8 September 2009 | Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Learning from Experience

A Look at Experience Points and Advancement in WFRP


One of the exciting aspects of roleplaying games is the ability to see a player character improve and change over time. Character development can help immerse players in the game experience, and can provide a common bond and sense of accomplishment over the course of a campaign – in addition to the advancement of the story.

Experience Points and AdvancesIn Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, a character’s progress is influenced by his career and his advances. The character’s current career determines which advances are available for development. The system of advances provides improvements to the character that allow him to develop naturally over time.

Over the course of their adventures, characters earn experience points. Experience points reflect a character’s growing knowledge and aptitude, and his ability to apply what he’s learned to self-improvement. Experience points are a general indicator of a character’s worldliness, ability, and influence.

A character also earns one advance for each experience point earned. Experience points are never lost, depleted, or reduced. Advances, on the other hand, are the currency players use to acquire the improvements for their characters, such as learning new talents, training new skills, or improving their characteristics.

Earning Experience & AdvancesAt the end of each play session, participating characters earn one experience point, which provides the character with one advance the player can spend on improvements. The basic improvements each cost one advance. This means that everyone who participates in the session earns the opportunity to improve his character in a minor way. Alternatively, he can save up his advances to purchase more costly advances.

The GM has the discretion to award an additional experience point to the party if the group achieved a major milestone, or if the session was particularly memorable, enjoyable, or engaging. However, the GM has a variety of options available to reward his players – while advances help improve a character mechanically, there are many other possible rewards. The Tome of Adventure (included in the core set) provides additional guidelines and suggestions to the GM on using resources such as wealth, renown, and fortune points as in-game awards.

Advancement OptionsAlong the right hand side of the back of the character sheet, players will find the Advancement Worksheet. This section shows several lines with check boxes. Each line is an individual advance that can be purchased for the character while in his current career. Below this area is a section labelled Career Completion Advances which is used to track a career transition or reward a character for fully completing all the advances for his current career. Below that section is the Non-Career Advances workspace, where players track advances spent on character development outside the character’s current career.

Character Sheet

Each career has the same number of lines on the Advancement Worksheets, including several fixed advances which are available to every career. What the non-fixed advances can be applied toward is strongly influenced by the character’s career. In fact, careers offer more advances than the player can acquire for his character, ensuring that members of the same career have the opportunity to develop quite differently.

General Career AdvancesThe first four lines of the Advancement Worksheet show advances that are available to characters in every career.

Action Card: Taking this advance allows a player to select a new action card to add to his character’s options. Some action cards may have special requirements – for example, only wizards can acquire new spells, and even then, the wizard can only acquire spells from his particular College of Magic.

Talent: A character can purchase a new talent card for any of the eligible talent options listed on his career sheet.

Skill Training or Specialisation: This advance allows a character to train in one of the skills listed on his career card. Alternatively, if one of those skills is already trained, the character can choose to instead spend the advance to acquire a specialisation for the appropriate skill. A specialisation allows a character to add an extra fortune die to checks where his specialisation comes into play.

Wound Threshold: This advance allows the character to increase his wound threshold – his maximum damage capacity – by one. This allows him to sustain more wounds before he is rendered unconscious (or possible killed).

Following the four fixed advances are a number of flexible career advances. These career advances offer a great deal of customisation options to the players and are tied to the advantages and abilities of that particular career.

A Troll Flossing After a MealNon-Career AdvancesCharacters have the option to acquire skills and abilities outside their current career by spending additional advances. For example, at an additional advance cost, a Human Thug could choose to train the Resilience skill, even though that skill is not listed on the Thug career sheet. In the same way, a Dwarf Troll Slayer could acquire an additional conservative stance piece (at an additional cost), even though the Troll Slayer career only lists reckless pieces. However, spending advances on skills, abilities, and improvements not listed on the career sheet do not count as advances spent toward completing the current career.

Career Completion AdvancesThe Career Completion section of the advancement workspace deals with career transitions. This allows characters to move from one career into another career, to pursue new interests (such as moving from a Barber-Surgeon to become an Agent), or make greater commitments to their ideals and professions (such as when a Troll Slayer becomes a Giant Slayer).

Dedication BonusIf a character stays with his current career and completes all ten of the available advances from the Advancement Worksheet, he is rewarded for his diligence. First, that career’s special ability becomes a permanent character ability. Second, the character learns a specialisation for each of that career’s key skills he trained during his time in that career. Each specialisation allows a character to add an extra fortune die to checks where his specialisation comes into play for that skill. Finally, a character entering a new career from a fully completed career spends one fewer advance (to a minimum of one) on the career transition.

The Career TransitionAs a character’s interests, personal story line, and role within the group evolve, he may decide it is time to move on to a new career. This can happen either before the character has completed his current career, or once he’s exhausted all the options his current career provides. In fact, once a character has fully completed a career – all the advances and the dedication bonus have been taken – that career has nothing more to offer him. It is time for a transition into a new career that offers new opportunities.

Moving into a new career costs a number of advances based on how compatible the new career is with the character’s current career. The default cost for a career transition is four advances. The more compatible the two careers are, however, the fewer advances needed to complete the transition. Keep in mind that a character entering a new career from a fully completed career spends one fewer advance (to a minimum of one) on the career transition, as a reward for his dedication.

To determine the compatibility of two careers, a player compares the traits listed on the career cards. Traits are short descriptors that appear in italics below the career name, and allow certain game effects to interact with that career. For each trait the two careers have in common, the transition requires one less advance (to a minimum of one advance). If the two careers have all four traits in common, the transition still requires one advance.

In the example shown, the Agent and Gambler careers have three of their four traits in common. The default transition cost of four is reduced by one for each compatible trait, so moving from Agent to Gambler (or vice versa) would cost one advance.

Career Transition Comparison

Next StepsIn the previous designer diary, I discussed the custom dice, their symbols, and the core mechanic. In the next designer diary, I’ll be returning to talk a bit more about dice and how the GM determines the challenge and misfortune involved in task resolution. I’ll also be providing some examples to show how the GM could handle different situations during play.

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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