Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's "New" in the WFRP3 Creature Guide?

A few weeks ago I sat down with my Warhammer 3rd Ed Player's Guide and the various books it used as sources and made a big list of all the things they'd changed, clarified, or expanded upon. There were a surprisingly large number of updates and improvements therein, from subtle rebalances to major alterations. I decided then that I needed to buy the similar Creature Guide and Game Master's Guide compilation books, because they probably had important things I was missing.

As I did with that book, here is a page-by-page break down of the Warhammer 3rd Ed Creature Guide.  Critical changes that you don't want to miss are in bold. Underlined words represent important subsections worth discussing, and are often followed by further discussion in later bullet points. After the page-by-page walk through, I'll share my conclusions and opinions on the book.

Main Text

Chapter 1: Rules & Resources

This chapter is partly reprinted from the Game Master's Toolkit, and includes things from the earliest versions of the WFRP3 FAQ, plus some new content.
  • pg 4: Clarification on NPC's CR when using non-standard weapons
  • pg 4-5: Lots of coverage of optional new uses for A/C/E budgets. For example:
  • pg 4: New rule that Stance and A/C/E can be used on Initiative checks.
  • pg 4: New rule on defensive A/C/E use. It's not just for opposed checks, but for any attack or action that targets the NPC. A for attacks and physical actions, and C for spells and mental actions.
  • pg 5: Clarification on NPCs taking wounds (instead of fatigue) for extra manoeuvres.
  • pg 5: New Rule concerning Henchmen and Fatigue. If a henchman group spends Fatigue to get an extra manoeuvre, it only costs them 1 wound per group not 1 wound per henchman.
  • pg 5: Reprints the optional expanded A/C/E rules from the GM's Toolkit, expanding the things NPCs can do with Aggression and Cunning.
  • pg 5: New Optional Rule about using A/C/E to soak up Stress or Fatigue.
  • pg 5: Reprints from the GM's Toolkit the optional rules for "Preparing For Actions" and "Sacrificing Actions". These are entirely player-facing rules, and have no place in the Creature Guide. They should have been in either the Player's Guide or GM's Guide, not here.
  • pg 6: New guide to the Group Sheets from the Creature Vault. Group Sheets are essentially "Party Cards" for NPCs and Monsters, giving the groups special abilities and talent slots. If you've got the Creature Vault you probably figured them out pretty quickly, but if not the rules are here. If you don't have the vault, you can find the text of the group sheets on pages 105-107 of this book).
  • pg 7-8: New guide to the Creature Cards from the Creature Vault. Again, if you have the vault you probably already figured these out. The only thing I found confusing from just the cards themselves was figuring out which icon was Soak and which was Defense. For the record, Soak is the human with an exploding shield, and Defense is the skaven gutter runner.

Chapter 2: Combat Encounters

This chapter is entirely new. It's four pages about encounter design. The best parts are:
  • pg 10: Advice and examples regarding props and locations during combat scenes.
  • pg 11: Provides advice on "top down", "bottom up" and "grab bag" approaches to encounter design.
  • pg 11: Advice for the GM for on-the-fly adjustments should an encounter prove to be more challenging than you intended.

Chapter 3: The Bestiary

This chapter is mostly new material, woven with some reprinted text from the Tome of Adventure out of the coreset. I expected it to be mostly reprint, but it actually has a lot of cool new stuff. Each creature type is presented with fluff text and info on its societal structure, then advice on using them in encounters and scenarios,  descriptions and powers of each individual creature subtype, and lastly a short list of possible adventure seeds based around that creature or NPC type.

