Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion by Night10194
Here we go!Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Here we go!
Were it not for the introduction to this collection of small articles (it really isn't a single cohesive book), this book would be far more baffling. The Companion is explicitly a bunch of shorter submissions from freelancers. This is literally a book thrown together in a month and a half from submissions on short articles for 'material that won't fit in other books', I.E. ideas that are too weak to sustain another book. Thus, we end up with a rag tag collection of bad ideas scraped off the cutting room floor of an RPG line, tossed together in a short time span, and then shit out onto the shelves. I'm going to level with you: This is pretty much the only book in the entire Hams line where I don't think I'd use any of its material. I guess I used the Giant Enemy Crab stats for the Promethean in the back of the books(it's literally a Giant Enemy Crab) for an Amazon heroine to fight in gladiatorial combat to amuse the Dark Elves once but that's about it.
So what's actually in here? We're going to get cursory descriptions of places that aren't the Empire, but without enough material or mechanical backing to actually use them (the Guide to the World is, say, a paragraph on Lustria here, a mention of Ulthuan there, but no actual detail). We'll get a description of life as carnies in the Empire. We'll get a bunch of rules for living on the river routes of the Empire but they mostly just consist of very detailed drowning and water-borne disease rules. We'll get rules for 'trade units' and stuff if you want to play your campaign about being mustard merchants which you know, if you wanted it I'm not going to complain about it but I'd rather that kind of stuff be the initiating incident that causes an adventure rather than stuff I need 6 pages of charts for. We'll get the chapter I hate the most, the one on 'medicine in the Old World', which ho boy we're gonna have some fucking WORDS about later, just you wait. We'll get a bit about star signs that somehow doesn't actually add anything to the concept despite taking many pages. Social Combat Rules that suck AND include detailed torture rules!
The only possibly useful stuff is some stuff on the cities of Sartosa (Tortuga/pirate town) and a city called Tobaro to have some material on Estalia. You also get detailed stuff on a very generic Illuminati-style cult that, of course, has its fingers in everything in the Empire and we swear they'd make a good main campaign villain your players want to deal with a cult for their entire campaign right? Right? They're Tzeentch AND Slaanesh at the same time! That'll make them cool, right? (they're not cool). Then a section on pub crawls, a section on a random ass shop in the middle of nowhere, some stuff about Nuln's gunnery school, and finally a bunch of random monsters, most of which aren't that well designed.
So join me on this, a journey through a true pile of a book built out of bad ideas that should've stayed on the cutting room floor. It's finally time for the actually bad book in the Warhammer Companion, the book they shouldn't have bothered with!
Next Time: A Wider World
Wide and ShallowOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Wide and Shallow
As you might see by the above discussion, Hams has always been bigger than the nations with actual army books. There's always been supplemental material about 'there's probably some kinda turbo wuxia China over to the east' or 'Amazons with a royal laser cannon?!???' in the margins, but never much actually written about them. The idea here is to provide players with material to let them go beyond the Empire and 'act like obnoxious tourists', but there just isn't going to be enough material to really make it work.
We start off with a short section on why you shouldn't leave the Empire and on the heavy taxes and tolls levied if you do. Yay. Let's use an example entry here to talk about the problems of this whole article: Kislev's entry is 'They live in a cold land with some ice witches, furry hats, and iron-fisted tsars. They're a small and unimportant kingdom (which is untrue) of funny hats and vodka'. Yes, it takes 2 short paragraphs to say that in a few more words, but that's fucking it. That's all you get on Kislev. Can you run a game on that? You'll be writing all of Kislev yourself if you try.
Which, again, fine, I don't mind making shit up, but I don't exactly need this book to say 'Hey they're fantasy Russia/Eastern Europe, look at their funny hats'. I can just say 'Hey I feel like running a game in fantasy Russia'. Every single nation section in this book is the same shallow 2 paragraph deal, and they're all the broadest, shallowest possible descriptions.
Norsca? Vicious barbarians and nothing more (unlike the cool Norsca section in Tome of Corruption). Also like to rub seal-fat on their naked bodies to keep in the warmth without having to hide their rippling Conan muscles despite living in the cold.
Border Princes? Fantasy Balkans, knife-fights, an idiot tried to build his castle with skeleton labor but the skeletons killed him and took it (???)
Tilea? Hey, I'ma tryin' to havea racist accent ovah hehe! Also Machiavellian schemes and 'too much free thought, producing flying machines and powerful unreliable technology'.
Estalia? Wrong mustaches, terrible accents, silly rapiers, but actually a really nice place to live. Also, an entire valley of windmills for tilting with.
The Badlands? Orcs. Lots of orcs. Not much else.
Araby? Magic caliphs and 1001 Arabian Nights, also hands getting chopped off.
Khemri? Don't fucking go to Khemri, Tomb Kings.
The Southlands (Africa)? Just some lizardmen and endless jungle. No mention of any Africans.
The Darklands (eastern steppe)? Chorfs, Hobgoblins (who are Mongol Goblins) and Ogres.
The Ogre Kingdoms? Uh. More Ogres. Also a decently funny sidebar on hiring an Ogre bodyguard (look for the fattest guy or gal. Fatter means stronger with ogres. Compliment their girth). Still no playable Ogres. This makes me sad.
Ind? Some really racist shit about how dumb hinduism is. Seriously, the entire section on Ind is making fun of the 'contented locals' praying to 'their mouse or weevil or whatever' and making fun of not eating beef. Fuck whoever wrote this. Oh, right, your name's on the article. Fuck you, Owen Barnes. Fuck you for giving me the first Turbo Racism section since the goddamn Hung back in ToC.
Cathay? They're really big, powerful, important, and we're not going to talk about them but rest assured they're important. Also, stats for a Cathayan Longsword (It's a Greatsword but instead of Impact it has +1 damage, Armor Piercing, Fast, and Precise (+1 to Critical damage once someone's past 0). I'm actually of the mind that that's a fair tradeoff, I can't overstate how powerful Impact is when interacting with A: Fury and B: The d10 damage die).
Nippon? Uh, ninjas, I guess. They don't even get *two* paragraphs.
Bretonnia? Silly dumb peasants and knights. Only make fun of the peasants because the knights are actually badasses.
Ulthuan? Elfs. Who would ever want to go to a place that's full of [i]elfs]/i]? (The book's words).
Lustria? Lizard people, gold, ancient cities. Other people trying to get the gold. Plant that eats souls. Don't go to Lustria.
Naggaroth? Canadian bondage murder elves, don't go there.
Albion? The British are terrible, do you get it, this was written by British people.
And that's it. I've given you everything you get from chapter 1. It's fucking useless! There's not enough here to actually do anything with. You'd learn more by looking up army books on a wiki or something. I don't have any use for a tiny pamphlet with a shallow description of a dozen places. I could write that myself. There's no sense of the actual flavor of these places; look, I know, you're writing an 8-10 page article for a dumb pitch project and have limited room. The idea of a short pamphlet almanac of the wider world was doomed from the start. But that just goes to illustrate the problem with this book and its concept. There's no room for details, flavor, or adventure seeds because there's no room for goddamn anything because this book is made of scraps.
Next Time: Carnies
Who would ever want to play a group of rag-tag outcasts confidence scheming their way to fortune?Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Who would ever want to play a group of rag-tag outcasts confidence scheming their way to fortune?
Alright, I can admit when I'm wrong. I hadn't actually read the section on carnivals in my first readthrough months ago because I saw 'carnivals' and 'warhammer' right after the hyper-racism in the almanac and my 'oh god there's going to be anti-roma stuff in here' alarm went off and I skipped it. I was wrong to do this! The anti-roma stuff comes later, in the chapter about rivers! This is actually the one kind of decent part of the book, a pleasant surprise that mostly does what the introduction says the intent of the book was: It's a short article/chapter about a subject that couldn't sustain its own book, but that provides enough material to use it in your games and fit it properly into the setting and tone. So, fair job, Andrew Peregrine: You made the idea of playing carnies sound kind of fun.
Carnivals are one of the diversions and breaks from normal life that people can expect to get in Hams, and something I've always appreciated about the 2e fluff is that it actually does pay attention to how people have fun. The festivals, holidays, the nightlife and theater in the cities, etc are all part of the setting. For rural towns, passing carnivals and troupes of performers fill the same role: Something to break up the monotony of rural life and bring a little of the exotic and the odd in a setting that won't cause too much trouble. The Carnival provides people a way to see exotic creatures, performances, and have an excuse to take the day off farming, and all they ask in return is that they be allowed to scam you a little in the process.
The key to the carnivals in Hams is that they're never entirely what they look like, but they're rarely entirely a scam, either. For instance, one of the few safe jobs for a mutant is hiding among a carnival sideshow, specifically because 'everyone' knows their mutants and freaks are faked and so people will assume your mutations aren't real. A mutant hiding in plain sight with their adopted family of performers while people congratulate themselves on seeing through the 'excellent makeup' sounds like a fun way to get a mutant PC into a party if you wanted to play one, so fair enough! Similarly, the fortune teller might actually be able to see the future a little, or at least perceive the Winds; she's just going to use that to supplement her normal cold-reading rather than giving you a detailed prophecy. Old World carnivals are a place where people can have contact with the 'forbidden' in a 'safe' environment. The aforementioned sideshows of mutants, and seers are one way, but performances that break norms a little (but not enough to be Chaos) are also common, in part because sex and (staged) violence sells like crazy.
Carnival life is hard on the performers, because they're constantly moving in a world where travel is both difficult and dangerous. They need to keep moving both to make room for one another (even if you've found a long-term town, it's considered impolite to stick around too long and mess up other carnival's circuits) and because people only have so much spending money. Not only that, while petty theft and scams are common in the business, people will only put up with losing money for so long before they start looking to get it back. The carnival is thus always in a state of flux, setting up, tearing down, performing, or moving on. There are occasional periods of rest between days of showings, if the town doesn't chase the performers off or run out of money, and during this time the performers rehearse, repair their props, and come up with new scams, games, and performances.
Carnivals in 1600s not-Germany having rides is a little odd, until you remember dwarfs exist; one of the example carnivals is a family of dwarven toymakers who were kicked out of their hold for having the idea of building big, steam-powered toys people could ride on. They were thought insane for enjoying this 'fun' thing and wanting to expend so much energy on building things solely for entertainment. Thus, the occasional lucky carnival will have dwarf engineers who can set up rides, and those that don't will still put out play equipment for local children. Rides and playground stuff are 'fair'; these are targeted at the poorer people of a town and stealing from poor children is A: unprofitable, B: evil and C: makes Ranald angry at you and a traveling pack of charlatans don't want to make Ranald angry.
Sideshow games are rigged all to hell, of course, but that's part of the fun. Everyone 'knows' the card games and tests of skill and strength are rigged, and everyone thinks that knowing this means they can beat them. Sometimes, someone does! Imperial carnival games are things like 'prick the Greenskin', where the guests try to cleanly drive a nail through the folded up hide of an orc (this is actually surprisingly hard to do and the average man of average strength can't manage it), chasing greased pigs, and every card game you can think of and cheat at. There are, of course, fabulous prizes for winning. Note: Prizes may not be fabulous. Winning not intended.
Finally, there's actual performances. Burlesques masquerade as 'exotic cultural dancing', swordsmen and martial artists put on exhibitions, strongmen lift heavy things and put them back down, 'mutants' (both real and fake) are on display, priests give revival tent sermons or put on morality plays to demonstrate the myths of the Gods, and actors perform plays and read poetry. If you can imagine an act, a traveling show has probably given it a shot at some point. The priests are especially interesting; the carnival is one of the few times they're allowed to talk to the public more openly about Chaos, under the guise of lurid heroic tales of brave priests and knights striking it down or morality plays about how it worms in and destroys lives. Having a priest along doesn't draw crowds the same way as more exotic performers would, but it smooths things over with the locals, helps keep the Hunters from raiding your sideshow to make sure that's all makeup, and helps you claim your presence isn't deleterious to the morality of the community. Carnivals also tell the news they've picked up on their travels, usually embellished a bit to make it a good story. In this way, their performances are one of the places Imperials can have contact with the wider world outside of their rural town, which is one of the biggest things that keeps towns welcoming itinerant bands of performers/confidence men.
We also get a nice sidebar on the kinds of PC Careers likely to show up in a carnival-based adventure or story. There's the ones you'd expect, like Camp Followers, Entertainers, etc, but also Protagonists as martial artists and security, or the occasional Apprentice Wizard passed off as a GREAT AND POWERFUL SORCERER, or Spies who think that traveling around telling 'the news' helps them keep abreast of their employer's realm and the 'real' goings on within. The bits of advice on fitting PCs into the sub-setting are nice, and appreciated. It's the kind of stuff you want in this sort of thing.
