News for September 2009
Of Dice and Men 58
A look at the custom dice and core mechanics of WFRP
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 04 September 2009

One of the new features of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are the custom dice used during task resolution. The core set includes 36 custom dice. With these dice, the characters can perform a wide variety of actions while accounting for changing tactics, situations, and effects. Rather than numbers, these dice feature special symbols.

There are seven different types of custom dice used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Each die has a specific colour and function. The dice are rolled in groups – called dice pools – to perform actions. Not every type of die will be used for every task. The dice used depend on a variety of factors. Here is a look at each of the seven different types of dice.

Challenge DiceChallenge Dice
These purple eight-sided dice represent the challenges and difficulties facing a character when attempting an action. The results are generally bad for the character – most of the effects undermine success, or make it more likely that some sort of detrimental side effect will occur.

Characteristic DiceCharacteristic Dice
These blue eight-sided dice form the basis of a dice pool when performing an action, representing how important an individual characteristic is towards accomplishing the task. The higher a character’s Strength, for example, the more blue characteristic dice he contributes to actions based on Strength. Characteristic dice have beneficial symbols, and several blank sides. The blue characteristic dice can be converted into different dice based on a character’s current stance.

Conservative DiceConservative Dice
These green ten-sided dice represent the low-risk, low-reward stance a character can adopt while performing actions. The conservative dice reflect a measured, cautious, or thoughtful approach to the situation. The conservative dice have a very good chance of contributing towards the success of an action, but an overly cautious approach may cause delays.

Expertise DiceExpertise Dice
These yellow six-sided dice represent dedicated training or exceptional aptitude with a skill or special proficiency. They feature a special symbol that allows a character to roll additional dice, as well as a symbol that can trigger special effects based on training or aptitude.

Fortune DiceFortune Dice
These white six-sided dice provide a slight edge for the character. Fortune dice are granted for tactical advantages, as well as by certain talents, party abilities, or by spending fortune points. Half of the sides of a fortune die are blank, the other half have beneficial effects.

Misfortune DiceMisfortune Dice
These black six-sided dice impose a slight complication to a dice pool. Misfortune dice are assigned for tactical disadvantages, as well as for certain talents, conditions, or debilitating effects such as critical wounds. Half of the sides of a misfortune die are blank, the other half have detrimental effects.

Reckless DiceReckless Dice
These red ten-sided dice represent the high-risk, high-reward stance a character can adopt while performing actions. The reckless dice reflect an aggressive, fiery, or daemon-may-care approach to the situation. The reckless dice feature several potent faces with numerous positive effects, but also several blank sides and some drawbacks.

Actions, Checks & Resolving Tasks
Characters will attempt a variety of tasks to accomplish various goals and move the scenes and story along during a session. When the outcome of a task is uncertain, a character needs to perform some sort of action. Some actions are a general application of a characteristic or skill. Other actions are very specific, and are represented by an action card.

Once the appropriate type of action has been determined by the GM, the character may need to make a check to see whether or not the action succeeds. In simplest terms, a player creates a pool of dice, comprised of dice representing the different factors involved in the action. This could be a combination of several types of dice, and can vary from action to action, situation to situation.

After the dice pool has been created, the player rolls all of the dice and the results are evaluated. Some actions, particularly those represented by an action card, may have very specific results for success or failure. Other actions will have their results decided by the GM, based on the dice pool results, the character’s goals, and the situation.

Spell Example - Celestial Order - OmenThe Symbols
The symbols that appear on the custom dice have specific effects on the outcome of task resolution. Not all symbols appear on all dice. After a dice pool has been rolled, the symbols are evaluated to determine which symbols influence the outcome of the task. If the task being performed was based on an action card, specific effects may be triggered based on the symbols generated by the dice pool. Otherwise, the GM interprets the symbols and resolves the task based on the action being performed.

Download the dice symbol reference (PDF, 550kb)

The symbols and the dice they appear on can be a powerful narrative tool, allowing the players to visualise and interpret the outcome of actions in a variety of ways. This can be influenced not only by which symbols appear on the dice, but which dice those symbols appear on.

