I recently received some new WFRP 3 products (Signs of Faith and the Creature vault), and was led to ponder whether I’m being massively ripped off. The proximate cause of this consideration was not, perhaps, very orthodox: both sourcebooks in the Signs of Faith boxed set contain largely flavour – that is, information on religion in the WFRP world – and even though I like this stuff a lot I always feel like I’m being rorted when I shell out money for a product and get “fluff.” This is a particularly stupid attitude when talking about WFRP because the entire joy and special pleasure of WFRP is its carefully designed and imagined world. Back in the day, we D&D-ers paid good money for a well-developed world. So why do I feel ripped off when that’s exactly what Fantasy Flight Games give me? Along, of course, with a whole bunch of nicely designed magic cards, some new rules, and a bunch of stand-up cardboard figures[1].

This got me wondering whether, in fact, WFRP 3 is a rip-off, which I think is a common complaint because the basic set is $100 and the add-ons aren’t cheap either. Obviously it’s expensive, but compared to other games, is it hideously over-priced? So I investigated…

What You Get

The introductory set at $100 is essentially enough to play the game – it’s kind of equivalent to the Basic/Expert sets in D&D in terms of the scope it gives you. But to play the game properly – up to what in D&D might be considered the equivalent of the Master set – you need the Signs of Faith, Winds of Magic and Creature Vault add-ons – although arguably you could swap Signs of Faith for the Adventurer’s Toolkit. Ignoring this issue for now, once you have the basic set plus these expansions, you’ve paid a total of $240 and got:

  • The introductory rules for players and GMs
  • Expansion spells
  • A set of dice
  • A monster manual
  • Three modules for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels
  • A complete and very interesting world described in great detail, though sadly lacking a good map

So how much would this set you back if you were investing in another game system? Obviously if it were MERP, you would get the lot for about $20, but putting that aside … let’s consider a modern and an old classic, and compare WFRP with a) Pathfinder and b) the BXM D&D system

Comparison 1: Pathfinder

To play Pathfinder you need only two books: the basic rulebook ($50) and the bestiary ($40). Obviously possessing just these two books doesn’t give you the same amount of sheer stuff as my WFRP collection, so to bolster it up you need 3 modules, and a world. For the world, add in the Inner Sea Guide at $50 (I bet it’s not as good as the world of Warhammer). Then for 3 modules, they seem to cost roughly $14, so you’re looking at $42 for a set of 3. So in total you’ve had to shell out… $182.

On the bright side, Pathfinder has excellent production values – you get nice quality, well illustrated material. It’s extensible, so you can shift to a new setting or genre easily, and the system license means you can easily get access to new ideas – they also have some good ideas about subscriptions, updates, etc. You can also be fairly confident that the core system will be stable (unlike certain products) so over time you can rely on your books not becoming incompatible with new source material – and a lot of of people are developing stuff for Pathfinder. You can also strip out the extraneous fluff easily and go back to a nice core system that, for all its (many) flaws essentially works well.

But for $60 less than the total cost of the WFRP package, let’s not kid ourselves – you aren’t getting a new system when you buy Pathfinder. You’re shelling out $180 for something that was, essentially, built by someone else and will probably break if it is ever redesigned. It’s entirely derivative. It’s reasonable to expect that if Paizo had spent the time developing a system from scratch (as Fantasy Flight did for WFRP3) they might put a premium on the price. So really, we should compare WFRP 3 with a system built from scratch. So let’s try that.

Comparison 2: Basic/Expert/Master D&D

This system was built from the ground up. Without aiming to compare WFRP 3 and D&D on quality of imaginative vision (an impossible task, given that D&D started the whole thing) we can safely say that if a premium for creative effort were going to be charged, D&D would be the system that had the right to charge it. So what do we pay for a set of D&D products equivalent to the WFRP kit? I’m considering my WFRP collection to be roughly equivalent to the first 4 books of the BXCMI(?) series – excluding the really extreme level stuff because I think WFRP will chuck that in later. So how much does a BXCM set plus world plus modules cost?

It’s actually really hard to find this information but this site gives (some) prices of the various D&D products and their dates of release. The first release in 1974 cost $10 for a boxed set, and a release in about 1986 cost $15 so I’m going to assume that the original BXCM in 1983 or so also cost $10 (this is a conservative assumption). So we have:

  • Basic, Expert, Companion, Master sets: probably $10 each in 1983
  • Creature Catalog, $12 in 1986
  • The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, $10 in 1987, which was a big favorite back in the day
  • Three modules at about $6 in 1990

Converting these prices into 2010 prices using this site[2], we get:

  • BXCM: $22 each
  • Creature Catalog: $24
  • Grand Duchy: $19
  • Three Modules: $10 each

For a total of $141. For this you’re getting genuinely original, impressive stuff, but the production values are often quite poor (depending on the version of the game you get) and the game itself is not the best thing ever to grace the face of the planet. But it’s original, and the amount of creative effort involved in early D&D leaves any of the subsequent generations of game in the dust – just look at the diversity and depth of the products displayed on the linked website, and you can see that D&D was rigged to handle anything.

Of course, comparisons with prices from 30 years ago miss the fact that our purchasing power has changed a lot in that time – $80 in 1985 wouldn’t have bought you a computer game console of any kind (even second hand), but $140 in the modern era will. In fact I bet in 1985 you couldn’t have bought a typewriter with $80, but now you can buy an iPod for $240 and typewriters are a thing of the past. So it’s questionable whether the prices are comparable if you apply only inflation, since technological change has made a dollar go much further today (at least when we’re talking about entertainment). So maybe $240 worth of WFRP 3 is more affordable now than $80 of D&D was in 1983.

