News for October 2009
Combat Training 102 98
Anatomy of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay combat turn
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 16 October 2009

As mentioned in Combat Training 101, the Old World is a dangerous place. Sometimes, despite the characters’ best efforts to avoid conflict, they find themselves fighting for their lives. And when backed into a fight (or when they choose to take the fight to their enemies) the characters perform their actions in a specific order to determine if their attacks are successful, and if so, how much damage they inflict.

This is the second in a series of designer diaries that will provide an in-depth look at how combat is resolved in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This installment takes a closer look at an individual player turn, and the steps a character goes through to make an attack. The previous installment in this series, Combat Training 101, discusses initiative, rounds, and player turns in the game.

The Combat Sequence

The combat sequence occurs as part of the active player’s turn, in a specific order. Each step in the sequence has a specific purpose. A character can perform manoeuvres before or after this sequence, but not in the middle of this sequence unless a specific effect says otherwise.

In the steps below, the term active player refers to the player currently taking the turn for his character. The GM is the active player when he is performing the actions for NPCs or monsters. This sequence looks at how a player uses one of his character's special action cards to attack an opponent.

The Backstab Action, Performed in a Reckless Stance1. Active player selects an action card
If the active player wants his character to perform an attack of some sort, generate a spell effect that attacks or impairs a target, or perform a specific activity, then often the first step is selecting the corresponding action card. The player’s character must be able to fulfil all the requirements listed on the card. The player announces which action card he is using, and places it in front of his character, face up based on the character’s current stance.

2. Active player announces his target
Once the player has announced which action his character is performing, he announces the action’s target. In many cases, this is who is being attacked or affected by the card. When there are multiple available targets, clearly announcing the target of the action is very important. The characteristics, abilities, or equipment of the target may influence the action’s challenge level or results.

3. Active player generates starting dice pool
The action card indicates the type of check required to perform the action. The active player assembles his dice pool based on the related characteristic, and any applicable skills, specialisations, talents, or other abilities. Certain conditions, such as the effect of a critical wound or an environmental effect, may also contribute dice to the dice pool.

If the character wishes to add bonus fortune dice to his dice pool, he may spend fortune points to do so. Each fortune point spent adds one fortune die to the pool. Spent fortune points are returned to the general supply.

During this step, a player converts characteristic dice into stance dice. The player converts a number of characteristic dice into stance dice equal to the number of spaces deep into a stance his character is. Converting characteristic dice into stance dice is not optional. Depending on his character’s related characteristic rating and stance, a player may not be able to convert all available dice, or may run out of dice to convert.

4. GM assigns challenge or misfortune dice
Next the GM assigns any relevant challenge or misfortune dice to the pool. The default difficulty for Melee Attack and Ranged Attack actions is Easy (1d), but may be modified by a variety of factors. Based on the situation, the GM may decide the action in question is better served as an unopposed or opposed check.

This step is where the target’s Defence value is added to the dice pool. One misfortune die is added for every point of the target’s Defence. A target’s Defence value is generally determined by its armour or innate abilities to avoid or shrug off attacks.

After seeing how many challenge dice or misfortune dice the GM adds to the dice pool, the player has one more opportunity to spend fortune points to add fortune dice to the pool. Each fortune point spent adds one fortune die to the pool. Spent fortune points are returned to the general supply.

Chaos Warriors Engage in Combat5. Dice pool is rolled and evaluated
The active player takes all the dice in the dice pool and rolls them. The symbols showing on the top-most face of each die are collectively referred to as the results of the check. The results are evaluated to determine if the task succeeds or fails, whether any bane or boon effects are triggered, and if any other special effects are generated.

In order for the task to succeed, at least one success symbol must remain after challenge symbols cancel an equal number of success symbols. The active player then finds the success line matching the number of successes generated to see how the action is resolved. Some actions have several different effects that may be triggered, depending on the total number of successes generated by the dice pool.

Bane symbols cancel out an equal number of boon symbols. If there are any bane or boon symbols remaining, some additional effects may be triggered.

6. If the action is an attack, attacker calculates damage
Assuming the action succeeds, attacks generally inflict “normal” damage (as opposed to critical damage). Normal damage is based on the weapon’s inherent damage value and the attacker’s Strength (for melee attacks) or Agility (for ranged attacks). Some specific action cards may indicate modifiers to the normal damage. Spells or other abilities that inflict damage generally have the damage listed on the individual action card, which may be modified by the active player’s characteristics.

