Friday, February 21, 2014

What's "New" in the WFRP Game Master's Guide?

This is my third installment in an ongoing series about the "Guide" books for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition. This time, I examine the GM's Guide.

What's 'New' in the Player's Guide
What's 'New' in the Creature Guide

In the first two chapters, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much new content was hidden away in these "reprints", including important fixes and optional rules to cover some of the rougher areas in the game system. Overall, I was thrilled with my purchase of the Player's Guide and the Creature Guide.

I'm gonna get straight to the point: the GM's Guide not nearly as good as the other two. It has barely any new content, and I kinda regret spending money on it. Is it a better version of the GM's rules than what comes in the core set? Yes, but just barely, and mostly just for new GMs. It's certainly not worth spending the $40 MSRP on if you already have 95% of the content. I got mine on sale for $27, and it still feels like I overspent.

What follows is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what's new, and where exactly the old stuff came from. New content will include a page reference, so that it's easy to track down and read the only things that have changed. When possible, I'll also call out whether these are clarifications, new or optional rules, GMing advice and examples, or simple typo fixes. As with the previous posts, I'll use bold to mark any major changes or revisions... but there aren't very many in this book.

Chapter One: Game Mastering 101

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
  • pg 12: Advice: There is a single new paragraph, giving several modest suggestions on when to use the Party Tension Meter.

Chapter Two: Episodes & Acts

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
  • pg 15: Clarification (bordering on a New Rule) concerning Rally Steps: GMs are specifically empowered to veto or restrict some common Rally Step options if it fits the narrative or situation. This is mostly common sense, but it's nice to see it spelled out in case the GM is uneasy about Rally Steps in general.
  • pg 17: Advice: NPC Villains' big prepared speeches should happen during Rally Steps, because then they can't be interrupted.
  • pg 20: Example of a 3-Act Episode in flow chart form. In this example, the 3 Acts could be either 3 or 4 scenes, depending on decisions the PCs make.
  • pg 21-22: Clarifications and minor expansions to previously existing example 3-Act Episodes. Rally steps are clearly marked. Extra options and complications are mentioned. There's also a discussion of what happens if the players choose not to bite the plot hooks. If you're running a "Hostage Negotiation", "Ambush", or "Mistaken Identity" scenario in your campaign, this would be quick helpful read.
  • pg 21: New Terminology Sidebar: Several new paragraphs giving explicit definition to terms pertaining to time and duration, such as Acts, Phases, Rounds, etc. When you look at threads on the FFG forums where people express distaste for or confusion about the 3-Act Structure, I've found that the people complaining almost always use "Act" to mean what FFG uses "Episode" to mean, and vice-versa. That linguistic confusion may be coincidental, or it may be that there's an underlying misunderstanding about the terminology that's making this part of the game more problematic for those GMs. If you're having trouble with any of those related concepts, I'd really recommend reading this sidebar.

Chapter Three: Game Master Resources

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
  • pg 23: Advice: There's a one sentence warning here about giving out too much XP.
  • pg 24: Clarification: There's a single new sentence here weakly linking wealth to social tier. It doesn't add much.
  • pg 26: Advice: There's one extra paragraph about interpreting story and narration out of the dice results.

Chapter Four: The Progress Tracker

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
  • pg 30: Additional Example of Party Tension Meter use. This makes specific mention of Tension increasing when a spell miscasts.

Chapter Five: Campaign Play

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
No new content.

Old, but still worth grumbling about: Pages 33 & 46 of the GM's Guide have two similar but contradictory optional Morale systems. This isn't new (they were on pages 29 & 43 of the Tome of Adventure), but it is frustrating. It's an example of how FFG missed an opportunity here. If they'd consolidated these two systems into one, they could have built various cards and powers that referenced and played off of them. That's the sort of new content that could potentially have made the GM's Guide worth buying. I imagine FFG felt leaving both optional meant giving the GM the freedom to improvise. In reality, however, leaving them both optional meant leaving them both unsupported, and giving the PCs no reliable way to impact enemy morale. No attempt has been made to ingrate player-accessible mechanics like Fear and Influence into these systems. The suggested math of page 46 also creates a morale track so ridiculously lengthy that it would only matter in the largest, most epic battles. But, I digress...

