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Poles love Warhammer

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

No, seriously. It’s even a bit creepy. In Poland Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is THE roleplaying game. This comes from the time when Poland finally opened up to the west and the first proper game that was published was WFRP. It gelled perfectly with the Polish soul. And if you don’t know what I mean with that you have never seen vendors sell candyfloss and balloons on a Polish cemetary.

This of course poses a certain problem for me, as I have a profound dislike for Warhammer.

It’s not that I really hate the system. I will not go and tell lies about it, I will not try to make it worse than it is. There are even some nuggets in there that I really like (e.g. Skaven). But in my opinion the whole Warhammer background is needlessly gauche and over the top.

Warhammer is… how shall I say it? Like a Manowar album. It’s nice listening to their songs once in a while, singing along with these ridiculous lyrics, trying not to break into laughter when looking at them in their videos, all earnest and proud. But how am I supposed to deal with that all the time?

Of course the problem so far only came up in discussions about roleplaying. In my English language group I have two players who do play Warhammer, but I don’t. And so I don’t need to play it with them. And I don’t speak enough Polish to play in a game yet, so that option will not even come up.

The infuriating thing comes when someone tries to tell me that Warhammer is the top of the evolutionary ladder for RPGs, and that D&D must be for kids because it has all these ridiculous monsters. Completely unaware that playing Warhammer and telling people that their game is kids’ stuff comes across… rather like a bratty teenager, desperate not to be seen as a kid anymore.

Well, hello, we are playing games in which we are wizards and thieves and elves and whatnot. Not trying to seem like kids should not be the top of our priorities!

Of course I met other people like him before. The same arguments I heard in Germany about DSA. Maybe that is why it annoys me that much. Because I thought I had these discussions behind me already.


13 responses to “Poles love Warhammer

  1. kensanata March 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I’ve had people come up to me and explain to me that their preferred gaming style was obviously or objectively or clearly better or more adult or more interesting than some other system that I may or may not have mentioned or liked or thought about. It’s so ridiculous I always switch to the meta discussion of how preferences are influenced by culture and how discourse about preferences works and other such things which will either lead to an interesting discussion (to me) or to an utterly confused person looking at me going ugh? 🙂


    • Geoffrey March 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      see, and that is actually a nice conversation starter here: what does it say about the Polish culture that their favorite game (and it’s not the only one, but it did clearly influence others on the market) is a game with a lot of over the top stylistics, the prime example for gritty fantasy in roleplaying? A game where you can pick out the antagonist in any given adventure by knowing only a little bit of German? (hmm… Karl Todbringer?)


      • Robert Glodny Oglodzinski June 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        I wonder why no one from Poland decided to answer Your post. Maybe, they find it, just like me – a little bit offending?

        Robert Oglodzinski, Warsaw, Poland. Dedicated WHFRP fan 😉


      • Geoffrey June 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm

        Is that so? I think it has more to do with the fact that my Polish readers are not that numerous.


      • Robert Glodny Oglodzinski June 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        It is a shame, cause I find You blog very interesting. If we will skip comments about Polish love for Warhammer 🙂 I think WHFRP is a great game, however I will not try to convince anybody to play it. (It is a job of marketers from FantasyFalighGames 😉 )

        I just do not get this ”It gelled perfectly with the Polish soul. And if you don’t know what I mean with that you have never seen vendors sell candyfloss and balloons on a Polish cemetary.”

        But I can understand that You just do not understand Polish soul at all. No worries, it happens. Once I asked kensanata stupid question about Swiss people. Still feel bad about it… (Sorry Alex about this weapon-thing-question).

        Anyway, mixing nationality issues with RPG issues is hm… a huge misunderstanding.


      • Alex Schröder June 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        No need to feel bad about it. 🙂


      • Geoffrey June 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        I can just speak from my experiences living here. Maybe it is because I am a stuck up German, but I find the notion of selling candyfloss and balloons on a cemetary (ok, at the entry of a cemetary)… let’s call it weird. And I think one can say something about Poles and their love for this kind of game. The same way we could talk about Germans and their fondness of DSA, or maybe French and their fondness for CoC.
        Poles on the other hand seem to have a certain fondness of flashy and dark over the top settings. See Warhammer. Or Neuroshima. Or Monastyr. And to some extent Dzikie Pola.
        For me as someone who did not grow up in this culture, and who now experiences it first hand, this appears to be one of it’s defining elements.