Most of the folk who join a traveling carnival are outcasts who would have a much worse life if they weren't doing this. From the freaks who are hiding their mutations to the showmen who couldn't bear normal burgher life, most would be doing something else if they could have an easier life. Being members of a traveling troupe helps these unusual people band together against a very strange and sometimes harsh world; people on the run from the law, mutants in hiding, apprentice wizards who flunked out of mage college, folk running away from some other part of their past; all these people still need support structures and their troupe provides one and helps keep them from starving. A somewhat outlawed and lawless life is dangerous, constant performance and labor can be draining and exhausting, but it's safer than spending your whole life hiding in a basement and praying the Hexenjaeger never notices you wear a hat over your third eye.
Getting tricked and scammed by the carnivals is as much a part of the expected expenses as the entry fees and ticket prices. Again, there's enough information on their common confidence schemes (like an underwhelming performance where they then let people in on the joke and challenge them to trick their friends into seeing it for a penny, too) and tricks to help players get an idea of how to get into character. The key to most of the scams is that they A: Go for people who were foolish enough to bring a lot of spending money to lose and B: Make a joke of it. They rely on embarrassment, good humor and a sense of 'everyone knows' to keep people from demanding their money back before the carnival moves on. There's also the fact that each individual scam rarely takes too much money from a customer; most people aren't going to try to kill you over losing a couple pennies at a time. Losing a crown might cause some violence, but the people stupid enough to lose a whole crown at a carnival are usually the people stupid enough to be kept from noticing they've been tricked.
We end out with a couple interesting example carnivals, and these are honestly fun enough that I might have a few show up in my games even though I don't have any real interest in running a carnie campaign.
Mordechai's Wonderous Waxworks is our designated evil/dark carnival, and amazingly, they're not a Chaos cult. No, Mordechai has a carnival based around displaying exotic, lifelike wax statues, posed in fine clothing and all manner of poses. Many of them are unusual and strange, weird figures of highly lifelike mutants. As you might guess, these mutants aren't wax at all, they're people. The evil showman has realized that he can lure in mutant 'performers' by promising food and safe harbor, but that they can't go to anyone for help once he gets his claws on them. So he's exploiting the fact that his workers have no route for normal legal recourse to enslave them, even selling them to rich clients as permanent servants or 'pets' if they'll pay enough. The plotline here is obviously for your PCs to throw the evil sideshow man out a window at some point and rescue his abused performers, but he's also got some warpstone and isn't smart enough to know not to use it if his back is against a wall. That would be a fairly fun little adventure.
The Travelling Shrine of Healing is the weirdest group. They're made of a group of Shallyan missionaries who have been trying to find ways to get people to listen to lectures about public health, cleanliness, and preventative medicine, and a group of Ranaldans who have been trying to get a respectable front so that they can teach the youth to question authority and do sleight of hand (in hopes of inspiring some to become Ranaldans). While complaining about their difficulties together (The Shallyans can only ever seem to get people to drop by who are already sick, the authorities catch on to the Ranaldans too fast) they hit on the idea of joining forces. The Ranaldan's performances and plays draw in crowds, while the Shallyans' healing gives them a respectable front. By promising free tickets for the illusionists and performances of the Ranaldans if people listen to their lectures, the Shallyans manage to get people to sit still and be told about the importance of delousing to prevent the spread of plague. The Ranaldans love to put on plays showing the myths of all Imperial faiths, and they run teaching sessions where they show bright youngsters how they got conned at the shows and carnival games and encourage them to try doing the same to others. All in all, both groups are happy enough with how their alliance came out.
The Smoke are the aforementioned dwarfen toymakers, otherwise known as the Sturcheim Dwarfen Circus of Mechanical Marvels. The smoke-belching steam-wagons and massive rides are some of the most impressive displays of any traveling carnival in the Old World, such that this is one of the few carnivals you'll find nobles visiting as well as commoners. The Sturcheims were run out of their hold for 'wasting' time building tiltawhirls and trying to divine the secrets of the rollercoaster, but they found that humans loved their work as much as the Longbeards had hated it, and so now they've found a new life funding their developments by traveling around and showing them off. Nobles will actually commission them to come to their towns as a 'reward' for obedient subjects, such is the fame of the Circus of Mechanical Marvels. Fun-loving hams dwarfs sounds like a good time to me.
The final group is Dieter Keynsbiery's Fighting Pitwives, which is a traveling women's martial arts exhibition. They naturally feature at least one 'disgraced' Bretonnian lady-knight at all times, along with Estalians, Imperials, Kislevites and Tileans, all fighting in staged gladiatorial combat designed to show off both the 'novelty' of women warriors and the flashy or impressive sides of their homelands' martial arts. The longer the night goes on, the more exotic and ridiculous the plotlines in the pit become. Also, the women traveling with the carnival might be performers, yes, but they are actually serious fighters if trouble comes up. They're putting on a show for the crowd, but they all know their way around their weapons; they have to, to avoid killing each other when doing exhibitions with sharp weapons at full speed.
So yeah. Actually kind of a fun section. Odd, but fun. It has enough information to get in character, it does a good job of fitting its material into the Old World, and the example carnivals are pretty flavorful. If the whole book was mostly like this, it would be way better; this is a good example of how to do an odd niche element of the setting well. Also, no racism!
Next Time: Fall In A River And Die
DrowningOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
So, the Reik. The Reik is one of the most important geographical features of the Old World. It is, in many ways, the key to the Empire's centers of power and a major international and national trade and transport route. It's an obvious choice for the subject of an article in a book like this. Sadly, our article on the Reik is going to be more concerned with rules (that aren't especially great) than with describing why the river is so important to the world.
The book is correct: Its location in a defensible place on the Reik is a major part of what turned Reiksdorf (now Altdorf) into an important city to begin with, and the flow of the Reik is one of the keys to the Unberogen's surpassing of the Teutogen tribe to become the per-eminent pre-Imperial civilization. The Reik stretches over a thousand miles, all the way up to the World's Edge Mountains, where the persistent snowmelt begins to feed it. It picks up speed as it flows southwest, through part of the Kislevite Oblast and the River Urskoy, then down into the Talabec, and finally into what Imperials recognize as the river Reik. Tributaries of this river feed both the transport needs and the irrigation and floodplains of much of the Empire's most populous and fertile territory. The modern Empire would not exist without the Reik, and most of its most important cities and settlements either sit along the Reik, or can reach the Reik by river.
Something I wish the author had gone into more (because it's definitely the case in Hams) is that Hams is one of the only fantasy settings I've seen that acknowledges the vast, vast gulf in utility between overland and river/sea travel in an early modern or medieval context. Almost every major city in the setting is on a river or sea route, and the exceptions always have very important reasons (strategic locations, etc) not to be. Overland travel is depicted as dangerous and expensive, while rivers and sea travel still have to contend with dangers but are much faster and more convenient for both goods and people. We get occasional mentions of this here, and an acknowledgement that the river is the most important geographical feature of the Empire, but the author's much more interested in drowning rules or how much it costs to get an 18 yard barge vs. a 24 yard one.
We get a lot about stevedores and teamster's guilds, and classes for both (classes that don't really add anything and don't even have interesting exits, so I can't really see anyone playing them), and there's a lot of attention paid to how many men are used to unload a ship and things but it's not very interesting. There's no real plot hooks, despite talking about one of the most vital trade arteries of the Empire. We get the numbers of crew on a typical pirate ship (and a class for river pirates, which is basically just Outlaw but with some boat skills and worse at fighting) but no actual plot hooks about river pirates. Do you see the pattern? There's a lot of fiddly rules and numbers, but not very much flavor, despite talking about what should be a pretty exciting subsetting. I mean they make pirates boring! PIRATES! Pirates are fun!
We also get a class for riverwardens, who are just roadwardens who sail instead. They patrol the rivers for the same reason roadwardens do the roads, and they're extremely similar in flavor and concept. Your usual semi-corrupt, overworked Warhams lawmen.
And then comes the Strigany. You guys remember them from Night's Dark Masters, right? The survivors of Ushoran's kingdom of Strigos, the human relatives of the Strigoi vampires? They're still Warhams Roma. They're hated and persecuted by everyone because they're itinerant tricksters and thieves who worship their old vampire masters and get a -10% to Fel because they're so disliked. They're just as bad here as they were in NDM. There is at least the suggestion the blame they usually get for any local happening is misplaced, but seriously, -10% Fel for being so 'untrustworthy' and being described as having a culture that does nothing but 'prey on superstition' to swindle folks? Errrrgh. This is the second time I've had to call Turbo Racism in one book, Hams! The second time!
Also we get actual HP and DR for boats, and at about 80 Wounds and 7 DR, a party can chop a river barge in half with a little work. Arrows and personal scale attacks can threaten them. This system is really not well set up for vehicle combat rules. Then we get to the rules for swimming, and every single bit of expansion on the swimming rules is towards 'player drowns'. As in, every new bit of complication to the rules is entirely in favor of fucking the players if they ever touch the water. Wearing any kind of armor? -20 even for the lightest gear. Wearing clothes? -10. Fast river (like the Reik)? -20 to -30. All stack. Also if you don't drown (somehow) you now get waterborne diseases for touching the water. We also get rules for getting dysentery any time you drink from any kind of natural water, which I'm sure players will enjoy. We even get rules for how to determine the exact movement speed in game terms of a river's current based on where in the river you are and god does anyone ever ACTUALLY use this kind of minutiae in a game? Who stops their swordfight to go 'hold on, Steve, I gotta calculate the river's current so I can roll to see how badly you drown and/or start shitting yourself to death/getting worms?'
Every bit of additional 'realism' here is designed to fuck players, as is the way of 'realism' in most games. It adds nothing. It's a waste of page space, a boring bunch of stuff that only serves to make Swim an even bigger emblem of the problems with the game's skill system than before. It's also emblematic of how the game tells you 'roll at +0' is meant to be a difficult situation AS IS (since a starting character will only have a 30-40% chance on average) and then dumbass pre-made adventure writers go 'but this is supposed to be HARD or GRIM' and then toss an extra 'minor' 10 or 20 point penalty on top. Fuck you, Andrew Law, for making me hit both the Turbo Racism button AND the verisimilitude button about the same article, while not telling me hardly anything about the extremely important and cool river system that underlies almost all Imperial politics and economics.
Next Time: Traveling Mustard Salesmen
Calculate your Trade Units on the Availability MatrixOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Calculate your Trade Units on the Availability Matrix
I get the appeal of playing as a traveling merchant. I really do. A game about going from place to place, having adventures as you and your buddies try to build a career? Navigating backroom politics and the struggle between guilds and the landed gentry of the Empire over their legal rights as the world slowly moves away from the old feudal order? Having to deal with secret societies and 'merchant clubs' without getting ensnared by a Chaos Cult? Fighting off bandits and monsters? Or playing the crew of an old smuggling riverboat, having to take on risky jobs just to keep things together and staying one step ahead of the taxmen while dealing with river monsters and shady clients? Those are all fun ideas for a game. So when I say the upcoming 16 pages are bad as all hell with their Advanced Trade Rules, it isn't because the idea of playing a merchant campaign is bad.
It's because the next 16 pages of the book are devoted to adding a complex subsystem to the game designed to calculate exactly how many crates of chickpeas you can trade for how many crates of salt cod that you can sell for how many crowns at the next town, minus tax and guild fees. It also completely relies on two other books, Old World Armory and Sigmar's Heirs, because the subsystem is reliant on the (extremely stupid) population numbers and the 'source of wealth' quotes in the Gazetteer and the trade goods make extensive reference to Armory's section on economics. Yes, you can't actually use this system very well without owning two other books. Moreover, there's an interesting bit in Old World Armory where they explain why the game doesn't have detailed crafting rules: The intent is that you don't have rules for working a day job in a blacksmith shop because the game rules are mostly intended for adventures. You know, the thing this entire chapter/subsystem isn't really about. So not only is it referencing another text, it's then doing exactly what the text it's referencing said not to do.
