Making the Read/Write Skill Interestingly Useful

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with WFRP’s handling of the Read/Write skill, at least in its first and second editions. One of the strengths of the game has always been how it’s rooted its fantastical (and sometimes fantastically silly) elements in a world that felt real. Much of the heavy lifting with the latter was done by the careers system, but it was also observable in the rarity of the Read/Write skill. (Of the six pregens in The Enemy Within, only two were literate, and the Elf wasn’t one of them.) Meanwhile WFRP3 and Zweihänder both fold literacy into a more general education skill, in both cases treated as ‘advanced’. This was a world, the system tells us, dominated by illiteracy; those who could read or write were a privileged few.

But the wisdom of this approach is contradicted by the last 40 years of game design. Generally speaking, GMs now know that it is a bad idea not to give out any information because a lack of leads stalls the game. An entire rules system, Gumshoe, has been designed to address this issue. If the characters can’t read, then that immediately eliminates a major source of clues and leads to keep the action going. The problem cropped up as early as 1e’s intro adventure, The Oldenhaller Contract, itself: the scenario relies on the PCs being able to read the advertisement nailed to the Deutz Elm in Episode 12. So in this post I’m going to look at a few ways a WFRP GM can help keep the game going while still being true to the (pseudo-)historical verisimilitude of the setting.

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Bretonnian Knighthood

Photo by: Kirill_M Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39781580@N04/4154860768/

Photo by: Kirill_M
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39781580@N04/4154860768/

After nine years of “it’s going to happen” one of my players who got me back into WFRP all those years ago started his own campaign. And we get to play knights! In Bretonnia!

We created the character (naturally taking the advantage of the magnificent Expanded Character Module by Dave Graffam) and discussed a little about what’s to come. The GM asked us all to write a little something about our characters’ background and I set out to work.

I haven’t actually read the Knights of the Grail in almost ten years. I might have leafed through it on an occasion but now I wanted to get the facts right with my Knight Errant from Parravon. Aaand naturally this was where the problems started.

All players of Warhammer know that it is about exaggerated mockery of the actual history. And most players know that Bretonnia is about chivalric knights in shining armour – like those in Arthurian legends. But what got me off-guard was the description of the Knight Errant:

Knights of the Empire start their careers following after some other knight, acting as nothing more than a servant. What else would you expect from a nation who has forgotten the true meaning of chivalry, the true meaning of honour, and the true meaning of courage?

In Bretonnia, knights start off riding their own trail, as they set off on their errantry tour. Bretonnian knights learn from the best school there is: genuine experience. At the start of their tour, they don’t have any genuine experience, but most make up the deficit with their enthusiasm.

Wait, what?

So young boys are set on a warhorse, given a suit of armour and a lance and sent of to their own adventures? No training, no time acting as a squire, no nothing? Just “keep yourself alive lad and kill some orcs for the Lady?”

As it turns out our GM had different plans and he was a bit shocked by this. Even though he has been reading stuff about Bretonnia on and off for all those nine years. “That makes absolutely no sense!” was the summary of his words.

On the other hand I have to (naturally agree) but on the other hand it got me thinking the pure ingenuity of this kind of behaviour.

Warning – This post contains some spoilers and racial doctrine about the evolution of Bretonnians. You can blame the fairies for that.

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Female Halfling Adventurer

Jon Hodgson

You might know the guy from doing the art for the One Ring rpg and several other products. Best artist in the scene currently (by my opinion). By far. If you are not following what he is doing, I guess you really are not that much into rpg art anyway.

Check out his deviantart (if for nothing else, then for the excellent pic for female halfling adventurer!)

http://jonhodgson.deviantart.com/

Rekindling an Old Flame

After almost two years since our last campaign with WFRP was buried in silence for the lack of interest I have found myself toying about starting a new campaign with new players. The the past year and a half I have been writing Eldritch Sigils and have not paid a lot of thought to Warhammer. And still I find myself visiting the StS and FFG forum almost daily. I haven’t been quite active but I have been there. Lurking in the shadows sot to speak.

As the summer draws more near starting a new campaign sounds more and more right.

We have just begun a new fantasy campaign with Sigils and I hope it will be great. But as the system of Eldritch Sigils has more to do with narrating the outcomes and completing stories I think I need a counter balance with more complicated fighting and books you can browse through.

I have considered Pathfinder, waiting for the next edition of D&D and would love to run One Ring if it would be less tied with Middle-Earth. But the lure of Warhammer might just be too hard to resist…

Having send an email to couple of friends I have not played in a while I can do little but wait to hear their responses. Hopefully we’ll get the gaming going before it’s winter again…

Site Statistics

While being sick put my creative time to halt I found myself browsing the statistics of the Daily Empire today. I was quite impressed to notice that “daily empire” had been searched for over 500 times in the passing year. Given that I’ve been trying to give out the link whenever possible that is quite a substantial number of searches. Thanks for that!

I was also intrigued by the fact that after “daily empire” and all its variations what was most common term to find this site was “warhammer steampunk” (and its variations). I’ve posted only one post about this kind of thing. At least if my memory serves me.

I would have thought that the one-sheets or The Cult of the Possessed would have got more hits but looks like you want your blackpowder and flying hot-air balloons with a little pinch of  mechanical horses and steamengines! Now personally I’m not a big fan of the whole steampunk genre but I must admit I’ve used it in our games too.

As for what pages have been visited since the Daily Empire was opened other than the main page (9,671 hits!) one-sheets, adventure seeds and the Cult come in with flying colors. It is a bit funny though that even though this site is supposed to be an “inspirational site” and was started to host the list for warhammerish movies these pages have fever hits than the steampunk post.

All in all I guess you want a little more steampunk right? Then I suggest you to give comments or send me mail as I’ll begin the work on the finale of the Master of Shadows-campaign at January 2013.