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Warhammer Book Guide - WFRP Edition


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#1 morskittar

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 08:16 AM

There's been a number of discussions about existing Warhammer resources and backgrounds, so I thought I'd update and post this, originally written for new players of Warhammer Online.  Apologies for the formatting; this forum breaks the Word and BBCode I wrote it in.

++WARHAMMER MERCH: IN UR WALLETS TAKING UR CASH

 

Warhammer Fantasy Battles was originally released in 1983. The 7th edition was released in the fall of '06, sporting over fifteen separate armies, each with a miniature line of hundreds of different figures. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, was first available in 1987, the Second Edition, was released in 2004, recently changing from GW’s in-house development to a license now under Fantasy Flight Games. Games Workshop publishes a huge number of Warhammer novels and artbooks through their Black Library imprint. Black Library has been around since the late 90’s, but GW first started publishing novels in the mid/late 80’s. Many of the first novels released under BL were reprints of older (and very out of date) novels.

++OK, WHATEVER. WHERE ARE THE GOODS?

Over the past two and a half decades Games Workshop has produced a library of stories, army books, art books, and novels based on Warhammer. These are where the details are found, and anyone looking for in-depth information should go.

Where to start, then? There's no official entry point to Warhammer background, as most of the really detailed stuff is scattered across hundreds of books. With a few exceptions, novels, background books, and game books, tend to focus on a single nation, race, or event. So, to make things easier, I've grouped some of the better sources below in general categories.

This is not an exhaustive list, particularly in the game materials section; there I’ve highlighted books I feel give the best story resources to use as inspiration for running or playing WFRP.

++GAME MATERIALS


+Warhammer: the Game of Fantasy Battles, 7th edition
In my opinion, the best consolidated "top-down" view of Warhammer available in book form. While half the book is rules, there's still plenty of artwork, great atmosphere, plenty of miniatures pictures, and a solid world guide. Plus, if you decide to start playing with toy soldiers, you'll be all set.

The various army books are the single best resource for detailed information about a single race. At 22 bucks a piece they’re pricy, especially as you get about a third background and the rest rules. If you can find 4th/5th edition army books, they may be priced cheaper, and often have as much or more background. Some may end up being dated.

+Warhammer Armies: Undead 4th edition: mostly reprinted in Liber Necris (see below) this contains a detailed account of the sorcerer Nagash, his creation of Necromancy and the Tomb Kings, and the later wars against the Vampire Counts. Nagash’ story is relatively original and a classic Warhammer blend of historical bits, epic dark magic, and over-the-top events.

+Warhammer Armies: Skaven 4th edition: reprinted or rewritten in places, this book is packed with awesome stories and flavor bits, such as skaven stealing all the children of a town, and the thirteen stanzas of the Doom of Kavzar. This book is distinct from the later 6th edition book as the back is a bright red (instead of dark brown/red) and it has a screaming bell on the cover, rather than a warlock engineer standing on a cannon.

+Realm of Chaos: the Lost and the Damned and Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness. If you see these and have spare cash, buy them. Perhaps the finest gaming books ever published, these two are packed with background, stories, and incredible artwork. Some of this found its way into Liber Chaotica (see below), but a fair amount has not seen print since. Each of these books can go for a $100 or so on eBay. They include WFRP 1st edition information, so may provide relatively easy conversion opportunities.

+Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition
Rather like the WFB rulebook: lots of art, half game rules, and half background. This is a "bottom-up" view of Warhammer, so instead of mighty heroes, nations, epic histories, WFRP focuses on cultures, politics, economy, and life in the Warhammer world. It is very Empire-centric, focusing on that nation almost completely.

An important note on WFRP 2nd: WFRP 2nd edition books are no longer in print (but are available via PDF) and often fetch very high prices on eBay or the like. In general, when paying money for older books, I’d prefer to buy older WFRP or WFB books. Games Workshop’s materials tend to be more evocative rather than prescriptive; WFRP 2nd was very detailed (Sigmar's Heirs, for example, documents *every single* village and town in the Empire), but often got certain details wrong (swapped names, dates, etc) and I find were more restrictive than inspirational. Much effort and space is dedicated to minutiae, while the important things (atmosphere, mythology) are missed or not present. Rules should be relatively convertible, so some value may still be found in adventures.