The Core Mechanic
The core mechanic refers to the task resolution system used to determine success and failure. In some respects, it is the engine that drives the game. The core mechanic in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is quite simple, and can be summarised as follows:

  1. Roll a pool of dice.
  2. After all other factors, if there is at least one success symbol, the task succeeds.

Almost all the other factors influencing the outcome of tasks modifies or interacts with one of these two fundamental elements – the pool of dice, or the results on the dice after they are rolled.

And while the presence or absence of success symbols indicate the basic success threshold -- was the task accomplished? -- the other symbols can contribute to the magnitude of the effect, and help describe how and why the task succeeds or fails.

Bonus Sneak Peek

Creating a Dice Pool

Before the core mechanic comes into play, it needs a reason – this reason is usually the action being attempted. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, when the outcome of a task is uncertain, resolving the action generally relies on a skill or characteristic check.

If the action being attempted is based on an action card, the related skill or characteristic to use in the check appears on the card. For actions that do not rely on action cards, such as a standard use of a skill, the skill used determines which characteristic the check is based on.

The first step in assembling a dice pool is taking a number of blue dice equal to the hero’s characteristic rating, and any white fortune dice that may be associated with the characteristic (showing a slight edge, knack, or advantage with that ability). If the hero has training in the relevant skills, he adds one yellow expertise die to the dice pool for each level of training.

Next, the GM determines what challenges or potential misfortunes face the character, and adds the appropriate dice to the pool. This is based on the inherent difficulty level of the attempted task, as well as any other factors that try to undermine the character’s chances of success.

Finally, before rolling the dice pool, the player converts some of his blue characteristic dice into stance dice. This step is not optional – the player must convert a number of blue dice into a number of stance dice based on his depth on the character’s stance meter.

The player also has an opportunity to spend fortune points to modify the dice pool. For each fortune point spent, one white fortune die is added to the pool.

Example of Assembling a Dice Pool

Mellerion the Wood Elf hunter is attempting to climb a cliff. This is an application of the Athletics skill, which is based on Mellerion’s Strength, which is 3 -- and average rating for a Wood Elf.

The player starts his dice pool by taking three blue characteristic dice, which is equal to Mellerion’s Strength rating. Mellerion has one level of training in Athletics, so he gets to add one yellow expertise die to the pool.

Based on the situation, the GM determines that the cliff is fairly steep, but there are roots and footholds along the way, making this an Average difficulty check, which adds two purple challenge dice to the pool. The GM had described the light drizzle earlier in the scene, which is making things a bit slick, so the GM also decides to add a misfortune die to the pool.

Dice Pool ExampleBefore attempting the task, Mellerion had adjusted his stance to one space deep on the conservative side of his stance meter -- he wants to be a bit more careful in his ascent, since the rain is causing a complication. Since he is one space deep on the green conservative side, Mellerion’s player swaps out one of the blue characteristic dice with a green conservative die.

With no other factors influencing the task, the final dice pool consists of 2 blue characteristic dice, 1 yellow expertise die, 1 green conservative die, 2 purple challenge dice, and 1 black misfortune die.

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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Comments (58)

Published: 9/30/2009 9:38:14 PM

very very cool!!! cant wait to play this game!!!

Published: 9/18/2009 12:59:43 AM

Wow... coloured dice... sorry.  Got over that long time ago.  Pair of d10's work just fine thanks.  Moded according to skills and difficulty, and the whims of the GM.  Makes me think that this is just a plain re-hash of Descent in a more established setting...

Published: 9/13/2009 9:41:23 PM

Concerning Righteous Successes: Do they make the player re-roll their entire dice pool? Do they explode (i.e., if you roll another Righteous Success when rolling an additional die for an initial Righteous Success, does it trigger a further Righteous Success)? There's a rather heated thread at ENWorld right now where a poster is claiming that Righteous Successes do both of these things, but I see no mention of them doing either in the PDF.

