Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In Retrospect: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, First Edition

By the mid-1990s, I was aware of the multitude of RPGs out there besides D&D. When the reprint of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay appeared on the shelves in 1995 or so, I picked it up. I liked the Warhammer Fantasy world. Sometime earlier I got a taste of it through Warhammer Quest, and of course, I had been playing in a very watered down version of it with HeroQuest for years. The Warhammer World was darker than the AD&D Second Edition material coming out at the time. I had no interest in playing wargame, but I wanted to a least check out the full fledged RPG.

We never did play it. Too much other stuff going on--AD&D 2e, Middle Earth Role Playing, Star Wars  by West End Games. And, although I took a good long look at it, it seemed too much like just another fantasy RPG system out there. I already had AD&D 2e, and didn't want to master yet another system. Still, I did like the idea of careers, instead of more general "classes." I heard later than many of these careers were unbalanced, but I didn't know.

For me, the best parts of the book are in the back, with all of the fluff about the Old World. Here you have full descriptions of the Empire, Tilea, Kislev, Bretonnia, and so on. At the time, I rolled my eyes and their unoriginality, yet now I take different stance: this made it easier for players to understand the setting, as opposed to making up new cultures and countries out of whole cloth. I think, and I could be wrong, this was one of the last Warhammer Books to include the history and description of the entire Old World, not just parts of it. So, for this reason, this book remains a treasure.

It also has a section on Fimirs! Remember Fimirs? Those one-eyed reptile-men from HeroQuest? They seemed like such an oddity. Apparently, they were too odd; they didn't show up in later books or supplements as far as I know. The certainly didn't make into the WFRP 2e. Maybe Games Workshop remove the Fimir to make the world more appealing to the status quo. After all, Fimirs replenished their numbers by raping women, their offspring were always full blooded Fimirs. So yeah, I can see what that got dropped. It their example of the half-orc, I guess. The strange reptilian centauroid Zoats are gone now too.

The First Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a treasure. It took me years understand why--I'd even sold my copy in the early 2000s, only to buy another one a couple years ago, used. It's a relic from a time when other companies were giving TSR a run for their money. I think, if WFRP had been marketed well, it could have come out on top. Many were looking for something different to play. But Games Workshop at the time didn't support their RPGs well. Still don't (just look up the fiasco about Dark Heresy as an example).

I doubt I'll ever play it. But I keep it around because it has a great summary of the History of the Old World toward the back.


  1. 1e Warhammer Fantasy RP was the only fantasy game in which I was regularly a player rather than a GM, and I used to love it. In addition to home-brewed adventures, our GM ran us through Shadows over Bogenhaufen and portions of Something Rotten in Kislev. In addition to an excellent setting, mechanically WHFRP did a lot right: hit locations, crippling injuries, armor soaking damage, magic points, and more. PC turnover could be a little harsh and the game was often out of the "balance" so dear to the hearts of modern d&d players, so you had to know when to run. I distinctly remember getting tpked by a zoat. If I were to play again, I would prefer to go with 2e instead of 1e, though I've never gotten an opportunity to play it.

  2. I have most of the books for WFRP 2e. I ran it back in 2006 or so, but for Domikka. It was a welcome break from D&D 3.5e. Look forward to a retrospective/review of it in the future.


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