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WFRP 3rd Edition is Dead, Long Live WFRP

By August 30, 2014April 9th, 2020Roleplaying Games
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition

“Carnival! We’re the Merry Pranksters!”

As Fantasy Flight Games closes the book on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition, I take a brief look back at the history of ‘WFRP’.

While Flagelant the dwarf scales the back wall and enters a second-level window the other party members distract the old woman who owns the house by telling her they are members of a Knitting Guild who have heard about her wonderful cat blankets. Flagelant searches Adolphus’s room and finds his diary, which details his progress infiltrating the Jade Sceptre chaos cult. Once he has safely left the house, the others snatch back the 15 gold crowns they had offered the old woman for her cat blanket, all shouting in unison: “Carnival! We’re the Merry Pranksters!” They leave her close to shock.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to separate your love for a game from the business realities that surround it. A perfect case in point is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Fantasy Flight Games recently announced that their third edition, first released in 2009 but to all intents and purposes dead since the release of the last campaign book at the end of 2012, has come to an end. I’m sure we can all understand why the ‘official’ announcement was probably postponed so long—to keep selling back inventory—though it’s a shame that so little has happened with the game in the last two years. But now this edition of WFRP is no more, let’s have a look back over the turbulent history of the game as it once again falls back into limbo.

A Short History

WFRP1In 1986, Games Workshop released a big thick green book called Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and everything changed. This was a roleplaying system like no other. Up until then, my friends and I had pretty much stayed in the TSR (publishers of D&D) camp: Empire of the Petal Throne, AD&D, a bit of Gamma World and Star Frontiers; with the occasional foray into games such as Call of Cthulhu and Chill by other publishers. But essentially, these systems were all pretty much the same. WFRP immediately felt very, very different.

What is often forgotten these days is just how short the early golden days of WFRP were …

Perhaps it was the way characters jumped between real careers rather than abstract levels. Certainly the deadly, graphic combat was a shock: I’ll never forget the look on one of my player’s faces in our first game, when a simple bar brawn gave him a broken leg and he had to recuperate on a barge for two weeks.

But mainly there was that grim, gritty feeling that made the world feel real. The writers were from the UK rather than the USA, so there seemed to be something more authentic about the fantasy. From the very start WFRP carved out a new vision of the Warhammer world that was a lot darker and more interesting than the fantasy world of tabletop battles that inspired it. The medieval Germanesque world of The Empire, the feeling of a society riddled with a corruption bubbling just under the surface, the dark cults and the beastmen-haunted forests—it was all a universe away from the shiny armour and heroic moustaches of the Dragonlance saga, then defining the American-style fantasy of AD&D. In fact, since we jumped directly from halfway through the Dragonlance modules to the grim little adventure in the back of the WFRP book, we noticed the change vividly.

WFRP Realms of SorceryFast forward almost a decade, and my gaming pals and I were still, on the occasional times we managed to get everyone together, playing WFRP. We got most of the way through the truly classic campaign The Enemy Within (before it went off the rails halfway through Something Rotten in Kislev). What is often forgotten these days is just how short the early golden days of WFRP were: even by 1989, when GW turned publication of it over to their Flame Publications division, the writing was on the wall with the poor quality of the D&D-like Doomstones adventures.

In 2000, during my second stint living in London, I met James Wallis, the licence-holder for the game with his company Hogshead Publishing since 1995. It was a personal career milestone to create the graphic design of the cover of the long-awaited Realms of Sorcery supplement (shown on the left) and add a page to the history of WFRP. James did a valiant job re-releasing old supplements and adventures and releasing new material to keep the game alive, but Games Workshop was creatively restrictive and the essential flavour of WFRP was slowly dying. He pulled out in 2002.

WFRP2Two years later, and a second edition was announced, published by Games Workshop’s Black Industries and designed by Green Ronin Publishing. It was a good time for WFRP. The system remained pretty much the same, with some improvements, and the gritty feel of WFRP was intact. Despite being forced to shoehorn in the then-current GW obsession with their ‘Storm of Chaos’ campaign, there followed a long product line that produced a lot of new material, including the impressive, though somewhat flawed The Thousand Thrones campaign.

WFRP3In 2008, Fantasy Flight Games took over the licence and everything changed. Designer Jay Little and his team released something so different, so revolutionary, that old fans were horrified and new ones were confused. You can look back now and see what a grand experiment the whole thing was and, like any experiment, there were things that worked and things that didn’t. A new emphasis on cards and components brought aggrieved cries of “it’s a glorified boardgame” from the fans. In general, FFG probably underestimated the attachment that fans had to the old system, perhaps assuming that they would eventually come around, but the differences were so great that not only did some old fans stay away, but new fans were intimidated and confused by the game. This wasn’t helped by a high introductory price point and a core set that only supported four players. Later, FFG tried to re-launch the game and de-emphasise the necessity for playing with all the components with a series of separate guide books and small component boxes, but it only succeeded in confusing players still further.


Tackling Third Edition

What did I do? I was, after all, one of those ‘old players’ who had been with the game since 1987. Well, I jumped in boots and all (I own pretty much everything ever published for all three editions of the game). I thought it was exciting and refreshing to see something different happening in roleplaying, and applauded the very visual nature of the new game. After attempting to convert our old characters, we decided to start from scratch, and began a new campaign with brand new adventurers (one of which was the bastard son of one of the old characters). Despite our best efforts, the new system took quite a while to get the hang of, and often felt too much trouble than it was worth. You can see by the files I’m providing you with today how much effort I put into creating documents that would juggle all the required information and keep the game running smoothly. The picture above gives shows you the space required to play a game and the number of components to juggle—in fact Will, in the top left of the photo, is busy trying to work out what particular dice apply to what he wants to do, a process that only became more complicated as characters developed.

