News for September 2009
The Bad, The Worse, and the Ugly 41
A look at handling enemies & adversaries in WFRP
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 29 September 2009

Over the course of their adventures, characters are likely to face a variety of enemies. From brutish orcs to cunning cultists, numerous adversaries will rise to oppose the heroes. In the Tome of Adventures included in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay core set, the GM will learn how to manage enemies during encounters. A number of potential enemies are also presented, with background information and game statistics, providing GMs with everything they need to use these adversaries during the game.

Creatures and adversaries are more than just a set of numbers, and they can provide a wide range of potential plot twists and complications. To make the most out of encounters with enemies, the GM has a variety of tools at his disposal.

The Tome of Adventures provides GMs with lots of information on creating memorable adversaries and interesting encounters. Suggestions are provided for creating distinct personality traits, developing connections between key adversaries and the characters, and how different bad guys may use tactics to their advantage.

An Angry GiantManaging Enemies

In addition to creating interesting and engaging bad guys from a flavour or setting standpoint, the GM is also responsible for managing adversaries from the mechanical standpoint. The Tome of Adventures provides numerous tips on managing enemies and NPCs, whether it’s a battle of wits with a nefarious nemesis or a battle with dozens of greenskins. From tracking the use of any special abilities, to managing the health and morale of a group of combatants, the GM has a variety of tools at his disposal.

Henchmen, Lackeys & Underlings

One of the tools GMs have access to are the use of henchmen NPCs. In addition to stout, hearty members of an individual NPC or monster entry, there are also weaker, less powerful members that fill out the ranks. These lower tier NPCs are collectively referred to as henchmen. Henchmen are a great option that allow GMs to introduce larger numbers of enemies or create more complex encounters without necessarily overwhelming the party.

Henchmen have a few special qualities to allow the GM to easily manage larger groups of enemies in the thick of the action.

Henchmen Work Together
Henchmen act in concert. Rather than each individual henchman acting on its own, they act together in groups. Henchmen of the same type are broken up into smaller groups based on the number of characters in the player’s party.

When activated during initiative, a single group of henchmen generally performs the same action, working together. For example, a group of snotling henchmen would usually attack the same target. In this case, only a single henchman from the group attempts the related check. Each additional henchman adds a fortune die to the action’s dice pool.

Henchmen Withstand Fewer Wounds
Rather than use the wounds threshold listed for a standard member of that creature entry, each henchman can only withstand a number of wounds equal to its Toughness rating. For example, a standard gor beastman has 12 wounds, while a henchman gor beastman would only be able to withstand 5 wounds (its Toughness) before being defeated.

Henchmen Share Health
Henchmen of the same type share a common pool of health. Individual henchmen do not have their own unique wound thresholds. Instead, all henchmen of a same type share a pool of health. Wounds inflicted to a henchman are dealt to the common pool of health shared by all henchmen of that type. Individual henchmen are defeated when enough wounds are inflicted to defeat one member of the group.

Henchmen Do Not Suffer Critical Wounds
Henchmen do not suffer from critical wounds the way characters or standard creatures do. When an attack or an effect would inflict a critical wound to a henchman, a critical wound card is drawn as normal. However, rather than being afflicted by the effect listed on the critical wound, the henchmen suffer a number of additional wounds equal to the critical wound’s severity rating.

A Fearsome Chaos WarriorEnemy Statistics
Enemies in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay have a diverse range of abilities. Many of the same elements apply to enemies as to player characters – for example, enemies and PCs both have characteristics, wound thresholds, and an assortment of actions they can perform. There are some important differences, however, to help the GM track information and manage large numbers or varied foes more easily.

Download a sample adversary spread from the Tome of Adventure’s Bestiary. (PDF 1.8 MB)

Aggression, Cunning, and Expertise
In addition to their characteristic ratings, monsters and NPCs are rated in three attributes – Aggression, Cunning, and Expertise. These ratings are abbreviated A/C/E in the statistic entries. These attributes make it easier to read and evaluate monster entries by broadly defining the physical and mental abilities beyond their characteristics, without listing skills or talents that may not come into play during an encounter.

The attribute ratings indicate how many bonus dice the GM can use for the NPCs during encounters for certain actions. The type of dice and actions relating to each attribute is explained below. These ratings give the GM a “budget” of dice to add to checks, allowing NPCs and monsters to have a lot of variety and some tricks up their sleeves. Generally, once all the dice for a particular attribute have been used, no more dice are available for that purpose for the remainder of the current encounter.

