News for October 2009
Combat Training 102 98
Anatomy of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay combat turn
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 16 October 2009

As mentioned in Combat Training 101, the Old World is a dangerous place. Sometimes, despite the characters’ best efforts to avoid conflict, they find themselves fighting for their lives. And when backed into a fight (or when they choose to take the fight to their enemies) the characters perform their actions in a specific order to determine if their attacks are successful, and if so, how much damage they inflict.

This is the second in a series of designer diaries that will provide an in-depth look at how combat is resolved in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This installment takes a closer look at an individual player turn, and the steps a character goes through to make an attack. The previous installment in this series, Combat Training 101, discusses initiative, rounds, and player turns in the game.

The Combat Sequence

The combat sequence occurs as part of the active player’s turn, in a specific order. Each step in the sequence has a specific purpose. A character can perform manoeuvres before or after this sequence, but not in the middle of this sequence unless a specific effect says otherwise.

In the steps below, the term active player refers to the player currently taking the turn for his character. The GM is the active player when he is performing the actions for NPCs or monsters. This sequence looks at how a player uses one of his character's special action cards to attack an opponent.

The Backstab Action, Performed in a Reckless Stance1. Active player selects an action card
If the active player wants his character to perform an attack of some sort, generate a spell effect that attacks or impairs a target, or perform a specific activity, then often the first step is selecting the corresponding action card. The player’s character must be able to fulfil all the requirements listed on the card. The player announces which action card he is using, and places it in front of his character, face up based on the character’s current stance.

2. Active player announces his target
Once the player has announced which action his character is performing, he announces the action’s target. In many cases, this is who is being attacked or affected by the card. When there are multiple available targets, clearly announcing the target of the action is very important. The characteristics, abilities, or equipment of the target may influence the action’s challenge level or results.

3. Active player generates starting dice pool
The action card indicates the type of check required to perform the action. The active player assembles his dice pool based on the related characteristic, and any applicable skills, specialisations, talents, or other abilities. Certain conditions, such as the effect of a critical wound or an environmental effect, may also contribute dice to the dice pool.

If the character wishes to add bonus fortune dice to his dice pool, he may spend fortune points to do so. Each fortune point spent adds one fortune die to the pool. Spent fortune points are returned to the general supply.

During this step, a player converts characteristic dice into stance dice. The player converts a number of characteristic dice into stance dice equal to the number of spaces deep into a stance his character is. Converting characteristic dice into stance dice is not optional. Depending on his character’s related characteristic rating and stance, a player may not be able to convert all available dice, or may run out of dice to convert.

4. GM assigns challenge or misfortune dice
Next the GM assigns any relevant challenge or misfortune dice to the pool. The default difficulty for Melee Attack and Ranged Attack actions is Easy (1d), but may be modified by a variety of factors. Based on the situation, the GM may decide the action in question is better served as an unopposed or opposed check.

This step is where the target’s Defence value is added to the dice pool. One misfortune die is added for every point of the target’s Defence. A target’s Defence value is generally determined by its armour or innate abilities to avoid or shrug off attacks.

After seeing how many challenge dice or misfortune dice the GM adds to the dice pool, the player has one more opportunity to spend fortune points to add fortune dice to the pool. Each fortune point spent adds one fortune die to the pool. Spent fortune points are returned to the general supply.

Chaos Warriors Engage in Combat5. Dice pool is rolled and evaluated
The active player takes all the dice in the dice pool and rolls them. The symbols showing on the top-most face of each die are collectively referred to as the results of the check. The results are evaluated to determine if the task succeeds or fails, whether any bane or boon effects are triggered, and if any other special effects are generated.

In order for the task to succeed, at least one success symbol must remain after challenge symbols cancel an equal number of success symbols. The active player then finds the success line matching the number of successes generated to see how the action is resolved. Some actions have several different effects that may be triggered, depending on the total number of successes generated by the dice pool.

Bane symbols cancel out an equal number of boon symbols. If there are any bane or boon symbols remaining, some additional effects may be triggered.

6. If the action is an attack, attacker calculates damage
Assuming the action succeeds, attacks generally inflict “normal” damage (as opposed to critical damage). Normal damage is based on the weapon’s inherent damage value and the attacker’s Strength (for melee attacks) or Agility (for ranged attacks). Some specific action cards may indicate modifiers to the normal damage. Spells or other abilities that inflict damage generally have the damage listed on the individual action card, which may be modified by the active player’s characteristics.

The total value of the attacker’s key characteristic (Strength for melee attacks, for example), the damage value of the weapon, and any extra damage added by the action card or other special effects are combined to achieve the attack’s damage potential.

The target’s Toughness, the soak value of its armour or equipment, or the effects of special abilities or talents may reduce the damage it takes. These numbers are combined to calculate the target’s damage reduction

The target’s damage reduction is subtracted from the attack’s damage potential. If the difference is a positive number, that number indicates how many normal wounds are inflicted. For each critical damage effect triggered during the attack, one of the inflicted normal wounds is placed face up as a critical wound.

