I thought I was done
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
I thought I was done
Hey guess what, I'm not. I never knew how to cover this book, so I originally concluded my look into Hams without actually covering it. It's a hard one to cover, because at heart it's mostly a reference book listing all 220 published Careers for WHFRP2e. That is, perhaps, too many Careers; there's some real redundancy issues towards the end of the line as they started to genuinely run out of stuff to do Careers for mechanically. But the thing is, there's a lot of good fluff in this book, and you know I like covering Hams Fluff. Almost everyone who contributed to WHFRP2e got together to contribute to this book; in addition to putting every Career in one place, it also added a bunch of extra fluff on every career, including usually 2 pretty fun adventure seeds. For every Career. Also stuff like what a day is like for someone doing this job, or little known facts about the job, etc. I'm not going to be covering every damned one, because hey, 220 Careers. But I really want to share some of the more fun ones.
More importantly, whenever you ask anyone who played WHFRP2e what part of the rules they actually remembered or thought was unique or fun, it's always the Career system. Careers in 2e are no shit my favorite RPG advancement system that I've ever seen; they produce flavorful characters with a wide range of abilities, most of them bring something interesting to the table, and they balance surprisingly well with one another partly thanks to a very consistent and decent set of guidelines you can 'feel out' from studying the Core Book Careers that were pretty clearly passed on through the line. There are some standouts in mechanical power, some losers, and some very meh Careers and Career paths in there, but for the most part, whatever job you end up in for a character is going to do something useful. More importantly, I think the Career system actually benefited tremendously from the fixed 100 EXP per advance cost; yeah, Consume Alcohol probably shouldn't be a skill at all and sure as fuck isn't worth as much as an Attack or Strike Mighty Blow or Charm. At the same time, Careers balance their costs by opportunity cost and 'how do I get where I want from where I am' rather than by assigning separate costs to different advances based on their utility. The skill list in 2e really did need paring down, it's true, but overall that wasn't a huge problem for the Career system.
So this is going to be my last chance to really yell about game mechanics in WHFRP2e, as well as a fun last look at some of the game's fluff, by really focusing in on the one part an otherwise pretty workmanlike system that everybody agrees was unique and fun. A chance to talk about why it worked well, why it added to the game, how Careers are balanced against one another, and why they work as a mechanism for character advancement. It will also be a chance to talk about why heavy randomization actually does work in WHFRP2e, when it's a genuinely bad idea in other systems. In most game systems, the idea of actually randomly rolling for a class (which is still optional in 2e) wouldn't just be annoying, it would be a terrible idea from a game balance perspective. Specifically because of how Careers are designed, though, it's instead a mechanism to actually ask 'Hey, have you thought about playing a guy who started as a Charcoal Burner?' or 'Would it be fun to start out as a Barber Surgeon?' A lot of this owes directly to the original design of the core book, where Chris Pramas writes about his experiences with how lots of the classes in 1e were unfairly better than one another. For instance, in 1e, a Roadwarden only had a single free skill for being a Roadwarden, while an Outlaw got 14. As a result, he wanted to heavily standardize the Basic Careers you could start with, and laid down pretty strict guidelines of what they had to provide. This leads to stuff like Peasant being a surprisingly competent base for an adventurer (as seen with Katiya in the Paths of the Damned writeups), because in having to fill in enough material to be 'fair' on every career, and with every 1st career giving you a pile of Skills and Talents, the designers had to actually reach around to make every 1st career fairly competent.
As a result, rolling on the massive d1000 Career Table presented in this book for your starting Career honestly isn't a bad idea, especially as you get rerolls by default. Just, you know, keep rolling until something catches your eye. Use it as a way to decide what looks interesting to play, because almost all of them will work out mechanically. Heroes come from the weirdest places; even the Dung Collector has something that stands out (They start with Fearless, they've seen some shit). Really, the only 'bad' 1st tier Careers are the ones that absolutely can't lead into any 2nd Tiers. Also, while the whole 'Tier' terminology is my own invention, it was clearly one of the intentions of the designers given they talk about how they wanted to add logical paths for more Careers besides warriors and wizards to go through a full set of Careers and reach a high point. What I call '3rd tier' Careers are intentional 'end points' on a track. Like Master Thief, or Guildmaster, or Noble Lord, to say nothing of Knight of the Inner Circle, Champion, or Daemon Slayer.
So here we go, with a last look at the best mechanical element of WHFRP2e, and a last bit of flavor about early modern fantasy germans, snooty 1st world elves, hardworking dorfs, and mostly irrelevant (and they like it that way) halflings.
Next Time: What Makes A Basic Career?
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
One of the most important things about Career design in 2e is that for the most part, Careers get a fairly equal number of advances that they start out with at 1st tier. 1st tier/Basic Careers are the most standardized part of the Career system, because they're the only time a long Career would mean you'd be handed a ton of stuff for free. For the most part, a Basic Career will give you a mix of about 9-13 Skills and Talents, and will take about 10 stat advances (so about 1000 EXP) to finish if you start from square 1, while having no stat advances over +15 (+15 in a Basic is also quite rare and it's normally limited to +10). Some particularly powerful Careers actually give you fewer overall Skills and Talents, partly because the Skills and Talents they do give are particularly useful. Let's look at Estalian Diestro, the wonderful hot-blooded not-Spanish Duelist/mathematician in detail for an example of this. Also because their fluff is one of the fluff bits I want to go into detail on.
The Diestro only gets 9 Skills and Talents for free. They get Academics (Science) (For the math), Common Knowledge Estalia (In addition to the Common Knowledge Empire all humans get), Dodge Blow, Read/Write, Speak Language (Estalian). Then for Talents they get Lightning Reflexes (+5 Agi) or Swashbuckler (Jump as a half action, jump much further, can actually be used to disengage from combat without AoOs as a half action), Quick Draw (Change a weapon or draw a weapon once a round as a free action) or Strike to Injure (+1 to damage when inflicting Crits), Specialist Weapons (Fencing) (They fence), and Strike Mighty Blow. This is a pretty short list of Skills and Talents. They're effectively getting a bit less starting EXP than, say, a Soldier, who is getting 10, or a Student, who is getting 11. The thing is, the Talents and Skills they get are pretty valuable; starting out literate as a fighter class is pretty uncommon, and stuff like Strike Mighty and Dodge Blow is really necessary to being a trained warrior from the word go. The other really important thing, though? They get a +15 WS advance at a Basic Career, they get +1 Attacks (like most professional warriors), and they start with some decent gear (A rapier, some excellent clothing, a healing potion, and some expensive perfume they can sell if they lack for style).
Not only do they have an unusual facility with stabbing people, they have pretty good Exits: The can become Protagonists or Bodyguards if you're silly-ish and want to go into a fairly redundant 1st tier fighter type, but they can also go straight into Duelist or Highwayman, or they can go into Rogue if you want to transition to a social character after learning to stab. Though Highwayman is already sort of a social/rogue hybrid that's very good with pistols and horses, and Duelist is just a very solid 2nd tier fighter with some okay social skills. The Diestro might have a few fewer skills at the start, but they're still a very strong pick because they can become a pretty masterful swordfighter very early, while having the most important Skills and Talents for a serious melee fighter right out of the gate.
I also just adore their fluff entry, going into more detail about the Diestro Schools and their math-fighting. Every Diestro is a trained mathematician, because the founder of the style, Master Figuera, really loved geometry and was an expert swordsman partly because he had an excellent spatial sense. They all know Science because Diestros keep up with the latest advances in mathematics and science, since they're constantly picking through theories to see if they can apply some new bit of weird knowledge to swordfighting. As a result, when Diestros fight, they debate. In official tournaments or informal duels, two Diestros are expected to engage in the 'Critica'. Both fighters introduce themselves, introduce their schools, and are expected to explain how they believe they can win while they fence each other in terms of space and technique. So effectively they do sports commentary (with math) while trying to fence, because the writers really loved the scene with Inigo Montoya and The Dread Pirate Roberts in Princess Bride (and really, if you're cribbing something for your vivacious Spanish swordsmasters, that's not a bad choice). If a duel wasn't to the death, or was in a tournament setting with blunt weapons, the two fighters will argue and prattle with the audience and one another after the fight, with the victor being awarded the last word and chance to make the closing statements uninterrupted.
To fill them out, you also get two descendant schools from the original teachings of Master Figuera in the fluff; they're sadly not useful mechanically, since both their variants replace Strike Mighty Blow and you want Strike Mighty Blow, but it's neat and helps sell the idea that these are fighters who learn in martial arts/academic fencing academies rather than from being brutal street fighters. The Estevan Style prefers trigonometry, and so prefers to use an off-hand Main Gauche or Buckler for parrying. Parrying isn't a great Specialist Weapon, and giving up Strike Mighty for it is...a little questionable, but I do love that the foundational difference is a love of Trig. The Casanova style is based around tournament fighting, and prefers to use Disarm over Strike Mighty since the fighters usually weren't trying to kill their opponents. If Disarm was a better talent (It only forces an opponent to re-Ready their weapon, so if they have Quick Draw they're literally immune to it) it might be worthwhile, but eh. Still, I love their silly math-fencing fluff. As a side note, they're expected to still do the Critica when fighting opponents not expected to respond; having played a Diestro, it was pretty fun to confuse Orcs and Chaos Dwarfs by prattling about the weight of their weapons and how physics shows they have no chance against the obviously superior rapier's speed. I'd have given the class Blather, honestly.
Still, they're a good example of an unusual, strong Basic Career and a good example of what the 'fill in' fluff in this book is like. Also, the book will include 1-2 Adventure Seeds for every Career. The ones for the Diestro are obviously REVENGE (The killer of a Diestro's father is an outlaw lord, and the Diestro PC either needs their PC buddies or an NPC Diestro realizes they need to hire the PCs so that they can survive long enough to actually duel the villain) and a plot hook where a lovely young lady falls in love with a dashing Diestro and follows him off to learn to fence and adventure, but her father mistakes it for a kidnapping and sends the PCs after them (or, if the Diestro is the PC, the PCs suddenly find a party of bounty hunters hunting them for kidnapping they didn't commit). In general, these seeds are pretty good and pretty fun, and do a good job of accounting for being either 'Adventure Where The Class Drags You Into It' or 'Adventure for a PC of this class'.
Let's also look at a weak Basic Class, one that could have used more work. The Lamplighter, introduced in Spires of Altdorf, is one of those classes that just doesn't work. It's a civilian career with very little to recommend it; it's not good with people, it can climb walls and haggle for prices, and that's about it. But even worse, it doesn't have any 2nd tier Exits. At all. Also, sure, someone has to light the fancy new public lighting in Altdorf, but it's not really distinct enough to give you hooks or to be a particularly interesting starting point for a character. Let's compare it against Burgher, because its rules say you can replace Burgher with it if you rolled Burgher. A Burgher is very good with money, good at spotting things, fairly intelligent, potentially literate, and generally a good path into the mercantile careers. Given just how much money you can make or save by being good at Haggle, it's worth having a Merchant in the party, potentially. They can also go into decent criminal careers with Fence, or even try to transition into a fighter with Militiaman (which is its own unusual 1st tier). Burghers have stuff going for them, and they got options about where to go from here. The Lamplighter doesn't; they just go into a smattering of other 1st tiers.
The thing is, going directly into a 2nd 1st Tier Careers after promoting is often a bad idea, because 1st tiers can be surprisingly long Careers; if you don't have overlap in the Skills and Talents, the same rules that saw them designed so that they'd have fairly equal numbers of advances to start with will also see you having to spend a long time learning the new Career's stuff before you can move up. This isn't necessarily bad, depending; a 'long Career' is still a Career where you're gaining new skills and abilities the whole time. The issue is that you're still stat-capped by the lower overall stat advances of 1st tiers, so you can find yourself falling behind on base stats. The issue with Careers that only offer 1st tier Exits is that they force you to do this, rather than that it's always a bad idea. Only having lateral movement options is one of the few ways to really make a 'bad' 1st Tier class overall; the other is not really giving it a full skillset, as is the case with the Lamplighter.
