Sunday, 8 May 2016

Uncovering Oldhammer Fantasy Role-Play


Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 1985 | John Blanche*

One of the things I like about 2nd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle, is that it keeps bringing up new items - the range of inserts and additional sheets that went in at different times during its production means there always seems to be something new, although that's probably just because nobody has bothered to catalogue all the ephemera.

Rab of the Geekly Digest (Thank you!)

This yellow flyer, which I certainly didn't get when I bought Warhammer 2nd Edition back in the day, nor did I get it when I bought another copy of eBay some years later (although I did get some bendy D&D toys with it!) Anyway, this arcane scroll  mentions two Warhammer posters. One of the posters is the Joe Dever and Gary Chalk one that Goblin Lee did an epic job of identifying the miniatures of in his post on Warhammer Posters .

Warhammer Poster via Goblin Lee

Both posters were also mentioned in Chalk and Devers Tabletop Heroes column in White Dwarf 62 - February 1985, so that puts a possible date on the insertion of the flyer, as Warhammer 2nd Edition came out late 84.

The second poster, which I've never seen, but probably now I mention it a million will fly out of the basements of the worlds grognards like so many blood-thirsty Stirges from the Caves of Chaos, is described thusly:

"This poster features the cover art from the new Warhammer box, extended to include the forthcoming Warhammer Role-Play cover too! A magnificent picture poster, and a fine example of John's widely acclaimed fantasy work." 

Warhammer 2nd Edition, cover by John Blanche, looks like this:

Warhammer 2nd Edition box via Tenkars Tavern

And the poster, which intriguingly had the proposed artwork for the cover of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play added to it, must have looked something like this:

Warhammer Poster Mock-up
The above image was reproduced in Warhammer 3rd Edition, on p. 116 / 117. I've stitched together two low-res scans. The image goes into the spine, isn't well printed in the first place, all the colours are washed out in comparison with the original box art, it's really small (less than half size)  - there is show-through from the text from the page behind (thin paper) - there are 'shine' areas where the image has been photographed prior to reproduction - most noticeable on the fighter on the right and the orc he is cleaving. Which is weird, perhaps it was taken from a print of the  poster and not the original artwork.

TL:DR the image would need to be completely redrawn to get it anywhere near fit for human consumption. I need not have bothered as VeronaKid pointed out the poster was up for sale on US eBay at the time of writing, for the very reasonable price of $75 (that's not a reasonable price):

The Poster!


Some further observations - the 3rd Edition reprint has clouds going in the opposite directions, the pole-arms and the bats (or Stirges) have been removed or replaced. Visually there seems to be more image missing on the right-hand "Warhammer Fantasy Role-play side" - otherwise it wouldn't have had the same proportions - the composition of the skull-face is also weirdly off-centre. Looking at the poster there is a lot of 'air' - obviously for the logos and publishers blurb, and in fact it looks very much like a 2-in-1 image one would have made for a wrap-around cover, rather than a box front.

But, perhaps more importantly than these details, the addition of the content on the right-hand side. This isn't a Grim World of Perilous Adventure, nor the gothic adventure of rat-catchers in Medieval Cthulhu sewers getting bitten by syphellitic dogs, the Enemy Within that we know from Warhammer Fantasy Role-play. No. It's heroic blood and gore outside Castle Greyskull.

THIS IS WARHAMMER!

Not only that but it has a wizard who looks like a purple version of The Vision, with an explosion coming out of his backside, standing on top of Castle Greyskull.

THIS IS WARHAMMER!


Not only that but it's got what looks like a woman on it, running out of the mouth of Castle Greyskull. In the front middle. The colouration makes me think maybe she's a Dark Elf or similar - tho' the costume is exactly the same as the  Runequest 1st Edition (and 2nd) illustrating what I believe to be the incalculable debt that Warhammer owes Runequest, whilst also continuing Warhammer 2nd Editions all too  brief attempt at gender equality.

THIS IS WARHAMMER!


There you have it a weird, half-baked reconstruction of what might have been.