The total value of the attacker’s key characteristic (Strength for melee attacks, for example), the damage value of the weapon, and any extra damage added by the action card or other special effects are combined to achieve the attack’s damage potential.

The target’s Toughness, the soak value of its armour or equipment, or the effects of special abilities or talents may reduce the damage it takes. These numbers are combined to calculate the target’s damage reduction

The target’s damage reduction is subtracted from the attack’s damage potential. If the difference is a positive number, that number indicates how many normal wounds are inflicted. For each critical damage effect triggered during the attack, one of the inflicted normal wounds is placed face up as a critical wound.

Minimum Wound Result
If the difference is zero or a negative number, the attack still inflicts one normal wound – the minimum result for a successful attack. If one or more critical damage effects are triggered when the difference is zero or a negative number, then the attack inflicts a number of normal wounds equal to the total number of critical damage effects generated. An Empire Greatsword Strikes a Vicious Blow

Even if an effect is triggered that would convert normal damage into critical damage, if the only wounds inflicted are due to the minimum wound result, the wounds are all normal wounds. 

Damage & Critical Damage
Many attacks have the potential to inflict damage to the target. Damage is a representation of the potential wounds the target may suffer from. When an effect lists a result such as +1 damage, that modifies the attack’s damage potential. 

When an effect lists a result such as critical damage or +1 critical damage, that does not modify the attack’s damage potential. Rather, it influences how many of the normal wounds inflicted are turned face up as critical wounds. Therefore, a result of +1 critical means one additional wound among those inflicted becomes a critical wound, cumulative with any other critical effects.

7. Resolve all remaining effects of the combat action
Some combat actions have additional effects, as listed on the card. Certain actions may allow the active player to perform an additional manoeuvre after the action is resolved. Some actions may have boon or bane effects that still need to be resolved, such as causing the attacker to fall prone, or disengaging from the target.

Any remaining effects from the combat action are resolved now, before the active player’s turn continues. Once all outstanding effects have been resolved, the active player may resume his turn.

Dodge, Parry, and Block
Characters have a number of options at their disposal during combat. Some of these options are defensive reactions to incoming attacks. The three most common examples of these reactions are the Dodge, Parry, and Block active defences.

The Parry Active DefenceAn active defence is represented by its own action card. In order to gain the benefit listed on the card, the player must actively use the ability. Each type of active defence has its own requirements or restrictions. For example, to use the Dodge active defence, a character must have an Agility of 3 or higher, and cannot currently be encumbered. To use the Block active defence, the character must have a shield equipped. Other restrictions or guidelines may also apply, depending on the active defence.

Active defences add dice to the incoming attack pool. Most active defences complicate the attack by adding misfortune dice. Advanced versions of some of the core active defences, or some of the more specialised defences, may add challenge dice.

Several active defences can be activated against the same incoming attack. If a stout dwarf mercenary has his axe in one hand and a sturdy shield strapped to the other, he could choose to attempt to Parry and Block the same incoming attack.

Active defences require some effort and exertion to use – a character cannot attempt to dodge every single attack coming his way, for example. When a character uses one of his active defences, the player places recharge tokens on the card. While that card is recharging, the character cannot use that active defence against another attack.


Set in the grim setting of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy world, 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 (98)

Published: 10/20/2009 3:19:16 PM

I'm not saying you should accept it because of GW hired FFG to publish it.

What I'm saying is that FFG is only doing what GW approves of doing and tells them to do. It's still Games Workshop's property, and they still control the end result of Warhammer.

If you have frustrations with the system, perhaps you should pursue it with Games Workshop. Fantasy Flight Games was hired by them, and pushing the new product.

And, despite what "hundreds" of people who are quitting D&D/World of Darkness say, the sales numbers speak for themselves - the game systems are still selling extremely well. D&D actually simplified the system and gave the gamers tons of props and tools to use. The new World of Darkness consolidated all the different settings under one set of simplified rules, making Mage, Werewolf, Vampire, etc to all be templates over characters created under the one set of rules. Savage Worlds has a popular card mechanic to determine actions and initiative. RPG boardgames are a huge hit right now (go check out the BoardGameGeek), and there are tons of people there who prefer a board and card version of RPGs over real Pen and Paper RPGs.

WHRP is trying to match those same concepts that will draw in new players and move away from the percentile dice that a lot of gamers dislike. I understand why they are doing it - it is in Games Workshop's best interest to make money first. They hired a company that does a good job of covering those mechanics that make those other RPGs and games very popular. Sadly, yes, it is not in the best interest of the old fans who like to do things with older mechanics. Popular game designers stopped using my favorite mechanic - the West End Games d6 rules - years ago, and I slowly came around to adapting to the new mechanics under a few dozen different game settings.