  • Aggression: The Aggression rating indicates the number of fortune dice the GM can use when the NPC is performing physical tasks, such as climbing and swimming, as well as a many combat-focused actions. Any number of these fortune dice can be used for a single check. Aggression is a general indicator of an enemy’s physical prowess, boldness, and vigour. An Orc and a Flesh Hound of Khorne are examples of adversaries with a high Aggression rating.
  • Cunning: The Cunning rating indicates the number of fortune dice the GM can use when the NPC is performing social actions or other mental tasks. Any number of these fortune dice can be used for a single check. Cunning is a general indicator of an enemy’s mental acuity, instincts, and creativity. A Cult Leader and a Skaven Gutter Runner are examples of adversaries with a high Cunning rating.
  • Expertise: The Expertise rating indicates the number of expertise dice the GM can apply to any checks he wishes for that NPC. No more than a one expertise die can be added to any one check. Expertise is a general indicator of an enemy’s training, potency, resourcefulness, and aptitude. A Chaos Warrior and a Giant Spider are examples of two very different types of adversaries that have fairly high Expertise ratings.

Damage, Soak, and Defence
In parentheses after each entry’s three physical characteristics are Damage, Soak, and Defence values for that type of NPC or monster. The number after the Strength rating is the Damage Rating. The number after the Toughness rating is its Soak value. The number after the Agility rating is the Defence value.

These values serve the same function as they do for standard weapons and armour the characters may wield. They represent the default values assuming that the NPC or creature listed is outfitted with typical gear or trappings. If the GM wishes to customise the encounter and provide specific equipment or other gear, replace the numbers in parentheses with the replacement equipment’s actual values.

Wound Thresholds
Each creature entry has a wound threshold listed, indicating the maximum number of wounds a standard creature of that type can withstand before being defeated. Most enemies do not suffer stress or fatigue the way player characters do. An effect that would force an enemy to suffer stress or fatigue inflicts an equal number of wounds instead.

A Feral Wild BoarStance
Like player characters, many NPCs take advantage of stances. Unlike the PCs, an NPC’s stance position is often fixed. The stance rating listed with the NPC’s statistics indicate what stance that NPC always uses. Conservative is abbreviated with a green coloured C and Reckless is abbreviated with a red coloured R. The number next to the letter indicates how many dice are converted into stance dice. So a Stance rating of C2 indicates the NPC uses two conservative dice when performing actions.

Enemy Threat Level
Each monster entry has a threat level rating listed with its description. This rating is represented by a number of skulls – the more skulls listed, the greater the threat posed by one standard creature of that type. It is important to note that this threat level rating compares monsters to other monsters, not to player characters. This rating helps establish a rough “pecking order” among the creatures of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

The GM can use this information to adjust encounters by evaluating how a particular group of characters fares against creatures of a certain threat level. If the group struggles, the GM may consider using creatures with a lower threat level. If the group finds little challenge with a particular type of creature, the GM can consider using creatures of a higher threat level.

In addition to adjusting encounters based on creatures’ threat levels, the GM has a number of other options to help tailor encounters to his group’s preferences and power level, which are outlined in the Tome of Adventure.

Download a sample adversary spread from the Tome of Adventure’s Bestiary. (PDF 1.8 MB)


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 (41)

Published: 9/30/2009 3:58:32 AM

I like that in WFRP 2ed a goblin can get in a lucky hit and seriously injure or kill, well, anyone.  Can henchman in this edition do critical damage/kill characters?  If so, I'm ok with henchmen.  Minions in DnD do so little damage its laughable.

King Kull
Published: 9/30/2009 3:51:03 AM

Hm, no skills for the monsters but the very emphasis is on the combat statistics. The NPCs now have special abilities... Sorry, this smells like D&D 4th Ed. Of course, Roleplay is possible with D&D, but combat will slow down with more possibilities. And I have to agree with cogollo: PCs have to fear combat! This is a world of dark and perilous adventure and not about massacres. Better flee to live another day. And if you have to fight make it worthwhile. Long live 2nd Ed. ;) But have also fun with 3rd Ed. - for those who want it :)

Hauer Glaeken
Published: 9/30/2009 2:44:46 AM

First, glad to see that the artwork is as usual amazing. And I love that with this new system, you can design for each monsters, each creatures some special abilities in order to personalize them. Again this is characterisation through fighting abilities and martial skills. For the moment, I am convinced and will certainly give it a try.

To FFG staff : You want  to reconcile the declared separatists with the third edition ?


Simple : Bring us some GOOD fluff !!!

(Shadows of Empire was among the best books ever published for the 2nd edition BTW)


Ludlov Thadwin of Sevenpiecks
Published: 9/30/2009 2:25:10 AM

By the way, being a Sergio Leone fan, the title of this article also made me chuckle :-)

Ludlov Thadwin of Sevenpiecks
Published: 9/30/2009 2:19:55 AM

This looks very very good in my opinion! Intuitive, easy to grasp, very customizable and not too dependent on my virtually absent math skills (at least, that's the impression I get). This looks like it will make combat so much more fluent and exciting than it was in previous editions. I'm happy!

