A Game Per Year: Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play Starter Set (2018)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play Starter Set

One of the mysteries of roleplaying culture is that the most popular games are often disseminated in the form of hefty 400 page books that are quite grueling to read. Every year, some worthy soul makes an accessible, approachable, easy-to-learn game that nevertheless fails to gain as much purchase on the roleplaying community as these monster tomes do.

Still, in recent years, many publishers have decided that players need an easier entry point to their games, creating the current fashion for starter sets. They don’t contain the complete game, instead trying to provide the minimum needed for play to begin as fast as possible.

This Starter Set is for the 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. It exists in an interesting position regarding the wider Warhammer Fantasy franchise: The Age of Sigmar blew up the game world but the 4th edition ignores all that, seeking to provide the classic Warhammer Fantasy experience instead.

The Starter Set includes an adventure booklet and a guide to the town of Ubersreik. The explanation of game mechanics is kept to a minimum, with a few loose leaf sheets and fact boxes in the adventure booklet. There’s no character creation included. Instead, the players are assumed to use pre-created characters.

The pre-created player characters are interesting in terms of style in the wider Warhammer context. They’re quite wholesome with minor exceptions. For example, the dwarf Gunnar is ticklish and loves being tickled. Darker shades come to the surface in the setting material but the Starter Set still feels less grim and perilous than older Warhammer fare.

It’s interesting to see so much focus on a playable setting in a starter set like this. The Ubersreik material is thorough, basically a proper sourcebook on the town with adventure hooks aplenty. It’s nice to see setting treated seriously in a beginner product, the richness of an environment showcasing it’s possibilities for adventure.

It’s striking how complex the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy is in terms of politics compared to something like the Forgotten Realms. It feels like a living, breathing world where people sleep, eat, shit, just live their lives.

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