This is a speculative post, since what I’m suggesting would require a lot of effort and probably be a huge waste of time. My experience so far (in 3 or 4 sessions) of Warhammer 3 suggests that the system is something I really like, and I’m interested in whether it could be converted to use in non-warhammer settings. The rules themselves are very simple and easy to understand; but there are huge elements of it that make it very specific to the setting, but these elements are kind of modular and can probably be used to make the flavour of a new setting quite easily. So I’m wondering if I could convert the system to suit my Compromise and Conceit campaign world (or any other!)

Why I like warhammer 3

There are several aspects of the warhammer 3 system that I really like. The dice and skill resolution system contain a lot of role-playing hooks that enable a GM to very easily create interesting outcomes for actions, including success-with-cost, failure-but-some-minor-benefit, extreme success and failure, and unusual outcomes. The combat system is fast and deadly, and the rules for Actions give non-magic users a lot of options for things to do, as well as applying costs to non-magical manoeuvres. The system for handling fatigue/stress and other side-effects of actions is quite straightforward, and the easy way that cool-down effects are worked into the system is very clever. I also like the method for having continuous access to spells – no 1-a-day magic-users here – but limiting the frequency of use by the simultaneous mechanism of rechargable power points and rechargable actions. None of this would be possible without the simple counter-based tracking systems, of course.

I think all of this is very innovative, and very suitable to the style of game that I like to run, which is roughly like this:

  • combat is realistic and deadly, but handled quickly and simply
  • death spirals make multiple combats risky
  • magic is powerful and almost unlimited, but magic-users don’t have many spells
  • i.e. essentially fighters’ or thieves’ actions, and magic-users spells, are broadly similar in number
  • spell-use and other special actions are limited by a cost
  • skill use applies to non-combat, non-mechanical actions and can be stunted to get benefits from role-playing or good planning
  • partial success is possible in skill use, and simple to manage
  • PCs are slightly more heroic than the average person, and become quite powerful with time, but are always vulnerable

Rolemaster had almost all of these components, but was hideous to run. The simple mechanisms of the Warhammer 3 system seem to balance the kind of details this type of system requires with the kind of playability that stops a single action from taking forever.

Basic adaptation of the Warhammer 3 system

Basically, to adapt the Warhammer 3 system to a new setting, you need to change the careers (and associated advancement system), and the actions and talents. I don’t think it would be necessary to change the skills even if you were switching to a completely different setting (such as cyberpunk or space opera) though a wider range of advanced skills might be necessary. So the key thing is the careers, actions and talents. Of course you would also need to adjust equipment.

Changing the careers and advancement system

In the current warhammer 3 setting, there are a (fairly) large number of careers, and PCs are expected to progress through several over a long adventuring career. Essentially you pick up a number of advances – like experience points – that you spend on acquiring new actions, improving ability scores, or gaining skill slots over one career. Once you’ve spent about 15 (I don’t know the exact number) you can advance to a new career, retaining (most) of what you collected in the old career. You can’t advance an ability score past 6, and typically when you’re in one career you can only pick up 3 new actions; and in one career you can only train any one skill once.

The obvious way to make a more heroic and classically fantasy-centred game is to reduce the number of basic careers, and increase the length you can be in them. By requiring, say, 30 advances rather than 15, and allowing PCs to increase ability scores up to, say, 8, (or, say, 5 for non-career scores) you would basically turn a career into a longer-lived, more heroic style of “character class.” You could then allow PCs to progress to a set of prestige classes with new and better abilities. So, I would probably consider restricting the initial careers to Fighter, Specialist, Wizard or Cleric. Then subsequent advanced careers might be things like Paladin, Guildmaster, Archmage, High Priest, Necromancer, etc. I would probably also produce a dabbler-type basic career which allows a mixture of thieving or fighting and magic, but with more restricted access to spells (only level 1, for instance).

Allowing ability scores to advance to 8 is particularly important for magic-using PCs, since it enables them to cast more spells before they have to draw more power, and reduces the risk of stress from carrying power above their usual limits. Because skill checks depend on abilities it also gives fighters solid combat powers to take on the types of monsters you don’t see in a standard warhammer campaign.

Changing actions and talents

I already have a set of spells for Compromise and Conceit, some of which I tried to represent as actions for a D&D-style game. It wouldn’t be difficult to rewrite these (and some new, demonically-influenced talents) as actions for warhammer 3. Most of the combat actions could stay as they are. There would be a new set of Infernal-style actions which would be semi-spell-like and available for all characters, wizard or not, but quite basic. There might also be some interesting technology-related ones, particularly to do with building stuff; for example a “grenade” action which requires that you previously spent some time in a lab creating grenades using your advanced tech skills.

Basically, however, the system would retain a bunch of core actions, and only the spells and infernal talents/actions would change.

The downside

The challenge of doing this is that it would be a huge amount of work, and a lot of the results would probably be unbalanced. The warhammer setting as it stands is almost translatable to Compromise and Conceit without much change, so it might not even be worth the effort. I’m also not sure if the warhammer system breaks at higher power levels or not. But it could be worth finding out…