The great innovation was the storytelling dice mechanic

Which is a huge shame, because when it worked, it really worked. The great innovation was the storytelling dice mechanic, which took things far beyond the realms of success-or-fail to highly detailed and descriptive results that enhanced the roleplaying possibilities of every situation. Where the system didn’t work was the juggling of myriad components and the unnecessary complexity, a situation that only got worse as more supplements were released and the whole game system started to feel like a tottering layer cake of bolted on rules and hundreds of cards. It’s obvious that FFG has since learned a lesson, because the new Star Wars RPGs keep the best bits from WFRP3 and throws out the complexity and all the extraneous bits and pieces.

The Future of WFRP

Over on the Fantasy Flight Games forums, they’re already chatting about the possibility of a 4th edition, but I think it’s time for WFRP to have a long, long rest. There’s a world of difference between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions, so you can choose the flavour you prefer. Someone is even cooking up an even grittier fan-made version called Zweihander. But I think if anyone returns to WFRP, we don’t need another set of rules, just good quality, system-agnostic source material and adventures. Unfortunately, there has never been a strong, unified hand on the tiller when it comes to extended WFRP campaigns, and they have always suffered from an unevenness that comes from multiple authors developing separate chapters, sometimes writing in wildly different tones. In addition, the game cries out for new and interesting adventures that don’t warm up the tired old tropes of skaven in the sewers, beastmen in the forests, and nobles in chaos cults. I know my players were getting sick to death of killing beastmen by the time our last campaign ran down…

One day we’ll all return to the Old World for a game or two, and perhaps old characters will be resurrected (or the sons of the sons of our old characters will begin their first careers), and the adventures of the Merry Pranksters and their descendants will continue. You can read all about what they got up to during campaigns using all three editions, at our campaign diary website, which often makes for pretty entertaining reading. But for now, the book is closed, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is dead.

Long live Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay!

I created a huge amount of summary and reference material for WFRP 3rd edition in an attempt to streamline its sometimes unwieldy systems. For the first time, I’m sharing it all on the WFRP 3rd Edition page. If by some chance you’re just starting off with WFRP3 and its published adventures, I think you’ll find it all incredibly useful. It even includes my first attempts at interactive reference material: armed with an iPad and the app PDF Expert, you can make use of the hyperlinks and interactive checkboxes in some of the documents.


Bernard Stevenson, 1931-2014

This article is dedicated to Bernard, who peacefully passed away at the age of 83 on the 22nd August, while I was writing it. Rest in peace Bernard. Here’s to your full life, packed with real adventure.


  • wolvercote66 says:

    Lovely write up. I bought piles of the 3rd edition material and spent untold hours making notes and guides but never found a table willing to try it.

  • Matt says:

    Good article and summary of WFRP. I only discovered WFRP this year, and have so far moved from 1st to 3rd editions, playing all of them with different groups. I have been playing Star Wars EOTE for a while now, and this was the big reason behind paying out for WFRP3. First session of 3E with my main group will be in September and they’re all very much looking forward to it (we’re all big board game fans as well as roleplayers).

    Also, I posted on your linked page with the materials, mainly to let you know the character sheet PDF has the Strength fortune pool set at “2”, which can’t be removed. Can you please re-upload? Those materials are very nice!

  • Nice article. One thing however, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was originally published in 1986, not 1987.

  • littlemute says:

    Was a huge fan of the old game, as it was massive paradigm shift for us who were sick to death of the horrible AD&D and D&D 2nd Edition (I still love Basic D&D of course) but the combat system, while it seems good and fun at first was just a crappy hacked apart version of Runequest that never evolved from first to 2nd edition…

    And third— I got a mess of stuff in a firesale and what a huge pile of crap it is. It was trying to do things that Cortex+ and FATE do so much better, while still appealing to people that want a crunchy combat system and… Advanced Heroquest players?!. I ran it a couple times and played once with an experienced GM and the game is a poster child for focusing on all the stuff in front of you rather than what your character is actually doing. With all that information, cards, chits, chits for placement of your miniatures ALL of the imagination is sucked out of the room. It’s all about “do you have a card to do that?” While the dicepool mechanic was interesting, all the rest of it was just a horrible mess of distracting pieces.

    Absolutely agreed about the Skaven, Beastmen, Cultist thing. Due to GW’s popularity and the game’s age there are just certain things that have become completely commonplace and what was once weird and horrifying is simply meh. I don’t think the EVERYTHING’S CHAOS!!! was the initial focus behind the game from GW originally, but it became so.

    If you are looking for a go to game to scratch this itch I highly recommend both Lamentations of the Flame Princess (the best version of Basic D&D that exists) and Runequest 6. Runequest is just a FAR better system than the original WFRP while being similar enough to pick up due to it being D100, and if you want truly weird and horrifying adventures like the early WFRP stuff was– Lamentations is your ticket to ride. In fact, you could play Lamentations adventures with the Runequest 6 rules IN the warhammer world and be on the road to awesome. “Forgive Us” and “A Single Small Cut” especially fit the WFRP mold. The “Better than Any Man” campaign gives the Enemy Within a run for it’s money. I truly hope there is not a 4th edition from Fantasy Flight.

    • I agree with you most of your points littlemute. The components really did distract and annoy in the end, though the potential was there initially to give players lots of exciting and interesting actions. Eventually players had to hunt through a mess of cards (like Descent 1st edition) to get their modifiers straight. In fact I had to make special reference cards to colate all their reference cards! Crazy.

