Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

It is a dark time: far to the north, the gate of chaos has opened once more. Archaon, Lord of End Times, had waged his insane war on the civilized world, although he was beaten back at the last moment, Chaos is still prevalent throughout the land: Beasts ravage the countryside, Mutation and Insanity are rife. Heroes are needed, heroes who will beat back the darkness, heroes the like of which who have better things to do than to save inbred, misbegotten peasants like these.

So, you lot will have to do. May the lords of ruination spare your souls...

In the grim darkness of medieval Europe you will roll peasants and die of cholera.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a bleakly humorous take on a high fantasy roleplaying game. It is set in the same setting as Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

WFRP was originally published in 1986 as a single-volume rule-book, and numerous source and campaign volumes followed. Games Workshop's core business, however, is in the sale of miniatures and other battle-game periphera, and roleplaying publishing has never been as profitable. WFRP was passed around various publishing subsidiaries before being mothballed in 1992.

Independent publisher Hogshead obtained the rights to publish WFRP in 1995, though GW retained editorial control to ensure any original material remained true to their canon. Hogshead reverted the license to GW in 2002 when they came under new ownership, and in 2005 Games Workshop published a new edition of the rules. In 2009, after getting the license, Fantasy Flight Games - the publishers of Dark Heresy and the Rogue Trader RPG - put out a somewhat controversial 3rd edition.

All of this means that, despite being over 20 years old, the game is still early in its third edition and indeed the original rulebook was often praised for its remarkably bug/exploit-free game engine. The game has been praised for its immersing realism, but equally criticized for forcing players to roleplay the boring periods between quests as well as the exciting adventures themselves.

Part Dungeons & Dragons, part Paranoia, part Cthulhu, WFRP shares in its parent setting's bleakness. A solidly Grey vs Black setting, WFRP is uncompromising in its grimness; instead of simply choosing a race and a class, you are advised to roll a dice for a race and a ˜"career," which include heroic backgrounds like rat catchers, rag pickers, thugs for hire and tax collectors. After all, life isn't fair, and in Warhammer Fantasy Battle, it's downright sadistic.

The setting itself is very cynical for a high fantasy, incorporating many low fantasy elements. The Old World is Europe in the throes of the Renaissance, new civilized cities have begun to rise, throwing up whole new criminal underworlds, Racketeers and drug lords abound, indeed the concept that things like alcohol and drugs can be addictive is yet to be thought of, new 'civilized' physicians cut into patient's skulls looking for 'unclean humors' that plague them. The insane are hounded out of the fear that daemons have touched them.

This being Warhammer, they probably have. The forces of Chaos are readying their legions to finally take over the world, doom stalks the countryside. But doom has always stalked the countryside, the people of the old world are fighting a losing battle to stop it from stalking their very homes; indeed many have given up and thrown their lot with cults dedicated to chaos.

The world stands at the brink of annihilation. True, virtuous heroes are needed to turn back the tide of darkness. But, until such people can be found, your PCs will have to do...

Tropes used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay include:

NOTE: all the tropes of WFRP's parent setting, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, apply here as well.

  • A Tankard of Moose Urine - Bretonnian beer and ale. The wine, not so much.
  • All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks - "I needed money for some new chainmail so that I could survive the run through Blackfire Pass, So I took a loan from Bruno Ballcrucher back in Marienburg. Orcs massacred the caravan and now I'm impotent and live in a cell with a pedophile, a serial rapist and an elf."
  • Annoying Arrows - Averted. An arrow is a damage 3 hit, same as an average joe making a swing at you with a sword, only much harder to avoid.
    • Actually this was a rather serious flaw at least in the first edition of the game. The problem was that, as the player characters advance, their melee attacks got more powerful and more accurate and their opponents got tougher. Their arrows, on the other hand, got more accurate but remained damage 3 no matter how good an archer the character was. So arrows were powerful against your average thug, goblin or newbie adventurer, but almost useless against a knight, chaos warrior or orc warlord.
    • Which is precisely how missiles behave in real world. If you are able to achieve maximal pull of a bow, it won't get better if you get stronger. On the other hand, the higher your skill in either melee or shooting, the higher the chance of gaining an additional damage that with a bit of luck may still One-Hit Kill anything that is not immune to normal weapons. Furthermore, in missile combat uses a Sudden Death Rule that is, as a rule of thumb, more deadly that normal Critical Hit rules.
  • Armour Is Useless - It most definitively is not, but fat chance you'll ever see any besides (if you're lucky) your starting leather skullcap and that rusty piece of moth-ridden chainmail you nabbed off that bandit.
    • In the first edition it was. According to the rules, chainmail or plate armour give 1 armour point that stacks with Toughness (natural resilience) that ranges between 2 and 4 for an average human. This means that average guy in plate armor is as just resilient as ripped warrior naked. Leather armour was useless against anything but lightest attacks (think fisticuffs).
      • Shields were pretty useful, though. They protected a character's entire body, and were lighter than a chainmail shirt, which offered the same protection only the torso, but was heavier than the shield.
  • Awesome but Impractical - Most of the third-tier careers—especially those that require full plate mail or, hell, anything costing over 100 gc as a trapping to enter. The highest level wizard career requires 6000 gc worth of grimoires to enter.
    • In Third edition Ulthuan Scale armour qualifies, it looks really cool, but costs 1 more gold and provides 1 less armour then a breastplate, all for a negligible encumbrance reduction.
  • Body Horror - Chaos corrupts, what drives the point home better than waking up one day with a face growing out of your armpit? When fighting in warpstone tainted environment, don't breathe in.
    • Some of the mutation results are downright disturbing, and nigh impossible to roleplay seriously -

