An Interview with Jay Little
Why a 3rd edition to WFRP? Why now? "Based on recent trends in the roleplaying market and numerous discussions between Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games, we determined the time was right to develop and introduce a new edition, attracting more fans to the Warhammer Fantasy setting made popular by Game Workshop's tabletop miniatures game." Read all about it in this interview with Jay Little, lead designer on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition.
How is WFRP3 different from the previous edition?
The new edition uses a completely redesigned ruleset. One of the more exciting and dynamic changes is how actions and tasks are resolved - the core mechanic has changed from a percentile system to a dice pool system.
The new system also takes advantage of a variety of full colour components and player aids to keep key information close at hand and make it easy for GMs and players to reference and manage the information they need during a game session.
We've also made a distinction between Wood Elves and High Elves. They are now their own unique playable races, allowing players to more easily incorporate these two popular races from the tabletop miniatures game into their campaigns.
During the design process, there was a concerted effort to develop the new system using the "toolbox" model - the rules and components provide a number of versatile tools to both GMs and players. They can use these tools to construct their own exciting adventures in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, and choose the proper tool for the task at hand. The rules help provide blueprints on how to use these tools - but creative GMs and players will find a lot of different ways to apply the tools to achieve the results that best suit their group and play style.
How is WFRP different from other fantasy RPGs, setting- and theme-wise?
Warhammer has long had a reputation for being grim, dark, and gritty. While that's certainly the case, there are also elements of dystopian society and dark humour woven into the fabric of the setting.
It's a harsh setting, a dangerous world, and a perilous time. There's an almost tangible sense of stress and tension... and the players' characters are thrust into this crucible, to either forge their own destiny, or crumble under the pressure.
As I am not overly familiar with WFRP history, what are the PCs like? For example, the PCs in D&D are heroes, in Shadowrun they are criminals and in Paranoia- troubleshooters. Is there a common way to describe the PCs in WFRP?
Players can explore the Warhammer Fantasy setting in a variety of ways. Some groups may choose to play the game in a more heroic, high fantasy mode where the characters know they are heroes and act out of altruism, pride, or the need to do what is right and just. Other groups may prefer a grittier, more desperate setting where the characters are only heros by virtue of the fact that the stories revolve around their actions. There is no "right" way or approach - it depends on the type of stories the GM and players want to tell.
What kind of adventures can players expect? What moods prevail in the Empire?
Over the course of their adventures, the player characters may find themselves fighting against daemons, greenskins, beastmen, or other dire threats - but there are a lot of other ways to experience the Warhammer Fantasy setting than violence and combat. Investigating Chaos cults, exploring ancient cairns, tracking down wanted criminals, unraveling mysteries... these are just a few of the challenges and encounters heroes may face.
The heroes may need to engage a local scholar in a test of wits. Or the party may find itself addressing rival barons in an attempt to broker peace between them, or treating with a High Elf ambassador to establish trade arrangements, or perhaps pleading their innocence before a Sigmarite priest... or one of numerous other exciting possible encounters.
Please explain the new dice mechanic.
The new dice pool mechanic is best explained with two of the more recent Designer Diaries I wrote, which discuss the new dice, the symbols, and how they are used to resolve tasks. These Designer Diary can be found on the FFG web site at:
Does WFRP have anything in common with Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader, other than the IP source?
The Warhammer 40k Roleplay system, which currently includes Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader, uses a distinct and different game engine from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and will continue to do so. Other than the IP and a shared sense of tension, darkness, and grit, the two roleplay lines are quite distinct.
Does the WFRP core set provide advice, ideas, hooks or other ways to help a GM create a cool adventure/campaign? Please expound.
Absolutely. The core set includes a separate book for Game Masters, the Tome of Adventure. This book contains additional rules and information for the player who will be running the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay sessions as the GM. It includes suggestions and guidelines on managing long-term campaigns, handling character development, and creating adventures. The book also contains background and statistics for a variety of enemies to pit the players' heroes against, as well as a complete introductory adventure
I understand the core set is limited to 3 player + GM. Why make that limitation? Doesn't it increase the barrier of entry to WFRP3 over and above the 100$ price tag?
