Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

The Accidental Roleplayer (a review of the Portland, OR demo)

Recommended Posts

This review will be short.  And long.  Let me explain...

Whenever I read RPG reviews online I never have time to sort through pages and pages of text - I always skip down to the conclusion.  For those readers who are like me and want to cut to the chase I'm putting my final thoughts on WFRP 3e first.  For those seeking a more in-depth analysis of my experience as a player in the WFRP 3e demo this weekend, I'll offer further insights in a follow-up post.


Q:  Did I have fun playing WFRP 3e?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Would I play WFRP 3e again?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Is WFRP 3e a RPG, boardgame, RPG-boardgame hybrid, MMO, CCG, LCG or [insert your favorite gaming acronym here]?

A:  It is a RPG 100% (albeit one with high-quality play aides).

Q:  Would I buy WFRP 3e at a discount ($65) from an online retailer?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Would I buy WFRP 3e at MSRP ($100) from a local retailer?

A:  Yes and No.

Wait.  What?  Alright, that last answer was a bit of a cop-out.

Yes, I would buy this game at full retail price if - and only if - I had a group of friends who wanted to play WFRP and I could guarantee the game would get immediate use.

No, I would not buy this game at full retail if I was simply a collector of boardgames and RPGs who has no one to play said games with (which sadly I am).

Why not?  While the contents are produced to FFG's normal standards (and by normal I mean superb), the books and cards are primarily about the rules and not the setting, which is common with core RPG rulebooks.  For my tastes, I prefer to "curl up and read" RPG supplements with a lot of background info in them.  The World of Darkness splats are one good example.  On the flip side, I like to play RPGs with a lot of neat rules in them - like WFRP 3e - so it all depends on whether this thing is going to stay on the shelf or see some action.

So there you have it.  One player's take on WFRP 3e after sitting in (and unexpectedly participating in) dvang's demo at Guardian Games in Portland, Oregon.





Huh?  You're still here?  Alright then, I'll put some of my answers into context by telling you a little about myself, what I like in RPGs and why I was an "accidental roleplayer" at dvang's demo.

First off, I have little fantasy RPG experience.  I played D&D in grade school and stopped in high school.  I've never played either edition of WFRP.  I haven't game mastered any RPG in over a decade, and I haven't been a player in nearly 15 years.  Though I like the thought of RPGs, I can't really call myself a roleplayer anymore.  It's just been too long.

I used to buy a lot of RPG books (which I never used) but stopped some years ago as I switched over to playing boardgames.  Because I'm now a collector and not a player, strong visuals, inspiring artwork, good writing (no typos please!) and high production values are important to me.  I'm also not comfortable with my gaming orientation.  I keep it hidden pretty deep in the closet (though my wife might say otherwise) and only play boardgames in the privacy of my own home with people I know and trust (i.e. other consenting adults who keep their geekdom on the down-low).  I could never imagine myself being interested enough in an RPG to play it at a store.  Never.  Well, that is until last Saturday.

Why is any of this significant?  Because WFRP made me break out of my RPG rut.  Honestly, I had given up on RPGs.  I stopped buying them and I stopped playing them.  When WFRP 3e came out, it caught my eye and after dvang's demo it's taken root in my brain.  And I know this feeling - it means I'm gonna have to buy it.  I'm placing my order online this week.  Nice work FFG.

As for being an accidental roleplayer, I went to dvang's demo knowing that the demo was full.  I felt well within my comfort zone that I wouldn't be playing, just observing.  Besides, even if a spot opened up at the table I was sure there would be other people waiting to give the demo a try.  I was wrong.  When I showed up I was the only "extra".  Half-way through the first battle one player had to leave early.  The other players all looked at me, and dvang gently suggested I could join the game if I wanted to do so.  I thought about it for maybe a second and jumped in with both feet.  After a few minutes and 1 turn of combat I had picked up the rules and was effortlessly getting my character knocked unconscious by a giant goat.  Good times.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the post and review Yipe. It's always good to hear from those who haven't been "geeking out" as often as some of us.  I'm really glad you had fun, and that I was able to make it enjoyable.  I admit, I was a bit surprised at the turn out myself. Based on things I had heard, including from the FLGS staff, prior I thought I might have a few standbys.  I *almost* hand-made a 5th PC so I could try to squeeze one more player in.  (If I had, you would have been invited to play the moment you arrived! LOL)  Anyway, it turns out there was no need, for either game.  I am glad you were able to join in, and you certainly came in with gusto. As I admitted in my other post, you fit in so naturally into the game (IMO) that you didn't seem out of place alongside the 3 players that had played WFRPv2 before.  The best compliment a GM can have is the players having fun and not being hesitant to say so, and I feel very lucky to have had some great players (whether experienced or not) who all had fun.

