Welcome back to our deep-dive into the Skills of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay! Last post, I went over the first half of the Skills, starting with Basic. Today I’ll look at the rest of the Basic and all of the Advanced Skills. I like to focus on how each Skill can inform roleplay and characterization of the members of the Old World and beyond, so if you’re looking for an entry on the nitty-gritty rules of Skills, this ain’t it. If people want that in the future, sound off in the comments!
Perception– The granddaddy of Skills, perception has even been elevated to a Characteristic in other variants of the core WFRP rules. Perception allows people to sense their environment. This is most commonly done with their eyes, but perception includes all of the five senses, even beyond with magic. Perception is even great in combat, an easy way to Assess the Situation and gain an advantage over your opponents. People with a high perception are going to notice things others won’t, which can be a literal life saver in many situations. To roleplay this, a PC can ask the GM for more specific details when entering a room that others in the party might not notice, such as ‘how many people are wearing hats,’ ‘what color are the bartender’s eyes,’ or ‘do I notice anyone that looks less salubrious than others?’
Ride– A grouped Skill, Ride is specific to a type of animal you have experience with. This could be as simple as a horse or pony, or extravagant as a griffon or even a dragon! (Let’s be real, this is WFRP, you’re not riding a dragon any time soon.) Anyone can try to ride a horse or similar simple animal, but to do anything more than canter along, you’ll need ride tests. Someone with Advances in this Skill is going to be very comfortable in the saddle and potentially know a few tricks. To roleplay your skill at riding, maybe you describe how your character walks a bit bow-legged or they smell like horse all the time, or just can’t stop bragging about they last amazing trick while riding.
Row– Similar to Ride, anyone can row a boat, even if it can take a little to get the hang of it, but to do anything more, like racing or traversing dangerous waters like rapids, you’ll need to test. A character with Advances in row will likely be broad-shouldered with large back muscles. They might use their size as a way to influence their ability to intimidate, or they may just talk trade with others that have a similar build. Row seems like kind of an unnecessary Skill at first glance, but seeing how much of the Empire is crisscrossed with rivers and streams, it makes sense that many people living there would be skilled in this.
Stealth– Being sneaky can have a lot of benefits in the Old World. Remaining unseen, creeping into places one shouldn’t be, or hiding in a dangerous situation, stealth can be a life saver. Stealth is typically opposed by someone’s perception. This is kind of nice, because even if the player has a bad roll, their opponent could roll even worse! Stealth in combat can be used in many ways, to hide to gain advantage, to defend, or do gain the upper hand by sneaking behind an enemy. Characters with high Stealth will likely naturally move to more concealed areas wherever they are, sticking to the shadows. They might talk quietly, or dress in ways to not garner attention to themselves.
Not For Beginners
That’s all for the Basic Skills, things anyone can try to do. The following will be the Advanced Skills. You can’t even attempt these Skills without Advances as they require training, research, or experience. These Skills are rarer, but are extremely useful.
Animal Care– You don’t need this skill to feed or water a pet, but to know how to keep them healthy and treat their sickness or wounds when they come up, you’ll need Advances in Animal Care. A major boon for this Skill is that it works like Heal, but on animals! Restore Wounds equal to your SL+Int Bonus to get your small but vicious dog back in fighting shape! You can remove a bleeding condition instead, or groom them, diagnose an illness, or evaluate the quality of their breed. Animal Care is especially important to those that need horses regularly like coachmen, or any of the many careers that ride a horse regularly. And of course, the halfling badger rider needs to know how to care for his steed! Characters with Advances here are regularly covered in animal fur, have small wounds on their hands and arms from bites and scratches, and probably talk about their animals all the time.
Animal Training– Similar to Animal Care, Animal Training is specific to a type of animal you know how to train. Advances in this Skill allows you to use the Animal Training Endeavor and remove Creature Traits that are negatives, like Skittish. Knowing how to train an animal, such as a horse or dog, can be beneficial in many ways. Having a dog know to search for something potentially dangerous, or having a horse unafraid of gunshots will be extremely helpful. A character with Advances in Animal Training might try to use the same conditioning tricks on their fellow party members though, and hey, it might work!
Channeling- Grabbing onto the Winds of Magic and focusing them to your will isn’t easy, but Channeling first takes some of the burden. Channeling has been slightly updated in the book Winds of Magic, but it’s function is the same as from WFRP allowing a magic user to build up SL before attempting a spell with Language (Magick). Channeling, as we’ll see often with Advanced Skills, is grouped and you can only have the Skill in one Specialization. Characters with Advances in Channeling will often see the world a little differently than those that don’t. With the Winds of Magic visible to manipulate, people will likely stay away from areas where the winds pool an be attracted to the wind they are attuned to.