First we get the requisite bit about joining a Merchant's Guild. Costs 50-100 GC (not insignificant), you must own a warehouse in the guild's main town and a legal residence in the guild's main town (and as this is own, rather than rent, according to the Old World Armory's stuff on property values this will be a massive, massive expense), and have a letter of credit and a letter of recommendation from a recognized mercantile mentor. You'll also owe your guild 10% of any future profits. 'Less than a quarter of younger traders will ever become full Merchant's Guild members', the book says, and unless you're a full member guilds won't permit you to do more than 200 GC of trading per week on their turf. If you aren't even a journeyman member, you won't be able to do more than 20 GC of business a week in their territory, which seems awfully odd considering Adventurers run around selling 500 GC gems and stuff all the time. That's another fun thing about this whole section: The salt cod business isn't actually that profitable compared to actually having an actual adventure with actual treasure, according to the treasure rules in, again, the book it's referencing (Old World Armory). There's more bureaucracy if you do business off guild turf, but it mostly relates to getting permission from the local racket to buy and sell, probably via bribes/letter of recommendation.
Merches have an odd relationship with nobles in the Empire. Nobles mostly have the money not to have to bother with business, and while the barrier isn't as big as it is in Bretonnia, a landholder engaging in mercantile affairs is a little unusual. Merchants mostly supply goods and moneylending to nobles against their considerable inherited property, instead, while nobles tax merchants for their own income. Merchants do everything they can, using those goods and moneylending as leverage, to lower their own taxes. I wish they'd gone into another thing that other work in the line does: Merchants in the Empire can become nobles fairly easily by marrying into the family or buy outright purchasing a title and enough land. It isn't like Bretonnia where it's all bloodline; a rich person with a respectable business can bust into the nobility, and this has been happening quite a bit, devaluing the titles of nobility in the Empire. Our section on nobles instead focuses solely on tax, and an example where the nobility have levied a massive surcharge on arms and armaments to ensure that private citizens can't buy up all the weapons in panic over 'Archaon coming back any day now, we swear!' so that there will be gear to equip the State Troops. The State Troops' armories and favored merchants obviously don't have to pay these taxes, so getting a military commission to supply the army is an instant ticket to massive profits in 2522. Gee, that almost sounds like an adventure seed, book, are we going to talk any more about that?
No, instead there's some stuff about how you have to use the Stevedores and Teamsters'
Also get some stuff about moneylending and interest, and stuff about secret societies and religion, comparing Handrich and Ranald. It's nothing interesting if you've read ToS, and through me you've basically read ToS now so hey. There's also a powerful magical ritual to Handrich that 'raises the Wealth Level of a settlement' if it succeeds, so Handrich worshipers meeting in a back room, smoking cigars and drinking expensive wine as they worship LOCALLY MADE FINE PRODUCTS will actually cause the economy to improve. However, if these powerful economists are insincere in their worship of LOCALLY MADE FINE PRODUCTS (failing an Int test as part of the ritual, which I take to mean they have to jabber some nonsense about job creation and the stimulus effects of tax cuts) they lose all their magic and Handrich curses them for a year. There's something kind of hilarious about capitalistic cargo-culting so I'll allow this.
We also get a map of the Empire by TRADE ZONE and a note that the Northeastern Empire won't let you sell goods, only buy and barter because everything up there is currently on fire. You might remember Ostland and Hochland had a bad time, after all. This is also where we're told you'll need Sigmar's Heirs to look up if a specific settlement sells wine, salt cod, etc. We then get a smattering of some of the major settlements and their population (hearty lol at the powerful city of Altdorf having only 105,000 people, yet again) and WEALTH RATING, and then we're into the trading rules.
I'm gonna be straight with you: I'm not going to go into detail on them. You know why? Because no-one ever actually uses these kinds of rules. They exist, sure, and people will nod sagely and say how verisimilitudenous it is that, say, the authors innovated by having Trade Units be a unit of value (the average is 25 gc) while the actual value of the goods determines how much cargo space they take up (100 enc of cathyan silk is a single TU, while 900 enc of cheese is the same), but how often do people actually sit down and do all this shit?
The thing is, I get it. I get the design goal. The authors (Jude Hornburg and Dan White) want to give you complex subsystems that will let a character who went into Merchant use their Merchant skills as a central point of mechanical complexity the same way warriors and wizards get to use their swords and magic. I get this and it's not in and of itself a bad idea; there's a lot to be said about the fact that combat tends to be one of the major points of mechanical complexity in almost every RPG system and what that says about the assumptions of RPG design. The problem is, this system is a low fantasy system geared towards adventure, treachery, and investigation. The system and its genre are designed such that combat, investigating, etc should be major parts of the system. And the subsystems added here mostly just add a bunch of 'roll for supply, buy as much as you can, roll to see what rate you trade your goods at, go to the biggest city, sell everything for cash' rigamarole that could already have been accomplished without an additional subsystem. You could easily just say 'You've taken out a loan to buy a load of Cathyan silk at Erengard, now you have to get it down by river and sea to Marienburg, then out to Altdorf to sell. Along the way you encounter some adventures, and at your destination using Evaluate and Haggle and deciding who to sell to determines how much profit you make' without needing a Supply and Demand Matrix and Wealth Levels and Availability By Population.
Like, tell me this. What sounds like the fun part of a game about merchants? The adventures and interpersonal relationships and betrayals and the tension of running ahead of bankruptcy and credit? Or spending an hour calculating the exact amount of Salt Cod you get for 20GC? And in spending so much time on the latter, this section has almost nothing about the flavor and setting info that would enhance the former. Especially when you only have 16 pages to do it (and this is one of the longest 'articles' in the book). Trying to establish an entire RPG subsystem of rules instead of trying to tell players and GMs cool stuff about being a merchant in the Empire is sort of a waste of time, since it's bolting a whole different resolution mechanic onto a game that already had a (simple, but feasible) mechanic for haggling and bribing and selling. In trying to expand the options for a mercantile campaign, they focused on the accounting rather than the adventure, and it just doesn't seem like any fun to use.
Plus, like I said, the actual mechanics are just layer after layer of RNG without any real meaningful decisions to make as a merchant, so it's not like they actually succeed at adding the kind of extra, dramatic, fun complexity that could make them interesting to use. They're just extra kludge.
Next Time: I don't even know how to cover this one.
This section doesn't really deserve a joke titleOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
This section doesn't really deserve a joke title
Kevin Hamilton and Robert J. Schwalb, you guys are on notice: The Star Signs chapter is one of the worst in the book (not the worst, that's coming next) because it's just such a pile of fucking nothing. I'll go over the material some, but for the most part it's just shitty prose about what your horoscope says about you in the most hamfisted way possible. This'll probably be a short post.
So, Star Signs are a thing in the Core Book. You can roll for your star sign, and they say little blurbs like 'You were born under the Greased Goat, the sign of passions denied' or 'you were born under the Big Cross, the sign of clarity'. They don't have any game effect, they're just a little flavor thing because the setting has a lot of divination and astrology. They're cute. We usually roll them for PCs as a little character detail, much like Dooming. This section tries to expand on Star Signs to give more detail about what they say about a character's personality. It does this by having a little description of what people from that sign are like, then a couple little prose paragraphs about a character born under that sign in a situation like 'encountered a horrific monster' or 'getting a drink at the pub'.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, the book itself even acknowledges Star Signs are best when they're vague and believed to be influences on a person with the truth or lack thereof left up to the individual. Secondly, the little 'what're they like' paragraphs have all the subtlety of a brick to the face and make pretty much every Star Sign sound like kind of a shitty character. Also, the main categories for it are 'drinks at a pub' 'fighting a mutant' 'discovered you are a mutant'. The fuck, guys? That's a very odd pair of 'typical situations' to talk about a character encountering. Really, the reason seems to be so the authors can write about things 'spewing effluvia' as they 'shamble horribly' at the various example characters.
So let's get on with it! Here's the Big Cross, the Sign of Clarity. That's an evocative idea for a sign, right? Well, Big Cross people are sensible, make good decisions, and generally face life rationally. That's it. That's what clarity means here, no other interpretation. The Big Cross guy also never bothers to go to the pub, just gets right to facing off with mutants. Encountering the mutant, the Big Cross has the big cross clarity revelation: "It's ugly and has to die!" Really showing off that rationality there, big revelation, total clarity. But what if the Big Cross IS the mutant? She rationally starts cataloguing what the tentacles growing out of her stomach mean, whether or not they can be removed, and doing cost benefit on seeking a doctor or turning herself over to the Hunters to be killed. That's it. Boy, this sure is exciting information about playing characters in the setting! You sure would benefit from giving yourself a firm hat that reacts to everything through a single character trait, wouldn't you?
Okay, maybe that was just a bad entry. Maybe never going to the pub fucked that one up; that must be key, go to the goddamn pub. Let's take Grungi's Baldric, the Sign of Martial Pursuits. It's named for a dwarf God because it's a sacred star sign for dwarfs, and symbolizes serious warriors who care about their art and their practice. Okay, fine, how's this guy (who is dwarf inspired) do at the pub? He orders a single drink and a meal, and in paying for them 'displays GREAT DISCIPLINE' and 'REMAINS READY FOR BATTLE AT ALL TIMES'. I didn't think paying for a meal counted as displaying mighty discipline that would shake the Gods themselves, but whatever. Okay, so these people are boring. How does fight guy do in a fight? Oh, he doesn't get to fight a mutant. He just gets to be one. He notices he's got an eye in his thigh staring at the sky while he's taking a shit. Then calmly knifes the eye and pulls it out of his leg after he's done. Okay. Lots of personality on this guy.
They're all like this. Totally useless for making characters. The Sign of Wisdom takes notes on the 'relative quality of drinks' the whole time at the bar, the sign of the indistinct laughs about mutation and flips a coin to see if they'll 'stick around', they're all dumb, stupid single-trait character examples being defined by shitty prose and a bad idea for a gimmick. This is the ENTIRE SECTION. It's the same length as the Carnie article, yet it feels much shorter because it doesn't have anything to actually say. It's just completely worthless.
You know what would have been better than this? A section on why the star signs are what they are. What's the legend behind Grungi's Baldric? Why is there a sign of the Greased Goat? What are the stories, where are these in the sky? The kind of stuff that a Celestial Wizard or Navigator would know. Some interesting fluff and flavor about why people believe these signs symbolize what they do would help them fit into the world better while leaving them very open to your PC's interpretations. And it wouldn't be this pile of horseshit.
Next Up: Medicine, the worst chapter in the book.
'Realism' is code for 'fuck your players'Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
'Realism' is code for 'fuck your players'
If I had to pick a single article that encapsulates everything wrong with WHFRP Companion, it'd be this one, so congratulations, Steve Darlington; you wrote the worst article in a generally bad book! Excellent work.
So, medicine in the Empire has traditionally had an undercurrent of snakeoil and scam artists mixed with surgeons who actually know enough to at least disinfect your wound, dress it, and keep it clean well enough that you'll eventually heal up with a nice scar to make you look a little more grim and perilous. The Heal skill and Surgery talent have both been genuinely useful things for characters; starting out with a Barber-Surgeon or Student on your team who has a good bit of Int and Heal has been a boon to a lot of parties. Getting back d10 Wounds after a fight is a big deal, especially as the healing supplies necessary to restore that to heavily wounded characters cost mere pennies. You can get a Heal check after each encounter and every day; a Barber Surgeon with Surgery healing you 2 points of damage each day that you're heavily wounded will have you back to a full healing rate in 2 days of treatment instead of 3 weeks you'd need on your own. Medics and doctors are extremely useful in Fantasy, by default; having a Shallyan around is helpful even before she can throw down half-action d10+2 superheal spells every turn.
But there's also always been a bit of an undercurrent in bits and pieces of the line where people seem to think 'getting wounded PCs back into the action quickly' ruins the 'grim and perilous' atmosphere. Our good buddy Steve is one of those people, and wants to give us lots of rules to make healing more 'realistic', by which I mean wants to make things fuck your players as hard as possible. While having some really cringe-worthy fluff.
So early Imperial medicine was all based on the ancient treatise of the elven doctor Gaelen, who is an obvious standin for Galen, because fuck, you named him GAELEN. Now the real Galen was a greek physician living in Rome who was highly influential after his reintroduction by renaissance scholars. You can't just name the elf Gaelen and have him used exactly like the historical Galen. Look, I know Fantasy does the 'fantasy counterpart culture' dance all the time, but it usually puts a twist on it instead of being so blatant. Anyway, Gaelen the elf wrote of the body as an ecosystem that needs nurturing in the whole of it and denied the efficacy of surgery. Imperials used his herbal remedies until they failed completely in 1111, when the plague killed much of the Empire. Next, necromancers made significant advances in the study of the body, through raising it from the dead and observing how the muscles and things worked directly. Later scholars would use this information but obscure its origins. This is fine, that's the good sort of warhams stuff there.
