So here’s the situation. I’m going to start GMing The Enemy Within in a few weeks. I’ll have 4 players, who are all still new to the game (and to RPGs in general). With only 1 exception, all the experience they have with WHFRP is playing through an Eye for an Eye with characters I made for them. This time naturally I thought I’d let them make their own characters, using our first session to create characters together as a group. Here’s how I thought I’d go about it:
Show them the background cards and let them pick 1 they’d like to be. Then allow them to choose a race that fits the background. After that, do the draw 3 careers (making sure they all match the race and background) pick 1, and then on with the rest of character creation. Which brings us to the subject of what races should be allowed to play what backgrounds. Here are my thoughts, but I am a newbie to Warhammer so I’d be curious to hear other’s opinions also:
Gently-Born: - Human Only (and Averland Human at that) It’s the only thing that I can see making sense in the context of the story.
Criminal: - Human Only - I could also see Halflings, Ogres, and maybe even Dwarves belonging to the criminal underworld of Averheim. However, the story is that the Criminal background was arrested for a crime but then acquitted. I have a hard time seeing the racist, xenophobic members of the Empire acquitting an Ogre or a Halfling (and especially Halflings in Averland) for anything once they were arrested. Then again, it is supposed to be your acquitted status that makes you a minor celebrity, so I guess you could also argue why not (since it isn’t like Humans are acquitted all the time)? Dwarves I could maybe see being acquitted since they are more accepted in the Empire, but I’m still trying to decide if they’d be involved in the criminal underground in the first place. I have a hard time envisioning Elves being involved in criminal activities in the Empire.
Oucast: - Any race
Foreign Messenger: - High Elf, Wood Elf, Dwarf, Non-Averland Human - I can’t imagine who would be sending Halflings or Ogres as messengers ( I’m guessing Ogres would be viewed as too stupid to carry the message and Halflings too untrustworthy). Also the term “foreign” probably means foreign country rather than just another province, but I’m not sure I want to start creating races for Bretonians and the like.
Academic: - Human (any province really), Dwarf, possibly High Elf - None of the other races have high pursuits of academia. Dwarves in this background I would imagine as things like Engineers and such, but maybe I am way off. High Elves certainly have a love of knowledge, but I’m having a hard time picturing why one would want to come to Averheim to “study”?
Battle-Scarred: - Humans (certainly Averland, other provinces to maybe?), Ogres, Dwarves? (they hate Greenskins and I can’t see them missing an opportunity to fight them, or maybe mercenaries?) - Halflings I imagine had a more rear guard role in the army, if any (cooks and such). Elves I don’t think were taking part in the battle.
So, how about it? What races would you allow your PCs to be as which backgrounds? Or would you handle choosing races differently somehow?
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Although you've always been able to play a bunch of different races, I think most scenarious are written with the assumption that most/all PCs are humans. Most of the interactions are designed to work that way, even if they sometimes pop in a little 'if the party includes an elf, they will receive x reaction'. I think TEW is no different. The foreign messenger was clearly designed to be a (the?) way to include non-human characters. The others all assume that the character is human. Or at the very least, very much a part of the Empire (halfling or expat Dwarf).
That said, and although I think you're more or less on the right track with your description of which races match which background, I think that with a little creativity any background can be any race. Some of the weirder combinations will take some explaining… but that in itself can be fun and very rewarding. e.g. A dwarf gently born could be the result of a dwarf trying to pay off a huge debt and having pledged himself to a human family for the rest of his life. He has served one generation after another, and although not technically part of the family, lives with them, wears their family crest, is the most trusted and trustworth person in the family, etc. So while not being 'gently born' in the strictest sense, he will fit into the game in the way that a human gently born would. Or at least, in a similar way.
I wouldn't imagine you'd have a huge problem though… The chances are thematic options will be what players want anyway. If you have a player desperate to play a hard-as-nails dwarf fighter, he's unlikely to want to pick the gently born background anyway.
Our Criminal is a Halfling thief (oh you sterotype!). He is prefect as he had a fight with the Battle-scarred character for his part in the putting down of the halfling rebellion, was arrested by Baerfaust for vandalizing an image of the mad count, who let him off on the testemony of his mentor - Fredrick Gross. I think that this one, the Outcast and the Envoy all work for Halflings.
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