For each major category of creature, I'm going to list a page count of new vs reprinted content (which is always reprinted from the Tome of Adventure), a list of the new creature subtypes covered here, and then any individual new rules or changes to existing monsters and NPCs from the coreset.
  • Beasts: pgs 14-20: 1 page reprint from ToA, 5 new pages. 8 new monsters: Cockatrice, Cold One, Dragon, Fenbeast, Griffon, Harpy, Manticore & Wyvern.
  • pg 15: New Rule (also printed in Hero's Call) that Beasts use Willpower instead of Intelligence to make Observation checks. This makes it much harder to hide from a Boar.
  • pg 20: New Rules for mounted NPCs, and what happens to the mount if the rider or handler dies.
  • Beastmen: pgs 20-23: 0.5 pages reprinted, 1.5 pages new.  1 new monster: Minotaur.
  • pg 23: New Power: Wargors have a new "Man-Bane" power.
  • Chaos: pgs 23-26: 1 page reprinted, 2 pages new. 3 new monsters: Forsaken, Dragon Ogre, and Shaggoth.
  • pg 24: New Power: Chaos Warriors now have Resilience Trained, in addition to Weapon Skill.
  • pg 24: Suggestions on which talents and actions can best represent the influence or worship of each of the four chaos gods.
  • pg 24: Optional Rule/Advice: Chaos NPCs may have different Stance pieces available depending on which Chaos God they follow.
  • Cultists: pgs 26-27: All reprint. Not even any new adventure seeds.
  • Daemons: pgs 27-29: 1 page reprint, 1 page new. Good advice on using Daemons in your story, and avoiding making them too common or casual.
  • pg 28: New Power:  Flesh Hounds now use Willpower for Observation tests (just like Beasts)
  • Dark Elves: pgs 29-31: All new. 3 new monsters: Dark Elf Assassin, Corsair, and Witch Elf.
  • Dwarves: pg 30: 0.5 pages new content. Mainly instructions for converting any existing human NPC stat block or card to better represent a dwarf NPC. It's not quite the same as for PCs.
  • Forest Spirits: pgs 31-33: All new. 4 new monsters: Dryads, Spites, Treekin & Treemen.
  • Giants & Trolls: pgs 33-35: 0.5 pages reprinted, 1.5 pages new. Good advice on setting the tone of a troll or giant encounter.
  • pg 34: Updated Powers: Trolls and Giants cause Fear or Terror now.
  • pg 34: Updated Powers: Minor timing change on Troll Regeneration ability.
  • pg 34: Updated Powers: "Watch Out!" ability on a dying Giant changed to Challenge die instead of Misfortune die, and the bane result changed to a chaos star result.  Errata:  The WFRP3 FAQ says the Challenge symbol in the text was also intended to be changed to a Bane symbol when they changed the die. Only half the change was made on pg 34. This is a critical change. The entry in the Tome of Adventure had a 50% chance to hurt a PC. The entry in the Creature Guide has a 62.5% chance to hurt a PC. The entry in the FAQ has only a 37.5% chance to hurt a PC. Season to taste.
  • Greenskins: pgs 35-38: 1 page reprinted, 1.5 pages new. 2 new monsters: Black Orc, Squig
  • High Elves: pg 38: 0.5 pages new content. Mainly instructions for converting any existing human NPC stat block or card to better represent a high elf NPC. It's not quite the same as for PCs.
  • Human, Reiklander: pg 38-39: 0.5 pages new content. Mainly instructions for converting Human NPCs to Reiklander Human NPCs. This seems a little weird and pointless to me, since the stats already assume they're human, but I suppose it could be useful if you're using the regional stats for humans from Hero's Call.
  • NPCs: pgs 39-41: 2 pages reprint, less than half a page new content. New NPCs: Ruffians and Merchants.
  • Skaven: pgs 42-46: 1 page reprint, 3 pages new. Info on skaven clans and society. 6 new subtypes: Assassin, Packmaster, Plague Monk, Globadier, Skavenslave, and Stormvermin.
  • pg 44: New Power: All skaven now have Keen Senses power, which boosts their Observation checks. Note that in 2nd Ed they had Night Vision, which would actually be much more useful to them than Keen Senses most of the time. Just sayin'.
  • Swarms: pgs 46-48: All new. 3 New Monsters: Bat, Rat, and Insect Swarms.
  • pg 47: New Rules for Swarms make them actually feel like a collection of smaller creatures in the mechanics.
  • pg 47-48: New Stats and Powers: Rat Swarms as presented here (and on page 100 of this book) have radically different stats and powers than the Rat Swarm in the adventure The Edge Of Night.
  • Undead: pgs 48-50: 1 page reprint, 1 page new. 4 New Monsters: Cairn Wraith, Tomb Banshee, Spirit, Vampire.
  • pg 48: New Powers: All undead from the core set have gained 3 new powers. They are immune to fear, can see in the dark, and suffer movement/manoeuvre penalties.
  • Wood Elves: pg 50: 0.5 pages new content. Mainly instructions for converting any existing human NPC stat block or card to better represent a wood elf NPC. It's not quite the same as for PCs.


Appendix 1: Blessing Actions (pgs 51-52)

Appendix 2: Melee Actions (pgs 53-73)

Appendix 3: Ranged Actions (pgs 74-77)

Appendix 4: Spell Actions (pgs 78-81)

Appendix 5: Support Actions (pgs 82-87)

These five appendices compile actions from various sources. If I'm understanding correctly, every NPC (or creature) action card from the core set, Signs of Faith, Winds of Magic, Edge of Night, and The Gathering Storm are presented here. In addition, a large number of new action cards (or technically reprinted from the Creature Vault if you prefer) for the new creatures in this book are provided in these sections. This could be useful if you prefer book reference to using the cards. Personally, I like the cards.
Warning: A quick glance through the WFRP3 FAQ reveals that there's a number of misprints in these appendices. So if you plan to rely on this part of the book, it'll be worth getting out the FAQ and taking a pen to your book.

