Let's Read: WFRP First Edition


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Years ago, at a secondhand bookstore, I bought a copy of Warhammer First Edition. (The bookstore closed around 2002, I think. I really miss browsing those sorts of stores, and wish there was one less than an hour drive from me. But I digress.) I skimmed it, put it in a drawer, and more or less forgot about it for years. I knew it was these, but didn’t really look at it much. Fast forward a decade, and I’ve decided to rectify that.

What I know about Warhammer:
Not a lot. I know that it’s a fantasy world, based on Europe, and often described as grimdark. I’m aware of the miniatures game, but have never played it. I know that there have been two other editions since this one, and the last was controversial for being “board gamey” but I never read or played either.

I have read one Warhammer 40K RPG, Dark Heresy. The only other Warhammer thing I’ve read is The Vampire Genevieve, which I read because Kim Newman (writing under the penname Jack Yeovil) is awesome. If you haven’t read Anno Dracula and Hound of the D’Uberbervilles, go out and do it now. This thread can wait. But I got the impression that Newman was doing his own thing in the Warhammer ‘verse, so I doubt that it gave me a deep feel for the setting.

About this particular edition.
This is the 1995 Hogshead printing of the rules. According to RPG.net’s game index, there had previously been a hardcover edition, and one with some color plates. This is all black and white, except for the title. (This particular edition doesn’t seem to have its own entry there. I don’t know if it needs one or not.) There apparently may have been some editing between this and the original 1989 version, but I’m guessing that’s mostly errata.

Anyway, let’s begin.


The Cover:
A punk-rock Dwarf with tattoos, piercings and an orange mohawk buries his axe into the throat of a goblin, as a wizard gets ready to throw a ball of fire and a fighter impales with a morningstar wielding ogre. A wall in the background is stained with old blood, as is the sword of another goblin on the edge of the page. Several rats are visible. It does an effective job of emphasizing the subheading, “A Grim World of Perilous Adventure.”

I really like the look of the Dwarf, which says that this is something different than your dour, industrious stereotype. I also think the fighter’s gender is a little ambiguous, though if it’s a female, she’s not very attractive. Then again, I assume they’re not supposed to look attractive while fighting for their life after an already tough dungeon crawl. I suppose it’s also possible that the wizard is female too. Both have longish hair, and in both cases their chests are concealed.

The only thing I really don’t like is the logo. It looks like someone was playing around with Photoshop too much, adding too many textures and outlines. Of course, it probably wasn’t designed in Photoshop, which Wikipedia tells me was still in Version 3 when this printing came out. This may just be the fact that 20-year-old logo design feels dated. If I was reading it in 2022, maybe I'd say that it felt nice and old fashioned.

Intro fiction

This tells the story of a group of adventurers who were motivated to see treasure by a mysterious, hooded patron. As they reach their destination, he turns on them, and they discover that he was actually some sort of lizard or snake man, who had been trying to sacrifice them to a horde of snakes for some reason.

Like almost all RPG fiction, this section does very little for me. It’s not bad, but I don’t love it.

However, I do appreciate is that two of the four party members are female. I’m sorry to stereotype, but I’d have thought Games Workshop’s audience would be primarily male, and they’d have written the game to appeal almost exclusively to me. So far that hasn’t been the case.

The other thing which surprised me was that the lizard man passes himself off as an Arab. All the rest of the places I’ve seen mentioned in Warhammer are thinly-veiled European places, so it’s surprising to see a real-world ethnicity. But turning to the map in a few pages, I see that the nation of “Araby” lies to the far south of the world, so I’ll assume that Arab just refers to a native of that country.

Table of Contents
Not much to note, except that there’s more blood in the illustration here. I hadn’t realized how sanitary a lot of RPG artwork I’ve seen lately is.

Much of this is your basic “what is an RPG?” stuff, which tells you about acting in character, the role of a GM, how to read those funny dice, etc. I am just a little surprised that they emphasize that using models is entirely optional, even in combat. I thought this game was a spinoff of the miniatures line, and the authors would to encourage players to stock up on Games Workshop figurines, instead of just saying “a huge variety of models are available for this.”

Also, and I fully approve of this, the game emphasizes you don’t really need to know much about the world. There’s a lot of isolated towns, and occasional contact with the “proud remains of the once mighty” Dwarfs, and Elves who have not always been Humanity’s allies. But players aren’t expected to know many of the details before play begins. I’ve always preferred that approach to reading tons of background I may or may not need to create a character.

That’s it for tonight. I’ll try to post something every day, though how much of the book I can get through each day depends on what else is happening in my life.


I used to be Ovid.
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Subscribed! I got this when it first came out and GW has changed a lot in the meantime - Kim Newman's stuff fit much better back then. I'll be interested to hear how someone with some impressions of their products today sees the original edition.


Mostly lurking
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Subscribed. WFRP first edition is awesome for many reasons. If you do like what you see, try to track a copy of the first 3 parts of "The Enemy Within", for added pleasure*.

*I should do a WiR of those, now that I mention it.


Registered User
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1st Ed WFRP is indeed a classic one-book RPG. It is also one of those books you can spend hours reading even though you will never play it.


Small but Vicious GM
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As an avid admirer of the setting and 2nd Edition, I shall follow this closely! I have read little of a friends copy, before, but I didn't have too close a look. However, I have read the entire TEW campaign, and loved that. The setting changed significantly between the games, but I still love the old style (even though the 2nd Ed era is my favourite).

Anyway, looking forward to this!


RPGnet Member
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Yay, subscribed.

I love 1e so much that I own the hardcover, the GW softcover (my first own rpg book), one copy of the Hogshead softcover for keeping, and one worn down copy of the Hogshead softcover for use. Call me crazy but it was my first rpg and I'll honour it as such. :eek: :D


Definitely not the Antichrist
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That takes me back. My first edition hardcover is still on the shelf behind me, held together with sticky tape - I probably got more good quality gaming out of that than any other RPG.
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