Chapter Six: Enemies & Adversaries

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set, in a slightly different form. One and a half chapters from the ToA have been rolled together into a single chapter here. The order of the info has been shuffled around, but it's basically just a big copy-paste editing job. In addition, a single page from the GM's Toolkit has been shoehorned in at the end of this chapter.
  • pg 47 & 48: Clarifications on enemy stats, and an explanation of how creature cards work. This is technically new, but the exact same information can also be found in the Creature Guide. 
  • pg 49: New Rules on using A/C/E defensively, and also on Initiative. I'm tempted to label this a clarification, as opposed to a new rule, because it was already somewhat implied in the previous version. These new options for A/C/E use also appear in the Creature's Guide, along with a number of other A/C/E options there that aren't repeated here in the GM's Guide.
  • pg 50: Minor clarifications in the sidebar about NPC stat lines. If you found NPC stat blocks (or creature cards) to be confusing, this sidebar will likely answer your questions.
  • pg 51: The Nemesis rules from the GM's Toolkit are reprinted here. Note that it's only the rules for Nemesis NPCs, not the rules for the Organizations that they lead.

Chapter Seven: Corruption Rules

Originally published in the Liber Mutatis from the Winds of Magic boxed set.
No changes.

Chapter Eight: Disease Rules

Originally published in the Liber Infectus from the Signs of Faith boxed set.  I would have loved to see this chapter overhauled, but they reprinted it without changes.
  • pg 64: A "bonus" page with new fluff text. Cute, but meaningless, and set in a huge font so 10 sentences fill an entire page. It's a little annoying that they throw in half-assed filler like this, but couldn't find room to put in the other half of the A/C/E rules or the other half of the Nemesis rules or any of the other things they left out of the book. Oh, well, I suppose you could at least use this page as a prop, if your campaign's villain was sufficiently cartoonish.

Chapter Nine: Faith In The Old World

Originally published in the Tome of Blessings from the core set.  (This chapter probably should have been in the Player's Guide, not the GM's Guide, as it mostly deals with things all the PCs would know about the setting.)
  • pg 66: Correction: The sidebar here corrects an omission in the Tome of Blessings, where the equivalent list of gods there neglected to mention Taal.

Chapter Ten: The Imperial Cults

Originally published in the Tome of Blessings from the core set.  (As with the previous chapter, this would have made more sense to put in the Player's Guide, as it's immediately relevant to anyone playing an Initiate, and is all information that should be common knowledge to any human PC.)
No changes.

Chapter Eleven: Other Faiths

Originally published in the Tome of Blessings from the core set.
No changes.

Chapter Twelve: Corruption & Heresy

Originally published in the Tome of Blessings from the core set.
  • pg 88-89: "New" artwork for the symbols of the ruinous powers. Actually, I think it's old art, that's been sitting around for a decade or longer and used in earlier editions of WFRP. It's line-art, instead of full color. It's got some retro appeal, but I'm not sure I understand why they went to the trouble of swapping it out.
  • pg 91: Alternate flavor text in a thematic insert about witch-hunters. The old one (from Tome of Blessings) was from the perspective of a farmer. The new one is the words spoken by a witch-hunter and is much darker in tone. I think it's an improvement, but again it's unclear why such changes were warranted here and not in other chapters.

Chapter Thirteen: Magic Theories

Originally published in the Tome of Mysteries from the core set.
No changes.

