News for September 2009
Of Dice and Men 58
A look at the custom dice and core mechanics of WFRP
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 04 September 2009

One of the new features of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are the custom dice used during task resolution. The core set includes 36 custom dice. With these dice, the characters can perform a wide variety of actions while accounting for changing tactics, situations, and effects. Rather than numbers, these dice feature special symbols.

There are seven different types of custom dice used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Each die has a specific colour and function. The dice are rolled in groups – called dice pools – to perform actions. Not every type of die will be used for every task. The dice used depend on a variety of factors. Here is a look at each of the seven different types of dice.

Challenge DiceChallenge Dice
These purple eight-sided dice represent the challenges and difficulties facing a character when attempting an action. The results are generally bad for the character – most of the effects undermine success, or make it more likely that some sort of detrimental side effect will occur.

Characteristic DiceCharacteristic Dice
These blue eight-sided dice form the basis of a dice pool when performing an action, representing how important an individual characteristic is towards accomplishing the task. The higher a character’s Strength, for example, the more blue characteristic dice he contributes to actions based on Strength. Characteristic dice have beneficial symbols, and several blank sides. The blue characteristic dice can be converted into different dice based on a character’s current stance.

Conservative DiceConservative Dice
These green ten-sided dice represent the low-risk, low-reward stance a character can adopt while performing actions. The conservative dice reflect a measured, cautious, or thoughtful approach to the situation. The conservative dice have a very good chance of contributing towards the success of an action, but an overly cautious approach may cause delays.

Expertise DiceExpertise Dice
These yellow six-sided dice represent dedicated training or exceptional aptitude with a skill or special proficiency. They feature a special symbol that allows a character to roll additional dice, as well as a symbol that can trigger special effects based on training or aptitude.

Fortune DiceFortune Dice
These white six-sided dice provide a slight edge for the character. Fortune dice are granted for tactical advantages, as well as by certain talents, party abilities, or by spending fortune points. Half of the sides of a fortune die are blank, the other half have beneficial effects.

Misfortune DiceMisfortune Dice
These black six-sided dice impose a slight complication to a dice pool. Misfortune dice are assigned for tactical disadvantages, as well as for certain talents, conditions, or debilitating effects such as critical wounds. Half of the sides of a misfortune die are blank, the other half have detrimental effects.

Reckless DiceReckless Dice
These red ten-sided dice represent the high-risk, high-reward stance a character can adopt while performing actions. The reckless dice reflect an aggressive, fiery, or daemon-may-care approach to the situation. The reckless dice feature several potent faces with numerous positive effects, but also several blank sides and some drawbacks.

Actions, Checks & Resolving Tasks
Characters will attempt a variety of tasks to accomplish various goals and move the scenes and story along during a session. When the outcome of a task is uncertain, a character needs to perform some sort of action. Some actions are a general application of a characteristic or skill. Other actions are very specific, and are represented by an action card.

Once the appropriate type of action has been determined by the GM, the character may need to make a check to see whether or not the action succeeds. In simplest terms, a player creates a pool of dice, comprised of dice representing the different factors involved in the action. This could be a combination of several types of dice, and can vary from action to action, situation to situation.

After the dice pool has been created, the player rolls all of the dice and the results are evaluated. Some actions, particularly those represented by an action card, may have very specific results for success or failure. Other actions will have their results decided by the GM, based on the dice pool results, the character’s goals, and the situation.

Spell Example - Celestial Order - OmenThe Symbols
The symbols that appear on the custom dice have specific effects on the outcome of task resolution. Not all symbols appear on all dice. After a dice pool has been rolled, the symbols are evaluated to determine which symbols influence the outcome of the task. If the task being performed was based on an action card, specific effects may be triggered based on the symbols generated by the dice pool. Otherwise, the GM interprets the symbols and resolves the task based on the action being performed.

Download the dice symbol reference (PDF, 550kb)

The symbols and the dice they appear on can be a powerful narrative tool, allowing the players to visualise and interpret the outcome of actions in a variety of ways. This can be influenced not only by which symbols appear on the dice, but which dice those symbols appear on.

The Core Mechanic
The core mechanic refers to the task resolution system used to determine success and failure. In some respects, it is the engine that drives the game. The core mechanic in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is quite simple, and can be summarised as follows:

  1. Roll a pool of dice.
  2. After all other factors, if there is at least one success symbol, the task succeeds.

Almost all the other factors influencing the outcome of tasks modifies or interacts with one of these two fundamental elements – the pool of dice, or the results on the dice after they are rolled.

And while the presence or absence of success symbols indicate the basic success threshold -- was the task accomplished? -- the other symbols can contribute to the magnitude of the effect, and help describe how and why the task succeeds or fails.