Published: 9/10/2009 7:25:25 AM

I've got another question... What happens if I have a "bigger" stance value than Atribute value?

Initially (watching the gencon-video) I got the impression that stance dice were added to the pool. Now I see they replace Ability which is cool. But wouldn't you risk having more dice to swap in than you had Ability dice to stat with?

Eagerly awaiting more examples... especially hairy ones like this. (The basic clear cut examples usually does very little in terms of helping out where the rules are vague.)


Published: 9/10/2009 5:37:06 AM

Simple is better upfront and while interesting, I just don't see this as simple as a single hard ability role.  Strange dice mechanics makes me thing of Earthdawn, people liked it but no one stayed around long enouth to learn the system. 


Published: 9/10/2009 3:23:52 AM


you will find that "make an agility test at -10" is much the same as "make an agility test with 2 challenge dice and 1 miss-fortune die" are about the same for fostering or not fostering creativity.

Im sure once you get used to the dice determining difficuilty it is going to get easier.

My concern is if an average difficuilty (what id consider a baseline) requires 2 challenge dice how many are a hard or very hard one going to need.

Published: 9/9/2009 6:01:59 AM

 omg... I hope I will not need so many dice to do any simple skill test or simple attack test...

I loved WFRP for very, very fast and simple, not disturbing mechanic - now I afraid every roll and action  will last too much time so it can break sometimes the mood and atmosphere of session.

well.. I am old-style veteran GM (bout 20 years in rpg) and this 3rd ed seems for me like a board game - too many cards, dices, tokens and other stuff which will draw you away from a ROLEPLAYING...

Published: 9/9/2009 5:25:15 AM


Yes. Obviously imagination is what is required to make a good story. A good GM and a good bunch of players go a long way.

Let's imagine for one moment though that we have an average group of players. A completely ordinary bunch of fellows who are as likely to fall into the easy simplicity of your first example as they are to be bothered with the effort required to imagine your second. Which system do you think is more likely to encourage them away from the first? A system that gets them to roll less than 55 on percentile dice and take 2d10 damage if they fail? Or a system, like WFRP3 is introducing, that actually actively encourages more than a pass/fail mentality? A system that allows, for example, the player to succeed AND hurt themselves? A system that allows the player to act conservatively and reduce the chances of getting hurt even being a consequence?

[i]"Make an agility test at -10"[/i] does not remove the possibility of creativity, but it certainly doesn't foster it.

I can't see the logic either behind your argument that rules which force you to interpret a result in a way that is not simply pass or fail results in less chance to build a narrative? Perhaps you refer to the dice constricting the GM's own creativity by getting him/her to abide by the more complex 'narrative' results that the dice give? This is the only explanation that I can imagine, but it is flawed. Rolling the dice in the first place restricts the GM's creativity. How is this any different, except in that it encourages the GM to explain what has happened in more detail than simply [i]"you fall off your horse and take 12 damage"[/i]..?

Published: 9/8/2009 10:53:14 PM

I like everything about what your doing for 3rd ed till I get to the dices. Been trying to wrap my head around it many times but just cant get what the heck is going on. I feel I am going to need to goto druid stone reading school. FFG you should had just stuck with straight numbers. As saided before players and gms are going to spend a lot of time tring to figure out what the heck they just rolled. Otherwise the game looking nice but I am afraid the dice may sink this game alone.

Published: 9/8/2009 2:48:03 PM


Sorry, mate, I am a gamer and a  WFRP 2nd edition GM, and I am still excited about this new edition and think that FFG is presenting it more or less correctly, so please don't say that almost no one outside FFG staff is interested about the game... that's not the case in my club.

Also, the example you give is as easy to do with the mechanics already explained in the developer's diary: GM: "please do an Agility check (i.e., throw 3 Blue Dice because you have Agility 34) and a Purple Die (because it is raining)..."