There are also some really unusual 1st tiers, like Entertainer. You might recognize it from Bogdan Strongfoot (Ring name: Slamwise Gamgee) the halfling wrestler produced as an example character back in the core book review. Entertainer is a really weird 1st tier in that it has a massive number of optional Skills and Talents, since it's trying to cover a very wide array of people. Camp Follower is similar. Entertainer is trying to be one Career for jugglers, singers, knife-throwers, trick riders, hypnotists, actors, etc. Camp Follower is similarly trying to cover the vast array of petty merchants, soldiers' spouses, support personnel, looters, and opportunists that follow an Imperial Army to provide services, because this is the Early Modern period and like everything in the Empire the armies are a goddamn mess without formalized logistics.
Entertainer honestly can argue that you might want to stick in the class for awhile and pick up some of its extra Talents, because a lot of the Talents it gets are really good! They start out with pick 2: Very Strong, Mimic, Lightning Reflexes, Public Speaking, Quick Draw, Sharpshooter, Specialist Weapons (Throwing) (Eh, not a great choice), Trick Riding, or Wrestling. A lot of those are pretty worthwhile talents to try to pick up! Entertainer also has one of the best Adventure Seeds: A dour Witch Hunter is trying to infiltrate the court of a potentially corrupt noble undercover The problem is he's a very boring and serious man. So he hires an Entertainer to help him with his cover, so he can learn how to juggle but also so he'll have a partner who can cover for him if his performance bombs. They also include a nice little writeup on what kinds of entertainments are usually preferred in what regions of the Empire, and some information on how Entertainers find patrons and the 'circuits' they travel to do their shows. Did you know Ulricans actually love stand-up? I didn't. They apparently like it because they're usually so serious, themselves, so they value having someone around who can tell a joke. Most Imperial Entertainers start out traveling to the larger towns and showing off to the locals to learn their trade before trying to cram their way into the crowded big city stages of Middenheim, Altdorf, Talabheim, and Nuln. Though Nuln has such a thirst for Entertainers that it's one of the most popular places for them to eventually settle down.
Meanwhile, the Camp Follower is the kind of class you'd expect to be bad, but they're actually pretty widely talented petty merchants. They learn more languages in their travels, they can pick a pocket or loot a battlefield, they're pretty good with people, they know how to negotiate, all of them know at least one decent trade to make their living with the army, and they can go into being a talented Charlatan or an actual Spy. There's also a nice bit of fluff where Camp Followers will actually semi-unionize among the Imperial Armies when they've been following one long enough; if the soldiers abuse them, rob them, or beat them too often, the army's cooks, smiths, gunsmiths, and others will find a thousand ways to get back at them until the soldiers involved are punished and restitution is made. Still, a class where you can barter, talk your way out of trouble, steal a little, and run fast if you're in trouble is hardly a bad starting point for a character in WHFRP, and Spy is a really good 2nd tier. I also like that the writeup for them emphasizes that they're the army's hangers on in general.
Then, of course, you have the very solid 'starter' careers that really stand out, like Student or Soldier. Student and Soldier are such good examples because they kind of get you everything you need for the basics of what you do, from day 1. A Student knows how to bandage a wound (which is really important, you need someone with Heal in every party), they're knowledgeable, they can read, they know a ton of languages, and they have great Exits: They can start on being a wizard, they can become a dedicated Scholar, they can become Van Helsing (Agent of the Shroud is neat for a sort of vampire-hunting investigator), they can be Engineers, Doctors, lawyers, pretty much any educated 2nd tier can come out of Student. The Soldier similarly picks either melee or range and starts out quite good at either, while having a solid promotion track to either being an officer and learning to deal with people (while still getting better at fighting) or being a pure fighter and just being a huge, flexible badass whenever combat comes up. Soldier and Student are sort of my benchmarks for solidly designed 1st tier Careers: They give you the ability to do what they say they'll give you the ability to do, they're good at it, and they have lots of solid routes to get better.
Next Time: Flavor That Stands Out
The Eternal Sadness of The Naked Dwarf
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
The Eternal Sadness of The Naked Dwarf
One of the iconic character types of WHFRP has never shown up as a PC in the games I've played in and run, and to explain why we need to do a careful examination of the Slayer. Everyone knows the Dwarf Slayer: They're front and center on the cover of every single edition of WHFRP, with their big spikey orange mohawk, their colorful tattoos, their big axes, and their totally ripped bare chests. Everyone knows their fluff, because it's genuinely pretty cool and tells you a lot about the dwarfs as a people: A dwarf who wants to die can choose to put themselves on a path to culturally acceptable, redemptive suicide by swearing to the Ancestor God of Vengeance and Warriors, Grimnir, and taking the Slayer's Oath. They'll go out and fight the enemies of their people until they finally find a mighty doom, the limit of their ability, the thing that finally manages to kill them. Naturally, this is a PC type; it makes sense that a Slayer'd be off adventuring, they're always off adventuring. They're very good fighters by pure stats, especially with the boosts dwarfs get (+10 Toughness and WS go a long way towards kicking ass as a melee fighter). So what's their issue in 2e?
The problem for 2e Slayers comes in a mixture of fluff confusion, changes to the damage reduction system, and changes to the Career system. They're also sort of victims of being from the core book, though most of the core book Careers are well designed and stand up fine without really getting power-crept (outside of Bret Knights, no new PC career path has really been particularly overpowered). Their issue is that once you get to stuff like the Compendium, you get specific sidebars clarifying that a Slayer doesn't wear armor. This assumption is nowhere in their writeups in the core book. A big portion of the Troll Slayer writeup in the Compendium is defending the fact that their starting leather jerkin isn't really armor, it's cold weather gear (since a dwarf doesn't consider leather armor to be armor at all) and that most will shed it to fight bare chested when combat comes up. The thing is, this was a doable thing in 1st edition WHFRP: Armor protected you far, far less. Mail was 1 AP, Plate was 1 AP, and they stacked. A shield could give you +1 more if you had one. DR +2 was certainly significant from what I can tell, but armor was much less important overall; after all, a dwarf's +1 T (they didn't use TB or SB back then, just T and S) was already 1/2 the bonus of wearing full plate and mail. The other thing is a Slayer in 1e shot up to crazy levels much faster from what my reading can tell. A Troll Slayer who rolled well for toughness and managed to roll Very Resilient could start with T 6. Advancement was significantly faster going by the book in 1e, so that you gained 100-300 EXP a session and each Advance was +10 to a stat (or buying a new skill, or getting +1 S, T, or Attacks). A Troll Slayer could finish Troll Slayer and promote into their one upgrade back then, Giant Slayer, and get access to a huge +3 T advance very quickly. When you're running around with T 9 in a system where the average foe does d6+3? Fuck no, you don't actually need any armor. I mean you'd be better off with it but you don't need
it. Note this is only my impression from reading it through; I have never played 1st Edition. But I suspect that the fact that this worked much better there (potentially) and wasn't as big a loss has a lot to do with why it's so ingrained in the Slayer's fluff. After all, if it works, a badass dwarf hero deflecting goblin arrows with their steely abs is metal as hell and being metal is a pretty big deal in Fantasy.
So the whole 'naked dwarf syndrome' thing was something the designers of 2e specifically say they wanted to avoid in 2e, by making armor significantly more effective. Armor is a really important
part of a warrior's power curve. It's no longer a 'nice to have' sort of bonus, especially as damage dice have increased to d10 (since 2e standardized at using d10s for everything, and rightly so) so it's much harder to deflect a blow entirely without armor. The best possible Slayer, at Daemon Slayer, their 3rd tier career, has a TB of 8 (50 base, +30 Career). That's less damage reduction than much less physically capable Knight in full plate at 2nd tier. It might be flavorful and a part of the setting for Slayers to go without armor, but there's a reason the core book never actually mentions it as a requirement. The other issue for Slayers that gets addressed in the Compendium is that they originally had a little flavor rule where the Troll Slayer (1st tier) couldn't become a Giant Slayer (2nd Tier) until they'd participated in killing a Giant. Fair enough for the names of the careers, but this means a party with a Troll Slayer is going to need to fight a 5 Attack, Damage 8 Impact Unstoppable enemy. With 1st tiers. Or else their Troll Slayer will be stuck in Career 1 for awhile and their swole buddies can carry them through the fight and then the sad dwarf can spend all their pent-up EXP after winning and promoting. This is obviously not a very feasible or good idea. Hell, even fighting Trolls kind of sucks with 1st tiers.
So the Compendium comes to the rescue a bit with a sidebar on the Giant Slayer acknowledging this was kind of a stupid rule to begin with and saying 'Well, as long as they did something impressive and almost died at some point, they can call themselves a Whatever-Slayer like a Magus Slayer or Vampire Slayer and effectively use the Giant Slayer Career'. Which is nice, but it's sort of silly that that even has to be said. So you have two places the flavor writeups in the Compendium are pushing and pulling on the Slayer: On one hand they're telling them they can't wear armor now despite that not really being part of their original mechanical design (even if it was always a fluff thing) and on the other they're having to give permission to GMs to not have to force a Giant fight into their plot at around 1000 EXP. At the same time, you also get a nice sidebar talking about the spirit of the Slayer Oath: If you're a PC Slayer, you're trying to die, yes. But if you're a *PC*, with Fate Points and all, you're one of the dwarfs who probably really honors the spirit of their oath and refuses to die without giving it their absolute all. This is part of why Slayers join parties; fighting alone is much more likely to be a useless suicide, and more importantly it leaves witnesses who can go back to your Hold and tell them you died bravely. Still, things are pretty mixed in the fluff updates for the Slayers.
The other reason Slayers kind of suffer, but also a major reason they could shoot up in power quickly if it weren't for the 'gating' on their advancing their careers, has to do with how fighting classes are designed. You see, almost every Fighter in WHFRP can do something other than fight. A Mercenary or Protagonist knows how to barter their skills and plunder. A Soldier might know how to handle animals or treat basic wounds. A Hunter to Scout is obviously pretty damn good at surviving and tracking and stealth in addition to shooting orcs in the head. Knights are full on minor politicians in addition to heavy melee fighters. Thugs know a bunch of criminal and racketeering skills as well as being able to break faces. Diestros are learned mathematicians and scientists in addition to fencers. Sergeants and Captains are excellent leaders in addition to warriors. The way WHFRP differentiates the many flavors of warrior isn't just in which stats and which fighting styles they're good at, but also in what non-fight stuff they know how to do from their profession. If you ONLY know how to fight, you will really
know how to fight; just look at Champions. We certainly will after I finish the Slayer stuff, to show why they aren't as great as they could be. Slayers only ever know how to fight. It's the only thing they do. And you can't break out of this career track or redirect your PC; the only Exit at tier 3 for a Slayer is 'Glorious Death'. So if you started out as a Troll Slayer, your PC doesn't know how to do anything outside of combat.
The issue is a Slayer isn't really measurably better at combat than other major fighters. They're worse than Grail Knights, but everyone is worse than Grail Knights because much as I love Brets, they're a little overpowered (I don't think they're gamebreakingly so outside of Heroism, but Virtues are damned powerful). But that's not all: They're honestly worse than the basic Champion in some ways. The thing is a Slayer is very, very focused. They only do melee. That's it. But with how Advanced Careers go, that means they also promote really goddamn fast: They don't actually have much to buy. We're going to have to go into a lot of detail here; Slayers are a marquee class and their confusion in fluff and mechanics and how the Compendium adds to it is worth going in detail for. A Troll Slayer gets +10 WS, +5 S, +5 T, +5 Agi, +10 WP, +1 Attack, +3 Wounds. Normal 10-11 advance Basic Career. Also get Strike Mighty Blow, Disarm or Quick Draw, Hardy, Lightning Reflexes or Very Resilient (+5 to Agi or T), Specialist Weapons (Two Handed), and Street Fighter (+10% WS, +1 Damage with fists/knuckledusters). They only learn Consume Alcohol, Dodge Blow, and Intimidate.