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that WFRP 3 is, for an RPG, a bit pricey, but it’s not a massive rip off. In straight inflation-adjusted terms, it appears that gaming has become much more expensive in the last 30 years, and the more relevant issue is probably that original D&D was – despite its enormous creativity – very cheap. Maybe the creative industry in general needs to look at why that is, and people working in that industry need to ask themselves if their industries have developed in the right direction in the past 30 years.

A Final Note: I’m no Chump!

I should add that a large proportion of the cost of my WFRP (actually, about $150 of it!) has come to me free as presents for favours rendered, so I’ve got the lot for less than the cost of the original D&D set.  So any complaints about price from this quarter are purely academic!

fn1: That I never use, because from the very first day I played any RPG, I never managed to successfully incorporate miniatures into the experience

fn2: Which we can trust, because this is the internet

Hey guys, have you heard the one about the Jawa, the Ewok and the Jedi?

Using the idea of random character generation for WFRP from the previous post, I came up with this idea for a character created randomly for the Star Wars universe, using the WFRP 3 template. This character is a Tusken Guide,  a specialist role for an elite minority of sand people. Every aspect of this character class was generated randomly.


The sand people know the desert and its ways with an intimacy to match the intricate knowledge of an Imperial Courtier, but when it comes to interacting with those who share their world they are as naive and helpless as babies. Prone to respond savagely to that which they do not understand, the Tusken long ago realized the need for a kind of diplomatic caste amongst their tribes. These diplomats are not dispatched to the towns and cities of Tatooine to negotiate treaties and settlements with governments; rather, they visit the markets and bars of Tatooine’s smaller settlements in order to carry out the more basic tasks of trade and news-gathering. Tasks that are basic to the social fabric of other societies are so alien to the wild and savage Tusken that they have developed an elite caste of non-raiders to discharge them. Like bards of ancient legend, they move amongst the towns and cities of the desert world gathering news, selling desert products and buying the kinds of products the Tusken need to make their desert lives easier – firearms, vehicles and very basic droids.

The similarity between Tusken Guides and the bards of interstellar legend are only superficial, however, for though they can interact with non-Tusken, Guides have little empathy with them, and in place of the easy charm of the bards of old they maintain a rigid discipline, the better to prevent their natural scorn for the trappings of civilized life from showing itself. They are neither educated nor naturally suited to the sophistication of Tatooine’s human or Jawa societies; rather, they restrain their natural temper while in the company of such people, and do their best to mimic their ways. This barely-restrained scorn for the softness of non-Tusken often manifests itself in ways that cause the Guide trouble, and of course like all Tusken the Guide must be able to defend itself and act decisively in any physical situation; for this reason the Guide remains a formidable fighter and an imposing physical presence, at least while not amongst its tribemates.

Career Details

Career Attributes: Strength, Willpower

Career Skills: Athletics, Coordination, Weapon Skill, Discipline, Charm

Talent Slots: Focus x2

Career Talent: Dilettante (once per session can use any skill as if it were trained, or employ an advanced skill as if it had been acquired)

Force User: No. Tusken have antibodies to mitachloreans[1], so no Tusken can use the Force.


I rolled up a character class that has a kind of jack-of-all trades talent but a strong physical/combat focus, and one career skill – charm – that really doesn’t fit the career abilities. Had I rolled a different career talent the two Focus slots would have suggested some kind of monk or ascetic character, but the dilettante doesn’t fit with that. What kind of character is a combat-focussed jack-of-all-trades? A pirate, some kind of bounty hunter, or perhaps a representative of a savage race. Had I rolled up Agility instead of Strength I would have chosen, perhaps, to make this PC a Jawa trader.

Of course the description here doesn’t have to represent a class at all, but could just be a unique character. Then instead of representing this as a caste of Tusken, I could turn it into a famous Tusken outsider, that has taken it upon itself to act as a social bridge between the tribes and the humans on Tatooine. The jack-of-all-trades element could even mean that the Tusken PC is to be found off-world when the adventure starts.

From this point character development would begin, with the assignment of ability scores, etc. I would be treating Fellowship as a dump stat, so even though the PC has charm skill they remain pretty poor at charming people. I wouldn’t be loading up on social or support action cards either…

fn1: haha, mitachloreans…

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

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

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

Special abilities:

  • 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)

Special Abilities:

  • +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

Special Abilities:

  • 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.

Classless systems

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).

Some comments

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…

Noisms at Monsters and Manuals has written a comparison of gaming systems with political theories, dichotomized into “top-down” games (D&D 3rd Edition) and thinkers (Marx) and “bottom-up” games (OD&D) and thinkers (Hayek). Noisms makes it clear what side he falls on (he’s a “bottom-upper,” oo-er), which he characterizes as “the right” (vs. “the wrong”), but even if you swap sides or dispute the particular product placement (I don’t believe Orwell is a bottom-upper, and others dispute Marx in the top-down category), the idea is interesting and has some bearing on a few common topics in the role-playing world. Noisms isn’t clear in the post about what this top-down vs. bottom-up distinction means, but in comments he adds:

The phrase “bottom-up” as I use it here doesn’t refer to the position of the agents of change on the social scale. It refers to the nature of the social change (i.e. not planned, emergent, incremental, intuitive)

which seems like a reasonable way of simplifying the political theories and the games.

I think in his post though, Noisms is ignoring the importance of structure and planning for achieving emergent or bottom-up change. I think this applies equally well to game systems, and I think a bit of new left anarchist debate (genuine bottom-upping, not the crypto-statism of libertarians like Hayek) can help to inform what I mean.

