Welcome to a new series I’m starting today! I’ll be going through all of the releases of Cubicle 7’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition. Starting with the core rulebook just makes sense to me, and as such a huge, dense book, I’ll be doing it in a few parts. This first article will serve as an overview of the book and the system, perfect if you’re thinking about trying this lovely tabletop roleplaying game!
These reviews will be split into a few parts, I’ll focus on the production values and artwork, lore included, and of course, the rules (focusing on GM and player usage).
Production Value and Artwork
I will start this section by saying they’re simply stellar. The binding of the book is great, the artwork is thematic, atmospheric, and sets the mood. I can’t say they’re all beautiful works of art, because this is the Old World we’re talking about, there’s a lot of nasty stuff, but each piece in this book has a purpose and looks great doing it.
One of my favorite parts of this book is how well it sets the tone for WFRP. Just after the Contents is a collection of six two-page spreads of awesome scenic images with a short story that continues through the half dozen images and sets the tone for the world as you start flipping through the book.
I commend the value of the book, after GMing ‘A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure‘ for over two years, the book is still in perfect condition. No pages are in danger of coming out, the spine is still strong- it’s a good binding.
Other than scenic images, the picture for each Career is perfect and does a great job of encapsulating what the career is about. Once in a while there are a little artistic liberties and include trappings that don’t really fit with the skills of the career, but it’s a minor sin.
Before I go too much further in this part, I want to make sure I give the artists of the book credit. Sadly, individual works are not credited like newer WotC publications, but we do have a list of the artists that have work in the book: Dave Allsop, Michael Franchina, Andrew Hepworth, Jon Hodgson, Ralph Horsley, Pat Loboyko, Sam Manley, and Scott Purdy. The instant classic cover was done by Ralph Horsley as well. Thanks everyone!
A core rulebook, by law, must have rules. To include lore in a core rulebook, is just gravy. Most books of this style have minimal lore, just enough to help new people get the idea of what the world is like. This book features 20 pages of a dedicated chapter to the way life is in one section of the Old World- Reikland. A lot of areas are explained briefly, giving a GM dozens of potential adventure hooks and locations to base adventures around if they’re the homebrewing type.
In addition to locations, this chapter also includes lifestyle of Reiklanders as well as major NPCs, like the Reikland Council.
This chapter is fantastic for a brief introduction to the Old World that has been expanded in every release since. For a core rulebook, I find the amount of lore stuffed into it great and enough to get any gaming group started.
Rules, GM and Player Uses
Rules. There are a lot of rules in this book. Interestingly, some major sections of the rules have been updated in newer releases, such as critical hits in Up in Arms, and magic rules in Winds of Magic. These updates are optional and seek to take advantage of feedback that Cubicle 7 has gotten since the edition released about 3 years ago. Using the rules as-is in this book is nothing terrible, as these systems work just fine for the vast majority of players here.
GM Rules– GMs will be able to make use of this entire book, of course. It’s almost like a D&D Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all in one. The GM-specific chapter, ‘The Gamemaster,’ is of course indispensable for those running the game. This chapter covers a lot of the basics of gamemastering and tips and tricks for WFRP in particular. Rules for travelling the Old World and random encounters along the way (not always fights), and how to award Experience if you’re not running a published adventure.
Player Rules– Again, players can make use of just about all of this book- though they should probably stay away from Chapter 12: Bestiary. Having players around the table that are as familiar with the rules as the GM is a huge boon for everyone, so read up! Players will be spending most of their time in the ‘Class & Careers,’ and the ‘The Consumer’s Guide’ (equipment and services) chapters. ‘Religion and Belief,’ and ‘Magic’ chapters are of course essential for characters that need rules for prayers, miracles, and spells.
The rules of WFRP 4th Edition will be very familiar to those that have played 1st or 2nd Edition. If you’re jumping over from 3rd though, this will seem like a whole new language. I’m not going to go into detail of how the mechanics work, just know that this is a crunchy system that can be a little intimidating to some at first, but becomes second nature quite quickly.
As a convert from 2nd Edition my favorite new mechanic is the Opposed Test.
Opposed tests are great and allow players something to do during combat when it’s not their turn. I love this mechanic, mostly for combat, as it keeps everyone on their toes- you never know when you’ll need to defend yourself! The Opposed Test rule helps to make up for one of the worst aspects of 1st and 2nd Edition, lovingly known as the ‘whiff-factor.’ In earlier editions of the game, PCs were usually not so great at what they did, which was part of the charm of the game. But in combat that often meant that you’d have entire rounds of PCs whiffing and combats taking way too long. By adding Opposed tests, someone has to win! More damage is done, as you can even score a critical hit on your opponent while you’re defending! Some real nasty monsters can hit back just by winning the test while they’re defending.
Not all changes to previous editions are for the best, as some things get a little too convoluted (I’m looking at you, weapon reach). Like most TTRPGs, your group will get things more ‘correct’ as you play. But really, as long as everyone around the table is having a good time, who cares what rules you get ‘right’?
It’s All Coming Together
Phew, there’s a lot in this book! To see it all come together, check out some of our actual play videos. We have a few things out there on YouTube, and of course our regular podcast, “A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure,” where we’re playing The Enemy Within Campaign. Other notable games are “Hell Rides to Hallt,” and “Settling the Southlands,” my homebrew campaign the podcast of which is exclusive to patreon.com/professionalcasual.
In case you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of WFRP. The Old World is my favorite RPG setting and the dangerous, deadly gameplay of WFRP is my absolute favorite. 4th Edition has improved on just about every part of the core mechanics of the game and the folks at Cubicle 7 clearly love the setting just as much as us grognards.
Next up I’ll focus on the Character Creation for this edition and how much fun it can be!