Chapter Fourteen: The Colleges of Magic

Originally published in the Tome of Mysteries from the core set. (Much like chapters Nine and Ten, I feel this one really belonged in the Player's Guide. Anyone making a Wizard PC would want to access this info, especially the part on page 101 that directly affects an Apprentice Wizard's starting equipment.)
No changes.

Chapter Fifteen: The Eight Orders

Originally published in the Tome of Mysteries from the core set. (Again, this probably belonged in the Player's Guide because it's of vital importance to anyone thinking of playing a Wizard.)
No changes.

Chapter Sixteen: Forbidden Lore

Originally published in the Tome of Mysteries from the core set.
No changes, unless you count the goofy extra page:
  • pg 123:  A "bonus" page with new fluff text in a huge font to fill space. At least this one's an amusing read, unlike the similar filler content on page 64. 

Chapter Seventeen: An Eye For An Eye  (**SPOILER ALERT**)

Originally published in the Tome of Adventure from the core set.
SPOILER ALERT: The stats on a number of NPCs have changed, and discussing those changes will no doubt reveal plot details. Potential players should skip down to the appendices so the plot isn't ruined.
Overall, the changes have potentially made the adventure a little easier on the PCs if they do a good job of recruiting allies. PCs with a "Kill 'em all, and let Sigmar sort them out" attitude may have a slightly harder time.
  • pg 135: Minor Clarification: The game effects of a Superior item are now printed in the adventure text so that new GMs don't have to go look it up when a major NPC (Lord Rickard Aschaffenberg) uses one.
  • pg 136: NPC Stats Changed: Dr. Stefan Sieger's attributes changed, and he gained some skill training.
  • pg 136: NPC Stats Changed: Sister Sonia's attributes changed, and she gained some skill training.
  • pg 141: Redundancy: The sidebar about Korden's Hammer has been altered to include it's game stats, since GM's using this Guide instead of the core set may not have the equipment card that describes it. This is rendered immediately redundant since the main text already had all the stats listed on the very next page of the layout... but I imagine having it here in a sidebar probably makes it easier to find the stats should you need them in the middle of a fight. That's a good thing, then.
  • pg 143: Typo Fix / NPC Stats Changed: There's a critically injured NPC (Hans Kurtz) in the adventure, and the original text had their injury adding white fortune dice to their rolls. This reprint wisely corrects that to black misfortune dice, so the injury is a penalty not a benefit.
  • pg 144: NPC Stats Changed: Captain Blucher gained training in Weapon Skill.
  • pg 149: New Art. A very gor-y picture of beastmen replaces the monster stat bar that had been at the top of the page. Monster stats have moved to the following pages (and been expanded somewhat).
  • pg 151-154: Easy-access monster stats and actions: These are reprinted from the Tome of Adventure, but they are much more conveniently located in this edition. The content of pages 151-154 had been located on pages 67, 55, 51, and 57 of the Tome of Adventure. Having them all together will no doubt make the fight scene run much faster for GMs that don't have (or choose not to use) the cards from the Creature Guide.... but it could have been made much faster and easier even than that. Many of the named PCs have special skill modifiers mentioned on pages 135, 136, or 144, but those modifiers aren't mentioned on the generic NPC summaries on page 151, so you'll still have to flip back and forth between four or more pages in the middle of a fight to track it all.  Even worse, the stats for the daemon on page 154 neglect to mention that it can fly. One of it's actions heavily implies it can fly (or at least jump really well), but the actual description of the Flight power and its mechanical effects were at the bottom of page 56 of the Tome of Adventure, which didn't get reprinted in this version.  It's only two sentences that are missing, but it's silly that they weren't reprinted especially since page 154 has about a quarter-page of blank space at the end.  Here's the missing sentences from the ToA: "Flight: A fury does not need to perform a manoeuvre to disengage from opponents before moving. It can move away from engaged opponents as if it were not engaged with them, unless they also can fly. 


