Onto Chapter III- Class and Careers! For this entry I’ll discuss a little about advancement in WFRP 4th Edition and then give my thoughts on the eight careers in the Academics Class.
Gaining and spending experience to make your character better is a foundational, fundamental part of any RPG. WFRP is no different, except that Exp is gained and spent more granularly. There are no ‘levels’ to a character, they just constantly get slightly better at what they know how to do, or slowly develop new skills and change. I love this approach. Instead of big jumps in power, usually after a boss fight, your characters improve marginally, which feels more realistic to me. You can spend as little as 10 exp on a 1% Advancement in a skill, or hundreds on a talent for the third time (I’m looking at you, Instinctive Diction!).
This allows a character to really refine what they’re good at. Your coachman riding shotgun wants to be really skilled with that blunderbuss? Spend more experience early on in the Ranged (Black Powder) Skill. If you want to be tougher to take down, buy a few instances of the Shieldsman (or Shieldsmaiden) Talent. This system really opens things up to fine-tune your character to exactly what you want them to be.
Things don’t always go the way you plan though, and story moments might make your character change track. Changing careers is a major part of this system, and it’s quite easy. If you’ve meet all the requirements to complete the Tier of your current career you’re at (5 Skill Advances in 8 Skills, 1 Talent, and 5 Advances in your Career Characteristics for Tier 1), you can move onto the next Tier of the career or another career in the same Class for 100 Experience. This represents your training and real-world experience adventuring. This opens new options and often more powerful Talents. Sadly, once you move on you can no longer buy Talents of lower Tier levels, but the Skills stay with you. One thing I love about this is that at character creation, you get enough bonuses to only need a few hundred experience to move into Tier 2 of your career. If you don’t complete the career though, it will cost you 200 exp to move to a different career in the same Class.
What if you want to change to a career in a different Class though!? Your Soldier decides they don’t actually want to join the army, but hunt Chaos on a more personal level and become a Witch Hunter? Awesome! Just tack on another 100 exp to the career change (200 if current Tier is complete, 300 if not) and you’re good to go! Most GMs will require a reason or method for this in game, usually including a mentor of sorts to help the PC delve into this change of careers.
Oh, there’s a bunch of stuff about Status and earning income as well, if you’re playing a really down-to-earth campaign. If you’re playing something like The Enemy Within, this will rarely come up, especially earning income. Your Status determines your starting money though, so that’s nice! In all seriousness, I do like the Status system- Brass, Silver, Gold, with a level attached- this helps influence roleplay, especially for the GM. Those of a higher Status will almost always look down on those with a lower Status. Nobles and others with a high ranked Gold status might not even speak with commoners of Brass level.
A note on Trappings- In previous editions, most notably 2nd for me, PCs were required to gather up the Trappings listed in the next career before they entered it. Other than Tier one, these are now just a guideline to help player choice and for GMs when creating NPCs. At creation, you gain all the Trappings listed in the first Tier of the career. Gotta buy/earn the rest!
The first Class (Of 8, each with 8 careers) is the Academics, including: Apothecary, Engineer, Lawyer, Nun, Physician, Priest, Scholar, and Wizard. This Class has a lot of classic adventuring types, like the doctor, Priest, and Wizard. Academics are known for their Intelligence, and thinking through problems. Many have never handled a weapon, and usually don’t make good fighters. If your party needs someone to actually read, or figure out a puzzle, Academics are it!
Every adventuring party loves to come across an apothecary! Buying healing draughts, poultices, or herbs can be life saving. As a PC, apothecaries are great for keeping your party alive, and helping them gather useful plants. Having access to the Heal skill is almost necessary if your campaign is combat-heavy. An apothecary can also create goods to use or sell later in the career, which is a great way to make money. They earn income with the Trade (Apothecary) Skill.
The engineer career is fun for a lot a reasons. One of the few careers to have access to Ranged (Black Powder) at Tier 1, and all of their Language, Lore, and Trade. Engineers excel at adding expertise on may subjects to a party. Reading in general is helpful, but Engineers can also read Classical (read: Latin) and solve many problems with Lore (Engineering). Obviously not as necessary in a rural campaign, but they’re great for adventures set in a city of the Empire! As they gain experience, they become the best at what they do with Talents like Magnum Opus, Master Tradesman (Engineering), and Savant (Engineering). Engineer NPCs are also super necessary, as there wouldn’t be much of an Empire without them!