In essence, “emergent” social change that occurs genuinely without structure or within a limited set of rules leads to a type of tyranny; an unstructured and intuitive game system, without a reasonable extent of rules and systems, leads to a type of tyranny as well.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Back in the 1970s the feminist Jo Freeman wrote a little pamphlet called The Tyranny of Structurelessness, in which she described the problems anarchist and left-wing feminist groups faced in trying to do organized political activism from a framework of having no organization or rules. The key phrase in that pamphlet that critiques both the political theory of unplanned emergent change, and (implicitly) the gamer’s ideal of unplanned and intuitive play, is this:

A ‘laissez-faire’ group is about as realistic as a ‘laissez-faire’ society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can easily be established because the idea of ‘structurelessness’ does not prevent the formation of informal structures, but only formal ones. Similarly, ‘laissez-faire’ philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so.

In political systems we temper these effects by putting strict rules on how much can be achieved through individual contracts. You can’t sell yourself into slavery, there are strict rules about inheriting debts, etc. We further, in the modern world, introduce laws about manufacturing and employment processes – such as clean air laws and equal opportunity laws – because it is very very obvious (from long and painful experience) that without these kinds of structures, the powerful ride roughshod over the weak. Without these systems in place, society goes to the rich, the socially connected and the nastiest people, rather than to those who strive. This is the essence of most rational critiques of laissez-faire capitalism and systems of dispute based entirely on property rights and contract law. Creating a blank space for “intuitive” change opens up the social space to being captured, not by the most intuitive in society, but by those with the most power to act on whatever intuitions they do have.

In game terms this difference is summarized by Barking Alien in comments at the original post:

you get games in which the designers/creators try to govern play as much as they possibly can by coming up with a system that can cover many eventualities, and games in which the designers do not do so in favour of devolving the power to arbitrate, as much as possible, to individual DMs/game groups

What this means in practice is that in-game, the power and benefits accrue to the PCs whose players have most sway over the GM. And, given the fractured and socially backward nature of nerd social interactions, this generally means the most socially manipulative, or those with the loudest voices. It does not mean the most creative people, though it may mean this in a well-run group with a judicious and skilled GM. Even then, though, it rewards a particular creative impulse – the desire to express your clear plans in a way that influences the world. But there’s another type of creative impulse common amongst gamers, which is to enjoy the unfolding of the world through your actions even though you are not yourself capable of expressing your aims well. This type of person is stymied by an unstructured system of arbitration.They may be very good at describing what happens to their PC after the event, but not good at suggesting what they do before the event.

In short, this type of gaming rewards the expressive, not the creative. And it is especially vulnerable to exploitation by manipulative and bullying players, who are actually very common.

A good summary might be that, under one system the player suggests an action and then bargains the cost with the GM and/or players. Under the other system, the player suggests an action and then bargains the cost with the GM through reference to a well-structured system of action resolution. The former system rewards[1] good negotiators, while the latter rewards good ideas – or even, just rewards participation, which is what we want from a game.

The main way that this structure is reflected in practice is through the skill system and the magic system. An extensive, well-designed and well-described skill system gives the GM an excellent framework within which to handle novel tasks, to set the difficulty and to distinguish PC roles. And in terms of game enjoyment, the main thing this system prevents is a situation in which a single player gets to do everything, because they’re good at arbitrating with the GM over every single task. In open, purely “bottom-up” systems, the socially confident player is able to seize many fields of action for themself, such as trap-finding, diplomacy, fighting, information gathering, etc. while the shyer or less expressive players stand by and wait for the only time when they can fit their actions to a structure – combat. But once you throw a skill structure onto the PCs, suddenly the player loses the power to do some of these things well, and other players pick it up. Those other players may not express their actions so well, but they get to be a part of the group.

This is particularly noticeable in OD&D, which is one of the few old school games not to have a skill system of any kind. It seems to me that the OSR is full of comments and posts by people who exalt this ability to express actions and negotiate them with the GM over the desire to be involved effectively in a group (in the sense that I mean it above), and I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Essentially in these kinds of games, social ability is like temporal power in the real world, and the lack of structure in the game rewards social ability just as it rewards temporal power in real life. But this social ability doesn’t make you a better person, just a louder one, and shy or ineloquent people should be able to enjoy these games too. I think it was in response to those peoples’ lack of enjoyment of the game that the later systems incorporated much more extensive structure.

The Tyranny of Tyranny

The classic response to Jo Freeman’s article was the pamphlet The Tyranny of Tyranny, by Cathy Levine, that reads like a bit of a gender-essentialist screed (oh, radical feminism, how you have failed women…) and argues, essentially, that structurelessness is a cultural alternative to existing ways of thinking, and that small groups coming together in voluntary association without a movement behind them can both protect themselves from exploitation and generate new (revolutionary) social change. The key quote relevant to gaming would be this:

What we definitely don’t need is more structures and rules, providing us with easy answers, pre-fab alternatives and no room in which to create our own way of life. What is threatening the female Left and the other branches even more, is the ‘tyranny of tyranny’, which has prevented us from relating to individuals, or from creating organisations in ways that do not obliterate individuality with prescribed roles, or from liberating us from capitalist structure

Dropping all the politically specific language here, we find a claim that less rules governing interaction will give more freedom to individuals to create new social organizations and new ideas.

In game terms we see this with the common complaints about D&D 3rd edition, with its extensive feats and skills and every situation covered by a rule, in which people stop thinking about what they want to do and start worrying about what they can do. There is also a strong risk of gaming the rules when they’re at this level, and also of a type of regulatory capture – that if you can get the ear of the GM you can bend the rules in ways that others haven’t, and this will leave you significantly more powerful or capable than everyone else. I think in fact every GM in a system like Rolemaster or D&D 3rd edition has seen this happen – it happened to me in 2nd edition AD&D, for sure. Also, gaming under these rules systems includes a lot of “red tape” in the form of rules checking, character development, etc. that can be seen as a hidden cost or regulatory burden stifling creativity. This regulatory capture and red tape is exactly a common complaint libertarians make against organized social structures, which brings us full circle to Noisms’ synthesis of Hayek and OD&D.

