|Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 01 September 2009|
By Jay Little
While some roleplaying games focus the attention on a single character, many RPGs focus on the actions and stories of a number of player characters who work together. It may be a consortium of superheroes, a special forces unit, a small band of secret agents, or one of many other types of groups. In many fantasy RPGs, individual characters band together to form parties.
Sometimes it is for mere convenience – there may be safety in numbers, or all the characters are headed toward the same destination. Other times, the group has a common goal and purpose for working together. A party identity can help establish the mood and atmosphere. A strong sense of why this group of individuals is working together can help add depth and immersion to the game experience.
Groups of player characters often have at least some sense of purpose or direction – even if largely unspoken or only briefly defined. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the role of the party has a mechanical effect, as well as its story-driven effect.
The player characters in the game share a central party sheet, representing the teamwork, leadership, and camaraderie of its members. Each party sheet offers its own abilities, as well as makes managing certain party resources easier. Here is a closer look at the features that make up a party sheet.
Party Talent Sockets
As you may have noticed, the player character career sheets have a limited number of available spaces to socket talents. Each group of characters has an additional resource at their disposal to take advantage of their diverse talents – the party sheet. Each party sheet has several sockets that can also hold talents, and the type and quantity may vary from party sheet to party sheet.
Each talent slot on a party sheet can hold one talent of the corresponding type. The talents socketed to the party sheet are provided by members of the party, from their personal selections of available talents. However, when a talent is socketed to a party sheet, the ability is conferred to the entire party – everyone benefits from the leadership or knack of the character providing that talent. For talents that require a player to exhaust the talent card to gain a benefit, this means any player in the group has the ability to trigger the benefit by exhausting the card.
As long as the GM deems that the members of the party are close enough together to benefit, everyone can use the abilities listed on talents socketed to the party sheet. If one member of the party moves away to do something on his own (such as a thief sneaking out to reconnoitre an abandoned warehouse) then he may not be able to take advantage of the party sheet talents until he gets back in contact with the rest of his party.
Each party sheet has a special ability unique to that sheet. Some party abilities allow members of the party to use talents in different ways, exhaust talents attached to the party sheet to generate an effect, or have other novel and unique traits. The use or restrictions of each party ability is listed on the individual party sheet.
Each party sheet features a fortune pool. This area is a reserve to store fortune points gained over the course of a session. When the GM awards the party fortune points during play, they are placed on the party sheet in the central reserve. Once the party sheet has accumulated the proper number of fortune points, fortune refreshes and the individual party members can regain a fortune point.
The party sheet also features space to track the party’s tension. Party tension is a representation of the friction, anxiety, and apprehension a group of characters struggle with in the face of new challenges, arguments within the party, or as consequences for certain roleplaying actions.
When a triggering effect occurs that raises the party’s tension level, the GM moves a tracking token along the party tension meter on the party sheet. The party sheet lists the results that occur when certain spaces on the sheet are reached. If the party’s tension meter ever reaches the final space on the track, a more severe effect occurs, then the tension meter resets to zero.
Tension as a GM Tool
The tension track on each party sheet is a subtle way the GM can help resolve conflicts between players or their characters, or help reinforce the type of game experience the players collectively want to participate in.
When the party’s focus starts to wander, or in-character arguments threaten to cross over into player arguments, the GM can advance the party’s tension a space or two if he wishes. The goal is not to punish or embarrass the players, but rather provide a simple, visual cue that things are escalating in a way that may be counterproductive. Or that enough time has been spent on a particular side conversation, and other members of the group are ready to proceed with a course of action.
If the characters are working together especially well, the GM can move the tracking token a space or two back to reflect this. Moving tension back also offers the GM another in-game resource to reward players for good roleplaying.
Other Examples of Tension
In addition to the examples provided, there are a variety of other factors that can influence party tension. For example, an encounter with an especially fearsome creature could potentially increase party tension, or a horrible miscast by a Bright Wizard while he's in an extremely reckless stance. Accusations of heresy levied against the party by a zealous Witch Hunter might ratchet tension up a few notches, as could an ambush by a group of beastmen who completely catch the party unawares.
Conversely, spending a restful evening in a temple of Shallya could easily decrease tension, as could a great in-character conversation with an important NPC. There are some other applications, as well, and creative GMs will find plenty of opportunities to integrate party tension in a way that feels appropriate for his group and play experience.
Set in the grim world of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure. 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.
Love the idea, looks great fun!
The more I read about the party character sheet, the more I like the idea. In the example given, it is clear that a band of thugs has much more "persuassion" powers than a single thug... this is given a mechanics that allows the GM to easily judge how to apply this kind of subtle differences without any player feeling punished.
Also, I like a lot the tension meter. Contrary to what some people claim, I don't think it's a tool for parenting the players or for OOC rulings (that should be done OOC) but it's a great tool to, ruleswise, affect the course of the game. A Gang of Thugs should behave differently when taking decissions than a Diplomatic Entourage, for example.
In character discussions among members has been given now an easy mechanics for the GM to affect the players without anybody feeling punished. Before, it was usually a matter of which player was, out of character, able to be more convincing or more able to shout down discordant voices. With this tool I, as a GM, feel it will be easier to determine the effects of this sort of quarrels among party members.
I honestly see the tension meter being a way to actually encourage in-character roleplaying between characters that normally don't get along - i.e. the Dwarves and Elves. From what I've seen, not all blue spaces are bad, so maybe some tension is a good thing.
Having the players pick a type of party they want to play (like the party is a separate character) is a neat mechanic that gives the DM a lot of help when trying to decide what things he could effectively throw at the players without grasping at straws or breaking the theme.
I think the tension meter is a cool idea - while I don't think it would come up as a result of real life arguments etc. in my games (we all tend to be pretty laid back), I think it would be a very useful tool for the GM to drive the story forward. I like the idea of encouraging complex in-game characters, and having a bit of tension within the group would be a fun way to play with that - hey, that's what you get for sticking a Dwarf Longbeard with a mute Pheonix Guard - the Dwarf will get pissed off.
Think about how much group tension there was at various points in LOTR - I think it makes for a better story.
My biggest concern is the buy in price. $99 for something this different feels like it is asking a lot. Even 4e's Keep on the Shadowfell allowed people to try the mechanics of the system before jumping in all the way.
While the inclination is going to be to proclaim this awesome or awful, I think we're all just going to have to see this one in practice. It could come off a clunky, cumbersome, perhaps punitive, or it could finally be a way to inject a real in-game reflection of the party dynamic and generate a certain level of consistency in both role playing and adjudicating the party concept.
So, good, bad whatever, I find it bold and immensely intriguing and can't wait to test it out and find out how it really impacts play. My excitement is based on neither an anticipated positive or negative reaction, so much as a respect for the innovation in the approach.
Blech. Party tension meter will come across as a DM punishing, policing, and parenting players. If you've got players that can't get along, kick them out of the group. PLEASE don't make it a 'crucial' part of the game..better yet, it before this game gets printed.
nice looking board...
Sounds good, indeed...
I like that PCs now have to collaborate in a more visually and that cards are used in different ways!
I don't think our group needs the tension barometer, but it would have been useful when we started playing RPGs.
That's a neat mechanic: being able to "share" you talents with the rest of your party. Like the Rogue is giving tips to the rest of the PCs on how to properly sneak.