonuses granted to (starting) thieves of various kinds. Using these rules, it is entirely possible to start your thief character with Weapon Skill or Bow Skill 10!
The presented Thieves' Skills are well conceived though, and most of them were kept with little modification for the 1st edition of WFRP, so if you're interested in the history of that system, WD51 is well worth checking out.
For 1sthammer role-play, the article is a mixed bag, the rules for generating thieves are not based on the character generation rules of 1st edition and unbalanced when combined with the volume 3 system. However, the article does finally give detailed rules for the Pickpocket skill and offers some rules for actions that could come up in an adventure but are not covered in 1st ed. Vol.3 and some new weapons. It's value to me thus lies in the rules provided for bluffing, blathering, grapnels, pistols, throwing knives, bombs, lock-picking, jumping, spotting (traps) and picking pockets.

Bloodbath at Orc's Drift: Lock-picking, sneak-attacking half orc spies ...and also: Druids
This scenario pack was written for 2nd edition, but I include it here because it presents two interesting character classes not found elsewhere in WFB material: the Spy and the Druid.

The spy is a Half-orc with some characteristic advances, among others a +6 to initiative (Initiative 9)! Also he can pick the lock of his prison on a 3+ (d6) and back-stab an enemy on a 3+ (d6) as well. The back-stab allows the spy to strike a blow against an enemy he attacks in the rear without the enemy being able to strike back at the spy for that turn. Elegant way to handle that rule in a Warhammer battle if you ask me.
These special rules could be used in a rules-light RPG variant of WFB. I'd probably make it a variant on Wizard Levels: the spy starts with one level each in lock-pick and back-stab, succeeding in such actions when he rolls a 6 on a d6. Advancing the skills would give a +1 to the roll, up to a maximum ability of 3+ on a d6 (level 4). lock picking tools would give a +1 bonus to lock-picking, while lock quality should also modify the required score, though a 1 should always count as failed attempt.
As pickpocket is already a skill available to all characters, and 1st edition characteristic advancement is generally uniform (though with wizards needing more XP to advance fighting stats), one only has to decide at which experience levels these two skills can be advanced. Alternatively, one might make an alternative advancement table for thieves that sets them apart from fighters. Maybe by offering advances to wounds and attacks at later levels than the fighter.

Bloodbath also gives us rules for a Druid, Snart, again a modified wizard, who may have some newly designed spells one would later find among the druid spells in WFRP. He is restricted in his magic and his spell allocation rules differ from the standard rules, giving him access to battle magic spells up to level 2 and elementalist spells up to level 4, though he may only have one spell of each lore per level available (so max. 6 spells in total). He may exchange elementalist spells for the special druid spells.
Snart is, as far as I know, the only Priest-type character in pre-6th edition WFB to have actual special rules based on his profession, and it poses interesting idea's for having a Priest class in 2nd/3d editon WFB role-playing scenario's.

Edition 3+ Specialist troops
In 3d edition, Warhammer had moved into wargaming territory by and large, relegating roleplaying adventures to its sister game WFRP. This edition did feature various specialist troop-types such as berserkers and foresters, but also assassins. Many specialist troops could be regarded as ranger variants (animal handlers, foresters, skirmishers, missile elites) or fighters (Berserkers, Flagellants, shock elites). The assassin rules basically give a character figure the ability to 'Hide in crowds' (i.e. a warhammer regiment) and perform a sneak attack. That's all there is to it. Would I try to RPG with the 3d edition rules, this would need some work, or should be substituted for the rules of Bloodbath's Half-orc Spy. Third edition does in some ways provide a class and level system with the elite-troops and hero levels rules, though does not provide campaign-play advice, though one might look to the later Realms of Chaos supplements for inspiration on XP rewards (favour points in RoC) and experience thresholds for advances. WH40K:RT is another source for a simple XP system. A player character could start as a +1 Shock Elite (fighter level 1) and progress through the Shock Elite upgrades to 5 hero and beyond with 25 hero as the final level.

So, thieves and clerics in WFB scenario's are more or less, characters with a particular background or theme, in rare cases provided with special rules (Bloodbath at Orc's Drift), defined rules for these character-types eventually appearing in WFRP, which, despite it's obvious links to the wargame, is quite a different rules system. What would you prefer in an Oldhammer role-play variant as I envision it? Background flavour and player preferences or actual (house) rules?
The WD51 rules for Thieves are in my eyes, unbalanced if combined with the roleplaying rules of 1st. ed. Vol.3, though gives some good idea's on skill use and handling RPG actions such as jumping gaps and looking for traps.

donderdag 6 juni 2013


The role playing rules of Firsthammer include only two character classes, if one could name them as such: The Fighter and the Wizard. Other classes are often a 'flavour' of one of these two, determined by what skills a character has. In fact, to this day, there are but two main classes in Warhammer: the Fighter and the Wizard*

The Fighter
In essence, all Firsthammer Player Characters are generated as fighters, it is the default “class”, and it is entirely possible that a wizard Player Character starts out more proficient in combat than a Fighter! The Fighter does advance faster in the fighting skills department though, so would eventually catch up to the “master swordsman magician” should he survive enough adventures.
The distinction between swordsmen and archers is a tactical choice for all players, and I think that those who want to be wizards would choose archer over swordsman.

So, your character is always a fighter first, in this hybrid system of RPG and table-top wargame, and you have the option to become a wizard at character creation provided your Intelligence score is high enough (5+). The only advantages you have as fighter over the wizard is that you get physically stronger faster and have the simple role of hitting things. Oh, and you don't have to make the tough decision between wearing armour or not, as wizards may wear armour too but get penalties to casting spells when doing so.