      • Robert Glodny Oglodzinski June 20, 2012 at 11:07 am

        Ok, but I still do not get connection between cemetary and Warhammer?


      • Geoffrey June 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        lots of skulls (meaning symbols of death), quasi-gothic exterior, and in Poland (didn’t notice that in Germany that much) nearly ridiculous “I have to have more than the next one”-decorations. At least on All Saints’ Day, which is the only day I visit Polish cementaries normally. Which all can be found in the art and background of Warhammer as well.


  2. Jennifer March 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I’m not sure what my preferred RPG choices (Call of Cthulhu, 7th Sea and Deadlands) say about me. But at least I know better than to tell anyone that my game is better than his for whatever reason. I may not like that game and I may be vocal about it, but if it floats your boat, have fun.

    The Manowar comparison is hilarious. I’m so stealing that (not without credit when I use it in my blog).


  3. Magiczny Mocarz March 19, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Hmmm, Don’t like it, fair enough, but the comparison you made about Manowar just baffles me… And I must ask the question… what game exactly are you talking about? Manowar is bare chested warriors in the name of Odin, slicing through hordes of foes, rising magic swords to the sky as lightnings hit them in glorious crescendos. It’s as Heroic as it goes.
    But WFRP is a game about mechanically fragile individuals who can die in a simple brawl, a hit from a sword may cripple them for the rest of their lives or send them recuperating for weeks. Where abundance of magic being able to twist and warp the individual or make him insane, cackling husk of former self.

    It’s hard to believe you played this game, but rather looked for a reason to write something salty, cause your Polish friends bashed the D&D, which is EXACTLY the Manowar cover pulp fantasy you described in the first place.
    It’s like comparing Call of Cthulhu to Scooby Doo.

    And if you complain about the Artworks of Warhammer? Quite possibly the old Age of Reckoning stuff in the Google Graphics, I would actually encourage you to revisit the rulebook for 2nd Edition at least. I’ve just took a brief look through mine and can’t fathom where is this ‘over the top’ part coming in exactly? You have a bunch of pretty timid drawings, lonesome scenes presenting casual and normal looking individuals and like two battles from the wargame.
    Meanwhile… A glimpse to AD&D or BECMI set/adventure covers – almost every third one has some bombastic dragon draped all over.
    Over the top, right…


    • Geoffrey March 19, 2016 at 8:11 am

      I seem to have rustled your jimmies with this 4-year old entry. Most of the stuff you wrote is an interesting view into the mindset of the people I was talking about in the entry, so that is nice.

      I would like to add: Call of Cthulhu and Scooby Doo are less far from another as you’d like, Scooby Doo is set in a world of decaying, decrepit towns, where mad people resort to impersonating monsters to cope with their problems, and it follows a group of scholars and some sort of talking dog-abomination as they solve supernatural mysteries. I actually have been working on a scenario that combines the two.


      • Magiczny Mocarz April 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

        It baffled me quite a lot. I mean I tried to skip the mindset part cause it seemed like you were making a joke perhaps, so couldn’t really take it seriously. Like the part about the candyfloss and balloons sold by the cemeteries during All Saint’s Day shows how rather detached your analysis is from the reality. We don’t like or enjoy those things, and if you ask most folk who go about to tend to the graves, they have a very negative opinion of people selling this crap. But sadly those individuals who sell the candyfloss and balloons by the graveyards at that day do it not because they choose to, but because they have to. They gather around any mass of people on any occasion, cause given the current economy they can’t allow themselves to miss a chance to sell some merchandise when the alternative is to sell none.
        No one likes that, not even them, but they have to. Sometimes it just works to shut up a crying child here or there, that just spend couple hours in cold, walking with it’s parents to place a candle on grandpa’s grave. ‘Here, have a balloon, now stfu.’