      I’ve heard of Lamentations (and have downloaded an adventure for it in the past) but didn’t know Runequest was still going. The last game we played (via Skype, these days) was Dungeon Crawl Classics – back to the basics! I’ll check out those adventures though, they sound great.

  • Chris says:

    Good article, Sir.

    I remember the time when I was a kid and WHFRP (1st Edition) was really hard to get in Germany. my friends and me fell in love with it the first time we played. I bought all the books during a school exchange to England. It was different, brutal, deep, and we laughed about the German words and names in the game. The time the game was dying it was even translated into German through SCHWARZES EINHORN (black unicorn).

    Hogshead did a really good job, and after all I heard it was really difficult for them to please GW with their ideas – especially realms of sorcery.

    Then came the second edition. Great artwork, a lot of stuff brought to German by FEDER UND SCHWERT. The layout of the main rulebook was even better than the English original. In my opinion, 2nd ed. was easier to play as GM, the d10 mechanic for all dice-rolls was great, but the magic system was too flat (especially because the realms of sorcery for first ed. was such a great new adding to the rules). Even the critical hits where a bit flat, but the guy from the WINDS OF CHAOS page (I think) did a great job in converting the old critical hits to the newer system. And the magicians became kind of weird. The world was more adapted to the miniatures game, but that’s easy to change. All in all it was more straightforward and the better game.

    Well, then came the third editition. I loved the Idea, because by the time I heard of it I was playing Dark Heresy, which was basically a better 2nd ed. of WHFRP.

    Well, then I saw it in my local games store. I opened up the large box, got a bit into it, and I instantly thought: What the hell did You Guys do to MY RPG! How can You dare? Is this a joke? The store manager tried to get me into liking this. I just asked him how it can be possible that a role playing game can be limited by its number of players, why there is no real character sheet ( I was over 30 that time an we still all loved – and still do love to draw our characters over the armor point figure at the bottom of the sheet). The artwork was great, but the system.. No way. It was an entirely new game in the warhammer world. I even considered buying some stuff for adventure seeds and converting it, but I decided to not support something like this.

    We still play this game, me the second edition as GM and a friend even the first edition. You are right, sometimes it’s boring with all the Skaven and Beastmen, but isn’t this the same but different with every other RPG? In other systems it’s giant rats in the cellar of an inn, goblins stealing a cart full of beer, etc.. Bring Your experienced players to Albion or to Norsca or the Border Princes, to Sylvania or have them solve a pirate campaign – it’s all in the game. I love warhammer, my friends also. Sometimes we try to change to something different, but we allways get back. The Old World is hardwired to our brains. The system is not realistic, but it works well and new gamers get comfortable with the rules really quick.

    It’s dirty, it’s “mutating”, it’s about being cheated and used by evil powers, it’s loosing sanity and limbs – it’s not dying but being chopped apart etc… Your character has the potential of becoming highly heroic, but there’s always the chance that some lucky Orc will kill You.

    We will go on playing the second editition. With Skaven.

    I hope that FFG has learnt a lesson and will produce something more in the line of the 40K roleplay and give it a twist.

    Greetings from Germany,

    I am sorry for Your loss.

    • Thank you Chris, and thanks for telling us about your WFRP adventures! I often wondered myself what it would be like to get adventurers out of the Empire and into other lands, but I never had the time to create original adventures and nothing was ever published that got beyond the usual ideas (Something Rotten in Kislev had some interesting cultural stuff at the start, but then went silly).

      Keep playing!

  • Nick Chase says:

    What a great article. My gaming group revisited WFRP 1st Edition in April 2013 and kicked off from Oldenhaller Contract and although I managed to get hold of all The Enemy Within campaign, after Death on the Reik we moved into creating our own. I bought 3rd edition with great expectations and after opening it to see what was in the box, and then I passed to a cousin who had introduced me to Warhammer many years ago, for his opinion. We both agreed that it seemed that any decision was dictated too much by cards, as opposed to a player asking the GM, and thereafter the 3rd Edition box was placed upon the same shelf it resides today.

    We are still playing 1st Edition to date, but when we started the plan was to finish the modules and then convert our characters over to Warhammer stats, and the have an epic battle around the timeline of Archaon’s (first) Chaos invasion, with the characters leading perhaps a unit of their own or as mercenaries versus a splinter of the invading army. Live or die, it finished the game with an end. Something that almost never happens in Roleplay as players get bored and discover other games and move on.

    Agree with you regarding the attraction of WFRP and that it offered more background for your character advancement, and a darker setting that allowed so much fun for a GM and the players. I am however, sad to see it end…again.

    • Thanks Nick. Ahh, the Oldenhaller Contract, that was such a great little adventure. You can imagine the shock when we played that right after Dragonlance! Glad to hear 1st edition is still played out there; maybe we’ll go back to the basics again one day.

  • andreaangiolino says:

    A little detail about the RPG history. In 1987, GW stopped producing the gdr (maybe because it sold so much less miniatures than the wargame?). it will start again giving licenses in 1994, after repeated requests by the Italian publishing firm Nexus Editrice that, first in the world, got again the rights to translate it but has been forced by Games Workshop to avoid using the “Warhammer” trademark. The game has then been titled Martelli da Guerra (literal translation of “war hammers”) and it is very respectful of the original spirit of the game, even if rules are updated taking into account articles on magazines and supplements. Illustriations are brand new, by Paolo Parente and his staff. After the success of the Italian edition, GW is finally willing to sell the rights to other nations without any constraint on the use of the trademark. They will even give a license for an English reprint to Hogshead, that will use the layout of the first GW edition. Other translations, as the German, the French and the Czech ones, use the Nexus Editrice layout and drawings.

    Nexus Editrice will be later known worldwhide for such boardgames as War of the Ring, Marvel Superheroes, Wings of War, Letters from Whitechapel.

