I really like WFRP 3rd, but it had some major flaws. The overall concepts were great, but the execution was often sub-optimal.
- I love the narrative dice, and the non-binary results... but I felt I could never get their full potential out of them (and have had better luck with them when running rules-light spin-offs instead of the game itself). I feel that most of the cards give such small bonuses for most results that it leaves the GM very little room to improvise. If you interpret random left-over symbols on the rolls, your improvisations risk invalidating most of the printed Actions and Talents.
- It also feels like there's too many symbols on the dice. Boon/Bane/Success/Failure would have sufficed, but we got those plus Comet/Star/Exertion/Delay. Those last four weren't truly necessary and the game would have been stronger without them.
- I like the idea of Reckless vs Conservative stance... but the benefits don't outweigh the clunky rules baggage. The difference between Reckless and Cautious makes sense, but transitioning from 2 deep to 3 deep in your current stance is jarringly gamist and hard to role-play or envision. "You know how I was really reckless and crazy last turn? Well now I'm officially 50% more reckless!" The fights are too short, and the benefits of stance depth are too minimal, to justify building your character around the mechanic. Yet it's too integral (built into every Action and Career) to cut it out of the game without suffering a million little ripple effects.
- I love having cards to reference with all my powers so I don't have to flip through rulebooks during play... but in practice, the large numbers of cards and tokens laying everywhere make a huge mess on even the largest table. The lack of a good summary or analysis anywhere makes it hard to pick out cards during character creation and encounter design, so whatever you time saved at the table is merely shifted to pre-game prep sessions. Still over all a savings (because during play is when time matters most), but it's not what it could be if it were better indexed.
- I like the idea of real-world careers, for the gritty realism they bring to the setting... but find it hard to suspend my disbelief during most actual career transitions. You can choose Knight without ever doing anything worthy of being Knighted. Rat-Catcher today, Noble Lord tomorrow, all without the slightest nod towards storyline justification. Even when voluntarily restricting yourself to more sensible choices, the climb from raw Initiate to High Priest is usually accomplished in less than a month of in-character time.
- And as much as GM's love the idea of gritty careers, I find most players want to be knights, wizards, and other combat-oriented D&D staples, rather than starting as Warhammer's default "dregs of the Empire".
- I like that the critical hit, miscast, insanity and similar decks can be customized and updated on the fly to set the difficulty and tone of your campaign... but the game failed to ever take advantage of that flexibility and instead encouraged a shotgun approach where you just blindly throw in every card they made. The GM's guide really should have had some discussion of this, with custom decklists for various play styles.
- I hate:
- the contradictory and confusing healing rules;
- the non-obvious high-lethality of every single disease, and the uselessness of the medicines that give bonuses only after your 4th day of save-or-die treatment;
- the opaque economic system and all those damn haggling and availability checks;
- the sad fact that being on horseback is a major disadvantage for your Knight;
- the advancement loopholes that allow you to career-swap for infinite Fortune dice;
- the prohibitively high monetary barriers associated with Runesmithing;
- the Rank One blessings of Verena and Ranald that break every single mystery-dependent plotline in the published adventures;
- and a few dozen other smaller rules-holes that should have all been caught and fixed if anything got playtested for more than a single session.
The press release about the end of WFRP3e makes a cryptic hint that maybe a 4th Edition is in the works... but FFG has sat on the license with releasing anything over a year, and had slowed the release schedule to a crawl in the year before that, so they may very well continue to hold the license hostage without releasing anything. That sounds silly, but it may be that the WFRP license comes tied to the more profitable WH40K license, and thus worth them sitting on it.
It's a shame, because there's so much of the setting that could use sourcebooks (for 3rd, 1st/2nd, or a new edition). I'd love to see sourcebooks for any of the three types of Elves, or the Norscans, the Chaos Dwarves, Tilea and Estalia, the Ogre Kingdoms, etc.
Even if someone picks up the license (or FFG is hard at work on 4th Ed), it'll be years before we see such books in print. First some publisher would have to:
- 1) Pick up the license.
- 2) Design and release a new main book, or reprint (and possibly update) the core book of a previous edition
- 3) Write and release a new adventure to help ease new GMs into the setting and system. (Even if you were just reprinting a previous edition, you'd almost certainly put out a new adventure because it's an easy add-on sale and shows you're serious about reviving the product line.)
- 4) Produce and release the minimum sourcebooks necessary to just play the default Empire-centric setting.
- So I'd guess at a minimum a magic sourcebook plus a religion sourcebook, and maybe some sort of GM's supplement or bestiary.
- 4 to 6 products published in total, counting the corebook and initial adventure, before they get around to exploring new territory.
- 5) Sell enough copies of those 4 to 6 products to justify continuing work on new titles. This will take time, and for best results they'll be released about 1 per month.
- 6) Decide entirely new content is a better investment of time and energy than merely rehashing old stuff initially covered in existing books from previous editions. In other words, choose to do things the hard way instead of just cashing in on the existing body of previous work.
- 7) Get GW's approval on their manuscripts, which may be tricky if GW is (as has been rumored for months) rebooting the miniatures setting soon.
If instead we splinter into further little angry sub-groups like the fanbase mostly did when 3rd ed came out, the new game (if there is one) won't survive long enough to explore new ground. I don't have a lot of hope here. I've been to the Strike-To-Stun forums, and they are not a friendly place to fans of 3rd Ed.
It's not impossible that FFG could be secretly working on a 4th Ed to be announced at GenCon. That would be the fastest track to us getting actual new content. If they are being that secretive about it, though, I'll be worried about whether or not it got enough playtest before publication. I love 3rd Ed, but as I said, it really needed a more thorough blind playtesting than it got.
If FFG is not secretly at work on a new edition as we speak, then the next best hope for new content would be if a new licensee was to launch a Kickstarter (etc) to gather up tons of fan money and not release the mechanics (since they'll likely be unappealing to at least 1/2 the possible fanbase either way) until after the money is in their hands. I don't know if GW would let them do that, but if they did, a successful crowd-funding might actually free up budget early on for exploring new corners of the setting. Even then, most Kickstarters take forever to deliver their product. I wouldn't hold your breath.