Sunday 16 December 2018

WFRP4e First Impressions

I have never been scared shitless
by a basilisk - until now...
We finished our first Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition session today, and it was a blast! I might be a bit more biased than usual though, since it was one of those very rare cases when I wasn't GMing: a friend of mine offered in September to start a campaign, and needless to say I couldn't say no. It took some time to get it going, but here we are! The following is by no way a review, just some hastily witten notes after our first session. For those unfamiliar with WFRP some of it might even sound gibberish.

We played If Looks Could Kill, Cubicle 7's first (free) adventure for the system. Our party of three consisted of a human hexer, a human thief-taker, and a high elf apprentice wizard, who were tasked with escorting materials to a mill's construction site, and digging up some rocks the strygani workers weren't willing to. There was no time wasted on preludes: after a short introduction we were shipwrecked, trying to save an old strigany hag from a giant carp, deciphering ogham stones, digging up an ancient fimir sarcophagi, investigating a murder mystery, searching for a lost suspect, and hunting for the fearsome monster of the nearby swamp. And all of these somehow managed to fit into a four hour session. I'm not allowed to read the module yet, but as a player I liked it a lot: it seemed to be an open-ended mini-sandbox with lot of flexibility and some unexpected twists. The module also deserves a huge thumbs up for not having any beastmen, cultists, or skaven in it.

"Are there any pictograms on the bottom of the monolith?"
"He found thousand years old Dharfield comic strips."
I expected the first session to be rough, but except for a few hiccups everything went smooth. We had lots skill tests, a few short battles, two casters throwing spells, and even a chase scene. Having better starting skill values and more forgiving difficulty bonuses meant the beginner characters felt more competent than in WFRP1e or WFRP2e, but not by too much.

Combat felt more tense than in WFRP1e or WFRP2e. While there are no longer exploding damage dice the average +4 damage boost each weapon received, and the chance to land a critical on every strike more than compensates for that. My character's first wound was kind of shocking: half my wounds were gone, and it wasn't even a good roll! I felt a constant pressure after that to be more tactical.

The most welcome change in combat though is turning attacks and parries into contested rolls. You compare the success levels of both rolls (the skill value's tens minus your roll's tens), and whoever has the highest wins. If it's the attacker, the difference becomes the base of the damage. This is an elegant solution that abolishes both the whiff factor of earlier editions, and the need for rolling a damage dice. No matter how bad the contesting combatants roll, someone always wins the test, and earns advantage. 

"If ye call me a witch again I'm gonna fucken curse ye!"
Advantage was one of the most controversial innovations of fourth edition, and honestly, we didn't have any issue with it. For those yet unfamiliar with the game: each successive roll in combat earns you one advantage, which grants you a cumulative +10% on your next roll, but in certain combat situations, or whenever you fail, you lose it all. Managing your foe's or your own advantage is important, and  adds a new layer of depth to WFRP combat.

Magic at first glance felt lackluster, but in practice the petty magic spells so far were damn fine. Both of our casters had some defining moments with their petty spells that saved the day. I have still doubts about the potency of divine magic, channeling eating multiple rounds, and the seemingly low severity of miscasts. I hope my fears will be proven wrong soon.

Overall I'm satisfied with Cubicle 7's new WFRP so far. I was excited for this new edition, but I did have my doubts - many of which ceased after the first session. We've only got our feet wet though! Once I have more experience expect a comprehensive review. Until then, I will have to find a miniature for my bounty hunter, Heinrich Adolph Lundgren. We already have one for the witch, at least.

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