++BACKGROUND BOOKS

+World of Warhammer (minus the "Online. Craft.") has the widest scope of any no-rules background-only book. It's roughly the same stuff you can find on the GW website, but a bit more detailed, in handy book form, and somewhat dated. A few things have changed, and stylistically, it's based off of the Warhammer 5th edition era. As such, it's quite a bit brighter and cartoonier than older or newer artwork and stories. This is the era that slightly predated and coincides with Blizzard's first Warcraft releases, so is visually the closest to their work. With those caveats in mind, it's still a solid book, especially if you don't want to purchase game rules you won't use.

+Liber Chaotica. The best of the best. Even though it's nominally focused on Chaos, this book actually covers, via artwork, layout, poems, and text, key ideas in the Warhammer world. Magic, psychology, geography, history... it's a detailed look at all the things that make the Warhammer world different from the real world, or other fantasy realms. Although it's a bit dense, especially if you're just introduced to Warhammer, it's really one of the finest quality products GW/BL has ever released. Just be careful... by the end you'll be reading backwards-written and backwards text in a mirror to decipher hidden messages in the previous text. Literally.

This was going for up to $900 until recently – Black Library re-released it November of 2009

The following Black Library background books are largely out of print and difficult to find. All are worth it if you can find and/or afford them.

+Liber Necris is full of reprints from the 4th edition Undead book, which is a good thing. It actually helps bring Vampires from a fantasy cliché to something very unique to the Warhammer world in all but name.

+Vile Ratmen is an entertaining book, even if fanciful and written about magic boogeymen that don’t exist.

+The Life of Sigmar, and The Witch Hunter's Handbook are written and published in an “in-character” style, as the kind of materials Imperials and/or Witch Hunters in training might use. Both could be great props and adventure hooks.

+Empire at War, is dry, but interesting enough if you're into military textbooks.

+Grudgelore is a good call for Dwarf fans, and packed with some decent artwork of tiny, bearded men.

+Blood on the Reik is largely an artbook, but offers some great atmosphere and Warhammer goodness. Like fish hats.
 



#2 morskittar

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 08:17 AM

++BLACK LIBRARY NOVELS

 

The “reviews” below follow the format of:

Name
Author
(Primary Race/Subject) Rating
Description

Books are rated on a scale of “Meh” to “Pulpy” with whatever I feel like in between.

++ESSENTIAL NOVELS (by my own, arbitrary tastes):

Gotrek and Felix
William King, Nathan Long
(Empire + Everything Else) Pulpy Like Howard
The best place to start with Warhammer. This series (two Omnibus editions and three additional novels) charts the width and breadth of the setting in a punchy action/buddy movie style, keeping to a good mix of bloody action and humor. Thanquol is one of the best villains seen anywhere in the novel line.

Malus Darkblade, Chronicles
Dan Abnett and Mike Lee
(Dark Elves) Extremely Pulpy
Abnett is almost always a good read, if a bit weak on the endings. This series is entertaining as the main character doesn’t even keep the pretense of being an anti-hero. He’s a cruel, selfish, which doesn’t get tiring over the course of five books (or the collection with the first two or three, listed above).

Matthias Thulmann, Witch Hunter
CL Werner
(Empire) Extremely Pulpy
Available in an Omnibus edition, Werner’s writing is serviceable, characters engaging, and Warhammer world appropriately horrific and colorful. Thulmann may not be as intense as Howard’s Solomon Kane, but he’s a good successor.

Tales of the Old World
Various
(Various) Good to Pulpy
This book is a short story collection that spans many years of Warhammer fiction; quite a few of these hadn’t seen light of day for a decade or more, if ever. The collection includes everything from high fantasy adventures in jungle temples to tales of Things under the bed. Of course, those don’t really exist.

Grey Seer
CL Werner
(Skaven) Pulpy
I may be biased, but the combination of CL Werner plus the greatest villain to come from Gotrek and Felix’ books makes for an enjoyable and awesome read… as long as you can handle another outright villain as the novel’s protagonist. This book does not require any knowledge of the G&F books to enjoy or understand it.

