The TL;DR version: Careers and Critical Hits.
The careers system is great. You have class, which is pretty much nonsense but is broken down into the various careers and with that simple role you are baked into the setting. I mean they’re not all gold but I reckon if you find yourself playing a boatman or a rat catcher then you know you’re not going be carrying any jewellery to a big volcano any time soon. In my own game of WFRP I strived to maintain a low key, low fantasy vibe. An aesthetic typified by the Joseph Manola as “alcoholic gamblers knifing cultists in back alleys.” This is WFRP to me. The player characters in my game were a trapper, a muleskinner, a member of the town militia and a thief; who were all raised in the same orphanage and found themselves caught up in the machinations of a chaos cult that was tearing itself apart.
So you get a big chunk of setting right there in character generation. After all what other game allows you a small but vicious dog as part of your starting equipment? Conveying the setting in character generation is just good design. See Troika, Electric Bastionland, Apocalypse World or Beyond the Wall for a modern interpretation. I mean you could skip Apocalypse World and it wouldn’t be the end of the..
Then we have critical hits. In combat, the damage one receives is first taken from one’s wounds score until that reaches zero or below and then we roll on the critical hits table for some graphic description of the inevitability bloody result. Generally it’s time to spend a Fate point so we can retcon that result into just being unconscious or whatever but the players love rolling on those tables when they’re dishing it out. I did too when playing through Castle Drachenfels recently. I kept chopping arms off things like vampires and daemonettes (not so much with the aggressive, evil furniture we kept duking it out with. Seriously we fought a bed, a cuckoo clock and a sarcastic door..)
One thing that’s mechanically nice about WFRP combat is you roll percentile dice to hit and then reverse the digits to give your hit location. So you roll a 35 to hit and that becomes a 53 which means *checks table* you strike the left arm. Well done.
I mean the magic system is garbage and the psychology rules are super harsh but we’re playing WFRP because we love the Grim (Old) World of Perilous Adventure, not because of its elegant mechanical superiority.