The number of cards, dice, and components included in the core set are designed to easily accommodate a group of four players - one Game Master and three player characters. However, players can certainly still enjoy the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay experience with a group that has more (or fewer) players.
Some groups may be able to easily manage five or six players using just the core set, depending on their playing style and setup. As with more traditional roleplaying games, players can also freely share components or information with each other to facilitate gameplay - just like they might share a sourcebook or set of dice in other games.
Additional dice and accessories will be available, allowing groups to add more dice or components to their game, if they wish.
What does the party sheet do and how does it enrich/change the play experience from other RPGs?
The party sheet is a way to help make the ties that bind a group of characters together a concrete, mechanical part of the game. It provides a focal point for the group -- each party sheet has a unique name, ability, selection of talent sockets, and a tension meter. These elements allow players to interact with the part in tangible ways -- by sharing talents and abilities with party members, for example.
Also, a group of similar characters with a different party sheet could have a different experience when wandering through a town, for example -- a party of rogues and scoundrels may get a different reception than a diplomatic entourage.
Some of these effects are story-driven and flavour effects. The players and the GM can use the party sheet as another resource to spark their creativity, fuel their story-telling, and help create a fun game experience.
What is the reasoning behind the "Draw 3 careers, choose one" mechanic? It seems to fly in the face of the trend in the last decade or so of RPGs having players choose their classes/careers as well as the rest of character creation being about choice, not randomness.
Previous editions of WFRP relied on random charts and tables for character generation. Allowing choice within a small random set of options created a good compromise between the heavily random approach of earlier editions and more direct player control. Coupled with the creation points, players have a lot of control and options at their disposal to help create a character that appeals to them and will be fun to play.
To me, the ability/need to interpret the result of die rolls to describe the occurrences in the game is reminiscent of "casting the bones" or other types of old future-telling. Was that intentional design? Does the GM book provide advice to the (beginning) GM to use the results on the description of the action?
The Tome of Adventure, the book for Game Masters included in the core set, provides several examples and some advice on how to interpret the dice. The colour-coding system and free-form narrative interpretation of dice results were important parts of the design. Dice used in WFRP offer the objective results (success/failure & magnitude of effect) while also delivering subjective results (the source of the various symbols informing narrative) allowing players to easily add a level of storytelling interpretation and immersion to task resolution if they wish.
"The Enemy Within" is an adventure series for WFRP widely considered to be one of the best adventures ever written (by RPG.net, for example). Have you considered updating and improving on it for the new edition?
We've recently announced the first campaign for the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, titled The Gathering Storm. I can't disclose our plans for future products, other than to say that we're committed to developing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and have a lot of exciting projects planned.
Will the use of episodes and acts be pronounced and explicit in The Gathering storm and future published WFRP material?
It's a great design framework for both GMs to use when creating material for their home campaigns and for freelance writers and developers to use to create adventures that are easy to read and prep for a session.
What plans are in place for future development of WFRP?
We've got a lot of really exciting things in store for WFRP. I'm most excited about the opportunity to develop supplements and content featuring areas and aspects of the Warhammer Fantasy setting in a way previous editions were unable to do. For example, I'm currently developing the project outlines for several boxed sets focused on exploring the cultures, motivations, and conflicts between ancient enemies in the setting.
Anything else important or cool that you want to mention about the game?
The graphic design and artwork turned out even better than I could have imagined. The FFG graphic design team did a superb job evoking the mood and atmosphere of the setting through the components and the book layouts. The artists produced exceptional work which really captures the look and feel of the people, places, and things that populate the setting. Players and GMs can get a real sense of the Warhammer Fantasy setting just by looking through the books and components.
When will it be out?
The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay core set, The Adventurer's Toolkit and the Dice Accessory Packs are all scheduled to be released later this year. (Since the interview, the first two have come out).
If you haven't already checked out the videos from GenCon, I'd recommend watching them. We videotaped one of the seminars I hosted at the convention, and made it available online.
Also, the official Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay FAQ has additional information, and will be updated regularly to address more questions as they come up. The FAQ can be downloaded from the WFRP Support page on the Fantasy Flight Games web site.