This section begins with charts that are basically the various decks from first few releases, lain out in table format for use with percentile dice. It's an interesting tool, and no doubt goes a long way to making the game more portable. Tables A-1 to A-5 incorporate cards from the core set, Winds of Magic, Signs of Faith, and the adventures The Gathering Storm and Edge Of Night. Personally, I'm not so thrilled with these charts because I find the cards to be handy reminders that are much more convenient than looking up critical wound effects in a rulebook (and writing them down on your character sheet) in the middle of a fight scene.

It's also worth noting that the tables are significantly more dangerous than the decks are (with the possible exception of A-1), because each table ends with one or more "roll again twice" entries.  Rolling in the high 90's is pretty much to a death sentence (more so on some charts than others). 

Table A-1: Critical Wounds (pg 156-157)

  • pg 156-157:  Noteworthy Absence: The critical wound chart lacks the Severe Wounds later printed in the Omens of War expansion. As a result, A-1 is the only one of these 5 charts that is less lethal than the corresponding card deck (provided you have all the cards from expansions).

Table A-2: Insanity (pg 158-159)

Table A-3: Miscast (pg 160-161)

Table A-4: Mutation (pg 162-163)

Table A-5: Diseases (pg 164-165)

  • pg 165: New Chart: Disease Symptom Keywords. This is a secondary chart that supplements Table A-5. I found it so useful I needed to call it out specifically. It provides a very helpful overview to all the possible symptom effects, and makes it clear just how dangerous diseases are in this game. This is all pretty opaque when you're reading the main disease rules, but the high lethality becomes much clearer as you pour over this chart and table A-5.


This is a chart of Condition cards from the core set, the Adventurer's Toolkit, and two adventures (The Gathering Storm and Edge of Night). 
  • pg 166:  Noteworthy Absence: The list of Conditions bizarrely lacks the Condition cards from Signs of Faith and Winds of Magic, despite their content being on the charts before it, and despite one of those conditions (Nurgle's Rot) being detailed in Chapter Eight. It's an odd oversight.
  • The rules for Conditions are only briefly summarized here, and fleshed out in greater detail in the Player's Guide. The logic behind that decision escapes me.
  • pg 166: Clarification/Errata: The Frightened Condition has received errata that is either a clarification or a major change of functionality, depending on how you interpreted the vague phrasing of the old version of the card. The new version (available as either this chart in the GM's Guide, or in card format from the Game Master's Vault) is much improved.

Location Cards

Includes the text from all the Location Cards found in the core set and the GM's Toolkit, but not from any of the other supplements.


Seems pretty thorough, and easy to use. Well done.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Campaign Log

  • pg 174  New Campaign Aid: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Campaign Log. It's an interesting, but brief, form for scribbling down your plans for a campaign. I could see it being very useful early on to help you get your thoughts together. It's also potentially helpful in the later stages of a long campaign when you have a lot of plot-threads and NPCs to keep track of, but by then you'll probably need more than 1 page of notes.

TL;DR:   Overall, there's nothing really great about this book, and almost nothing new either. The few changes that did seem major to me can be found in other products:
  • There's new A/C/E uses, but they can also be found in the Creature Guide, along with a number of other new uses for A/C/E.
  • The Frightened Condition was revised, but you can also get that new version of the card by picking up the GM's vault. Depending on how you were parsing the text of the card before, it might not actually be a change.
  • If the Disease, Miscast, Mutation, and Insanity decks aren't deadly enough for your group, you might find it useful to use the charts in this Guide instead. They have on average a 5% chance of getting you two penalties instead of just one. The chart for Critical Wounds is also nastier than the deck in the core set, but not as nasty as a deck using the new cards from Omens of War. If you absolutely hate having cards in your game, you may find these charts useful.
  • There is a tiny smattering of new GMing advice scattered throughout the book, mostly about tension meters, rally steps and the three-act structure.
I'd say save your money. Spend it on the Player's Guide or Creature Guide instead if you don't have them yet, they are both better investments.