A Giant Slayer grabs +25 WS, +15 S, +15 T, +10 Agi, +20 WP, +1 Attacks and +6 Wounds. Since they already have the Troll Slayer Advances, that's actually less impressive than it sounds, at 13 Stat Advances (15 WS, 10 S, 10 T, 5 Agi, 10 WP, 3 Wounds) to buy. They pick up a Common Knowledge (but since they have Dwarfs to start, they don't have to actually do this if they don't want to spend EXP) and Perception. Then they grab Fearless, Strike to Injure, Flail, and Resistant to Poison. So if you buy the bare minimum, you finish your career in 1800 EXP. For a 2nd tier, that's lightning fast. It's not uncommon for a character to need 20-30 Advances to finish their second career. And everything you're learning is good for what you're trying to do (fight) it just only leaves you that one ability (fight). Also, Fearless is pretty goddamn great to have since it's just a straight immunity to Fear and Terror. The thing is, if you're playing the fluff about no armor straight, none of this is really much better than a more normal 2nd Tier fighter outside of Fearless. Compare the Giant Slayer to the Imperial Knight (not even Bret): A Knight is +25 WS too, with +15 S and T as well. And +15 Agi. And wider weapon talents (they learn Cavalry, Flail, and Two Handed). And no restriction on wearing armor. The only thing they're really missing is Fearless compared to the Slayer. So the Giant Slayer isn't actually much better at their job than a basic Imperial Knight. And a Veteran is a similarly pure combatant, but they learn a variety of ranged skills as well. The Slayer doesn't really have an 'edge' that makes up for the expectation of not engaging with how useful armor is or being fully pigeonholed into 'kill monster with axe'.
The Daemon Slayer isn't much better. +40 WS, +30 S and T (They do, at least, have the highest S and T advance until the Grail Knight was released), +20 Agi, +30 WP, +2 Attacks, +8 Wounds. They learn to Scale Sheer Surfaces (Shadow of the Colossus?) and pick up Lightning Parry (when using a two-hander or something, can give up an attack in your next turn to parry right now, once a round) and Unsettling (Enemies take -10 WS and BS against them until succeeding a Fear test). First, Unsettling is a pain in the ass to keep track of, from experience. Second, remember the Daemon Slayer can't actually get out of this career. Yeah, they get +40 WS, great S and T advances, and 3 attacks. Compare this to a Champion. Champions get +40 WS, +40 BS, +25 S and T, +30 Agi, +20 WP, +2 Attacks, +8 Wounds. The Daemon Slayer is only slightly stronger and doesn't have the amazing ranged and flexibility potential of the Champion. If you wanted to be a pure fighter with a dwarf, climbing up from Soldier to Veteran to Champion would probably make you as strong of a fighter in the end. Without having to wrestle with fluff that gets confused with the fact that game mechanics make that fluff way less practicable now. The Slayer gets all this detail in this writeup because I think the Slayer is one of the few classes the Compendium writeups made worse
because it codifies that they have to screw themselves on equipment, and they don't get much to make up for it. Also note the Slayer has to go through a normal 3 tier progression to get there, unlike the 1e situation where they just jump right into being one of the meanest melee fighters possible right after their 1st Career.
Which is sad, because Slayers are a really cool part of the setting. Now when I say their other issue is being core book, I'm not really talking about power creep so much as the fact that the core book didn't really want to do lots of 'special case' rules. Slayers would benefit immensely from some specific, special talents for their batshit insane lifestyle, but core was interested in establishing a solid basis for the system rather than dealing with specific exceptions and special rules (understandably, this is one reason the core book is so solid). But core also absolutely had to have the Slayer in it, because c'mon, the guy's on the cover of every edition of the game. It wouldn't be hard to fix Slayer; I'd give them a stacking talent that effectively gives them +1 AP of natural armor (from being tough as nails) per Tier of Slayer they've been through at start. That means they're effectively never better than Medium Armor (+3 at Daemon Slayer, after all), but at no penalties and they're always that tough even if they're without their gear. Then I'd hand them some equivalent to a Virtue; if anyone is going to have a cool 'this is how I'm an epic slayer of monsters' ability similar to the Brets, it's these guys. Some extra edge, like not needing to roll to confirm Furies when fighting tough enemies or doing extra damage against stuff with huge DR. While I don't really care for the Size rules in 4e, the basic idea of 'When the Slayer gets a good hit in on something way bigger than them, they reverse the size rules and kick the shit out of it' is the kind of thing Slayers needed. And I suspect a Dwarf Book would've given it to them. Alas, we never got a dorf book. We're stuck with the Compendium to fill in stuff for everyone's favorite mohawked murder machines, and it didn't do a good job.
Next Time: How Do Advanced Careers Work?
A Degree of Freedom
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
A Degree of Freedom
So, Advanced Careers are much more loosely designed than Basic Careers because they don't actually give you anything for free for getting into them. Squire needed to think about how many Skills and Talents I get for being a Squire, because I can start as a Squire and get most of Squire's Skills and Talents immediately, barring a few places I'll be asked to take one or the other. Knight doesn't need to worry about that as much, and some Careers can't fully anticipate what skills you'll already have when you go into them and thus can take a very long time. Having all of the Careers in the line here in one handy reference book really helps with examining the overall design of Careers in this system, and helps highlight some of the rare ones that broke the rules.
So, what does a 2nd Tier class look like? They're usually twice or three times as long to complete as a character's Basic Career, since not only do they have to buy a lot of stat advances but they probably need new skills and talents and might also want to 're-buy' some redundant skills for +10 to those skills. For all the focus on playing Ratcatchers and stuff, 2nd Tier is often where the majority of a campaign happens. It's also about where you start to become more impressive and competent, or at least good at doing your 'thing'. The very variable 'length' of Advanced Careers because they don't have to worry about you getting anything for free for entering them means there's a lot more variety; your 2nd Tier having a ton of advances and taking forever isn't necessarily a bad thing at all anyway. Take Highwayman: They have an extremely wide array of stats they need to develop compared to most 2nd Tiers (Discounting whatever you already have from 1st tier, Highwayman has 35 Stat Advances. Compare that to 25 for Veteran) and also a wide array of Skills and Talents. But you're paying the EXP for all of them. Sure, you're going to be a Highwayman for a very long time, but that's fine; you have the same number of actual upgrades as the rest of your party, so there's room for the Highwayman Career to try to be a dashing rider and social person who is also a decent duelist.
In general, many of the more 'civilian' 2nd Tiers tend to be faster. They don't have to learn a wide number of combat talents, and their skills tend towards being a question of how many +10s you wanted to take from what you already know from 1st Tier. Going from Tradesman to Artisan, for instance? Artisan isn't an especially long Career, partly because it's not as fully suited for adventuring (though a merchant is always useful) but also because you already had a ton of overlap and non-combat skills often take less investment to get to high levels compared to combat. It's not that hard to get all the way to, and through, 3rd tier in a 'civilian' track like being a master artisan and merchant (Tradesman, Artisan, Guildmaster, and Guildmaster is actually a pretty good 3rd tier) before your buddy who went from Outrider to Highwayman finishes their 2nd Career. This is, incidentally, why trying to balance a party of pre-mades by 'number of Careers taken' like in Lure of the Liche Lord is silly, and PCs should always be balanced/judged on how much EXP they've earned. The whole reason Advanced Careers can get away with not having equal numbers of advances is that a character's power is measured by what they've advanced in, not exactly how many Careers they've blown through. A guy who hangs around doing similar 1st tier Careers will finish a lot of Careers. And will also suck. It's one of the few ways to actually make a bad character.
Which is actually another reason people tend to think fondly on Careers. Careers are very good at giving you benchmarks and signals for when your character is competent. You want to be a good ranger type? Start as a Hunter, you get everything you need to do the basics of what you wanted to do as your character. Same for Woodsman, if you wanted to be more of 'person with a big axe who is swift in the woods' rather than 'shoot a guy in the head while he's stuck in your snare'. The Exits also mostly provide this; the above Hunter or Woodsman going into Scout has an obvious and easy route to get better at the thing they're already doing. They also have other options for focusing on other things, but they'll always be decent at being a ranger type because of their first Career. Which is another little thing I forgot about the Basic Careers that I want to go back and point out: Basic Careers are, for the most part, where the +5% Talents live. This is because having those in your Basic Career, along with the Shallya's Mercy 'set a stat to what it'd be if I rolled an 11' rule, makes it really hard to be genuinely bad at the thing you ended up doing even with random rolling. There's a lot of effort put into making sure characters have a decent base to work with, as long as you don't have a GM who does a ton of 'Roll at -10 or -20 to continue plot' stuff early on. If the game's pre-made adventures actually followed the advice of the GMing chapter with respect to that, I'd be far harsher on people who make that GMing error, but given how many of the examples of adventure design they have to look at make that mistake it's not necessarily their fault.
Anyway, to bring this back to Advanced Careers, Advanced Careers and Exits usually provide a similarly good signal for 'what do I want to get better at'. You're a Soldier and you want to focus on being a party's main fighter? Go into Veteran. You're a Soldier and you want to branch out into social and political stuff? Go into Sergeant. Any Advanced Career is going to contain the means to make you very good at the thing it does. I had a player complain a lot about the Career system once because 'you're just filling in a pre-determined build and choosing what to learn first', but I'll take that if it helps guide players into making their PC able to do the thing they want their PC to do. You can confidently assume you're going to be good at Dueling by taking Duelist, or good at politics if you go into Courtier or Politician. Which is also why multiclassing isn't a bad idea here like it can be in other systems; you'll always be good at the things you previously did, and while it might take you a long time to learn a new thing, you still have a solid base to fall back on and at the end you'll be good at your new thing. There's a lot less worrying you'll end up kind of bad at everything unless you stay and jump around Basic Careers for more than like, one additional Career.
The other strength of all this is it actually makes designing your own Careers pretty easy, especially if you have this book. I can look through Career Compendium and pretty easily pick out what's a reasonable benchmark for the stats on a 2nd or 3rd tier, and the firm design of 1st Tiers makes designing new starting classes easy. When I was making an Amazon Career track while working on Lustria for fun, it was pretty easy to flip through and design classes based on what already existed. Same for working on ideas for Lizardman Careers. This is another reason the Compendium is a really good resource; it's much easier to get a sense for how not to break a foundational system for the game by having all the examples of that system in one place. It's a really convenient resource to have for fucking around with this system. Also, the Career system being pretty in-depth already means if you're working on a new track or something for a new part of the world you want to fill in, you don't really need to make a ton of classes. Say I wanted to write a campaign in Ulthuan and do some silly High Elf stuff; I don't really need to make a Sea Guard of Lothern Career because Veteran already does their thing just fine. Most of the stuff you might want to make is already there in some capacity, but if you want extra flavor the firm design on the Career system makes it pretty easy to add your own.
This is not to say the designers don't break down their own system in a few places. Let's look at some very typical Advanced Careers and then some that break things some.
Fence is an example of a Career that looks like it sucks, but is actually very powerful, because it gets into one of the other facets of how varied Advanced Career length can be. Almost any criminal type or merchant type can get into Fence. They sell stolen goods. That's their thing. They pick up some assessing and mercantile skills, they inexplicably get a 2nd attack and Strike to Stun (I guess something you gotta punch a guy and run when things get hot), but mostly their skill list is short and focused, their Talents are just being good with numbers, dealing with criminals, and business, and their Stats aren't that high. However, this means that if, say, Pierre the Tomb Robber had become a Fence? He'd have needed only about another 1000-1500 EXP to finish the career. Same for Thieves, or Burghers, or most people who can go into Fence. And would also pick up some useful mercantile abilities while doing it. And then it Exits into Master Thief. Or Crime Lord. So while it seems like a weak Career, it's actually very focused. Grab some useful stuff and then move up to the next level of your track.
