Monday, July 22, 2013

What's Actually "New" in the WFRP Player's Guide?

When the WFRP Player's Guide was released, I purposefully chose not to buy it. FFG was a little unclear about how much new content there was in it, making conflicting statements of "there's better examples, integrated errata, and new GMing advice so everyone should get a copy" at the same time as they said "this is NOT a 3.5 edition or a money-grab, and existing groups won't be missing out on anything critical if they pass on this." (Those are not exact quotes, just paraphrases.) Since the errata was already in a free FAQ, which then got updated to include all the new typos and misprints in the Player's Guide, I figured that I really didn't need it. I was running one-shots of the game a couple times a year, so $50 for a mostly reprinted book wasn't worth it.

Fast forward to this spring, when I started an actual campaign. A couple of my players picked up the PDF version of the Player's Guide to help them learn the rules and plan out their XP spends. It only took a couple weeks for it to become really obvious that the rules they were reading and referencing where functionally different from the rules I was using at the table. Grumbling all the way to the game store, I picked up a copy for myself to get us back on the same page. At first glance, it didn't seem that different. I felt like I dropped $50 for 6 paragraphs of new information. They were critical paragraphs that I felt I needed, but they seemed to be the most overpriced paragraphs I'd ever bought. I was bitter and resentful at first.

As the weeks wore on, however, I discovered plenty of new little gems and variations hidden inside those covers. Last week I set it and the other rulebooks down side-by-side, and made notes on what was new or different. I'm now really glad I bought the book.

I figure I can't be the only WFRP player or GM that felt reluctant to pick up that book. For those of you out there trying to decide if the Player's Guide is worth the $50 on top of the $100 core set, I'm including below a chapter-by-chapter break down of what's new or different in the Guide.

Extremely trivial changes (such as indexes and page references, bolding or italicization, or non-functional minor typo fixes) will not be documented here. There's hundreds of little tiny changes like that.

New rules or useful content will be listed, but for the most part summarized instead of detailed. The point is to let you know what's new and whether or not you want to buy the book (and to draw your attention to the things that have changed) not to spoil all the details so you don't have to buy it.

EDIT: Really important stuff will now be in bold to make it easier to find the things that functionally alter game play.

Physical Differences:
  • Durable hardcover. If you loaned this to a player for the week, you'd expect to get it back in one piece, unlike the fragile little paperback booklets that come in the various box sets.
  • Book, not bits. Some folks would prefer a more traditional roleplaying experience where you look things up in books, take notes on paper and roll on charts instead of having cards and tokens to track the mechanics. If that's a big deal to you, the Player's Guide will be very helpful.
  • The Table of Contents reveals that this product offers the original 10 chapters from the core set main rulebook, plus 2 new chapters and 2 chapters originally from other books, plus 9 appendices of card stats.
  • The first 16 pages are mostly a reprint of the intro to the core rules. 
  • pg 6-7: New example of play. Nice, but not terribly useful.
  • pg 6: "WFRP Lite" Sidebar briefly discusses play without the bits, which also gets its' own chapter later.  
  • Disease & Mutation cards, and Corruption tokens are shown off in passing. Their brief descriptions are taken from the Signs of Faith and Winds of Magic supplements.
  • pg 15: "Expanding the Adventure" sidebar is basically an advertisement.
  • pg 16: An amusing bit of in-character fluff, in the form of a letter from one cultist to another.

Chapter One: Characteristics & Abilities
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook.
  • pg 18: Corruption Threshold explanation taken from Winds of Magic.
  • pg 18: Fortune Point info is reworded for clarity, but most groups were probably already interpreting it correctly.
  • pg 20: There's a sidebar about what sort of things do and don't gain you Fortune Points. This is new, as far as I can tell, and it makes explicit something that's only vaguely implied in the core set. Fortune Points are not just a reward for good roleplaying and contributing to the fun, they are also intended as rewards for advancing the plot, gathering clues and defeating foes. That's huge!
  • pg 21: New recommended specialization for the Animal Handling skill.
  • pg 21: Sidebar about Dodge, Parry and Block. If you've read the FAQ you already have this info.
  • pg 22-23: Changed recommended specializations for the Invokation and Piety skills, to properly distinguish them from one another.
  • pg 24: Tradecraft skill gets a little more explanatory info. 
  • pg 24: No change to the Weapon Skill specializations, they still don't match the list in the Equipment chapter. That's silly.
  • pg 26: New rules about decreasing Party Tension. It's officially never bad.
  • pg 26: New rules about the Party Card. Nothing terribly major, but worth reading and knowing about.
  • pg 27: An amusing bit of in-character fluff, in the form of a political communique.

