Monday 22 June 2009

WFRP General: Is there a place for dungeon crawls in WFRP?

One thing that many of the most outspoken hardcore WFRP fans have in common is a disdain for the classic dungeon crawl, as popularised by the world's most played role-playing game; Dungeons & Dragons. I came to think about this the other day when I was preparing for Tuesday game night, where I'm going to run something called Dungeon Delve for the current edition of D&D. I was also reading some old posts from the FFG forums, and one of them concerned the dungeon crawl as a viable adventure experience for WFRP. Or rather, the non viability of the dungeon crawl in the game.

My stance on topic in relation to WFRP is this:

People should not apply a straight jacket to their creativity. I enjoy playing D&D, and have seen a lot of top notch dungeon crawl products, both from WotC and from third parties using the d20 system. A dungeon crawl is merely a format for an adventure. What an author puts into the crawl determines the quality of the product. The format itself is no guarantee for lack of quality, or the opposite. So it is possible to do a good dungeon crawl, even in WFRP, and for it to have the right tone and content.

But then again, we run dungeon crawls using D&D, not WFRP. Why's that? I hear you ask. If a dungeon crawl is a viable adventure format for WFRP, why not play dungeon crawls in WFRP? I guess it's down to playing to each game's strengths. D&D is best at dungeons crawls, WFRP is best at ... whatever it is I'm doing with it. Right now it seems to be some sort of social intrigue and backstabbing spy novel kinda thing going on.

But I maintain the notion that there is a place for a dungeon crawl in WFRP, even in a city like Altdorf. Or rather, particularly in a city like Altdorf. If the tone is right, if the proper design takes into account the good parts of WFRP, if the NPCs are good, and if the motivation for the expedition and the dungeon itself are good and proper, there is no reason why a dungeon crawl couldn't work.

Sure, write a standard dungeon crawl and it will be horrid for WFRP. But then again, a boring crawl is a boring crawl, be it D&D or WFRP. My benchmark for crawls that I can't work with at all is Tomb of Horrors, an adventure deemed to be one of the best ever by lots of people. I hate it.

And if we look at the adventures available for any edition of WFRP, we find quite a lot of dungeon crawls, good and bad. These are conveniently overlooked and forgotten when talking about the marvelous The Enemy Within campaign (sans Something Rotten in Kislev and Empire in Flames, usually). We also find a strong D&D influences in many adventures, mostly in the Doomstones series (it being an AD&D compatible adventure with the serial numbers filed off from the start), but also the maligned Castle Drachenfels. Not the proudest moments in the history of WFRP, in my opinion.

But the two adventures that have taken the most flack online are of course two WFRPv2 entries; Karak Azgal and Lure of the Lich Lord. Not because they are any worse than the Doomstones series or Castle Drachenfels, but mostly because they defy the common conception of WFRP as a game focused heavily on social interaction, a conception which conveniently leaves out earlier v1 forays into the dungeon.

So WFRP2 is just following in the footsteps of WFRPv1 in the quest of finding out what is good for WFRP; both as a commercial venture and as a game with a distinct personality and compelling adventures. I believe the game is better served with a mix of adventures, or rather a mix of different formats in the adventures, like in the seminal Shadows over Bogenhafen, one of the best adventures for any role-playing game and genre. And there was a dungeon crawl in there.

As Shadows over Bogenhafen shows us, good design is good design, and I think that it would be very possible to create a Ravenloft for WFRP; a dungeon crawl so good it transcends the format, and becomes something even greater. Come to think of it, WFRP is ideally suited to create the most challenging dungeon crawl the world has ever seen. But the question is, who would want to create it, when even the thought of dungeons in WFRP send shivers down quite a few of the fans?

Who would be brave enough to go all out and deliver the ultimate WFRP dungeon crawl? And more importantly, what should such an adventure look like?


Thursday 18 June 2009

WFRP: GM tip (2)

After my last run of WFRP, I've started using a few tricks as a Game Master to try to provide atmosphere at the table. One is to adopt different postures for different NPCs, something I will continue to explore as the campaign picks up after summer.

One thing that especially caught the attention of the players was my portrayal of the halflings. It really brought out the character of the little runts, and made the encounters memorable and fun.

So what did I do? I sat on the floor when portraying halflings. Sound stupid? I don't care, it worked like a charm. We have a low table, so only my head and shoulders were seen by the players, which reinforced the effect of them talking to a halfling.

And I didn't have to use the silly voices!


Monday 15 June 2009

WFRP: Help wanted (18)

"My neighbour is a vampire! Will pay handsomely for someone to dispose of him before he sucks my blood! Priests of Morr won't do anything, so you are my only hope! Also, premium paid to those who can remove the rats in the walls."

- Curious note stuck on the Dead Tree at the North Gate.

One of my traits as a Game Master is that I set up situations that never are what they seem to be. Unfortunately, my players have become very skilled in figuring this out, so half the time they are still way ahead of me figuring out who to burn and who to suck up to.

The help wanted ad above could very well concern a real vampire. It could also be a clue into something else entirely, a drug ring, a lone blunderbuss man planning to assassinate the Emperor, or just someone who's afraid of sunlight.


Saturday 13 June 2009

WFRP: Gossip (18)

"Feh, the weather is foul. We haven't had a summer this cold since ... since ever! It's that Storm of Chaos, that's what it is! It's blowing foul winds from the north, filled with ice and death! I swear I saw ice floating down the Reik this morning!"

- Owner of a vegetable stall at the Marktplatz by the Mourner's Bridge, trying to keep warm in the cold drizzle of the coldest summer in 50 years

Go here to download the complete iAltdorf map!