We'll have to pull you out of that RPG shell of yours, though.  gui%C3%B1o.gifgran_risa.gif

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

dvang said:

Thanks for the post and review Yipe.

The real review is still forthcoming, which contains both boons and banes regarding the game and some suggestions for improving the demo.  The above info was more like an appetizer.  Stay tuned to this space for further details...

I do want to say that the demo was a blast and you were obviously well prepared.  Both the handouts summarizing the rules and printed out character sheets with additional info (I didn't realize those weren't part of the official demo kit) were great.  I can only remember one time when you needed to consult the rulebook to answer one of our more obscure questions, let alone run the demo.  That was impressive.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Embrace your geekdom.. its a grand place to be.

Also if people mock you just tell them "but Brad Pitt is a role-player".  Not to mention quite a list of other famous actors/actresses.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I promised a follow-up post offering an in-depth analysis of my demo experience, but I lied. This review will not be in-depth, at least not in a "covering-all-the-bases" sense. Instead, it will be focused on one topic of the new game. We're talking 100% from concentrate here, folks. And what topic might that be?

I keep running across an important question on these forums that needs to be answered - a question of immersion. Do all the new components of WFRP 3e help or hinder the roleplaying experience? That's a great question, internet, thanks for playing! To be honest, I'm probably not the best one to address this subject as I've only played WFRP once and have a rudimentary understanding of the rules. But this is an imperfect world so... immersion fans, I'm dedicating this review to you. With love.

To fend off the dreaded wall-o'-text, I'm going to break my review into multiple posts, each dealing with a few elements of the game. These elements are:

The Party Sheet
The Stance Meter
The Dice Pool
The Action Cards
The Fatigue and Stress Tokens
The Character Display Tokens

Before I start, know that my comments are directed solely at the combat mechanics of WFRP. As I didn't get to play the social encounter in "A Day Late, A Shilling Short", my experiences do not apply to that aspect of the game. While this might seem one-sided, my experience is that combat encounters are the most likely to break a player's immersion. So if WFRP's components hold up in fight scenes involving copious amounts of dice rolling, card recharging and token grabbing, I'll wager they will hold up in more social scenes as well.

Also, I personally learn best by example. Therefore, I'm going to illustrate some of my points in story format, which I think is altogether befitting a review about immersion. And besides, it’s just more fun that way. For each point I'll describe what actually happened in my demo and then provide a fictitious example of what could have happened, illustrating WFRP's potential.

Now my goal is not to offend anyone involved in said demo with my criticisms - and be prepared because I do have some, which by default are leveled at myself as well - so please take the opinions offered here in the spirit they are given. I know that running a short demo and playing a new game in an unfamiliar venue doesn't lend itself well to roleplaying. My aim is to demonstrate both the pros and cons - or boons and banes if you will - of the new system with regards to immersive roleplaying. To do that, I've got to break some eggs.

Of course, I haven't read the rulebooks yet so I may not use all the "right words" when describing things. I'll try to be accurate, but I'm sure someone will step in and correct me if I screw up too badly. With all of that out of the way, let's begin.

In a galaxy, far... oh nevermind. First up - the Party Sheet!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

In the actual demo, the group picked the "Servants of Justice" party sheet. And then promptly ignored it.

Everyone charged into the first fight without much thought to roleplaying beforehand. To be fair, the GM didn’t pause between the published text and the fighting (most likely due to a lack of time), so they didn’t have much choice. A brief transition would have allowed the players some dialog to develop why a group of strangers believed they were called to a higher duty. In turn, this might have positively affected everyone’s roleplaying further on down the line and let the party sheet come into its own. Sadly, that didn’t happen. From a "get to know the combat rules" perspective, getting stuck in straight away was probably a good thing. From a roleplaying standpoint, not so much.

So there the party sheet sat next to the GM's screen largely forgotten for most of the encounter until the GM started rewarding players for roleplaying. The roleplaying in question, though, was mainly a half-hearted cash-grab for fortune dice and had nothing to do with the theme of being servants of justice. However, it turned out that each character can only have so many fortune tokens at a given time, and as some were full, the GM placed them on the party sheet instead. This made everyone at the table say "oh right, that!” We then promptly went back to bashing some beastmen heads, with some extra fortune tokens at our disposal.

