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So, my husband is a Pathfinder junkie. Also, he loves his miniatures. In fact, he loves them so much that we have a whole bookshelf filled with those plastic D&D minis. So when he heard that there were going to be Paizo minis up for grabs, well, you’d better believe that we immediately pre-ordered a case of them.
They arrived today. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’ll let you see for yourselves. These really are lovely. (I mean, they’re not Warhammer, which is a mark against them, but for a non-Warhammer product, they’re pretty keen.) The painting is much more precise and detailed than the old D&D minis; even the commons have lots of contrast colors and have been painted precisely. We ordered a case, and he was lucky enough to get a full set–every mini. Here are some pics of the whole shebang.
If you’re dithering, definitely pick some up. They seem much sturdier to me than the old D&D minis, and they really do look quite nice!
NOTE: Recently, people have been asking how WFRP3e looks to people now that the game has been around for a couple of years. This is the second part of my response to that question. The first part can be found here.
Even though this post is about Warhammer, I’m going to start with FreeMarket. I finished reading the rules just before I went on vacation, and I have to say that I really liked the system quite a bit. Still, I can’t imagine running the game without seeing it in action first, nor can I much imagine my current gaming group playing it, even if I did know exactly how it should run. I suspect that they simply don’t like to push against the GM enough to make it much fun.
I often think of games in terms of how much they assume you ‘push against the GM.’ These games ask you not just to accept challenges designed for you to overcome, but to challenge the premises set forth by the GM or the gameworld. In games like these, questioning or undermining the plot hook isn’t bad playing–it’s precisely what the games mean to evoke. The extent to which rules allow you to push against the GM works on a spectrum; different games make more or fewer allowances for questioning in that manner. My group has enjoyed WFRP3e so thoroughly because it stands right in the middle of that spectrum.
I’d say something like Pathfinder Society Scenarios fall on the end of Not Welcome to Push. If I take a mission from the lodge to go investigate the Blackrose Museum, I’m supposed to take the cues given and go solve the puzzles as the GM presents them to me. I’m not, for instance, really welcome to go back to my homeland, suggest that the place is way too dangerous to continue to exist, and amass an army to raze it to the ground. That’s partly because PFS games are often designed to be convention scenarios, but it’s also woven into the fabric of many d20 games; listen to the story, follow the cues, solve the puzzles, get a satisfying climax scene. These games will always remain popular because they allow for intricate, long, overarching storylines; the give the same pleasure as reading a good book or watching an intricate movie. You can, of course, create sandbox games within these systems that allow the players some more options for reaching the final climax scene, but generally, those sandbox games give the players the chance to decide in which order they will encounter possible pre-scripted events.
On the other end of my spectrum (indie games offer even farther reaches, but I won’t talk about games I don’t know well here,) lie games like FreeMarket, or, to a lesser extent, Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel. You have to push in these games–that’s the point. Without players challenging the premises, not much happens, and in games like Mouse Guard, many of the scenarios are thin and simple because the spotlight turns on the players’ ideas. The GMs for these games are told to “say yes” to the players’ demands whenever possible, and the storyline takes its shape from the evolution of the characters’ psychologies as much as it does from the external world. The rules focus on having the players describe and shape as much of the game mechanics as possible. Burning Wheel and MG players narrate the outcome of their own dice rolls, while FM PCs play through rounds of a card game to negotiate the successes and failures of their goals. Players of all three games are seldom (if ever) reduced to a simple pass/fail (or even degree of success/failure) mechanic, because most ‘failures’ can be renegotiated in some way.
In all systems, the stories are more important than the individual outcomes; BW, MG, and FM all rely on players to come to the table with their own goals and use their background to shape game play. Sure, the GM might set a straightforward task (get the contents of the chest in the head Guard’s office,) but all three games reward straightforward and non-straightforward responses to that task equally; attacking the guard or sneaking past him works fine, but you might just as easily bore a hole through the wall or construct a thieving monkey robot which you give to the guard as a gift to retrieve it. Mechanics exist for large-scale tactics as well as small-scale tactics; MG’s negotiation rules, for instance, give examples of how to use them to amass and control an army of mice to do your mouse’s bidding. If you have a character with enough resources, creating an army isn’t mechanically much more difficult than finishing the task yourself, so your players needn’t skip it as a realistic solution to a conflict. These systems allow players to feel as though they have infinite paths to changing the world and those possibilities give them the chance to explore their characters extraordinarily carefully. The downside for players comes when they have an off night; they can’t rely on an intricate storyline or hook NPC to keep the story moving, and they can easily stall the game if they don’t have ideas. The downside for a GM, of course, is that a perfectly-planned dramatic moment may easily get sidestepped by your players. Still, if you have managed to put together the ideal set of players for one of these games, their narrative plans are probably every bit as dramatic and creative as yours were, anyway.