Bonus Sneak Peek

Creating a Dice Pool

Before the core mechanic comes into play, it needs a reason – this reason is usually the action being attempted. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, when the outcome of a task is uncertain, resolving the action generally relies on a skill or characteristic check.

If the action being attempted is based on an action card, the related skill or characteristic to use in the check appears on the card. For actions that do not rely on action cards, such as a standard use of a skill, the skill used determines which characteristic the check is based on.

The first step in assembling a dice pool is taking a number of blue dice equal to the hero’s characteristic rating, and any white fortune dice that may be associated with the characteristic (showing a slight edge, knack, or advantage with that ability). If the hero has training in the relevant skills, he adds one yellow expertise die to the dice pool for each level of training.

Next, the GM determines what challenges or potential misfortunes face the character, and adds the appropriate dice to the pool. This is based on the inherent difficulty level of the attempted task, as well as any other factors that try to undermine the character’s chances of success.

Finally, before rolling the dice pool, the player converts some of his blue characteristic dice into stance dice. This step is not optional – the player must convert a number of blue dice into a number of stance dice based on his depth on the character’s stance meter.

The player also has an opportunity to spend fortune points to modify the dice pool. For each fortune point spent, one white fortune die is added to the pool.

Example of Assembling a Dice Pool

Mellerion the Wood Elf hunter is attempting to climb a cliff. This is an application of the Athletics skill, which is based on Mellerion’s Strength, which is 3 -- and average rating for a Wood Elf.

The player starts his dice pool by taking three blue characteristic dice, which is equal to Mellerion’s Strength rating. Mellerion has one level of training in Athletics, so he gets to add one yellow expertise die to the pool.

Based on the situation, the GM determines that the cliff is fairly steep, but there are roots and footholds along the way, making this an Average difficulty check, which adds two purple challenge dice to the pool. The GM had described the light drizzle earlier in the scene, which is making things a bit slick, so the GM also decides to add a misfortune die to the pool.

Dice Pool ExampleBefore attempting the task, Mellerion had adjusted his stance to one space deep on the conservative side of his stance meter -- he wants to be a bit more careful in his ascent, since the rain is causing a complication. Since he is one space deep on the green conservative side, Mellerion’s player swaps out one of the blue characteristic dice with a green conservative die.

With no other factors influencing the task, the final dice pool consists of 2 blue characteristic dice, 1 yellow expertise die, 1 green conservative die, 2 purple challenge dice, and 1 black misfortune die.

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

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Comments (58)

Published: 9/8/2009 10:36:38 AM
FFG Staff

Destriarch - You make a good point on colorblindness, and we were mindful of this with the design.

Our layout and development decisions help to accommodate this. To reduce confusion, we use both icons and terminology when possible if the type of die being referenced may otherwise be in question. 

As another example, to accommodate players with red/green colorblindness, the double-sided action cards use visually distinct background textures and contrasts to make it easier to distinguish one side from the other.

Published: 9/8/2009 10:15:25 AM

One problem. I am colourblind. I cannot tell the difference between blue and purple. The colours of the Challenge Die and Characteristic Die look identical to me. Now I know, you can look at the symbols on them to tell them apart, but if the manual refers to them by their colours rather than their names I am going to be extremely confused throughout, to the point that it may well kill the game for me.

I'm all for new systems, I'm an Indie gamer myself, but this could turn out to be a serious annoyance for a lot of people.


Published: 9/8/2009 8:06:32 AM

thats a good idea armrek, hey FFG lets see this system in action! come on it may even convert the doom sayers! you know its a good idea. :)

Published: 9/8/2009 6:46:57 AM

I know it is a bit to early to judge the game, but I have  a funny feeling about this. Has the eagerness to create new smart mechanics created an overcomplex rpg with all these new implements?

I'll say that it would be a real good move if you Jay, and the FFG posted a demo session where all this is demonstrated in a game of:

Character creation
Play in a scenario
Rewards and Advancements

As a video...

This would clear things up.

People tends to see a monster when they think of the new and unknown

Dr. Mid-Nite
Published: 9/8/2009 5:55:15 AM

Ooooooooooooooooooookay - so many dice...

...too many dice.

I´m sorry, I really tried to give the 3rd Edition a chance.

I´m working in a gamestore in Germany and we have a strong WHF-Community.

Each and every Gamer tells me, that they do not like the changes announced for 3rd Ed.

All the time I´m telling them "Give it a chance", but now no more...

I´m playing RPG´s since 1984 and maybe I´m too stubborn to see a game with Character-Archetype-Cards and Action-Cards and Special Dices and and and as a fully operational RPG.

No 3rd Edition for Germany, I´m afraid... The 2nd was the best WHF ever produced.

You´ve changed a winning horse, sorry.