My conclusion? Unless the GM and the players - yes the players - pay close attention to integrating the party sheet into their roleplaying, it can go entirely unnoticed. This can be seen as both good and bad. For those worried that the party sheet would interfere with their immersion, I can attest that it doesn’t. On the flipside, it also doesn't automatically promote an immersive roleplaying experience. It can. And it should. It just takes some forethought.

When fully utilized - being focused on by the characters and the GM's plot - I believe the party sheet can act as an overt beacon for a campaign's theme.  When in doubt how to react to a given situation, the players can always go back to it and not feel they are behaving out of character.  Finally, as all the players have agreed beforehand on the ties that bind their characters together, I think you'll see fewer cries of "but I was roleplaying my character!" because everyone is more or less on the same page of what is acceptable character behavior from the starting line.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my fictitious demo illustrating some of the party sheet's immersion potential:

The players have chosen the "Sword for Hire" party sheet and stated that their characters are, for the most part, self-serving individualists. In other words, normal people in the Old World! The party consists of the 4 pre-made characters for "A Day Late, A Shilling Short". It's the first scene.

Oh, and uh, err, SPOILERS.

GM: You've been walking well into dusk with no sign of the missing coach. Around you there is nothing but moss-covered forest, and though you're constantly scanning the terrain for any hints of foul play, it's all beginning to look the same. Overhead, gray clouds that threaten rain hang close and a thin fog has enshrouded all but the nearest trees, dampening and distorting the sounds of hidden birds. The dirt road beneath your tired feet is soft from a recent downpour, the autumn wind is razor-crisp and the going is hard.

Little to nothing has been said over the past several miles. The mood is tense. Each of you has some connection to the coach, to either its contents or passengers, but few if any connections to each other. Your spacing as you march along the road confirms this - with only the Trollslayer and Roadwarden, who are at the front, staying close together. The Gray Wizard is in the middle of the group, several paces back, and the high elf Envoy is trailing everyone else, keeping her distance.

[The GM is taking cues from the character backgrounds and players' choice of party sheet. Her spacing of the characters is a not-so-subtle hint at which party member is the most emotionally removed from the others (the Envoy), and which is most likely to bridge the gap (the Wizard). Conversely, the GM could have asked the players where they stood in relation to each other, and woven the general element of mistrust into their descriptions.]

Trollslayer: I'm walking behind the Roadwarden, watching her back as I'm bloodsworn to protect her. I don't care about the other two.

[The dwarf player sees how the GM is already integrating the party sheet's theme and decides to twist the knife a bit.]

GM: Up ahead the road curves sharply yet again, cutting into the forest and obscuring your view. Envoy, make an observation roll please.

[Dice are rolled. After a moment the GM pauses, then scribbles on a piece of paper, folds the note in half and slides it to the elf player. The note reads: "Carried by a stiff wind, the scent of blood and entrails is in the air, though only your senses are keen enough to detect it. At first all you smell is animal blood. But then, somewhere underneath you pick out the telltale odor of human organs, ruptured guts and rotted flesh. There's something else upon the wind as well. Something tainted and foul.]

[if the players had chosen a more cohesive party sheet, the GM might have simply said aloud what the elf observed. However, in this situation she wants to maintain that mistrust she developed in her intro. The key here is that the note isn't just GM fiat. The players made a statement about their party through the rules, and the GM is building upon their decision. Her hope is to promote some interesting roleplaying through conflict, which in turn may up the stress meter on the party sheet.]

Envoy: I immediately stop and use my "Assess the Situation" card. I also unsheathe my sword.

GM: Do you alert the others?

Envoy: No. In fact, I am being intentionally quiet - not that high elves aren't already graceful - but I don't want to draw any attention to myself. For obvious reasons.

GM: Roll the dice. As for the rest of you, the high elf was in the back of the group so you don't notice that she's stopped walking. You continue around the corner... and see the coach a hundred or so feet ahead. You freeze mid-step as you take in the carnage.