The Balanced Approach: Social Democracy of Gaming

Of course, the most effective model we have for social organization in the western world is social democracy, which protects people from the worst excesses of laissez-faire society while protecting peoples’ freedom of action. Such systems are commonly misconstrued by libertarians as “central planning” or “socialism” (see e.g. Glenn Beck on healthcare), but they’re so far from such a scheme that the comparison is silly. In game terms I think the analogy is with rules-light skill systems, flexible combat and magic systems, and an immediate reward system for creative self-expression (stunting) that isn’t essential for game satisfaction. This rewards all the different social types at the table and guards against excessive effects of bullying and social manipulation without falling victim to regulatory capture or high costs.

In my view the games that best fit this model of a social democracy of gaming are probably the three versions of Warhammer (but especially the third), Exalted, the Japanese game Double Cross 3, my version of the d20 system (or in fact any version that isn’t loaded down with D&D’s heritage), and maybe (? I can’t recall clearly ?) Shadowrun. Original D&D is too unstructured to fit this description, and D&D 3rd edition has piled a huge edifice onto an otherwise quite functional system, so that it carries a high cost in-game and is vulnerable to rules manipulation. I think Rolemaster can meet my conditions for “social democratic gaming” if it’s run by a good GM with a lot of experience, but usually it’s the ultimate communist game – a good idea in theory but it doesn’t work in practice[2].

I think a lot of people who laud earlier versions of D&D are ignoring the often quite toxic social dynamics that sprang up in early gaming groups, and don’t care about the game being available to the shy or the socially inexpressive. I think that just as good GMing has to take into account the social dynamics at the table, good game design has to take into account the many ways the game design can reward or discourage certain types of personality type from playing. Being a good social democrat, I’m all in favour of equality, and I think the game should be available to as many different types of personality as possible, so I think we should eschew strong ideological brands like Marxism or libertarianism, and instead focus on practical, simple systems for enabling everyone to get along…

fn1: by “rewards” here we mean, “provides a chance to act and have your actions resolved in a way that you can have faith in,” not “gets to succeed at the action”

fn: I don’t actually believe this about communism, but I think it’s an excellent phrase.

One of my (several) problems with Warhammer 3 is that it doesn’t contain rules for some basic aspects of adventuring that we all take for granted, including (rather annoyingly) traps. I don’t often use traps in adventures, since I’m not a great fan of dungeon adventures, and I understand that dungeoneering isn’t a big part of the warhammer milieu, so I can see why they don’t want to include the rules in a basic book, but traps are a very handy GMs tool, and it’s nice to have the designer’s ideas on how to handle them. WFRP3 doesn’t have a clearly described saving throw system of any sort, so in order to set up a trap I have to come up with some kind of scheme. Since the most recent adventure I’ve been running depended on traps, I need to design some method, and these are thoughts towards that method.

The Basic WFRP3 Saving Throw Mechanic

I’m not a fan of separating saving throws from the other mechanics of the game, so I’m happy to use a system like WFRP3 where the saving throw is not a special set of rules. However – and probably as a throwback to my days of using saving throws – I like any accidental event that the PC has to resist (like natural events or traps) to be resolved by a dice roll that the player does, rather than me. So if a trap is set off, the targeted PCs should all make some kind of ability check to avoid it. This is easily handled in WFRP3 as, for example, an attribute or skill check vs. a fixed difficulty determined by the trap. However, there is a small unorthodoxy built into this approach. Typically in WFRP3, action checks are constructed in such a way that the results are determined by the number of successes and boons rolled up. But in the case of a saving throw rolled by a PC, the results should be determined by the number of failures and banes.

There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but it seems to be a variance from the standard system.

Traps as Attacks

We can get around this by making the trap an attack, that the GM rolls against a PC’s skill or ability score, and then resolves damage etc. accordingly. This is entirely consistent with all the other rules of the game, but vaguely unsatisfying. Especially for save-or-die type traps, players should always be able to make the roll that determines their fate. Even though it’s exactly the same if the GM does it, it feels too … narrative … if it’s handled by the GM. The same applies to skill checks in which one PC or monster uses a social combat mechanic to control the actions of another PC – resolution of this should always be performed openly by the affected PC.

Disabling Traps

There also needs to be a mechanic for disabling traps, which pits a specific skill against the trap itself. The act of disarming the trap then has results depending on the number of successes gained, and also a standard result for banes. I’m thinking the standard results are:

  • 1 Success: the trap is disarmed
  • 3 Successes: The trap is disarmed and can be rearmed by the same PC later
  • 2 banes: the trap is triggered
  • 2 boons: the PC learns how to make this trap if their intelligence score is greater than the trap’s difficulty

This allows for the possibility that PCs might be interested in developing trap-making abilities of their own, and requires the inclusion of special trap-making rules.

We can put all of this together through the construction of Trap Cards.

Trap Cards

Of course traps don’t have to be represented by cards, and neither do items (or actions, or anything else) but it’s consistent with the way the game is laid out and it’s a convenient way of setting out rules. I don’t have the ability to make cards beyond those in the Strange Aeons software package, so I am going to recommend a card design based on cannibalizing the basic Action Card format. The Trap Card will have two faces, one (the red face) representing the trap’s effects, and one (the green face) representing the disarming process. The red face doesn’t have a recharge number, but gives the skill the PC needs to use to defeat the trap. The green face has a recharge number, which in this case is the number of rounds it takes to disarm the trap. The body of the card then shows the success and failure lines and their outcomes. Each card is for a type of trap, so will refer to a trap difficulty. This difficulty determines how hard the trap is to evade and how hard it is to disarm. Note that traps basically come with three difficulty types – search, disable and resist. These are not specified on the card, but the card will specify the results and skill checks in terms of these ratings. Note that there could be a fourth value, which would be the strength of the trap and would affect damage.

