News for March 2010
Bigger, Badder, and Better 16
A Preview of the Game Master Toolkit Nemesis Rules
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 02 March 2010

While we were working on The Gathering Storm adventure campaign for WFRP, the team was reminded of the importance and narrative impact that simply giving a non player character a name can make. This is especially true for villains and bad guys. A corrupt politician or fearsome orc is one thing. But facing Reiner von Steinkampf or Korghael Skullcleaver is another matter entirely.

I think we designed some memorable, varied, and interesting characters in The Gathering Storm. But it’s not just the name that makes the character memorable. We also developed what would become the foundation for our nemesis rules for major non player characters. These rules were expanded and became an integral part of the Game Master's Toolkit.

Some of the characters the adventurers will face over the course of a campaign are every bit as detailed and developed as the PCs are – with their own distinct personality traits, abilities, resources, motives, and goals.

When one of these fully fleshed out and developed NPCs is actively working against the PCs, it can really complicate the heroes’ lives. A major NPC adversary that opposes the player characters is referred to as a nemesis.

A Goblin Shaman NemesisI Name Thee Nemesis!
In broad terms, a nemesis is a cut above the rank and file villains or “bad guys” the PCs generally face. A nemesis may be the veteran warlord leading a host of enemy warriors in a bloody conflict to overtake a region. Or the cunning, unscrupulous politician manipulating and scheming from the Elector’s council. The crazed doomsayer whipping the masses into a frenzy of anarchy and revolution could also be a nemesis.

Regardless of how nemesis NPCs manifest in a campaign, they provide a number of interesting options to a GM to help customise and craft a story that can challenge both a party’s abilities and beliefs, as well as provide a tangible element – a distinct, evocative personality – to weave into the plot.

Types of Nemesis NPCs
There are a lot of different ways to use nemesis NPCs. A nemesis can serve as the key adversary behind complex schemes, the obvious enemy that must be overcome to thwart impending doom, or the unassuming ally that turns on the player character’s when the situation grows most dire. When developing a nemesis, the GM should consider his motives, goals, and how and why he opposes the heroes. Does the nemesis know who the PCs are? Is he working against them personally, or do his purposes simply run counter to the goals of the party?

Here are just a few examples of how a nemesis could be featured in a campaign.
 

  • The Fallen Ally: Perhaps the most dangerous Nemesis is one who was once a friend. The Fallen Ally used to work with the PCs, but due to tragic events, betrayal, or corruption he now opposes them. The Fallen Ally may know the PCs well and use that knowledge against them.
  • The Gloryhound: Misguided by a lust for glory, prestige, and fame, the Gloryhound opposes the PCs not directly out of avarice, but out of vanity, pride, and perhaps a little madness and corruption. Pride goeth before a fall, and even a relatively “pure” Gloryhound may soon become an unwitting agent of evil.
  • The Mastermind: The Mastermind lurks in the shadows, pulling strings, manipulating politics, and using blackmail and minions to achieve his goals. He’s a smart, clever opponent, always one step ahead, and has contingency plans for everything. Rather than directly influence events, he has his minions do his dirty work for him.

Nemesis Organisations

In addition to their individual roles, many nemesis NPCs work within an organisation of some fashion, whether it is a diabolic Chaos Cult, and extreme political faction, or a group of jaded merchants seeking to profit off the misfortune of others.

As the PCs encounter the nemesis NPC, uncover his plans, face off with his minions, or otherwise come into conflict with his organisation, they may slowly start to undermine the nemesis NPC’s support structure. If the PCs foil enough of the nemesis NPCs plans, the organisation’s influence and stability may suffer, until the nemesis NPC can no longer rely on or benefit from the organisation.

Or perhaps the nemesis isn’t a person at all, but the faceless bureaucracy of a corrupt Empire guild, or the mindless savagery of a horde of greenskins.

Click to Download the PDF

The Organisation Tracking Sheet
The goals, resources, stability, and influence of these nemesis organisations can be easily managed and represented through the use of organisation tracking sheets. Each sheet represents a possible organisation or support structure for a Nemesis NPC. When developing a Nemesis NPC, the GM should consider whether or not the Nemesis NPC should belong to or have access to such an organisation. He may wish to look over the available organisation sheets, or use one as the basis for his own creation.

At first glance, an organisation sheet looks similar to the party sheet the PCs use to help define and manage the type of party dynamic the characters have. The organisation sheet serves a very similar function with regard to the nemesis NPC’s resources and influence – how much he can rely on the organisation to help further his goals, or how well the organisation helps protect or shield his activities from prying eyes.

Download the Unholy Crusade nemesis organisation sheet to see an example.

Undermining Stability
Whenever the PCs manage to thwart the nemesis organisation or disrupt its activities, the GM advances a tracking token along the organisation’s stability track. When the tracking token reaches an event space, the corresponding effect listed on the sheet occurs.

Likewise, if in the GM’s opinion the PCs fail to stop or counter the organisation’s plans at a critical time or the organisation’s influence reaches out further, the GM may move the tracking token back a space on the track to reflect an improvement to the organisation’s current stability.