A similar example is the Elf-only 'Ghost Strider' (Why they didn't just call it Waywatcher is beyond me). Compared to the Scout you used to be to get into it, and compared to other 3rd Tier careers, it looks kind of unimpressive. At a time when other Careers are doing crazy +40 BS/WS warrior stuff, this is a Warrior career with +20 WS, +30 BS (And you already had +20 WS, +20 BS from Scout). It only advances all its stats a little from Scout, almost all its skills are redundant to Scout (meaning it's a matter of how much you want to buy skill bonuses), and you already know the shooting talents from Scout. BUT. It gets +2 Attacks (like most 3rd tier fighters). It gets Fleet Footed (Very valuable +Movement speed talent). It finishes off making your ranger into a 3rd Tier fighter with exactly what you need to qualify, and a Scout can finish it in like 1000 EXP. And then move on to doing something different. You finish out being a Warrior-Ranger type very strong and very quick, and then get options to go harder on being a warrior type if you want or to go do something else, because whatever else you do after this you're going to be a total monster with a longbow in addition to it. So you can mock that the 'elf only' unique ranger 3rd tier doesn't have great stats all you like, it's actually very focused and gets you exactly what you need.
Which is generally the model for Advanced Careers when you look through them all in the Compendium: They sort of split between 'fast, focused, efficient' or 'Do a lot of things and become widely skilled'. Neither is really better than the other. One other notable 2nd Tier is Journeyman Wizard, which is specifically designed to be very long; Master Wizard is actually pretty short after it, since you learned so much already as a Journeyman. This is because it's okay for a wizard to be stuck in their 2nd career for ages, because they get their Lore there and so they can do their 'thing', even if they can't do all of it. A Journeyman Bright Wizard is already tossing around Fireballs. A Journeyman Shadow Wizard can get up to tricks and mischief. Etc. You have to make due with Mag 2 and a Lore for a long time, but Mag 2 and a Lore is enough to accomplish a lot.
There are also a few that break the general scaling of the game slightly. They do this by abusing the +5 Talents and a few other things. One of the big examples for me is Knight Panther, which was primarily intended to be an antagonist class for Chaos PCs. They're Imperial Knights whose Grandmaster was outed as a Cult Magus and now they try to make up for it by making themselves available to the Hunters as muscle. They're basically a significantly better Imperial Knight, and most of the Careers that go into Knight Panther are 2nd or 3rd tier themselves to make up for their stats and Talents being better...except you can still enter it directly from 1st tier Squire. And it gives you Warrior Born (+5 WS) and Sturdy (No Heavy Armor penalties). And already gives you +30 WS in a 2nd tier class, which usually limit WS/BS growth to +20 or +25. While effectively giving you +35 since it gives Warrior Born. Yes, you still have to buy all of it, but by breaking the stat caps so to speak, it lets you decide to go heavy into being a swordsmaster faster than you'd normally be able to. Also, it has better Exits than Knight; you can go directly into Champion or Witch Hunter from it, while Knights cannot do that. In essence, this Career isn't a sidegrade, it's simply mechanically better than the basic Knight Career if you started out as a Squire. This is an example of bad Career design for an Advanced Career. This kind of thing is actually pretty rare, which is why Knight Panther stands out. It's rare for an add-on Career in a new book to simply be better.
The other really big example of this is the Warrior Priest. The Warrior Priest in ToS is simply better than Annointed Priest. Yes, the Annointed Priest gets a bit more in the way of academic skills, but to be real: Academic skills are highly situational and a lot of games would do much better to just make a single 'Academics' skill and be done with it instead of playing 'guess which specialty will come up by having 6 of them'. Meanwhile the Warrior Priest still gets their full divine Lore while getting Dodge and a bunch of stuff that makes them a capable combatant, while having their learned and social abilities from Initiate and Priest. The Priest track in general is one of the least well done 'long class tracks', which is a terrible shame because ToS is great and playing Old World Priests is fun as hell from a roleplaying standpoint since the setting has pretty richly done cults and religious politics. It's poorly done because it takes forever to actually be able to do Priest Magic, because in trying to be one level behind the mages in actual magic use they made it so you have to be 3rd Tier before you actually cast spells for your God. It simply takes too long to be able to use your marquee abilities. Meanwhile, everyone else is becoming really good at their thing by Career 2.
Anyway, this is the last of the big 'mechanics' posts on this. From here on in, I'll just be going through the fluff of the Careers that stand out and the anecdotes and adventure hooks that I think are cool. I'm also open to suggestions on the kinds of Career fluff people want to see written up; if someone's curious about the job fluff on various aspects of the setting, I'll be happy to go into it. Really, the extra fluff and the huge number of hooks in this book are what make it stand out; if it was just a convenient reference manual that helped with understanding class design and the workings of the Career system it'd be good, but I wouldn't be trying to find a way to write it up considering how awkward a task that is. The extra fluff is what elevates it.
Next Time: Fashion is the most important part of the job
Rogues, Cops, and Imperial Popular Culture
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
Rogues, Cops, and Imperial Popular Culture
So I'll get to the elves and their fluff issues in the next post, along with our ratcatcher buddies, but for now I want to talk about a couple of the roguish and entertainer classes and the Roadwarden.
The Roadwarden is actually a really good starting class, as you might expect. Adventure is already their job, so it makes sense they come well equipped for adventure. These are the roving police force that tries to keep the roads of the Empire clear, fighting beastmen and bandits and monsters and hunting down criminals who flee into the wilderness. They're a visible and important part of the Empire's defenses, and they're very popular. The popularity is only partly because they're generally regarded as one of the less corrupt (I mean, they take 'tips' and all but they do their job and really do save a lot of lives) elements of Imperial law enforcement. A bigger part comes from their role in Imperial pop culture, according to their fluff here. You see, they have a lot of the elements that make a Witch Hunter 'cool' (roving hero dispensing justice and fighting the forces of evil, trusty pistol that can fail or find the mark at exactly the moment the author needs it to, often travel alone or in small groups, nice hat) but without nearly as much baggage. So when an adventure novel needs a righteous wandering hero who the audience can get behind, who do they go for but the brave Roadwarden riding patrol?
Crowds all around the Empire go to taverns to drink for the night and hear the latest story of Tod Schlaten, heroic Road Warden, as he rides across the Empire in his greatcoat and wide brimmed hat and dispenses justice. Rescued maidens fall in love with him, but he's married to his duty. His pistol never fails to find the mark when it needs to and he unflinchingly brings the right culprit to justice. In a grim and perilous world, people like hearing a story about a rugged, taciturn man who always manages to do right in the end. The actual Roadwardens like the stories quite a bit; they make the job popular with the people, and they're a flattering depiction of what the Empire hopes its defenders will be like. Most bemoan that they get far fewer beautiful nobles' daughters throwing themselves at them than Tod, though.
I really like how you can tease out what the Empire's popular culture looks like. From uncomplicated and approved heroes like Tod to their love of messing around with the forbidden in the 'safe' realm of fiction. The Empire absolutely loves stories of adventure, even as the average Imperial thinks adventurers are nuts. There's always a sense the average Imperial considered taking up the sword and trying to be a hero like the silly stories they love. Your PCs are just the people who actually did it, through circumstance, foolishness, or ambition. This is also good fluff because it helps explain one of several reasons people might think your newly minted Roadwarden PC can help them. Everyone's heard the stories of what heroes the Empire's weary road cops are! Of course one of them would be willing to get together a few mates and head into the dark forest to rescue some missing townspeople. Add to that that Roadwardens are pretty good fighters for 1st tiers who come with decent gear, a horse, and a gun and you're all set for your Roadwarden to really live the ridiculous stories they've heard at the tavern.
The Raconteur is another fun class: They're a really solid Basic social class based around storytelling and charm. These are the people who get paid to read novels aloud for an audience at the Empire's taverns, or who improv their own stories as they travel from place to place. They're literate, they're good performers at both comedy and storytelling, they're charming and good with language, and they've got plenty of reason to join a party of adventurers: Real, true to life stories sell way better! As long as you make sure to embellish them properly. The Raconteur's job as a public reader is actually very important to the Empire; it produces quite a bit of written work and novels and news-sheets are becoming very popular, but most people can't read them for themselves. The Raconteur doesn't just read the news, they comment on it and interact with their audience; if the audience just wanted to know what the new-sheet said they could've tossed a penny to a broke university student and asked them.
The fun part about them comes in their add-on fluff, about the Famous Brotherhood of Adventurers, Explorers and Gentlemen (also known as the Liar's Guild). A group of Raconteurs who dress up in elaborate costumes and personas as 'Adventurers', they meet to talk all about their death-defying exploits and wow their audiences with completely fictitious and outrageous tales of extraordinary deeds. For fun, though, they'll pay a real adventurer a few shillings and beer money to come and talk of their true-life exploits. The problem is, most adventurers aren't very good storytellers. You get a Questing Knight or Slayer on stage to talk matter-of-factually about exactly how you demolish a hydra single-handed (you go for the heart, the heads are a trap, we know this from OWB) or talking about how most real duels between champions last a couple minutes at most, and they'll be booed off the stage. After all, everyone knows adventures are wild things with lots of plot twists and ribald comedy. So your PCs get an offer of a night's beer money and dinner, go to tell people their true stories, and suddenly find themselves facing a drunk crowd that demands fun and that has plenty of rotten fruit to hand. Fun for a brief comedy interlude.
They also get some nice adventure hooks: One has a Raconteur turning the PCs' exploits into a very popular farce that makes them out to be bumbling idiots. It catches on, and might ruin their reputations, but on the other hand now a famous playwright is offering them a bunch of money to write their story for the stage. Do they try to correct the record, or is a purse of gold crowns (without getting shot at for it!) worth more than their pride? Naturally, the other Adventure Seed has a Raconteur piss off the woman he's cheating on, so she hires some thugs and protagonists to come break his legs. He passes himself off as a member of the PC party and flees out a window. Now they have to deal with mistaken identity and hunt down the lying rogue. Simple, but classic. I like that there are several adventure hooks throughout this book about popular perceptions of the PC party; all this popular culture stuff isn't irrelevant to what PCs do. They're the stuff of Imperial popular entertainment, and as they start to acquire a reputation by succeeding in adventures (or just surviving them) people might take note and start using them as fodder for the novels and stories the Imperial public demands. Which can have a huge effect on how people regard them. "Hey, you're so-and-so from the novels!"
Now, on to the issues of elves. One of the problems for elves in WHFRP2e is that they just don't get very much fluff, and the fluff they do get doesn't really differentiate between Wood/High Elf. You have one High Elf-flavored class (The Envoy, a diplomat/merchant Basic) and two Wood Elf themed ones (Kithband Warrior, an unusual Basic designed to work with what Elves start out with, and Ghost Strider, the Elf-only 3rd tier Ranger) but for the most part elves are going to be in classes whose fluff is mostly aimed at humans. Also, weirdly, despite being known throughout the Old World for how the majority of their soldiers are militiamen, elves can't actually have the Militia class. Which is a bit annoying, as Militia to Veteran (which Militia normally can't go into, but hey, it's a logical exit I'd consider adding for them since they can do Sergeant) would be perfect for a High Elf Spearman or Bowman going into the Sea Guard as they become a professional. There's a big paucity of elf fluff in 2e (especially High Elf fluff), which is one of the reasons that over time my group made up so much of its own.
