The easiest first pass at simplifying WFRP3 is to make a stripped-down system for a high fantasy campaign, which means less classes, less actions, longer periods between level progression and more flexible magic systems. It also means using some ideas from D&D to simplify the action system and thus the character sheet, which is the main element of the original WFRP3 system that adds complexity. The basic goals are:
- Ditch Action cards
- Retain the attribute/challenge/skill/fortune/misfortune dice system
- Ditch stances
- Ditch resource management outside of magic
- Retain Talents
- Transform the career system into a type of multi-classing
The system then basically becomes like D&D with a revised dice-rolling and skill system. The basic mechanic is the same, but character classes start with a small number of special abilities and a set of feats that they can use to enhance existing actions. They get more of both as they gain levels.
Revised Action System
All character classes start with a few special abilities that are written just like action cards. However, we have removed the stance system so all actions now only have one “face,” and we further revise all actions so that they are described in terms of the same set of outcomes:
- 1 success: the basic outcome
- 3 successes: the superior outcome
- 2 boons: a lucky side effect
- 2 banes: the downside
- Sigmar’s comet: the crit
- Chaos star: the fumble
These can be written in 6 columns on a character sheet. The player can then spend feats to enhance any basic action, in an upgrade series that follows the path: increase bane line cost (to 3 banes); reduce boon line cost (to 1 boon); reduce extreme success difficulty (to 2 successes); double chaos star difficulty (to 2 chaos stars). These changes can be noted with a cross or a mark on the character sheet for the corresponding column. This makes actions easy to refer to.
Additional feats will be available which enhance particular lines of these actions (akin to the advanced parry action card, which basically replaces one line of the basic card).
Spells can be restructured to follow this idea too, though they could also retain their unique properties.
There are a basic set of 8 actions available to all PCs that are written on the character sheet: basic melee, basic missile, dodge, block, parry, guarded position, assess the situation, perform a stunt. The player then writes their additional character class special abilities on the sheet.
All other actions are resolved on the fly based on GM decisions. In combat, the perform a stunt action can be used to enhance attacks and defenses, i.e. to generate special action options depending on the situation. As PCs gain levels they gain access to more powerful actions that they can write on their character sheet in the same way as the basic ones above.
To further make combat favour fighters, we introduce a proficiency system for armours so that only fighters gain easy access to armour better than leather.
Stance dice are now a GM tool, added in to skill actions to represent the effect of certain decisions, spells and abilities. A party that sets up a careful ambush plan from a solid defensive position gains conservative dice, while a party that decides to just haul arse through the door and start smashing shit gets reckless dice. The delay symbol on conservative dice only affects initiative order, since resource management has been ditched. The GM could use level as a guideline for the use of these dice – PCs can’t transform more dice than their level, though this could be enhanced with a feat. Alternatively the GM could choose how many dice get transformed depending on the excellence/recklessness of the plan.
The main methods I see, however, for using these dice are through the bard and barbarian characters, and magic:
- Bards can use songs to grant the party conservative or reckless dice during combat
- Barbarian rage obviously provides reckless dice
- Clerical magic can grant conservative (prayer) or reckless (divine favour) dice
Also these dice can be a useful tool for GMs to affect the behaviour of NPCs – crazy reckless monsters can use reckless dice, for example.
Character classes are the classic set: barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, mage, ranger, thief. Each class starts out with a few special abilities, key attributes, and key skills they can specialize in. They have a progression path that grants them additional special abilities, some minor and some major. PCs can move between careers just as in warhammer, i.e. they can multi-class over time. A few examples are given below.
Key attributes: Toughness, Willpower
Skills: athletics, weapon skill, ballistic skill, discipline, resilience
Career Talent: Perhaps equivalent to the dwarven trollslayer’s
- Barbarian Rage: success gives ability to convert dice to reckless; luck adds a free maneuver; critical success is the invigorated condition
- Fighting stance: Upgrade the block action to improve its effect
- Toughness: +2 wound threshold
At higher levels, the Barbarian gets access to the Shrug it Off action, and the devastating strike action.
Key attributes: Strength and Toughness
Key Skills: Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Resilience, Leadership, Intimidation
Career Talent: The Soldier’s talent (recovers fatigue at the end of every round)
- +2 feats at first level
- Proficient in all armours
- Fighting stance: Choose block or parry and upgrade its effect
At later levels the fighter gets additional attack action cards (disarm, etc.) and can increase the number of people against which he/she can defend in a round.
Key Attributes: Agility and Intelligence
Key Skills: Devices (Advanced), Athletics, Stealth, Skullduggery, Guile
Career Talent: The thief talent, of course
- Disable trap action
- Starts with Devices advanced skill acquired for free
- Backstab: special attack action, conditional on being hidden from target, gives extra attack damage and critical chances
At later levels, the thief can learn to make traps and improve the backstab action/extend it to sniper actions.
A note on defense actions
In order to make this system simpler in combat, I would say that a player can attack once and defend once in a round, unless they forego their attack, in which case they can use all available defensive actions. This makes swarm attacks by weak creatures nastier.
Alternatively we could wrap the special abilities into a classless point-buy system, which would make characters more flexible but require judgments about how good each abilities was (for the point buy system).
I think a simpler alternative to this would be to introduce the fortune dice system into D&D. But this gives us some ideas about how to reduce the complexity of Warhammer, and match it to high fantasy. I’m not yet convinced that the resource management in Warhammer is so fiddly that it needs to be ditched at all, but if so this seems as good a method as any. It actually seems to represent a weakening of the PCs, since it removes a lot of their actions; but by getting rid of resource management it makes the actions they do have access to more readily usable. An option to make the game more diverse is to give all PCs action to an additional action from amongst the existing action cards (suitably modified) at first level, and allow feats to be used to buy more (at some suitable cost). But I don’t know if this would be necessary if we were moving to a game environment (high fantasy) where players are used to only ever having access to two types of actions (spells and basic attack) and the remainder handled freely in skill checks.
The result would just be simpler game mechanics, I think. But it would depend a lot on the GM’s ability to interpret dice rolls outside of the action card results, so is not a game for novices. But then, I don’t think the existing Warhammer 3 is a game for novices either…