Three mutant beasts with gnarled horns are slicing away reams of flesh from the coach's dead team of horses and stuffing their blood-covered faces. Behind them lies the wrecked coach, one of its front wheels broken off. Scattered around it are ransacked packages and the passengers' remains - a leg here, a bit of scalp there. Off to the right stands a much larger creature. It looks similar to the others - an unholy amalgam of man and goat - but it has a broader chest, longer horns and more powerful legs that end abruptly in cloven hooves. Beneath its hooves lies a man who is bleeding from a gash across his head. He's trying to crawl away, but the creature simply pulls him back if he gets too far, like a sadistic predator toying with its prey before the ultimate feast. You haven't been noticed - yet.

[The Trollslayer, Roadwarden and Gray Wizard decide to duck back behind the curve in the road to stay out of sight.]

Roadwarden: "That has to be Rutger." I draw my sword. The Roadwarden is ready to prove her worth right then and there.

Trollslayer: The dwarf puts a hand on the Roadwarden’s shoulder. "I can't let you charge into that mess... that's my job!" I look around to see if there are any beastmen hiding nearby in the forest.

GM: There aren't any that you can see, but you do notice the high elf had her sword drawn, and looks to be in a defensive stance, even though she is still quite a bit behind the bend. From her vantage point, she could not have seen the coach.

Trollslayer: I point at the elf. "Hey, did you know -"

Envoy: "Of course."

Trollslayer: I raise me voice. "And you didn't think to warn us?"

Envoy: The elf has a confused expression on her face that quickly changes to pity, as if only now understanding the true mental and physical deficiencies of her companions.

Trollslayer: "Grrr."

[The GM ups the tension meter on the party sheet, but also places a fortune point on it for good roleplaying.]

Envoy: "Here is the smartest plan, tactically speaking. I will stand in the road to draw the beasts to us and away from any survivors. The human wizardling will stay behind me." The elf eyes the Gray Wizard from head to toe. "At least 3 paces back. As for the shamed dwarf and stout human female, the two of you will move to either side of the road, concealed in the underbrush. When the mutants charge, you will wait for the largest to approach and then attack. My bow will deal with the rest."

Roadwarden: I nod and head into the bushes off to the right.

Trollslayer: "Wha - shamed - hide in the bushes! Grrrr. Alright, as long as I get first crack at the big one. And I ain't doing this just 'cause you said it was smart."

Envoy: "Not to worry. I would never assume a dwarf does anything based on logic or intelligence."

[The GM ups the tension meter one more notch, and throws down another fortune point because the scene is developing well.]

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mea culpa.

I forgot one thing about last Saturday's demo (that's what I get for writing up my thoughts a week later).

The group did use the party sheet to socket a talent ("Charge" if I remember correctly) which came in handy at the beginning of the first combat encounter.   So with regards to tactics the party sheet was utilized, it just wasn't a driving force for roleplaying.  Again, this is most likely due to the constraints of the short demo, the venue and learning a new game, but hopefully someone who was concerned about its affect on staying in character will realize it's not a detriment.  In fact, it has the potential to be just the opposite.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A few notes, Yipe:

Party Sheet:
- Actually, the group did use the party sheet. They, in fact, excitedly discussed and socketed the Troll Slayer's Charge talent on it at the start of the session, and used that once or twice at the beginning of combat. After that, though, it faded mostly into the background. [Edit - oops, your last post added this]
- True, there wasn't a large pause between the text and the fighting, per se. There was some roleplaying and introductions in the town before the party hit the road, though. This information, such as why the PCs were together as a "group" was provided at the beginning of the demo, which you missed out on by joining late (thanks for joining, though!). Admittedly, this demo was much more of a "learn the mechanics" than try to take your time and roleplay. It was also combat with unfamiliar mechanics. Could there have been more roleplaying? Certainly! Was a lot of the in-combat roleplaying halfhearted? A lot, yes, because people were still focused on the mechanics. I agree, though, that the party sheet can get overlooked easily. The players especially need to be aware of it, since it mostly aids them. I think that, with all the new stuff being introduced, the party sheet was of less importance in player minds than other things. I think it's one of those things that players will grow into getting used to using (and remembering) with some practice once they get used to the rest of the game.
- Excellent "demo" and scenario! Indeed, I think in a non-timed and more relaxed (and less public) setting, thus slowing the pace of the demo adventure, could provide quite a few roleplaying opportunities, certainly even basing their intra-party interactions around the party sheet. Nice!  I think, honestly, that the demo adventure could provide a really nice start to a full adventure/campaign if given a chance.  Which, your nice little write up has shown.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...