HelgaCon: Warhammer FRPG
On Saturday afternoon I ran my first game, a Warhammer FRPG game with all skaven characters. I ran a similar game last year, using the same characters in fact. Last year the skaven were tasked with reclaiming some escaped slaves, who had hidden themselves in various locations in a small human village. The skaven players had to skulk about at night and reclaim the lost slaves while avoiding too much notice from the town militia. This year, the entire game took place underground, as the skaven were asked to explore a newly opened tunnel into an old abandoned dwarven complex. It was known these dwarves before they died out had some very interesting technology, and the warlocks in Clan Skryre wanted to reclaim and repurpose as much of it as possible.
It turns out that these dwarves had actually devolved into a form of worship of Slaanesh, who rather than appealing to traditional lusts in this case was warping the dwarves’ addiction to advanced technology in unpleasant ways. The complex contained some of the golem like war-creatures the dwarves had built, still powered by the insane dwarf spirits sacrificed to the chaos gods during their construction. In the forge room was a massive pool of lava which once heated the forges, and now was home to a demon that took the form of a huge golden dwarf. The players managed to skip past the part of the tunnels occupied by living dwarves also attempting to reclaim and went straight the golems and demon. I think they did quite well all things considered, and quite a few laughs were had as the skaven tried to avoid the seriously dangerous parts and backstab each other as much as possible.
And I think ultimately that’s the key to any skaven based game. Give the players some pretense for being together, and then let them enjoy trying to subvert each other while still ostensibly contributing to the central goal. It’s difficult to come up with roleplay situations for the players to interact with an NPC, but the built-in tensions in skaven society makes for some very funny interactions with the other players.
I tried to use “old school techniques” in this game. I wrote the adventure in the one page dungeon format, though I had to go to two pages to fit all the Warhammer related stats and just due to the raw number of rooms. I also tried to keep things fast by not letting myself get bogged down with specific rules, especially for skills. I’d call something as requiring an ability test (default at half), and if someone had a skill that was appropriate it was up to them to tell me and I’d let them use that instead. It worked all right, but I also don’t think a lot of skills really got used, which may in itself be an indicator that it wasn’t working as well as I had hoped.
Warhammer FRPG combat continues to be much slower than I’d like. The critical system is very fiddly, counting half and whole actions is annoying, and I ended up looking up special weapon types (snaring, impact, etc.) more frequently than I’d like to. And don’t get me started about the dodge/parry stuff. I mean, the players need something to make it a little less deadly, but dodge and parry really does slow down combats. I frequently “forgot” to have the enemies play combat smart by using a parrying weapon or taking a parrying stance just to speed things up, though it did give the players a bit of an unfair advantage. I wasn’t too worried in this case as some of the enemies were beyond the ability of the players anyway.
It’s a shame, because I really do love the setting of Warhammer. I still think an enjoyable game could be made in that setting with simpler, lighter rules, but Jenn seems disinterested in such and if she’s not interested than I see no reason to not just play D&D.