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: 9/5/2009 3:36:02 AM

Looks great! I'm curious to see it implemented in a preview.

Published: 9/5/2009 3:27:39 AM

Heh steamdriven I like how you are the only one saying this will bomb. Based on the percentage of it being just you that thinks this will bomb while everyone else says they are going to buy it, makes me inclined to believe that you are wrong.

Still can't accept the fact that FFG has changed the way roleplaying game companies will make future editions of their games? I had this talk the other day with a friend about how when we were younger how we made up our own rules and used our imaginations to bring our action figures to life. You really should stop. We get that you have decided way ahead of time that you hate this product no matter what, but does it look like any of us care?

You should take the time you waste posting your snide comments and instead use them to write a book on the greenskin lands, or dwarf lands, or high elf, or wood elf , or lizardmen jungles...since Black Industries thought those places were not important. Or you could even just go grab a "Choose your own adventure" throw a Warhammer theme to it and use it as a pre writen adventure, getting the same quality product as all those other adventure modules BI wrote.

Published: 9/5/2009 2:34:56 AM

I must say the game look more and more amazing with every preview. The system of dice pool lokks easy and fast and thats very important for me. Can't wait for the next designers dairy and I hope it will be even better then this. Maybe we will a preview of the upcoming books or smoething like that - I wish.

Thank You Jay for making Warhammer even better then it ever was!

Published: 9/5/2009 2:29:47 AM

Thanks for this info. My first thought on this is that it is unnnecessaryly complicated, but I still miss a demonstration video of a session, to se this in action. I think a lot of us are waiting for this before we can see what the game is all about.

Published: 9/4/2009 11:39:17 PM

This is probably the first time since I was young and playing Expert D&D that I wished I had time in my life to play RPGs again. I'm very intrigued by what I've read and seen (I suggest the videos of the seminar held at GenCon if you haven't watched them already). As for the dice system specifically, I like what FFG is trying to do with a system that helps the GM weave the story. Sure, it'll be a little bit of a learning curve at first compared to conventional dice resolution, but in the grand scheme of learning a whole new RPG system it's probably not that big of an undertaking.  And I agree with the others who like that the system doesn't lend itself to players' easily figuring out exactly their chance of success. Having only a rough sense of what your chances are (which I think this system is more likely to foster) is more true-to-life.  And it's sort like reading tea leaves; you need to take it all in and then slowly the message reveals itself (no, I don't read tea leaves :-) ).

Published: 9/4/2009 10:14:55 PM

It looks like it will be a lot of fun. I can't wait to give it a go!

I have one observation though - the example given doesnt really make it clear how to distinguish between when a challenge die is allocated as opposed to a misfortune die. The example states that the climb is of average difficulty, so 2 challenge dice, and also that the rain has made it slippery so a misfortune die is included. But why would I assume this was grounds for a misfortune die and not just put in another challenge die?

Published: 9/4/2009 9:34:27 PM

This sounds great!

Goodbye boring percentiles!

Published: 9/4/2009 8:59:16 PM

So, if you ignore the other stuff and just go off Successes and Challenges, I don't see how that's different than adding up the modifiers for your skill in v2, this is just after the roll rather than before.  Also, I don't think there will be huge Exalted-type dice pools, so it'll be pretty quick to pick things out.

But the biggest thing is, it's not a flat probability, which is awesome.  Sure, people understand percentages, but rolling a d100, you have the same chance of getting a massive success as a regular success, or horrible failure.  With this system, the player can't easily determine the odds, which is a good thing - characters certainly aren't calculating the odds like that.

When you swing a baseball bat, do you think, "Well, my dex is 45%, and I have level 2 baseball, so I have precisely a 65% chance of succeeding"?  I doubt it.  Now you have to think, "Well, my character is pretty good at this, so I think it's worth a shot," or, "My character can barely keep his balance sitting down, no way am I going to try to walk that tight rope."  Much better IMO.

Published: 9/4/2009 8:13:11 PM

I am liking the sound of the dice mechanic.  I am glad that FFG has the courage to go for a new approach, this is looking really interesting.  I like the sound of this pool mechanic, and the stance mechanic.


RE Universal Head: I still think you are going to be watching the roll very carefully - and a lot of fun will be in rolling the dice and pulling off X despite the odds.

For me this dice system seems like a neat way of including a whole range of story variables into the mechanics of the game and making them a real factor that players have in their hands!


Great stuff FFG.



Published: 9/4/2009 8:11:45 PM

I meant to add that the dice game more to work off of as a GM than just the binary decision of pass/fail, even with notions of degrees of success. I am not 100% certain this new system is for me, but I have yet to see anything that is turning me off of the game. Rather, I am eager to try it out for a few sessions with my group.

Published: 9/4/2009 8:10:09 PM

Universal Head has a point - this does it make it more complex than merely rolling under your percentile skill.  However I will say this: I read the die symbol sheet through once. I was able to quickly pull out the successes versus the failures and see that it was a success. Coupled with the extra duration, and the chaos and bane dice it had a narrative element.

It took me about the same or less amount of time as say, adding up a handful of d6.

Published: 9/4/2009 7:04:33 PM

 as a ROLEplayer, I'm super exicted about this system.  I think it'll give the GM a lot of flexiblity and, more importantly, will be a lot of fun.  Thanks for the bonus info!  

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