Chapter Two: Player Character Races
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook.
  • Corruption Thresholds are listed for all races. This info is drawn from Winds of Magic.

Chapter Three: Character Creation
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook.
  • pg 34: Clarification that creation points are not interchangeable with XP or Advances.
  • pg 37: Clarifies you can spend money at creation, but that the GM must approve or veto each purchase.
  • pg 37: Optional rule linking starting wealth to social tier.
  • pg 38: Clarifies Wizard & Priests Order or Faith cards are free, but other unusual slots (namely the Zealot's insanity) cost Talents.
  • pg 39: Sidebar clarifies that Priests don't get all the free skills that wizards do, and usually not nearly as many free actions, either. Technically, this info can be inferred in the core set, but it's never really stated as clearly as it is here in the Player's Guide.
  • pg 40: Helpful instructions on calculating Thresholds, Soak, and Defense. Useful for new players.
Chapter Four: Experience & Advancement
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook. There's a lot of technically new content, but most of it can already be found online in the free FAQ document for the game.
  • pg 43: Clarification on Fixed Advances.
  • pg 43: Clarification on Skill Training per Rank. 
  • pg 45: Clarification on Open Advances.
  • pg 45: Clarification / New Rule on Characteristic Maximums.
  • pg 46: New rule that Career Dedication costs 1 XP.
  • pg 47: New rule that Specialist keyword is never compatible during career transition.
  • pg 47: Clarification on when you can take Advanced Careers.
  • pg 47: Clarifies that Career Transition may alter your Default Stance.
  • pg 47: New Optional Rule: Minimum Career Duration is 4 advances, so human characters can't cherrypick careers for key Advances. This is huge, and not in the FAQ.
  • pg 47: "Careers as Story Aids" sidebar. Talks about reskinning careers to fit the story and character concepts. This is cool, but also kinda weird.

Chapter Five: Playing The Game
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook. A couple  errors (in the core set version of the text) with unfortunate implications have been deleted or fixed in this version.
  • pg 49: Clarification that dice are also used in Story Mode. 
  • pg 51-52: Clarifications (bordering on "new rule" territory) about difficulty levels. As it turns out, "Average (2d) difficulty" is poorly named. The default difficulty of just about everything is intended to be less than that. The impact of this clarification is really potent and dramatic. It completely changes the tone of the game in the direction of greater levels of PC competency and heroism.
  • pg 52: Acknowledges that Opposed Checks intentionally favor the active player. This is the reward for being proactive and advancing the plot.
  • pg 52: Clarification about the impact of the target's skills on an Opposed Roll.
  • pg 53: The GM is specifically empowered to narrate spontaneous "worst case scenarios" whenever Chaos Stars are rolled.
  • pg 54: The GM can limit or disallow use of the Assist manoeuvre as befits the situation.
  • pg 54: Suggestions for ways to interpret a multi-success roll when the player is not using an action card.
  • pg 55: Optional rules for "Freestyle" Boons, Banes, Comets and Chaos Stars. This section really empowers the GM to interpret the heck out of the dice. It transforms the more mechanistic "board-gamey" tactical elements of the game into a free-wheelin' improvisational story game. It puts a ton of power into the GM's hands, and even gives the players a bit of that power when they roll excess boons.
  • pg 58: Deleted a confusing statement in the original text about race influencing stance, which it doesn't.
  • pg 59-60: Great examples of the more flexible interpretation of dice pools as presented in this chapter.
  • pg 60: An amusing bit of in-character fluff about Fortune Tellers, the Celestial College, and Doomsayers of Morr... which culminates in a joke about the weird dice.

Chapter Six: Actions & Manoeuvres
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook.
  • pg 63: Sidebar about how Traits on cards aren't intended as purchasing restrictions, but could totally be used as such if that makes the GM happy.
  • pg 64: Miscellaneous clarifications about defenses and reactions.
  • pg 65: The new sidebar on the phrasing of things on action cards is probably really useful for new players.
  • pg 65: Clarification that you cannot assist yourself.
  • pg 65: Clarification (new rule, technically, but it's clearly what was originally intended) that you can spend a manoeuvre to change a talent on your followers (such as the ratcatcher's dog).
  • pg 66: "Action vs Manoeuvre" sidebar clarifies when a skill check should or shouldn't consume your entire turn.
  • pg 66: A formerly-optional rule from the GM's Toolkit supplement about NPC Aggression and Fatigue is here reprinted as an official core rule.
  • pg 66-67: Clarifications, advice on, and better examples of movement.
  • pg 67: New rule about the transitive property of engagements, and another about the GM's power to break engagements into smaller ones if they get too large.
  • pg 68: Sidebar about Perform A Stunt. Worth a quick read.

