News for September 2009
Tale Telling Tools 47
A look at the Progress Tracker tool used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 18 September 2009

For the Emperor!

The player fulfilling the role of the Game Master – or GM – has a lot of important responsibilities. The GM develops adventures and story hooks for the other players’ characters, manages long-term campaigns and plot development, settles rules conflicts or questions, and helps narrate the outcome of different tasks and actions performed by the story’s participants – both the player characters and non player characters (NPCs) populating the world.

One of the versatile tools provided for GMs in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is the progress tracker. This tool can be used to keep track of various events during the game. The progress tracker is built by assembling the puzzle-fit pieces included in the core set, similar to building a character’s stance meter. The neutral centre pieces form event spaces on the tracker, while the coloured stance pieces form progress spaces.

Progress Track Pieces

The progress tracker manages a lot of the bookkeeping that traditional note-taking accomplishes, in a flexible and re-usable format that provides information to the GM in a quick glance. The GM might track food during a wilderness adventure, or trade goods spoiling over a long journey while travelling with a trade caravan, or how many torches the group has left during a long underground adventure. The progress tracker can also be used for a lot more than just material goods. Virtually anything with a clear goal or possible outcome can be managed using the tool. For example, progress tracks can be assembled to show how quickly certain events take to resolve, when the weather starts to worsen, how close the Skaven are to locating the party.

One Tool, Many Uses

The progress tracker is generally used in one of two ways – tracking the progress of a single event or occurence, or tracking competition between multiple parties.

Starting at one end and moving toward the other end with one token suggests something will happen, it’s just a question of how soon. For example, a storm is brewing on the horizon. The thunderstorm will break sooner or later. However, the characters want to try and reach the safety of the village before the storm arrives. The track could represent the number of hours before the storm breaks, and the GM moves the counter along the track based on how long it takes for the characters to travel and resolve encounters. Once the marker reaches the event space at the end of the track, the storm erupts.

Using two or more tokens on the track can represent multiple parties’ interests being resolved. If the party is chasing a cabal of Chaos cultists, they have very different goals! The party wants to catch the cultists, and the cultists want to escape. By having two tokens that advance along the track based on different circumstances, the GM can determine which party achieves its goal first. If the party token reaches the event space at the end of the track first, they’ve caught up to the cultists. If the cult token reaches the event space at the end first, they’ve managed to escape.

One benefit of the progress tracker is that it provides a consistent design starting point for GMs to help develop their own encounter ideas. It also allows a GM to quickly evaluate and understand pre-built encounters that feature progress trackers in published adventures. By quickly scanning the progress tracker information, and any effects that may advance a tracking token further down the track, the GM is armed with a lot of information he can apply to the game session.

Following are a few examples of how progress trackers can be used to help manage a wide variety of different situations.

A Bored NobleEnhancing Social Encounters

A variety of social encounters can use a progress tracker to indicate how close the party is to convincing their target to undertake some desired action. This can be as simple as a 10-space track, with each compelling roleplaying encounter or successful social action advancing the party’s tracking token along the track depending on how well they accomplish their goals. When the token reaches the end of the track, the target gives in or the PCs have fulfilled their agenda.

The progress tracker can be used to model more complex social encounters, as well. By adding an opposing token “competing” with the party’s tracking token, the encounter gains a risk of failure. This competing token may represent the arguments of an NPC in the encounter, the wearing away of the baron’s patience, or limited available time before something occurs. By adding an event space to the track, the timbre of the encounter can be shifted at the midpoint – perhaps the baron summons his advisors and the party’s arguments become more difficult, or perhaps a priest of Sigmar lends his support to the party, assisting their cause.

Tracking Resources

Here's a quick example of how the GM could manage food supplies on a long journey without having everyone keeping detailed notes on their rations. First, the GM could determine how many days worth of supplies the party is carrying. Then, he creates a tracker with one space per day of supplies and an event space on the final day. Finally, he might add several more spaces after the event space, perhaps equal to the highest Toughness rating in the party. Each day that the party consumes supplies, advance the progress tracker one space. When the party resupplies (or supplements their diet by hunting, for example), the GM moves the tracking token back a space or two.

When the token reaches the event space, the party is out of food. Every day they go without food, move the token one space further. For each space beyond the event space the token reaches, each member of the party suffers 1 fatigue and 1 stress that cannot be recovered until they are able to eat. Once the party begins to pass out from hunger, it might be time to change tactics.