My next post will contain an example of such a trap card.

May Flopsy guide my schemes...

I crawled out into the freezing cold with a hangover today to visit the Asami Shrine in Beppu, to burn my 2010 demon-breaking arrow and purchase a new arrow for 2011. Burning the arrow that symbolizes the year before gives one time to pause and think about what one did in that 365 days, and to think about the year to come. My year to come promises to be busy, but I have a variety of plans I want to put into action in my gaming, research and real lives. Here is a brief outline.

Gaming Plans

Continue the Rats in the Ranks Campaign: My players indicated they want it to continue, and so I’m going to try and play it right through until I work out at what point WFRP 3 breaks. Whether this happens or not I don’t know, but I have a long-term goal for this campaign (or rather, the adversaries I’m controlling have a very distinct long-term goal in Ubersreik, which hopefully my players will discover before everything goes pear-shaped). After that we’ll see where the campaign takes us. It’s fun and my players are good, so let’s see what happens.

Start an Oriental Steampunk sandbox: Based on the one-off Pathfinder adventure I ran last year for a Japanese group, I’ve been thinking for a while now of expanding that into a genuine steampunk (literally!) sandbox. The players from that group have a hook for one more adventure, and from there we could start exploring. I’m thinking of using my ideas for adapting WFRP 3 to steampunk, or even to high fantasy (depending on the direction I want it to go) and just playing along until it gets boring. This will give me the opportunity to get my Japanese players to collaborate in building a semi-oriental/semi-western steampunk world based around a Meiji-era image of the place we are all living in now, with (at the very least!) gnomes.

Introduce the local convention to some English-language-only games: I’m in something of a unique position here to introduce my local Japanese-language gaming convention to untranslated games, and I’m thinking of running a session of WFRP 3 and maybe Exalted for just this reason. Recently a player at the convention said she wanted to play a game “that used loads of dice!” and it occurred to me right then that Exalted was just the game for her. This type of international exchange segues into my biggest possible plan for the year…

Start a TRPG Club at my University: This may seem a bit trivial but it’s actually a plan full of possibilities. My local University has about 100 nationalities of student, many of them nerdy, from all over the world, and they all meet to study and hang out using two languages that I speak – English and Japanese. So these students could bring an untranslated game from their own country – most likely in Thai, Mandarin or Vietnamese, but you never know what else is lurking out there – and run it in a different language for the other students. Or, they could play a game that isn’t translated to their language for a group of their compatriots. This opens up all sorts of options for language and gaming exchange, and a few people I’ve spoken to have been interested, so I’m thinking I might look into doing that this year.

GM Make You Kingdom in English: I’m going to Australia for a few weeks twice this year, and on at least one such occasion I will be in Melbourne, so I’m thinking of inviting regular commenter (and previous player) Paul to join me in a game of Make You Kingdom, translated of course. This depends on me being able to translate the necessary information by the time I go there and also being able to explain the rules for him (and get to Melbourne). I reckon I can do it, and I can even put stuff on this blog. Maybe I can also GM Double Cross 3 at some point too…

All of these plans are going to depend on a few crucial meat-life plans as well, though…

Meat Life Plans

Go to Iceland: I’ve never been and I really want to go. It’s vaguely in the pipeline to do this year, in which case I might pop into filthy scummy London to see some old friends at the same time.

Improve My Japanese: Today I received a New Year’s Card from the Japanese language school in Fukuoka where I did a 6 week intensive last year, and this year I think I’ll be in a position to do skype lessons with them. So, this year I really want to improve my Japanese to the point where I can do the following:

  • Teach Statistics in Japanese: easier than it sounds, but still fiendishly hard
  • Watch TV in Japanese: a lot lot harder than it sounds, and still impossible for me
  • Read a Fantasy novel in Japanese: I may start with A Wizard of Earthsea, because I know it, but from there I want to read Japanese authors. This has always been a big goal of mine in my Japanese study. I have read one novel already, but it was an easy one and really hard work, so at the moment I’m sticking with manga because they have less words and often furigana.

This is obviously an essential meat life goal if I want to be better able to role-play in Japanese. Or just live here happily.

Get fit: I have never been so unfit as I am now, and although my current fitness level is acceptable for a 37 year old, by my standards it’s awful. This year I need to do something about this!

Research Plans

I’ve got a whole research plan written for the next year (it coincides with my starting a PhD through an Australian University), so I aim to do quite a bit of research. This year’s plans are:

An overview of advanced statistical methods for intervention research: Modern research into intervention in health systems requires quite advanced statistical methods, including heirarchical linear models, time series analysis and probability survey research, but combining these can be very challenging. I aim to get a good, solid overview of what is being done in the field and what can’t be done, with the view of using it or improving on it.

Combining heirarchical linear models in Probability surveys: There has to be a way to do this, and I want to work out how. Or alternatively, work out approximations and workarounds to the problem.

Systematize time-dependent difference-in-difference models: Difference-in-difference models are a fancy way for economists to say “linear regression with interaction term” but all the fancy language doesn’t hide the fact that understanding of how to use these models in the health economics literature is remarkably poor. I aim to systematize this, to point out the (trivially obvious) problems in doing this research without considering the time dependent component of the data, and to make recommendations for its application in health services research.

Who knows what trouble this is going to throw up? But that’s my main research goals for the year.

It looks like it may be a busy year for me, but I think I’m going to enjoy it…

One space for you, two for me...

