In the United States, kids experiment with all kinds of things in High School. My experiments came Game Mastering Table-Top Role-Playing Games. Primarily Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. As a Seventeen year old Junior, I purchased the main book at Nann’s and held my first game at Robert E. Lee High School. Yea, I did drugs (alcohol is a drug right?) in high school like most kids. But its grip on my mind could not hold a flame to the power this game wrought on my imagination. Warhammer became something of an obsession.
Our Economics teacher allowed us to set up and play in his room after school. I Game Mastered several sessions with a good group of friends and classmates. My feet found the dark pool of RPG gaming here. I sent my friend’s heroes up against Bad Moon Orcs and a few Ogres. I took the 40k Orcs and turned them into their medieval fantasy equal. Our games consisted of hack and slash. They hacked and formed a group, trying to survive the onslaught of the orc tide.
Soon, I decided to play IN class. Our art teacher relaxed many rules, as long as we turned in our assignments on time. So during the afternoon for one hour, I held a second game with some good friends in class. We rolled the dice under the table, away from prying eyes. I remember sending them into a map I made. Some old dungeon with a powerful Lich inside. Lots of skeletons everywhere. I remember one character found a hammer similar to the mythical one Thor wielded, Mjolnir. This weapon and Norse myths drove my style of game mastering. High flying and lots of explosions. Michael Bay would be happy with my games.
High School wrapped up for me. I served in the less than two weeks after graduation in the United States Marine Corps. Warhammer came along with me. I GMed during the service and gathered lots of players to my games. Great times and lots of beer drinking followed during my time in service. I played in Okinawa Japan near an old castle in ruins. I dabbled into Warhammer 40K Third Edition Rules, Rifts, Cyberpunk (again). But I always came back. Everyone who served with me remembers how crazy those games came out.
Once I exited the Marines I formed a new group of gamers. Some old high school buddies and I got together and we gamed. Boy did we game. I started collecting miniatures and even playing Mordheim. But I always turned back to my mistress, WFRP.
Now you are wondering why I called it high fantasy. Because I found out later two different styles of gaming exists. I handed out many magic items. I even had high powered wizards in game. I took them to the chaos wastes as champions once they did several years of campaigning. It was amazing and fun. But a problem crept up as we continued to game.
Image credit Hearthstone Paladin Spell Consecration (But you get the idea). More from the artist here.
WFRP 1st edition does not do well when characters get powerful. In fact your character becomes near unstoppable. In the beginning you cannot hit the broad side of a barn. By the end once you are a champion you turned into a tank. With magical weapons it became hard challenging them. Soon I had to get them to retire some of their characters. Some people would say this is good. Some of the characters died and a few retired.
In 2000 and 2001 I published two articles for WFRP Magazine Warpstone. Dwarven Ram Rider and the Ogre Player character both came to life with the help of John Foody. John hailed from merry old England and had a different style of gaming from the one I used to do. I learned a lot working with him, including how to write.
He introduced me to “Low Fantasy” a term he used as it did away with most magic items. Everything became more realistic, with and emphasis on making magic work. Compare magic to seasoning in a dish, too much and it can kill the flavor of the story. Magic serves to further the plot and to drive the story home. In future years, characters in game would only see a single low powered fantasy weapon . If you look at popular writers for WFRP such as Graeme Davis and Robin Laws they focused on this approach.
I decided to try this approach as I moved into my late 20’s, early 30’s. It worked well and my group loved it.
So I learned. Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play in a “Low Fantasy” style will be the focus of the next blog post (part 3). Plus I will talk about a game I ran. Player became part of an order of Templars called Raven Knights who worshiped Morr God of Death.