The Vampire Genevieve (Omnibus)
Jack Yeovil
(Empire, Vampire Counts) Pulpy
Beasts in Velvet and Drachenfels are especially awesome; the former a gritty detective story on the streets of Altdorf, the latter a properly gory horror story.

++OTHER NOVELS (that I’ve read):

+Time of Legends

Heldenhammer
Graham McNeil
(Empire) A little Pulpy

Malekith
Gav Thorpe
(Dark Elves) A little Pulpy

Nagash the Sorcerer
Mike Lee
(Nehekhara) A little Pulpy

Almost on the Essentials list, both books in this series have ok writing (though drag once in a while) but offer unique views of the Warhammer world’s history.

+Blood on the Reik
Sandy Mitchell
(Empire) Heartlessly Gritty

Death's Messenger
Death's City
Death's Legacy
I have a real soft spot for this series, even though they read like a teen or “young adult” books. It’s like Harry Potter with the most cruel, unforgiving ending possible.

+Daemon Gates
Aaron Rosenberg
(Empire) Pulpy like Indy

Day of the Daemon
Night of the Daemon
Hour of the Daemon
A little buddy movie and slightly swashbuckling, this series misses on a lot of the humor but fills in with a bit of treasure-hunting mystery.

+Lorenzo and Florin
Robert Earl
(Bretonnia, Lizardmen, Ogres) Mostly Pulpy

The Burning Shore
Wild Kingdoms
Savage City
Another treasure-hunters -buddy-movie-like story, this one features a pair of Bretonnians and some unique settings, with a good dash of criminal hijinks. An Omnibus is on the way.

The Konrad Saga
David Ferring
(Empire, Chaos) Err?
A good representation of where Warhammer was about twenty years ago; this series doesn’t make a lot of sense. Features a scene with orcs playing football with a head.

Vermintide
Bruno Lee
(Empire, Skaven) Slightly Pulpy
Plays off of events in the Gotrek and Felix series; a serviceable detective story that skews from gritty to high fantasy.

Masters of Magic
Chris Wraight
(Empire, Orcs) Ok
Forgettable flat characters with the exception of one old school Imperial from the tabletop game and a vaguely engaging straightforward war story.

Fell Cargo
Dan Abnett
(Tileans) Pulpy
Would be essential if not so far from the usual Warhammer world. Features pirates and zombies, and Abnett knows his nautical storytelling (and history).

A Murder in Marienburg
A Massacre in Marienburg
David Bishop
(Marienburgers) Almost Pulpy
A decent, gritty mystery and “street cop” series. A few properly horrific moments.

Grudge Bearer
Gav Thorpe
(Dwarfs) Meh
GW/Black Library seem to be all about dwarf books. Just made me thirsty for beer. Not horribly written or painful to read, but not much to offer if you hate stunties.

Guardians of the Forest
Graham McNeil
(Wood Elves, Bretonnia, Beastmen) Decent
Better than expected; this book is a grittier story hidden in the middle of what appears to be high fantasy on the surface.

Defenders of Ulthuan
Graham McNeil
(High Elves, Dark Elves) Decent
Comes across as dark high fantasy rather than pulp swords and sorcery, with a solid streak of “don’t get attached to X character”.

The Enemy Within
Richard Lee Byers
(Empire, Chaos Cults) Ok
Something about a Chaos Cult. Like most BL authors, this guy hates his main characters a lot.

The Corrupted
Robert Earl
(Empire, Chaos) Decent
Yet another story where the author loathes the main characters.

Ancient Blood
Robert Earl
(Empire, Vampire Counts) Decent
Another serviceable and-almost-pulpy book that explores some interesting characters and a society not often touched in Warhammer lore. Reverses usual antagonist/protagonist roles.

Vampire Wars Omnibus
Steven Savile
(Vampire Counts) Meh
Meh. I’ve only read the first of three thus far, but it misses what Liber Necris made cool about Warhammer vampires and trades it for being boring.

Invasion
Various
(Various) Meh
This collection focuses on pitched battles. Pitched battles are usually pretty dull to read about.

