Saturday, March 27, 2010

Warhammer Fantasy RPG GM's Toolkit Review

I got to stop by Noble Knight Games yesterday (click the banner at the top of this page to peruse their online selection and support The Hopeless Gamer!) and picked up the GM's Toolkit for Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd Edition. This is the first real release to follow-up last year's core set and adventurer's toolkit, and it's a nice way to round out everything you could need to play any game of Warhammer you could dream up. I haven't gotten a chance to do more than briefly page through the book that came with the boxset, so this is going to be more or a component review and description so that those teetering on the edge of whether or not to pick it up can decide for yourself if the Toolkit is worth picking up (spoiler: I think it is).

The first thing I noticed when picking it up in the store was that it had some real heft to it. I was very surprised as I remember the Adventurer's toolkit not being that heavy of jam-packed full of stuff. Instead this time, we get a box that harkens back to the days of yore when boxsets meant you got a full box of something. After peeling the shrink, I was a little disappointed in how flimsy the box itself was. I ended up taking everything out to look at, and the when trying to put it back in, the bottom popped open and it was difficult to close it all back up. I haven't played around yet with trying to fit the components into the Z-Binder I'm using to store the rest of the game (see this post for more information on my storage solution), but I'm hoping they'll fit well enough. I had hoped before that the box would be good so I can just grab it if needed in addition to the binder, but a lot of its components will fit for sure.

Back to the heft of the thing - you really get quite the complete package. When you factor in how many little GM tools and tricks you can now pull as well as the huge variety of locations you can represent and pull out on the fly to add to a game - it's a lot of bang for your buck. I'll go through each component separately.


The Game Master's Toolkit book is broken into several chapters: Nemesis NPC's & Organizations, Episode Templates, Making Progress, Enjoying the Journey, Advancement Insights, Setting the Scene, Rewards & Incentives, and Optional rules (including expanded aggression & cunning options, preparing for actions, sacrificing actions, risking against recharge, fortunate circumstances, mutually exclusive character options, rank-based casing & invocation, and higher lethality). There is also a 4 page master index and glossary included as well. The book also explains the contents of the Toolkit at large. I really lik how this is set up so you can just pick a chapter to read and come back to in the future if you need to look something else up. The whole book packs a lot of crunch and inspiration for GM's that matches a lot of other great GM books on the market now - of course with the WHFRPG tinge of flavor to it. It's 46 pages of content with two pages of ads in the back. It's also a little smaller than the other main books in the core set (closer to the magic/religion books in size really). It'll fit in very well with the budding collection of books available for the game.


Next up we have the cards that are included in the Toolkit. Because this product focuses on GM's as opposed to players, the cards have an emphasis on answering the GM's needs. One of the things I love about the new edition of Warhammer are the location cards. You got a good batch in the core set, but the Toolkit provides you with an additional 12 locations you can pull out for your players on the fly or plan a night's adventure around. My particular favorites are the Hidden Shrine, Treasure Vault, Burning Building, and Abandoned Mine.


Don't get me wrong though, the players are not left out. Included is also 10 item cards. We haven't seen much in the form of item cards yet (I believe there's only really three out there so far), so this adds a lot of options above what we already have. There are several items aimed at making players more awesome like the Bow of Athel Loren and Enchanted Shield. I feel the real value however, comes from all the GM items. You get things like Profane Artefact, Forbidden Tome, Mysterious Flask, and Locked Chest and this GM's mind just starts racing with how to include these in an adventure. Are they entirely needed as physical objects? Not at all, but it certainly adds a sense of cool to the specific item. It also makes it clear that the object is mysterious with rules like "If you drink or touch the contents of the flask, refer to your GM for further instructions" on the Mysterious Flask that's going to make some of your players run wild with eagerness to try it out to see what the GM has planned. A very cool little inclusion to the Toolkit. I'm guessing in the future we're going to get some neat campaign-specific item cards in releases like The Gathering Storm. I could also see FFG release tiny little expansions consisting of 50 or so item cards.


A new mechanic included in the GM's Toolkit is the Nemesis/Organization sheets. These remind me most of the party sheets used for players... only evil. You get eight of them in the Toolkit including The Lurking Threat, The Eldritch Circle, Brotherhood of Blades, The Unholy Crusade, The Savage Warband, The Criminal Empire, The Knight's Templar, and The Power Mongers. You can see by the titles that they are mostly generic types of organizations (like the party sheets) so you can tweak them to your heart's content and make them work for your own campaign. These cards have sockets just like the party sheets as well for focus, reputation, or tactic. It's a nice addition that'll help the GM keep track of his big bad organization always out to get the players.


We're also treated with some nice new punchouts to add to the collection. We've got some doubles of stuff we already have (which is actually a nice inclusion) like the skaven and goblins as well as some new ones. It's a good mix and should cover most of the bases for the standard game of Warhammer when combined with the core set. My favorite punch out they included was the prebuilt progress track. It looks like the puzzle pieces used in the core set but it one solid chunk. An obvious, but useful item to include. The spaces missing in the counters section were punched out in the bag before I even opened the box up or popped out in my minimal handling of the bag. It's not a big deal as the pieces were in there - it just shows that they're not difficult to punch out at all. I consider this to be a positive.

I saved my favorite part for last. When the GM Toolkit was announced, I wasn't sure it would be something I needed. That is of course until I read that the GM screen was going to be included. The screen is were a lot of the heft of the overall package comes from. It's basically the quality of a board game (big surprise considering it comes from FFG) and is gorgeous. This thing is a brick wall of a screen with fantastic, epic art on the main two sections. On the outer two flaps are four huge pieces of very nice NPC/enemy art featuring some of the biggest bads Warhammer has to offer including a dragon, ORK!, Skaven, and Chaos Priest. Very intimidating!


You're going to have to forgive me for posting a lot of pictures as I believe this is the cornerstone component of the product. To the left you can see just how thick each section of the GM screen is. I know there are some reports of not being entirely happy with the information included on the GM screen.

I know of at least one really good fan-made GM screen that can be found on the official forums. I personally really dig what they did decide to include as it is not cluttered but actually very easy to use. I've been surprised before when GMing trying to use a GM screen - it's not really a natural skill but rather something you need to pick up. I feel like the GM screen included here is definitely on the easier-to-navigate side of things. Take a look at the innermost two flaps to the right there.


My favorite part of the GM screen is how much they integrated all the components of the game into it. On the far left side you've got an "Adversary Dice Budget Workspace" on the bottom border to keep track of two different groups of adversaries and which dice you still have left to use.

On the far right side you have a built-in progress tracker workspace as well. What's nice about this is you could use the punch out progress tracker for a public item to track and then also use the GM progress tracker for something hidden. A nice trick available for GM's right out of the box of the Toolkit. It's a really impressive screen that, I would say is better than the product even Whitewolf has put out for each of its New World of Darkness lines. I haven't seen anything other than the player's side of the D&D 4th Ed. screen, so I can't comment on anything other than the art used for this screen alone is much more inspiring and surprisingly brighter than the D&D screen currently in production.

So would I say this thing is worth it? I paid 25 bucks for it via Noble Knight Games (again - click the banner above to check out their products and support The Hopeless Gamer!) and do not regret even a bit of it. The screen itself should retail for $15.00 alone. When you add in the little GM's guide, extra cards, nemesis sheets, and extra punch outs, I'd say you get a ton of value for the extra 10 bucks. While I liked the Adventurer's Toolkit, it doesn't even compare to the value you get from the GM's Toolkit.

1 comment:

  1. Warhammer have great content, but warcraft in my opinion have better :)

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    ReplyDelete

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