Personally, I see WFRP3e as a hybrid of these two types of games. Since the Warhammer universe is so rich with history and its RPGs have so many entrenched traditions, it’s not a good fit for a “say yes,” push against the GM-style of rules. The players would just have the chance to miss way too much good lore. Further, “say yes” games often allow the PCs far more autonomy and power than would really fit the “grim and gritty” feel of Warhammer; while an experienced GM could keep them on track, beginners might have a much more difficult time. So FFG’s official story material for 3e has a kind of d20 determinism to it, much to the chagrin of some players of first and second edition. On the other hand, that has allowed FFG to script some fantastically funny and dramatic moments in the official material–stuff that had my players hooked immediately and had them asking after each game, “What did we miss? What else was there in that chapter?”
On the other hand, many of the mechanics offer momentary negotiations and “say yes” moments to the players on a smaller scale. The dice, for instance, allow PCs to describe the whole a combat action outcomes without having to know any of the monster’s stats. Fortune points allow them to shift the game in their favor or direction; they’re essentially chits that invite players to negotiate with the GM. The party tension meter, while flawed in some ways, encourages players to focus on the evolving psychology of their group. Finally, mechanics like corruptions allow PCs to move outside a GM’s or a party’s morality comfort zone without breaking the system, letting each player develop his character’s psychology without allowing him to run rampant over the game world.
I find that my players negotiate with me on a more regular basis while playing WFRP3e than I’ve seen with most d20 systems, where the focus lies on solving the puzzles in the most efficient, least deadly manner possible. They feel supported enough by the game world and the rules to try creative or bizarre approaches to the problems in front of them. (For our group, these approaches often involve fire.) They will take risks, although they aren’t reckless, either, because they want to live to see what’s around the next corner.
WFRP3e isn’t the perfect system, by any means. Many of the complaints arise because the system doesn’t commit fully to a single traditional style of play, irritating players who come from both d20 and “say yes” types of games. Still, I think the rules and the pregen material do two things exceedingly well: they tell an interesting story and allow for PCs to develop their own interesting stories at the same time. Most systems err on the side of emphasizing one set of goals or the other; if WFRP3e has proven anything to me and my group in the past year and a half or so, it’s that it allows for nice a balance of both world story and player goals.
I’m in that weird post-vacation thing where there’s so much to do and so much I want to do that I can’t manage to do any of it.
My Seemingly Insurmountable Trivial Task of the Day is rearranging my RPG shelves to accommodate the signed copy of Burning Wheel Gold that I just received. We have two sets of RPG shelves here. One holds my husband’s d20 (Pathfinder, DnD 3.5) stuff, and the other holds my space-eating collection of WFRP boxes–I can’t bear to throw them out, even though I don’t really need to keep them–plus all my other wacky non-d20 systems. I suspect a trip to the furniture store for a bigger shelf is in order, but that will require a negotiation about whether or not the new bookshelf should cover the living room window that I’m just not prepared to handle at this juncture.
(Hmm…now that I look at the shelf, I realize there’s a borrowed book in there.)
In the meantime, check out this comic that one of my players sent my way yesterday. Pretty much sums it up, yep.
In a related recent exchange:
Me: I made a whole bunch of buildings and furniture and props and stuff for this weekend’s game. There’s now a whole army of tiny chairs and tables!
Player: …are we playing Warhammer or dolls?
Some of your are on your way to GenCon. I’m not. It’s a bit of a touchy subject, especially since your chipper Facebook statuses are slowly eroding my sanity. Not being at GenCon isn’t going to stop me from gaming, though!
We are traveling this week, too. Although we seldom ditch our dice if we know we’re going to be playing RPGs, we often leave them behind if we’re anticipating more board gaming than tabletopping, or if–heaven forbid!–we are going somewhere there’s likely to be no gaming at all. Still, we always bring our iPads, and since we have the books for most of our favorite RPGs in PDF form, a couple of dice roller apps ensure that we can play at the drop of a hat if a game pops up.