If the tracking token reaches the end of the stability track, the organisation’s cohesion crumbles, and a Nemesis NPC no longer has control over its resources or influence. Depending on the way the storyline unfolds and based on the GM’s discretion, this may trigger a confrontation with the nemesis behind the organisation, or force the nemesis to change his plans in order to repair the damage the PCs have done.

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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure, in the grim setting of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy world. Players will venture into the dark corners of the Empire, guided by luck and Fate, and challenge the threats that others cannot or will not face.

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Comments (16)

Krelios
Published: 3/9/2010 6:33:58 AM
#16

 @Waazdag

The box set says it easily supports 3 players plus a GM and it does. If you have 7 players, buy two sets. The game is very complete and mechanically it's the most solid game I've played in years (already surpassing D&D 4e). The argument you're making is silly. It's like complaining to subway that your sandwich didn't feed seven peopleit was never supposed to.

Waazdag
Published: 3/5/2010 10:30:18 AM
#15

"Little Pieces" of the game are fine... but how about making the core of the game more complete... it still looks and feels incomplete, there is still too much missing for hardcore game players and GMs... people who meet every week for a 5-6 hour session... and have an established gaming group of 7 players... it would take multiple core sets to get the little 'necessary" bits to even get a game going...

ajtheronin
Published: 3/4/2010 8:30:47 AM
#14

RPG games with little pieces scatter around a lot of supplement is nothing new.  I look at my bookshelf and with the exception of 1 game (Game of Thrones D20) all of them have supplements.  Not only that all the games with supplement have one in common, one aimed to the Game Master/Dungeon Master/Storyteller/Whatever.  The content may vary (some are just a screen other have more meat to them) but they all are just another "little piece of the game".

Militarywizard
Published: 3/4/2010 5:15:33 AM
#13

:( Here another little part of the game. I guess they need to move RPG to the board game section.

Pedro Lunaris
Published: 3/3/2010 7:10:00 PM
#12

I just love the nemesis concept, since Castle Falkenstein! It's the first time I see in a medieval fantasy RPG, though (if we can call WFRP "medieval", it's more like renaiscence falvoured, but I guess you get what I mean...).

 

One of the challenges of WFRP 2nd ed is the idea of creating system mechanism for narrative material. The nemesis is not just a narrative concept of the scenario, but also has a specific systematic. It's a challenge to make that in a fun way, without creating a system that requires too much energy and attention to itself, taking our focus away from the story. For what I'm seeing so far, the 2nd ed is successfully avoiding that.

 

And another challenge, to my taste, at least, is to prevent the game from having a videogame systematic. I would hate that... I guess things like "Stability" and "Agenda" tracks go in that direction... But I do think that the explanations we see in this article, using a lot of the word "may", leaves the decision about moving tokens through the tracks a GM decision. And the GM could be basing his decisions on the story, what would leave the tracks system as a most narrative tool, a way to record damage to an organization, that also describes what this damage is representing in the organization's structure. If the GM has the effect of the damage in mind, he can easily decide what ingame occurance causes and what causes not a flutuation of the Track Tokens.

 

Hum... I really like this way of viewing things...

MegaDestroyo
Published: 3/3/2010 1:05:55 PM
#11

 nemeses.

i'm still waiting for my box set to arrive, so i can't tell how useful or useless this will be.  i think i'll be wanting the GM toolkit for reasons other than this though. 

Parzival
Published: 3/3/2010 7:36:11 AM
#10

hrrrm. It IS an interesting idea, but not enough of one to sell me on this as a "must have" item.

pumpkin
Published: 3/3/2010 6:40:54 AM
#9

It's interesting stuff, and some nice shiney's that might come in handy for stealing the ideas from, even if it ends up being tracked on some paper (which is likely going to have to happen between sessions at least..)

I do hope that the Nemesis rules have a bit more crunch on how to generate some Nemesis (Nemesis's, Nemisi?) characters. Some nemesis specific talents and action cards would be nice.

 

Lucas Adorn
Published: 3/3/2010 2:18:56 AM
#8

Hmm. A tracking sheet for an organization... I can't see myself using that. Its gonna be really bothersome to keep those tracking tokens on the sheet between sessions. I'd rather just keep it on a  note or in my head as the story proceeds. Anyway its gonna have to bee a really big GM's screen to hide all the stuff that needs to be secret. Maps, nemesis sheets, notes, monstercards and abilities (don't want my players to know exactly what they're up against).

Hopefully there'll be some great input in the book about the Nemesis groups/NPC's and more tips on how to modify generic monsters for those who need it.

ffgfan
Published: 3/3/2010 2:16:29 AM
#7

It looking more and more tasty.  All the shiny sheets, new rules and much more - can't wait to get it in my hands. I hope it will be avaliable with The Gathering Storm so I can buy both in the same time.

Amketch
Published: 3/3/2010 1:58:15 AM
#6

Can't wait for this to arrive, again something a bit different from the standard RPG

Lautrer
Published: 3/3/2010 1:07:46 AM
#5

Please... give... me...

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