Cowardly GoblinsWavering Morale

When dealing with a large group of basically cowardly enemies (goblins and skaven are good examples), the GM may want to have morale and cowardice influence when the encounter ends. A progress tracker can be used to indicate enemy morale; when the token reaches the end of the track, the villains break and run. The GM could advance the morale tracking token for each enemy defeated, successful Intimidate checks, a gruesome display of martial prowess or magical might, or for a variety of other narrative reasons.

Some encounters featuring cowardly combatants may revolve around a single powerful leader, such as an orc leading a gang of goblins. In these cases, the morale track can be heavily influenced by how the leader fares, in addition to the fate of the rank-and-file. For example, if there are 10 goblins lead by a single orc, the tracking token may advance once for each goblin defeated, but it advances three spaces if the orc falls in combat. When the track reaches the end of the track, the remaining goblins turn and flee!

Managing the Party’s Reputation

When a strange party first arrives in a new town, they are likely to be greeted with suspicion and mistrust. Only by proving themselves to the local populace can they be accepted. A progress tracker can be one means of monitoring their success or failure at this endeavour.

The GM could build a track, starting the party’s tracking token somewhere in the middle. Each time they do something rude, suspicious, or frightening, the GM moves the token to the left, reflecting a poor perception or reputation. Each time they do something kind, honest, or heroic, the GM moves the token to the right to represent a more favourable reputation. If the token reaches the end of the left side of the track, the local law (or possibly a lynch mob) ejects them from the town. If the token reaches the end along the right side of the track, the town accepts them as one of their own.

This sort of track could also be sprinkled with event spaces. Perhaps a local merchant offers a discount if the party becomes well-respected enough, or the local law enforcement starts watching them closely if they make a bad impression.

An Extended ExampleClick to view the Progress Tracker Example PDF

Be sure to download the progress tracker PDF to see an extended example of a progress tracker used during play.

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Set in the grim world of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure. Players will venture into the dark corners of the Empire, guided by luck and Fate, and challenge the threats that others cannot or will not face.
 

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Comments (47)

ffgfan
Published: 9/20/2009 4:17:32 AM
#35

It looks like the WFRP 3ed will ofer us more tools then we expected. So people will use them so won't but it's good to have a choise.

Still waiting for this one to comeup. Hope the new preview will be better.

NewTroski
Published: 9/20/2009 1:26:49 AM
#34

At least now I know who to go to for over-reaction lessons...

Cardboard pieces doesn't make something a board game.  It's something that will make some people's lives easier when they play the game.  WFRPv2 came with character sheets.  You could just use a piece of plain paper if you want.  This one comes with more stuff.  Some people will find it all rather useful, some people might just use some of it, others maybe none.  I typically find the character sheets included in RPGs to be insufficient, so I make my own on the computer.  I don't go around libeling the manufacturer because of this.

Dustin
Published: 9/19/2009 11:36:07 PM
#33

Once again, you have over complicated something that can be done with more stremline rules (that is, if you want to draw it out with more than one dice roll). I agree with CountZero, this can be just as easily done with Skill Challanges from D&D or even better, just a conflict with the back and forth rules of "Dogs in the Vineyard" or even "Duel of Wits" from Burning Wheel (I am assuming you read other games, right?)

So, after reading through all of these "previews," I am convinced you have taken the game I have loved so much and just turned it into a board game. Thanks for nothing. You have officially lost a customer because you will not be writing anything new for 2nd Ed. and this 3rd edition is not my style (I wanted a roll playing game, not Descent).

RARodger
Published: 9/19/2009 11:03:21 PM
#32

Sorry, Count Zero, but I do stuff like this a lot and have made different tools to do it for various game. Sure, mostly it's numbers or hash marks on a sheet of paper, but it's the same thing, just with a nicer visual. This sort of tracking hits a sweet spot for me in terms of tracking information... enough to capture an important feel (how much supplies you have left) against the tedium of calculating it out in detail ("Yes, but can't we all eat half rations... actually, what about thirds?") It's the opposite of rules lawyer to me actually. It's setting quantifiable goals and then using a visual means to track and display the party's progress. How high up the mountain are you climbing? How high have your opponents gotten? Who will get to the top first? And there's something near the top, some sort of encounter... I wonder what it is? Sure, your mileage may vary, but every time I've given players something physcial to use and manipulate, no matter how gamey it seems, they've become more involved in the game. Have drama, fate, persona or treason points to track? Use poker chips. My players always seem to respond with more excitement and interest when they toss a chip at a problem than when they erase a number on the sheet.