Published: 9/30/2009 2:15:04 AM

I really like the way this looks - seems like a good combination of simple rules (for mobs and normal adversaries) and more complex customizable ones for stronger more experienced ones - which should keep small fights simple and "Big Bad" fights interesting and unpredictable for the players.

Published: 9/30/2009 2:00:13 AM

You guys are lucky I just saw an awesome movie, so no long rant about solving balance and getting along so on etc. 

BTW movie was called Paprika. It goes in my top ten faves. Just encase you're curious Lion King is my absolute fave, along with Secret of Nimh, and Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars being in my top 5.

Anyways I actually read this article unlike the others. I have to say I like this a lot. One thing I would like to stress that I like about this game is how almost all of the components are optional. Wound cards can be replaced with traditional style RPGing. I also went back and read all the past articles. I realized that this game gives everything for people new to the RPG genre but takes nothing away from the old pen and paper style. You don't have to use crit cards to describe crits, all you need is the severity value for henchmen. The stance system can also be removed by just telling the GM how your character is feeling at the moment. OR the GM can tell you how you are feeling and you can react knowing the type of dice you will be forced to roll. As for character creation I tend to agree that we are limited on the choices, BUT I am glad at the same time. This means that FFG can add more later to ensure none are imbalanced. It's easier to test the combos for play testers. No one said you HAVE to draw cards for starting career BUT FFG saw how popular the random career generation was so they kept it. 

I just got back from playing Grimm. And I realized after playing it why I hate all the new grid based RPGs. No longer can I just say " You enter a room.... The enemies are just out of charge distance what do you want to do?" or as a player describe an epic attack and combat maneuvers only to be told "You aren't in range. That requires 5 spaces to get to and you can only move 4". Thank you FFG for abandoning the grid based combat I think players will re-awaken to the AWESOME grid less style. The freedom it provides for story telling is amazing. I am glad Grimm doesn't have it either.

I have been shocked by some of the lame excuses to hate on this game. "no longer do you come up with looks on the sheet, instead we give you an avatar with a pre-rendered look!" whom ever said that in the character generation article needs help from this game to open their mind up to creativeness. Ever thought of..i don't know...drawing your own avatar or taking notes on how the players describe the looks of their character? 

Anyways just wanted to give my words. 

Okay so this was still a long post.  Points of note.

1.  Paprika the movie is amazing Go rent it! .... or youtube.

2. I like how almost all of the components are optional.

3. I am glad that character choices are limited for now (makes playtesting balance easy). Besides we all know variants for the different humans, lizardmen, dwarves, elves...etc will be created by players. Just like they are doing with Arkham. Keeping it simple will make it easy to create your own playable races.

4. No grid is a god send.

Please don't respond. This post was meant to read and not critique or respond to. Unless you are the guy that said he hates how there are pre-rendered character avatars for you.  Then by all means respond.


Published: 9/30/2009 1:13:39 AM

My first impression with this is that it looks overdone, and might move the focus from roleplaying towards overdesigned mechanics. That is why I still think it is important that:

And after all I think Jay owes us a session demo video :-)=)

Published: 9/30/2009 12:31:12 AM

Sorry, but people that think a system limits their ability to tell a good story aren't very good GMs. Judge the system on the mechanics, which are still being revealed and can't be judged as a whole yet. If your story is bad and doesn't capture the feel of the Old World, blame your GM.

There are 2 questions here:

1. Is the system fun? That remains to be seen but looks promising.

2. Can I use it to tell my Warhammer story? I haven't seen anything that would prevent that.

I'm looking forward to giving this game a proper shakedown and I'll reserve my opinions till I have, but what I've seen so far looks very entertaining. I think I can keep my players happy with it.

Published: 9/30/2009 12:28:00 AM

I must say I don't like much having different "levels" for monsters, as I prefer the heroes to know "implicitly" how dangerous each monster is...

One problem I see in D&D is that you don't know if the Kobold in front of you is a puny little beast or a reckless assassin, so the players never really know when to run or when to fight. This is OK in D&D because it's a high fantasy game where the heroes are supposed to survive almost anything thrown at them, otherwise they'll feel cheated by the GM.

But in Warhammer, if the Heroes see 20 Beastmen coming they know they have to flee, they won't start discussing whether the 20 Beastmen are Henchmen (thus easy to beat) or not, so no metagaming... In my games I won't use Henchmen or at least they will have higher Toughness for sure...

Otherwise, I like the other things talked about in the entry, specially giving each creature some special actions to differentiate them from the rest.

Published: 9/29/2009 10:27:40 PM

YeAH! Who needs grim and perilous when you can slaughter Orcs by the dozen! At last WFRP will be on a par with D&D! Woohoo!

Published: 9/29/2009 9:23:05 PM

wow this is great!! Every new article make me want this game more!! Cant Wait......and chance you wana give us a date for release Jay? : p

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