An Interview with Jay Little, Developer of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
April 2, 2010
As mentioned in the past, as well as on the most recent RPG Circus, my brother and his wife both just got jobs at Fantasy Flight Games. I for one, am horribly jealous.
However, my sister-in-law, Tricia Meredith, in her infinite kindness, offered to let me send her some questions to her, for her to pass on to Jay Little, the Senior RPG Developer for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e. So without further ado, here's my interview with Mr. Little.
Me: First of all what other projects have you worked on for Fantasy Flight and other companies?
Jay Little: My focus at FFG is the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay line. In addition to managing and developing projects for WFRP, one of the best things about working at FFG is being able to discuss, playtest, and brainstorm games other people are working on. Iʼve been fortunate to do just that for Warhammer: Invasion, Chaos in the Old World, Horus Heresy, and a number of other recent projects.
I've been working in and out of the game industry for most of my adult life, starting out with some RPG and board game work for a small publisher back when I was in college.
Since then I've worked directly for or freelanced for Eden Studios, WizKids, Goodman Games (for whom I developed a number of 3/3.5 Dungeons & Dragons projects) and now FFG.
Me: Why a 3rd edition? Why not just continue on with the 2nd edition?
Jay Little: Based on recent trends in the roleplaying market and numerous discussions between Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games, we determined the time was right to develop and introduce a new edition, attracting more fans to the Warhammer Fantasy setting made popular by Game Workshopʼs tabletop miniatures game.
Me: What are you attempting to accomplish with 3e? What is the inspiration behind it?
Jay Little: It may sound a bit grand, but I really wanted to try and break new ground for roleplaying games. When I took over management of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay line, there were a number of conversations about what direction the line should head in, how best to deliver a game and experience that would meet Fantasy Flight Games standards for design, as well as meet the high standards Games Workshop has established for the popular, iconic Warhammer Fantasy setting.
Early on we recognized that we had a rare opportunity. Based on the production resources we had access to and the great relationship between FFG and Games Workshop, we could head in a completely new direction. It was pretty exciting to be able to shake things up and try something different.
As for inspiration – there were a lot of different sources. Previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are obviously very strong inﬂuences – I played 1st and 2nd edition a lot
. My long history with the setting and experience with the previous editions played a signiﬁcant role in the development of the new edition. Plus, Iʼve been a rabid consumer of the Warhammer Fantasy setting for a long time. Iʼve read dozens and dozens of the novels and have been playing board, card, tabletop, and computer games based on the setting for decades.
Other roleplaying games obviously inﬂuenced my design, as well. Some games were an inspiration simply by virtue of being a game that created the right sort of RP experience for me and my group, or a game that expanded my view of how the players and GM work together to shape the gameplay. Other games provided an interesting take on mechanics or interactions that I found particularly refreshing or inspiring.
Me: What brought about the inspiration for using the unique dice and all the accessories that are within the box?
Jay Little: The decision to work with custom dice and the dice pool resolution system was made early on in the design process. The custom dice add a lot of extra dimension and context to task resolution that traditional dice didnʼt offer.
Armed with the symbols and results depth provided by the dice, we had a lot of design space to play with while developing other parts of the game. The dice cleanly interact with the action cards, contribute to the narrative outcome of results, and provide a quick and consistent means for the GM to arbitrate a wide variety of situations.
Me: What do you think is the best way for a new group to get into the game? Simply buy the box and pick their way through the rules, or are there scenarios that introduce both the players and GMs to the new concepts in the game?
Jay Little: We developed a short demo scenario called A Day Late, A Shilling Short
to help GMs learn the game while teaching a group of new players. Itʼs a pretty quick little scenario, with some suggestions and references to rules in the core set for the GM to quickly ﬁnd related topics. Armed with a copy of the core set and the demo, a GM and 3-4 other players should be able to start their adventures in the Old World pretty quickly.
You can download A Day Late, A Shilling Short for free from the FFG website.
Me: What was your inspiration for the conservative and aggressive stances? They add a lot to the game, and change the way each player interacts with one another.
Jay Little: I wanted to introduce mechanics and gameplay that put a lot of control and decision making in the hands of the players. Not only to engage the players and keep them involved, but also to free up the GM to focus on the story. I also like games that feature risk management, which is not always a clear and present part of RPG design.
The goal was to develop a game where each of the playersʼ decisions really matter, and manifest in visual and meaningful ways. When a player describes how aggressive his character is being, that has a tangible effect on the game, complete with its own potential risks and rewards. When a player tells the GM his character is carefully searching a locked chest – just how careful is he being? One conservative die worth?
That tells a different story than being 3 or 4 dice conservative… The stance dice and risk management elements of the game let the player and GM weave those details into the story and task resolution without bogging things down.
Me: What is the best advice you can give to new players trying out Warhammer for the ﬁrst time?
Jay Little: Dive right in! Grab some dice, a few action cards, and start rolling. Sure, thereʼs a learning curve, just like with anything new, but Iʼm pleased with how many comments and posts Iʼve seen from people saying that after a few dice rolls, everything just sort of clicked and fell into place. And the more they play around with the dice, cards, and other components, the more they can appreciate how well everything ﬁts together.
Me: What is your response to critics who claim your game is too much like a board game with the accessories and dice?
Jay Little: Warhammer Fantasy has always had a passionate, fervent following. Fans of the setting take their hobby very seriously, and change can take a lot of getting used to. And WFRP certainly introduced a lot of change -- new mechanics, new edition, new format, custom components… But it still is very much roleplaying in the grim and perilous Warhammer Fantasy setting.
RPG players have used play aids and other tools to enhance the game ever since the hobby started – maps and miniatures to show where things are located, note cards and character sheets to manage information, maybe beads or tokens to track conditions or health… and Iʼve seen or used dozens of other tools or resources during RPG sessions.
With WFRP, the game was designed with those resources already in mind, providing a consistent framework, and allowing game rules and mechanics to interact with these resources in new and interesting ways.
Me: Anything we can look forward to with WHFRP3e in the near and far future?
Keep checking the website for news and announcements on particular products for the line. Otherwise, Iʼm always working on several different projects at once. As one project gets ready to be sent to the printers, another project may be in the middle of layout, while a third is being written, and a fourth on the horizon is being green-lighted.
So whatʼs in store for WFRP fans? I canʼt reveal any secrets, but I can say that weʼre working on a mix of adventures, supplements, and a variety of ways to expand and enhance the WFRP gameplay experience. One of my development goals is to produce content that has broad appeal and will be of interest to both players and GMs, as well as to fans of the Warhammer Fantasy setting overall.
Again, I'd like to thank Jay Little for taking time out of his schedule to answer my questions, and my sister-in-law, Tricia, for getting me in touch with him. Thanks, Trish!Interview, Warhammer Fantasy RP