Tag Archives: Warhammer

Morale, Cool, and Sanity

It struck me when reading Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that the Cool stat really has a very similar role to morale in D&D. Description of cool (WFRP page 13):

This characteristic represents a creature’s ability to remain calm, collected – even sane – under severe psychological stress. Some of the creatures that inhabit the Old World are truly frightening, and may be confronted safely only by characters with a high Cl value. Cl is expressed as a percentage of 01-100%.

This stat is used when monsters can cause fear or terror. A failed check against fear basically means that a character may not take actions until they overcome the fear (one check possible per round, like a Fourth Edition saving throw). A failed check against terror sends the character to the fetal position for the rest of the encounter and grants an insanity point, which can lead to other bad things (like various types of madness). See pages 68 and 72 of WFRP for more details if you have access to the first edition.

Here is the morale text from Men & Magic (page 13):

Non-player characters and men-at-arms will have to make morale checks (using the above reaction table or “Chainmail”) whenever a highly dangerous or un-nerving situation arises. Poor morale will mean that those in question will not perform as expected.

One method to work a sanity system into D&D while cleaving to the traditional mechanics would be to start all PCs off with a morale of 12. This would represent naive young adventurers brimming with confidence and perhaps in some cases an iron will. Every time a character witnesses a sanity-threatening event (this would be campaign dependent, but could include encounters with undead, certain kinds of black magic, watching a companion die, etc) a fear saving throw would be required (probably a save versus spells). Failure would indicate loosing a point of morale, and open up the possibility of failing a morale check. I like this idea because it doesn’t require any new rules.

There have been several other recent D&D approaches to sanity. In Barrowmaze there is an optional fear rule where PCs accumulate points when they encounter undead and go insane when their total equals or exceeds their wisdom score. These points can be removed by spending time in civilization. Akrasia also has a wisdom-based sanity system. If you haven’t read his Swords & Sorcery house rules, get to it. It’s one of the best free OSR supplements out there (a free PDF is available). The free TOTGAD Compendium (now available in hard copy too) has terror, horror, and madness rules. The TOTGAD systems also rely on saving throws and have tables of possible outcomes for failed saves. I recently used his madness table for Death Frost Doom and it worked very nicely.

XP for Roleplaying

Here are the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first edition rules for awarding XP for good roleplaying:

These points are awarded to players on an individual basis and reflect how well they portrayed their character. Was the character played in an entertaining fashion according to alignment and career? There will be times when it is obvious that players are running their characters simply as extensions of their own personality, and this need not be a bad thing, but the gamesmaster must decide whether the character’s career, alignment and background mean that he or she really should be different. Give each player a rating (this is probably something you should keep to yourself), along the lines of Bad, Poor, Average, Good or Excellent, and award 0-50 EPs as a recognition of the way the character has been ‘brought to life’.

When allocating experience points for role-playing, you should bear in mind the player’s own conception of the character. For example, a player may have decided that his dwarf is taciturn and consequently have very little to say during role-playing encounters, but become very active during more action-orientated situations.

Generally, each player should receive 30 Experience Points per session for roleplaying, with some players gaining more and some less depending on the circumstances. Only those players who have impressed and amused you with their roleplaying should gain me maximum reward; conversely only those who have added nothing whatsoever to sessions should receive none You should avoid encouraging competition amongst the players – don’t always award the largest amounts to the player with the biggest mouth!

I’ve never liked rules like this for a number of reasons. One, I feel uncomfortable judging and rewarding players by how well they have entertained me. Especially since this passage suggests keeping it secret from the player. If this is an incentive system, how can it function if the player does not know for what they are rewarded experience?

That being said, I do like the idea of roleplaying XP, though I know this might be criticized by fundamentalists that believe XP should only be from treasure and monsters, preferably with more coming from treasure. If there are roleplaying XP though, I think they should be less subjective. Another flaw with awarding XP as suggested by Warhammer 1E is that in my experience such as system often leads to roleplaying caricatures rather than more balanced personalities, because caricatures stick out more. For example, a depressed character will be portrayed as moping all the time.

One idea that I have been playing around with is to allow players to select some goals for their characters, the completion of which will result in XP rewards. Something like minor, substantive, and major goals which would award 100, 500, and 1000 XP respectively. A 100 XP goal might be something like getting a hellhound pelt crafted into a suit of leather armor, fashioning a hat out of a shroom head, or transcribing looted dwarven books and donating them to the library of Ioun (all actual examples from my current campaign). Some might object that that some of these things come with their own reward (like getting a suit of armor) but the same thing is true of treasure.

The best part of this is that it seems like it would reward engagement with the setting. I’m always looking for ways that I can get players to be more self-directed. Adventure paths have trained players to just go along rather than venturing out on their own.¬†Goals would need to be negotiated beforehand, and thus would not be arbitrary. A good goal, just like in real life, should be easily measurable. It also offloads some work from the referee to the players, which is often a good thing.

Wisdom from 1986

On the referee’s role:

To help decide what happens the GM uses the rules of the game. While the players don’t need to know the rules in order to play and enjoy the game, you must be familiar with most of them. Don’t commit the entire book to memory, but you should at least know where to find the rules for any given situation. You decide whether a dice roll is necessary, which test to use (see Standard Tests below), and what the precise results of a successful or unsuccessful test will be. Mostly, though, you must rely on your imagination and common sense; the test of a good GM is not whether the rules can be recited from start to finish without looking anything up, but whether situations that may not be fully covered in the rules are dealt with in a consistent and realistic fashion. After all, in a fantasy game the Impossible happens quite regularly, and no set of rules, however large and complex, can hope to cover every possible eventuality.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first edition, page 63.

I love that it says the players don’t need to know the rules in order to play or enjoy the game. The player’s interface is assumed to just be naturalistic. No need to think about bonuses or builds or really anything other than what could be described diegetically. There’s this stuff, and these things happen, what do you do? This is so different from the system mastery assumptions many games make now. It also helps that most of character generation is random (though there are some parenthetical notes about advanced players being able to choose careers).

That test for what makes a good ref is also right on. Not rules memorization, but rather flexibility and skill when adjudicating the parts of the game that are not spelled out clearly (because there will always be parts that are not handled clearly by the rules). I might add organization and note taking to the skills a good referee must possess, but that is a different topic.

Reading this rulebook is my first real exposure to Warhammer, and so far I’m really enjoying it. The art is fantastic. All the percentile dice feel like overkill, but I could probably get used to them. When I played in the 90s, the heavy use of miniatures turned me off, though even back then it had a “metal” reputation (though I’m not sure I would have considered that an unalloyed good back then; my taste was more serious and less gonzo). It is true there is some miniature shilling in the book (along with some full color photo plates of Games Workshop miniatures) but the rest of the book is so good I think I can overlook that.