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)

Erdrick
Published: 9/18/2009 4:00:29 PM
#11

I like how people get all offended as if you had to use this in the first place... not like you can't just use pen-and-paper if that's what you prefer. Honestly, enough with the flimsy complaints. And honestly, for all the stuff you get in the set (3 full books plus dice plus all the other extra bits including the organizers), I think the price point FFG has set is quite the bargain. Then again, I work for a living so maybe that colors my view.

All that aside, I personally could see the use in this. I'm still new to DMing games, and I'll freely admit that sometimes I lose track of "little details" like the party's supplies, or how many days have passed since ___ happened, or whatever. Having a handy visual reminder would probably be more helpful than me having to flip through the pages of notes I usually keep to try and find something I scribbled in a margin and promptly forgot about.

But again, that's just me.

HedgeWizard
Published: 9/18/2009 3:44:34 PM
#10

 Also - there's no reason a GM shouldn't, couldn't and wouldn't keep the tracker hidden. The virtual scream that player's shouldn't be aware of the status of some element is a straw-man. Whether you track things using this method versus on paper and keeping either hidden from the players are moot for any decent GM. 

Black Pine
Published: 9/18/2009 3:44:19 PM
#9

I see this as an interesting tool to use as a GM. I often find myself using glass  beads or dice to track the number of successes in a skill challange or for spell durations and timed events, I could see this as a nice alternative especially seeing the variety of ways a progress track can be assembled. I'm looking forward to seeing what else this game has in store for the GM.

HedgeWizard
Published: 9/18/2009 3:42:47 PM
#8

 My guess as to how/why this element in the system was developed was they already had the character stance tracker and thought, "Hey if we include a few more pieces, the GM can also use it to track enemy stances. And events, and so forth."  GMs and players certainly don't need to use this; it isn't mandated. I can see its value - is it better than pen and paper tracking? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it provides a prompt for a GM (particularly a new one) who wouldn't have thought to track things in this way. 

The separate argument is about whether the game will be worth its price when it debuts. A lot of grumpy folks on this board think all these components way over inflate the cost unnecessarily. I have yet to make that determination myself, and likely won't until I see the whole thing. Which is a double-edged sword because I doubt I will see it unless I buy it. 

I will say I REALLY appreciate the inclusion of examples which help prompt the reader to think about uses and reasons for inclusion into their system. Thanks Jay!

TheKingOfBlades
Published: 9/18/2009 3:35:45 PM
#7

It seems pretty cool to me. It's just something helpful to use so you dont have to write everything down or remember every detail.

Emirikol
Published: 9/18/2009 3:24:54 PM
#6

How I would describe it:  "A generic tracker for any game put to use."  I can see it's usefulness in situations where the PC's are attempting to accompish a goal and it would be helpful to keep them on "track" so to speak  ;)  I wouldn't use it to track things like "days in an adventure" or "rations" probably unless it was to keep the players minds on task.

Examples:

Finding enough evidence to get their friendd Grumbi out of jail.  Party goes out and collects pieces of the puzzle.

How close they are to getting to finding the BBEG of the chaos cult (rather than just stumbling on it).

Where you're at in a contest (arm wrestling, drinking, etc.)

How many rounds expected until the barge sinks or wheel falls off the coach.

jh

 

..

KjetilKverndokken
Published: 9/18/2009 3:23:08 PM
#5

Can people please stopp trolling? Yeah, most get that a few hate any word thats about new editions. But most big companies have a very strong marketing and FFG would never make something thats this costly to produce if there where not peole bying it. Hell then rpg's would never have existed in the first place. Can the comments be constructive for once?

I like this, as with the other tools as a genuine try at making a new feel and a new take on rpg's thats very healthy for the rpg industry. And may get more people into rpg's, and the industry needs it as it have been loosing ground for a few years.

Looking foreward to next teaser :-)

Amketch
Published: 9/18/2009 3:09:14 PM
#4

I have liked the previews for the new system so far but I think this part is the least impressive, it seems to be something just as easy to track with pen and paper.

PaterSin
Published: 9/18/2009 3:02:40 PM
#3

I fail to see why this is even necessary when there are things called pen, paper, and the PCs/DM paying attention to there own game.  Have we really de-evolved to the point that we need all this extra crap to play a fun well put together game, that is already easy to manage.

Azuki
Published: 9/18/2009 3:01:28 PM
#2

I look forward to using this actually, it could be fun creating scenarios that use this type of storytelling.

Lochmacher
Published: 9/18/2009 3:00:40 PM
#1

Really?  You know, I was starting to think that it would be a gimmicky game, but this is bordering on ridiculous now.  You must know that most people WILL not use your component-driven mechanisms, as they are inorganic and, quite frankly, offensive.  The players should become aware of their status by means of deions rendered, not by some numbers/track that creates a WoW-style reputation system.  Lame. 

Also, you might want to STRONGLY consider a Player's book that is *gasp* affordable to the destitute gamers that exist in our reality.  Most gamers already choose games over nice, edible foodstuffs.  You would see WHFRPers without utilities as well? :)  But seriously, they need a smaller 35$-ish book that gives them the basics (or even better, think Savage Worlds Explorers Edition 10$).

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