Sunday, 3 August 2014

#RPGaDAY: Day 3 - First RPG you bought

I actually can't remember what the first RPG I bought was, but it was one of two. It was either Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or it was Dungeoneer aka Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

We may be seeing this picture a lot.
WFRP has a clunky system which essentially attempts to transfer the Warhammer Fantasy Battle system directly into an RPG by adding an intrinsically flawed skill system (principally flawed due to its inconsistency; some skills grant a bonus to certain standard rolls, some allow rolls that most people can't make, others modify rules in specific situations) and converting the strictly 1-10 stat scale of WFB to a percentile system - except for Strength and Toughness, which remain 1-10, and Movement which is 1-X, where X is a number higher than 10, but not 100. The result is a deliriously uneven system in which an experienced adventurer is rocking a slightly better than even chance of hitting, but could conceivably arm wrestle a dragon.

The classic career transition following an
arrow-related patellar injury.
I do like the career system, clunky as it is in places, in which PCs are assumed to begin their adventuring life as a bartender or stable hand with itchy feet. The second edition cleaned this part of the game up a lot, as well as making the skills system much cleaner and introducing the 'Talents' category to cover the less standard effects.

But with those limits why did and why do I still love WFRP (because I do)?

It's the setting, and in particular the original, first edition setting; so much so that when I ran a game using the updated 2nd ed rules, I busted out my old 1st ed rulebook for the setting info. I adore the grubby fantasy Renaissance feel of the original setting, back when Brettonia was a land of political corruption rather than pseudo-Arthurian grail knightage.

Over time, the demand for distinctive army lists has led to the exaggeration of the various countries (and the virtual elimination of Tilea, Estalia and - Sigmar help them - the Border Princes), and the generally bigging up and tidying of everything. Nothing is cheap and grubby anymore, and for me, WFRP is at its best when it's cheap and grubby, even if you're rubbing shoulders with Electors.


Is that not the saddest dragon
ever?
Dungeoneer was also cheap, although that was the book itself. Sold in the same large paperback format as Maelstrom or the Fighting Fantasy Sorcery! series, at £4.99 it was the cheapest core rulebook around (although the wilderness adventure book set me back about £30, being bought long after the fact). As the subtitle - Advanced Fighting Fantasy - might suggest, Dungeoneer is (the first of three books) aimed at expanding the Fighting Fantasy game book series into a roleplaying game for more than one player. It focused on dungeon grinding, and was followed by two other books, a city guide called Blacksand - focused on the infamous Cityport of Thieves - and Allansia, named for the main continent of the setting and looking at wilderness adventuring.

The basic system is simple; you have three core stats and can also spend your core Skill points to increase skill in specialised areas, like 'sword', 'pick pockets' and 'magic'. Magic was flawed in AFF, as buying up magic allowed you to cast a larger number of different spells, but also reduced your core Skill and your specialised skills with it, including Magic. This meant that you could never get better at magic, just know more spells and be worse at everything else.

I always wanted to run more Dungeoneer, not least because I also have the paperback editions of the setting books for Fighting Fantasy, Titan and Out of the Pit, which show case the mad bag of ideas that is the FF world.
As little as this character sheet has, most character won't
use half of it.

Both of these systems are notable for belonging to the great flourish of random character generation which these days is sometimes derided for lack of play balance. In strict WFRP character generation, you pick your race, but not even your career after that. It was entirely possible to end up with a Dungeoneer PC who was complete rubbish at everything. I may well touch on this subject again in a later post.

More posts to follow throughout the month. See you on Day 4 to talk about my most recent purchase. I am slightly tempted to go and buy something this evening just to queer the pitch.