So what if Warhammer Fantasy Role Play had been published in 1985? We know what the cover may have looked like, but what of the game itself? We know from interviews that Fellowship and the change to 2-digit stats were late changes, so it likely would have mechncially hewn closer to Warhammer Battle Second Edition. The Careers system may well have been in place, but as published it lacks any focus outside of the Empire (that Dark Elf warrior maiden, must surely have had options)? Would the Enemy Within and all the Renaissance Call of Cthulhu have been sidelined for the Doomstones Campaign and replaced with funky sci-fantasy South American Runequest?



19 comments:

  1. Found my Warhammer 1st edition boxed set today, along with the Forces Of Fantasy set, and was amazed by just how old the typeset looked and how great the dodgy artwork is :-)

    Heck of a difference between the Characters book and WFRP though ;-)

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    1. Yes. Forces of Fantasy is beautiful isn't it!

      As you say WFB1 and WFRP1e are quite different. There are some definite seeds in Warhammer 1st - there are kind of proto-careers with skill packages, although the concept isn't developed.

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  2. I used to be great fan of the 1st edition WFRP as it is, but over time I have began to love more the 1970s D&D/Conan/Erol Otus kind of "Otherhammer" that it could have become and perhaps was in the 1st and 2nd editions. In the WFB3 main rulebook one can still notice many such elements if one looks closely and I love it: it doesn't have to be the pseudo-renaissance world if one prefers the more mythical view of fantasy world, as if out of the Holmes D&D or Arduin Grimoire.

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    1. Ooh. Otherhammer. I like that! Althammer ... Yes, there is much more of a Swords & Sorcery feel about 1st and 2nd editions, and perhaps some of the change of direction and tone saved it from becoming yet another fantasy heartbreaker. Although to my reading it is vaguely more Moorcock and Stafford than Howard and Gygax.

      I think as I mentioned in the post, in terms of game ruling, the careers do firmly cement the setting - they are mostly urban, european middle-ages concerns. The additional, unreleased, campaign settings Lustria and perhaps an Otherhammer version of Realms of Chaos (which, after all, was "in development" since WFB1, if not before) and Ravening Hordes (which expanded the various cultures) could well have expanded on that.

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  3. I recently got my hands on a copy of WFB2, a bunch of old White Dwarfs and re-read the first two Journals. The leap from them to the Big Books of 3rd edition era is quite jarring and it feels as if there is some missing link that was stillborn inbetween. Maybe this version of WFRP is it, the scope and feel being more Wizards/He-man than Cthulu/Hapsburg. You never know.....

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    1. Heartily recommend the Compendiums as well - although they are 1e. Its worth considering the 2e era included Orcs Drift, McDeath, Blood on the Streets, Terror of the Lichemaster, Blood Bowl 1e, WFRP1e and Rogue Trader (although of the time - none of the 'improvements' from 3e made it in, its really a ski-fi supplement of 2nd ed) - it heralded the arrival of the Skaven and Chaos Dwarves, had Norse and Nipponess armies in Ravening Hordes.

      There's not too much Masters of the Universe going in (in terms of superpowers), but Kaleb Daark and other snippets have gods incarnate in a Moorcockian sense. The sci-fantasy stuff is littered about tho.

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  4. I have WFB2 more as shelf decoration. I've never really delved into it, as I do like 3rd. However your I have been looking for that he-man type flare from 3rd. Maybe I need to give 2nd a thorough look over. I know who have written about it before, will have to reread those as well. ;)

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    1. Ah, and doesn't it's nice shiny red logo look cool on the shelf too!

      As I said to WP up there, don't expect too much Masters of the Universe, "One Greyskull doesn't make an Eternia" as my old Gaffer used to say! But having said that, it is open-ended and flexible so entirely possible. Have fun!

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    2. For sure...in the end we have to forge our own inspirations. That is what I have really tried to do the last year. I just need to game more.

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  5. Hey, Zhu- there's a listing of the poster in question currently up for auction on the 'bay. It's been up for sale for a good while now, as it seems to pop up on my searches on a weekly basis. You were pretty close on your "it would look like this" estimate. . .