Minimum Wound Result
If the difference is zero or a negative number, the attack still inflicts one normal wound – the minimum result for a successful attack. If one or more critical damage effects are triggered when the difference is zero or a negative number, then the attack inflicts a number of normal wounds equal to the total number of critical damage effects generated. An Empire Greatsword Strikes a Vicious Blow

Even if an effect is triggered that would convert normal damage into critical damage, if the only wounds inflicted are due to the minimum wound result, the wounds are all normal wounds. 

Damage & Critical Damage
Many attacks have the potential to inflict damage to the target. Damage is a representation of the potential wounds the target may suffer from. When an effect lists a result such as +1 damage, that modifies the attack’s damage potential. 

When an effect lists a result such as critical damage or +1 critical damage, that does not modify the attack’s damage potential. Rather, it influences how many of the normal wounds inflicted are turned face up as critical wounds. Therefore, a result of +1 critical means one additional wound among those inflicted becomes a critical wound, cumulative with any other critical effects.

7. Resolve all remaining effects of the combat action
Some combat actions have additional effects, as listed on the card. Certain actions may allow the active player to perform an additional manoeuvre after the action is resolved. Some actions may have boon or bane effects that still need to be resolved, such as causing the attacker to fall prone, or disengaging from the target.

Any remaining effects from the combat action are resolved now, before the active player’s turn continues. Once all outstanding effects have been resolved, the active player may resume his turn.

Dodge, Parry, and Block
Characters have a number of options at their disposal during combat. Some of these options are defensive reactions to incoming attacks. The three most common examples of these reactions are the Dodge, Parry, and Block active defences.

The Parry Active DefenceAn active defence is represented by its own action card. In order to gain the benefit listed on the card, the player must actively use the ability. Each type of active defence has its own requirements or restrictions. For example, to use the Dodge active defence, a character must have an Agility of 3 or higher, and cannot currently be encumbered. To use the Block active defence, the character must have a shield equipped. Other restrictions or guidelines may also apply, depending on the active defence.

Active defences add dice to the incoming attack pool. Most active defences complicate the attack by adding misfortune dice. Advanced versions of some of the core active defences, or some of the more specialised defences, may add challenge dice.

Several active defences can be activated against the same incoming attack. If a stout dwarf mercenary has his axe in one hand and a sturdy shield strapped to the other, he could choose to attempt to Parry and Block the same incoming attack.

Active defences require some effort and exertion to use – a character cannot attempt to dodge every single attack coming his way, for example. When a character uses one of his active defences, the player places recharge tokens on the card. While that card is recharging, the character cannot use that active defence against another attack.


Set in the grim setting of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy world, 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 (98)

Published: 10/23/2009 2:52:36 PM


Eclipse Phase has some neat ideas - especially how your character changes when his or her body changes.  I like some of the skill roll mechanics.  It definitely has some improvements over past concepts and the setting is definitely innovative. 

Published: 10/23/2009 2:45:35 AM




Well, Feng Shui is the one rpg system I don't have looked at, yet. I've heard about it precisely because it seems to be the origin of the 4E minion 'idea'.

My latest acquisition has been [url=]Eclipse Phase[/url]. It's the first sci-fi rpg for ages that looked interesting to me. There doesn't seem anything new regarding game mechanics but the setting is quite out there. The variety in character concepts is something I've only seen in free-form systems before (think: Over the Edge). I haven't had time to do more than give it a short thumb through, though.

Published: 10/22/2009 10:08:50 AM


Nope - not a one.  RPGs have all been a rehash of older ideas or ideas from other games for quite some time.  Truly innovative RPGs have all come and gone and we are left with a process of evolution.

Some would say that D&D4E was innovative but it was just a rehash of MMORPG conventions that have been around for some time know.

Innovation in PNP RPGs started with D&D, Traveller, and RuneQuest and then began to trail off over the years.  There have been bright blips like the first WFRP and its career system, GURPS and its portability, Amber and its diceless mechanics, and the White Wolf narrative system.  In recent years Hero Wars/HeroQuest has done some unique things with mechanics, Feng Shui did some interesting things with mooks, but there have not been many innovations for PNP RPGs since the 1980s.

My main concern with the new WFRP is the same concern I had with 4E - they both suffer from a proliferation of gimmicks.  I hope it does well.  I will buy it, try it, and may even like it.  However, I have my doubts.

Published: 10/22/2009 2:30:48 AM


"It just seems like too many gimmicks and too few real innovations."

Wow, really? Do you know of any new rpg (or new edition of an older rpg) that has more 'real' innovations? I'd really like to know, since I'm sort of collecting innovative or 'exotic' rpg systems.

Published: 10/21/2009 10:40:34 PM

 Another meh.

Initiative looked like a solution looking for a problem.  This second article makes the new WFRP look like a D&D 4E wannabe.

I will still likely buy the new WFRP just like I bought the core books for 4E but I now expect the result will be the same - a fine read, a few sessions to figure out the mechanics, but little chance of long term play.

It just seems like too many gimmicks and too few real innovations.

I am trying to keep my mind as open as possible but the more I see the less I like.