If you play d20, WoD, or other similar systems, you’ll find everything you need in the Dicenomicon At its most basic level, the Dicenomicon lets you assemble a dice pool, roll it, then see the tally at the top of the screen. With customizable aesthetics like dice color, background textures/images, and sounds, you can make your dice set look and act just as you like. You can also have a whiteboard function as your background, allowing you to keep notes and tallies right at your fingertips. If you’re an advanced user, you can program and save formulas for commonly used dice rolls, then put sets of formulas and dice types in separate “rooms” to keep your Pathfinder and your Vampire dice separate from one another. The Dicenomicon thus allows GMs to speed up complex encounters, especially those with nonstandard mechanics, if they’re willing to put in a bit of programming time up front. A few extras like a simple tally board make this a great investment. One caveat: the documentation for this product isn’t great, so you may find yourself struggling to use all of its features as fully as you might.
Of course, some of us madmen and women play WFRP3e, and we need our special dice. The simple WFRP Toolkit serves us well. Its grandiose name might lead you to think it’s going to be more than a dice roller; it isn’t. You can assemble your dice pool, roll it, and the app will tally your boons, banes, successes, and failures. Further, you can see a record of your previous rolls and the statistics of how often you get a particular outcome. Some have complained that the Toolkit doesn’t allow you to save a commonly used dice pool, but since building the dice pool and negotiating with your GM what to put in it is such an integral part of the game, not allowing saved dice pools seems very much a part of the spirit of the game.
It’s so satisfying to roll physical dice that I’m loathe to vote in favor of electronic dice rollers most of the time. Yet if you’re GMing a complex encounter, a programmable dice roller like the Dicenomicon can make the task easier. And if your table is cramped with all of FFG’s Warhammer 3e stuff or you don’t have enough dice for everyone to have his own set, the WFRP Toolkit can come in handy.
Happy gaming during this big gaming week, no matter where you are!
Sometimes we like to get away from it all. What I really mean by that, of course, is that we pack it a whole bunch of crap from our gaming room into the car, drive to the woods, and relocate all the things we were doing inside the house to the forest. Given that we have smartphones and bring half the house with us, it’s more like changing the backdrop of “it all” than escaping it, but at least it spares us from having to clean the kitchen after cooking hot dogs.
Traveling with gaming gear can get tricky. What do you bring? On what do you put it when you get there? There’s no sense in traveling all that way just to play games in your tent unless it’s raining (and if you’re as uptight about the condition of your games as we are, you tend to leave your games in the car when it rains so the boards and bits don’t warp.) Portable gaming tables are thus a high priority. We’ve ended up with two, one for board gaming in the wild and a different one for RPGs in the wild.
This little khaki table came from Amazon. It’s made entirely of canvas, but the side straps pull down so that the top stays nice and taut. It’s just the right size for most medium-sized board games (think Alien Frontiers,) and its solid plastic feet make it sturdy enough that your pieces won’t wiggle around. Best of all, the drink holders are under the play surface, making the possibility of spillage on your precious game board highly unlikely except by the most advanced klutzes. When you’re done, it folds up into a cylindrical bag just a bit bigger than that of a folding camping chair.
Of course, sometimes you’re idiotic enough to have brought a massive game with you–the kind with a million bits that just invites the rain as soon as you set it up (think Runewars.) Or maybe you’ve decided to get seven of your closest friends together to play an RPG out in the wild, but are still unwilling to give up your battlemat and minis. Roll-top aluminum tables make the ideal solution, as their light weight makes them easy to move even though they’re large. We went with the one at Gander Mountain, although it had one major drawback: an umbrella hole right in the middle that we had to cover over with electrical tape. The big wad of tape looks kind of stupid, but at least it keeps pieces from falling through the center of the table. One bad thing about these tables, of course, are the little spaces between the slats, but a plastic tablecloth secured under the edges will keep pieces from falling through if you know you’ll be playing all weekend. You can, of course, find bigger and non-slatted tables, but you may end up sacrificing portability in order to get a flatter or bigger surface.
Speaking of the sporting goods store, if you have a host of minis you want to bring with you for RPGs, consider a fishing tackle bag. (This won’t, of course, be a solution for WFRP3e, because you need a full U-Haul for the Core Set plus expansions, but for games like Pathfinder or DnD, it’s not a bad way to go. If you’re really smart and brought Burning Wheel, then bless you for being so sensible.) Small tackle bags with sets of 3-5 plastic trays can house organized sets of minis; as an added bonus, you can take out one of the trays and put in your core rulebooks.
One word of caution, though. Don’t stand in the sporting goods store debating whether or not your large Dracolich mini will really fit in the side pocket of the tackle bag. It turns out that other seasoned fishermen within earshot will look down on your for this kind of speculation. I guess you just have to be sure.
(Second tip: no matter how much you love your gadgets, do not jokingly tell the salesperson you will buy “whichever tent your iPhone will hook directly into.”)