I really like the Warhammer 3 system, though I don’t know if it will work at higher levels, but I’m interested in adjusting it to work in a High Fantasy campaign style, rather than the “grim and perilous world” of Warhammer. To the extent that changes would need to be made, it seems that the main ones would be in character generation and advancement. I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently, and some of my ideas on how such a change might work are described below.

Characterizing High Fantasy

The High Fantasy ideas I’m used to basically seem to consist of the following:

  • PCs start at quite a weak and low-powered level, but progress to extremely high powers
  • Character classes follow quite a long development path, and career transitions are few and far between
  • Career transitions can be quite radical: from fighter to magic user, for example
  • Secondary spell users (like Bard, Paladin, etc.) exist

To incorporate these into Warhammer 3 would require a change in the base classes, and an extension of the duration of a single career (perhaps a doubling) so that a single career in the High Fantasy world is roughly equal to 2 or 3 careers in the Warhammer 3 rules. This would in turn lead to more dependence on Rank as a signifier of power.

Revising careers

I envisage 4 basic careers: Soldier, Initiate, Apprentice Wizard and Rogue. If one wants to include semi-spell users then one would also include the Paladin, Bard and maybe a Fighter/Magic User type (Warlock?).

There would then be a series of advanced careers, that represent improvements on the basic careers: Warrior, Cleric, Wizard, Thief. The additional careers of Ranger, Assassin and Druid could be introduced at this point, and maybe one would want to include Paladin and Bard at this stage rather than the previous stage.

Advancement would be simpler than in Warhammer 3. Any basic career can advance to any other basic career, but for the advanced careers the progression types are limited: Fighters can become Warriors, Rangers or Assassins; Rogues can become Assassins, Thieves or Rangers; Initiates can become Clerics, Rangers or Druids; Apprentice Wizards can become Wizards, Assassins or Rangers. Bards, Paladins and Warlocks(?) could fit into this scheme in the obvious ways.

There could then (perhaps) be a single additional class specific to each basic class: Barbarian for the Warrior, ? for the Cleric, Sorcerer for the Wizard, ? for the Thief.

Class distinction would be primarily through the use of talents, available skills, and maybe some specific action cards. I imagine that pre-requisites would be more complex than in Warhammer 3, and there would be spells for the different classes. Alternatively, semi-spell-users could be set to use lower-level versions of the other classes’ spells (this makes life easier for the designer) and can only be obtained by non-spell-using basic classes. So then we have the following progression rules:

  • Soldier: any other Basic class; Warrior; Paladin; Warlock; Ranger; Barbarian
  • Initiate: Any other basic class; Cleric
  • Apprentice Wizard: Any other basic class; wizard; Sorcerer
  • Rogue: Any other basic class; thief; Assassin; Ranger; Bard

I think I like this scheme since it gives a wider range of options for the initial non-spell-using classes. Alternatively you could put strict conditions on ability scores for the Initiate and Apprentice Wizard, and introduce the Bard or Paladin as more flexible versions of the same with access to weaker magic.

To get the effect of weaker magic, I imagine defining “petty magic” as 0 level, and allowing pure magic using classes to use spells equal to or less than their rank; semi-spell users can use Rank-1. Then, the number of xps required to gain a rank can be adjusted to match the demands of a weak starting point and a powerful ending point. Ranks of spell can also be exponentially more powerful (in this system, rank 4 or 5 would surely be the limit!)

Starting weak and ending strong

To achieve this effect I envisage the system putting stricter limits on the  starting attributes for a PC (maybe a maximum of 5) but weaker limits on how many advances can be expended on attributes, enabling characters to develop to a maximum of 7 or 8 by the end of their second career. This would mean that careers would span twice the XP range, and allow more advances. Typically, I imagine a set of advances for one career being something like:

  • 1 Talent
  • 1 Action
  • 2 Wound Threshold
  • 1 Fortune
  • 1 Skill or specialization
  • 1 Specialization
  • 8-10 Open Career Advances
  • 2 Trait Advances to Maximum Rank 5

So by the time a character has reached the end of this they have spent a maximum of about 25 points (not including non-career advances, which could also be more flexible). The open career advances would be handled the same way as now (on the career card) but would obviously allow more advances, i.e. more skill advances or action cards. I would introduce more scope by reforming the stances a little and giving more flexibility to assign points to them.

Reforming stances

Stances are a powerful effect in the game (though I think the Reckless Stance can be a little bit pointless at times). At low levels I think high fantasy characters shouldn’t have much flexibility to adjust them, so I would suggest changing the stances to give all PCs at first level 1 stance step in one direction (of their choice). They then buy additional stance dice as they proceed. They might even start off neutral-only, and be able to buy 1 stance per career. This prevents them from having lots of stance dice early on and gives monsters a huge advantage. It also means players have more incentive to buy up attributes – with stance dice being limited, increasing attributes is important.

It would also be a good idea, I think, to make some actions – and especially some types of spell – benefit more from specific stances. Pyromancy and necromancy should benefit from reckless stances, as should anything a thief or barbarian does, while Paladins and Conjurors should benefit from conservatism (taking your time about summoning demons is a good idea). Fighters should be able to adopt very different styles by changing stance options, and I like the idea that early decisions a PC makes really limit their future development. So if a PC has bought two steps on a conservative stance, that basically means that becoming a thief is a bad idea.

I also pondered linking stances to alignment (Law/Chaos) and I’m interested in the fact that the original Warhammer rules don’t do this.

Conclusion

I’m still thinking about whether any changes to WFRP 3 would be necessary to make it into a high fantasy game, or whether they’re mainly about play style. But if one did choose to change the game, the image I have is of keeping the same basic resolution system for actions, keeping fatigue/stress and action cooldowns, and changing character advancement so that it reflects the classic D&D-style classes. Along with a bit of tinkering with stances and some adjustments to the pre-requisites for the basic classes, this could be sufficient to make the game into a high fantasy system with an excellent (I think) skill resolution system, and some cool ideas for handling resources. I’ll be looking into this more over the next few months, and possibly also considering ways to convert the system directly to Compromise and Conceit.

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