The other issue is...well, the fluff that is there for the classes isn't very good. The Kithbander's fluff additions here are exactly what you'd expect from very stereotypical fantasy elves: They hate how ungainly and weird and fast human lives are, humans envy them for their grace and long life, they're masters of the woods and bow who unfailingly oppose Chaos but are slowly losing because elves are always slowly losing. The actual class is a decent 1st tier Ranger with a wide variety of skills and a starting Elfbow (the best ranged weapon in the game), so it's a good Career. Just the fluff is really dully. Same for the Ghost Strider. They're exactly what you expect from a woodsy elf: Excellent tracker, masterful shot, wanders around alone killing monsters, surrounded by pet foxes. The only unexpected bit is that Ghost Striders get along surprisingly well with Dwarf Slayers. They're both kind of weirdo wandering monster killers, so a Strider is usually happy to guide a Slayer to whatever hideous thing they're hunting in the forest and then give them some fire support, so long as the Slayer isn't after any Elf Grudges today. Envoys are young elves picked by the Ulthuan Merchant Families to come work in what they consider a shitty third world country. They're picked because the pace of work necessary to do business directly with humans is absolutely grinding to an elf; they're used to being able to just take a month off to frolic or whatever it is elves do to fill all that time. Which you can't do with humans. If you do that, you come back to an overloaded inbox and probably at least one warehouse on fire. So they're basically elf interns given a job their seniors at the firm hate.
See, there? That's actually an interesting thing. The idea that being able to live at a human pace is a genuine talent some elves have and if they don't have it, the job is a fucking nightmare for them that they fob off on the youngest members of their firm, who does the job until they have a nervous breakdown and run off to become a PC (they specifically note that many Envoy PCs are ones who have just said 'sod my career' and walked off the job, preferring the insanity of adventure to dealing with that anymore). That's actually cool! A put-upon elven accountant and functionary who had a breakdown from the stress and ran off to try to be a hero instead because they can't take their dull, grinding, over-working internship anymore? Awesome. This is the kind of stuff I expect from Hams, and it's the sort of seeds we based a lot of our version of Ulthuan on. The problem is that almost every class in the game assumes it's writing about humans, even though elves can be those things. You don't get a lot on what an Elf Thug looks like; we had to invent that. I mean what does an Elf Pit Fighter look like? It would have been neat to have some official stuff on that, and it was obviously planned (Sigmar's Heirs promises Elf and Dwarf books are coming soon) but alas.
Dwarfs don't really have the same problem just because they get talked about far more, since they're much more deeply integrated into the Empire. Incidental fluff in other books is very likely to tell you a lot about dwarfs, after all.
Finally for this update, there's not a lot added to the Ratcatchers in this book. This makes me a bit sad. The main thing added is that Ratcatchers truly understand the mind of the rat. They spend a great deal of time trying to get inside the rat's head, so understand how best to trap it. Their terrier is important not just because the dog can kill rats, but also because Ratcatchers tend to go nose-blind from dealing with filth all the time. The dog can still smell and can track by smell or tell when something's wrong, where the Ratcatcher long ago stopped being able to smell anything. They do get some decent adventure hooks, though. One has the Running of the Rats, an Altdorf tradition where they set fires at certain points in the sewers to drive out the rats and have competitions to catch as many as possible. The problem is this sometimes drives out cultists, monsters, infiltrating beastmen, Skaven, escaped Moulder experiments, or worse, and suddenly the Ratcatchers and PCs may find themselves struggling to contain something much more terrible than squeaking rodents. In the other, a town is terrified of an odd phenomena: All their rats have disappeared. As Ratcatchers truly know the mind of the rat, a PC Ratcatcher is hired to come in and consult on what the hell happened to the rats and maybe to bring them back. It's just not a town if it doesn't have a few rats. Too few rats is as unnerving as too many.
Next Time: Academia and Adventure
Adventures in Academia
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
Adventures in Academia
As you might imagine, academia can be a little more exciting in a world where some books are filled with magical traps designed to let the devil get at your soul. One of the things that's always bugged me a bit in WHFRP 2e is that the setting makes it clear in fluff
that you sometimes need to delve into forbidden knowledge to understand your enemy enough to beat them. Unfortunately, the mechanics have never backed this up; as you saw in Tome of Corruption, delving into forbidden lore just tends to be a save or die with no mechanical benefit. Thanks, Schwalb, you did a bang-up job making Chaos a fun thing to engage with. The reason I bring this up is that the Academics are fun and interesting characters and careers that suffer from a problem common to Academics in RPGs: Their actual mechanical utility is really variable. Moreover, the fact that Academic Knowledge is like 18 subskills means you're always guessing if you have the one you actually need. Some are broadly useful (History, Magic, Demonology, Necromancy) but others are very specialized and leave you guessing if you spent EXP on something that will come up.
Still, we've been over that before; WHFRP has too many skills in general, and this is not a problem the new edition seems interested in solving. I suspect some of this is a function of 4e trying to have 64 character classes that are all 4 tier advance schemes in and of themselves, and similarly that it's a function of having 220 Careers in 2e. Having a shit-ton of Skills makes it easier to keep mechanically differentiating these things, I suppose, but it's still annoying and still a general flaw of the system. No game needs Concealment and Move Silently. If you game has Concealment and Move Silently (and god forbid, Shadowing) as separate skills, your skills are generally too narrow. It's especially egregious because some 'skill types' are very broad: See how widely applicable Charm is. A single skill already makes you a reasonably competent diplomat. Anyway, I digress.
Student is the marquee Basic Career of the Academic line and it's really good. Really, really good. It's like Soldier, but for learning: You start out able to do what a party wants a learned character to do, day one. They're smart, they're actually pretty good with people, and they have the amusing and flavorful choice of how good of a student they were in their skill picks. You can either go for more Academic Knowledges or you can be better at socializing, depending on how much you paid attention in classes versus how much you went to town to get drunk. Imperial Universities are the pride of their cities. Every major Imperial city has a college of its own, and possibly several, ever since the very first recognizable university was established in Nuln. Also notable: Most Imperial Universities receive generous grants from their provincial governments and noble families, and they are considered state institutions. The Empire is proud of its centers of learning, but also recognizes the value of having places that train military officers, officials, engineers, doctors, and lawyers in order to run its goddamn mess of a government. University in the Empire is very free-wheeling in exactly how much you manage to learn; most students don't so much drop out as run out of money halfway through either their first or second degree. Also, you don't need anything to be admitted to most Imperial Universities besides money for tuition (or loans, many students are in terrible debt) and the ability to demonstrate basic literacy.
Also amusing: Halflings managed to negotiate a state scholarship for Halfling students attending Imperial Universities. The little guys might be 'irrelevant', but they're surprisingly good at politics and getting benefits for the Moot and its citizens when they want to be. Never underestimate that +10 Fellowship. Also, elves generally don't attend human universities, which is probably because most elves wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace. Which is a shame, because a 'city elf' wearing slashed sleeves and a big hat getting into drinking contests with a bunch of rowdy Imperial students and then brawling over someone insulting their ears would be fun. Because of the financial issues, many Student PCs are people who had the talent and learning to finish school, but not the money. Without an actual degree, it's hard to make a career as an official or lawyer. So who knows how many PCs are just trying to get enough money to finish college, only to get swept up in a new career of grim and perilous adventure?
The example Student character is pretty fun. An old Imperial Sergeant named Nicolai Kessler who fought in a Handgunner regiment, until a terrible battle cost him his eye and his left hand. He had a reputation for being good at teaching young nobles and freshly graduated officers how to adapt to commanding a unit in battle, and his many friends from his career suggested a career in academia could suit him now that he was too injured to fight. Entering university despite the requirement of basic literacy, he caught up and learned to read, and now he's a famous professor in Nuln. This is pretty accurate to someone 200-ing into a new career track: Student will set you up to become an expert scholar even if you knew nothing about academics before entering it.
The other nice thing Students have that they share with most of the academic classes? They have a huge variety of good Exits. They have a bunch of other 1st tier tracks open to them (an ex-Student can become a wizard apprentice, an initiate, a barber-surgeon if you want a quick dip to being a dedicated doctor type and don't want to go all in on Physician, or they can even become political Agitators) but also a wide variety of 2nd tiers: Engineer, Physician, Agent of the Shroud (Vampire Hutner Spy), and Scholar. I consider Student one of the ideals of what a well done Basic looks like.
What other sorts of fun academics are there? Well, there's the Dilettante, which you might recognize from Pierre in Paths of the Damned. Dilettante is an interesting class added new to this book. As you might imagine from the name, they're wealthy folk who love to dabble in a bunch of broad, narrow, self-taught disciplines and arts. They know a little about a ton of things, but have a weird side-rule that you can't buy +10s while in Dilettante; you have to finish the Career and move on. They just don't do Skill Mastery. They also have a simple advance scheme: +5% to all stats. The real interesting bit for them, though, is that they are a Career Exit roundhouse: Any Career that includes Read/Write in its skills can enter Dilettante. And their Exits list is immense. They can become Apprentice Wizards, Astrologers, Barber Surgeons, Catechists (religious professors), Charlatans, Courtiers, Initiates, Navigators, Rapscallions, Raconteurs, Students, Tomb Robbers, Tradesmen, OR Verenan Investigators
. That's a hell of a list. Now remember something: If you've been in a Career, its Exits are always Exits for you. So if you've finished Dilettante, you can always choose to go into any of the above at the end of any future Career. Plus, a bunch of those are just good Careers.
They also get a lot of fun fluff. They're excited amateurs, wealthy dabblers who just choose to spend their wealth and their time on learning whatever takes their fancy; learning is a luxury for them rather than a profession. As a result, while others in their fields usually look down on them, they're also a wonderful source of patronage and funding for real experts. As long as you can put up with them bothering you with excited questions and asking for the occasional book signing, these enthusiastic amateurs and their many clubs and 'academies' help keep the dedicated academics of the setting funded and working. The example academy was founded by a Dilettante who had the self-awareness to realize he isn't an expert in anything. He knows this is just his hobby and embraces it, and Herr Bernloch is very eager to support 'real' scholars while happily reading their books and trying to boost their careers. He's a litttttle overzealous in trying to get real experts to join his Academy of Arts and Sciences, though, and so there are rumors he accidentally let a Necromancer in. Along with a Druchii poisoner who now lectures on chemistry and herbalism.
I like to imagine the Dark Elf is totally legit now, though. Someone who just said 'fuck this' and moved to a new country where she can play around with making drugs and giving lectures about medicine. That'd be a fun NPC with a dark past that can catch up with her.
Engineers are one of the marquee Advanced Academics. Warhams has always had a lot of fun with ridiculous fantasy engineering to go with their magic, and I appreciate it. The Engineer Career could maybe use a little more oomph; they're a secondary ranged class of sorts but primarily an academic, and if they just had Rapid Reload to go with Master Gunner they'd be able to do that job a lot better. They're a fairly short 2nd tier, actually; they're smart and they're decent shots, but depending on what Career you came in from (Student, Tradesman, Miner, or Artisan) you might already have many of their skills, making how long you stay a matter of how much extra you want to spend for +10s. They do learn Engineer OR Gunpowder weapons, though, so you can use a Hochland Longrifle or learn to use pistols. Sadly, Repeater Firearms are pretty weak RAW since they don't have Impact.
Imperial Engineers are very odd people. The School of Engineering in Altdorf was founded 500 years ago, and the city's been weirder ever since. Yes, Altdorf has both the magic academy and the crazy science academy. Traditionally, the School of Engineering is focused almost entirely on devices useful to the Imperial Army. They invented the many-barreled Hellblaster Volley Gun. They built the unreliable and basic rocket batteries used by Imperial Artillery. They trained adorable carrier pigeons to drop bombs on people. A recent controversy has seen some famed professors start to say the School should be working on civilian equipment to ease the burden of labor in agriculture and industry. There have even been proposals to try to adapt the engines used in the Steam Tanks to some sort of hand-loom to more quickly process textiles. Yes, the Empire is potentially on the edge of unlocking its own Industrial Revolution despite being in the 16th/17th century in most ways. These ideas are scoffed at; workers would riot if they suspected the School was trying to replace them with automatons. Moreover, it's the duty of the Imperial Engineers to make things explode! Also they don't actually know how the Steam Tanks work; the Tilean who built them left his notes behind in code and they haven't been able to puzzle them out. Engineers in the Empire do that a lot, fearful someone else will steal their inventions.