Evaluate- This is a skill that doesn’t see a lot of use outside determining how much something is worth. This is meant to be things of varying worth, like artifacts, curios, and other things like artwork and fancy jewelry. Someone with high Evaluate will know the value of just about everything and will likely comment on it regularly.
Heal- Potentially the most important SKillin the game, in terms of surviving an adventure. Heal is used like Animal Care, but on people! Diagnose, treat a disease, restore wounds, or remove bleeding conditions. Heal will keep the party alive after the dangerous WFRP encounters. on their feet, at least long enough to get to bed and rest! A healer will need a bag of supplies, and probably has a needle and threat in their teeth at all times, cause who knows when stitching will be necessary. They’ll also be on the lookout for any sniffles or other signs of sickness, ready with gloves and some liquor to ‘sterilize’ their patient.
Language- While Reikspiel is the assumed language of characters adventuring in the Old World, many languages are spoken through the entire Warhammer world. There are other mundane languages like Classical, Bretonnian, Wastelander, Estalian, Tilean, Gospodarinyi (Kislevarin or Kislevite), and Norse. Fantastical languages like Eltharin (elven), Khazalid (dwarven), Queekish (Skaven), Mootish (halflings), and Grumbarth (ogres). Then there is Magick, the language that helps to manipulate the winds of magic. There are ‘hidden’ languages of the Old World only known to those of certain groups like Battle Tongue and Thieves Tongue (sometimes known as Thieves Cant). Most of these languages don’t need tests to speak, if you have Advances in the Skill you know the language. Magick is the notable exception, needed to cast spells, Wizards and the like will be testing this skill often, usually with amazing results. People that speak multiple languages will often slip into different tongues, especially when agitated or nervous, roleplaying that can be fun with made up words, or the ‘real world’ versions (like French for Bretonnian).
Lore– Study, research, or experience into a topic allows people to have Advances in the Lore Skill for their area of study. Simply having Advances in the Skill means you have a good understanding on the topic, and tests are only needed when trying to get more, or very specific information from your knowledge. My favorite example of this was during our Settling the Southlands campaign, when Gerty the dwarf merchant wanted to use Lore (Geology) to determine what rock something was made of. It was nice to give him a chance to use the Skill! Those with this Skill will likely try to use it whenever possible, fitting their knowledge into everyday conversations, and feeding ‘useless’ facts to their party members.
Perform- Being able to perform in front of a crowd doesn’t necessarily mean someone is good at it, but Advances in this Skill for a particular specializations, means they are! Some can even be used in combat, like Acrobatics to dodge, or Firebreathing to set enemies on fire! Similar to Lore, those with Advances in Perform are likely going to be practicing constantly, juggling whenever they’re able, whether it’s appropriate or not.
Pick Lock- A simple Skill, Pick Lock is usually an Extended Test with a difficulty based on the type of lock.
Play- Like Perform, Play allows one to play an instrument well. This will most often be used for busking to make some extra money, and someone with Advances in Play will likely have the instrument on them all the time, looking for any chance to show off.
Pray- A very rare, but cool Skill that allows an character to perform Miracles of their god! Not only that, but using it in combat can grant Advantage. You can even use it instead of Intimidate in some cases. Miracles, similar to Spells, can have a major impact on investigations and combat, but are generally less grandiose and extravagant. To have access to the Pray Skill, one must be in a religious Career, so they’re probably praying regularly anyway, and the party is used to it. When amazing things happen though, the party is sure to notice, just don’t fumble and risk the Wrath of the Gods!
Ranged- Knowing how to throw something is all well and good, but developing skill with a certain kind of ranged weapon takes training and time. Blackpowder, bow, crossbow, engineering, entangling, explosives, sling, and throwing are all specializations for the Ranged Skill, showing what kind of weapon you’re proficient with. Without Advances in the proper Skill, a character can’t use the associated weapon (other than Throwing). Advances in this Skill means you probably carry the weapon on you, likely spinning a pistol like a gunslinger, fiddling with an arrowhead, or tossing a small bomb back and forth. You might use your ranged weapon as a source of intimidation and show it off when it feels necessary.
Research- More useful in an urban campaign, research requires the Read/Write Talent and a place to find the information you need. Libraries, temples of Verena, and universities are great places to research and find what you’re looking for. This is often done with an Extended Test, but can also represent you just knowing basic information you’ve already researched. Similar to the Lore Skill, I imagine those with Research will take any opportunity they can to talk about what they’ve just found out. They’ll probably carry books and scrolls with them for quick references too.
