18 September 2009 | Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Tale Telling Tools

A look at the Progress Tracker tool used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

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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