The Role Playing rules of Firsthammer, being summary as they are, do not include a lot of guidelines on high level play and character (class)-goals like in D&D, but FoF. Vol.2 gives an insight in what the advancement goals of characters may be from the Hero Generation rules:
  • Finding a magic weapon
  • Getting some miscellaneous magical equipment
  • attracting followers, both humanoid and non-humanoid
  • finding and taming a Fantastic Mount.

i.e. these are things a randomly generated hero might have, and thus should conceivably be obtainable by Fighter player characters. Magic weapons and items could obviously be found in dungeons, and humanoid followers are available as hirelings. The non-humanoid “creature” followers pose more of a problem, how to handle these? A character might need an “Erberard's Leash”, a binding spell or come across a puppy of the creature and raise/train it as pet. More involving stuff. Fantastic Mounts include warhorses and horse-sized riding animals. While (war)horses are relatively easy to obtain, the more fantastic mounts such as riding reptiles, griffins, manticores etc. are more difficult to get... I noticed Centaur to also be an option as mount, which would obviously require the deep trust and friendship of such a creature (but, hey, that would be awesome!).

The Wizard
Being a Wizard in Firsthammer is a player's option provided his Character's intelligence is 5 or higher. By becoming a wizard you get the ability to sense magic in items, discover if there are people using magic nearby and of course the ability to cast spells. Your advancement focusses on the arcane arts, so physical attributes (fighting characteristics) advance at a slower rate than fighters, making you comparatively fragile at higher levels. Even so, the survivability of a wizard is not that much worse than that of a fighter if compared to D&D, mainly because the combat system is a wargame and handles 'hit points' differently. Up to experience level 500 (points), fighters and wizards have an equal amount of wounds, the fighter's advantage lying in his faster fighting skill advancement, which does contribute to survivability. It is even possible for a wizard to have a head start on a fighter concerning the fighting characteristics, though the fighter is bound to catch up and gain the lead eventually.
That being said, the Wizard is very resource management intensive as a character type. Your ability to cast spells is restricted by your constitution points and access to spell ingredients (philtres, amulets, talismans and staffs) and most ingredients are not easy to acquire. Thus, a wizard who has run out of constitution or ingredients is relegated to being a fighter who advances his fighting skills rather slowly. The magic system does give wizards a strong incentive to go out into the world on adventures to get the all important resources and ingredients required for many spells. Most of these can only be found in dungeons, lairs, other wizard's towers etc. And while they do turn op in random treasure tables (both in WTMCRPG vol.3 and FoF. Vol.3), a GM should take some care that wizard players have some opportunities to renew their resources or get those spell-ingredients, such as talismans, that are not expended while casting spells.

For “character goals” based on FoF Vol.2's chapter on heroes and wizards, the wizard has a few additional objectives, namely getting a (special) staff and spell ingredients/talismans. The random wizards generated using those rules acquire followers and mounts at later “levels” than heroes, and get fewer followers to boot, but includes the possibility of having apprentices (level 1 wizards) and lesser heroes among them.

Firsthammer RPG offers two “character classes”, Fighter and Wizard (actually: Fighter/Mage). The choice between both being largely a matter of personal preference. If you like resource management and arcane arts, go wizard. The fighter is in essence your average hack and slash guy.

*though, the addition of warrior/liche priests, assassins and scouts provide additional 'classes' to some races, these are generally just a variation on either of the two main classes.

maandag 3 juni 2013

Long time no blog

Hi guys!

It's been a while since I blogged, for real life got in the way for a bit (or, rather, took it's rightful place in my schedule!). I have reacquired an interest in RPG-reading again recently and I'm planning to come up with a few things:

1. A roleplaying game variant of the WFB2/3 rules. i.e. same stats, same phases, same resulotion mechanics, but with character creation, a class and experience system and price list. supposed to be short and rules-light. a hybrid of Warhammer Quest, Advanced Hero Quest, WFB 1st edition, WH40K:RT and WFB 3d edition

2. a smallish campaign-setting in some dung-age borderlands region (15x15 squares on 1cm gridpaper, 1 square is 10 miles/km) which should be slightly gonzo by the inclusion of Amazon-guarded ruins of the Old-Slann where some 40K gear can be obtained... and a (if I get it right) simple mechanic to have some dynamic elements in the region in the form of roving Chaos Champions (using realms of chaos).

3. Get some mates together to play adventurehammer (still not done that, talked about it though).

One thing that always kept me from finishing my WQAHQWFB40KRT hybrid was that I just couldn't come up with an effective random character generation system and was unsure about skills and special abilities. You know, if I'd just keep to the simplistic rules of WH40K:RT it could all be fun at first, but start to become stale by the 5th or so session, where characters have advanced to champion level, and psychic/magic aside there is little to diversify races/warriors. I also wanted to step away from the "humans of different flavours and sizes" that are the WHFB humanoids. Elves and Dwarves should be alien (Middenmurk has some very cool idea's on this, though D&D based), especially the Elves, and guess what, there are a few things in 3d edition WFB that can make elves more like the mythical folkloristic spirit beings they are inspired on: shapechangers, inflicters of pain and disease, etc. etc.
My plan is for humans to be rather mundane, with a very small chance of knowing actual magic, but having access to trainable skills, knowledge (alchemy) and abilities, and maybe some religious quirks/rites/madness/depravities  while elves and dwarves have the options of supernatural or plainly weird powers and abilities. Some based on spells or magic item properties, others being "trainable" or slightly natural.

then again, I hope I find the time between recording an album, getting a new job and learning how to drive a car :P