    • Thankyou so much for filling that in Andrea, and it’s an honour to have you here contributing to the discussion! I wasn’t aware of that part of the history, and excuse me for omitting it. I’d love to see that Italian version one day; it would be fascinating to see Paolo Parente’s take on the Warhammer world.

  • Gourd Idol says:

    Very neat summary and eulogy. I’m gearing up to run my first 3rd edition game (likely trying out the new version of Enemy Within), and am feeling fairly confident about handling the mechanics with a fairly novice crew, though WOW it really is different from anything I’ve ever seen before (I’ve played and GM’d both 1st and 2nd, as well as other systems). I’m very familiar (and in love) with the universe, so I’m hoping that’s a bit of an advantage.

    One question – in regard to your primary critique regarding this system being too over-burdened with cards, and such:
    Aren’t those cards all simply meant to make it so that folks don’t need to go digging through rules tomes to find relevant info?
    And, likewise, do we really need to absolutely look up every single thing on those cards?

    It seems to me that there’s still plenty of room for just skipping the card-mining and say – “Ah, role this” or “Your spell will take three rounds to take effect” or some-such?
    Can’t we, as GMs, still step in and just make it happen, without *having* to always refer to the strictly by-the-book play?

    I know I’m planning to do it that way, but I’d love to hear if others have set aside the rules for the sake of the story, when appropriate…

    Regardless – thank you VERY much for all the resources you’ve made available.

    • The same could really be said of any system – in fact you don’t even need a system as such to roleplay really, do you? It depends how close you want to stick to the rules. But if you don’t, then character progression and skills and cards and all the rest of it are pretty meaningless. A player of mine commented on the feeling he had that his character wasn’t getting better, and that carrot of increasing power is often important to players. With a mess of cards and dice pool modifers it’s hard to gauge just how good your character is. In 1st and 2nd edition you felt your character progress through more powerful careers, in 3rd edition it feels messier and less defined, and you’re never sure how much better that big handful of dice really is.

      To me, having fun is the most important thing. As soon as a rule gets in the way of that, chuck it! Unfortunately I began to feel that the increasing complexity and fiddliness was getting in the way of the fun, despite the advantages of the storytelling dice mechanic.

      Anyway, best of luck!

  • jaszczurekMateusz says:

    Excellent write-up. My perilous adventures started a lil later than yours (when first edition was published in polish, in 1995), but from I read, we share same sentiment towards warhammer 🙂 One thing however bothers me (not connected to your article) – what is the stuff you guys use on photo showing session in progress? I’m asking bout thing that lays in front of a man holding dice in his hands – is this some kind of nifty rules summary? I’ll be very grateful for answer, cuz I’m really curious 🙂

  • Mark Ornstein says:

    Thanks for that great summary, for a moment of reverie I was 15 again, round a table after school, pitfighter character sheet in front of me :).

    I agree wholeheartedly about the wonderful grittiness of the world, my brother was into all things D&D and in comparison Warhammer came as such a relief, you really felt like the characters would be dirty, dusty and smelly with worn, rusted armour and chipped weapons. The sights and sounds of its medieval world were so much more convincing than the D&D shiny world.

    Over time though the constant plotlines of Chaos/Horror/Demons just became grating. I guess it always was a Fantasy horror system, we just wanted a gritty world to play in. In fact I was massively put off the third edition due to the same artwork that lots of people love, I’m sure its an effect of getting older, but I didn’t feel anyone could play with their kids in the house with horrific renderings of Slaneesh lying about, to be fair when I looked back at the artwork of the earlier Warhammer publications I guess it was just as horror based but less well rendered.

    Sadly I now find myself wanting escapism in gaming, a bit too world wise with a job where I see too much grim stuff as it is, now medieval gritty…… I still hanker after that in gaming and not many systems seem to have come close.

    • Hi Mark – yep, it certainly was a refreshing change, and in fact Patherfinder and D&D still feel too ‘shiny American fantasy’ for me. When I grew up fantasy was synonymous with English and Scottish landscapes (and accents) for some reason—Monty Python and the Holy Grail mixed with The Lord of the Rings. I appreciate the technical skill of Larry Elmore’s art for AD&D (and especially Dragonlance but visually it spelled the end of my interest in that game.

      I don’t have any problem with the horror aspect of the third edition art—no kids to worry about—but there does seem to be something lost, ironically, with the high level of quality in fantasy illustration these days, which seems to lead to a sort of sameness. You used to be able to identify the styles of different artists in D&D and WFRP—Dave Trampier, Dave Sutherland, Tony Ackland etc and their illustrations were full of personality. Now a large number of them seem churned out by artists working in a generic, realistic, art directed style.

  • Good article. I bought WFRP 1st ed at about age 11, self taught and self played it until i had some friends who also wanted to play. I bought WFRP 2nd ed, and thought it was awful. 3rd ed looked terrible and so i never even tried it. I returned to WFRP 1st ed. and continue to play it with my son to this day.

    As it is, i prefer the WFRP 1st ed Warhammer world to where WH battle has gone. Realm of Sorcery was good, although i tweak the rules slightly (Refuse to allow the colour magic and WE magic takes only one round, not 6)

    • Yes, I much prefer the old-style grim and gritty take on the Warhammer world. It’s got more cartoony and over the top as – well, as the figures have got more cartoony and over the top, really.

  • Thanks for this great article, as a 1st and 2nd ed GM I was appaled when I saw what FFG had done to my RPG and I’ve never supported that falsum of an rpg . In my view the creative fantasy have been taken out of it. 2nd Ed was made with heavy game testing by some of my friends amongst a lot of other fans, where as 3rd just was slipped under the radar. But thanks again, this brings memories especially of the Good old Oldenhaller Contract. Sorry for your loss…

    • Matt Kay says:

      My WFRP3 campaign has come to an end, and I have to say I’m not sorry to no longer be GMing it! So many bits to keep track of! That said, my players did seem to enjoy it quite a lot.