Then they talk about a 'Tilean Renaissance' which has never been referenced anywhere else because Steve's stuck on 'exactly like Earth' historical references. This leads to a rise in seeing the body as a machine, to be taken apart and fixed by purely mechanical means, inspiring modern surgery. The Gaelenic-Mechanical split defines medicine, we're told, despite every competent doctor practicing both. To do this, they have to break the law to get corpses for dissection and study. This leads to a brisk trade in graverobbing, even more than the usual necromantic clientele (much better to work for rich doctors, less likely to cause you trouble) and again, this part is fine. Then we get into the bit where Marienburgers are paying for poor people to be delivered to them for vivisection from various shady hostels and flophouses and I can buy that because you can't trust the libertarian fantasy dutch.
We get a bunch on a dumb trinary model of the universe that is the latest 'scientific' craze among doctors, where there's a Realm of Law (Gods, elfs), a Realm of Chaos (kahyoss), and a Realm of Men (mans) and that all disease comes at some point from Chaos and must be treated by the balancing of the Law and Men to blah blah blah blah. It's basically all just a minor variation on the Humours. It's dull.
Physicians and Surgeons work in separate guilds, with Physicians trying to protect themselves from malpractice accusations by linking their guild to important potentates in the region they operate in. This, however, means those potentates can direct medical practice an awful lot, which doesn't help with the general distrust of doctors among the common man. If the Emperor reads that wearing a duck on your head is good for you, the Altdorf Physician's guild will be buying ducks by morning (the book's example) and writing treatises on why they ought to be on your head, right the fuck now. Herbal apothecaries try to discredit physicians so people will keep coming to them rather than using science. Which is funny, because in most of the rest of the line, the joke is the physician's guild is constantly trying to shit on the Shallyans and other sources of healing so they can keep charging huge prices and not get their business stolen by charity.
And that leads into my 'favorite' bit of all this. The section on Shallyans as 'alternative medicine'. Our author's thesis is essentially that Shallyans are incompetent healers who only get their reputation because some of them can touch an eviscerated guy, pray a little, and put his guts back in. Also, soldiers don't trust them because they're female (remember, there are male Shallyans, who are wandering doctors). 'Shallyans rarely have a Heal skill that goes over 50%', says our author; this is mechanically incorrect. The average Shallyan Initiate, at Heal+10 (their Initiate skill) and +10 Int from Initiate, will have a 51% skill. As a full priestess, she'd have a 61%. Also Initiate can go into Barber-Surgeon as a side-path and that's hardly difficult to do if you want to pick up Surgery, the thing Shallyans 'never' learn (there are ongoing theological debates in setting about surgical intervention in the church of Shallya). Only doctors can treat serious illness, while the best the Shallyan order does is provide hospice and care for you while you're dying, unless you happen upon one who has magic. Again, not actually accurate to the game's rules or the rest of the setting's fluff, though in fairness this was written before you could have a Shallyan Priestess with two Divine Marks that provides +3 Wounds healed per use of the Heal skill since ToS came out a year later. Yeah, this is partly me going to bat for the Shallyans because I like them, but it's also just weird; he's completely missed the joke in the rest of the setting that it's mostly the snake-oil salesmen who shit on the order of kindly, professional healers because they're cutting into their business.
Okay, the fluff's out of the way, let's get to the REAL meat of why this article sucks: The shitty, shitty rules. So now we get rules for hiring a doctor, and they introduce two new ways to get fucked over: One, the better the doctor is, the higher the chance (up to 40% for a Best doctor) they're a quack and their skill is half what's listed and they have a good chance of killing you. Two, the shittier the doctor is, the higher the chance (up to 30%) they use dirty tools and infect your wound. So you can work hard to find a Best doctor, pay your 10 crowns for a single 90% Heal check, and then wham, 40% quack. If a doctor who is a quack treats your wounds or sickness, the wounds or sickness 'return' in a couple hours unless they succeeded their check by 1/2 their skill or better. So your player could get 9 wounds back, leave the office, and then 12 hours later, you reveal they're actually still down 9 wounds and shouldn't have paid for such a good doctor. Yay! Fun and engaging!
Wound Infection is new. If you don't get treatment for your injuries and try to heal naturally, you have to make a +30 Toughness test EVERY DAY you haven't gotten a Heal test (or an Agi+20 test from an ally with some bandages and soap) or your wounds get infected. You get a -10 per crit you've taken, a -10 if you got hit by Skaven or Nurglites, a -10 to -30 for taking hits in a filthy environment, and a further cumulative -10 per day your wounds haven't been treated. If infected, you get a disease that causes a Tough test each day or lose -5% to all stats, until 14 days pass, you get your wounds treated properly (and without the doctor rolling Infection, which all but a Best doctor can do), or you die from your Toughness reaching 0. Fun! So the solution is have a PC with Heal, which was something you wanted anyway. You need your wounds treated or cleaned again every 3 days, unless you cauterize them with gunpowder, taking a Damage 3 hit but instantly clearing any chance of infection. If your Tough gets down to 1/2 max from sickness, you have gangrene. Losing any further characteristics to the infection if it's become gangrenous is a permanent loss and the infection will not stop until you get surgery. So if you get gangrene you're fucked.
Next, we have rules for making the Surgery Talent no longer automatically grant its bonuses. Now it can infect you, too, based on where it's performed and with what tools. A Heal-10 test can help save a badly damaged limb or bodypart by providing the normal +20 Toughness to the test to keep it that you get if you have an ally with Surgery (so it's literally just 'that thing you bought, now you have to roll to see if it happens it all'). If you are trying to save a gangrenous limb, you roll Heal at a penalty equal to the Infection Check difficulty that caused the gangrene, instead, to cut away the damaged and ruined parts but let the rest heal. There's no anesthesia in the Empire, so a character under treatment needs a -20 WP test or to be tied down tightly, or else they throw off a surgeon's Heal test from screaming and writhing in agony (-5% to the Heal test per minute the surgery was going to take, no rules for determining how long surgery is BTW). If the Heal-10 to help the patient fails, there's a chance you infect them. Yay! Removing gangrene just turns the infection into a normal infection and requires another Heal test to heal it or for the patient to wait it out.
Oh, and we get a 'further reading' section after all this if you want, to show Steve read some books about medical history at some point. You know, though, the key question: What the fuck does any of this add? It's all just a random fuck you to players who take hits, in a system that can already be pretty dangerous early on. This is the worst sort of 'I added a bunch of subsystems that exist solely to slow the game down and make things worse.' A medic was already really useful to a party. This just makes their abilities less reliable for no reason. And the bit with the Shallyans is still pretty fucking weird. Who are these rules for!? Little things like 'oh the more resources you spent on a doctor the more likely you are to get screwed' are A: Mechanically incoherent even if you think they'd be thematic (from 'great' doctors being likely to be a sham) because generally spending more effort and resources on a thing gets you a better return on them and B: All it effectively does is make it even more necessary for a party to have someone with Heal rather than hiring outsiders, since a PC doesn't interact with either the Base Infection Chance or Quack rule. Get a Shallyan and ignore this stupid shit even if your GM is somehow insisting on using it for 'realism'.
Next Time: 'Advanced social rules'
Advanced Torture TableOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Advanced Torture Table
Errrrgh. It's not worse than the medicine chapter, but look, it's our buddy Jude Hornborg (from the Merchants chapter) back to try to add mechanical complexity to a non-combat subsystem in Advanced Social Rules. I honestly appreciate the sentiment and the design goal and it makes sense it's the same guy, it just doesn't work great. I appreciate pushing back against the tide of 'don't actually roll social skills! Talk it out with ROLEPLAYING and fuck the player who spent points on Fel' in the pre-made adventures but this chapter does a really bad job of trying to do so.
So the first thing it adds is Disposition. NPCs will now have a Disposition based on their past dealings with the players and how much they like or hate them. These range from -3 (Enemy) to +3 (Ally) and provide a -30 to +30 to Fel if you're trying normal social interaction tests with that character. Notably, they do NOT apply to Intimidate, making it more useful in hostile encounters. Disposition starts at a level set by the adventure and the GM and goes up or down as players either fuck up or succeed at social interactions with the character, or do quests for them or whatever. These are only for major NPCs the players will be dealing with a long time. Also, despite these affecting the difficulty of player rolls and skills, 'the GM should never tell a player an NPC's Disposition and should instead strive to convey it through ROLEPLAYING' (sigh). Look, it's fine to not have a sign on everyone saying 'HOW DOES THIS GUY FEEL ABOUT YOU', but you sort of need to tell a player their TN, or else you'll run into 'I rolled 20 under my Fel+Charm Skill, how the fuck did I fail?'. Disposition can also be used for groups of NPCs; say your players have done a lot of good for the Knights of the White Wolf, or one of your PCs is a Sigmarite priest in good standing at their temple. Those people would get positive Disposition with members of those groups. Disposition as a tracking 'reputation' bonus or malus isn't the worst idea in the world, even if it's a little awkward; the normal adventures and books suggest doing this kind of thing (like the huge Fel bonus for giving groups back their relics rather than selling them in Ashes of Middenheim) and codifying it more directly and tracking it isn't terrible.
Next we get more of 'what Charm, Gossip, and Intimidate do', splitting them each into two test types. Lying vs. Charming for Charm, Gossiping vs. Investigating for Gossip (Gossip is actually a tremendously important skill in Fantasy, because 'I go ask around for a couple hours' is an important thing to be good at), and Intimidate (which can use Fel) vs. Scare (which only uses Str) for Intimidate. We get 'expanded tables' for success or failure on social skills, with only successes of 3+ DoS actually guaranteeing someone buys your lie (otherwise they get an opposed WP test) while low failures on Charm actually open the door to making another offer or trying another angle if you can think of one quick (which isn't a bad idea). Failing social skills by a lot naturally lowers Disposition, while succeeding them by a lot raises it. This is the part where I kind of don't like the Disposition rules, because they threaten to become spirals. If succeeding well at Fel gets you more Fel in the future with that character, you've just given players a gameable system and if you do that, players will game that system. I'd rather keep it as a simple reputation tracker based on campaign events, letters of recommendation, etc; reputation is a good reward for players and giving them contacts and fame for their adventures is a good option to have.
The general idea of 'If you only fail by a little, someone's suspicious of you or you need to make another offer or an NPC only answers a single question to get you off their back' is actually good, though. Making narrow failures into complications or ways to continue negotiations is a good idea in a system where early characters have a 30-50% success chance (not counting Fortune). A hint of movement towards a 'fail forward' mechanic is something the game system needed and especially something the pre-made adventure authors needed hammered into their skulls. A low failure being an opportunity to offer to trade favors instead of just getting what you want is a good idea. Also, while a huge success requires 3 DoS, a catastrophic failure requires a full 6 DoF.
We also get 'special social actions', which are just terrible. Extremely bad. Let's use one as an example of why these are awful:
Seduce: Costs you 2 Fortune points to *attempt*, improves NPC disposition towards the PC by one if you succeed a Fel vs. WP test, PC must be of a gender the NPC is sexually attracted to, must have 35+ Fel, must be wearing Good/Best Clothing or succeed a Perform test before even attempting the Fel vs. WP test if they don't have flashy enough pants, and can have 'awkward consequences' if the NPC becomes 'emotionally attached'. Can be used 'reactively' to attempt to turn a failed Charm, Gossip, or Inquire into a 'standard success'.
Okay, that's a lot of bad ideas in one place! First, I generally prefer not to have explicit 'seduce' actions in games and prefer to leave that up to an individual table, but that isn't the biggest deal. The biggest deal is Costs 2 Fortune to attempt. Fortune points are fucking valuable. Forcing a player to spend 2 to even attempt an action (which has an opposed component, no skill that players can use to have skill mastery or talents apply, etc) means players aren't going to use this option. Also, hilariously, this means a good portion of elves can't try to seduce people because they're not lucky enough to even attempt it. Also, what's this about flashy pants? Why are flashy pants a necessary component of seduction? Are the PCs some manner of fancy bird, who either needs nice enough plumage OR must do a ridiculous stampy-dance (the perform check) in order to attempt to be seductive? And that's not saying anything about the 'negative' of 'ugh, they might get clingy and care about you'. The 'reactive option' is also literally just spending 2 Fortune to try to do what you CAN NORMALLY JUST SPEND 1 FORTUNE TO DO GODDAMNIT.
All the Social Actions are like this. They all cost 1-2 Fortune to even attempt, and they don't even do anything all that impressive. Giving someone +1 Dispo is effectively putting yourself through all that effort for a +10 to Fel checks in the future with that person. It's just not worth it! The entire Social Action subsystem is a bad idea. Toss the whole thing out a window.