        So having that said, let’s go to the actual mindset proper. I’ll let you on to a little secret why people here still prefer Warhammer to D&D or Pathfinder. First of all, D&D was known here in translated version as long as Warhammer, at least in the times where RPGs were really growing big, when it really mattered, but it never kicked off to such proportions. Why?
        Because you see, D&D is what you believe to be the favored by the mindset. Whenever you see a kitschy balloon or a candyfloss vendor at the entrance to the cemetery, you assume that’s what we love, but that’s what we only tolerate.
        D&D entering the local market baldly promised to deliver the ultimate Medieval fantasy Role Playing experience – not kidding here, that was the advertisement for both AD&D back in a day and 3rd edition a bit later down the line as well. Ultimate Medieval Fantasy experience…
        Medieval fantasy where every peasant could read or write and possessed books made on parchment on a shelf in his living room. A Medieval fantasy where every bloke in a plated armor was called a knight after visiting some three different caves. A Medieval fantasy where gold could be as well used as a building material for all it’s worth. A Medieval fantasy where social and judicial norms were defined by standards of modern American campus.
        The game came forth to us claiming to be the ultimate medieval fantasy, promising to deliver that experience like no other competition, at the same time holding balloons in one hand and candyfloss in the other. That’s why it was shun away.
        Warhammer isn’t perfect, and nobody will tell you that it is. But at least it never treated you like an idiot. And it’s not about realism, but rather how Warhammer convinced you to be credible depiction of late-medieval and early-renaissance, delivering on themes it aimed to depict. Nobody is overpowered, no matter how well you do and how fantastic warrior you are, few peasants with scythes and pitchforks will make short work of you. The world feels medieval and plays medieval, and all that without huge empty promises or need to invest in dozen of splatbooks.
        And it is exactly BECAUSE it is not over the top that it sells so well. This is another thing that baffled me in your article. (4 year old, but I don’t see why not comment on it, unless you changed your mind and do not stand by your believes any more, then it matters little whether it was written today or a decade ago)
        Where is WFRP over the top? Hm? In it’s power-creep? You start as a lowly commoner and even after few advancements you are still extremely vulnerable. In it’s themes? Well it depicts all the elements of medieval fantasy on a proper scale. In it’s artworks perhaps? If you open the actual book you’ll see it’s far from truth, depicting simple gritty reality of the setting.
        Where is it over the top? Are you referring to the setting itself? Because it has a grandiose event or character here or there? If so how is it different or more over the top then D&D where literary every level 8+ adventure module for AD&D and forth, has some world-saving plot in it… heck if we go to Shadowdale which is aimed for beginners, you got the scenario which meddles with gods and impending apocalypse from the level 1.
        Then again if you look at the Warhammer, even if it shows you some significant character or grand event here or there, it is not the focus. When one sits down to play the WH fantasy battles game for instance, you got your general and wizard, and maybe some monster here or there… One, maybe two… Whereas ninety percent of the army composes of casual troops who have 50% to kill and be killed in a one-shot. You open WFRP rulebook, read through the materials and look at the rules and the first thing you notice, is that the game is not about that monster, general or wizard, but about those poor common sods who have to struggle and survive. You start playing as rat-catchers, brigands, thieves, peasants, conscripts, dung-collectors and if you’re lucky, someone not entirely in shit position. You’re not a lofty paladin from the get go, if you want to be a respected knight, there’s long way ahead of you and a lot of effort. If you get yourself into combat it’s deadly and brutal, no hiding behind a convenient wall of easily refillable HP, or abundant magical items. This is how the game is. So once again… at what point it is over the top?
        And you see recently there was the unfortunate release of 3rd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, the one by Fantasy Flight Games. And hey! They did an exactly opposite thing! Dropping the vulnerability in favor of bombastic narrative driven and action-oriented gameplay. Changed the economy of the game into the over the top gold-abundant power-trip. Sprinkled magic left and right. Gave characters super-powers, actions that would defy reality and transform the upstart adventurer into an Errol Flynn-style thrill seeker who could now slay orcs and baddies in set of sweet ninja-quick moves!
        You know how well the third Edition was received here? In Poland, where it’s apparently the bastion of WFRP? The edition which embraces the ludicrous and bombastic, which is all about candyfloss and balloons in grim dark gothic, right? So, how well it did here?
        In short: Failed miserably… Never before so many purchases made it back to Allegro (our version of e-Bay) in such a quick time.
        And all it took was to give this franchise to an American company, with the typical mindset of making things actually over the top and more akin to current epic fantasy trends.

        In conclusion: Warhammer is THE game here for all the different reasons. Least of which it has to do with the mindset that the balloons and candyfloss sold at all saint’s day (that most of us dislike anyway) are somehow depiction of all things we are after in the setting. Quite far from it.

        PS. Scooby Doo is also set in a world where all those mad people calmly give in to a group of less then competent teens, having done no real harm to anyone in the end and where an episode always ends on a happy note. The conclusion is what matters. So the same thing could be said about most anime aimed to kids these day. Quite Lovecraftian – a lot of mad pervs with talking animal-blob-hybrids abominations and groups of average individuals solving supernatural mysteries. If this is the theme, then we could slap a Lovecraftian label anywhere really.


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