And GW is betting on old gamers like me and new gamers from the CCG and MMO era to drive the market for them. They could be right, they could be wrong. I won't know and can't really criticize until I see the end result.


Published: 10/20/2009 12:56:49 PM


I can't play whatever games out there, even if I'd like to.
These DD are here to give us something to discuss on. Right?

So, all that I can do is to read this DD and say nothing?
Or should a say something like "yeah, I'll wait to spend my money and then I'll write something?"

Do you think that D&D and WoD are succesfull?
I don't have the sales of these products but, from what I know, hundreds of players are quitting D&D and I don't know if they will be replaced PERMANENTLY by new generations that play a game for about 15 minutes and then go searching for new ones.

BTW, I can't care less the issues GW/BL/FFG face when put a product on the market.
We are those who pay and we must be satisfied by their products.
I'll judge for myself the product, and if I found it worthy, it will be good.
If I'll find it unworthy no financial issues of the producers will change my mind.

Moreover, as already explained, the problem isn't that the system is changed, it's HOW it is changed.
I see that the BIG name of the RPGs industry are searching for new, more productive, solutions.
Something more fast that the the new, playstationed generations will understand without even realizing that they aren't anymore with a console in their hands but a pool of dice.

Even the numbers has been removed... to complex for the new generation? Or the numbers will remeber them of school?
And why New Wave RPGs are flourishings? Why more and more RPGs fill the market? With hundreds of sales?

Sure, they can't compete with D&D sales but sure they are cacthing dissatisfied roleplayers that loose their old, venerable RPGs turned into something that isn't anymore their belowed hobby.
And, when the new generations will grow a little, if still interested in a hobby once called RPG, they will start searching for something the BIG name have lost.

Published: 10/20/2009 12:27:32 PM

@ Ursca:

Having worked with several publishing contracts with Black Industries, I can officially say that Black Industries was not doing as well as they tried to portray themselves as doing. One problem being that they being pressured to do things GW's way, and abhere to GW policies, that were often contradictory to profitable practice. Their novel department was doing very poorly outside of the UK (even in Europe), and that wasn't enough to support half their writer contracts. The WHRPG was producing flat for what it cost to keep publishing and creating new content for the v2. GW was also hurting from their previous errors that cost them sales, so they went to the weaker spin-offs and closed them (or absorbed them, in Specialist Games' case).

Since GW had no publisher and was looking to still profit from the RPGs, they turned to a partner they thought would better server their interests - Fantasy Flight Games. Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader - from what I've read and what I understand - were already in development and some things were published prior to FFG's involvement. There was also some v3 stuff already done for WHFR, but it was still largely open. GW wants a fantasy RPG that competes directly with the best selling RPGs (D&D 4e, for example), and they dictate this contract. If you read the developer's diaries and watch the videos, Little remarks that he has to clear everything with Games Workshop before moving on.

I understand frustration for complete overhauls on favorite RPGs - I had a moment when I was incredibly angry at both White Wolf (for their revamp of WoD stuff) and Wizards of the Coast (for turning D&D into a semi-MMO style game). However, I realize that these products are now very successful, and it's what the next generation of new gamers want. WHFR is being taken in that direction, and I understand why.

And since there's been no demonstration of how it actually works (a video or outside review), I cannot say if this is a good change or a bad one. I can wait on the fence until it's done, and then make a decision. But I will not bash it until I know for sure. And a lot of people are outright bashing it based on personal opinion without concrete knowledge of how it works.


Published: 10/20/2009 11:06:54 AM

I must say that this system isn't rooted with anything resemblig real combat.

Sorry to say that, but these mechanics are a loooong way to describe combat, narrative or anything else.

Perhaps stage combat.

Published: 10/20/2009 9:27:39 AM


We are basically splitting hairs, no point in dragging it out. 

@death from above

Yeah I saw that too, seems odd.  Not to mention contradictory to every version of the game including DH as well.  About the only logic I can see is it's the equivalent of full defense.  You are using the ability to both block and parry the same attack.  You are putting your sword and your shield between you and your opponent and flailing about hoping you don't get hit.  Probably screaming 'Not in the face!" as well.


Published: 10/20/2009 8:45:14 AM

I've just noted the possibility of parring/blocking the same attack.


