Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Rulebook (for 3rd Edition) is a 98 page graphics intensive PDF. You will need the cards and custom dice in the core box set to GM the game. However, this PDF will tempt owners of the Adventurer's Kit and dice who would like to be abreast of the rules without going to the expense of the box set.
Being graphics intensive does mean both that it's impractical to print this PDF off and that on low power machines you will experience delays in rendering a page. My 1.6 GHz 2 core Netbook pages took in the order of 15 seconds to render if approached sequentially and around 1 minute if I jumped into the document at random. However, my 2.3 GHz 4 core 64-bit desktop rendered a page within 10 seconds if I jumped in at random and sequential access resulted in sub-second page renders. I was running Ubuntu Linux on both machines (the Netbook Remix for the portable) and used the default "evince" document viewer for the tests. Evince has the handy habit of preparing the pages either side of the one you're viewing so reading the PDF was a delay-less experience, even on the low power computer.
As you may know, the boxed set provides the rules and components for a GM and 3 additional players. The introductory chapter of this PDF provides an overview of this fact, what are called Story and Encounter modes and pictures of the various cards and dice with an overview of their purposes. Naturally these dice and cards are not included in this PDF.
The first chapter covers Characteristics & Abilities describes the six base stats of a WFRP character, which although they differ in name are mysteriously similar in description to those of another well-known 6 stat system. Again Fortune Points fill a familiar role in providing PCs with a spendable "fate" resource, though the mechanism of adding one of the white custom d6 is different. The same bonus is provided by each level of training in a skill above the basic "everybody can do this" attribute roll.
The game introduces "Party Sheets." Party Sheets summarize the party's outlook and provide a place to collect Fortune points the GM awards during play, these are distributed each time the number of points equals the number of PCs. Each party sheet has a different party ability. Party members can also use the sheet to share "Talent" cards (which along with Action cards fill the role Feats do in DnD). The downside of this is that parties can become stressed resulting in a game effect.
In the brief Chapter 2 WFRP Rulebook describes the four standard races. Reikland Humans, Dwarves, High Elves and Wood Elves. Happily in such a small space it manages to describe some of their histories and culture at the same time.
Normally players get to choose their race, as explained in the next chapter "Character Creation." However, if following the default system, once the player has drawn three "Career" cards and chosen one, character generation devolves into a points based system and will be subject to the usual time consuming min-maxing. That said the character sheet is brief and much of the usual note taking from the rulebook will be replaced by simply selecting the appropriate card from one of the box set decks. GMs wanting to start characters at a higher than introductory level might want to take inspiration from The Burning Wheel and use completed or partly completed careers instead of additional experience as suggested.
A PCs "Stance" range is calculated as this stage. Stance is a game mechanism for measuring how conservative or reckless a character is and governs the quantity of certain dice used to make up the pool a player rolls. Being reckless carries a higher potential reward, but also a greater risk of failure or bad things.
In WFRP all players are rewarded equally and this is to the tune of one, or occasionally 2 experience points per session. Each XP received entitles a character to one advancement, which can be in skills, a new action card (combat action), talent card, in "Wound Threshold" (HP), a "Fortune Die" (good d6) for an attribute, or an additional Stance piece. 10 XP make a "Rank" (Level). I have read elsewhere that the box set provides for Clerical and Arcane magic use to Rank 5, which even with a consistently over generous GM is 6 months of a weekly game.
At last in Chapter 5 we get to learn the core mechanism. Which is simply 1) roll a pool of dice 2) after all other factors if there is at least one net "Success" the action succeeds. Success is a symbol on the dice, there are a total of nine different symbols on the dice (not all dice have all symbols). Critical success and failure are calculated from the appearance of symbols other than Success or its opposite "Challenge." As mentioned in my article on a demo session I attended, the method of constructing a pool of dice is quickly and simply learned, within 3 rounds of combat we were all building our own pools.
Each combat round for each player comprises of a number of phases but the meat of it is one manoeuvre and one action. Actions are described on the cards in the WFRP box set. The Rulebook contains a short list of broad standard manoeuvres, players and the GM are encouraged to improvise others. A player can buy additional manoeuvres in a round at the cost of "Fatigue" too much of which can lead to collapse or combined with "Stress" to "Insanity," the truly grim part of Warhammer.
Although the box set provides what the rules refer to as "standies" (card miniatures slotted into a plastic base), combat is map-less and deals with range in an abstract fashion. There being a set of range steps which are marked out with tokens on the playing area. Initiative is determined by rolling dice at the start of combat, but in each round the players are free to swap which of the given initiative slots their characters use. This allows for some battle tactics you don't see in a static initiative order game.
Equipment (including weapons) is dealt with in very broad categories. Pricing is based on category and how likely you are to find the item you want in the settlement your character is in. There is a chapter on "The Empire" which at 11 pages is enough to get some flavor but not enough to prevent two games of WFRP 3 from having radically different interpretations of the setting.
There is a short appendix containing 3 maps (the known world, the Empire, and Reikland the area within the Empire which is the default setting). Surprisingly there is no index, which given the brevity of the book and the detail of the contents pages shouldn't affect its use too much. However, the location of the weapon tables is missing from the contents so be prepared for occasional annoyance.
This PDF makes a sensible buy for a player who wants to read the rules and is content with buying the forthcoming dice pack rather than go to the whole expense of the box set. That said, much of the detail of WFRP3 is on the cards and not in any of the books. Further the mechanics of the game as presented in the book are easily learned in play. The graphics heavy nature of this PDF and the consequent long rendering times doesn't make it a sensible buy for GMs wanting to cut down on what they carry to a session or have as a search-able copy.