Finally, I don't think knowing exactly your chances when trying something is helping the roleplaying at all: in real life, when I play my guitar or try to score a football/soccer goal I don't know the exact chances I have to do it correctly, but I know that my guitar skills are average and my football skills a bit better and act accordingly taking risks when, more or less, I think I'll manage... same will happen with 3rd edition: risking will become a bit more natural than in percentage RPGs where it feels like you are always "adjusting the maths".



At the moment I am running a Road to Legend campaign with the Descent game. My experience with pools of dice is that reading the results is very quick, but collecting the dice to roll can take a bit more time, unless every player has one set of dice... When my group started playing Descent we only had one set of dice and it was always messy to find them. Now we have three sets for 5 players and the flow of the game is very quick.

Has FFG already decided when/how to offer new dice packs for WFRP 3rd edition? My suggestion would be to do it as soon as possible, as I think a group should have, at the very minimum, at least two sets of dice, one for the GM and another for the players... optimum would be one set of dice per person playing.

Published: 9/8/2009 2:30:34 PM

How does rolling funny-looking dice become a "powerful narrative" tool? It sounds like the players will be sitting around a chart, trying to figure out what the heck they just rolled. I think it would be more difficult to come up with an explanation when the dice are restricting you.

Also, I have to agree, how is this "streamlining" the game when there is no mechanic simpler than rolling percentile dice? "Okay, you have a 53% chance. Roll the dice." People can see that, people can grasp that instantaneously. Rather than, "Okay, roll three blue dice, but then roll two purple dice because this is a challenging task, and a black die because I don't like you, but you can change one of your blue dice into a green one." Can anyone tell me that the probability of success is in that example??? And can anyone tell me how the heck rolling the dice is going to enhance the narrative? Dice don't enhance the narrative, the imagination of the players does.


Player: "I want to jump from my horse onto a moving coach."

GM: "Make an Agility test at -10."

Player: (Rolls the dice.) "Uh oh. I failed."

GM: "You fall off your horse and take 12 damage."


Player: "I'm going to bring my horse as close to the coach as I can, stand up on the saddle, then leap over onto the coach."

GM: "The rain has made everything pretty slick. You're going to need to make an Agility test with a -10 penalty."

Player: (Rolls the dice.) "Ah man, I just barely failed!"

GM: "All right. As you attempt to leap across, your foot gets caught in the saddle. You just manage to grab hold of the coach but your foot is still stuck. Your body is stretched out between the two rather painfully. If you move, you'll fall. The coachman doesn't look happy... he leans over to stomp on your fingers. What are you going to do?"

Same exact mechanics, except in one example the players are actually using their imagination. The more rules (or the dice) impose themselves on the players, the less chance you're going to have to build an actual narrative.

I really ought to stop reading these press releases because all they do is get me angry. Why mess with our favorite RPG just to pilot your own crazy, untested rules? Why  not make your own RPG and leave Warhammer alone? And, I'm sure I speak for the fears of a lot of us, are you going to backstab us again when its time for a new Dark Heresy / Rogue Trader edition?

It's too bad when a gaming company has to focus on being a business more than making good games. It's even worse when it's a bad strategy. I'm predicting this new Warhammer will be a complete and total flop. But I guess only time will tell.

People tell me to keep an open mind but it goes both ways. Fans of the new system (who primarily seem to be FFG staff) should keep an open mind about the complaints the veteran players have. We have legitimate complaints, and until they are handled, you've lost the fan base that should have been built into the new system. Instead, you've alienated most of us by ignoring us. And all I can say is, "Good luck with that." Let me know how that works for you.

Published: 9/8/2009 11:19:20 AM

That's good to know.

I am still in two minds over this game; on the one hand I like to see interesting new mechanisms, on the other this does feel like it would have been better suited to a new setting rather than putting Warhammer into it. I'm glad you're trying something different, but I'm also mindful that conventions become conventions for a reason.

Basically what I'm saying is, I'm in the 'try before you buy' brigade.

Oh, and extra dice packs! You should definately consider those. Dice get lost (and stolen) so easily.


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