Appendix 6: Creature Stats (pgs 88-110)

This appendix is a mixed bag of rules, charts, and other charts, and probably could have been subdivided into several appendices itself. So I'm going to discuss it in sections.
  • pgs 88-90: Explanation of creature stats. Most of this is reprinted and reorganized from the Tome of Adventure. It's somewhat redundant and covers a lot of the same ground as pages 4 to 8.
  • pg 89: Clarification that if you give an NPC a piece of equipment, he gets all the stats (including CR) and powers of that equipment.
  • pg 90: The new rules about using A/C/E defensively and/or on Initiative checks from page 4 appear here as well, and are explained best on page 90. The other clarifications and new rules about how you can spend A/C/E and how monsters interact with fatigue are not duplicated in this appendix. It's a little frustrating. Either this should have been integrated into chapter 1, or that chapter should have been moved here.
  • pgs 91-101: Monster stats by type. This section is nicely formatted, and easy to use. Monster stats appear in a familiar format that's easy on the eyes, and all the powers and special rules for those monsters appear on the same page as their stat bar. Organized by type, so all the Greenskins are on one page, and all the Skaven on another. In addition to the monsters in the Tome of Adventure (some of which have updated powers), this section includes stats for: Bat Swarm, Black Orc, Cairn Wraith, Cockatrice, Cold One, Dark Elf Assassin, Dark Elf Corsair, Dragon, Dragon Ogre, Dryad, Fenbeast, Forsaken, Griffon, Harpy, Insect Swarm, Manticore, Merchant, Minotaur, Rat Swarm, Ruffian, Shaggoth, Skaven Assassin, Skaven Packmaster, Skaven Plague Monk, Skaven Poison Wind Globadier, Skavenslave, Spirit, Spite, Squig, Stormvermin, Tomb Banshee, Tree Kin, Treeman, Vampire, Witch Elf and Wyvern.  
  • pgs 102-104: Another Monster Stat List. This one is kinda painful to look at, and hard to use. It's in a tiny font, and powers and the rules and powers for the creatures are not listed here at all. On the other hand, it includes a number of monsters not mentioned elsewhere in this book. Every monster and many of the NPCs from Edge of Night, The Gathering Storm, Signs of Faith and Winds of Magic are on this chart. If you want basic stats for Epedimius, Niklaus Schulmann, or a Feathered Fiend, they're here, but with no context other than listing which supplement they were detailed. While Tzeentch and Nurgle Daemons are listed here, Amber Order beastforms are not. Also the variant Rat Swarm from Edge of Night is not here.
  • pgs 105-107: The Group Sheets (monster equivalent of Party Cards) from the Creature Vault are reprinted here in text format. Printed here are sheets for Beastmen, Beasts, Chaos, Daemons, Dark Elves, Forest Spirits, Giants & Trolls, Greenskins, Skaven (four different versions based on Clan), and Undead. The Group Sheets are really useful for customizing monsters and making consecutive encounters feel different. One caveat to go with that: I find that many of the Group Sheets rely on a progress tracker that has no realistic chance of getting to it's end in the course of a fight. You may want to double the rate the trackers advance or else they'll be sitting uselessly on space 3 of 8 at the end of the fight.
  • pg 108: This is a reprint of the ability summary insert from the Creature Vault. It's mostly redundant, as at least 9 of the 11 powers are defined elsewhere in the book. The other 2 are a brief summary of Nemesis rules and a generalized Terrain-Walker ability that parallels the Forest-Walk and Swamp-Walk in other parts of this book.
  • pgs 109-110: The index. It's short, but very functional. Above average for a gaming index.


In Conclusion:

Since I like using the cards and components of Warhammer 3rd, I initially bought the Creature Vault instead of the Creature Guide. I imagined the Creature Guide to be mostly redundant. Not the case at all. There's a lot of great new material here, whether your tastes run to crunchy mechanical splat books, or narrative brainstorming and setting fluff.  A handful of the cards from the Creature Vault (such as everything Swarm-related) are all but unusable without the Creature Guide, which gives you supporting rules and explanations. Even if you already know the Warhammer World inside out, the plot hooks in each monster entry will serve up some great inspiration. The Creature Guide is very useful, and I'm glad I bought it.

However, it's far from perfect. Specifically, it seems to have fallen off the editing bandwagon. The appendices 2-5 are full of typos and appendix 6 is inconsistently formatted. Some subsections are worse than redundant, such as when they reprint and compile all the A/C/E rules from other books into chapter one, and then reprint only half of them in an appendix six. It boggles the mind.

Most, but not all, monsters from previous supplements are reprinted here in one form or another. Things you will not find here include the beasts an Amber Order Wizard can transform into, nor most of the daemon subtypes from the various Chaos God supplements. Even though stats for a Bear were included in Winds of Magic, you won't find them reprinted in the Creature Guide. The Great Unclean One's stat line does appear in the appendix, but it has no entry in the Daemon section of the Bestiary. These omissions are minor, but terribly annoying.

Another curious omission is the absence of the henchman and morale rules from the Tome of Adventure. The Creature Guide has a ton of advice and rules for handling encounters, but for whatever reason they didn't decide to reprint those two critical subsections here.

All those complaints aside, I still found the book helpful and well worth the investment.