We also get a minor subsystem for demanding blackmail and bribery from NPCs, but ehh.
Then we get the trial rules, which are just a worse, more complicated, and more likely to fuck you version of the cursory trial rules from Sigmar's Heirs. This is also where we get the Advanced Torture Table, where if the trial ends up a trial by ordeal or the players are 'interrogated', you roll on a d10 table to see how they get tortured and they have to make a WP test or break and give evidence against themselves or get convicted. One of these options, Head Crushing, not only has a -30% WP save or give up the goods, but you also roll Tough or permanently lose d10 Int. Permanent stat penalties are a bad idea, Jude. But really, a table for torturing the PCs is a little in bad taste; just have someone roll Torture vs. their WP if you have to and leave how much detail people want to go into to their individual table. Also, according to this table, waterboarding is very minor interrogation that barely counts (+30% WP) and as this was written during the Bush Admin, I'm gonna say that's in pretty bad taste.
The general gist of the trial is a bunch of 'roll for complications and then have an opposed test between the lawyers or judge' and then eventually 'roll completely randomly for sentencing, up to and including execution'. For any normal crime, you have a 10% chance of being executed. At the very least, a minor crime gets you +4 on the d10 table so you can't be executed for jaywalking, just displayed in the stocks or fined or whipped. Major crimes get you -4, so at best you'll be displayed in a gibbet for d10 days, with 50% chance of execution. Also lots about mutilation and long term imprisonment.
The trial stuff is, again, the kind of overcomplex subsystem that still just boils down to RNG that never gets used in anyone's games.
Jude at least identified a design idea (non-combat skills like trading and talking aren't as mechanically complex and don't have as much to them as fighting) and tried to fix it, but he didn't do a very good job. It's not as awful as the Medical chapter, but the 'Advanced Social Rules' don't add much to the game besides maybe a reputation tracker and the idea that social near-misses should at least open up the option to try different approaches or further negotiation. Still not much worth using here.
Next Time: How do you make a city of pirates BORING!?
How do you fuck up pirate town?Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
How do you fuck up pirate town?
So, this is another article that could conceivably be a very good idea. Sartosa is an infamous Tilean city-state on an island off the coast that has served as a pirate haven and lawless city of 'liberty'. A pirate city and a chance to have a look at Tilea? That sounds fun, right? But they don't do anything with it, and the information in the article is too thin to actually run piratical adventures with. It also leans a little too hard on just being a generic Golden Age of Piracy style den of scum and villainy. As you might expect from a lawless den of heavily armed outlaws and warlords who make their living by sword and pistol, the 'free city' is an awful lot freer the more you're able to bring to bear a bunch of armed mates. Sure, no-one has the right to give you orders based on title, but the Pirate Lords have an awful lot of men with guns. Those men with guns are a compelling argument that you ought to freely and rationally assess your situation and then do everything the Pirate Lord says you should, faster than you can say 'Non-Aggression Principle violation'.
In theory, Sartosa is governed by the Pirate's Code, which is reprinted in entirety here. It's the usual stuff; everyone votes on important decisions, captain has final say, stealing from or killing your mates is punishable by walking the plank, etc, but it's got two weird problems with it. One, it says women aren't allowed on ships and anyone trying to bring one aboard in disguise will be shot. Two, no wizards. No wizards among pirates. Oh, also, everyone expects to make about 500 GC a voyage, so pirates are apparently rich as hell. Having a big 'any woman caught on ships gets shot' sort of deal is a littttttle limiting. Sartosa's only two exports are theft and mercenaries, with the mercenary houses setting up to sell their services to the pirates (who often need good soldiers) and being the usual colorful band of competing, large mercenary companies and regiments that each try to dominate the market. Similarly, the Pirate Lords are pirates who have done so well for themselves that they can afford to stop pirating. They try to keep their scuffles to skullduggery and assassination and spies rather than having their large private security forces shoot one another in the streets.
The main thing Sartosa offers the pirates is a safe haven. The island is an old volcanic island, supposedly formed by Ranald to save the city's founder ages ago, which then annoyed Manaan enough that he demanded this first pirate be devoted to both of them or else he'd, uh, get Manaan on him. Sartosans love their volcano, because it's easy to spot from a long distance away and makes a great navigational landmark and conversation piece. The Sartosans are often patronized by nobles and wealthy merchants looking to hire them to get things done on the sea, but they love betraying these people. However, any time anyone tries to put a stop to their piracy, they apparently instantly drop everything to band together and are one of the strongest navies in the world, forming an 'invincible' wall of galleons around their island. They don't make anything, nor is there mention of anything besides aforementioned invincible navy (which seems a bit odd for pirates) that makes it difficult to attack or sail to their island. They are self-sufficient on food because of excellent fishing, apparently, but the pirates often attack the pearl-divers and fishermen around their shores and force them to give up their harvest.
Most of the description of the city is the various generic pirate taverns within. The pirates are also known for having an awful lot of guns. Cannons, muskets, pistols, firearms are everywhere in Sartosa.
That's about all you get. That's pirate town. Not really much on the sorts of adventures you could have there, and just...nothing. There's nothing. It's all the most generic possible pirate haven you could imagine. It's boring! They made a city of pirates BORING! Goddamnit, Eric Cagle, how did you make a city of pirates boring and incoherent! A pirate city of adventure is like, one of the easiest things to do in an RPG!
It needed an actual hook besides 'the city is full of pirates and they steal'. There's just nothing beyond that. So let's take this as an opportunity to talk about why this is disappointing when so much of Hams starts from cliched points of view or fantasy tropes as is. One of the keys to the appeal of Hams Fantasy is that it is built on a bunch of recognizable fantasy cliches, but they tend to be taken a little further. Let's take the example of the elves: Warhammer elves act like the elves in every other fantasy setting on the surface. They're a bunch of very powerful, arrogant assholes who think they're aloof and sneer at everyone else while everyone tries to solve problems, with the pointy-eared dicks coming in at the last minute to act like heroes every goddamn time. Then, it posits that everyone fucking hates them for this and that this arrogance is the single greatest threat to their civilization. They act exactly as you'd expect for elves, but things react to them more like you'd expect people to treat people like that.
There's no twist or examination in the Sartosa write-up. It's just a bunch of pirate cliches without examination or any effort to make it feel like a 'real' place inhabited by people. Where do they get all the guns? I dunno, they have a single gunsmith on the island and somehow he does all of it. How do they trade their booty? Well, they're so rich people trade with them even though they love betraying and destroying the people who do. How do they survive all the people they piss off? Well...uh, they have a basically invincible navy somehow. The real reason they have the guns is because pirates have guns. They collect their booty and are able to sell it because pirates have booty. They survive because...well, if they didn't they couldn't be pirates. They don't go any deeper than the surface level cliches, and even then they're incoherent, with the bits like 'no women or wizards', which just seems unnecessarily limiting for a subsetting. There's none of the 'this is a goddamn mess that people actually live in' that sells the Empire, Kislev, and Bretonnia; everyone's a living cliche instead of living in a cliche, so to speak.
So yeah, this book fucked up a city of pirates and made them a boring, thinly written cliche. Nice work.
Next: Rumor persists that the pig was assassinated.
Piggalo the 1stOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Piggalo the 1st
So, Tobaro is way better than Sartosa. Like Sartosa, it is a Tilean city-state that stands apart from normal Tilean city-state politics. This is because it's built into a cliffside and around a series of natural caverns, where people both live and mine the earth. They have a very defensible harbor, but the jagged rocks and many currents require local pilots to help guide ships in safely; something the more piratical or underhanded Tobarans use to lead 'unexpected' freelancers onto the rocks and then steal their cargo. If you won't be missed, pay your pilot well. If you're an Estalian or elven vessel, you'll have nothing to worry about; despite being Tilean, Tobaro is on friendly terms with Estalia and a full half of their foreign commerce comes from their neighbor. They rely on the harbor and trade for food (which keeps the occasional bit of wrecking from getting out of hand; if people cut off trade Tobaro would starve), because you can't eat rock-face, and they trade their ore and metalwork for whatever they need.
Most Tobarans are sailors, traders, or miners. Much of the city lies within the caverns, because the actual uncovered real-estate is quite sparse. The Engineer's Guild is very powerful, because someone has to maintain all those tunnels and keep the city from collapsing onto itself. They tend to have paler skin than most Tileans because they don't get out much, and a curious quirk means Tobarans are usually shorter than other humans; people joke that they're part dwarf, given they live in tunnels and tend to be stocky folk. Ranald, Myrmidia, and Manaan are the main Gods of the Tobarans, because Ranald and Myrmidia are the main Gods of all of Tilea and anyone who has to deal with the local currents would never be so stupid as to try to shortchange the Lord of the Sea. Unusually, Tobaran humans join their dwarf neighbors in building shrines to and paying tribute to Grungi, the God of mining and engineering. I mean, he does a great job watching over the dwarfs; it would just be prudent for a tunnel dwelling people to join in offerings to 'Il Grungnio'.
Tobaro was originally an elven settlement, built during their colonization of the Old World. They drove off strange winged beasts that had constructed the original tunnels, implied to be some kind of massive harpy roost, and the elves are responsible for the enlargement and construction of a proper space for a harbor. Their purpose had been building a defensible trade post and possibly a quarry or mine, which is exactly what Tobaro relies on to this day. They were driven off by the dwarfs when they lost the Grudge War, and Tobaro stood abandoned for ages until a group of Tilean shepherds found the elven construction while trying to shelter their flocks from the winter. Realizing this was an old elf colony and that elfs built those in valuable places, they went back and got others to try to re-settle the ruins, rediscovering the rich mining in the caverns and the defensible (if tricky) port. Tobaro is the only good harbor in western Tilea; most of its harbors are in the south and east. This quickly made it a vital trade link to Estalia, though it was held back by the dangerous currents and need for pilots to bring ships in to anchor safely. However, those same currents (and being built into a cliff) kept the city safe during every war it found itself involved in, so while it never attained the heights of opulence of the wealthier city-states, it always managed to maintain its own safety.
Until the rat nazis. You knew they were coming. No-one gets to have an extensive tunnel system without having to deal with Skaven. The city's lower tunnels were captured in 1563 IC, and until 1565, the rats waged war with the locals, enslaving most of the population and occupying most of the city-state. The city was saved when one of the merchant princes who had escaped, Meldo Marcelli, returned. He had spent his entire fortune on a large army of mercenaries, and had voyaged to the lands of the elves to inform them they were losing their investments in trade with the port of Tobaro. To that end, the elves agreed to send in the Marines. A small army of High Elf regulars accompanied the merchant prince, and along with resistance from the formerly enslaved locals and his new allies, he succeeded in driving the rats back into the lower city. After a few more years of skirmishing and on-and-off conflict, dwarf engineers were able to isolate the reinforcement tunnels and strategically collapse them, dealing the rats a decisive blow. Rather than haphazard Ratcatchers, the Tobarans now employ a tunnel-fighting militia, the Deepwatch, who get their own variant of Militiaman as a new class. They are charged with killing all rats, large enough to be a nazi or not, and the job is a respectable trade in Tobaro. As an added bonus, less rats. The actual Deepwatcher class is interesting; they're an okay fighter and explorer with Dodge and 2 attacks, but no Strike Mighty Blow and no extra weapon profs. They know how to be stealthy and they're like a quieter human version of a Dwarf Shieldbreaker. They can exit into Engineer, Explorer, Smuggler, Veteran, Sergeant, and Merc, which aren't half bad exits; lot of different options for where to go. Also very specifically specialized to fight Skaven, being very resistant to disease and great in tunnels.
The Marcelli family remained the Princes of Tobaro for a long time; saving the city with a heroic merchant voyage and a timely mercenary army with international allies will do wonders for your house's reputation. However, in 1877, the succession was disputed, and civil war threatened to break out among the tunnels. The court seer (who was well respected for always being right) popped up to solve the problem by predicting something really awful would happen to the next Prince. Suddenly, no-one wanted to be Prince anymore, and the merchant houses returned to merchanting, focusing on commerce and greatly benefiting the city. But they still needed a Prince, even if no-one would do the job. Thus, someone had the idea of Prince Piggalo I, who was a pig. He is considered an excellent Prince, having guided Tobaro for 12 years of benign neglect while the families worked together to build the city's economy, since they weren't competing over who would rule it at the moment. Tragedy struck when some asshole pushed the pig off a cliff, though; they've never proven it was an assassination, but there was a thorough investigation of several of his courtiers for treason at the time. Which also means the seer was actually right. To date, it's become tradition to adopt a pig as a mascot when running for Prince of Tobaro, and Princes are often reminded they should rule wisely, lest people prefer to support their mascot in usurping the throne. No pigs have been elected since Piggalo I, but the threat remains; a pig is always in the running for Prince at each election.
