Last week my group completed the trial scenario from the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Adventure Book, An Eye for an Eye. Previous sessions have been reported in Japanese here by one of the players, but I have a few observations on warhammer 3 to draw from this session.

(Warning: SPOILERS Ahead, for those who plan on running this game themselves)

This is the first module I’ve run an adventure from for a very long time (maybe 5 years), and the first for which I’ve pretty much stuck to the script. It seems to be a well-crafted adventure, though my players beat it resoundingly, so that:

  • They took the picture that plays a key role in the final ritual, thus preventing the ritual from happening
  • They acted early enough and warned the lord of the manor early enough to prevent the soldiers being poisoned at dinner, which meant that the encounter with the beastmen was a formality (see below)
  • They were able to ambush the entire cult of the Unseeing Eye in its temple, and but for a bad roll (see below) they might have had easy pickings with this battle
  • Despite these successes, they still nearly all died

There were two key scenes in this session, which give some insights into the game.

Ambushing the cult

Having tracked the cult to its lair, they caught the librarian returning his banned books, and interrogated him in the temple. He revealed everything, but then the thief heard the cultists coming and everyone scarpered with the librarian into one of the corridors. The thief sneaked back to the room and saw that there were 6 members of the cult gathered, so they decided to attack, but to use guile first to convince the cultists they had soldiers with them, in order to scare the cultists. Unfortunately, though successful on his guile check, the thief also got a chaos star result. I ruled that the cult leader fell for the ruse but decided to sacrifice his cultists anyway, and sent them into battle.

I ran the battle with more members of the cult joining in rounds 2 and 3, so that at the height of the battle there were 6 followers, the leader, a cultist mutant and a soldier NPC in battle against the characters, i.e. 9 vs. 4. The battle took about an hour of real time, I think, but a lot of this was due to rules clarifications (we’re still learning), translation issues, and passing dice backwards and forwards across the table. I’m hoping to clean up the translation (and related space) issues over the next few sessions by converting all the cards to Japanese using the Strange Eons card generator (that tool is a godsend!)

A few points from the battle:

  • I think the rules on active and reactive defenses aren’t very clear in the book: I’ve been using guarded position in the same way as dodge, parry etc. but didn’t realise it replaces a melee action (strike), rather than being additional to it (as parry is, for example).
  • If the enemy has even one serious combatant, things get hairy for the group very fast. The chaos mutant was a nasty piece of work, soaking up a lot of damage and seriously damaging the PCs
  • It seems like attacking a weak PC first is a very good plan, because they go down quickly and once the numbers are stacked against the stronger PCs they become a lot less effective
  • Followers do not encumber the combat system much – they serve primarily to distract the PCs for a round or two before they’re done for
  • The final toll for this battle was: one PC with two critical wounds, unconscious and at risk of death (his toughness was 2, so one more critical wound would have killed him) and suffering temporary madness; one PC with 3 critical wounds on half hits (this was the soldier, the group’s best fighter); one PC with only 2 wounds remaining, and one critical wound; and one PC unharmed
  • Chaos takes a heavy toll on itself. Through bad luck in successful attacks the chaos mutant damaged himself and the cult leader actually killed himself in the final round with a backsplash of chaos energy, through rolling too many banes when he had 1 wound remaining.

After this battle the PCs were in serious trouble. They carted the unconscious thief outside and found themselves witnessing an attack by 20 or so beastmen Ungors and 2 Gors, which they had to join in even though nearly dead…

The Beastman battle

Because the soldiers and servants were undrugged and the dog-handler well, this battle was expected to be easy, so I made it a formality in finishing the adventure. I had two Gors break down the main gate and the battle move to the courtyard, during which the PCs would take on one Gor and the dog-handler the other. I had considered using a Wargor, but I’m glad I didn’t as the PCs wounds would have meant at least one death. During the build-up to this battle – essentially the rally phase – I had Sonja the cleric work some first aid on the thief, who rolled really well for her check and got back 5 or so wounds (though he was still horribly criticalled, and beset by madness). He then used missile attacks only, and the PCs took on the Gor, killing it in 2 rounds of easy combat (4 vs. 1 is no contest even for a Gor).

There followed a hilarious scene in which, for their last act of the night, the group tried to help the thief overcome his insanity to stop it becoming permanent. The thief actually had discipline trained and chucked in a fortune die too, but his willpower was low (perhaps 3), and everyone wanted to help, so I allowed the following:

  • Suzette the Cleric cast a minor ward to add one fortune die
  • Schultz the Apprentice wizard cast First Portent of Amul, essentially adding one success to any blank face of a fortune die
  • Heinze the soldier, who has leadership, spent a fortune point and used his leadership skill to convert that fortune point into a fortune die for the thief. I refused to allow this to be a straight “aid another” type scenario without the leadership check, because this is more of a saving throw than a skill check, and so I decided that the soldier had to have some mechanism for extending his fortune to another PC. It worked

Then the thief rolled, and every single die came up a success. I ruled that a net two successes were needed (due to the madness’s difficulty) and the check had two challenge dice (because of the madness’s difficulty) – I’m not sure if this is how it works. But I think this meant that had the other players not added in those 2 fortune dice (one a guaranteed success), the thief would have been permanently mad after only his second adventure!

As it is, the session finished with the characters extremely successful but badly injured and incapable of any proper healing without finding a decent temple of Shallya, or getting some long- and much-needed rest. They plan to travel on to Ubersreik in their injured state (though with probably a few more wounds healed than when they finished the last session), where they can stay for free with the niece of the lord of Castle Grunewald, and get proper healing for their many critical wounds. If even the smallest encounter besets them on the road to Ubersreik, they could very easily die…

A few final notes

My opportunity attack action card worked, and I managed to get through one big battle, a small battle and the conclusion in one 4 hour session, which I think is okay – especially since a lot of faffing with decision-making, rules and interpretation is still going on. Having now spent 4 experience points by the beginning of this session, I was worried the PCs might not be getting challenged by the adventure any more, but this was not the case at all, and they came out of it very worried about their future. I suggested they could follow the beastmen to their lair and kill a wargor chieftain for treasure if they wanted, but they definitively declined the opportunity, on account of accrued damage. I don’t think this kind of decision would have been made in D&D – having a cleric in the group, they would naturally have decided to follow the beastmen the next day, after healing their wounds.

Critical wounds are well-designed in this game so that their effects are easily tracked and they are handled smoothly within the flow of events. My main concern is that some of the spells are a bit unbalanced – I am going to swap out the wizard’s Shooting Star spell for a talent, because it is essentially useless compared to Magic Dart. I worried the spell-using characters would run out of spell choices, but they can only make 3 action card choices over their whole career, so it’s unlikely they’ll get to pick even all of the first level spells, so no trouble. Also, usually they can’t use a spell every round – they drain all their power in two rounds, then have to spend a round regathering. So spell-users in WFRP 3 seem to only be able to cast a spell roughly every other round. I’m thinking this means that they will be wanting to find magic/holy items that increase their equilibrium favour/power values if their range of available actions is to keep pace with the other non-spell-using PCs, but at the moment they seem fine.

Again, in conclusion, I really enjoy GMing this system, I like its role-playing hooks, and once my players are more familiar with it (and the translations are more accessible) things will be very fun. As has been observed elsewhere, this game has a quite unique and possibly revolutionary method of action resolution that could be adopted quite easily in other systems, to their narrative advantage.