In the last session of Rats in the Ranks, the PCs had to escape from a slowly collapsing dungeon before it crushed them alive. I’m not sure how I would have handled this in previous systems (never done it!) but the Warhammer 3 Progress Tracker gave me an excellent mechanism for doing it, not necessarily specific to the WFRP 3 rules, though the method I used is maybe enhanced by them. This is my description of that skill challenge.

The race against time in this case was the desperate race to get out of the dungeon. I constructed a 3 space tracker (that is, 3 spaces, and then the destination point, so a total length of 4 steps). I then put a token on the starting point for “the dungeon” and gave the PCs three choices:

  • Break and run separately for the entrance: everyone gets their own progress token, but they can’t help each other
  • Go with the fastest: the person with the best athletics skill determines their progress, but his/her skill checks are penalized for all those with lower skills, and any fatigue results are applied to the fastest PC
  • Go with the slowest: the person with the worst athletics skill determines their progress, but the skill checks are enhanced by all those with higher skills, and any fatigue results are applied to members of the party sequentially starting with the strongest

They PCs chose option 3, go with the slowest. The slowest was the mage, of course, with a Strength of 2 and no Athletics skill. I assigned an initial difficulty to the check of 1 challenge die (easy) that would increase by 1 misfortune die per round, and then become 2 challenge dice after a few rounds. Everyone with an equal or higher strength to Schultz could add one fortune die to the roll. I used the following outcomes:

  • x successes: advance that many spaces along the progress tracker
  • Fail: the token for the imminent collapse of the dungeon advances one space along the tracker
  • 2 boons: add 1 fortune die to the next roll
  • 2 banes: 1 fatigue

Schultz was initially successful, getting the party one pace along the tracker. Suzette cast a minor blessing to add one fortune die to the next roll, and Shultz used his once-per-session ability to add two fortune dice to a check, but it was a fail, which brought them back to equal with the dungeon’s inevitable collapse. They then got a bit desperate, with the difficulty now on 2 challenge dice, which is very hard to beat for someone with a strength of 2. So Shultz used his spell First Portent of Amul, and by a very lucky roll was able to neutralize the result of the next challenge die rolled in the skill check. Suzette cast another minor blessing and used her once-a-session bonus, and they rolled again for – a total of 3 successes, and 2 banes. This took their progress tracker to the end of the track, indicating they escaped from the dungeon, but I inflicted a single fatigue on Aruson and said that this was because he had to reach back into the crypt entrance and literally haul Suzette out as the stairs collapsed around her, and she landed on the snowy ground outside, still praying desperately.

I played a bit fast-and-loose with the rules here (allowing Suzette’s once-per-session ability to affect what was effectively Schultz’s roll) but it helped to add to the sense of desperation and hard scrabble built into the challenge. I find the progress tracker sometimes hard to use effectively but I think at times like this it works really well to give a sense of competition against time or the party’s own mistakes. And, it appears, it can be used to effectively construct save-or-die type situations, with the whole party at risk and the whole party working together to get through the challenge.

During their recent dungeon-delving, our heroes ran into some scary zombie children, and after a surprisingly challenging battle they had to retreat from the dungeon to recover from wounds, fatigue and stress. One character was carrying such a high load of fatigue and stress that he was essentially in a state of high panic, and any more trouble of any sort was going to lead to insanity. They decided to camp for the night, rest, and try and recover some wounds naturally.

Now, I’m not a big fan of allowing this sort of thing but I’m also not a big fan of random encounters, so I wanted to fashion a random encounter system that depended on the PC’s wilderness skills, and not on just a die roll. I don’t think random encounters should be something as simple as “occurs on a 1 in a 1d6” but should be avoidable by good sense. I also don’t think people should be able to recover wounds in a wilderness encampment setting unless they have made a solid, defensible camp and it is comfortable and well situated, i.e. unless they can sleep well, not be woken by every scary sound, and also be able to light a fire, eat good food, etc.

So, on the fly, I made up two new skill checks – actions, essentially – to be conducted in story mode to determine the success of finding and setting up a camp. I had to fashion all of this while my players were smoking, so I didn’t have much time and they’re a bit complex but I think they work. In a full nights rest a PC should recover fatigue, ordinary wounds and stress equal to their toughness (and willpower in the case of stress). They shouldn’t get this much in the wilderness! So here are the two skill checks.

Locate Camping Spot

Difficulty: Easy (1 challenge dice)

Skill: Nature Lore

Procedure: One character rolls for the group. Add one fortune die for every additional character in the group with either Observation or Nature Lore trained, and for each wood elf in the group. Add two misfortune dice if it is dark, and additional misfortune dice for difficult terrain, haste, etc.

Effect: Characters are able to find a camping site suitable to use the set camp action. Failure in this action adds one challenge die to the set camp action, while 2 successes adds one fortune die and 3 successes adds one expertise die. Additionally, if the PCs lack food, rolling two boons will provide them with access to a basic food source that they can prepare if their set camp check is successful. Two banes should lead to an increase in the party tension meter of 1.

Set Camp

Difficulty: Medium (2 challenge dice)

Skill:Nature Lore

Process: One PC rolls for the group, with the same modifiers as above, and including any modifiers from the find camp skill check. Additional modifiers: 1 misfortune die per additional day the camp will be set; 1 misfortune die if the camp is being set after dusk (additional to the darkness modifiers described above). Setting a camp proof against monsters is difficult! The GM should choose a hard and an easy monster for random encounters (in my setting I chose giant spider for hard, and 4 zombie children for easy).