WAR: Empire in Chaos
Anthony Reynolds
WAR: Empire in Flames
Chris Wraight
(Empire, High Elves, Dwarfs, Chaos) Meh
Not a horrible read, but I read it a few weeks ago and can barely remember a thing. In keeping with WAR, a bit less gritty and more high fantasy than most Warhammer.

Palace of the Plague Lord
Blood for the Blood God
CL Werner
(Chaos) Pulpy
Another set on the edge of must-read; CL Werner creates a good, evocative, and insane depiction of Chaos and its maybe-not-so-deluded followers.

Mark of Chaos
Anthony Reynolds
(Empire, Chaos) Meh
To be honest, I didn't finish this. Maybe someday, but about halfway through, there still weren't any hooks. No mystery, no intrigue, no interesting characters. It does take after Mark of Chaos, the game, pretty accurately though.

TO READ:

Runefang; CL Werner
Knight Errant; Anthony Reynolds
The Ambassador Chronicles; Graham McNeil
The Blackhearts Omnibus; Nathan Long
Oathbreaker; Nick Kyme
Curse of the Nechrarch; Steven Savile
Reiksguard; Richard Williams
Iron Company; Chris Wraight
Time of Legends: Empire; Graham McNeil
Knight of the Realm; Anthony Reynolds
Shamanslayer; Nathan Long

UNRELEASED, TO READ:

Time of Legends: Shadow King; Gav Thorpe
Death & Dishonour; Anthology
Call to Arms: Mitchel Scanlon
Time of Legends: Nagash the Unbroke;n Mike Lee
Brunner Omnibu;: CL Werner
Bloodborn; Nathan Long
Sword of Justice; Chris Wraight
Grimblades; Nick Kyme
Temple of the Serpent; CL Werner

BONUS REVIEWS (thanks to Bilious of Warhammer Alliance!)

Zaragoz
Plague Daemon
Storm Warriors
Brian Craig
(Araby, Border Princes, Chaos) Pulpy
I'd have these on essentials myself. Give some insight into Chaos from someone who knows it without having studied it, gives some history to the obscurer locations such as Albion and Estalia. Fairly dark.

Hammers of Ulric
Dan Abnett, Nik Vincent, and James Wallis
(Empire - Middenheim) Pulpy
Just short of essentials status, gives a lot of good background to Middenheim and some interesting details on imperial religion without the theology.

Gilead's Blood
Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent
(High elf) Ugh
Terrible. Forget it exists. Probably the worst BL book ever published.

Zavant
Gordon Rennie
(Empire) Meh
Detective stories. Not bad, but I don't remember much of it and I've a good memory for books, so not great either. Interesting for having a halfling as a major protagonist.

Star of Erengrad

Taint of Evil
Keepers of the Flame
Neil McIntosh
(Empire, Chaos) Meh to hmm to Pulpy
Star of Erengrad is excellent. A bit of insight into the anti chaos Empire cults and some background on Kislev. I get the impression it was so good GW then told Neil to do 2 sequels that he wasn't really planning on. They drag, they're boring, and they don't expand on much. A hidden city of Sigmarite fanatics is probably the high point of the other 2.

Liar's Peak
Robin D Laws
(Empire) Almost pulpy
Well written, I really want to get hold of the preceding Angelika Fleischer novels. Hard to say much without having done so, but this one's certainly worth reading.

The Ambassador Chronicles
Graham McNeil
(Kislev, Empire)
I'm sure you've already got a reason to have them on your reading list, I'd recommend again though.

OLD AND OUT-OF-PRINT NOVELS

The Wine of Dreams; Brian Craig
Riders of the Dead; Dan Abnett
The Claws of Chaos; Gav Thorpe
Blades of Chaos; Gav Thorpe
The Heart of Chaos; Gav Thorpe
Mark of Damnation; James Wallis
Mark of Heresy; James Wallis
The Dead and the Damned; Jonathan Green
Magestorm; Jonathan Green
Forged in Battle; Justin Hunter
Honour of the Grave; Robin D Laws
Sacred Flesh; Robin D Laws
Realm of Chaos; Various
Lords of Valour; Various
The Laughter of Dark Gods; Various
Way of the Dead; Various
Swords of the Empire; Various
The Call of Chaos; Various
The Cold Hand of Betrayal; Various
Necromancer; Jonathan Green

 



#3 NezziR

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 08:54 AM

Wow... Excellent list! Thanks for this.