And you know what? While I do stuff like this for a lot of different games (you should see the matrix I built for defusing a bomb once...) just reading this article made me think of all the OTHER things I could do with this. Using this to track influencing an NPC or favors within the court or whatever... that's a great idea to me. If an article gives me that sort of inspiration, I can't wait to see what having the actual components in hand will do.

Count Zero
Published: 9/19/2009 8:15:52 PM
#31

They had me with combat and movement, and have lost me again with this. ;) It's nothing more than a visual aid for running 4E D&D style skill challenges. This is purely personal taste, but how many GMs HONESTLY track things this rigorously in their games? ::crickets:: Yeah, I thought so. RPGs should move at the speed of plot. This system actually requires MORE work. As someone who has been GMing for a little over 25 years, I find this completely extraneous. There are good arguments to make that it can help with chases and overland journeys, but there is  certainly no need for the silly components that make this thing $100. Man, I want to like this game, but everything about it smells like a cash grab. Too cynical? We'll see...

@Waazdag - your iPhone comparison is a good one. ;)

 

 

khatre
Published: 9/19/2009 12:54:18 PM
#30

Dark. You need to relax and read before you post.

This forum is here for people to comment on the article. Should everyone have to run their posts by YOU to see if it passes your standards? NO! Maby the people making the posts believed they were making important statements about the state of the game. Maby you disagree with their ideas but TUFF get used to it. Other people disagree with you too but they dont go around ranting about how they should shut up for disagreeing with you. Apply your standards to your last post and read it again. Think for a bit ... does it make you look like a hypocrite ranting about outside of game things in a game forum? Telling others to shut up when they disagree with you? nuff said..

Im not saying that the tool is not useful. im just saying that the tool can be a distraction from more important aspects of the game like problem solving , working together, killing monsters , etc...

Armrek
Published: 9/19/2009 12:23:02 PM
#29

Looks like a configurable turn counter from Blood Bowl with events on it, might be usefull. Question is how many of these trackers you can have on a table before it gets messy?

And what about all the cards and stuff?

These questions leads me to the next - When can we se a detailed session video?

I think it would demistify a lot of concerns amongst som of the players, this would also demonstrate how much the new stuff would take up on a table...

We need to now, it's difficult to comment an a new game when we only have parts of the picture. :-)

chojun
Published: 9/19/2009 8:07:58 AM
#28

generally, this is just something to keep track of certain elements in the game.  use it or don't use it.  so far this is the most optional new approach they have introduced and its getting the highest amount of hate of the last 2 or 3 weeks.  what will be interesting to see, is how often it used in published adventures.

Ye Ancient One
Published: 9/19/2009 7:47:18 AM
#27

A sick joke is when someone does something malicious but funny to something important.  WFRP is just a game.  I love it heartily, but it's just a game!

Necrozius
Published: 9/19/2009 5:42:56 AM
#26

I dunno, it doesn't seem to be a huge deal. It's just another way to keep track of things. What I used to do with quick and sometimes messy notes on paper, I could just use these tiles instead.

I mean, I already use magnetic tiles for keeping track of Initiative during combat. Not a big deal. I'll give it a chance.

Waazdag
Published: 9/19/2009 3:11:05 AM
#25

Warhammer FRP 3rd edition = Sounds like a blasted I-Phone... There's a Tool for that... Not sure how much food your party has used when they buy 4 weeks or rations and have travelled for 3 1/2 weeks? There's a Tool For That!  Not able to describe how far apart the Party is from the Enemy? There's A Tool For That!...  Not able to track the escape of the protagonist from the searching party? There's a Tool for that TOO!  Turn your brain off, put creativity on the backburner, for these Tools will do it all for YOU!

I'm dead cynical on this whole thing if yall have not figured it out... I'm from the "If it aint broke.  Don't fix it." school... and still have yet to be convinced to shell out any money for this travesty.  

 

Waazdag
Published: 9/19/2009 2:46:19 AM
#24

You have got to be frakkin kidding me right?  When is the punchline going to happen?  Gotta agree with Retina on this... 

More damn toys to try to keep track of for rules lawyers...  I have 6-8 players in my game right now... given how many toys each player has to track, let alone the storyteller, how big of a table is needed just for their toys (sheets/cards/more sheets/more cards etc)?  Where do they place their food and drink??? Or will they be making some fancy toy cutouts for these as well?

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