Published: 10/20/2009 3:53:14 AM

@Kryyst: I've been disagreeing with your basic assumption that the D&D 4E powers add (micro) rules. They don't. All of them use the same rules and apply one or several of a fixed set of standard effects, e.g. they slide, push, or pull creatures, cause damage or conditions (like dazed, stunned, prone, etc).

It's the combination of effects that is different for every power. But they never introduce new rules.

Basic attacks are relevant because they're normally the only attacks you can use when it's not your turn, i.e. when making attacks of opportunity or when granted attack actions by leader-type abilities.

You're correct that you probably won't use them often when it's your turn.

As I've noted, I don't know if the WHFRPG action cards work anything like the D&D 4E power cards, i.e. you may be right that they will be used to introduce new rules. If they did, this would actually be more similar to CCG (or rather LCG) than D&D 4E. The D&D power cards are just a convenient way to represent powers or (combat) actions. They aren't required to play the game and many groups do fine without using them.

Ludlov Thadwin of Sevenpiecks
Published: 10/20/2009 1:50:45 AM

@Darkkami: Sorry, I forgot to add: I do like your Terrinoth RPG idea quite a bit.

Ludlov Thadwin of Sevenpiecks
Published: 10/20/2009 1:49:50 AM

@Krysst: Thanks for the advice. I had made a small sheet with a general overview of combat options for my players but never one as detailed as you suggest.


@Darkkami: I don't think that the fact that the Old World is dark and grim necessarily means that all the characters are also selfish and/or paranoid. Indeed, such a group of protagonists wouldn't make for a fun roleplaying game to me but I also think that no edition of the Warhammer RPG dictates this (Well, I can't speak for the first one since I have only played version 2). If the game or the setting did force you down that road, I wouldn't have been interested in it in the first place. No, I do believe there is a place for "fellowships" in this world. Part of what made the concept of the Fellowship so powerful in Tolkien's work was how the bond of friendship was all that stood between them and a darkening world. In Warhammer, that darkening is even more extreme. In this fading world, our PCs can be among the last rays of light that might just make the difference... or not. That's my, perhaps more romantic, view of the Old World and how I intend to GM it.

Published: 10/20/2009 1:33:50 AM

This system sounds like an amazing system and I have to give Jay props, but it doesn't fit the Warhammer setting. When you think of warhammer you shouldn't be looking at your group of players as a fellowship. They should be equally complex and pretty much forced to group as escaped maniacs or prisoners, townsfolk forced to flee in the middle of a riot that destroys the town, a group of assassins looking for a high paycheck, or soldiers forced to fight along side each other or die. Thing is, once they are done they should disassemble and enter the survival of the fittest selfish phase based on my reading in the army books, novels, and white dwarfs. In fact it is because of this that a Warhammer RPG just never fits with what I am reading in the novels and why I presonally thing it is best left as a table top battle game.

Felix and Gortex break that norm and that is why they are as well known in Warhammer as Drizzt is in DnD.

But this future for 3rd edition is already set in stone so now we can only accept the change or forget the idea and stick to the books we have. 

Published: 10/20/2009 1:18:25 AM

Many of you bring up a great point. I still do not see why FFG wanted to make a team based system for a Warhammer world. Warhammer is in no way close to lord of the rings. I played Mordhiem for years and loved the setting and articles that opened me up to the depressing dark and dangerous world of warhammer. The MMO does a decent job portraying it, but it still isn't twisted enough based on the world I read in the novels and the art from all the books.

Warhammer is almost like an entire world about to collapse . Everyone is in a very greedy and paranoid state. Jay should have teamed with Kevin to hammer out a much requested RPG set in the Descent universe in my opinion.

That way he wouldn't upset the 2nd edition players by forcing a new system on them (I know you don't HAVE to buy it). He would have players from Descent that are already used to rolling funny dice. And Terrinoth could finally come to life and be expanded on setting up for the Runewars games. But hey what do I know, I am just a regular customer with a tiny brain of "must have new stuff".

Published: 10/19/2009 7:43:15 PM

McClaud: BI was GW's in-house RPG publishing company. It did well enough, and probably enjoyed profits that a smaller company would be more than happy with. GW, however is a big company and was hit hard by the bursting of the LoTR bubble. They saw that they could cut back on staff and make more money by folding BI and putting the extra money into the Black LIbrary. That's when they sold the licenses to FFG, because hey, money for nothing and free advertising for the wargames.

Just pointing out that it's not as simple as 'BI weren't making enough money, so they sold the license to FFG'



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