While you sleep, your genitals decide to leave you and run off north to the realm of Chaos, in their place you are granted a toothed orifice which stage whispers lewd suggestions at inappropriate moments.

      • And yes, that's an actual mutation.
    • And if you are able to roleplay this seriously, we may have some bad news for you...
  • Canon Discontinuity - The main campaign of adventures published for the first edition, The Enemy Within, pretty clearly cannot have taken place as written in the world described by the second and third editions. In Empire in Flames, Emperor Karl Franz and Boris Todbringer are both murdered on separate occasions, and Heinrich Todbringer becomes the new emperor, is revealed as the heir of Sigmar, and marries Emmanuelle von Liebewitz. None of this happened according to the second edition ...
  • Competitive Balance - Some careers are blatantly better than others, though at different roles, and there are usually mitigating factors somewhere down the line even for peasants and servants. For your average combat-centric campaign, however, getting about 3/4ths of the starting careers will shaft you.
    • Even in third edition (which is a lot more player friendly) skills are extremely important, and getting a career that doesn't start with combat skills in a combat heavy campaign means you probably won't live long enough to learn those skills... which you would have to spend more experience to get.
  • Critical Hit - "Ulric's Fury!"
  • Critical Failure - A critical failure during spell casting may summon Daemons of Chaos, render you impotent, render you and your party and your distant relatives impotent, or merely give you an insanity point. Guns tend to simply blow up.
  • Cult - The old world is polytheistic, all it's major gods command a cult to do their bidding. And their bidding is often very bloody, gods in Warhammer are not moral pillars or Anthropomorphic Personifications but tyrannical masters who will strike you down if you don't give them their due. As such, most of the important people of the empire belong to (often rival) cults, who for all their mutual dislike, hate chaos, foreigners and elves more.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance - Quite a lot of it, especially in the Brettonian supplement.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? - Averted. If your characters encounter things like Greater Daemons or Ancient Dragons, then your characters will die. Period.
    • The Monster manual even states that these monsters are to be used for cutscenes.

The Greater Daemons of Chaos are living symbols of the futility of fighting Chaos. Their might is unmatched. Their threat is limitless. Each and every one of these foul beings have the power to bring low the greatest of mortal heroes.