Chapter Seven: Modes of Play
This chapter has a fair amount of new content, plus a good chunk of mildly revised content from the combat section of the core set rulebook, plus some content that's paraphrased from the GM's Toolkit.
  • The reprinted material here is useful in that it's been mostly cleaned of it's combat-relevant wordage. There's some redundancy between this chapter and the next one, but it gives you your option of reading it with or without the baggage of the initiative, combat and damage systems.
  • pg 70-71: Better definitions of Story Mode vs Encounter Mode. Provides guidance for handling stance, recharge, turn length, and equilibrium in Story Mode. Very helpful material.
  • pg 71: The "Get On With It!" sidebar actually says that if the players try to abuse the timing and recharge rules between encounters (such as to spam-heal) the GM should have orcs kick in the door and attack them.
  • pg 71-72: Good example of Story Mode in play, and GM improv.
  • pg 73: New rules and clarifications on initiative rolls for NPCs and PCs. Rules cover stance dice, boons and banes, and other issues pertaining to initiative.
  • pg 73: Explicit statement that round and turn length is variable and cinematic, not a simulation of a precise amount of time.
  • pg 75: Guidance on adding additional participants in the middle of a fight.
  • pg 75: New precedent for resolving multiple effects at once (such as multiple triggers that happen "at the start of your next turn").
  • pg 75: New rule: You cannot manoeuvre yourself to KO, the last manoeuvre is cancelled instead.
  • pg 76: Clarifications on when you chose the targets of a multi-target action.
  • pg 76: Clarifications on the difficulty of action cards, and also specifically which ones Defense applies to.
  • pg 76: Read the "Common Sense Restrictions to Targeting" sidebar, which is mostly about Line of Sight and adjusting difficulty on the fly. It may be common sense, but it's critical.
  • pg 79: The info on this page about the 3-Act structure and Rally Steps is basically a summary of a chapter from the Tome of Adventure, but this section smartly puts that data in the player's hands (which is exactly where it belongs).

Chapter Eight: Combat, Damage & Healing
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook. Some of it is somewhat redundant following the previous chapter of the Guide, but still useful because of being reworded to include all the details of combat and damage.
  • pg 81: Clarifies that Active Defenses are intended to be used before the die pool is rolled.
  • pg 81-82: New ruling that spells and blessings that do damage do not have the default unprinted comet line that non-magical melee and ranged attacks do.
  • pg 82: Minor GMing advice for using custom equipment on NPCs.
  • pgs 82 to 84: Lots of good examples. The extended example involving Accurate Shot has been fixed so the numbers and details are correct and make sense. No more confusion.
  • pgs 82 and 86: Clarifications on critical wounds and damage terminology.
  • pg 85: New rule that Fatigue and Stress generated in Story Mode isn't inflicted until Encounter Mode starts so that this actually has an impact and can't be spammed away without consequence.
  • pg 87: Clarification that if you are KO'd by something other than damage (such as fatigue) you don't check for death.
  • pg 88: GMs are advised to go easy on the players when applying freestyle bane effects for healing checks, so that healing doesn't become too dangerous.
  • pg 88-89: Major healing rules revisions. These are game-changing rules that really cut back on spam-healing via first aid or spells. 
Chapter Nine: Conditions & Effects
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook.
  • pg 91: New rule defines how many tokens are put on any insanity cards you gain while you are strained. The number is one higher than it was in the core set rulebook. Read it carefully, because the new examples on the page make it clearer than the new rule text itself does.
  • pg 91: New rule and clarifications about the test to keep a temporary insanity from turning permanent. The difficulty of the roll and the number of successes needed are now clearly spelled out, and they contradict a previous answer given out by FFG's support line.
  • pg 92: Minor edits to the text to better match the previous paragraphs.

Chapter Ten: Economy & Equipment
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook. While there's lots of tiny little fixes and stat changes, the clumsy overall system was sadly not revised.
  • pg 96: The new "Wrong Tool" sidebar is just an explicit reminder for the GM to add fortune and misfortune dice as appropriate for equipment and improvisation even when those dice aren't reflected in the equipment charts and descriptions.
  • pg 97: Reminders on damage calculations and resolving criticals, mostly for new players.
  • pg 98: Revisions to the "Fast" quality and the Spear stats, per the FAQ. Fast is probably too good as written here, with the result of the spear still being too good despite the heavy nerfing.
  • pg 99: New rule for stacking "Poor Quality" on a weapon with the "Unreliable" trait. It's nasty!
  • pg 101: New rule for using found stones with a sling or sling staff.
  • pg 102: New rule prevents stacking or layering of armour. This is important because clothing counts as armour in the game, but most groups probably did it right.
  • pg 102: Reminders on soak and defense, mostly for new players.
  • pgs 104-105: Costs and descriptions for lodging.
  • pgs 104-106: Costs and descriptions for transportation.
  • pg 106: The "Equipment vs Loot" sidebar makes it clear that it's rarely worth looting the bodies. This is important for flavor reasons (it's a Guild economy) as well as mechanical ones (NPCs and monsters typically have generic stats without equipment lists).
  • pgs 108-109: Stats on Greatsword of Hoeth and Gromril Armour is replicated here from the Adventurer's Toolkit.

