Monday, 20 July 2015

First review: Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 3rd Edition

Welcome, dear readers to my first review. The format will almost certainly evolve over time, and formally reviewing games is not something I have ever really done before, so if you think it needs some changes or different focus, please feel free to reply below. Now, to business:

Warhammer fantasy roleplay 3rd edition. (WFRP)

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System: The basics

Right, the basic system is a simple one. You roll a bunch of dice and compare the symbols to see what happened. But as ever the devil is in the details. The dice in question are weird custom dice, and the symbols are weird custom symbols and this annoyed a lot of people. Specifically, what you do is:

  1. Look up how many stat dice you have. Pick up this many blue d8 dice.
  2. Look up how many skill trainings you have. Pick up that many yellow d6.
  3. Look if you have any advantages, if you do, add the white d6s.
  4. Look at your stance, conservative or recklesses, and turn that many stat dice into the red d10s(reckless) or green d10s(conservative). This is your skill pool.
  5. Your Gm will tell you the difficulty, which tells you how many of the purple d8s you pick up.
  6. They will also tell you about any disadvantage, and how many black d6s that is worth.
  7. Roll all of that, and look at the symbols they show.

Right, these dice will show some symbols. Those symbols tell you how it went. They go like this:

Hammer: This is a success.
Eagle: This is an advantage. (boon)
Twin tailed comet: This is a critical success.

Crossed swords: This is a fail. It cancels a hammer.
Skull: This is a disadvantage, it cancels an advantage. If you get more skulls than eagles, then you will get some bad side effect. (bane)
Chaos star: This is a critical failure.

They look like this:

So, these create a bunch of different possible responses. Either:
a) You got more hammers than crossed swords: You succeeded! The roll does what it said it would! More successes is more good.
b) You got the same number or more crossed swords: You failed.

At the same time you can roll:

a) More eagles than skulls: Something good happened. This is the and part of yes-and or no-and. This good thing is not a success, but it is some other good advantage.
b) More skulls than eagles: Something bad happened. It could still succeed (if you get more hammers) but something else happened.

What does this all mean though? Well it means that there are two axis on each roll. You can either succeed or you can fail. You can also either get some benefit or some other drawback. This leads itself neatly to each roll having a yes and or yes but sort of response to the question of if the action succeeded. This means that there is more to interpret on every roll, and if you as a gm had to think of the possible side effect to every single roll then this would be difficult and help with burn out. Helpfully, there is a default “damage” that can be dealt with disadvantage and healed with advantage called stress and fatigue. This means if the side effect from banes is not something that would be good for the game right now, or would drag you down a side alley of things which are not interesting, just do them some stress and move the hell on.

But when something has interesting side effects possible, then the boons and banes (advantage and disadvantage) are there, ready to give a mechanical kicker for that.

How does this system play? Well, it takes about 1-2 sessions to become intuitive and start looking for cancelling signs in your dice pool, but when you have done that then it starts to become both very fast and good at fleshing out the details of side effects on a roll. The system makes a huge deal out of the fact that you can also work out where your success originated, from skill or luck or natural ability, but in play, I have not seen anyone being too bothered about that, because how do you tell which one was the un-cancelled success?

Success and failure do not seem too swingy, and there seems to be a good chance at succeeding at things. In fact, it can become exceedingly unlikely that on normal checks a specialist will not succeed, which in many ways feels a bit un-warhammer to me, but so it goes. Difficult rolls can be suitably difficult, and people breeze past simple rolls.

The criticals do not cancel. This can make some things a bit complex. My gm once set me a 2 difficulty (average) check to climb a wall. But, he said, a chaos star meant you fell down. Now, since there is a 1/8 chance of rolling a chaos star, there is a 15/64 chance of a 2 difficulty getting a chaos star. So nearly a 1 in 4 chance of you falling, regardless of your skill or ability. Which was deeply annoying. But this shows the problem that you get a lot of chaos stars, which are not cancelled. This can make life very disaster prone, and make a lot of work for the gm.

I am going to sign off here, since I have already written a shitload on just the basic dice rolls. I will talk about the cards and the other mechanics tomorrow.

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