      I’m very much now looking forward to the Shadow of the Demon Lord RPG, which was very successfully Kickstarted in April. I see it as being a spiritual successor to WFRP2, but with some modern gaming sensibilities thrown in. It’s due for release at the end of the year, and hopefully it won’t be long until someone creates an unofficial “WFRP4” hack of it.

  • Thanks for this article. I played Warhammer 1st ed when it first came out and subscribed to the White Dwarf magazine that had adventure seeds, and extra background for the WFRP, before it became exclusively a minitures magazine. It was an immersive and good time to play WFRP.

    I was really taken by the game as it had a refreshing and rich take on fantasy roleplay. It was gritty, dark, and with huge potential for black humour, often in the vain of monty python ( though that’s probably just how I interpreted it). It struck the right balance for me.

    As others have mentioned it contained an element of dark horror (Cthulhu influence)with a splash of punk culture/heavy metal (for example Dwarf Troll slayers with Mohicans). It balanced this with easily recognised fantasy tropes like Tolkien inspired Orcs ,Goblins, Elves, Dwarfs, and halflings. It was a good combination with gothic/Renaissance spin.

    The game had a dark & gritty British/ European sensibility that contrasted with the American polished fantasy of D&D. It immediately felt like a form of fantasy I could relate to. It felt British, and home grown. The idea of basing the world as some kind of parallel renaissance Europe rather then early medieval Europe was inspired. The Germanic influenced Empire immediately gave flavour, depth, and characterful roleplay ( all those accents and Germanic names to get to grips with). And if you wanted a change you could visit other parts of the Old World that followed with appropriate European analogies (useful at least for getting a variety of accents)

    WFRP 1st ed had some great innovations. The career system made the game in my opinion. Instant access to a range of careers from the Warhammer world that brought the game to life. Careers from all walks of life, the lowly rat catcher, noble Knights, pit fighters, Wizards, scribes, or the famous death wish career paths like Troll slayer and Giant slayer ( the natural progression for a Troll Slayer who is unable to meet their death by Troll) – there were many flavourful careers, not all heroic. Which was part of the charm.

    As a Runequet player I related immediately to the notion of hit locations and critical hits. It wasn’t an exact copy of Runequest (certainly not as coherent ),but enough to add a bit of fun & flavour to combat. Some of the optional critical hits contained very bloody descriptions emphasising the dark gritty horror of wfrp. There was also sanity points similar to Cthulhu.

    I felt comfortable with WFRP not only because of its dark grit, and easily accessible fantasy tropes ( all be it with a Warhammer gothic spin), but also because of one of its recurring themes – the enemy within, and the idea of civilisation being constantly at risk from hidden horrors. Whether that was Chaos cults invisibly corrupting empire communities from within, or skaven Ratmen scheming from the dark below, hidden in the city sewers, whilst the people went about their mundane lives unaware of the immanent peril.

    But as mentioned by others it was also easy to model a wide range of other fantasy themes in the Warhammer world. Delving in dungeons or ancient dwarvern mines, high seas adventures with Pirates, exotic undiscovered lizard civilisations in Amazonian jungles, the undead encountered close to home in the empire, or ancient pharaonic like rulers of the dead in the desert land of Araby, Transylvania gothic vampires, barbarous orcs, beast men , or home grown political intrigue.
    It seemed to cover most bases.

    WFRP 1st ed game system wasn’t polished. I really disliked the narrow range for abilities ( 1 to 10) where a Dwarf could be as strong as a Giant. Coming from Runequest this always seemed ludicrous. A greater scale for abilities between the various monsters would have made for more variety, and added to the feel of danger & monstrosity appropriate for wfrp.

    I never played 2ed or 3ed WFRP. But I understand that 2ed introduced percentile scores for abilities in place of 1 to 10 scale. Which although better, still left the problem of humanoid sized characters being potentially as strong as a huge giant, at least where their ability score was concerned. Why use percentile to represent abilities? A percentage of what? I can understand percentile for attacks and skills, but abilities as percentile don’t model well across the board, particularly when you compare creatures of vastly differing sizes.

    Also 2ed destroyed a key theme of WFRP, the idea of the hidden enemy or the “Enemy within.” It’s set in a time just after a huge chaos army invasion , which completely and literally destroys the balance of WFRP. Gone is the subtle idea of chaos and peril bubbling unseen beneath the surface of civilisation, it’s all in your face, which for me destroys WFRP unique selling point.

    3rd ed appears to have had some innovative features with the dice pool, and the the idea of combat stance. But judging by what people have written, it’s not a game that I would have enjoyed with its over emphasis on the use of cards, and growing unwieldy as the game is expanded.

    If WFRP is to be resurrected again, I love to see it brought back with a game system much like Runequest 2nd /BRP/ Runequest 6 although keeping the flavour of Warhammer 1st ed, and throwing in a few new innovative game design features. Careers would remain core, although perhaps give the opportunity to stay in a given career for longer or entirely, only changing careers when appropriate or desired, and don’t worry about unbalanced careers, that makes roleplay fun.

    • Matt Kay “I also don’t understand Ben’s earlier dismissal of percentile mechanics in WFRP2 to then go and recommend hacking BRP and Runequest to WFRP. Aren’t those both percentile systems, too? Care to elaborate?”

      Hi Matt Kay – I didn’t mean to dismiss percentile mechanics in 2ed, well certainly not for skill based rolls. What I objected to was the idea of using a percentile for characteristics as well.

