The combat system for WFRP Fourth Edition has its roots in earlier editions of the game, but we’ve made significant changes. The design goals were to speed up fights and eliminate boring stalemates arising from repeated attack roll failure.
When you get into a confrontation, everyone acts in Initiative order. We’ve added in a few alternative options here for you to tailor the game to your play style. You can keep things simple and just use the Characteristic, or introduce some randomness and deploy the GM catchphrase ‘Roll for initiative’, plus several other permutations.
Every combat round you get to move and do something. The ‘something’ might be using a skill, making an attack, casting a spell, and so on. An attack isn’t meant to only represent one swing of a sword arm. It’s movement, positioning, timing, dodges, feints and parries - all the things that happen in exciting fantasy combat.
D100 systems can suffer from so-called ‘whiff factor’ – endless inaction due to everyone failing rolls time and time again. This was something we wanted to eliminate as much as possible. One of the new mechanics we introduced to help with this in combat is called Advantage. You can gain Advantage from sources including Surprise, Charging and winning an Attack Test. Each point of Advantage gives you +10 to your Attack Tests, and represents you pressing your foe back, gaining control of the space, gaining confidence, leaping onto the table, kicking sand in their face, or whatever you feel is appropriate to the battle at hand.
When you attack your foe, you both make a Weapon Skill Test and compare your success levels. If the attacker wins they will have the chance to do damage and gain a point of Advantage. If the defender wins, they don’t inflict damage but do gain the Advantage as they dodge or parry and take the upper hand. There is always an outcome from a combat round – the least that can happen is someone gains Advantage.
You can win multiple points of Advantage, and you keep them until you lose an Attack Test, take a wound or the combat ends. So, if you keep rolling well, you’ll get in your stride and do better and better. But if you lose a Test you’ll lose all your Advantage. It’s a huge amount of fun, especially if you have the Talents or Spells that let you steal Advantage! You get a real sense of turning the tide of battle, or of getting unstoppable momentum and cleaving through your foes.
There are loads of possibilities and outcomes that these rules bring to the table: a combatant can whale on a bunch of lesser foes first, build up a pool of Advantage and then unleash that on the big baddie. Combining the various Skills and Talents that allow characters to work together to make the most of Advantage adds a tactical edge to this exciting way of determining the outcome of a fight.
But it’s certainly not all one-way traffic! Adversaries have special abilities that are powered by Advantage, so can become progressively more powerful. And there’s loads of fun times for the GM in deciding when to use monster abilities, or simply keep a bonus to hit.
And if your foes are building their Advantage up to truly scary levels, Characters can use a point of Resilience (more on this in a later preview) to remove it.
Critical hits are a staple of WFRP, and in Fourth Edition occur on especially successful blows, as indicated by the roll of a double. In addition to extra damage and special wounds, critical hits can inflict a variety of Conditions that change the way combat works for those who receive them.
That’s the core of the new combat system. Of course, there’s much more to it - Strength and Toughness work in ways familiar to players of First and Second Edition, as does armour. Hits are locational. There are fumbles, and ranged combat throws in some interesting and original quirks.
We’ll be talking more about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in future previews. Pre-orders for the WFRP Rulebook, Collector’s Limited Edition Rulebook and WFRP Starter Set are open, you can find out more here.
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