Imperial Engineering, like all other things Imperial, is a goddamn mess. Should also be noted the School admits plenty of radical Dwarfs who were too wild for their own guilds. If you're a renegade Dwarf scientist who plays by their own rules and doesn't care about spending 300 years in prototyping, the Imperials would be happy to give you a job and a degree!
Journeymen Wizards get some fun fluff additions here: Their entry in the Compendium really emphasizes how they're a working graduate student. They try to avoid using magic as much as possible, because magic is dangerous and they aren't great at it yet. They're obsessively bookish because most of them still have coursework to get through before they can be considered for promotion to Magister. They're trying to finish their coursework while having their requisite character-building adventures, earning enough money to live on, and trying not to get killed by orcs. It's funny to me that for the majority of a campaign, a Wizard PC is still a student of some kind; Journeyman Wizard is the longest point in the Wizard track. Unless you want to stick around for a ton of +10s, Master Wizard doesn't really have new skills or talents: By the end of Journeyman, you know almost everything you really need to know to finish the bare minimum of Master Wizard and get into being a Wizard Lord. Of course, if your GM is using the Trappings system, that's going to bottleneck you on getting into Master Wizard and might send your Journeyman scurrying down other Career tracks: Promoting into Master Wizard requires 2 Magical Items under RAW.
Academia in Warhams can be a fun place, between the ridiculous wizard colleges and the many Imperial Universities. I just wish it was better supported mechanically and less reliant on playing a guessing game about which Knowledge skills will be useful. At least Intelligence is always useful for having someone with Heal and a good Perception roll around; no matter what sort of adventure you find yourself on, an academic is usually useful with bandages and they're generally sharp eyed. There are plenty of other Academic Careers, these are just the ones I feel have the most amusing fluff or the most solid mechanics; most of the Advanced Academic Careers get fairly boring fluff additions even though most of them are quite useful as classes (if you wanted to be good at being a doctor or a translator or a scholar).
Next Time: Warriors
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
I've talked before about what makes a useful warrior class in WHFRP. The things that distinguish a primary hand-to-hand fighter on a team are having access to Dodge, +1 Attacks, a decent starting WS advance, and Strike Mighty Blow. If you have at least 2 or 3 of those things, you can handle defending your team in early combats. Some classes get all those things! Diestro, Soldier, Knight Errant, Protagonist, Squire, Troll Slayer, Norse Reaver, Mercenary, Dwarf Shieldbreaker...all those can do everything you want from a primary fighter right out of the gate. There are lots of less fully optimized but still useful fighters, though. And most importantly, only Slayers are really truly 'single class fighter' types the way you imagine them from D&D. Yes, Soldier-Veteran-Champion is going to lack for non-combat utility a bit, but they still have Heal from Soldier, at least.
Why do Warriors often start off with a second attack? Because the system math means hitting and doing damage is reasonably low-chance early on. Having two swings is one of your best ways to raise your odds. Not only that, remember that in an average party, you're probably only going to have one or two dedicated warriors to start with. Lots of other classes are good enough at fighting to pitch in, and the team's Warrior will depend on that, but if this person's going to do the heavy lifting when the team's in a fight, they'd better be pretty good at it. That said, low level warriors generally lack for armor, which makes combat much more dicey. That first Career is the most dangerous part of a Warrior's life.
Why don't we take a look at one of the worst dedicated warrior starts in the game, and talk about why they suck? Especially since they have very cool fluff. The Norscan Berserker is a miserably bad class. They get very good stat advances (+15 WS, +10 S, +10 T, +10 WP, +2 Wounds) but you'll note they're missing +1 Attacks in there. Their overall skills and what they can do outside of combat aren't great; they have Intimidate, they can tell stories with performer, and they can swim. They're good at being Intimidating since they get Menacing as a Talent (+10 Intimidate) and they get Quick Draw and Specialist Weapons (Two Handed). Then they get Frenzy. They also do not learn Dodge. You will note that outside the +15 WS they have literally nothing that makes a character a good warrior. The only redeeming part of the class is their decent Exits, but the good ones are the same as Soldier. Meanwhile a Soldier's coming in with Dodge, 2 attacks, the option to choose between ranged or melee, Strike Mighty, etc. The thing is, the extra +10 S doesn't really matter early on. By the time the Berserk has access to Strike Mighty, the Soldier is also in Veteran or Sergeant and can just buy +10 Str themselves. The Berserk gets a lot better as they promote, yeah, but the key is they're weak at Career 1 and Career 1 is where you're going to die if things go wrong. And the Berserk doesn't get better in ways that a normal Soldier or Mercenary does; they just end up about the same but with a weaker start point and the shitty Frenzy Talent.
Their fluff is great, though! The Empire actually has no idea that there's no such thing as organized Berserk Lodges and things up in Norsca. The Berserks make up all kinds of stories about the epic deeds of their homeland (because Norscans already love exaggerated tall tales and boasting) and Imperials just believe them, which gives them a reputation well beyond their abilities. The majority of Norse Berserks weren't even Berserks back up in Norsca. They just played the part when they came down to the Empire because Imperials pay you more as a mercenary if you're an exotic, frothing norse warrior with rippling abs. Most find it comes pretty easy to them once they get started. They're very fashionable bodyguards in Marienburg, where the buff, savage Norscan image is also very in vogue among the city's elite. The Norse are quite happy to take jobs where they get paid to stand around and look good, too. Especially since it's led to a lot of Marienburger kids with Norscan features.
The Norse also worry about a darker rumor: Some Berserks are supposedly encoded with secret orders from Chaos, without realizing it. Dark sorcerers are said to implant code-phrases into them, phrases that will cause their Frenzy to trigger the moment they're heard, making the Berserk kill everyone around them in a suicidal rage. The warriors so programmed are (assuming any of these rumors are true) completely unaware of this. Almost every Berserk laughs off these silly rumors. Almost all of them are afraid they might be one of these suicide warriors.
See all that cool fluff? It's all attached to a terrible class. Just take the Norse Reaver class instead since they're mechanically great and have the same sorts of Exits and attach the flavor to being a viking.
I've mentioned the Champion before, but the Champion is really the measuring stick against which other 3rd tier Warriors are judged. If you just want to kill shit, becoming a Champion will make you awesome at it (and nothing else). They have tremendous fighting ability, agility, and talent access. They don't get anything else and they're a very long class by virtue of how much they pick up. Still, any character that's finished Champion is about as strong as a human (or elf, or dwarf, or somehow, halfling) character gets in this combat system without using the weird add-on stuff. Thus, they're a good benchmark for 'can a combat-optimized PC win a fight?' Their added fluff in this book is about how soldiers who reach this level almost uniformly feel a calling to the martial arts. You simply don't get this good without being fairly passionate about what you do. Regiments have to keep their Champion occupied, because these soldiers are valuable as instructors and living emblems for the unit, but they also need constant challenges to keep on this level.
The example of what a Champion can aspire to do tells of Dagmar Nachtgeben (Dagmar Nightgiver, in Shitty Warhams German? Really?), a Champion of a unit of Middenheimer Greatswords. When his unit was dying or falling back and the walls of Middenheim were breached by a Hellcannon shot, this one Greatswordsman stood in the way and plugged the gap single-handed. In the process of dueling anything that came his way, he killed over twenty Marauders and Beastmen, three Aspiring Champions of Chaos, and finally crossed swords with an actual Chaos Lord before hurling himself and the Lord over the battlements with his last breath. That is absolutely something a Champion PC could do in a single battle. That's really not the normal Warhams exaggerated deed; if you've finished this Career, you could win that fight provided they couldn't come at you all at once (say if you were holding a small breach in a wall). That's the level of strength a PC in this career actually gets to, and that's why I say they make a good benchmark for 'can a PC reasonably kill it by themselves'.
Knights also deserve some note: Knights mix being social and being a very skilled fighter. They're not quite as good as a Champion (Especially as a Champion and the Veteran before them masters Ranged and Melee both) but they're still damned tough as warriors, while having the most important of the social and political skills in their track. They're also really unusual for having a 4th tier introduced in Tome of Salvation. Grandmaster isn't really much stronger than other 3rd Tier fighting classes; you never get above say +40 to WS, and +30 to S or T is the absolute cap for PC Careers, which they don't even reach. I'm really not sure what the Grandmaster is meant to do, mechanically, besides finish out the Knight track with slightly better combat abilities and the opportunity to +10 a shitload of social and political skills. Still, a Knight knowing how to maneuver through high society can be even more helpful to a team than a pure combatant; a fight you avoid by talking your way through is a fight that doesn't kill any of your PCs.
Mercs also get a huge mechanical and flavor boost in Career Compendium, and they were already very good 1st tier starting fighters. Mercs are notable for having a ton of choices among their starting skills and talents, but for some reason the Compendium bit adds an extra pair of talents (choose one or the other) to Merc based on what country you came from, and gives you a little extra starting gear. Tileans come with pikes or crossbows and know how to use both. Imperials might know how to use a buckler or might be better shots. Kislevites are extra brave or very good with their fists. Arabians are amazing riders or experts with fencing weapons. Norscan Mercs get...Frenzy or Menacing, but on a much better class than Berserk so uh, Berserk goes even further out the window. So just out of nowhere, instead of any extra fluff on the career in general, Mercenary gets an extra talent and more gear for using this book. And again: They were already good. It's baffling, and helps speak to this book being one with a lot of different authors; some don't seem to have realized they weren't really meant to add any more mechanical stuff.
Fighters in general are specialized, useful party members. Almost everyone in WHFRP will learn to fight at least a little as they level up. Most characters get some degree of WS and BS advance, after all. And a fair number of Career paths will pick up a second attack, or even learn Dodge. But only the dedicated warrior types will have everything they need to optimize Use Zweihander On Goatman as a puzzle solving solution. What's always been interesting to me is how quickly they get the core of what they need. I suppose it's the same principle as a Thief knowing what they need to know to steal shit, or the Student being a learned and useful PC right off the bat. Whatever flavor of warrior your team has, they know their business. Unless they're a Norse Berserk, in which case you should ask the GM to let you take Reaver or Merc (Norscan) instead so you don't suck.
Seriously, no idea why that class is so bad. Exhibit 1 in the many exhibits of 'This System Massively Overvalues Frenzy For Some Reason'.
Next Time: Peasants!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
One of the odd and interesting things about WHFRP is that almost everything in it is written as if a character was a human. This is very, very apparent when you get to the various 'Ranger' classes, which are perfect fits for elves and are very common starting Careers for elves...but are all written about being human. Meaning that the Woodsman's fluff is all about how they sometimes clash with the Wood Elves because they cut down trees and Wood Elves are considerably more proactive and violent than the Lorax. Despite the fact that the Woodsman Career is a common starting Career for elves.
This sort of thing is the same stuff that leads to Liniel of Caledor: Elf Gunslinger. Which is even more common in WHFRP4e, because classes like Cavalry are some of the only ones available to Wood Elves, but assume that you are an Empire Pistolier, so it would seem to be fairly common for a Glade Rider to come trotting out of the forest, be exposed to handguns, then throw their longbow in the trash and start blowing beastmen's brains out. Not that I mind that element because it's fun, it's just a weird unintentional effect of almost all Careers' fluff assuming they're writing about humans.