Who hasn’t wanted to roleplay a lawyer? Traveling lawyers are common in the Empire, so one as an adventurer isn’t much of a stretch. Having Skills like Lore (Law) and Lore (Theology) is incredibly helpful (and Read/Write pops up again!). Lawyers are great at talking (shocking) and have a ton of social skills to back it up like Haggle and Talents like Blather. I love that at later Tiers you can choose to keep on the straight and narrow, or become more of a corrupt lawyer with the Criminal and Kingpin Talents. Grab a Lawyer for your party and they’ll have your back (probably)!
You might ask, why have Priests and Nuns? I would answer that with, because! Looking over just their starting Skills and Talents, Nuns take a more… ‘hands on’ approach. They serve the people of the Empire in the name of their god(s), if those people convert to worship, that’s a nice bonus. Nuns live in conclaves together, separate from the rest of society. Truly talented Nuns can learn to Invoke Blessings and Miracles of their god to aid in their service. They are also sound of mind and body, difficult to corrupt. As a PC advances through the Nun Tiers, they will gain many Lore Skills, increasing their knowledge as they serve. Having the Heal Skill at Tier 1 is really nice too!
Bethen Bauer, Dani’s character from Settling the Southlands, is a physician, and she has been indispensable. Physicians also allow Players to RP their wildest dreams, like being a Barber-Surgeon! Of course, they get the all-necessary Heal at Tier 1, as well as the Surgery Talent in Tier 2. In addition, they get a slew of social Skills and Talents, as highly skilled doktors are wanted at the highest levels of the social ladder. They have access to Charm, Etiquette (Guilders) (Scholars) and (Nobles) and even Perform (Dancing) at Tier 4! (If anyone can help me understand why a Court Physician would need to know how to dance, I’m all ears!)
Similar to Nuns, Priests dedicate their lives to spreading the word of whatever god they follow (the image above is a Priest of Sigmar Heldenhammer). Contrary to Nuns, Priests preach loudly to whoever will listen. Or at least is in earshot. They can also call upon their god to perform Blessings and Miracles, but where they really shine is social Skills and Talents. They can gain a surprising amount of Entertain Skills to woo the masses along with a few Lore Skills and Leadership. They’re a well-rounded career that doesn’t want to get into combat, but can hold their own for a while if forced to.
Do you want to know about whatever you want? Roll up a Scholar! They have Lore (Any) at every Tier, so they know a lot about a lot. Add in other Skills like Research and various Languages, the Scholar will get the party through any situation that needs to know something. Their knowledge can help move plots along, the PC possibly thinking of or remembering something the Players forgot! They aren’t going to shine in combat, probably hiding in the back, but they do have Toughness as a career Characteristic from Tier 1, so maybe they can take a few hits at least?
The Wizard career as presented in WFRP is a bit outdated since Winds of Magic was released, but if you don’t have access to that, this is the career many players hope to roll. Only elves and humans can roll this, high elves have 4% chance to roll Wizard, wood elves 3%, while humans have 1%. For a player that really wants to sling those spells around, it’s likely worth losing out on that 50 or 25 experience to just choose it. Wizards are awesome, but take some getting used to. Players have to know a whole other chapter of rules (again Winds of Magic expanded and improved on these), but their spells can save the party in all kinds of situations. At Tier 1, Wizards only have Petty spells, but there is a lot of utility in the 25 Petty spells in this book. Everything from Dart to do damage, Open Lock to well, open locks, to marsh lights to guide the party, to drain, stealing life energy from another. Wizards are the most fantastical of careers in WFRP and are feared for their prowess. And miscasts…
For the GM
During typical play, this chapter doesn’t have the most use for the GM, other than knowing the advancement rules to help the players. During prep though, this chapter is indispensable for a GM creating NPCs. Taking a species template and advancing them through a few Tiers of a career, or even just cherry picking a few Skills and Talents to make an NPC more unique, makes this chapter great for GMs.
For the Players
Other than Character Creation, there likely isn’t a chapter more geared for the Players. Knowing what careers are available and how to complete the Tier you’re in is absolutely necessary for Players. Planning ahead what track you want your character to take can be helpful, but there is no planning for unknown plot ahead of you!
Next entry will be about the next Class, Burghers- people that have to work for their money. Until then, make sure to check out our Patreon at patreon.com/professionalcasual for all kinds of awesome content. Also, if you’re looking for any of the books I’ve mentioned throughout the article, head over to beardeddragongames.online/shop or if you’re in our Discord, tag Anthony with anything you need!
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.