      For example take the characteristic “strength”. On paper in WFRP 2ed, a human could have a strength of 70%, however a Giant could be also be 70%. The % characteristic doesn’t reflect their relative strengths to each other, it reflects a percentage of their individual potential strength.

      In a game like Runequest/brp you may have a human with a strength of 12 ( out of a potential max of 18), a large giant could be as strong as 35 or more. its easy to understand the difference in characteristics relatively to each other as they are all working on the same scale. In Wfrp 2ed they’re not working on the same scale so direct comparisons of relative strength are not possible.

      Perhaps for other characteristics this isn’t as important, but I think for a characteristic like strength it is. I am conditioned from playing Runequest and D&D ( a long time ago), but it’s an approach that seems logical.

      I’m totally in favour of skills being % based, just not characteristics.

      Bare in mind I haven’t played 2ed, these are my thoughts based on a quick glance at the game and how it appears to be structured.

      Having said all this I had a lot of fun with WFRP 1st ed, and that had plenty of flaws, and a simplistic 1 to 10 scale for characteristics, but still made a great atmospheric game.

  • Thanks for that fantastic analysis Ben, I agree with you about original WFRP, and how stupid it was for WFRP2 to have that ridiculous chaos invasion shoehorned into the game background. There was no need whatsoever for WFRP to follow the silly campaign events of the Warhammer tabletop world at all, and it stuffed up the feel of the game. By the same logic, a new WFRP would follow the events of the so-called Age of Sigmar. Heaven forfend!

    • Hi Universal Head. Yes as soon as the background lost that important distinction of the hidden/ invisible threat and the enemy within, then the core of what made WFRP so good was lost unfortunately. I havent followed WFRP for a long time, or the games workshop Warhammer, but my understanding is that it has moved far away from the core essence of WFRP to one where armies of beast men are roaming the lands of the empire enmass, loosing that great Cthulhuesque theme of secret horror.
      Did 3ed bring the game back to the older background and themes? I notice there was a reworking of the enemy within campaign

      • FFG’s Enemy Within rather cynically used the old name on a new campaign. It was OK but nothing special. WFRPv3 did reset things to just before the Storm of Chaos, though I did feel that the themes were getting tired and repetitive. I mean, we all know there are man-sized rats in the sewers now, don’t we? 🙂

        As for new Games Workshop, they destroyed the Old World and set the new tabletop game in bubble universes in the far future – or something – so you couldn’t stuff things up much more than that!

        • Wow amazing. Sounds like Games workshop totally imploded & disappeared up its own a**e. Who was in charge of that ship?

          Good that WFRPv3 pushed back to a background before the mass chaos invasion thingy, they obviously recognised the importance of the setting.

          I can see how Ratmen in sewers might get repetitive. It kind of works at its best when the population above doesn’t really believe they exist, just in fairy tales.
          However this same theme of a hidden threat could easily be reworked through different story forms in WFRP. After all the game Cthulhu does this repetively and is immensely successful. Also I thought part of the fun of WFRP is that it could model other fantasy tropes very well, covering D&D type encounters and the like.

          These themes aren’t tired in my opinion ( look at Cthulhu), it just needs some creative input to revitalise them, and present them again in a exciting surprsing new way. I guess all games suffer from repetitive story lines after a while, It the job of the creative writers to revitalise them

          I’d still like to see a BRP/Runequest take on Warhammer fantasy Role-play

          • Matt Kay says:

            Who cares about the official timeline? I’ve played (and GMed) all 3 editions, but always set in a vaguely WFRP1 time. I found the mechanics of WFRP2 to be best for campaign play, though I enjoyed WFRP1 the best. I also don’t understand Ben’s earlier dismissal of percentile mechanics in WFRP2 to then go and recommend hacking BRP and Runequest to WFRP. Aren’t those both percentile systems, too? Care to elaborate?

            Anyway, as mentioned in an earlier post, Shadow of the Demon Lord has truly scratched my WFRP itch, I’ve GMed 3 sessions and am prepping a full campaign now. I’d highly recommend taking a look. I’m not a huge fan of the setting, but that’s not a big problem. The mechanics are built around a grim, dark fantasy setting. Which makes it easy to use in Warhammer Fantasy. 🙂

  • The only reason I cared abou the ‘official’ timeline as that the adventures could be affected by it – as someone who didn’t have the time to make up my own adventures from scratch, it just meant more prep time on my part. For example the first series of adventures for WFRP2 were built around the whole post-destruction-of-Middenheim idea.

    But it wasn’t a big deal, it worked out fine in our campaign really.

    I’ll check out that game – that that I ever seem to have time for RPGing these days!

    PS If this discussion continues it might be a good idea to take it to the forums; that’s the best place for a good chat!

  • The8thPagan says:

    Shadow of the Demon Lord looks interesting, but I found the 11 adventure arc campaign structure a bit off putting. My players do get attached to their characters and would be reluctant to end it after just 11 adventures.

    Didn’t realise that the Enemy Within in 3e was different than 1e. Played through some of The Enemy Within back in the late 80’s and really enjoyed them.

    • Matt Kay says:

      There are some good reasons for 11 levels (NOT adventures). If you’re interested, I’ll look up the author’s blog post and link it. You can easily stretch a campaign out beyond 11 adventures, too, it’s just the default to level up after every session.

      There’s been a lot of talk about it on the G+ Community, and the general consensus is to level up after a suitable milestone (similar to FATE). If playing the published adventures, they’re designed to be run in one or two sessions.

      Also, there’s a supplement out soon taking the “level cap” up to 20.