Effect: The PCs set a camp suitable for resting in, and are not disturbed by monsters. See the lines below for specifics:

  • 3 Fails: PCs are attacked by the hard monster
  • 1 Fail: PCs are attacked by the easy monster
  • 1 success: No encounter, PCs recover 1 wound each
  • 3 successes: No encounter, PCs recover 2 wounds each
  • 2 boons: PCs get warning of the monster attack (if they failed their roll); if they succeeded the check, they recover an additional wound (up to toughness maximum)
  • Sigmar’s comet: PCs get full rest and recover maximum possible wounds (only on a success)
  • 2 banes: Opponents get +1 initiative when they attack
  • Chaos: Opponents get full surprise, a round of free attacks against the PCs

GM Notes

While I don’t like random encounters, I also don’t like safe wilderness wandering, and I think how one wanders the wilderness should be dependent very much on how well one knows the wilderness. Nature Lore is a skill that is not often used or rewarded, and I think these two tasks actually make it very important, particularly when travelling long distances. For extended journeys I would not force a check like this every night, but would force a single check for a leg of the journey, and put any encounter at some point in the journey. Note that this can be modified to, for example, a general safe travel skill check, with exactly the same rules, but replacing the find camp check with a research travel check, which depends on folklore or education for its basic roll and modifies the chance of a random encounter during the journey.

I know some people will view skill checks for setting a camp as “roll playing” but there’s a simple reason I prefer them: I find camp-setting and describing all that survivalist stuff to be hideously boring and I’d rather not have the conversation. I even get the players to describe their camp setting after they’ve rolled it. I also think my judgments of a successful camp-setting process would be flawed in any case, so I wouldn’t necessarily modify a standard random encounter chance “correctly” after a dialogue with the players. What do we, the players, know, anyway, about the best way to set a camp so as not to attract the interest of a nearby giant spider? Of course, if players like this sort of thing they’re welcome to try and stunt their roll in some way (I always reward this!) but I can’t, generally, be bothered with this nuts and bolts stuff. For the same reason, when people are in town I don’t play out every single shopping trip – I generally refuse to haggle, but if my players insist on such tedium I try to do it through skill checks rather than reliving my (generally very disappointing) experiences in Chinese bazaars. Bargaining over a roll of cord was not my most enjoyable experience in China and it isn’t how I prefer to spend my role-playing nights!


Today I stumbled on another one of the many early reviews of Warhammer 3rd Edition, this one published at Uncle Bear Media. It seems to be a review based entirely on the pre-release advertising for the game, judging by the way it is written. This type of “review” is not unusual – I’ve stumbled upon quite a few since I inherited a copy of the game, and they seem to all follow the same pattern. Maybe it’s something about modern gamer cynicism, or maybe it was the climate of the times, or maybe it’s just that gamers are a bunch of arrogant judgmental jerks, but there seem to be quite a few things wrong with these reviews that they all hold in common. Here are a few examples of the complaints that were made about Warhammer 3 before it came out, based on reviews of the product as seen at GenCon or on the initial media:

  • The Board-game-ification of RPGs: Apparently using cards to track abilities is an example of the influence of boardgames on role-playing and this is a bad thing (to judge from the carefully-placed “groan”). I wonder if the first role-players complained about this when dice were introduced for handling conflict resolution? No, they didn’t. Getting ideas from other place is not a good or a bad thing unless the ideas are a bad thing; and they can’t be such a bad thing, since a year after writing this “groan,” Uncle Bear penned a whole post on the benefits of cards in gaming. With, of course, no reference to where or how he might have learnt over the intervening year that actually tracking abilities with cards is quite a useful idea.
  • Mischaracterizations about miniatures: Here we hear the oft-repeated complaint that the game “looks as if they’re taking queues from Wizards of the Coast and shooting for a tactical miniatures game with roleplaying elements.” I can only presume that this is based on the fact that the game has cardboard standup characters, because even though WFRP 3 is based on a world that derived from a miniature battle game, it explicitly does not rely on miniatures. Distances are calculated in 3 abstract ranges with no reference to any form of battlemat, terrain, frontage, base size, or any other form of miniature battle game -related concept. The use of standups in WFRP is purely for flavour, and you don’t need them. There isn’t even a concept of flank attacks – the game explicitly avoids any form of placement, tactical movement, or specific details of the combat space. You are engaged with an opponent, or you are not. I’d add that the reviewer is a pathfinder player and, in any case, the characterization of D&D (any edition) as “a miniature battlegame with role-playing elements” is shallow.
  • Abandonment of the original setting: I think a lot of reviewers assumed that rewriting the rules means inevitably rewriting the setting. But the game books are actually very rules light – the rules section of the books is dwarfed by the setting information. I just received the Winds of Magic supplement, and it is about 70% setting flavour, with a few pages of rules in each book. The basic book is probably about 50% setting. The setting material is laid out in a similar fashion to the previous version, with cynical, ironic or extremely nasty quotes from observers of the time, and background details on the grim and perilous world. Changing the rules doesn’t mean changing the setting.
  • Loyalty to a shit system: I don’t know about 1st Edition, but WFRP 2 is a really poor system. Rewriting this is not a bad thing, and loyalty to a system which was presented in a beautiful book and had an excellent career system but a really, really bodgy ruleset is not a good idea. WFRP 2 needed serious reworking, and the new system has imported a lot of very clever and quite useful ideas to do that. A little openness to new ideas might be a good thing in the gaming world, I think.

Which isn’t to say that WFRP 3 is perfect (see my shortly-to-be-written review of The Winds of Magic for where I think it goes wrong, and my suspicions about its bigger problems), but shooting it down on the basis of a press release and a bunch of assumptions is both a) crap and b) an example of an all-too-common problem in the role-playing world, of cynicism combined with low expectations and arrogance.


I really like the Warhammer 3 system, though I don’t know if it will work at higher levels, but I’m interested in adjusting it to work in a High Fantasy campaign style, rather than the “grim and perilous world” of Warhammer. To the extent that changes would need to be made, it seems that the main ones would be in character generation and advancement. I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently, and some of my ideas on how such a change might work are described below.