The Princes are elected whenever a current prince dies, with the patriarch of the most popular merchant house being made Prince. This being Tilea, elections are fairly common because terrible things happen to Princes pretty often; that seer was making a really safe bet. The current Prince has only ruled for 2 years, taking over after his uncle died in a duel with a spurned lover, which was considered a very impressive way for a ninety year old man to die and a lasting legacy to leave behind. There were rumors that Prince de Vela bribed his way into the throne, but given he's a merchant house patriarch, one would think that would be more a mark of political acumen than anything else.
The Navigator Families form the petty nobility that lives in the rocky islands dotting the harbor, and they maintain their status by keeping the port working. They range from honest (but highly paid) pilots and navigators to the brutal crime family of the Naufragios. The Naufragios are infamous for making a living salvaging the ships that don't quite make it to the harbor, and they primarily guide smugglers and less savory customers through the rocks. In a hard year, they'll demand an awful lot of money from their charges, or else they can't promise them safety. They like to light up their little island such that it's easy to mistake it for the lights of the city, when in fact it's a shitty little estate island surrounded by jagged rocks and the lights are a trap for unwary navigators. They also live in relative squalor and have a reputation as skinflints, despite being an ancient and wealthy family. Nanna de Naufragio, their current matriarch, is presented as a criminal patron for PCs. Alternately, the adventure seeds present her as a suitable villain for a campaign arc about dealing with her shitty pirate/crime family. This is another good bit of this writeup: Every major setting element for the city has a 'adventure ideas' section after it suggesting how PCs might come into contact with it, something missing from Sartosa.
The Deepwatch also gets their own section, with the sidenote that one of the Watch's privileges comes in getting first pick of any ancient elven treasure uncovered in the deep ruins and tunnels. They find fabulous ancient treasure while on patrol just often enough to make it a tantalizing bonus for the professional adventurers that make up the city's tunnel militia. The city authorities run a propaganda campaign painting the Deepwatch as swashbuckling heroes, fighting an eternal war against the rat nazis in the tunnels of the city and uncovering all manner of ancient secrets. In reality, the job is usually dull, dangerous (more for tunnel collapse and spelunking hazards than ratmen), and doesn't pay quite as well as the recruiters say it does. Still, it's honest work, and the propaganda makes Deepwatchers popular people in Tobaro, so they've never had trouble filling the roster. A Deepwatch game is suggested for groups that like older hex-based dungeon crawls and stories about exploration.
The Tobaran Engineering Guild is responsible for maintaining the tunnels and mines, and are the only non-mercantile Guild with a say in electing a Prince. They are also a major employer for the city's sizeable dwarf population, and the dwarf engineers are unusually willing to train and work with their human neighbors and recruits; it's not uncommon to see a gruff old dwarf ordering a human student around and trying to teach the young not-Italian proper dwarven work ethic. In addition to maintaining the tunnels and mines and helping educate humans about engineering, the Guild also helps the Deepwatch quietly open up new tunnels to look for more of that buried elven treasure, for a cut of the profits. This occasionally risks causing another rat nazi incursion by opening the wrong tunnels, but that's just another opportunity to earn bonuses and be a hero, no?
Tobaro's actual city districts range from the wealthy tower-villas of the merchants in the Altezza to the poorly maintained tunnels and slums of the Trafuro. Everywhere in the city, space is at a premium and people will pay a lot to live where they can see the open sky occasionally. Every individual district gets its own adventure seeds, like someone stealing Prince de Vela's pig mascot (a sign of terrible luck) and the PCs being hired to find and rescue him, or the Skaven taking advantage of a gold rush of elven artifacts in deep tunnels to invade while the Deepwatch is busy finding shiney things. It's a fun place with a lot to do.
Tobaro is neat. It's a strange place, but it's strange in the 'lots of stuff to do' way that makes Hams fun. An Italian cliff city full of dwarf buddies, constantly beset by rat nazis, with all sorts of ancient architecture and treasure to be found down in its tunnels and cute traditions like the pig prince? Yeah, this is the kind of stuff you should be doing in one of these city-articles. The new class is even a pretty fun little first tier with interesting exits and potential. The gallant to Sartosa's goofus, I suppose. Good job, Andrew Kenrick, you've written the second decent article in the book. Especial good marks for having 'how do the PCs get involved with this' after every significant setting NPC or element; that's a critical part of what makes the main-line WHFRP sourcebooks good RPG setting writing.
Next Time: Shitty Illuminati
I've already discussed the matter with the Burgomeister, your appointment will be finalized within a week.Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
I've already discussed the matter with the Burgomeister, your appointment will be finalized within a week.
Conspiracies are hard to write. Hidden networks of power with wheels within wheels and agents everywhere are difficult to do well. When writing one, you have to keep in mind how they keep themselves secret, why they keep themselves secret, just how many of them are there, really, and what their big personalities actually want. More importantly, you need to give them actual concrete plans and goals and reasons the PCs will run into them and stomp on those things. Brian Clements is here with a great example of how not to write a conspiracy with the Cult of Illumination. We're going to get the works: No actual concrete goal for players to try to stop, a lot of pretty sad fluff, some really weird assumptions, and a lot of telling us how hard it is to find or interact with these guys and how they have agents everywhere without really making a good case for them even being a threat.
The cult starts off okay; they have a strategy of recruiting businessmen and politicians by offering their services as a series of fraternal orders that will boost someone's career. They provide favorable loans, they give access to networks of patronage, etc. They do the same for artists, with famous artists who are members apprenticing younger ones and boosting their works to famous patrons (who may be members of the other wing of the cult). Sure, fine, this is all an acceptable lure for a cult. They then pull the whole 'once you're far enough in we'll give you the choice between worshiping Chaos or we'll kill you' thing, after preparing the client enough that they'll probably say yes (they'd rather have a cultist than a sacrifice). That's not terrible; this is sort of standard operating procedure for Chaos Cults. They generally like their new recruit to be implicated in something before they reveal themselves so the person can't go for help. No, the weird part starts with 'this cult worships both Tzeentch and Slaanesh together'. The idea being that they actually recruit mediocre artists who will need Slaanesh's help to achieve anything and thus be beholden to providing a propaganda wing for their cult, while Tzeentch boosts the businessmen and politicians. Chaos usually doesn't like to work together so closely, but sure, fine. Those two Gods don't especially hate one another, anyway. They could be working together. People go up the circles and wings of the cult, first thinking they're a Tzeentch or Slaanesh cult and then eventually being told they're both, and at each level if you say 'this all seems a bit weird' they summon a demon and it eats you.
The cult was started by a Constance Drachenfels. I have not read his novels, so while I'm sure I'm supposed to be very impressed by the guy by the wide range of powers he supposedly had, he's really just getting namedropped here and won't have anything further to do with the cult after kickstarting it. He recruited a guy who doesn't merit any description besides a name (Johannes Graumann. Of course they named him 'Grey Man'. Goddamnit) and a title, The Grey (because his name is Graumann, you see). He originally fucked it up by inviting people right into his inner circle, at which point they became indolent and tried to order him around because he was recruiting nobles, so he came up with the idea of inventing lots of levels of the cult to jump through before you meet the GRAND ILLUMINATOR because it turns out a cult that's just THE CIRCLE OF THE GRAND ILLUMINATOR doesn't really impress people. Having successfully discovered the basic tactics of cults after his first attempt, he then started recruiting artists to big up his buddies and tell people how great they were, letting him offer an actual benefit for joining besides a discount on hoods and occasional tentacles. The structure of the cult ends up a fairly basic pyramid scheme where you give just enough to new recruits to get them to give back and move up the ladder of 'enlightenment'. If they don't, you eventually feed them to a demon. Fairly standard.
'Cult rules are rarely broken', we are assured, and if any member of the cult steps out of line, demon, eating, you know how it goes. No-one ever reveals cult secrets, and if they do, surprisingly there's just a significant fine and a professional black mark (yes, really). If you were high enough to know about the demons, though, eaten by demons instead. I wonder if they ever spice it up by turning someone into a Chaos Spawn or like, just shooting them in the head and throwing them in a river? Summoning demons on speed dial to eat anyone who messes up has got to be expensive.
We are assured there are no public temples of the cult, which seems like kind of a no-brainer. I wonder how long 'Hi, we're an ecumenical alliance of Slaaneshi and Tzeentch worshipers, would you like a pamphlet!?' would survive across the street from the Grand Temple of Sigmar (given this cult is located in the rich parts of Altdorf)? I bet they'd live a little longer than you'd think, just because of the traffic jam of eighty or so Warrior Priests all trying to fit through the door at the same time in the rush to blow them apart. Anyway, they have a Grand Illuminator and his 11 Prefects, he has absolute power, the Prefects oversee the cult temples and matters and display his will across Nuln, Altdorf, and Talabheim. 3 for each city, then the last 2 somehow have 'influence over multiple Elector Counts' each. No detail or mechanism given. The Prefects and Illuminator know the other cultists and can destroy them, either by the tried method of demon devouring that we all know and love or by just destroying their reputation, THEN having them publicly shamed and fed to demons. See, that way the masters can please both Gods at once. They are clever boys.
We get the little levels of the cult, along with the possibility PCs will accidentally join as 'candles' and then get drawn into their TWISTED WEB OF INTRIGUE (hey, someone finally remembered PCs might be involved in all this!), with only about 10% of recruits ever making it to the 'we tell you it's Chaos, show you the demons, and then ask if you want to join up or get eaten' level where they get to learn actual sorcery. There is also a cult within the cult that provides the Grand Illuminator and Prefects with the ILLUMINATE GUARD who will ensure the actual villains escape if any PCs should happen to actually have an adventure and get the idiot in their crossbow sights. The cult grants members access to a bunch of social skills and talents and can eventually teach Chaos magic. Then we're told what kinds of careers join them. This is probably the funniest part of the writeup: There's the usual politicians, merchants, etc. But this, the cult whose main lure is 'we will be your propaganda guys and boost you politically and socially' will 'never recruit Agitators or Demagogues.' Because the author assumes those types would automatically run out into the street shouting 'MAN IT SURE IS AWESOME BEING IN THE CHAOS ILLUMINATI! YON CROWD OF THE COMMON FOLK, YOU SHOULD CONVERT!' Seriously, he believes the street-politicians would not be capable of, instead, going and hawking the cult's members and supporting them politically, that they'd 'automatically' be yelling about exactly who they are and what they support.
Our prominent figures of the cult are a bunch of people you've never heard of who you're assured are celebrities and very important, and then the Grand Illuminator, who has managed to achieve a position of immense power by his secret machinations. He is the advisor to a middlingly important Baron in the Reikland who everyone hates. Klaus von Talber, GRAND ILLUMINATOR, masterful plotter and man who will make the world turn at his whim, is...personal advisor to a forgettable noble. Yes, yes, I get the implication he's supposed to be using that guy to get access to the Imperial court and give other people advice and commiserate with them about how shitty his boss is, but come the fuck on man!
Also you might have noticed a lack of something: The cult doesn't actually have any plans besides 'continue to be a cult'. There's nothing for your players to stop. They aren't even interested in Chaos taking over the Empire or whatever, they're just...there. Like the Sybarites in Nuln but with less sexual menace (which is an improvement). Tell me, from this write up, what does an ADVENTURE with these dumb assholes look like? You're told a lot about how they're totally subtle and hidden and have my favorite trope in fiction, the Impossibly Perfect Network of Clever Spies Who Tell Them Everything (I hate this trope), but they don't use them to actually do anything. There's no actual hook for you. They just seem to hang around and chortle and then have someone fed to demons from time to time. They seem like the chortling type to me. They're just bad. They're subtle because you're told they're subtle, they have a couple attempts at hooks that aren't actually hooks (like the Slaanesh/Tzeentch fusion taco that is their belief system, except it's really just a Tzeentch cult and the author thought if you had any artists in there you had to be Slaaneshi too because he's a hack or the namedrop of Constance Drachenfels), and they're just so goddamn boring. There's no project. They don't even have designs on, say, expanding the cult into other lands or trying to take over the Empire fully behind the throne. They're just kind of a petty club of jerks with a fondness for feeding people to demons.
So have fun with that. Tzeentch is, and always will be, catnip to shitty writers who aren't half as clever as they think they are.