I have an original print of Liber Chaotica. After seeing how much the original prints sell for, I'm afraid to look at it...



#4 morskittar

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 08:55 AM

NezziR said:

Wow... Excellent list! Thanks for this.

I have an original print of Liber Chaotica. After seeing how much the original prints sell for, I'm afraid to look at it...

No problem!

With the reprint this month, they've likely dropped quite a bit.  Which is good, 'cause I know quite a few people that were always angling to take a look at my copy!  I feel like it's safe to touch it again.



#5 keltheos

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 06:09 AM

 Great list, thanks for compiling!

Just finished Grey Seer and except for the ending itself, was very satisfied!

 



#6 morskittar

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:26 AM

keltheos said:

 

 Great list, thanks for compiling!

Just finished Grey Seer and except for the ending itself, was very satisfied!

 

 

 

My pleasure!

Grey Seer's ending wasn't horrible, but it wasn't as tight as the rest.  IIRC, the Witch Hunter series was the same way; focused, atmospheric, but with an ending that was somewhat rambling and a bit too convoluted for its own good.  CL Werner seems to like sprawling setpieces as climaxes, which are in contrast to the more personal horror or investigation he focuses on otherwise.



#7 keltheos

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 08:59 AM

Felt rushed, too. Was my first CL novel to read, looking forward to going back and looknig for the Witch Hunter series.

I'd love to discuss the texts with you, but don't want to spoiler them for those who haven't read yet.



#8 morskittar

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 09:33 AM

I *barely* remember the Witch Hunter series, but have a vague recollection of a similarly rushed ending.

Perhaps a FFG Forum WFRP Book Club is in order?  Though I'd insist we stick to the newest releases I haven't read yet!



#9 Steel Rabbit

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 01:35 PM

Holy carp! Good jorb.



#10 morskittar

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 05:46 PM

Steel Rabbit said:

 

Holy carp! Good jorb.

 

 

Thanks!

BL recently announced reprints of some older books; hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some of the original books I missed in the coming year. 



#11 ffgfan

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 09:00 PM

Great job, it must took You a lot of time to write it all down here.

I have all the bacground books and I must say that they are great to use with sessions. Sometimes my player get one of those in the game - imagine they faces when they find in a secret laboratory "Liber Chaotica" or "Blood on the Reik". Really those book give a little better look at the Old World.



#12 Dark Reign

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 04:59 AM

Morskittar,

Can I add the article to Hammerzeit! the unofficial WFRP3 fansite?

Work in progress (http://74.53.20.230/hammerzeit)



#13 morskittar

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 05:57 AM

ffgfan said:


Great job, it must took You a lot of time to write it all down here.

 

I have all the bacground books and I must say that they are great to use with sessions. Sometimes my player get one of those in the game - imagine they faces when they find in a secret laboratory "Liber Chaotica" or "Blood on the Reik". Really those book give a little better look at the Old World.

 

 

Thanks!  This is something that's been put together over time, so not too much of a concentrated investement.  It was originally for the Warhammer Alliance forum to help new Warhammer Online players figure the setting out.

And absolutely.  It would be great to put Liber Chaotica down on a table and just tell the players; don't open this.  I'm also planning on having my regular group come across an "alternate" page for earlier publications of The Life of Sigmar, that they'll eventually have to search the physical book and find the difference.  And then deal with the implications of uncovering a conspiracy about a very important relic supposedly in the hands of Karl-Franz.

Dark Reign said:

 

Morskittar,

Can I add the article to Hammerzeit! the unofficial WFRP3 fansite?

Work in progress (http://74.53.20.230/hammerzeit)

 

 

Absolutely!  Just keep in mind I may post an updated version here at times, so it won't be completely static.

The site is looking great so far, too.  Nice work!



#14 keltheos

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 05:49 AM

Could someone in the know post a list of relevant/useful 2e sourcebooks that would come in handy?

