Combat Training 102

Anatomy of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay combat turn


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 cardIf 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 targetOnce 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 poolThe 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 diceNext 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 evaluatedThe 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 damageAssuming 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 ResultIf 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 DamageMany 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 actionSome 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 BlockCharacters 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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