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: 9/4/2009 6:57:08 PM

Thanks for the examples Jay!

Published: 9/4/2009 6:55:56 PM

I'm glad you wasted your time telling us that. I'll buy the copy you aren't buying just so I'll have a spare.

Published: 9/4/2009 6:54:46 PM

It strikes me, and I'll of course reserve any final judgement until I try the whole system out, that this takes away the fun of "I've got a 60% chance to hit - roll - yay!" and replaces it with "take 2 dice, replace one with this colour add this colour dice, mmm, one more of this colour - roll - now there's 3 of those symbols minus one of those plus one misfortune but your skill lets you do that - you hit, yay!"

Now, instead of knowing what you want and rolling for it, you roll and have to interpret the dice. This fundamantal shift worries me more than anything I've read so far, I must admit. Maybe the roll does give you a lot more information, but it may also be taking away the basic, timeless fun of ye olde "to hit" roll.


Published: 9/4/2009 6:27:47 PM

as a ROLEplayer I find the system slow, unclear, clunckiy as hell and down right crap. still not going to get it. and will be saving a ton of cash. so don't want to say, told you so when this bombs but...

Published: 9/4/2009 6:16:56 PM

I like a lot the concept of the pool of dice. I think it will add a lot of information to the checks and gives a lot of nice options for GMs and players alike.

What has made me a bit anxious is the spell card shown in the diary. It says "Rank 1" and 3 Power... please don't tell me the new magic system is going in the direction of D&D -meaning spell levels and limitation of the number of spells you can do per day- as, in my opinion, that would be a stepback in RPG design.

The magic system of 2nd edition was superb: always able to cast a spell but at the risk of suffering nasty consequences: it made WFRP grim and dangerous. Using pools of dice would be a great way to improve it...

The artwork, as usual for FFG products looks great to me!

Published: 9/4/2009 5:12:49 PM
FFG Staff

You'll be pleased to note I've updated the designer diary to provide just the examples and information you were looking for at the very end of the post...

I was going to hold it back for a future designer diary but I wanted to share the info with you now!

Published: 9/4/2009 4:58:45 PM

Man, those cards look awesome! More previews!

David Spangler
Published: 9/4/2009 4:53:45 PM

As a P. S., it would be nice in these previews if you actually provided a couple of examples of this mechanic at work, maybe something taken from a playtest session. Examples and illustrations always help when learning new and innovative systems.

David Spangler
Published: 9/4/2009 4:52:24 PM

Hmmmn, more involved certainly than just rolling numbers and consulting a chart, but I like the system. It offers more nuance to the process and adds to the storytelling elements.  It also makes the process less like a numbers game.  I can see it will take some getting used to, but it should become second nature quickly enough.

Published: 9/4/2009 4:43:53 PM

 It might be wise to include one or two examples of how a GM would comprise a player's dice pool?

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