29 September 2009 | Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

The Bad, The Worse, and the Ugly

A look at handling enemies & adversaries in WFRP


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 TogetherHenchmen 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 WoundsRather 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 HealthHenchmen 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 WoundsHenchmen 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 StatisticsEnemies 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 ExpertiseIn 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 DefenceIn 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 ThresholdsEach 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 BoarStanceLike 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 LevelEach 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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