Next Time: I Need A Drink
Just play as the gambling den owner and his buddyOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Just play as the gambling den owner and his buddy
So, taverns are pretty important to Fantasy. They're a major social center in the Empire, given the love of drinking and the fact that they're a place where people of different classes can rub elbows and accidentally end up forming an adventuring company. This has been a thing ever since the Core Book had a whole sidebar on 'yeah, odds are you actually did meet in a bar, bars are for meeting people' and so Jody MacGregor has decided we'll have a little chapter on some example taverns to give you ideas for the sorts of plot hooks you can do with bars, gambling dens, and drug parlors. This chapter is basically inoffensive, though the best two NPCs in it are more 'you should probably just write a campaign about these two' because they have the level of detail/plot hook that suits PCs better than NPCs, but that's a minor complaint. All the bars are city-agnostic, with a little suggestion on how to make them fit in whatever city or large town your PCs are drinking in.
Our first inn/tavern is the Arena Inn, run by Hargin 'Hook Hand' Garimson, a retired dwarven pit-fighter (because of the hook hand). The inn used to be a fighting pit, one that Hargin bought out in order to close it down after he lost his will to fight when he lost his hand. He's converted it into a happy, peaceful inn with the fighting pit turned into an extension of the common room (I'd have made it a dance floor, myself) and all its old trappings of violence removed. Hargin runs a good bar and has the friends to get proper dwarven beer cheaply, and so he's become popular with the community. The problem and plot hook is that buying out a major fighting pit put a dent in the local pit fighting business, and now the out of work pitfighters are vandalizing the bar and throwing bricks through the windows with angry notes on them (given the average pit fighter can't read, I imagine most of them just have pictures of a dwarf getting punched or something). PCs can obviously get hired by the old dwarf, but might be just as likely to step in to stop a bunch of thugs from fucking up their favorite drinking pit.
The Crow and Cat is a Ranaldan temple, a drinking hall, and a gambling house at the same time. Brother Reuban runs the tables and games in the back room, a down on his luck gambler who once promised himself to Ranald if he could win the hand he staked his life on. He's been a priest ever since he walked away from the table alive. In tribute to his God, he doesn't allow the House to cheat at his parlor; Gambling tests are opposed by a +10% House rather than a +40% House advantage, because his dealers (and the Brother himself) are good at games of chance but play them honestly and trust to luck. In return for the fair odds, one coin in ten belongs to Ranald, as the strictures say. Those who don't pay won't be welcome in the back rooms ever again. The cult also smuggles goods through Reuban's bar, and he'll hold stuff or launder money for the local underworld, too. In return, they've given him an up and coming bouncer, Big Sigird, and by her given stats she is an incredible badass in the making. As a 'just-finishing 1st tier' character, she's at 49% Str, 42% Tough, 43% WP, and 46% WS, and that's only in Thug, which isn't the greatest of fighting careers. She's described as 6 feet tall, towering over the average man and woman both, and covered in tattoos of butterflies, flowers, and other cute things. She was just assigned to watch him and keep his gambling house out of trouble by her bosses in the mob (the other gambling houses hate having a fair operation in town and it's hurting business, so Reuban's had threats), but she's started to listen to the Brother's sermons, and is considering becoming a lay worshiper or priestess, herself. You see what I mean by they have just a little too much detail to work purely as NPCs? They've got the setup of a duo plot all on their own already and a game about an impossibly tough thug and the blessed, charmed gambler she's protecting in underworld adventures would be fun.
The Cock and Bucket is a hobbit bar. A very short-ceilinged hobbit bar with an extensive list of chicken dishes and service/food good enough to excuse the backaches in elves and humans. It's beloved of the local guild of lawyers, because it's across from one of their largest offices, and so you can always find hunched over men and women in fancy wigs and robes in among the cheerful hobbits, discussing the day's legal business while they get a drink and a pot pie. There's also mention that there's the occasional brawl when a Bretonnian visitor suggests that the fantasy French could out-cook the halflings, only to find their Imperial neighbors take offense at that. The Cock and Bucket doesn't really have a plot hook, it's just a cute little place rub by hobbits and full of overworked lawyers with neck-aches.
The Flying Bat is a drug den, the kind of place you don't find without a bawd to lead the way. They deal in all sorts of exotic intoxicants and some of the latest products of Imperial medical science. It's your standard opium den, full of besotted patrons and a smiling sociopath who hates his clients, plus an obvious Imperial mad doctor who sells the same snake oil he used to as an Apothecary, just without lying about the crazy hallucinations it's going to cause you. The actual plot hook is that Klovis Wurznelke (the owner) is a hereditary minion to a vampiress; the Wurznelke family has always served their lady Lenora. When she was visited by vampire hunters, it was the Wurznelkes who swept up her remains and stuffed them in the first properly ornamented jar they could find. A jar the family has spent several decades filling with blood from time to time, on the principle that this should eventually resuscitate the mistress. Klovis is madly in love with Lenora, despite not having been born when she was ashed, and he's convinced that any day now the next sacrifice will wake her up, and she'll love him back and make him a vampire and they'll have a romance like Vlad and Isabella. As you might imagine, considering he hates his customers and needs to get blood for her from somewhere, well...some of his clients don't come back out of his bar. He's set up as a plot hook for the players to investigate and deal with, obviously.
And...that's the bars. A community center made out of a fighting pit, a gambling house temple to Ranald, a drug den with a crazy vampire cultist owner, and a cheerful hobbit bar. The chapter's kind of superfluous but I kind of can't hate it. It's so harmless, and some of the stuff in it is kind of cute. Klovis would be a decent enemy for a low level party if you don't want to do the Chaos Cult dance. Save The Community Center times at the Arena Inn could be fun. Sig and Reuban would make a great pair of PCs for a duo game. And the hobbits are kind of charming. It's not adding a lot, but hey, it doesn't have to, and I'll take it after the shitty illuminati or that gawdawful set of social rules.
Next Time: How the heck did we get to the Nuln Gunnery College? Also, game breaking schooling rules.
Training rules?Original SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
Human guns are actually fairly new things. Guns in general (besides larger siege cannon) aren't very old, being (if I remember when Gorbad Ironclaw was, they don't give a date) maybe 1000 years old or so. Young enough that plenty of dwarf still call them newfangled and prefer the crossbow that was 'good enough for me grandpa'. Originally, human guns were all dwarf-built, either bought from their allies or crafted by hiring a dwarf gunsmith to move into a noble's territory and help build weapons. Humans being humans, shop assistants and laborers for these hired gunsmiths started to pick up some of what they were doing, and then they started teaching other humans. In the runup to the Great War With Chaos, the Empire decided to build their own great cannon foundry. Or rather, the Count of Nuln decided it would be worth the expense to make his city the best source of cannon and handguns in all of the Empire, going broke three times in a ten year period as he drained the public coffers to build the Imperial Foundry at Nuln. Hiring dwarfs to help as instructors and funding engineers to study new casting techniques was even more expensive, but gave a solid base of knowledge (from the dwarfs) and innovation (from humans trying to build 'steam tanks' and multibarrel artillery pieces) that eventually tripled the public investment in the project and helped further cement Nuln as one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
But Nuln doesn't just contain the Foundry that makes so many of the Empire's cannons. Nuln is, after all, the site of the first ever Imperial university. Nulners built the great Gunnery School to go along with their Foundry and that's what our article is about today. The great Gunnery School is one of the best places in the Empire (really, in the human world) to learn to handle a firearm or learn the craft of gunsmithing, especially when it comes to large cannon and siege weapons. The school attracts the sons (and occasional daughters) of nobles and burghers to become combat engineers and artillerists, but its main source of students is very unusual. The Sons of the Guns are orphan children who are recruited by the school to serve as cheap labor and apprentices, while receiving an education and learning a trade. Many go on to be competent soldiers, engineers, or work in other educated trades; this is a curious quirk of Nuln as a city. They have multiple programs in place to put orphan children and poor children into education and apprenticeships, because Nuln is where Verena worship first trickled into the Empire and the city has always honored her. Young women are usually taken to the Temples of Verena instead, but there's nothing stopping a young girl from studying how to shoot greater demons with cannons, too. The orphans and the wealthier students tend to live apart and get into fistfights, and in matters of discipline the nobles tend to get their way.
Nulner weapons are still built individually, by hand. There's no system of mass production in the Empire yet. Cannons, Mortars, and Volley Guns (as well as hundreds of muskets and pistols) are the most common crafts of the Foundry, and they have to be built to exacting specifications because there's no fixing a cannon that cracks or bursts under stress. Given how expensive these weapons are, a customer whose Great Cannon explodes would be very justly unhappy. Imperial cannon are mostly built of bronze, and their ammunition is cast on site among armies on the march. The foundry also makes bells on occasion; it was originally a bell factory before it was converted to building guns.
The main reason the Nuln Gunnery School comes up for your PCs, according to this article, is so they can break the career system by enrolling in classes. For 1 GC per EXP spent, they can auto-elite advance in learning Gunsmithing, Command, Drive, Ride, Trade (Gunsmith), Coolheaded (+5 WP), Master Gunner (reload guns one half action faster), Marksman (+5 BS), Mighty Shot (+1 ranged damage), Sure Shot (+1 Ranged AP), Sharpshooter (+20 to hit for aiming instead of +10), Specialist Weapons (Artillery) (note most Artillery barely has game stats), Specialist Weapons (Gun), or the critical Rapid Reload (1/2 action less to reload any ranged weapon, stacks with Master Gunner for guns), and do so for 100 per advance instead of 200. So, for about 500 GC (and 5 advances, you do still have to pay) a character could learn the full suite of Ranged Specialist stuff no matter what career they're in. Also, if you both promise to work full time while studying and make a successful Fel test to get student aid, you can cut this to 25 GC per advance. Similarly, doing a good quest for them or something can eliminate tuition.
I'm not very keen on this, because it sort of does an end-run on the point of the Career System. A lot of your decisions in building a character come from deciding which careers to do to get at various key talents and skills. Elite Advances have always been a little too nebulous, but a no-questions asked training system that specifically provides all the critical ranged talents in one place, at a monetary cost PCs will probably be able to manage, feels like it devalues the career system a bit. Also, there's no indication given how long these classes will take for the PC to learn these things. I think I'd like the idea of 'you're on good terms with this college or school, you can do an Elite at normal cost' as a quest or arc reward better than just something you can always pay for. One of the reasons the 'everything costs 100 EXP' system works well is because instead of having an EXP opportunity cost, you pay for various abilities by locking yourself into various career paths. Like, a Wizard is always going to buy their 100 EXP Mag advance as soon as they arrive in a new level of wizarding or a fighter is likely to buy their +1 Attack, but they pay for those by having to keep climbing the Fighter or Wizard tree they're on instead of branching out. Thus, individual talents or skills can be made very powerful or important because there's limited access to them; you can't really access the advantages of a bow without Rapid Reload, for instance, or the way the Surgery talent is pretty rare and quite helpful for medics. Having the ability to just cherry pick out that one critical talent undermines important parts of the opportunity cost inherent in Career advancement.
The Career system in 2e is a weird beast and I've never quite seen its like before or since. It still has the effect of slowing down or gating critical advances, but it does it in such a way that while sure, having to buy 'Consume Alcohol' is kind of a waste when you wanted to get at your 3rd attack (but needed Consume to finish a Career), at least you're getting something rather than just paying extra EXP for the thing you want, in a way that contributes to making higher level PCs feel more widely talented. The little collection of odds and ends you picked up to slow down your advancement can be surprisingly fun and useful sometimes, and very specifically optimized training rules like this threaten that kind of thing.
Back to flavor. Life at the gunnery school is about what you'd expect: Loud. Very loud. With a lot of hard work and manual labor in among your classes. Learning to care for the weapons is done by learning to make the weapons, or by wheeling them out to an island in the Aver river to test fire them where you won't blow up half of Nuln. Everyone at the school does the same work, even if the noble students get their way in discipline and generally get better food and beds. Everyone is going to be lifting cannon balls, running morning calisthenics, making gunpowder, and getting dirty. In Summer, students learn to shoot. In Winter, they work on maintenance and reading. For students who aren't learning to shoot, summer is full of the same reading and chemistry studies as winters. All of the Masters of the school must be approved by the current Masters and then personally appointed by Countess von Liebwitz, as the Elector is always the patron of the school.
The Headmaster runs the school, negotiates the contracts with other Imperial forces for cannons, and oversees production. The Headmaster's position is important because their negotiating skills and business acumen matter a lot to the school's funding. The Foundry Master oversees production, and the Nuln Foundry Master always becomes something of a local celebrity for the city. It's a highly respected position because building cannon requires a large number of skilled craftsmen, and the Master has to both be the best of them (to properly oversee their efforts and work on new weapons), and has to be able to smooth out disagreements and keep a bunch of intelligent, highly trained people on task and out of one another's hair. The heat of the forges can make tempers flare, and it's the Master's job to cool them off. The Gunnery Master teaches students about math, and how math can be extremely cool when you use it to calculate how to land a cannonball directly in a Bloodthirster's lap. They also oversee physical training and prepare the students who will be going to war for life as soldiers and artillerists.
