When playing a Tabletop RPG, obviously the most important part to you, the player, is your character. The GM gets to play everyone else, but you get to make and be your character. WFRP has a deep character creation system with tons of customization and ways to bring your character to life before you even sit around the table. One way Warhammer distinguishes itself from other common RPGs is that you are encouraged to roll for just about everything with your character. You don’t have to, but you gain bonus experience for rolling for major things like your species and career. Oh boy, then there’s the career system, a staple of WFRP and one of my favorite things about it.
Some might be a little disappointed in the selection of species from the core book, but this is due to the low-fantasy feeling of WFRP. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of magic, monsters, and shenanigans of high fantasy in Warhammer, but most parties will begin with minimal access to any of this. As one can see from a quick glance, the vast majority of characters will be humans, unless you decide to forgo the experience bonus and just pick what you want.
One thing I love about this system, is that the species aren’t balanced. And they aren’t meant to be. A hundreds-year old elf is going to be better at just about everything compared to a two-decades old human named Gunter. This lack of balance is on purpose and continues into combat encounters. All of these decisions are to keep the game in line with its setting. Humans are grubs, as coined by Tim on “Settling the Southlands” (you can check out the first part of that campaign on YouTube for free, or join patreon.com/professionalcasual for all that’s current), and are generally not great at most things, but good at one or two. Dwarfs are fantastic melee characters and are your go-to for combats. Elves are good at just about everything, but can die to a stiff breeze. And halflings are little sneaky gits that love to cook and are resistant to chaos.
I’ll discuss gnomes (blegh) and ogres in my reviews of Rough Nights & Hard Days and Archives of the Empire, Vol. 2 respectively.
One way species are separated, besides in-game lore, is their wildly different starting characteristics. Humans are average at everything, dwarfs are tougher and more skilled in melee, elves are more dexterous and agile, while halflings are strong of will and are good at talking with just about everyone. Besides these differences, each species has their own starting skills and Talents, which greatly impact how they play. For example, halflings all gain the Resistance (Chaos) Talent, making it very difficult for them to succumb to mutations that afflict the denizens of the Old World. Talents allow characters to do wildly different things, and this helps to differentiate species from the beginning.
Future articles will cover the different careers, likely an article per Class of careers, and more have been added in supplements, such as Up in Arms and Winds of Magic.
Careers are the lifeblood of WFRP’s character system. There aren’t many games you can begin as a beggar and end up saving a town (or even the Old World). I love this system dearly, though it has changed slightly from my early experiences with 2nd edition.
First up, again, there is no inherent ‘balance’ here. Each species has careers it can’t be. No matter how much you think it would be cool, you can’t be a halfling wizard, or an elf slayer. Some things just don’t fit in the established lore of the world. Now, your GM might be ok with forgetting about those restrictions, but that could change your game world a lot, but in the end, it’s your game!
The term Class here can be a little confusing for people at first. They see Class and think D&D or Pathfinder, you even see the terms Ranger and Rogue! The Class your character belongs to just describes the grouping of their career. This edition there are Academics, Burghers, Courtiers, Peasants, Rangers, Riverfolk, Rogues, and Warriors. A stevedore is of the Riverfolk Class, a Wizard is an Academic, for example. This has impact on creating your character with starting gear, but also comes into play later if you want to change your career during a campaign. New careers added in supplements effectively replace existing careers as a choice if you roll it naturally.
Why Careers? This question pretty much sums up what I love about WFRP: your character is a pretty average person. Once in a while you’ll get something exotic like an elf wizard or dwarf slayer, but most of the time you’ll be a regular person who had a job and is now adventuring for some reason. Or maybe you’re still trying to do you job and adventures just keep getting in the way! So long as you can climb that ladder and light those lamps, you can keep your job and still solve mysteries and fight trolls (bad idea).
Leveling Up. A major change from 2nd edition WFRP, you no longer progress through different careers to advance (unless you feel like it). In 4th edition, you spend experience to increase the tier of your career, getting better and better at what you do.
The tiers system allows a character to spend 1,000s of experience in one career, really honing in on what makes their character special. Even better, supplements have added more options to many of these careers, such as the wizard above. Winds of Magic has eight new careers, each a wizard associated with a particular wind. If you’re a Warhammer buff and don’t want to play a generic wizard, but a Bright Wizard like you had in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, you can do that! The career system is deep and rewarding, and allows you to make just about anything you can imagine in the Old World. The choices included are enough that I’m even developing a campaign where everyone plays as a wizard in the Altdorf Colleges of Magic and they’ll be different enough from each other that it won’t be a problem. Not many games can say that.
Who is your daddy, and what does he do?
After determining your species, starting characteristics, skills, talents, and career, to finalize your character you “Bring them to Life.” 10 questions are laid out in the book to help you realize just who your character is. Not all of these questions has to be answered in detail, but they get you thinking about the life your character had before and why they’re doing what they’re doing now.
Get to Rolling
Now that your character is complete and ready for action, be ready with a backup, because the Old World is a dangerous place! Luckily as a PC you get Fate Points, essentially extra lives, to keep your character around longer. These are also used to add a little balance to character creation- elves hardly get any!
Obviously this chapter is of major use to players- you can’t make a player character without it! The process can seem a little daunting at first, and I know I didn’t make my first character correctly, but once you make sure you’ve gotten all your advances and EXP, it’s a deep, rewarding way to make a character. In the future I will have a video on our YouTube on walking through how to make a WFPR character here.
Admittedly, there isn’t as much here for the GM unless you’re creating NPCs the same way you would a character, which isn’t totally necessary. Later, the book recommends using a standard template for whatever species the NPC is and then using that to advance through a career. The GM does need to be familiar with this chapter though, to help players make their characters correctly.
Not a lot in this chapter, and I’ve shown some above, but what is there is high quality and helps set the tone of the game and shows players that characters literally come from all walks of life- from beggars to nobles and everything in between.
Unsurprisingly the lore in this chapter focuses on the different species. A few paragraphs about each sums up their typical personalities, attributes, and abilities. This lore is great for new players or for someone who is playing a different species for the first time. Dwarfs, halflings, and wood elves get much more information in Archives of the Empire: Vol. 1.
Until that’s ready, enjoy JB GMing us through Feast of Blood, where I actually get to play a WFRP character! Naturally I rolled Villager, but I made of the most of it with Mrs. Erika Chandler.
Make sure to check out our Patreon as well for our exclusive, homebrew, campaign, Settling the Southlands. Get a taste here:
Thanks for checking this out, next up with be the first in the series covering the Classes of Careers- Academics!
Dan is a founding member of the PCN and GM/host of “A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure,” and “Settling the Southlands” as well as a player in The Lost Omens Podcast, and The Slithering. Dan is also a novelist and writer of adventures. Find out more at dancoleauthor.com