Complicating the Simple: Replacing the WFRP 2E Career Progression

One of the things that came up last session was that the WFRP 2E career system doesn’t really jive with what I’m doing with the game.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the flavor the career system brings to the table and, were we doing a more urban or sandbox-style game, it would probably fit like a glove.  Instead, we’re doing a more traditional murderhobo (or, rather, “We’d be murderhobos except we’re so terrified of being killed by other murderhobos”) style game (which is by design).

Now, I know that the career system is part of the whole point of WFRP, but I don’t really care. We’re using the WFRP 2E system because I’m extremely comfortable with the system, having played in a Dark Heresy (its descendant) game for probably longer than any other game at this point. (Exalted might be a close second, but I doubt anyone would claim that it has a system one would describe as “salvageable”. Ideas, absolutely, but the not system as a whole.)  So, I’m comfortable with it. It’s flexible, does what I need it to do, and gets out of the way.  That’s what we want, right?

But when the PCs are sprinting away from danger and trying to find a safe place to not be murdered or eaten by bears… none of those careers really matter. They’re all Vagabonds.  Before that, they were Militiamen and Camp Followers. Before that they had lives doing stuff for which the Career System was useful.

There are a couple of fixes for this:

  • Just roll with it. Stick to the RAW, let everyone switch into the Vagabond (or similar career) if they’re so inclined. One PC (the Noble!) did that a few sessions ago.
  • Fiat them all to be Vagabond (or similar career). “Guys, all of you have just exited your careers to one of the following careers. For free. Am I not merciful?  Am I not merciful!?
  • Do something complex and strange but more open-ended that’s a riff on how Only War handles advances.  What?
(Because the first two options are negligibly easy and probably advisable: let’s put them aside. I’m going to talk about what I cooked up in terms of the more complex approach.  What follows is probably a terrible idea, but sometimes it’s fun to just overcomplicate things.)

Only War came out a few months ago, and I’m really digging its approach to the 40K RPG system.  Instead of the weird class-based but also pseudo-level, pseduo-skill buy system that works but is awkward and initially kind of confusing, it makes things very open-ended.

Players still pick a career. Instead of coming with a list of advances open to that career (or a list of lists of advances, as with the other 40K RPGs), they come with some special abilities (not germane) and a list of aptitudes. Aptitudes are meta-abilities; what a career is good at. A Medic’s Aptitudes,  for example, are BS, Int, Per, WP, Fieldcraft, and Knowledge.  Every advance  is associated with two aptitudes: how many of those Aptitudes character has determines what the advance costs the character. Medicae is Int and Fieldcraft; a Medic who has both Int and Fieldcraft pays less for Medicae advances than, say, a Weapons Specialist who has the Fieldcraft Aptitude but not the Int Aptitude.
Characters can (generally) take whatever advances they want… but XP costs encourage them to take advances in things that the character at which they should be good and not things at which they shouldn’t be good. So… sorta like the WFRP career system, but less of a straight-jacket (“You’re a Fisherman, you are incapable of knowing Etiquette.”)
Of course, the 40K Skills and Talents aren’t quite the same as the WFRP Skills and Talents, and mapping those WFRP careers to the Aptitude list…  Fortunately, the day after the session I needed to be mentally pseudo-active while vegging. Doing that sort of thing was exactly what I needed that afternoon.  Here are the results.

At a high level: characters still roll their starting careers. They get their skills and free advance as per the core book.  Based on their career, they receive a total of six Aptitudes (some of which are automatic, some of which may be selected from a list) that determine how my XP different advances cost from that point going forward.

If you’re interested, all of my work in assembling this can be found in this spreadsheet.  This is basically the scratch paper I used to make sure stuff looked reasonably like what the career system promoted.

