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: 9/6/2009 4:35:10 AM

@ khatre

They have explained that.

Your example dice have indeed succeeded (with 3 total hammers beating the sole crossed-swords). However, your cautious approach has caused a delay (the hourglass, found on the cautious stance dice) and, although you have succeeded, there is a potentially negative side effect from the skull and another even more negative one from the chaos symbol (or potentially, just take both together for a really negative side effect).

These dice give FAR more scope for storytelling than any percentile dice ever will, and can be easily read in seconds. An experienced GM is obviously able to tell good stories without dice, but I think will be able to tell even better stories with the dice results to guide him rather than simply relying on his own whims to dictate the myriad details that he might like to add to what he usually gets from dice, which is a simple succeed/fail dynamic.

Published: 9/6/2009 12:04:49 AM

make that the "no camp", sorry it was late/early when I posted this! lol

Published: 9/6/2009 12:02:22 AM

darkkami you make some valid points. like me and others here you are able to post what you think about this new game and as a result we can read views from both side :) its all good :) and if the game does not bomb and is the best thing to happen to RPG's since the die then I will say I was wrong and was talking rubbish.

but I for one will not be getting the new game, i'm in the NO came, as is my right :)

take care all and happy posting :)



Published: 9/5/2009 4:40:38 PM

This new dice system looks good.  It's been described as potentially fiddly, but really?  Fiddly?   you roll the dice and you match and cancel out the axes and X's and the banes and the boons.  whatever you have left is your result.  The last time I checked they covered the matching skill in kindergarten.  It seems pretty simple to me. cant wait. 

Published: 9/5/2009 12:50:26 PM

Why is it that RPG players are so cantakerous about new systems?  No one's forcing you to buy the latest and possibly greatest edition?  Maybe it's time to sit back, calm down and give things a chance.  I'm looking at you, Shadowspawn.  I'm really looking forward to this game - primarily because of the "fiddly bits" mentioned and the aspects that bring more of a board-gaming feel to the game. 

Published: 9/5/2009 12:39:47 PM

Shadow I was not insulting you. Glad to see how you are willing to stand up for a person like Steamdriven who has only been a borderline elitist since day one with the first announcement of 3rd edition. I am merely giving them a  taste of their own medicine. I make an outlandish statement as though it were fact such as "FFG has re-invented the roleplaying market for future products" just as Shadow has made such rediculous comments like "FFG make some of the best board games on the planet but need to learn how to make RPG'S" or "this game will bomb" .

True I write a few articles for FFG but I am in no ways more kind to them than I am to everyone else. Just look at my recent posts in forums. I try to resolve issues (with the exception of this one) and help keep games alive. I also have had nasty things to say to FFG as you would see if you looked at my posting history.

I respect you, unlike people like steamdriven here, because you show respect in return even for the opinions you don't agree with. You don't act like a borderline troll looking to see if FFG has posted a new WHFRP article so that you can trash them some more.

I am usually careful about saying what is my opinion and not fact. This was a rare case because I wanted to point out the irony. He probably won't even come back to look at what responses he got. He will just wait until the next article is posted, pick out what he doesnt like, and then completely trash it or insult FFG staff.

Hopefully you see where I am coming from. I don't really care about this product's success or failure per say, because it is GW inspired and I dislike GW just as much as I am beginning to dislike Blizzard, and even for the same reason...greed.

Sorry if I offended you. Believe me I know that I can't take away a persons right to say what they want. I can however point out how "closed minded" (for lack of better words) that they look be fighting fire with fire.

Again I respect you so don't take my words to steam as in insult towards you. And yes I do realize the irony between me defending FFG and you defending Steam. Good day and you are a good person.

