Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
A look at party sheets in the new edition of WFRP
By Jay Little
While some roleplaying games focus the attention on a single character, many RPGs focus on the actions and stories of a number of player characters who work together. It may be a consortium of superheroes, a special forces unit, a small band of secret agents, or one of many other types of groups. In many fantasy RPGs, individual characters band together to form parties.
Sometimes it is for mere convenience – there may be safety in numbers, or all the characters are headed toward the same destination. Other times, the group has a common goal and purpose for working together. A party identity can help establish the mood and atmosphere. A strong sense of why this group of individuals is working together can help add depth and immersion to the game experience.
Groups of player characters often have at least some sense of purpose or direction – even if largely unspoken or only briefly defined. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the role of the party has a mechanical effect, as well as its story-driven effect.
The player characters in the game share a central party sheet, representing the teamwork, leadership, and camaraderie of its members. Each party sheet offers its own abilities, as well as makes managing certain party resources easier. Here is a closer look at the features that make up a party sheet.
Party Talent SocketsAs you may have noticed, the player character career sheets have a limited number of available spaces to socket talents. Each group of characters has an additional resource at their disposal to take advantage of their diverse talents – the party sheet. Each party sheet has several sockets that can also hold talents, and the type and quantity may vary from party sheet to party sheet.
Each talent slot on a party sheet can hold one talent of the corresponding type. The talents socketed to the party sheet are provided by members of the party, from their personal selections of available talents. However, when a talent is socketed to a party sheet, the ability is conferred to the entire party – everyone benefits from the leadership or knack of the character providing that talent. For talents that require a player to exhaust the talent card to gain a benefit, this means any player in the group has the ability to trigger the benefit by exhausting the card.
As long as the GM deems that the members of the party are close enough together to benefit, everyone can use the abilities listed on talents socketed to the party sheet. If one member of the party moves away to do something on his own (such as a thief sneaking out to reconnoitre an abandoned warehouse) then he may not be able to take advantage of the party sheet talents until he gets back in contact with the rest of his party.
Party AbilityEach party sheet has a special ability unique to that sheet. Some party abilities allow members of the party to use talents in different ways, exhaust talents attached to the party sheet to generate an effect, or have other novel and unique traits. The use or restrictions of each party ability is listed on the individual party sheet.
Fortune PoolEach party sheet features a fortune pool. This area is a reserve to store fortune points gained over the course of a session. When the GM awards the party fortune points during play, they are placed on the party sheet in the central reserve. Once the party sheet has accumulated the proper number of fortune points, fortune refreshes and the individual party members can regain a fortune point.
Party TensionThe party sheet also features space to track the party’s tension. Party tension is a representation of the friction, anxiety, and apprehension a group of characters struggle with in the face of new challenges, arguments within the party, or as consequences for certain roleplaying actions.
When a triggering effect occurs that raises the party’s tension level, the GM moves a tracking token along the party tension meter on the party sheet. The party sheet lists the results that occur when certain spaces on the sheet are reached. If the party’s tension meter ever reaches the final space on the track, a more severe effect occurs, then the tension meter resets to zero.
Tension as a GM ToolThe tension track on each party sheet is a subtle way the GM can help resolve conflicts between players or their characters, or help reinforce the type of game experience the players collectively want to participate in.
When the party’s focus starts to wander, or in-character arguments threaten to cross over into player arguments, the GM can advance the party’s tension a space or two if he wishes. The goal is not to punish or embarrass the players, but rather provide a simple, visual cue that things are escalating in a way that may be counterproductive. Or that enough time has been spent on a particular side conversation, and other members of the group are ready to proceed with a course of action.
If the characters are working together especially well, the GM can move the tracking token a space or two back to reflect this. Moving tension back also offers the GM another in-game resource to reward players for good roleplaying.
Other Examples of Tension
In addition to the examples provided, there are a variety of other factors that can influence party tension. For example, an encounter with an especially fearsome creature could potentially increase party tension, or a horrible miscast by a Bright Wizard while he's in an extremely reckless stance. Accusations of heresy levied against the party by a zealous Witch Hunter might ratchet tension up a few notches, as could an ambush by a group of beastmen who completely catch the party unawares.
Conversely, spending a restful evening in a temple of Shallya could easily decrease tension, as could a great in-character conversation with an important NPC. There are some other applications, as well, and creative GMs will find plenty of opportunities to integrate party tension in a way that feels appropriate for his group and play experience.
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.