For starters: the Aptitudes

BS Ag Fel
S Int
Offense Defense Finesse
Engineering Larceny Perception
Animals Leadership Social
Knowledge Magic Wilderness

Each of the Characteristics gets an Aptitude. Then, there are broad Offense, Defense, and Finesse Aptitudes; these should, I think, be self-explanatory.  I tweak the other OW Aptitudes to make them more WFRP-appropriate. Psyker becomes Magic, Fieldcraft gets split up quite a bit, Tech becomes Engineering, for example. General is a catch-all; everyone automatically has General.

Then, I match each Skill and Talent with a pair of Aptitude.  This was easier than I’d have expected: Characteristics were a straight-pull over while every Skill is already associated with a Characteristic (and, therefore its Aptitude), and the second Aptitude was, for the most part, obvious.  Talents were a little trickier, but worked themselves out.

WS WS Offense
BS BS Finesse
S S Offense
T T Defense
Ag Ag Finesse
Int Int Knowledge
WP WP Magic
Fel Fel Social
Attacks WS Offense
Wounds T General

Animal Care Int Animals Animal Training Fel Animals
Charm Fel Social Blather Fel Social
Command Fel Leadership Chanelling WP Magic
Concealment Ag Wilderness Charm Animal Fel Animals
Consume Alcohol T General Dodge Blow Ag Defense
Disguise Fel Larceny Follow Trail Int Perception
Drive S Animals Heal Int Knowledge
Evaluate Int Perception Hypnotism WP Finesse
Gamble Int Social Knowledge (*) Int Knowledge
Gossip Fel Social Lip Reading Int Perception
Haggle Fel Social Magical Sense WP Magic
Intimidate S Leadership Navigation Int Wilderness
Outdoor Survival Int Wilderness Performer (*) Fel Finesse
Perception Int Perception Pick Lock Ag Engineering
Ride Ag Animals Prepare Poison Int Knowledge
Row S General Read/Write Int Knowledge
Scale Sheer Surface S Finesse Sail Ag Wilderness
Search Int Perception Set Trap Ag Engineering
Silent Move Ag Larceny Secret Signs (*) Int Knowledge
Swim S General Shadowing Ag Larceny
Sleight of Hand Ag Larceny
Speak Language (*) Int Knowledge
Trade (*) * General
Torture Fel Finesse
Ventriloquism Fel Larceny

Acute Hearing General Perception Quick Draw Ag Finesse
Aethyric Attunement WP Magic Rapid Reload Ag BS
Alley Cat General Larceny Resist Chaos Wp Defense
Ambidextrous WS BS Resist Disease T Defense
Lore (*) Int Knowledge Resist Magic WP Defense
Armoured Casting WP Magic Resist Poison T Defense
Artistic Int Finesse Rover General Wilderness
Contortionist Ag Finesse Schemer Fel Social
Dealmaker Fel Leadership Seasoned Traveller Int Social
Disarm WS Offense Sharpshooter BS Finesse
Etiquette Fel Social Sixth Sense WP Perception
Excellent Vision General Perception Specialist Weapon Group Int Finesse
Fast Hands WS Magic Stout-Hearted WP Defense
Fearless WP Defense Street Fighting WS Finesse
Flee! Ag Defense Streetwise Fel Larceny
Frenzy S Offense Strike Mighty Blow WS Offense
Keen Senses General Perception Strike to Injure WS Offense
Lightning Parry WS Defense Strike to Stun WS Offense
Linguistics Int General Strong-Minded T WP
Magic WP Magic Sturdy S Defense
Master Gunner BS Engineering Sure Shot BS Offense
Master Orator Fel Leadership Surgery Int Knowledge
Meditation T Magic Super Numerate Int Engineering
Menacing S Leadership Swashbuckler Ag Finesse
Mighty Shot BS Offense Trapfinder Ag Perception
Mimic Fel Social Trick Riding Finesse Animal
Orientation Int Wilderness Tunnel Rat Ag Finesse
Public Speaking Fel Leadership Wrestling S Offense

A couple of notes here:

  • Characteristic advances are limited to 8, except Additional Attacks, which are limited to 2. This is, more or less, how WFRP 2E caps advances: across all of the careers, you’ll never get more than 8 advances to WS, for example. Where it’s a bit lower (Int, Fel), it seems arbitrary to cap one at 7 and another at 8.
  • I tried really hard to keep the distribution of Skills and Talents fairly even. I didn’t shoot for totally even, but I did try to get everything close.
  • Sailing and such are associated with Wilderness. That’s imperfect, but it was necessary to keep things even close. Otherwise, Wilderness and a hypothetical Sailing Aptitude would be woefully underutilized.
  • Talents like Lightning Reflexes and Hardy that are really-out-of progression Characteristic advances only make sense within the context of the Career System, and don’t make any sense here.  They’ve been moved into the Aptitude table
  • I’m not interested in running a game with fantastic races right now. Just Humans. So, I’ve ignored anything Dwarf/Elf/Halfling specific.  If any of this makes sense outside of my head, it should be negligible to apply to demihuman stuff.

Speaking of Careers & Aptitudes: this was the tricky part. I ran down the list of careers and built up the list of which Aptitudes were clearly appropriate, which were maybe appropriate, and which had no place. I literally cut-and-pasted stuff into the above spreadsheet and just ticked down Yes/No/Maybe if the Advance Scheme indicated that the Characteristics, Skills, and Talents associated with an aptitude was something that was strongly present, not present at all, or present but not strongly so, respectively.