Published: 9/5/2009 11:04:50 AM

hmm could relplace all these dice with 2 d10... oops i have said too much :D

Published: 9/5/2009 10:55:11 AM

 darkkammi, a few posts by FFG fans on the FFG site doesn't create some kind of general consensus of favorable regard for this game.  Taking another completely anecdotal situation, the group of WFRP players at my LGS ( a very large store servicing a large customer base, who's best selling RPG was WFRP2E)  look on this new edition unfavorably. There are many reasons, which I won't enumerate here as its pointless.

My point, people can post their opinions here if they want to, you aren't the arbitrator of what's appropriate or what people should be doing with their time.  If you think you are taking some moral high road by supporting a game system that you haven't played, you aren't. You are just like anyone, taking shots at the second edition, as people are taking shots at 3rd Edition. Its childish.

In closing, get off your pedestal and stop acting like your opinion somehow cancels out anyone elses. 

My opinion of this new dice system. The same that I've had about each preview, it all seems overdone, slow and not needed.  The same mechanics are easily acheived with the current edition without all the "glamor"... glamor that I think will be distracting at the game table. I think the counters, the cards and the stance meter and all the other little "fiddly" bits will end up gettig in the way of the game, rather than helping it.

That's my opinion, and I'm allowed to express rather than writing the missing books that Black Industries never finished. 

Published: 9/5/2009 10:32:36 AM

2 hammers

1 hammer and hourglass

crossed swords


chaos symbol

was this a success? failure? something in between? The artical told us what the dice Do but did not tell us what the dice Mean or how to put them together for a result. I like seeing an example of how to use the dice but the article should have taken the extra step to show what the dice mean and give a result for the skill test.

David Spangler
Published: 9/5/2009 9:39:11 AM

Thanks, Jay, for the "bonus sneak peek."  Very helpful and it definitely conveys some of the excitement of the system.  For me, a roll is a roll is a roll, whether it's percentile based as in most RPGs or symbol based as in this case.  Once the dice are in motion, man, that's excitement!  And frankly, I've always felt the more dice, the merrier. 

It seems to me, though, that all these systems you're developing (cards, dice, stance, etc.) are basically there to  help the narrative flow.  A veteran, experienced GM and group of players could use them or not.  The cards, etc., are not meant to straightjacket the GM or players, only provide help when needed to keep the game flowing.  I know in a group I used to be part of, we got very good at keeping the narrative going and resolving challenges through good role play whether we were playing exactly by the rules or not.  I mean, that's the point of it all, living the story.  Any props that help that, I'm all for, but in the end it comes down to imagination and working together to live the story. 

So it this system has lots of dice, lots of cards, boardgame-like elements, and so on, it doesn't offend me as an RPGer; it just means I have more to work with if I want do to so and if it helps, and if it gets in the way, I can leave it out.  I have never felt bound to the system as long as I and my players get along and have a good time and live the story.


Published: 9/5/2009 6:39:52 AM

well, so far I've been in the 'oh no' camp regarding the 3rd edition but i will try to be objective as possible. as i notice, most of you are praising how the new dice pool system will improve narrative moment. i'm not sure about that. as seen from some pics depicting skill and talent cards, each has a predetermined dice pool outcome showed on them. for example, the range skill (as far as i remember) had 3-4 outcomes depending on your dice pool roll, one of them stating that in a case of a miss (two skulls) one enemy may charge you.  if you take in the account the fact that such skill cards have only limited number of  outcomes, i don't see how that improves narrative possibilities for expirienced GMs (i'm not talking about the n00bs since it seems this product is oriented for the new and younger gamers). a good GM can improvise  the narration from failures or success so much more than some outcome table can offer.

anyway, I may be wrong, this could be the best thing in RPG history but i doubt it. i will be watching carefully how this evolves.

sigmar protects!


Published: 9/5/2009 5:41:29 AM

After reading this I went back and finally watched the I'm interested! I thought the dice pool idea might be a bit cumbersome, but it seems pretty simple once the basics have been grasped. I like the idea of cards too, but I always like cards. The only thing I'm a bit daunted by is the price tag...

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