Varnias Tybalt
Published: 9/7/2009 5:51:35 PM

Sounds awfully complicated in theory. But then again, so have a number of RPG's I've tried, but the game flow has always progressed once the GM and the players get the hang of the mechanics .

And the dice pools does present a wide variety of possible outcomes during any given undertaking, instead of just "success" or "failure" like traditional RPG's do (and no I don't count "degress of success" to be the equally innovative, since it's basically the same thing as "success/failure mechanic).

Im still taking a.... "neutral stance" (no pun intended XD), towards this game. But the possibilities of this system does seem promising and fun. It all bottles down to how the final product will function of course, but my imagination of this dicepool system have already thought of plenty of explorable avenues.

Published: 9/7/2009 8:04:19 AM

I don't have a problem with the concept of WFRP 3 or the way FFG have gone with it but I dont think my group will be interested. For all of the interesting ideas its just too much stuff for an RPG. Things like cards and stance meters take up too much room and different dice become a problem for passing around. We often dont play around a kitchen table and WFRP 3 seems to assume that you do.

In my experiance dice pools also slow down a game as people have to work out all the contributing factors, dice pools with different dice more so because you then have to accumulate the correct type of dice which you may not have enough of to go round especially if you have lost a few or you have more than 3 players (I think alot of groups have 4 players so the choice of 3 I think was bizzar). That was the beauty of the old system, d100 roll with one net modifier and few variables in combat that altered it meant once you got the hand of things it could go fairly quickly. It also meant you could roll the dice then take into account modifiers.

The removal of location hits also bothers me. The thing I least like about dice pools it that it often enforces a large amount of abstraction in the gaming system as you lose the ability to be precise about what you want to do.

If all of this stuff was optional extras I would be fine with it but it seems to be too integral to the game to ignore and as such it makes WFRP 3 virtually useless for our gaming group which is a real shame. I may still buy the core set but I dont expect we will ever play it.


P.S. FFG make ALL of the core set components available to buy seperately. If you want a second core book you shouldn't have to buy the whole box again.

Published: 9/7/2009 4:44:39 AM

Ok, first of all thanks for the preview.

I'm a buyer, definetly. I like new games, even at the expense of old tried one that I love. I'm not affraid of change and I whish you guys the best of luck. You got my dollars.

But I have to ask... how can any one in their right mind call this "Streamlining" ???

So it used to be: roll a percentile dice and see if you made it.

Now it's:Build a dice pool out of 36 custom dice with hieroglyphics on them and check your cards on how to interpret outcomes (300 cards you have to shuffle through). And you call this Streamlining?

Honestly... the corporate bs. it just makes you guys look stupid.


Published: 9/7/2009 4:07:47 AM

Personally I don't think that the WHFRP game is that great as it is, and I will look much forward to this(now, after this review) - I would love of the symbol-dice could make for more deive combat and task resolution.


I recognize those, perhaps millions, fans that loved WHFRP for what it was: The career system that made for storytelling, and a believable development of your character, and the quick and simple d100 roll, to get on with the game!

And of any of them cries "this has nothing to do with WHRP", I am certainly not one to chide them or say that they are just afraid of change - this is so major, that I don't think it should have been WHFRP, but FFGs own unique system, generic, or for perhaps the Tannhäuser setting...



Published: 9/7/2009 2:46:48 AM

Perhaps I was wrong about you Steam. At least you admit we are all kinda getting out of hand. That's a step up. I really do wish though that people would be more careful in the words they use in their posts. You can get your points across without name calling. ... Oh god I sound like my mother from when I was young. Time to play some Arkham Asylum. lol Nothing washes out the wussy side like destroying crime with the Dark Knight.

Steam and Shadow I would really like to talk to you more over emails. The store I run has a different view for this game than you do. I would like to have more indepth talks with those that oppose the game. I am going to invite you two to be on my friends list. Take it or leave it.

Published: 9/7/2009 2:36:22 AM

Whoops! Yeah I did misquote, sorry didnt catch that. Those quotes were from Steam. Sorry.
As I said I respect you. Still don't see why FFG can't get an edit system or preview post system on their pages. If a simple geek site like Comic Book Movie can I am sure FFG can too.

Published: 9/6/2009 11:54:07 AM

 Just for the record, I was never offended. I'm not so easily offended. I just thought you were trying to shut down the views of the other side, even if they weren't articulated well.  Your post just came off that way. 

Also, I think you mistakenly attributed quotes to me that I never made.  I don't recall saying that FFG didn't know how to make RPGs. I was the founder of Against the Shadow and ran that website for years before handing it over to the current administrators, so I know a thing or two about what FFG can and can't do in the RPG business. Of course, many of the people that worked on that are gone now, but I digress .

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