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/WARHAMMER-OLD-HAMMER-WHITE-DWARF-CITADEL-MINIS-GW-POSTERS-1984-GAME-BOX-ART-/221974243152?hash=item33aeb22750:g:URUAAOSw42JWEJEA

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    1. Hey VeronaKid, thanks so much! $75 is a bit out of my price-range, but scouring eBay was definitely a more sensible option than re-drawing it just for a fake cover!

      However, it opens up another mystery - the sky and background pole arms on the left hand side of the poster are the same as the 2nd Edition box art - meaning the reprint in 3rd edition has been re-worked... how odd!

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  6. I love reading your blog for stuff like this. Those odd little trails you point out. Otherhammer is a great name for the almost-weres.

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    1. Cheers Simon D. Maybe I should focus back on these small paths a little more, and less on the massive landscape projects... might have posted more!

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  7. I can’t speak for the setting, but mechanically, I don’t think it would have been too different from what we ended up with.

    If you look at the First Citadel Compendium, under the “Warhammer Rules” article, there’s a section which deals with personal characteristics. It introduces the concept of percentage-based tests that make up the backbone of WFRP (by multiplying the relevant stat by eight). The article even establishes the practice of adding or subtracting 10% for positive or negative circumstances.

    As you mentioned, we already have proto-careers from the 1st ed rulebook (as well as a proto-critical-hit table IIRC). There’s also some stuff in the Second Compendium (e.g. lockpicking). Add this together with the basic combat rules, and we are quite close to a skeleton of the WFRP rules.

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    1. I think you're right about the mechanical similarities, although I expect WFRP85 might have been a bit more more eclectic and haphazard, but 99.9% of the creatures and spells are straight WFB2.

      There is also the Thieves article in White Dwarf 51 that adds a lot more to the skills packages and careers concept.

      Itching to build that retroclone again...

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  8. It is funny when you read a blog post and you get that sudden flash of inspiration from discovering random new knowledge.

    WFB2 and mid 80's White Dwarfs were very much part of my formative gaming experience in Sweden. Of course we couldn't afford armies of miniatures so we had to play with cardboard pieces, but we did play WFB2 a lot, basically until WFB3 appeared and for some reason immediately killed all our interest in it.

    When WFRP came out we also played it (the entire EW campaign etc) and had a good time, but I was never really comfortable with the Germanic Old World, so it gave way to other things.

    I've been following the Oldhammer community from the start from my comfy armchair, hoping that someday life would allow for more active participation, and POOF, suddenly there comes the notion that somewhere is an imaginative WFRP-that-never-was that has all the cool stuff that I really liked back in the day, some kind of 80's British style Sword and Sorcery combined with a dark sense of humour, just waiting to be written.

    I would buy the resulting retroclone right away ...
    (at least if heroes are Major Heroes and not simple Level 25 Heroes ...)

    With regards to name, +1 to OtherHammer, AltHammer is too much Empire for me ...

    (Disclaimer, I understand that Nostalgia and rose colored glasses tend to negatively influence the capacity for sober thought, but just think of a heavy metal chaos warrior barbarian named Harry fighting punk orcs outside some twisted Castle Greyskull)

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    1. Well, I'm glad I managed to fire your enthusiasm. I must admit that my formative 'hammer experiences seem to be very similar to your own. Of course by WFB3, we had WFB2 "in space" in the form of Rogue Trader, which ate up most of our gaming.

      Unfortunately I can't instantly summon an OtherHammer, WRP85, alternahammer, WRFP 0.5 Edition, Oldhammer RPG, retroclone out of the seething voids of chaos for you to play. But would certainly be interested in helping pull one together, already put in some work moving the career advances from the major to minor scale for our house games.

      There has been some really great input from Gideon over at Strike-to-Stun he really knows his stuff.

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  9. Another great blog post, Zhu. I share the general sentiments about Otherhammer/what could have been -- far more interesting than what it became. Then again, perhaps it is the obscurity and sense of possibility that makes it so much more appealing than what is.

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