Time for another entry in my ongoing series of brief looks at interesting game supplements. This time, it’s a Warhammer special, looking at a clutch of supplements from Cubicle 7 for Wrath & Glory and 4th Edition WFRP.
The Imperial Zoo (WFRP)
Back in the era of 2nd Edition WFRP, the Old World Bestiary had a neat conceit where the first half consisted of bestiary entries on the creatures detailed therein, whereas the back half provided the actual stats, so you could have a gap between what was IC known about the monsters in question and what was true. The Imperial Zoo for 4th Edition WFRP takes this tradition one step further, by presenting the stats embedded in accounts of daring expeditions undertaken to study rare beasts on behalf of the titular zoo.
This is an unconventional way to do a monster book, but it’s certainly a flavourful one; if you need an alphabetical listing, after all, there’s always the index, and the approach gives the referee freedom to choose which aspects of the writeups are true and which are misunderstandings, whilst using the writeups as a basis for handouts and information the PCs can acquire by asking the relevant NPCs.
The book also provides extensive details on the harvesting of monster parts for making magic item, in suitably gruesome detail, as well as a handy summary table of creature traits which is useful for quickly figuring out what a creature can do. The book also reflects a tune-up in the way Cubicle 7 present WFRP monster stats, better optimised for helping refs quickly work out a creature’s capabilities with less cross-referencing, which is very welcome. The collection is rounded out with some sample player characters, designed to be especially suitable for a campaign based around follow-up expeditions building on the work of the Imperial Zoo’s previous parties of explorers, which would certainly be a way to get maximal value out of the book.
If you want an encyclopedic collection of WFRP adversary stats, this may seem a little thin – particularly since the emphasis here is very much on beasts (and perhaps some goblins and skaven here and there), not on a broader range of foes. On the other hand, The Imperial Zoo is an interesting and worthwhile experiment in rethinking what an RPG monster book can be, and I think it is richer for it.
Church of Steel (Wrath & Glory)
This is essentially the vehicles supplement for Cubicle 7’s revised version of Wrath & Glory. The original release of the game had vehicle weapons in the core book, but they were somewhat underbaked (as were other aspects of that slightly rushed project); after Ulisses North America gave up the rights to the line and Games Workshop tasked Cubicle 7 with the salvage job, the revised rulebook trimmed that back, in service of the bid to refocus the game around its’ system’s strengths. This supplement in essence provides a fully revised vehicle system, plus some fluff on the Adeptus Mechanicus and how various factions view and interact with their vehicles, plus a deep bench of example vehicles from a range of PC factions, and so on.
I’m usually not enough of a gearhead to want much out of vehicle rules in RPGs. To my mind, a vehicle in a game is there to eithe provide a means of allowing characters to travel from A to B, or to provide a situational or environmental modifier, such as in a chase scene. I’m particularly disinterested in having a fully-developed system of vehicular combat, rather than just using vehicles as modifiers to the baseline combat system; going further than this often gets quite wargamey for my tastes.
Fortunately, Church of Steel largely follows this approach. The rules for using vehicles are kept fairly simple, vehicle stats are kept terse, and the supplement includes useful guidelines and tools for running journeys on a narrative basis. If you want to go full gearhead, Church of Steel may end up disappointing, but if you just want a bit of system support for handling travel sequences or vehicular combat which doesn’t get too bogged down this will do the job.
Archives of the Empire Volume 2 (WFRP)
As with the previous volume of this series, this is a bit of a grab-bag of stuff. This time there’s a deep dive on ogres, including rules for PCs (a treatment which does an OK job of avoiding some of the more racist implications of earlier iterations of the lore), details on star signs and astrology, rules for making magic items and handling the exploits of PCs in battles, and an overview of the Grand Hospice.
It’s perhaps best to see the Archives of the Empire series as a sort of high production value, thick WFRP magazine – any particular issue is going to have a weird grab-bag of stuff, you may struggle to use all of it (and probably won’t want to), but there’ll likely be something which tickles your fancy.