Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Warhammer fantasy roleplay cover.jpg
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition cover
Publication date
  • 1986 (1st edition)
  • 2005 (2nd edition)
  • 2009 (3rd edition)
  • 2018 (4th edition)
System(s)Custom / Percentile

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (abbreviated to WFRP or WHFRP) is a role-playing game set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, published by Games Workshop or its licensees.

The first edition of WFRP was published in 1986 and later maintained by Hogshead Publishing. A second edition was developed and published in 2004 by Green Ronin and Black Industries, respectively. Fantasy Flight Games published a third edition under license in November 2009. This edition used a new system retaining few mechanics of the original. A fourth edition rooted in the first and second editions was released under license by Cubicle 7 in 2018.

Publishing history[edit]

First edition[edit]

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was first published in 1986 by Games Workshop. The product was intended as an adjunct to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle tabletop game. A number of GW publications – such as the popular Realm of Chaos titles – included material for both WFRP and WFB (as well as WH40K), and a conversion system was published with the WFRP rules. Following the publication of the popular The Enemy Within campaign series and a small number of additional supplements (including a character pack, GM screen, and the aforementioned Realm of Chaos books), Games Workshop made the decision to refocus its business. It had found that the miniatures business was much more profitable than pure publishing; WFRP sold very few miniatures, and adding WFRP material to WFB and Warhammer 40,000 supplements had done little to boost the sales of those products.[citation needed]

Publication of WFRP material was turned over to Flame Publications, a division of Games Workshop focused exclusively on roleplaying, in 1989. Flame published a new series of adventures – the Doomstones campaign adapted from a set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules written by a freelancer – and published the first issue of what was intended to become a monthly or quarterly publication, Warhammer Companion. In 1992, following financial problems, Flame ceased operations. Fan websites continued to publish new material and adaptations of Warhammer Fantasy Battle materials, but no new official material appeared for several years.

Nexus Editrice, one of the main RPG publishers in Italy, asked for a license from Games Workshop. The game was out of print in English, but Nexus acquired the license and reissued the edition in Italian – editing the text and including new artwork by renowned artists such as Paolo Parente. The game was released in Spring 1994 and won the Best of Show prize at the Lucca Games show, the main game fair in Italy.[1] It had several reprints, both hardback and paperback, and it was followed by the translation of the Enemy Within campaign, a Warhammer Compendium, a Warhammer collection of 28 issues in Italian newspaper kiosks with stories, an Encyclopaedia Albionica about the world of Warhammer and a Warhammer Adventures original board game. This success helped bring new licenses soon after, including German and Czech ones, which used Nexus's layout and artwork.

In 1995, British publishing house Hogshead Publishing received a license to publish new and reprinted WFRP material. Hogshead published a revised edition of the main WFRP rulebook, as well as reprints of the Enemy Within campaign. New supplements also appeared, including the Realms of Sorcery magic supplement and a number of new adventures. Hogshead was subject to a number of restrictions in its rights regarding the WFRP license; Games Workshop retained extensive editorial control over the line, wanting to ensure that new WFRP material did not contradict the tone and details of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle line.

In 2002, Hogshead owner James Wallis sold his business and returned the WFRP license to Games Workshop, leaving the future of the game in doubt. Several Hogshead projects were abandoned, including a Skaven supplement and a complete rewrite of the final episode of the Enemy Within campaign.

Second edition[edit]

In 2004, Games Workshop announced that the WFRP line would once again be published. Black Industries, a newly created division of GW's Black Library publishing arm, would oversee the publishing and distribution of a new second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, designed by Green Ronin Publishing. The new edition uses the same basic system released in 1986, but revises and updates a number of features of the system – replacing the magic system, for instance. The new WFRP also brought the Old World setting of WFRP up to date with the developments in background story that had taken place in the Warhammer tabletop game since first edition by setting the events of the game after the Storm of Chaos. The new rulebook appeared in March 2005, and was soon accompanied by an aggressively-published slate of supplements and sourcebooks, including a new epic campaign (the Paths of the Damned series); monster, equipment and setting supplements; and a number of stand-alone adventures.

Black Industries announced on 28 January 2008 that it would be exiting the roleplaying game market.[2] The Thousand Thrones Campaign was their final WFRP publication. On 22 February 2008, Fantasy Flight Games announced that it had acquired the exclusive rights to publish board games, card games and role-playing games based on Games Workshop properties, including Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.[3] The Career Compendium and Shades of Empire were FFG's only publications for second edition before it announced it would release a new edition of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game.