Career Mandatory Optional
Agitator Int, Fel, Leadership, Social BS, Ag, WP, Knowledge, Larceny, Perception
Apprentice Wizard Int, WP, Magic, Social T, Ag, Fel, Knowledge, Perception
Bailiff Int, Fel, Knowledge, Leadership, Social BS, S, WP, Perception
Barber-Surgeon Ag, Int, WP, Knowledge T, Fel, Finesse
Boatman WS, Ag, Wilderness BS, S, T, Int, Social
Bodyguard WS, Offense, Defense, Finesse S, T, Ag, Perception
Bone Picker T, Larceny, Perception, Social S, Ag, WP, Fel, Animals
Bounty Hunter BS, Ag, Offense, Perception, Wilderness S, WP, Finesse, Larceny
Burgher Int, Knowledge, Perception, Social Ag, WP, Fel
Camp Follower Ag, Fel T, Int, WP, Finesse, Animals, Larceny, Social
Charcoal-Burner Perception, Wilderness S, T, Ag, Int, WP, Fel
Coachman BS, Ag, Animals, Wilderness WP, Fel, Perception, Social
Entertainer BS, Ag, Fel, Social S, WP, Finesse, Animals, Larceny, Perception
Estalian Diestro WS, Ag, Offense, Finesse S, T, Int, Defense, Engineering
Ferryman BS, S, Perception, Social T, Ag, Int, Fel, Defense
Fisherman S, Ag, Perception, Wilderness BS, T, Int, Finesse, Social
Grave Robber Ag, WP, Larceny, Perception BS, S, Finesse
Hedge Wizard WP, Fel, Magic, Perception T, Ag, Int, Animals, Social
Hunter BS, Ag, Perception, Wilderness T, Int, Engineering, Larceny
Initiate Int, WP, Fel, Knowledge BS, S, T, Leadership, Social
Jailer WS, S, T, Defense WP, Larceny, Leadership, Perception
Kislevite Kossar WS, BS, T, WP Defense, Leadership, Perception, Social, Wilderness
Marine WS, BS, S, Offense Ag, WP, Defense, Social
Mercenary WS, BS, Offense, Social S, T, Ag, WP, Defense, Finesse, Animals, Perception
Messenger Ag, Animals, Perception, Wilderness BS, T, Int, WP
Militiaman WS, Ag, Defense, Perception BS, S, T, Animals
Miner S, T, Perception, Wilderness BS, Int, WP, Animals
Noble WS, Fel, Leadership, Social BS, Ag, Int, WP, Defense, Animals, Knowledge
Norse Berserker WS, S, T, WP, Offense Leadership, Wilderness
Outlaw WS, BS, Ag, Offense, Larceny Int, Defense, Finesse, Animals, Perception, Social, Wilderness
Outrider BS, Ag, Int, Animals, Wilderness S, WP, Perception
Peasant T BS, S, Ag, WP, Animals, Social, Wilderness
Pit Fighter WS, T, Ag, WP, Offense S, Defense
Protagonist WS, S, Ag, WP, Offense Defense, Social
Rat Catcher Ag, WP, Animals, Larceny, Perception BS, T, Engineering
Roadwarden WS, BS, Ag, Animals, Wilderness S, Int, WP, Perception, Social
Rogue Ag, Fel, Perception, Social BS, Int, WP, Larceny, Leadership
Scribe Ag, Int, WP, Knowledge Fel, Engineering
Seaman WS, S, Ag, Offense, Wilderness BS, Defense, Perception
Servant Ag, WP, Perception, Social S, T, Int, Fel, Defense, Animals
Smuggler Ag, Int, Fel, Larceny BS, Animals, Perception, Social, Wilderness
Soldier WS, BS, Ag, Offense WP, Defense, Animals, Perception, Social
Squire WS, Offense, Knowledge, Leadership BS, S, T, Ag, Fel, Defense, Animals, Social
Student Ag, Int, Fel, Knowledge Engineering, Perception, Social
Thief Ag, Fel, Larceny, Perception BS, Int, Finesse, Engineering, Social
Thug WS, Offense, Larceny, Social S, T, Ag, WP, Fel, Defense
Toll Keeper WS, T, Perception, Wilderness BS, S, Ag, WP, Social
Tomb Robber WS, Ag, Int, WP, Engineering, Perception Fel, Knowledge, Larceny
Tradesman Ag, WP S, T, Int, Fel, Animals, Engineering, Perception, Social
Vagabond BS, Ag, Larceny, Wilderness Int, Fel, Perception, Social
Valet Ag, Int, Fel, Knowledge, Social WP, Perception
Watchman WS, Int, Defense, Perception BS, S, Ag, WP, Fel
Woodsman WS, S, WP, Wilderness T, Ag, Perception
Zealot WS, T, WP, Knowledge, Leadership S, Fel, Social

Remember, you get a total of six aptitudes. You get what’s in the Mandatory list automatically, and can then choose from the Optional list until you’ve got your six.

Now, actually pricing advances is tough. In WFRP, everything is basically 100 XP / advance. In the 40K RPGs, they’re all over the place: Characteristics (which are generally more broadly useful) cost more than Skills and Talents. The more advances you take in a Characteristic or Skill, the more expensive it is.

This makes quite a bit of sense, but dang: I like the simplicity of a common cost.  It does allow a character to rocket up to +40% WS with their first 800 XP, though. Furthermore, there’s probably an argument to be made that Additional Attacks should cost more or be spaced out more as well.  So, flat costs are problematic… but after a point, I think you just have to let go.

My inclination runs strongly towards doing 100/200/300 XP for advances that share 2/1/0 Aptitudes with the character.  This is substantially less than what things cost in Only War, but is about what things cost in WFRP 2E, as I’ve got Careers & Aptitudes mapped.

Near-term, I’ll probably collapse all of this into a Google doc (minus thought-process stuff), which will vastly help its readability.

So: that was a big f’ing chunk of something.  I’m curious as to what other people think.  I both have and haven’t put a lot of thought into this. In terms of complexity, it looks like it might be needlessly complex, but I expect that after character creation, it fades into the background.  I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to adopt it in my game; the other two options are certainly simpler, if less interesting.

Very interested in any and all thoughts and opinions.  Let me know what you think.