    • In the first two editions at least it was just about possible for a party of powerful adventurers (i.e. those who had an entire campaign behind them) to take out a lone Greater Daemon. The last adventure in the 1st edition Enemy Within campaign pits the adventurers against a weakened Greater Daemon at the very end of the adventure. Can you smell those Fate Points burning up?
  • Gang-Bangers - The expansion Shades of the Empire adds the option of roleplaying medieval 'Work Gangs'.
  • Global Currency: Averted, in a deviation from typical Tabletop Games of this kind. Each nation (and the elves and dwarves) have their own monetary unit, which have exchange rates. Most adventures take place inside The Empire, where their currency is generally the only found legal tender.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told - The city's rat catchers are the first line of defense against evil ratmen, the Skaven, who are plotting to conquer the world. They brave the medieval sewers, full of diseases and instant death, armed with little more than clubs and a small (but vicious) dog, all for below minimum wage. They've learnt long ago to not mention it to the people on the surface, on fear of ridicule. Most thankless job ever.
  • Groin Attack: You can aim for the crotch, which does extra damage. In the 2nd edition, the Brettonia sourcebook mentions the existence of Brettonian Truffle Hounds, monstrous dogs that are experts on sniffing out truffles. If they eat any of the truffles they find, though, they become psychotically horny and territorial, immediately attacking anything nearby with a Y chromosome (regardless of species) and... Removing their ability to compete, shall we say? Brettonian truffle hunters either wear metal plates over their nether regions and become very good at restraining their dogs quickly, or learn to get a day job as a falsetto singer.
  • The Grotesque - Long term contact with chaos or warpstone often induces mutations in player characters, regardless of whether you choose to fight against or embrace the corruption eventually you will lose your mind.
  • Guns Are Worthless - Averted. Guns are extremely deadly if they hit—which reflects in their extremely high purchase price. Barring rolling up a soldier, your average PC will be lucky if he ever sees one.
    • Guns were pretty weak in the first edition of the game (except the ones who could hit multiple targets with one shot, such as the Blunderbuss).
  • Knight in Shining Armour - The Grail Knight career.
  • Lethal Joke Character - Halflings have miserable movement speed, a penalty to strength, toughness *and* weapon skill, and the lowest amount of wounds amongst all the races. However, they are *completely* immune to mutations and can juggle pieces of unrefined warpstone without problems (well, without the mutation. They still get horribly burnt), have a bonus to ballistic skill, and a surprising amount of warrior-able classes as possible starting careers. While he won't look as imposing as that shieldbreaker or the kith warrior, a halfling with an arquebus or a crossbow will pull his weight.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards - Generally averted. Magic powers don't grow in potency and the spells you get are about in line with the average damage output of most other classes at the same experience amount. And while warriors may be limited to 'hit stuff with sword' as opposed to 'call down lightning from the heavens', 'hit stuff with sword' won't end up with the warrior causing accidental self-sterilization, permanent insanity, strange weather phenomena, witch-signs, repeat offender of curdling the party ale, summoning demons, and being treated to a rousing game of Burn the Witch by the party priest of Sigmar and/or anyone else within earshot.
    • Partially due to Blind Idiot Translation equivalent of unit conversion. Many high-level spells were taken directly from WFB with inches changed to meters and miniatures changed to targets. In WFB, top-level combat spell was an equivalent of cannon hit or arrow barrage at half a mile (one miniature represented 10 soldiers or so). In WFRP the same spell is roughly equivalent of blunderbuss shot at 50 meters. Still useful, but hardly impressive. In 2nd edition spells are much more deadly. For both target and caster though...
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Fate points grant you a daily allotment of 'fortune points', which can be used to re-roll your dice.
  • With A Little Luck My Shield Will Allow Me To Parry This And Survive Another Round
  • Made of Plasticine - Not as bad as Dark Heresy due to the lower power levels, but there is some nasty stuff on the critical hit tables with the highest level cleaving the offending body part right off/right in two.
  • Multi Melee Master: Taken Up to Eleven by the Judicial Champion advanced class. Judicial Champion has possession of and proficiency with at least six high-quality melee weapons as a prerequisite. This is because Judicial Champions are the representatives of the court in an Trial by Combat, and are expected to duel the defendant with the weapon of his or her choice.
  • Munchkin - One of the most munchkin-hostile game systems in existence. You roll for practically everything, including stats and your starting career, and the book encourages the GM to throw the book at rules lawyers—literally.
    • Though it has to be said, with a little charm cast upon the dice (and no Munchkin is above that), you could get elves faster than horses. Then, there was the infamous Naked Dwarf Syndrome.
      • In the first edition it was also possible to have characters who were physically stronger than Dragons (though they could never take the same amount of damage).
      • On the other hand, even characters sporting Naked Dwarf Syndrome had to wary given sheer lethality of rules. Most attacks had roughly 2-3% chance of killing even the toughest character instantly.
      • In Third edition, if you want be statistically identical to a dragon prepare to spend 147 xp to get the same stats, then you will need to spend 30 xp to get the same number of wounds. Keep in mind that you gain 1 xp each adventure and still aren't frightening, can't breath fire, and don't have claws that do greatsword damage.
