Creating the Perfect Storm

The Design & Development Process for The Gathering Storm

– Design Notes from Senior RPG Developer Jay Little

One of the exciting things about The Gathering Storm campaign is the fact that it’s the first adventure product available for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. As such, I’m anticipating that it will be the first exposure to WFRP for a lot of people, and for many others, the next step into the Old World for PCs who completed the Eye for an Eye adventure included in the core set.

A Fearsome Beastman With this in mind, the expectations and excitement from fans and players are sure to be extremely high. I knew we had a daunting task on our hands – to develop and deliver a top notch adventure that provides a varied and intriguing look at the Warhammer Fantasy setting and life in the Empire, as well as showcases WFRP’s mechanics and unique gameplay.

With the help of the talented team of developers and writers, we started by highlighting some of the key features we’d want to be sure to include in the adventure. In addition to some of the classic Warhammer Fantasy thematic elements, we wanted to be sure to cover new ground, and introduce some unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Without spoiling anything from the adventure, here are just a few of the design and thematic elements we knew we wanted to cover over the course of the campaign:  

  • Present a grimy, gritty environment to play around in
  • Have a few encounters where things aren’t quite what they seem
  • Pose a few moral dilemmas and questions to the players and their PCs
  • Include some of the quirks, oddities, and dark humour Warhammer is known for
  • Provide a good blend of social, investigative, and combat encounters
  • Have some interesting options for encounter resolution (there’s often more than one way to skin a Skaven, so they say)
  • Provide GMs with a lot of great resources to manage the game
  • Make use of the tools and components in interesting and accessible ways
  • Develop memorable NPCs and situations players would remember for years to come
  • End the campaign with a bang

We had several more goals, as well, but this gives you a good idea of the foundation we laid out. In some ways, it seemed rather ambitious. But I wasn't going to accept anything less for The Gathering Storm.

Next, we started brainstorming ideas for a story that could fulfill these goals.

I already had a few concepts in mind, but things really took off when Steve Darlington, Dylan Owen, Dave Allen, and the other writers jumped in with additional details to flesh things out. Steve Darlington really helped shape and drive the over-arching plot and the spiderweb of story threads that are woven through the entire campaign. Dave Allen stepped up and tackled Stromdorf, taking the concept of a rain-soaked, bedraggled town in the middle of nowhere, and making it look, sound, feel (and unfortunately, even smell) just right as an “adventure hub” for the story. Dylan Owen helped develop how we would take Steve’s over-arching story and break it down into different sections – a prologue to set the stage, several exciting chapters of escalating tension, a thrilling climax to the campaign’s events, and an epilogue to tie up loose ends.

Then Clive Oldfield, Gary McBride, and Dylan each tackled different sections from the campaign to help mesh the interesting storylines to the overall plot, while ensuring each section was a fully realized, exciting adventure for the PCs to undertake. I relied heavily on Daniel Lovat Clark and Tim Uren to help continually refine the encounters, scenes, and stories. They also helped introduce GM sidebars and suggestions and developed the mechanics and rules that would make the adventures run smoothly and easy to manage.

I knew we were on the right track when the first batch of playtest reports came in. They were extremely positive, and included comments about how some of the players were completely expecting one thing, but the story ended up delivering something different. And that the players were faced with some really tough choices over the course of the adventure. Some groups relied on diplomacy. Others on swords and spells. Characters were horribly injured, some were killed, others driven insane. Mysteries were unravelled. And players were having a ton of fun.

New Location CardsAs more playtest reports came in, we were able to fine tune the pacing and details and make sure the final product would include the tools and resources a GM would want to have on hand while running the game.To reflect this, The Gathering Storm box includes:

  • 80-page full colour, perfect bound campaign book
  • 13 action cards
  • 13 location cards
  • 10 item cards
  • 8 condition cards
  • 5 miscast cards
  • 6 wound cards
  • 6 talent cards
  • 3 insanity cards
  • 6 full colour reference sheets (maps & player handouts)
  • 2 storm tracking sheets
  • 23 NPC and enemy standups
  • Tracking tokens

So where did all the design, writing, playtesting, feedback, and fine-tuning lead us? To The Gathering Storm, an exciting, accessible campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, an adventure I’m hoping you and your friends will remember and talk about for years to come. Like it says on the back of the box: The Gathering Storm has it all. Death. Misery. Peril. Suffering. Disaster. And that’s just the weather.

--

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure, in the grim setting of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy world. 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.

Discuss this article
in our forums!

Back to all news