The Daily Salute sees the largest gun in the forge dry-fired to mark the hour in the evening and the morning, a sound that can be heard throughout all of Nuln. Every student will be assigned to load and fire the cannon for one day, at least, to both teach them to time their shot properly and to get them some familiarity with the noise and the act of loading. Gunpowder Week started as a way to get rid of excess powder at the end of the summer shooting season, but evolved into a city-wide celebration of the school and foundry at the end of the summer. During Gunpowder Week, students are directed in cramming old gunpowder and coloring into fireworks and handing them out to citizens to set off while people cheer the school and toast the students. The current master of alchemy hates his job, except for Gunpowder Week, as his real passion in life is building more and more spectacular pyrotechnics rather than all this war nonsense, which is an adorable little detail. Every year, the students are also permitted to the Countess's palace for the Feast of Verena, to celebrate the money and prestige they bring to the city. They also parade and name every significant cannon they finish; there's a lot of pageantry to the Imperial military and its academies, and an unnamed, uncelebrated cannon is held to be bad luck and sure to burst at the worst possible moment.
Nuln is a very rich city. The only way it could be moreso is if it still held the central Imperial government. Foreign trade, Imperial commerce, etc all run through Nuln. But the Foundry is the truly unique asset of the city. Very few places in the Empire can actually build modern artillery, and Nuln maintains a near monopoly. The Gunnery School and Foundry are both publicly held assets, after all, built by public money. The article keeps coming back to how important this center of industry is to keeping the city as rich as it is, and I actually kind of appreciate that.
The current Headmaster is an ex-soldier named Albrecht Hahnemann, with a strong head for math who had to retire from the field after his lungs were damaged by Skaven mustard gas. Once away from the front lines, he was given an education in recognition of his service, and his natural ability with math and organization made him a very successful logician and quartermaster. When the position as Headmaster opened up, the Count (Emanuelle's father) recommended him, he was approved, and he has filled the position for 17 years since. He's not especially exciting, just a competent man doing a job he's well suited for.
The current master of gunnery is a mathematical genius named August Scheinmeier. A gaunt, bony man who has gone completely deaf over decades of aiming and firing cannon, he's so good at lip reading that as long as he can face someone while they talk, he can hide his deafness completely, something he prefers to do rather than be thought of as infirm. His accuracy as a cannoneer is legendary, and his ability to do complex mathematics in his head has some people whisper that maybe he's been touched by magic or the dark powers. He isn't the best instructor, as he's cold and businesslike, only interested in the guns and his mathematics and not very mindful of the students.
The current Master Founder isn't Imperial at all, but is rather a short, stocky Kislevite named Boris Dohvzhenko. Like most of the personalities, he's not very interesting; our author Bill Boden does an okay job with the school itself, but the characters he comes up with to man the guns are pretty much all stock characters for a military academy. There's nothing really wrong with them, they're just all good at their job and for the most part fairly professional people who don't have much in the way of a hook. Boris is a good craftsman to the extent that he's sometimes mistaken for a tall Dwarf, which he considers a tremendous compliment.
And that's the Nuln Gunnery School. It's okay. The school itself and its importance to the city are pretty cool, but the training rules could've used some sanity checking and some more thought about the purpose of the Career system. The characters aren't bad or offensive, just kind of dull and not colorful enough for Hams. It's a forgettable article, but there's nothing wrong with it beside needing another look at the gun training.
Next Time: You want forgettable, I'll give you forgettable!
GIANT ENEMY CRABOriginal SA post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion
GIANT ENEMY CRAB
Okay, I'm not gonna lie: I'm basically skipping Chapter 12 because it's a description of a single gunpowder maker's shop, lasting like 3 pages, and the only hook in it is 'he harvests bat shit to make gunpowder'. It is genuinely too boring and short to bother with for an update, so good job, Eric Cagle. You have made the most boring article in the book. Wait a second! You're the guy who made a pirate island boring! If I wasn't still mad at Steve Darlington for the Medical chapter I'd hereby crown you the worst author in this book, but as it is your stuff is merely impossibly boring and empty rather than an active detriment so he keeps the prize.
Next we get the final chapter, by Andrew Law and Jody MacGregor from the Tavern chapter. This is a collection of monsters that don't have Tabletop models or as many references in setting as the stuff in Old World Bestiary, and for the most part it isn't that great. It's a random hodgepodge of enemies, like Naiads, which are just water Dryads mechanically, or weird sea monsters like the Behemoth and the Triton. It does have a few standouts, though (either for being great or very stupid), and this is a good excuse for me to talk about the bestiary before I figure out how the hell I'm going to cover it.
Some concepts we need to talk about before I do monsters: Slaughter Margin is the game's equivalent of Challenge Rating. It measures how well the monster will do against a very specific character, provided in the Old World Bestiary. This character is the heroic Johann Schmidt, Completely Ordinary State Trooper. Monsters are assessed, essentially, by how well they'll do against a reasonably geared first tier fighter with a couple advances and average stat rolls (He has a halberd and a sword and shield as options, some armor, 2 attacks, and the Soldier talents). Trivial means it'll be easy (bugs), Easy that Johann might take a hit (Gobbos), Routine that he's got the edge (Ungors), Average means an even fight (Gors, Orc Boyz), challenging means Johann will struggle but can definitely win with Fate/Fury (like against a Chaos Warrior), Hard means it's going to take more luck than should be safe and Johann really should try to avoid a fight (Troll), Very Hard means winning would take a heroic feat, with maybe 5% or so odds of Johann pulling it off (Vampire), and Impossible means that Johann even landing a wound on the enemy would be a heroic effort (Dragon, Greater Demon).
We also get the full view of monsters in this book, though it isn't as thorough as it is in Old World Bestiary: In OWB, they describe monsters from a common view (people who've heard of or encountered them), then from what a scholar or specialist would know, then, if the creature is intelligent, they ask one about themselves. This whole 3 level sourcing thing actually makes OWB a really good book for setting information and a lot of fun to read. The problem is the monsters in this section are rarely intelligent, and so don't usually have the third source. They're also just not as well written, and they're dealing with less well-established monsters. No-one cares that much about a big predatory fish that lives in Imperial lakes, and no amount of multiple sources is going to change that.
That said, let's talk about some of the weirder monsters and mechanical standouts. First, of course, is the Giant Enemy Crab, the Promethean. You might actually recognize these; they're having a bit of a surge in popularity due to being ridden by vampire pirates in the latest add-on for Total Warhams. They aren't actually Chaotic creatures, they're just really huge crabs, though the game describes them here as if there's maybe only one of them in all the world. They're reasonably dangerous, but definitely beatable in a duel by a 3rd tier. A lower tier party can take one on in a group. They're Attacks 2, WS 59, SB 6, TB 6, and have the monster (and vampire) only attack Unstoppable, which gives a -30% to parry their attacks because holy shit 30 foot crab-monster, how did you block that with a shield. They don't have any active defenses of their own, though, and while they have 34 Wounds, they have 'only' 2 armor on their head, 3 on their spindly crab legs, but the full 5 everywhere else. They also pinch, doing Impact and AP with their attacks, and have Strike Mighty. So Damage 7 Impact AP Crabclaw is pretty dangerous. Still, having actually used a pitfight with one as a boss for a third tier PC, I've seen a 3rd tier take one apart solo so I can definitely say it's doable.
The Naiad stands out for being literally and totally just a Dryad, but in water. A lot of the new monsters are sea, river, and lake creatures. I'll get to Dryads when I get to the OWB. Tree-Kin are an attempt to add Tree-Men (ents) you can actually fight, unlike the WS 80% 4 attack Damage 8 Impact monstrosities from the OWB (seriously, even my strongest PCs still had to take those things extremely seriously). Somehow Tree-Kin are undead (because the spirits are animating dead trees and wood, apparently) and are footsoldiers for the hell-forest that is Athel Loren. At WS 50, DR 7, damage 6 with 2 attacks? They're footsoldiers you'd better take seriously unless you have a lot of fire.
Bog Octopi are total horseshit, made of going 'Hey it has 8 legs so it has 8 attacks'. They're weird giant octopi that live in bogs and eat people, like a land-kraken. With the ability to put out 8 Damage 7 attacks in one turn, even if it's 'only' WS 39 it's going to mess some folks up. It's also a grappler, able to squeeze and drown people it's grappling with its massive Strength score of 74. DR 7 and 24 Wounds mean it's kind of frail...except to strike a lethal blow, you have to make a half action move to get in close AND make a successful Agi test, so you can't swift attack the head. Otherwise you just hit tentacles, and crits just lower its Attacks as you lop them off. They don't have treasure and generally don't really attack people unless they're hungry or the person is alone, so these things are an extremely difficult fight for likely little reward.
The Behemoth is just Moby Dick. No real word on how you fight a giant white whale that also has a terrifying horn. 3 attacks only, but 79% WS, 90(!) Str, but only 6 DR and 45 Wounds means that a Questing Knight with Heroism is going to turbo-fuck this thing and it's going to be hilarious, since it also has no active defenses. Just imagine it. A Knight walks out onto deck calmly while Ahab is ranting about White Wales and then slices it in half in one clean blow like this was a ridiculous anime, because it doesn't have the DR to handle a high tier warrior with an Impact greatsword and the Virtue of Heroism's instant-crit ability. It would be wonderful. In general, big monsters tend to try to make up for low-ish DR (6 is nothing to sneeze at, but against the kinds of PCs who have any business fighting this thing in open combat, it's a little trivial) by having 30-60 Wounds. It usually doesn't work out for them. Big monsters can often go down like chumps to sufficiently badass PCs, especially PCs who bring a lot of Impact and thus have a lot of Fury potential. Monsters often try to beat the action economy by having a lot of attacks, but often have mediocre WS (this one's an exception) that can make them really swingy to fight. They're generally designed to look scarier than they are; if you somehow have a straight fight with this thing with a high level party, they'll probably kill it.
Oh, there's also Kahyoss Cordyceps fungus and its attendant zombies, full of save or die spores that give you a week to find a cure (there is no known cure, but finding one would be a 'worthy quest') if you ever fight them in melee. Fun times.
Also there's a giant fishman named Triton who hates the Dark Elves and attacks ships with a trident for some reason. He's got Demonic Aura (an ability added in OWB to toughen up demons a bit; they went down too easily before. It's +2 DR unless you're hit with magic) but isn't a Demon. Just a weird, giant, inexplicable fish-king, with the implication the Druchii killed his fantastical underwater civilization or something. Considering his main enemies are a bunch of asshole elves who your PCs probably hate, and also that he's about as strong as a dragon (WS 63, Attacks 5, Damage 8, DR 8 (6 if you have magic), 56 Wounds. The only way you're likely beating this guy is a party of 3rd tiers or getting that Questing Knight who just gutted Moby Dick to have a go), it's more likely you'll be trying to talk to Fishman Prime and point him at some Canadians than fighting the guy.
And really, that's it for WHFRP Companion, ending on a random grab-bag of sea monsters and land krakens that aren't especially intriguing. It's been a slightly better book than I remembered, but on the whole, it's skippable. Very little in this book is worthwhile and I think it was kind of an ill-conceived project from the get-go. For every article that worked in the format, you had two or three that didn't, and that's not a good success rate. I wanted to cover this book because I wanted to talk about why it's bad, but was pleasantly surprised to have a few good exceptions to discuss, too; the few successes make a nice counterpoint and help show off how you could make this book work with better editing and more rigorous vetting of the pitches you choose to publish.
Instead we got a random grab-bag of 'realism' rules that made the game more dull or punishing for no reason, an extremely overcomplex tade subsystem, a bunch of fish no-one cares about, two incidents of turbo-racism in one book, and a boring pirate city. Again, how do you fuck up 'city of rad pirates'!? At least the Carnies, the Tileans, and the taverns were kind of cool.
One of the really interesting things is how bad most of the heavily mechanical articles were, because they tended to be adding completely new mechanics. WHFRP2e takes modification of its system fairly well, but it doesn't take great to the addition of new subsystems, generally. There wasn't room for the authors to add things like a set of 'unique' social actions without a bad idea like 'they cost Fortune to try!' to try to limit them.
Next Time: Rats, the rats, we're the rats.