Third edition[edit]

On 12 August 2009, Fantasy Flight Games announced 3rd edition for immediate release,[4] packaged as a single box containing four rulebooks, over 300 cards and counters, with 36 custom dice.

One year later FFG released the rules as standalone books/PDFs, allowing gamers to play the edition the traditional way (without boxes or counters) for the first time.[5]

On 12 August 2014, Fantasy Flight Games announced that the third-edition product line was "complete" and that no further products would be released for this edition.[6] In September 2016, the companies announced an end to their licensing agreement. All Games Workshop-licensed FFG products were discontinued at the end of February 2017.[7]

Fourth edition[edit]

On 24 May 2017, GW and Cubicle 7 announced a fourth edition of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay saying it would take "its direction from the first and second editions of the game".[8] The fourth edition was released in digital formats in August 2018 with physical release in November 2018.[9]


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay shares the same doom-laden background as the Warhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB) wargame, with a focus on the Empire. Since it is a game devoted to individual characters rather than to entire armies, WFRP depicts the setting in much closer detail than its wargame counterpart. This change of focus also transforms WFRP into a more grim and perilous game than WFB.

The primary setting of WFRP is the Empire, a region of the Old World based loosely on the Holy Roman Empire, with a number of baronies, counties and dukedoms fashioned after the fiefs of elector counts and dukes.[10] Other prominent regions include Bretonnia, initially based on medieval France, later reinvented using strong Arthurian mythology themes; Kislev, based on medieval Poland and Imperial Russia; and the Wasteland, whose sole city of Marienburg is based on the Low Countries. Other lands not explored as thoroughly but still frequently mentioned include the fragmented lands of Estalia and Tilea, fashioned after Spain and the city-states of Renaissance Italy respectively, and Araby, a mixture of Arabic Caliphate and Persia. Other lands with real-life analogies include Cathay (China), Ind (India), Naggaroth (northern North America), Ulthuan (Atlantis), Lustria (Mesoamerica), Norsca (Scandinavia) and the island of Albion (British Isles); however, very little official information has been released for these locales.

While the setting of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay shares traits, such as the existence of elves and goblins, with other popular fantasy settings, it is technologically set slightly later than classic fantasy – close to the early Renaissance era in terms of technology and society. Firearms are readily available, though expensive and unreliable, and a growing mercantile middle class challenges the supremacy of the nobility.

One of the most identifiable features of the Warhammer setting is Chaos. While the forces of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy Battle are depicted primarily in the form of marauding dark knights and beastmen, Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is an insidious force gnawing at the fabric of society. Secret cults abound among all strata of society, seeking to overthrow the social order or to further their own power. Mutants lurk in the forests outside the great cities, while the Skaven (a race of rats) tunnel beneath them.

Magic is widely feared and reviled, and not without reason. Magic is derived from – and thus corrupted by – Chaos, and its practitioners tread a fine line between death or corruption and relative safety.


Combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay descends from the system used for large-scale miniature combat, making it substantially more deadly than the combat featured in many other systems. Most human-level creatures and characters can absorb only one or two hits without receiving a serious injury, a "Critical Hit" that may instantly kill, cripple, or permanently maim a character. There are no regeneration or resurrection powers in WFRP and limited healing options. "Fate Points", which represent a character's fate or destiny, provide a limited number of opportunities to avoid crippling or killing results.


A central feature of all published editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is the career system. Characters advance by entering a series of careers that provide access to a series of new or improved skills and bonuses to attributes (called "advances"). The selection of careers available to characters reflects the late medieval/early Renaissance setting of the Old World. Basic careers might be filled by any individual with a modest amount of training or instruction. Advanced careers require greater preparation and training, and, particularly in later editions, tend to be more appropriate to the lifestyle of an active adventurer. The career system gives an idea of what a character might have been doing either before embarking on a career as an adventurer (working as a baker, night watchman, rat catcher, or farmer) or as an ongoing occupation during and between adventures (thief, ranger, wizard's apprentice, druid), as well as how the character has changed and developed through their career (becoming a mercenary, explorer, or ship's captain).

First edition[edit]

The set of numbers describing a character's abilities in first edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is closely based on early versions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. The same basic array of characteristics (Weapon Skill, Strength, Initiative, and more) is employed for both games, although some traits rated 1–10 in WFB are rated 1–100 in WFRP to give more detail and differentiation between characters than is required in a wargame.

Second edition[edit]

The second edition hews closely to the first in most cases. In second edition, all primary attributes are ranked 1–100, but the tens digit of these values still corresponds to WFB's traits' values. Attributes are tested using percentile dice, with penalties or bonuses applied to the roll or the target value according to various favorable and unfavorable circumstances.