Locations/adventures/'groups'?

I know the stats in, say, the Skaven book wouldn't necessarily match up (well, easy enough to 'convert' the already converted clanrat>clanrat for example), but what about the rest? Dates are off, but maps/information on cultures/etc. Empire/Altdorf/City of the Dead/etc?

 



#15 morskittar

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 01:38 PM

As I update this and run my own campaign, I can flesh out the WFRP 2 section of the guide.  That said, I often find I use 2e materials quite a bit less than anything else.  Most of the background in them is so specific as to be not usable unless I'm trying to write or re-create exactly what they're talking about, and often if it does match, the specifics don't match my view of the setting (often more literal history book than Terry Gilliam-meets-John Blanche dark humor).

I think the most useful parts would be city maps (in the three adventure books) and farming names for towns and NPCs.  Most of the really good background is cut and pasted or very close to books like Liber Chaotica (in print again!) or other Black Library background books.



#16 jackdays

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 06:25 PM

keltheos said:

Could someone in the know post a list of relevant/useful 2e sourcebooks that would come in handy?

Locations/adventures/'groups'?

I know the stats in, say, the Skaven book wouldn't necessarily match up (well, easy enough to 'convert' the already converted clanrat>clanrat for example), but what about the rest? Dates are off, but maps/information on cultures/etc. Empire/Altdorf/City of the Dead/etc?

 

I think we will see this in time. I mean many of the WFRP2 sources are probably turned to WFRP3 boxes (hopefully). And with them are updated rules. But funny thing is that it seem like past products are never fully brought to new version. And many WFRP2 books were really good sourcebooks - Its just sad if information is lost this way.

From WFRP2 products Tome of Corruption (chaos) is in my opinion the best. Yet, it might be little useless with WFRP3 rules, because it is full of game-mechanic rules for WFRP2 (there are plenty background info also). But for example Tome of Salvation is THE sourcebook about religions, and less actual game-mechanics. About religion, priests, Flagellants, organizations, venerated souls, minor gods...etc. this is the book to read. Kislev and Bretonnia might take sometime to come and their WFRP2 sourcebooks are full off information and maps that people might use in their adventures...

Another issue is offcourse WHEN there will be certain source-boxes for new edition? Will it take few years? Now, your adventures might need some info about certain place and former products are then only place to find them.

 


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#17 morskittar

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 05:02 AM

jackdays said:

keltheos said:

 

Could someone in the know post a list of relevant/useful 2e sourcebooks that would come in handy?

Locations/adventures/'groups'?

I know the stats in, say, the Skaven book wouldn't necessarily match up (well, easy enough to 'convert' the already converted clanrat>clanrat for example), but what about the rest? Dates are off, but maps/information on cultures/etc. Empire/Altdorf/City of the Dead/etc?

 

 

I think we will see this in time. I mean many of the WFRP2 sources are probably turned to WFRP3 boxes (hopefully). And with them are updated rules. But funny thing is that it seem like past products are never fully brought to new version. And many WFRP2 books were really good sourcebooks - Its just sad if information is lost this way.

From WFRP2 products Tome of Corruption (chaos) is in my opinion the best. Yet, it might be little useless with WFRP3 rules, because it is full of game-mechanic rules for WFRP2 (there are plenty background info also). But for example Tome of Salvation is THE sourcebook about religions, and less actual game-mechanics. About religion, priests, Flagellants, organizations, venerated souls, minor gods...etc. this is the book to read. Kislev and Bretonnia might take sometime to come and their WFRP2 sourcebooks are full off information and maps that people might use in their adventures...

Another issue is offcourse WHEN there will be certain source-boxes for new edition? Will it take few years? Now, your adventures might need some info about certain place and former products are then only place to find them.

 

 

I'd argue, though, that most of the good stuff for WFRP 2 (background-wise, at least) is available in BL or WFB books, particularly for Chaos and the Empire.

Related: if you are all interested in Warhammer as a setting... BUY THIS.  It was pushing a grand (US) on eBay when out of print for good reason.

Just don't blame me if you're holding it up to a mirror and scrawling notes by the time you get to the Tzeentch section.






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