  • The8thPagan says:

    Warhammer 3rd Edition is ‘shipping now’ according to the FFG website and I suspect it won’t get any more reprints as they’re no longer producing new material, probably because GW destroyed the world in the war-game.

    So… is it worth the buy?

    I seem to recall someone saying that the ‘Enemy Within’ campaign is very different than the one I know from the old days. Is it still a good campaign?

    If not… which is the best campaign to go for?

    Any advice greatly appreciated…

    • I’m very surprised they’re doing a reprint now, I thought it was all done and dusted ages ago (in fact it may be an error, I don’t think they’d be a market for a reprint and they were selling off old stock in their last Xmas sale). Is it worth buying? Sadly … and it pains me to say this … I’d have to say no. The system is just too unwieldy, in retrospect. If you want a game in the same spirit, that is fast, easy to learn and play, and fun, grab Shadows of the Demon Lord. That’s what I’m GMing now and it has a similar grim and gritty feel without all the mucking about. Unless you’re particularly obsessed with gaming in the Warhammer world of course, in which case you could just get background material from old WFRP2 books and still use SotDL. Finally, if you just want to play WFRP, get the WFRP2 books. That version worked fine.

  • The8thPagan says:

    I was a backer for demonlord, but dropped out. That 11 adventure arc put me off and the character sheet was weird….

    However… One of my players Warhammer it seems…

  • The8thPagan says:

    Missed a word there… should be… “One of my players hates Warhammer…”

  • Olaf Schmidt says:

    Hi , rather late to the comments: I have played all 3 of the editions. 1st was new and the world is just evil (which I like!) with bigotry and misery in every part of it. 2nd was better streamlined and I didn’t mind the “End of Storm of Chaos” much. Basically you had Germany AFTER the 30 years war which gives you PLENTY of evil, bigotry and misery to play with. AND intrigue. and Horror. So, everything is perfect.
    And then came 3rd,
    In my opinion the only mistake they made, was to cut content for the first box. No HALFLINGS! only part of the priest and mage spells…
    Rules wise I like it better and honestly, I do not understand why people are intimidated by the bits, because EVERYTHING you need rules wise is on the tabel. Character sheet (check) Skills (less than 40 or so for the entire game, take that Rolemaster!) check. MEchanic is easy. Check. Some special rules for your class/carrer, check. Thats it. And you do not need ALL the bits, just the ones used by you(r character) The rest? rule of thumb. How far away is that sharp-shooter? Doesn’t matter. It is a loong way and you will be a pin cussion before you reach him. Can I use that weapon? Probably, not as good as the ones you are trained with, but try.
    For this you have the wonderful actions”perform a stunt or magic trick. For all the actions you come up with. Just let your imagination fly and role the dice (with some literal addition of purples :-).
    I am missing the cards of special rules for you that I add them to systems, which normally do not have them (shadowrun for excample – Equipment, and special skills…same for dark heresy)

    I just hope that GW goes belly up and someone picks up Warhammer Fantasy and the laughter of the dark gods returns…

    • I do agree with you in principle, and the dice were a great idea, but in practice I always found it bogged down as a game. People spent too much time checking cards, and there was always a lull in the action as we deciphered and interpreted the roll of the dice. I’m finding a very simple system like Shadow of the Demon Lord is much more fun and easy to manage. Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about the roleplaying, not the system.

  • Snabel says:

    Thank you for a great overview of the history of Warhammer Fantasy!

    Since GW and FFG are parting ways, I’m buying up an extra box or two of some goodies to future-proof my gaming. Somehow stumbled on your site.

    I’ll admit I come at this from a completely different background than you. I got started in the late 90’s. Some of my early favorites were Trinity for sci-fi and Legend of the Five Rings for fantasy. My group dabbled in everything from White Wolf (pre-reboot) to D&D 4th edition to Call of Cthulhu.

    Unlike a lot of grognards who grew up gaming in the 80’s, most of my friends have always been fans of new systems. We stay away from percentile systems religiously, and old school D&D is more of a horror story than an inspiration to us. Warhammer Fantasy 1st and 2nd editions were things we wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Partly because the setting felt like a Tolkien parody, and partly because of the horrid old-school system. So when that HUGE 3rd edition box appeared at my brick and mortar, it probably took a year and a half after release until I even seriously considered it.

    Finally, based on some online reviews and a promise of something new, I bit the bullet and shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for the core box and one or two supplements. Turns out it was worth every penny. An imaginative dice-rolling mechanic, tons of cards and tools to help track all the messy stuff that we otherwise had to flip through books for or write down manually, a pretty damn cool setting.

    By now, I own pretty much everything they released for 3E, and I’m sad to hear the game died and wasn’t resuscitated for a 4E.

    The honest truth is, I think it died primarily because it was called Warhammer. I’ve noticed many but not all older gamers (40+ years old) are strongly reactionary to new games, in a way maybe football fans might be but PC gamers certainly aren’t. They find an old-school system with archaic rules and stick with them, only accepting polishing of old mechanics. New game systems are met with venom and negativity online. This, more than anything, killed 3rd edition, a fine game with some of the absolutely best mechanics and definitely THE most lavish production values ever released for our hobby.

    I think if they’d released the game with a different title*, for example “Fantasy Flight Games RPG”, it would’ve been a success. Star Wars is a simplified version of it, and it sells like hotcakes because it doesn’t have the same baggage.

    Anyway. Long rant from my side. Thanks for teaching us youngsters about the history that got us 3rd edition. And I think you’re right: it’ll be a long time, if ever, before we see 4th edition.

    (*Same could be said for D&D 4th edition, which I think would’ve been a success if sold & marketed as D&D: The Wargame.)

  • The8thPagan says:

    Seems there are two groups of ‘old school gamers’.