Anyway, Rangers are people who are good in forests and wilderness locations. They are often reasonably good fighters, too. Usually with a bow, though not always. Given Longbows are some of the best ranged weapons in 2e, this is hardly a problem. Rangers are best in the woods, yes, but they're helped out by something unique to 2e. 2e is the only WHFRP of the various percentile systems that does NOT treat stealth differently in urban and rural areas. That's right, for some insane reason, 4e went back to doing what 1e did and made Urban and Rural stealth different skills that you have to advance separately (and added Underground Stealth). In 2e, there are instead specific Talents that boosted your stealth skills in those environments (Tunnel Rat, Rover, and Alley Cat), but the general stealth skills work anywhere. Same for skills about tracked and following people. 2e still separates Move Silent and Concealment like the monsters they are (If you have a separate Hide and Sneak skill in your game, this is one of the sure signs you have too many skills) but they work anywhere. Thus, while a Ranger type is usually better (thanks to Rover giving them +10 in rural areas) in the woods, they're not bad at all at stalking and tracking in a city and that's always useful, too.
The two marquee Rangers are the Hunter and the Woodsman. Both really showcase what makes a Ranger Career.
The Hunter is an excellent shot (+15% BS in Career 1) but gets no bonus attacks, no Dodge, no Mighty Shot, etc. They're perceptive, good at stealth, good in the woods (as you'd expect), and they know how to use Longbows (and if you already had Longbow from being an Elf, you can take Hardy for +1 Wounds in its place!). They get good stat boost talents (they can take Lightning Reflexes OR Very Resilient, both great gets and worth sticking around to get both) and get Marksman if they don't want Rover immediately. A perfectly average human PC who went for everything they could get out of Hunter would hit BS 51% by the end of their first Career, and it isn't even a primary fighting Career. They also all get Rapid Reload, which is basically a core Talent to shooting the same way Strike Mighty is to melee. They're good shots, good at stealth, good at finding things and tracking, and they even know how to set traps and snares. Really solid starting Career (and the Career of the first PC I ever ran a full campaign for!).
Amusingly, their fluff additions here talk all about how the horse, dog, and hawk help Hunters, but...they don't get Animal Training. Or Ride. So a Hunter can't actually use half the tools their additional fluff talks about here with just their first class. Most of their fluff is about the tools they use, but also talks about how many Hunters are employed as game wardens for the Imperial Forests. While lots of the Empire is open for common hunting, plenty of the best hunting grounds aren't. Even if the noble who owns them doesn't go hunting at all (which is becoming increasingly common as the Empire urbanizes, though hunting is still a traditional way to keep in shape and relax for nobles) no-one else is allowed to touch the game that belongs to them.
The other real power of the Hunter is their Exits. For one, Hunters who want to be pure fighters who always remember their ranger skills can go into Soldier, which will fill in some more general abilities while being a pretty quick 2nd Career for them. Certainly a worthwhile option. Scout is the classic Ranger 2nd Tier, doing everything you want from a Ranger in one class (Gets all the Shooting talents, gets some decent melee ability, gets even better in the woods). And Targeteer is a really interesting 2nd Tier: It breaks a bunch of the normal 'stat caps' because it only does one thing. It shoots. It shoots really well. Targeteers get a massive +40 to BS in a 2nd Tier Career, plus +1 Attacks and all the Shooting talents like Mighty Shot and Sure Shot. If you just wanted to longbow some guys, Hunter to Targeteer can get you a 2nd tier PC with a 70-80 BS. More if you're an elf. The elfiest possible elf can hit BS 95% then and there and just never miss.
The Woodsman is the other side of the coin. They're similarly good at doing Ranger things, but they're melee characters for their secondary combat focus instead. They get the rare and valuable Fleet Footed talent for one, and +10 WS and Str. Still no Dodge or second attack, and no Strike Mighty Blow; they're not primary fighters. They do get Two Handed Weapons and start with a great-axe in addition to their standard Hand Weapon and Dagger like most PCs, though. Unlike the Hunter, they focus on being athletic, fast, and ambushing enemies with a bigass axe while still being good enough in the forest to guide a party through. Their fluff actually talks about how their misunderstandings with the Wood Elves are just that; the average Imperial Woodsman isn't trying to clear-cut the forest. Most are devotees of Taal and Rhya, and most are careful to plant seeds as they work. They clear undergrowth, try to prevent forest fires, and try to nurture saplings so they'll have more wood to cut later. It's more likely that they'll cause friction just because Wood Elves are territorial and it's pretty likely a Woodsman might wander into their neck of the woods by mistake. Incidents over illicit logging camps or overreach are more political than environmental.
Note that only applies with the Imperial Wood Elves. If you try to set up an illicit logging camp in parts of Bretonnia you end up with the ninja hillbilly elf equivalent of the Blair Witch Project happening to you instead.
The example Woodsman is even an example of a human who gets on fine with his elf neighbors. Thangir Hrolkson was out playing in the forest near his home when he stumbled on a bunch of odd children singing songs and dancing in a nice grove. Both sides being kids, when he scampered over to join in, they let him. So he grew up learning Eltharin and playing with elf kids near Laurelorn while they taught him a bunch about the trees. Now he works for a local lord, helping keep the border between elf territory and his Lord's lands and helping to direct the logging operations such that they don't interfere with his friends. For the most part, both sides are happy; humans think he's weird, but the elves exchange gifts regularly and no-one gets shot, plus he's a good Woodsman.
Scout is kind of the be all and end all of Ranger 2nd Tiers. You can get to it from a lot of places, and it sort of does everything you want a Ranger to do. Scouts are good shots (+20 BS), decent with a melee weapon (+20 WS), physically fit, agile, intelligent, and fairly brave. Their big weakness is they get absolutely 0 Fel and no people skills. The Career does make you a pretty good shot, though. And it teaches you Longbow and Rapid Reload if you didn't have it (Or Crossbow, but if you take Crossbow you are a fool; Repeater Crossbows are inexplicably terrible). Anything you didn't know about the wilderness you'll learn in Scout, which also means you have opportunities to pay for Skill+10 in a everything you knew coming into it. Scout is so omnipresent as a Ranger 2nd Tier that it's hard to think of a Ranger track that doesn't consider going into it at some point. Its fluff is pretty unspectacular, and it's just well designed to do exactly what it says it will do. They even get Dodge!
More interesting is an option you get from Terror in Talabheim. The Knight of the Verdant Field is a 2nd Tier Ranger, and very unusual for an Imperial Knight. These are an order of Myrmidians, rather than Taalites or Rhyans. Originally, they were a branch of the Knights of the Blazing Sun, Myrmidia's famous Imperial Templars, stationed to defend the Drakwald Forest and Talabheim. Being decent strategists, they came to study the area and quickly concluded that 'dense, dark German forest' is not a good environment for standard heavy cavalry. Studying how other forces that fought in similar environments succeeded, the Order's leadership came to the conclusion they would be best off retraining as rangers, ambushers, and archers to try to mimic the style of the Laurelorn elves.
Not only are they a pretty powerful and interesting variant on Scout (they have very similar stat advances available), they also say some neat stuff about Myrmidian Templars. They're open-minded enough to look carefully at what worked and why, and to retrain themselves into doing what they've observed. They're a curious mixture of the Woodsman and Hunter approach (and you can enter the Career from either), being significantly better in melee than the average Scout (they get Strike Mighty) but worse at ranged (no Rapid Reload, so if you didn't have it before 2nd Tier, you won't get it here and that really hurts your Longbow). They can also get Fleet Footed OR Keen Senses (and in reality, you'll stick around to get both) which is nuts. Keen Senses giving you +20% on all Perception tests is great, since it was originally a rules workaround to give animals and things good Per tests without them having high Int. Their one weakness is they can't Exit into any 3rd Tiers, but hey. You do Knight of the Verdant Field and Exit into Veteran or Scout, you'll finish it quick. They can also Exit into Myrmidian Priest if they wish, which is a neat option. I'd generally prefer to play one for the variety because otherwise Scout is the all-devouring roundhouse of Exactly What You Wanted As A Ranger for all Ranger tracks.
Still, Rangers are very useful people to have around in WHFRP. Every character type is. Stealth, tracking, the ability to deal with dark forests full of Goatman Prime, and a decent ranged/secondary combat fallback makes for a heck of a teammate. And sometimes you're a Myrmidian Commando-Knight, so that's cool too.
Next Time: Do Crimes
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
Let's be real: Most adventurers are criminals to one degree or another. Your adventures are probably going to lead to situations where you break the law. At the very least you're going to be shadowing people, potentially breaking into their houses to search for evidence, possibly dealing in illegal goods, etc etc. As a result having a Crime Guy on your team, for whom crimes are a profession rather than an incidental occupational hazard, is very useful. As an added bonus, Imperial popular culture loves the romantic version of the thief or master criminal. This is partly the influence of the Cult of Ranald, but I'd imagine some of it comes from the time a thief saved the Empire by stealing a magic ring from Vlad. Imperials will still throw you in a dungeon or have you hung if you're caught, sure, but if you can get away with your business they'll be really impressed with you. Criminal characters split time evenly between charlatan types and actual breaking-and-entering types, and many of the former can do some of the latter and vice-versa.
The headline Criminal basic Career is Thief. Thief can do a little of everything; it has the distinction of being one of those Careers with a ton of 'take this OR this' skills and talents. I really wish Thief got Dodge, but what can you do. They get a massive +15 Agility in their first Career, but they can also pick between being charming or good at climbing, disguising themselves or judging the value of goods, running con gambling games or picking locks, picking pockets or being literate, and are generally set up so that depending on your choices, this one Career can either be great at running scams and tricks or great at breaking and entering. Another of those Careers where it's not a bad idea to stick around for a couple hundred extra EXP and pick up some of those either-ors. Still, whichever type of crime they want to be good at, Thief is competent at it from the beginning.
Much like the Hunter and Woodsman, or the Soldier among fighters, Thief can also go into pretty much everything you'd want as an Exit. They can switch out to become Entertainers, Rogues (We'll cover them) or Tomb Robbers (The latter being kind of redundant but at least it'll be fast, and it does open some unique other options), or they can advance up to Charlatan (Extremely good at social crime), Cat Burglar (The same, but for breaking and entering), or Fence (Crime and mercantile skills, very quick, goes right into Master Thief or Crime Lord if you wish). You've got a solid Career track ahead of you if you started as a Thief. This is also one reason you might consider Servant to Thief; Servant's special Talent that got added in this book is useful to a Thief, as is having Dodge, and there's enough overlap that you won't be stuck in Thief for ages. Then slam into Fence and then Master Thief and you're an awesome super-criminal without taking forever.
Thief's fluff centers on everyone's favorite fantasy cliche: Thieves' Guilds. The Empire is rife with organized crime. Imperial Thieves' Guilds are as much of a mess as the rest of the Empire; every Guild insists every thief in their territory be a member. Junior thieves who are just starting their careers are pretty easy for veterans to catch by watching their fences or offering training, so most 1st tier Thieves end up attached to one of these. The issue is that many towns or territories have more than one Guild. The Guilds still insist everyone join them. They avoid gang warfare by pretending not to know the other Guild in their area exists, sometimes to the point of farce. This means that anyone operating in an area with multiple Guilds has to be members of both and has to pretend to one Guild they don't know about the other one. This is how Thief PCs end up leaving town to go on an adventure, because the patriarch of the von Drachen family gave them one job and the subsidiary family of Karpfen told them to do something opposite it, so...best to just skip town and join a new Guild. Otherwise that's how you start losing fingers and/or end up having to punch an entire crime syndicate. Usually ends with people shirtless and having a fistfight on top of the Cathedral of Sigmar.
Actually, that sounds rad. That would be a good campaign. Still, most Thieves aren't quite up to a life of furious punching and the bicycle hasn't been invented yet, which might make it a bit tougher.
