May 14

Top 10 RPG list – number 6

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition

I first encountered WHFRP not long after its release and sort of fell in love with the peculiar background; The Old World with its very different fantasy tropes and unusual humour.  White Dwarf carried a number of pre-release adverts before the games release and had a teaser pull-out an issue or two before it was finally available from Games Workshop.  The book was originally published as a hard-cover with colour plates inside and contained all the rules required to play; with the exception of the upcoming magic book Realms Of Sorcery as it took several years before this book was finally  published by Hogshead Publishing.  To round things off there was even a short and very deadly adventure in the back of the book.

The game is known for the dark brooding setting, the use of humour especially puns and wordplay throughout the books; some of which are blatantly obvious if you happen to speak German.  It was also popular because of the critical hit charts which enabled you to describe the gory demise of your adversary.

Character creation.

One of the best parts of the game is the character creation system which had a myriad of character careers rolled from a collection of tables and this determined what your current career is, an advance scheme, initial skills and  some meagre equipment.  Some careers were better than others; for example the Wizard’s apprentice and some were a little underwhelming; for example the jailer.  By and large they were all were fun to play and really gave you an idea of why you decided to take up adventuring.

Advance scheme.

The career also gave you an advance scheme which allowed you to improve your character by giving you the ability to incrementally increase your stats in either +10 or +1 steps depending on whether the attributes were a percentage number or just a plain 0-9 value.  Once you had purchased a single +10 advance, if you wanted to get better you had to locate a career with a +20 advance and so forth until you had managed to get the full +40 allowed.  Upon completion of the advance scheme you would then move on to a new career either by picking a career exit or spending more experience points to select a new career.


The game also had a very broad, diverse and somewhat unusual skill list.  Unlike most fantasy worlds of that era in WHFRP most of the Old World is illiterate, so if you were very lucky your character could posses Read / Write and be slightly ahead of the rest of the world.


The final piece of the equation was your starting gear, some careers gave you access to exotic weapons and armour or if you were unlucky a flask of herbal tea or a bunch of keys.  A quirk of the game was that you had to obtain the trappings of the next career you wanted to advance into once you had finished with your current career, this was great if all you needed was a collection of hats and bottles of coloured sand; not so good if you had to acquire a ship or a mercenary band.


The game also had the usual bunch of stereotypical races to play; Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling and an issue of White Dwarf introduced the Gnome as am additional playable race, if you didn’t have that issue of White Dwarf it was later reprinted in a collection of WHFRP material.   The bestiary had the standard monsters as well as a few creatures unique to the game as adversaries.


The setting is the Old World, a place where magic is a strange force be wielded by trained wizards and the forces of chaos run wild around the forests of the Empire; the Empire is very much like an early renaissance Germany with primitive black powder weapons which certain careers require before you could advance into it.   There is quite a detailed gazetteer and history of the planet in the book mostly using material found in Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition.


There were a few supplements released for the game including the long-awaited Realms of Sorcery but Games Workshop also released a few adventures for it.  There were a couple of geographical source books, and a compilation of articles that had appeared in White Dwarf, including the aforementioned Gnome.

Honourable mention.

Runequest third edition.

Runequest was the other fantasy game I got hold of another fantasy world with its own unique world: Glorantha. At the time Games Workshop had managed to secure the rights to print licensed editions of other companies games and it was the Games Workshop version I had.  The version that Games Workshop published under license was the third edition which spanned  three separate slim hardcover editions unlike the single volume of WHFRP.

I was also a little disappointed that Runequest third edition used a fantasy Europe as a setting rather than Glorantha which was prevalent in the first and second editions.  Many of the printed adventures and source-books still out there used Glorantha and not the new default world and not having access to the earlier editions I was a little confused.  I later found out that this may have been that Avalon Hill had purchased the rights to use Runequest and the name but not the world of Glorantha.

Runequest used percentile dice to resolve actions and could be just as bloody as WHFRP since each limb had separate hit point totals and your arms or legs could be hacked off in battle or if you were unfortunate you could hack your own legs off if you fumbled.


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Posted May 14, 2014 by GeneralTangent in category "RPG

About the Author

I've been gaming on and off since about 1989 and during that period have played with numerous game systems. I'm fluent in a few, have a basic understanding of quite a few more and can get by in others. Somewhere along the way I found time to be a playtester, contribute to an unpublished game supplement and be associated with another gaming magazine written by far more talented people than I. This lead to one infamous article being written in which I followed the letter of the adventure and torched the parties river barge. I'm also listed on as a game designer.

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