Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition – A Quick Look

Recently the latest edition of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG was released, and with this being one of the two RPGs I’ve been looking forward to in recent years, I had to pick it up and have a look! I fully intend to play and perhaps run a game of this at some point in the future, but for now instead of a solid review I will share some of my initial thoughts and impressions.

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Now I’m not the most hardcore of Warhammer fans, I’ve never actually played Warhammer or any of the previous editions of the RPG, but since getting into a few of the videogames I’ve become more interested in the lore of Warhammer Fantasy. I say this because clearly this is an RPG based on previous versions. This 4th edition seems to have been based more heavily on the 1st and 2nd editions of the game, while clearly making many improvements. This is something of a revival for the system, as the 3rd edition made by Fantasy Flight Games was a complete departure from the mechanics of the previous two.

Having been published by Cubicle 7, a company I have grown very fond of, especially due to The One Ring RPG, I fully expected this book to have a great presentation and artwork. I wasn’t wrong, the layout is very clear, all the tables and little info boxes are easy to interpret. The book is crammed full of brilliant art, with something every few pages at least, but it doesn’t make things look messy or take over from the text too much. The art direction and some of the art is done by C7’s own Jon Hodgson whose style im very familiar with from the excellent art in The One Ring, and he does a similarly great job here even with such a different tone of fantasy aesthetic. In particular I love the character art done for each of the 64 careers you can choose from, all done in a suitably gritty and grimy style for Warhammer. I also like how the cover art for the book is clearly a callback to the cover of the first edition of the game from 1986. Overall the presentation really makes this a pleasure to read through.

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The 1st and 4th edition covers, nice callback 🙂

Going through the book I can see a lot of things to like here. The character creation seems good. There are a lot of options already, and many of them can be randomized for extra starting XP, which I think is a nice touch to encourage players to try something different rather than going for something overplayed. First you pick your race, or roll for it on a d100, with 1-90 being a human on the table to represent how common they are compared to Elves, Dwarfs and Halflings. The book has some good basic info on the races, plenty for someone not too familiar with Warhammer to get started with, and it even brings over the section on a given group’s opinions on each other from The One Ring. I really love this small detail as it gives the player some great pointers on how to roleplay their interaction with characters of different species and backgrounds. Next up comes the class and career. The classes mostly seem to just be groupings for the careers, which are what actually define your character. Again here you can roll a d100 to get something from the massive table of careers, of which there are 64 so some are given a larger range of numbers to represent how common they are. For example you’d be a Noble on a roll of 32 alone, but to be a servant you could roll a 33-35. Some careers are limited by your species, such as the Slayer only being available to Dwarfs. Other than that though, most are available to Humans, and the Elves have the fewest results available, so the results you get will always suit your species’ society.

After that point you go on to determine some stats, such as base attributes which vary depending on species, and skills and talents of which you can choose based on both species and career. With skills there is a list of basic skills, and those feature on the character sheet, as well as advanced skills which you are only able to use if your career unlocks it, there is a column left free to add these on your sheet. I quite like this system because it gives you more variety in skills and lets the different types of characters feel distinct based on what they can do, but it doesn’t get too complicated and overwhelming like I find with something like the GURPS giant list of skills. Talents are fairly straightforward, they just add to your character’s abilities in various small ways while adding some flavour, and your choices are all appropriate to your career. Towards the end of character creation there are a few more tables and options just to give you your physical appearance, and then some encouragement for roleplaying in the form of short term and long term ambitions that you should define for your character, and the equivalent for the party to agree on as a whole. Finally there’s a few questions for you to think about that will help you flesh out your character’s backstory. Overall I quite like the character creation, and the note it ends on with a lot of roleplay emphasis balances out the relatively large amount of stats to sort out.

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After creation there is some info on character advancement before the explanation of careers comes in, and this all goes hand in hand, as the careers in this game are more than just a D&D style class. There is info at first on how different careers operate in society and their social standing and how they may interact with each other, and then the very large section on each one. The way careers work is that they not only give you some background and your starting stats, but they also are there to be progressed through in terms of both stats and roleplay. For example, if we look at the Witch Hunter career, you’d see a section on its advance scheme where you are given four levels in the career, and you can rise through these ranks from Interrogator to Witch Hunter to Inquisitor and finally Witchfinder General. As you go through you’ll get better Attributes, more skills, talents and gear. So with all this on top of the standard XP system for improving skills, advancement should keep fairly interesting and spread out. The Witch Hunter ranks all have fairly different roles within their field, so for example you don’t start off as an actual Witch Hunter, but are an Interrogator subordinate to an Inquisitor. You can be promoted to an Inquisitor where you will be given subordinates of your own. Furthermore all these different job types may change your adventuring opportunities, as a Witch Hunter is sent across the Empire’s lands, but presumably an Inquisitor may have differing duties. You’ll find the same advancement within each of the other 64 careers, and although not all will show such a change between ranks, they all provide some satisfying upgrades.

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Finally just some thoughts on the rest of the info in the book not pertaining to player characters. The overall level of information and background on the world of Warhammer is fairly comprehensive. There’s a large section on religion which features an explanation of the long list of gods there are, as well as mechanics on blessings and miracles that would be relevant for a priest or warrior pries type character. There is a similarly huge section on magic, all the colleges and types of magic and a large list of spells. There’s everything you would expect for a GM to get started, with plenty of history and geography of the Reikland, as well as info on economy, items and costings. And finally a decently sized bestiary for a core book, featuring all the essential enemies you would want in a Warhammer game. 

So in general it seems like a great game and I will definitely be looking to give it a shot sometime soon. There is clearly still room for expansion as with most games based on such a fleshed out source material. This core book really only covers the Reikland, the Capital province of the Empire, and therefore there is a ton of space both within the rest of the Empire and beyond, including maps and history as well as maybe some new enemies, playable options such as non-Reiklander humans. First up I believe there are some adventure books coming soon!

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