The Rogue is the other major intro to crime class, kind of similar to how Woodsman and Hunter were two different approaches to the archetypal Ranger. Rogues are con-artists. Where the Thief is deft and physically quick, the Rogue is lucky, good at telling when they're in trouble, and great with people. These are bawds, 'guides', and scammers. While you get more specialized Careers for stuff like Raconteur or Gambler, Rogue works fine for either of those professions as is. They know a lot about talking fast, picking up on the true value of things (so as better to lie to people about it), making deals, and they're lucky as hell. Starting with the Luck Talent is really, really good; +1 Fortune a day is +1 Rerolls a day! Sixth Sense is another option, and it's a general 'any time you'd be ambushed, or you're walking into a trap, you get an extra WP test to sense if you just realize something's off' Talent. Note that works in addition to any sort of Per test to notice someone's about to ambush you, or Int tests to realize you're getting scammed; it's purely a bonus chance to realize you're in danger. Add in FLEE! and a Rogue is much better at picking up on and escaping trouble than the Thief.
Which is a pretty damn good thing to be good at as a starting WHFRP character! They also come with a (probably stolen) really nice outfit so they can try to pass themselves off as wealthier than they are.
They're a little more limited in where they go from Rogue, going into mostly Demagogue (an amazing social/political class that isn't bad in a fight, either) or Charlatan; their 1st tier Exits are mostly a wide variety of 'I got caught, now I'm an Outlaw or an Ex-Con or something'. The other notable thing about Rogue is a huge number of other classes can enter a Criminal track by entering Rogue.
The fluff they get is a pair of example Rogues to show off the styles you can play. One is a high Tilean official from the wealthy city of Luccini. Salvatore Fiorenzo Bellarmini di Rosselino e Luccini is in Altdorf to make an exclusive contract for a state monopoly with Emperor Karl Franz himself, and is simply exploring Imperial high society while he waits for the Emperor to see him, what with Karl being so busy with the wars and all. In the meantime, he is looking for reasonable business partners, someone worthy of making a huge amount of money by monopolizing trade between Altdorf and Luccini. His real name is Diego and he is an Estalian; he speaks Tilean well enough not to have a detectable accent around Imperials. He knows he only has so much time before someone notices who he really is, so he's selling as many 'confidential' agreements and guarantees among the less savvy Imperial nobles before he's caught. He plans to 'report back to his prince' with his stolen cash soon.
The other is a down on his luck playwright. Dominick Guildenstern (lol) is a genuinely talented playwright, but his real problem is he's A: A terrible businessman and B: Really good at talking his way into more loans. He's a Rogue by ability, luck, and nature, not so much by malice. So he has increasingly impossible to pay off debts, but he's talented enough to keep finding new sources of loans, from increasingly dangerous people. At the same time, his plays really are fantastic; if he was better at business, he'd be a rich and famous man. His latest plan for funding to pay off the crime lord he got funding from last time is to find Adventurers who have money from finding a pile of treasure and convincing them to invest next. He'd make a great PC, I think; a campaign where the players are constantly trying to fix their theater business, find the money to put on another performance, and survive the inevitable fallout of their investors until they make it could be great. And really, the play has everything! It's got love, murder, revenge, even a good bit with a dog. This can't possibly go wrong this time.
Let's also take a quick look at what an actual 3rd Tier criminal looks like with their archetypal 3rd Tier, the Master Thief. Master Thief is one of relatively few Careers to get a +40 to a stat (+40 Agility). They're competent in a fight (+20 to BS and WS both, +1 Attacks, pick up Dodge), amazingly graceful, excellent at pretty much every thieving skill, highly intelligent, decent with people, and generally just competent criminals in all forms of direct, personal criminal endeavor. By the time you're a Master Thief, you're as good at stealing as the Champion is at fighting. They don't really have anywhere to go from Master Thief professionally; you can go into stuff like Crime Lord but you're mostly at the top of your game vis a vis thieving and it might be time to consider another track if you somehow finish Master Thief during your campaign. You're a bit unlikely to do so because you need something like a total of 6000 EXP over your career as an Adventurer to have finished this Career.
Master Thieves are the kind of people who are so good at their job that they don't actually need Guilds any longer. Most of them have their own small support networks. These are the sorts of romantic, adventurey thieves who do the job as much to prove they can do the job as to get anything out of it. They stay quiet most of the time, waiting for something worth stealing to come up; a solid gold tablet brought back from Lustria, some ancient relic of Nehekara, a genuine magical treasure or a jewel the size of someone's fist. They have enough money from their prior work (and make so much from their current jobs when they carry one off) that they can afford to lead a fairly normal life while they study and plan for their big capers. These are the sorts of people the Empire wants to catch not because it can punish them, but because it's sort of traditional to make an offer to a captured Master Thief of 'hey, do this super dangerous and exciting quest/adventure for the good of the Empire and we'll let you go and pay you'. Imperial popular culture is full of daring adventure stories about this caliber of criminal, something that probably pleases them very much.
Crime is fairly self-explanatory, but the fact that most criminals are good at stealth and social skills at the same time makes them especially useful in WHFRP. Both those skill sets are very good for avoiding needless confrontations, though you can still run into the classic Thief problem where the Thief PC has all the skills necessary for a scene where they break in somewhere and the rest of the party doesn't need to get involved. The game could use a little more support for the rest of the party running interference or making it easier on their buddy; one of the things I really appreciated in the design on Myriad Song (and why I keep going back to referencing it when this comes up) was how it abstracted 'aid another' rolls to make it much easier to do just that. It's not hard to do the same here to solve this problem; say the rest of the party does stuff like start a staged fight to draw attention, or gets involved studying the floorplan of the mansion the Thief's breaking into to make their rolls easier inside. Thieves and criminals are useful, but it's important to keep everyone else involved if they get up to particularly big capers.
Next Time: Fish
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium
This is just going to be a random collection of things that didn't fit in neat categories and a conclusion. First, let's talk fish and what they mean.
So the Fisherman includes a bunch of Imperial fish. I'd like you to remember these are not fish considered tainted by Chaos. These are just fish. People in the Empire think these fish are normal. They include the Augas, a fish with a third eye on top of its head to spot predators. There is also the Sea Scorpion, which is an actual fish with a scorpion tail and venom, which it uses to stun larger predators to escape or to poison and eat smaller fish. The Taurus is a horned fish that has headbutting fights after it spawns. The Polypus is a buff fish. As in, a fish with two buff, clawed, grasping arms and hands attached to it. Bastards can potentially grab a fisherman and wrestle them to escape.
These are normal for Imperials. These are not considered weird fish. This is another example of how the world of WHFRP is a really fantastical and odd place. But the odd can be surprisingly commonplace. This is just a world that has scorpionfish. No-one thinks that's weird. Weird is what happens with the big Chaos Whales up in Norsca, who are almost all highly individual mutants and genetic aberrations that can be large enough to feed a settlement for months. As you might imagine, the Norse Whaler is a somewhat more hard-core fisherman, and is also a completely playable class that focuses on throwing harpoons. Selling whale oil to the Empire is one of the most profitable exports the Norse have. You gotta wonder if there are any weird side-effects to burning a bunch of highly magic-infused whale oil in a city like Altdorf, since it goes into the street lamps. After all, Altdorf is already magic as heck thanks to the fanciful wizard colleges.
Another little Career that doesn't really fit anywhere else that I enjoy is the Rapscallion. This is meant to be the adventuring upgrade to the Dilettante and was added in this very book. They do a little of everything, like Dilettante, but much more on the mold of being adventurous and active; their main stats are Agi and Fellowship (+25 and +30, respectively, which is very high for a 2nd tier). They're okay at fighting (+10 WS, +1 Attacks, get Dodge and Swashbuckler and Fleet of Foot) but fighting isn't really their main thing; the theme of the class is knowing just enough about a bunch of things to get yourself in trouble. This is because they are people who look for trouble, everywhere. These are meant to be Dilettantes (or other sorts) who fancy themselves dashing rogues and heroes. They spend their lives partying and socializing, looking for frightened or out of place people who might cause An Adventure. Considering Warhammer, this is an extremely dangerous hobby to have.
I like them because they're not out to rob or pick on people who are out of place; they earnestly offer to help them. They just find that helping out people lost in the big city is one of the best ways to get involved in exciting, daring action. They're very willing to put themselves in real danger, and to keep doing so; they might be kind of foolish but they're committed to playing at being a hero and I find that fluff endearing. Plus, the class's actual abilities are fun in play because you can never go wrong with someone who is okay at fighting, good at running away, and great at talking in this setting.
They also get a cute little detail that when they can't find excuses to stay up all night, they tend to go to bed early and act more responsibly; it helps them maintain their appearance. A night without a party is a good time to fix your clothes, pick out a new hat, and rest up so that you can go two days straight when you find some exciting intrigue and bumble your way into the middle of it next week. Another cute bit is one of their potential trappings is a pistol they don't actually learn to use, carried entirely for the sake of bluffing.
Another Career I find interesting fluff-wise (and got an entire plot arc out of) is the Friar. Friar isn't a great class mechanically; they're an option in place of going into Priest, but they're also an option for classes like the Vagabond. They're great at traveling and learn a wide variety of languages, theology, and some medical skills, and they're fairly short, but they don't have a huge amount to recommend them over just going Priest or something. What's interesting about them is their fluff, both their original write-up and the stuff they get in this book.
Friars come from the Imperial tradition of Mendicant Orders, started by St. Berndt of Wurtbad. Berndt was a Witch Hunter, and someone who saw so much violence and horror fighting against Slaaneshi cults that he stopped being able to be a man of action. He also came to the conclusion it was simply impossible to kill your way to defeating Chaos. Cults might have to be stopped, but you can't prevent them springing up just by killing everyone. He gave away his sword and possessions and took to the roads as a mendicant wanderer. He believed that providing an example of a simple life of travel and service would turn people away from Slaanesh.
Naturally, many Imperial Mendicant Orders are not so devoted to this ideal. After all, a Friar is on the road with very little supervision. Sometimes this is just a theological disagreement over what it means to bring word of a 'simple life', and sometimes it's the normal corruption that can come with religious authority in the Empire. One example given is the Order of St. Olga, a Mendicant Order that focuses on brewing the best ale they can as an act of devotion to Sigmar. Their founder was the daughter of a brewer who claimed she saw Sigmar in the foam on a freshly poured ale and took it as a sign that the Lord wanted people to remember simple and humble pleasures; she thought that was the way to fight Slaanesh, rather than total abstinence. The Friars of St. Olga are certainly popular (and relatively wealthy), because plenty of people agree with the idea that Sigmar would be happy with you having a few simple, nice things in your life. It's not what St. Brendt wanted, but it's still in the same vein.
They're fun people, even if the class can be a little meh. And it's not exactly bad, just a little awkward; some classes feel more intended for NPCs than PCs and I think Friar's one of them. The addition of the Prelate 3rd tier social/political priest does give them more of a reason to exist, though; Prelate is great at enhancing what a Friar character was good at to the point that it's worth specializing in, and they're one of the faster ways to get to that Career. Prelate was a class added in this book to represent high church officials and church politicians.
There are tons, tons more classes I could talk about mechanically and flavor-wise, but I think this is enough to give a sample of why the Career Compendium is really worth getting if you want to run WHFRP 2e. It also introduces an actual huge table using a d1000 to roll for starting career (bringing in all the new Basics from all the supplement books), as well as 'regional' Career tables and Careers-by-general-role rolling tables. So say you want to play an Academic of some kind but still want to roll randomly, there's an Academic table for you. It's a really great resource for getting a little more out of the best part of WHFRP2e. The added fluff and flavor is usually pretty good, and I haven't even been properly going into how many explicit adventure seeds the book has. Having everything in one place is also a boon as a reference book, and at heart, Career Compendium is a reference book.
It's a very hard book to cover in this format, though, because...220 Careers. The best I could do is talk about some of what they mean mechanically and why the Career system itself is such a core part of WHFRP. Really, if you're interested in 2e and pick up the huge bundle Cubicle 7 released in PDF to go along with 4e, spare some time to flip through the Compendium. It's helped me a ton in writing adventures or coming up with characters I want to play, and it'll do the same for anyone interested in that edition; Compendium, Old World Bestiary, and Core Book are what I'd recommend as the 'core' books you want to play 2e.