One departure from first edition regards magic. Magical abilities (called 'spells') mainly affect individuals rather than battlefield units as in first edition. Characters no longer have 'magic points' – instead use of magic is controlled by a (small) risk of manifestations of Chaos that risk branding the character as a witch. Each school of magic now features its own signature spells, giving different abilities and strengths to the various spellcasters.

Third edition[edit]

Fantasy Flight Games implemented a completely new set of rules for third edition, which uses dice pools rather than the percentile system of previous editions. The seven types of dice are unique to the game and only available from Fantasy Flight. The new system comes with several tokens and counters, though FFG subsequently made the rulebooks available separately.

A new mechanic focuses on party cohesion. There are multiple "Party Sheets" included in the core set and supplements. At the beginning of each new game, the players decide which party sheet they would like to use for their characters. These party sheets allow characters to share a talent (an ability or power that a character possesses) with the party, so that anyone in the party can use it. In addition to sharing talents, the party sheet provides a specific bonus ability that the party can use and certain negative effects that the party may suffer.

Fourth edition[edit]

The mechanics of the fourth edition are based on the percentile mechanics of the first and second editions, instead of the custom dice pools of the third. Characters are now much more free to advance their Characteristics and Skills independently of their careers, and the cost in experience point scales with higher numbers. Skill usage (especially in combat situations) is expanded with the concept of 'advantage', where continued success grants cumulative bonuses. Wizardly magic keeps many spells of second edition, but integrates the casting mechanism into the overall task resolution system. Fourth edition is the first to offer guidelines on downtime – what happens between adventures.


In the August 1987 edition of Dragon (Issue 124), Ken Rolston compared it very favorably to other fantasy role-playing games on the market, saying "WFR deliberately aims at adventures and settings with a less elevated tone... This shift in emphasis from genteel to grubby, gory fantasy, and the simplicity of the tactical and magic systems, are distinctive assets of WFR as it competes for a slice of the [fantasy role-playing game] audience." Rolston called the character generation system "interesting and original", and the character advancement system "flexible and informal". Rolston also liked the monsters encountered, describing them as "charming — and visually compelling — intelligent monster antagonists... well illustrated and often supplied with dramatic and humourous backgrounds." He called the setting the best part of the game, admiring the "epic theme of the Taint of Chaos." Rolston reserved his only strong criticism for the magic system, saying it was "relatively limited and unexciting", although he did see it inevitable in a game that was relatively magic-poor. He concluded with a strong recommendation, saying, "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is strongly recommended for gamers in search of a fantasy system and campaign background, or in search of elements to steal and add to their current system and campaign. Its systems, presentation, and campaign setting are superior, and the campaign supplement/adventure support looks promising. Its strengths, when compared to other popular FRPG designs, are the simplicity of its systems, its support of grotesque and macabre themes, and the distinctive flavor of its campaign setting."[11]

In a 1996 reader poll conducted by Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was ranked fourth. Editor Paul Pettengale commented, "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is an extremely atmospheric game to play in", and described the game as feeling like a cross-breed between Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu, saying "if you've played these other two games, you can probably imagine what a superb mix that can be."[12]



At the 2005 ENnie Awards, the second edition's core rulebook, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, won Gold in the Best Production Values and Best Game categories. Old World Bestiary, the second edition's primary adversary publication, also won Gold in the Best Adversary / Monster Product category.[13]

At the 2019 ENnie Awards, the fourth edition's core rulebook won Gold for Best Writing. [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Albo d'oro – Lucca Comics & Games". lucca09.luccacomicsandgames.com.
  2. ^ "Black Industries News Archives". www.blackindustries.com. Black Industries. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  3. ^ Fantasy Flight Games/Black Industries press release
  4. ^ "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Official Press Release". www.fantasyflightgames.com.
  5. ^ "New Options for the Old World". www.fantasyflightgames.com.
  6. ^ "Download the Final Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay FAQ and Errata". www.fantasyflightgames.com. Fantasy Flight Games. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  7. ^ "A New Path Forward". www.fantasyflightgames.com.
  8. ^ "Cubicle 7 and Games Workshop announce new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay". cubicle7.co.uk. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Cubicle 7 and Games Workshop announce new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Cubicle 7". cubicle7.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Darkling #36: Darker Days in the Old World". Darker Days Radio. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2019. Warhammer setting overviews.
  11. ^ Rolston, Ken (August 1987). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (124): 8–14.
  12. ^ Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.
  13. ^ "2005 ENnie Awards Archives". www.enworld.org. EN World. Retrieved 23 January 2007.
  14. ^ http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/about-us/2019-nominations-and-winners/

External links[edit]