    Some steadfastly refuse to change to ‘modern games’ and continue to play early editions of games like D&D, Warhammer and Role master.

    Others prefer lighter rules systems as they’re quicker to play and learn. Good for those of us with limited time to game. Often these lighter systems have weird dice (looking at you FFG) which alienates many gamers and can add a level of unnecessary confusion.

    There’s no right and wrong… just an opinion…. although beware if you stumble on opposing groups as the arguments can get heated.

    • We’ve been played Shadow of the Demon Lord lately and I like it because it has the gritty fantasy spirit of WFRP but is very rules-llght. I don’t have the time or inclination for complex systems like WFRP3 anymore; and in my experience they don’t make the game any better.

  • The8thPagan says:

    Some people like complexity and endless tables, but i hate referring to the rules as it breaks the flow of the game.

  • davidr5781 says:

    I also totally agree about the Skaven, Beastmen, Cultist thing. Good lord they repeated the ‘skaven in the sewers, beastmen in the forest and nobles in secret chaos cults’ thing over and over again!!…. You’d think the writers had a secret hatred of skaven and beastmen by the time the whole thing was done… LOL.. I also loved the 1st two versions of the game, however I never thought WFRP was that perilous. The game actually was quite safe, in that you had fate points which other games lacked. Being a 1st level wizard in D&D is much more perilous than being a new PC in the Old World. I also didn’t like how at times it seemed as though it was just to hard to hit anything. I can remember many times when my PCs and the enemy we were fighting just weren’t hitting. It was like both sides were standing their fanning each other with their blades repeatedly. Surely it cannot be that hard to strike something with your blade? Anyways, I could go on. Still, a great many nights were well spent playing 1st and 2nd edition of WFRP. I loved ‘The Terror in Talabheim’ especially. Great write up on this. Thanks for the quick trip down memory lane.

    • And hilariously, every time the skaven were revealed in an adventure they did a hard reset and tried to peddle the old ‘no one was aware of the threat under the streets and the ratmen were thought to be a myth’ line again. 🙂

      I believe WFRP has been picked up yet again by another publisher, possibly Cubicle 7 or Modiphius Entertainment.

      • davidr5781 says:

        Right, LOL, yeah for some reason they liked that whole ‘Skaven don’t really exist’ meme, and yet they were thick as flies in every sewer system, lol… Also, when there’s Beastmen, Orcs, Ogres and Vampires around, why the disbelief in Skaven? Anyways, fun stuff. I’m glad to hear a company has picked up the WFRP football and is going to run with it.

  • The8thPagan says:

    Cubicle 7 and Modiphius are great at setting material. I own everything for the One Ring and have Achtung Cthulhu core rules. Backed Infinity RPG and Conan.

    Not fond of their adventure writing though. Often tricky to find vital information in the body text which can be annoying and slow the story while you’re searching for it.

    Where did you hear about Warhammer falling into one of their hands?

      • Chris says:

        The third edition by cubicle 7 will be realeased this summer, You can already preorder it. They are quite miserly about details, but repeatedly answer that it will be a 1st and 2nd edition mixup with some new mechanics. And they promise to keep it gruesome and dark. NO AGE OF SIGMAR RPG, this will come out separately and with a different rules system. They start with the rulebook (about 300 something pages), a starter set, and a leatherbound collectors edition rulebook. I hope they changed the magic system and make it more detailed (like 1st ed. Realms of Sorcery) and that they will write a lot of adventures. By the way: That’s what I dislike on a lot of RPGs: Lots of sourcebooks, compendiums, but far to less adventures (with the exception of D&D or Pathfinder, but I was never really into them).

  • The8thPagan says:

    I saw the pre-order go up last week and want to buy, as I enjoyed playing through The Enemy Within many years ago… but you’re right about the lack of detail.

    There’s just not enough information there to give them my money, not even a character sheet.

    Too vague for me to commit £45 to it.

    However, they may have a preview copy at UK Games Expo, so I will seek them out.

    In the meantime, they may release some more detailed information, or ideally… a quick start adventure.

    I have obsessively collected The One Ring RPG by them and the quality of material is excellent, but my concern with Warhammer is that it won’t be close enough to the game I remember from long ago… but it will be nice to see the Old World once more…

    • I never understand the need to pre-order anything anyway. Why not just wait until it comes out and make a decision based on reviews and feedback, as normal?

  • The8thPagan says:

    Isn’t Kickstarter basically a pre-order? Works that way now for many products.

  • The8thPagan says:

    Same could be said of any cmon game. They made enough now that they don’t need KS to make a game.

    They could make Zombicide Toilet Cleaner and it would sell anyway.

    • Completely different business model going on here though, and there’s no reason to pre-order this product.

      • Oh, and c’mon (boom-tish!), that’s not true. A few really poor games and CMON would be in the same situation as any publisher making stuff people don’t like. Not selling it! You may not like Zombicide – it doesn’t interest me either – but a lot of people do like it.

  • Chris says:

    It’s true that a preorder makes no sense because You will not get the product earlier (and if you’re not interested in the limited collectors edition). But it might help the company getting bigger into business or helping them to estimate if their product/game and forthcoming products of this line is demanded by the gamers. There are not so many game companies that could consider themselves rich (my guess). I personally like that this is no Kickstarter and WOULD preorder it – if they come up with some information. Still nothing..

  • The8thPagan says:

    They have promised updates over coming weeks.

    I did pre-order the One Ring by Cubicle 7 (and most of the supplements) because it interested me and there was some information available.

    The advantage there was that I got the pdf immediately and had read it by the time the print book was out.

  • The8thPagan says:

    Rumour has it that Warhammer 4th edition will be released at UK Games Expo.

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