Published: 10/21/2009 8:09:48 PM

 Thank you for not telling me "you are wrong". I do love civil debates. I hate getting angry and saying stuff I regret later.

Published: 10/21/2009 8:07:18 PM


You make a great point and I cannot argue with that. I will leave it at that. If you enjoy playing with a tweaked lore then by all means go right on ahead. I will not tell you that "you are doing it wrong" because their is no right or wrong way to RPG unless the only words out of your mouth are "I kick the door in what happens next?" Then we have problems =P.


Not going do that road lol. We already have the war between players....I will stay away from any holy war topic. 

As always, if you two feel happy and have found your niche, then I am honestly glad for you. I unfortunately have a "must stick to cannon" mind set from my White Wolf books that are filled with 200+ pages each of lore that I feel I MUST know. Some times its a bad thing but then there are times where knowing a region inside out (history and all) is welcomed for setting the mood.

Published: 10/21/2009 1:50:45 PM


"Sigmar priest are just as corrupt as the church once was in our world."

This made me giggle a bit. As if the church isn't still that corrupt, if not more so now.

I do feel that the Old World is rife with RPG goodness. Think of it like Paranoia, because that's how lethal it should be. Not that the GM should give the players clones...or should they? Hrmmmmm....

Ludlov Thadwin of Sevenpiecks
Published: 10/21/2009 7:55:31 AM

@ Darkkami,

Well, I've read a few novels, the Mathias Thulmann ones in particular, which didn't feel as nihilistic to me as you describe the Old World. Nevertheless, you've obviously read many more of them than I have so I'll assume that the big picture you get when you read the novels is indeed one of a world so corrupted that evil always wins. But to be honest, that doesn't really matter to me. If the developers deliberately made the lore less nihilistic to suit a playable RPG, so much the better as far as I'm concerned. I just accept what I like and leave what I don't like anyway. Why wouldn't I? That's the freedom an RPG offers you.


Published: 10/21/2009 7:36:18 AM


I play regularly Harn (by years now), with many additions, just to give that feel of danger.
Rolemaster isn't very interesting, since is a random combat system.

BTW, I'm of the advise that a "believable" (not realistic) combat system can be scaled up to accomodate Epic Fantay Combat, while being fast. Also you can use good sense in it.
You will have an easy time envisioning the scene and pondering your options.

Imho, It's not true the contrary. Using game mechanics alien to our world (designed for Epic Fantay Combat from the ground up) will complicate the matter, since you must explain, adapt and reasoning on why this or that doesn't work like you expect it or you must develop a new mental pattern to achive that result.

To me, the latter case is V3. Of course this is my persional opinion.

Published: 10/21/2009 2:22:36 AM


OF COURSE the system isn't meant to be a realistic simulation of combat! This is where this game is similar to D&D: combat is meant to evoke the feeling of over-the-top cinematic action while using game mechanics that arer first and foremost easy to use (and the latter is where WHFRPG 3E will have to prove if it achieves this goal or not).

If you're looking for a realistic simulation, go play Rolemaster or (even better) Harn. Especially the latter is an excellent rpg system, albeit with a completely different focus and target audience.

Myself, I prefer switching between different systems, each of which scratches a certain itch. Sometimes I'm in the mood for beer&pretzl style fun, sometimes I'm looking for something with a bit more depth. There are many rpg systems available for both extremes and everything inbetween.

Published: 10/20/2009 10:48:37 PM


Thanks, glad you like the idea of sticking to an FFG original license, but it should not be me pointing out the obvious to FFG. Fans want it so why not give it to them. Heck, they could even make the minis cross compatible.

As for the Fellowship. Lord of the rings has ONE main villain. The Dark Lord. In Warhammer the enemy is all around. Whether it is the orcs from the high mountains, the undead vampire counts, the underground ratmen creating a black plague, the dark elf pirates on the high seas, or even the corruption hiding in plain sight. There is no light to retreat to only fear used to uphold survival. Read the novels not the RPG books to get a feel of just how nasty the world is. Wood elves hang the bodies of intruders from the forest edge. Get to close to the forest and be prepared to eat a cloud of arrows from the way watchers. They tend to take questions regarding your trespassing after you are dead, even if you had a legit reason and never actually entered the elf lands. Wood elves let their arrows judge where their boundaries end. Sigmar priest are just as corrupt as the church once was in our world. The world is so dark and evil that the citizens are raised to fear everything and trust no one. Those that can use fear to overcome obstacles are the ones that join armies. ... sigh I give up. I could go on for hours. The Lizardmen are just like the Mayans...for instance. The world is not a tamed place. In Warhammer the ring would have twisted Frodo into becoming the lord of an army of undead hobbits that he raised from a raid he organized on the Shire. In Warhammer evil wins. It has to in order for the armies to be produced. So that GW can make more money on new editions. BAH!! you will never understand why Warhammer makes no sense to be an RPG in the first place. Maybe you do. I'm going to go crazy if people keep referencing the stuff int he RPG books as lore. The only reason GW approved it was so that they could make money off it. The novels however don't lie.

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