Characterizing High Fantasy

The High Fantasy ideas I’m used to basically seem to consist of the following:

  • PCs start at quite a weak and low-powered level, but progress to extremely high powers
  • Character classes follow quite a long development path, and career transitions are few and far between
  • Career transitions can be quite radical: from fighter to magic user, for example
  • Secondary spell users (like Bard, Paladin, etc.) exist

To incorporate these into Warhammer 3 would require a change in the base classes, and an extension of the duration of a single career (perhaps a doubling) so that a single career in the High Fantasy world is roughly equal to 2 or 3 careers in the Warhammer 3 rules. This would in turn lead to more dependence on Rank as a signifier of power.

Revising careers

I envisage 4 basic careers: Soldier, Initiate, Apprentice Wizard and Rogue. If one wants to include semi-spell users then one would also include the Paladin, Bard and maybe a Fighter/Magic User type (Warlock?).

There would then be a series of advanced careers, that represent improvements on the basic careers: Warrior, Cleric, Wizard, Thief. The additional careers of Ranger, Assassin and Druid could be introduced at this point, and maybe one would want to include Paladin and Bard at this stage rather than the previous stage.

Advancement would be simpler than in Warhammer 3. Any basic career can advance to any other basic career, but for the advanced careers the progression types are limited: Fighters can become Warriors, Rangers or Assassins; Rogues can become Assassins, Thieves or Rangers; Initiates can become Clerics, Rangers or Druids; Apprentice Wizards can become Wizards, Assassins or Rangers. Bards, Paladins and Warlocks(?) could fit into this scheme in the obvious ways.

There could then (perhaps) be a single additional class specific to each basic class: Barbarian for the Warrior, ? for the Cleric, Sorcerer for the Wizard, ? for the Thief.

Class distinction would be primarily through the use of talents, available skills, and maybe some specific action cards. I imagine that pre-requisites would be more complex than in Warhammer 3, and there would be spells for the different classes. Alternatively, semi-spell-users could be set to use lower-level versions of the other classes’ spells (this makes life easier for the designer) and can only be obtained by non-spell-using basic classes. So then we have the following progression rules:

  • Soldier: any other Basic class; Warrior; Paladin; Warlock; Ranger; Barbarian
  • Initiate: Any other basic class; Cleric
  • Apprentice Wizard: Any other basic class; wizard; Sorcerer
  • Rogue: Any other basic class; thief; Assassin; Ranger; Bard

I think I like this scheme since it gives a wider range of options for the initial non-spell-using classes. Alternatively you could put strict conditions on ability scores for the Initiate and Apprentice Wizard, and introduce the Bard or Paladin as more flexible versions of the same with access to weaker magic.

To get the effect of weaker magic, I imagine defining “petty magic” as 0 level, and allowing pure magic using classes to use spells equal to or less than their rank; semi-spell users can use Rank-1. Then, the number of xps required to gain a rank can be adjusted to match the demands of a weak starting point and a powerful ending point. Ranks of spell can also be exponentially more powerful (in this system, rank 4 or 5 would surely be the limit!)

Starting weak and ending strong

To achieve this effect I envisage the system putting stricter limits on the  starting attributes for a PC (maybe a maximum of 5) but weaker limits on how many advances can be expended on attributes, enabling characters to develop to a maximum of 7 or 8 by the end of their second career. This would mean that careers would span twice the XP range, and allow more advances. Typically, I imagine a set of advances for one career being something like:

  • 1 Talent
  • 1 Action
  • 2 Wound Threshold
  • 1 Fortune
  • 1 Skill or specialization
  • 1 Specialization
  • 8-10 Open Career Advances
  • 2 Trait Advances to Maximum Rank 5

So by the time a character has reached the end of this they have spent a maximum of about 25 points (not including non-career advances, which could also be more flexible). The open career advances would be handled the same way as now (on the career card) but would obviously allow more advances, i.e. more skill advances or action cards. I would introduce more scope by reforming the stances a little and giving more flexibility to assign points to them.

Reforming stances

Stances are a powerful effect in the game (though I think the Reckless Stance can be a little bit pointless at times). At low levels I think high fantasy characters shouldn’t have much flexibility to adjust them, so I would suggest changing the stances to give all PCs at first level 1 stance step in one direction (of their choice). They then buy additional stance dice as they proceed. They might even start off neutral-only, and be able to buy 1 stance per career. This prevents them from having lots of stance dice early on and gives monsters a huge advantage. It also means players have more incentive to buy up attributes – with stance dice being limited, increasing attributes is important.

It would also be a good idea, I think, to make some actions – and especially some types of spell – benefit more from specific stances. Pyromancy and necromancy should benefit from reckless stances, as should anything a thief or barbarian does, while Paladins and Conjurors should benefit from conservatism (taking your time about summoning demons is a good idea). Fighters should be able to adopt very different styles by changing stance options, and I like the idea that early decisions a PC makes really limit their future development. So if a PC has bought two steps on a conservative stance, that basically means that becoming a thief is a bad idea.

I also pondered linking stances to alignment (Law/Chaos) and I’m interested in the fact that the original Warhammer rules don’t do this.


I’m still thinking about whether any changes to WFRP 3 would be necessary to make it into a high fantasy game, or whether they’re mainly about play style. But if one did choose to change the game, the image I have is of keeping the same basic resolution system for actions, keeping fatigue/stress and action cooldowns, and changing character advancement so that it reflects the classic D&D-style classes. Along with a bit of tinkering with stances and some adjustments to the pre-requisites for the basic classes, this could be sufficient to make the game into a high fantasy system with an excellent (I think) skill resolution system, and some cool ideas for handling resources. I’ll be looking into this more over the next few months, and possibly also considering ways to convert the system directly to Compromise and Conceit.