Chapter Eleven: Magic Rules
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the Tome of Mysteries.
  • pg 110: New rule about the winds of magic blowing across the country and how this can modify channeling rolls by location or situation.
  • pg 111: Definition of equilibrium, and clarifications and examples on power management and venting power.
  • pg 113: Clarifications on miscasting.
  • pg 116: Additional text has been added to very briefly summarize other info from the Tome of Mysteries and Winds of Magic books. It's a little light, but not as annoying as the Priestly equivalent in the next chapter.
  • pg 116: Explicit clarifications on which spells and skills you start with, and which spells a character can or can't learn. 
  • Pg 117:  An amusing bit of in-character fluff in the form of a wanted poster for a rogue Wizard.

Chapter Twelve: Divine Rules
This chapter is mostly a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the Tome of Blessings.
  • pg 119: New rules and timing clarifications about what happens when you successfully invoke a blessing but don't actually have enough Favour to pay for it.
  • pg 121: Definition of equilibrium, with clarifications and examples.
  • pg 123: Explicit clarifications on which blessings and skills you start with, and which blessings a character can or can't learn.
  • pg 123: Additional text has been added to very briefly summarize other info from the Tome of Blessings and Signs of Faith books. This is woefully incomplete. The Taal/Rhya section, for example, only mentions Taal. The omens information for Morr, Shallya and Sigmar is reprinted from the Tome of Blessings, but the equivalent info on the omens of the other gods in Signs of Faith is not reprinted.

Chapter Thirteen: The Empire
This chapter is entirely a reprint of the corresponding chapter of the core set rulebook. The only change involves moving pictures from one column to the other.

Chapter Fourteen: WFRP Lite
New rules for not using all the various cards, tokens, etc, and replacing them with the charts and appendices of this book. If the "board-gamey" cards and such are your least favorite part of WFRP, you'll love this little chapter of advice and shortcuts. Not my cup of tea, but I can understand the appeal.

Appendix 1: Basic and Advanced Careers
Appendix 2: Party Sheets & Abilities
Appendix 3: Talents
Appendix 4: Basic Actions
Appendix 5: Blessings
Appendix 6: Melee Attack Actions
Appendix 7: Ranged Attack Actions
Appendix 8: Spells
Appendix 9: Support Actions
  • These appendices compile all the cards and sheets from the first year or so of the game's releases. All such cards from the Core Set, Adventurer's and GM's Toolkits, Winds of Magic and Signs of Faith Supplements, and the adventures The Gathering Storm and Edge of Night are summarized here. Products released since then are not reprinted here. 
  • I would imagine this is very helpful for character creation and advancement, especially if you have the PDF version (which I assume can do simple search functions) or if you haven't found an organizational structure you're happy with to keep the various cards sorted. I use binders full of nine-pocket-pages sorted alphabetically, so the book version is only better for me in the sense of being more portable.
  • pg 155: Amusing fluff piece about chaos and playwrights.
A Ratcatcher's Tale
  • A short story about things you'll find in the sewers of the Old World. 
Master Index
  • Not a perfect index (if you couldn't remember whether it takes stress or fatigue to adjust your stance more than one space per turn, this index wouldn't help you figure it out) for sure, but better than none at all. Combined with the detailed table of contents from the front of the book, looking up most topics is pretty quick and painless. If you want a volume to reference at the table during play, this is more handy than the core set's un-indexed rule booklet.

That's everything new. Or, as new as it can be given that the book has been available for a couple years now.

TL;DR version: While the WFRP Player's Guide is mostly a reprint of the Core Set rules, it actually has a ton of tiny corrections, advice, and corner-case rules. They a bit scattered and hard to find, but the detailed lists above may help that. I love the cards and tokens (which this book empowers you to NOT use) and yet I still found this book very helpful. The biggest changes and most important new rules are to Healing, Advancement, default Difficulties, and the section on "Freestyle" banes/boons/comets/stars. Those alone make the book a worthy purchase for dedicated Warhammer fans, and everything good piled on top is just so much gravy.

1 comment:

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