    • Frankly, a creative use of low-level spells can make wonders. Especially if you ty to interpret effects realistically for role-playing purposes.
  • Nice Hat - The Witch Hunters wear very distinctive hats when they want to be seen. In fact, even seeing someone wearing that Hat unexpectedly is enough to force a roll for Save versus Fear.
  • Off with His Head - The possible result of a critical hit. The game even states the head flies off 2D6 yards in a random direction.
  • Old Money - 12 copper pennies to the silver shilling, 20 silver shillings to the gold crown. Confusing as hell for anyone who grew up with decimalized money (basically everyone who isn't a Brit or an Irishman born after the mid-60's)
  • 1-Up - The Fate Points. Burn one and you get to survive an event that otherwise would kill you by some extraordinary quirk of fate.
  • Our Elves Are Better - Quite literally; elves have the highest ability score total (two positive modifiers, no negative), a base movement of 5 (about as fast as a horse), don't need to pay tuition fees as wizards, and their career list lacks many of the suckier choices like peasant. They get shafted slightly on Fate Points and Wounds, but not as badly as the Halflings on the latter. This, of course, is all to make up for the fact that getting those fat bonuses mean you have to play an elf. In a setting where, in case it hasn't been made clear already, everyone is borderline racist and takes Screw You, Elves as something that should be done with any available chopping or bludgeoning implement and plenty of fire.
  • Prestige Class - Advanced careers.
  • Perpetual Poverty - What the player characters will be living in.
    • Going by the rules as written, it is unlikely that a new character can afford to wear a full leather suit and have a decent sword and buckler, if these are not provided by his career.
    • 'Full Leather Suit'? LUXURY! Your average WHFRP starting character will be lucky if he owns any armour at all. The starting gold (rolled for, of course) is barely enough to buy a character a decent pair of boots.
    • Made clear in the supplement Renegade Crowns (see Rags to Royalty) that even should the player characters become rulers they are still going to be scrabbling for every pfenning.
  • Pyromaniac: Any party member or NPC with "Firebug", which includes a halfling in the scenario included in the 2nd edition "Winds of Magic" splatbook. Generally speaking one of the more debilitating mental disorders.
  • Rags to Royalty - First the good news: one of the supplements has a campaign allowing player characters to create (or more likely steal) a principality of their own! The bad news: said principality is in the monster/bandit/Chaos haunted Border Princes, will probably make Lancre look vast and wealthy in comparison and comes with a court full of people just itching to do the player characters what they did to the last guy.
  • Running Gag - Any references to ratcatchers or the ratcatcher career will always mention their most important trapping: The small (but vicious) dog.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training - Troll slayers. Most combat-related careers usually have some non-combat related skills thrown in to showcase a diversified lifestyle when not fighting anything. Troll slayers have three skills and three skills only: Dodge Blow (useful only in a fight), Intimidate (also useful in a fight) and Consume Alcohol (useful for giving you an excuse to start a fight).
  • Sanity Meter - Just saw a particularly grizzly murder scene? Turned out that filthy hobo that stole the countess' silverware was a chaos mutant and just revealed it in front of you? Happen to be, or stand close to, a wizard (or an elf) for an extended period of time? It's Insanity Points time! Hope you like crippling alcoholism, mandrake addiction, cleptomania, delusions of grandeur or any other number of not-so-funny-anymore medieval mental illnesses, because you'll be stuck with it for the rest of your career.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism - As noted, cynical. Although not as cynical as say, 40k. The random roles system will provide players with less of a party of adventurers than a band of ugly thugs. Combat is brutal and a high risk affair, a misroll during spell casting may consign your soul to hell. Firearms (of the general arquebus variety) are similarly risky; a misfire can easily kill a low to medium level character. More likely, however, is a misfire that destroys the weapon and all its ammunition... and that is pretty likely, but you can still earn your happy ending. The world may be doomed, but the village behind yon hill can still be saved.
  • Stop Worshipping Me! - Necoho, the Chaos God of Atheism.
  • Take That: In first Edition, Bretonnia basically was "ze" Frenchjerklandia.
    • Pre-Revolutionary Frenchjerklandia, to be precise. Also rotten to the bone.
  • Take That Us: The Enemy Within campaign includes a story about not so bright knight who charged the handgunners regiment shouting 'Challenge! Challenge' (and thus invoking the controversial rule from the WFB). This being WFRP, he simply got mowed down by one salvo of gunfire.
  • Torches and Pitchforks - A very real threat to most adventurers. When your insanities grow too grotesque, when your mutations grow too hideous, or when the peasants find out that you have a wizard (or worse, an elf) in your party; the mob awaits!
  • Total Party Kill - Very easy to achieve for a GM, without even trying. A few monsters—like Dragons and Greater Daemons—are basically statted only so a GM can use them to cause this.
    • More of a Background thing, really - Greater Daemons and Old Dragons are easily the deadliest thing in the tabletop wargame, capable of taking down the best hero characters and wiping out entire regiments of soldiers. The power levels of WHFR characters are far lower than, say DnD ones, a plate armored knight will be a difficult proposition for the highest level characters, let alone a demigod of war.
  • Vancian Magic - Obeys the first law, but not the two second ones. Also comes with the caveat that every spell has a 10% chance of driving the caster insane or causing chaos manifestations, successful or no.