Sail- Knowing how to sail is extremely useful in the Empire. The land is criss-crossed with hundreds of rivers, some up to a mile wide! The Imperial Navy is a powerful presence on these major waterways and is known to spend time in the Sea of Claws as well. Not every sailor is part of the Navy, of course, most are simple merchants or barge masters trying to make a living on the water. I like to use this Skill to represent the knowledge of other skills on a ship like tying knots, reading the sky, and navigating the waters. Having Advances in the Sail Skill doesn’t mean you can steer any vessel though, so it is specialized into Barge, Caravel (whatever that is!), Cog, Frigate, and Wolfship. A sailor will likely walk a little strangely on land, but totally comfortable on the water. They might have a certain way of talking and fit sailing jargon into everyday talk. Then of course, there’s the sailor’s special language…
Secret Signs- Knowing specific signs of special groups isn’t always a terribly useful skill, but when it does come in handy it can be a life saver. Maybe the character knows signs of the Grey Order of wizards, or a specific Guild, thieves leave their own signs for others, as do rangers and scouts in the wilderness. Having Advances in this Skill allows you to read the associated sign without a test, but if it’s a longer or complicated sign or there is a source of stress in the moment, a test might be necessary. Since the knowledge of these signs are secret to the group, roleplaying this Skill isn’t often necessary unless a sign is spotted.
Set Trap- A very rare, but amazing Skill in the right circumstances, Set Trap is wanted in just about every party. This Skill not only allows someone to set traps for game or enemies, but to discover and disable them as well. A simple test is usually all that’s needed to set or disarm a trap, but larger or more complex traps might need an Extended Test with many SL needed. Roleplaying Advances in Set Trap can be done by always looking out for traps, regardless of the situation, fiddling with trap tools, and being obsessed with contraptions and engineering.
Sleight of Hand- This is a fun Skill that is enhanced by the imagination of the player. Picking pockets or cheating at games can be fun, but what about using it in combat? I recently had a player on A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure argue a use for it I never would have thought of, combining the character’s Lore Skill with Sleight of Hand for an ingenious maneuver I had to allow, and it was successful! This Skill could easily have a character fiddling with something in their hands constantly, maybe rolling a coin across the back of their knuckles or absent mindedly doing card tricks.
Swim- Pretty straight forward, swim is used to not drown. I love this as an Advanced Skill though, because people don’t inherently know how to swim, they have to be taught. A test isn’t often necessary to simply swim, but if there are dangerous conditions or fighting is happening in the water, tests might be needed to make sure you keep your head up! A strong swimmer is going to have wide shoulders and a well-defined back. They might even smell like a river or lake and make regular wards against Stromfels, the god of drowning.
Track- Another rare, but helpful Skill, being able to track quarries, whether it’s in a city or the forest, following a trail is often necessary. Track is a deeper set of knowledge than following footprints, but understanding other signs to look for. Alternatively, the Skill can be used to cover one’s tracks and keep their own trail hidden, opposing a pursuer’s own Track Skill. Following a trail is usually an Extended Test, representing the time it takes and the chance of losing the trail at different points. A tracker will be watching people or animals constantly, noting particular gaits or shoes/boots worn. They will likely note things about people that they do habitually and don’t even realize themselves, possibly commenting on it in ways that might take their party members unawares.
Trade- The final Advanced Skill Trade makes the Empire go round. Knowing how to create something is massively important for society as a whole, and can be important or even life-saving as an adventurer. A character can have Advances in just about any trade they can think of, but listed in the core book are: apothecary, calligrapher, chandler, carpenter, cook, embalmer, smith, and tanner. I had a blast playing a chandler in Feast of Blood, our 50 5-Star Review bonus show. Using trade to make something or have a service to sell is a common source of income or to create something useful while on the road, like dinner! Trade (Cook) is a favorite one for my usual gaming groups, just so they can try to cook various things they find in the wild (like giant spider legs, basilisk shank, spider egg sacs, the sky’s the limit!). Trade can be used in place of Lore in appropriate situations, which I really like, allowing a character to know about their trade makes a lot of sense! With Advances in a Trade, the character should have the trappings of that trade on them at all times, you never know when you’ll need to whip up a healing draught as an apothecary! They will likely sprinkle in jargon from their chosen field into everyday talk, potentially confusing others.
He’s So Damn Talented
Phew, that’s all the Skills in a nutshell, hopefully that can help you with RP either as a GM or a player and maybe you learned a little something too! Next up are the Talents, and while I’m not going to go over each and every one, I don’t have a lot of plans for covering them, so sound off in the comments, what would you like to see with covering Talents? 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, 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.