Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) combat rules for 4th edition have got a lot of stick for being overly complicated and crunchy. I think they are to a certain extent. Certainly there’s lots of added complexity if you want to include it. But at their heart the rules are quite simple. I hope that this blog post will make the combat rules a bit easier to understand. I’m going to present the simplest version of the rules – so don’t expect all the ins and outs and options! If you are starting playing WFRP 4e I would recommend not including all the rules as they can slow things down and add complication while you’re learning the system.
Initiative in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Combat
Many Tabletop RPGs use Initiative to determine who goes when during combat. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition is no exception. They give you three choices on how to determine Initiative. To avoid complication Initiative order can be determined by simply ranking in order of Initiative attribute for each PC, NPC or Monster.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Melee Combat
Each participant in combat takes a turn based on their Initiative rank as above.
The heart of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay combat system in 4th Edition is the Opposed Test. For Melee combat you roll against your opponents skill and whoever does better wins and inflicts damage.
All Tests on skill in WFRP 4e are made using a d100 with the aim to roll lower than your skill. You compare the 10s dice against your skill to determine the number of Success Levels. So if your skill is 45 and you roll 21, that’s a Success Level of +2. If you rolled 61 it would be -2, and if you rolled 46 that would be -0 (44 would be +0).
In combat your opponent rolls and you each compare your Success levels. The one with better Success Level wins. Normally you attack using a Melee skill and your opponent defends using a Melee or Dodge skill. There are other possibilities – but they fall out of the scope of this guide.
Ulric rolls 21 against the Melee skill of 42. That’s a Success Level of +2. The goblin he faces rolls 65 against her Melee skill of 33. A Success Level of -3.
You then add the Success Levels together – so that would be +5 in favour of Ulric. Ulric wins the combat and the damage inflicted is 5 plus Ulric’s Strength Bonus, plus the Weapon’s Damage. You then deduct the goblin’s Toughness Bonus and Armour Points (if any).
So in this case the calculation might be:
+5 (Success Levels)
+4 (Weapon damage)
+3 (Ulric’s Strength Bonus)
-3 (Goblin’s Toughness Bonus)
Total = 9 Wounds of damage!
The goblin would then get to attack (assuming it has lower Initiative and has not attacked already!) There would be another Opposed Test – but this time Ulric gets +10 if using the Advantage rules.
Probably this calculation is the thing that makes things slowest in combat as you’ve got some maths to do here.
One of the most controversial aspects of combat in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th editions is Advantage. I won’t go into all the ins and outs, but in simple terms every time you win a Test you get 1 Advantage that then gives you +10 in your next test. That means your Success Levels will get better, you should win more Tests and do more damage. Advantage is meant to simulate the balance tilting in one combatants favour. The Advantage system can make things quite swingy, so some gamers have tried to limit it or houserule the effects. I have found it OK as written.
Advantage is lost if you lose a test or take damage – so if someone shoots you with a bow , which you can’t oppose, all that carefully accrued Advantage goes.
Tracking Advantage adds some complication, so to start with you could elect to ignore this rule. But making a note on piece of paper for each combatant or using coins, chits etc is vital to keep track of Advantage.
For more about which non-combat skills allow a character to gain Advantage see this blog post.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Ranged Combat
For Ranged Combat things are simpler as you just roll on your skill. It is possible to defend sometimes, but again here’s not the place to go into that.
You add your Success Level in your Ranged skill to your weapons damage and then deduct your opponents Toughness Bonus and Armour Points. They take that many Wounds.
If you roll a double (e.g. 22) and win the pass your test you do a critical. You roll on the Critical Hit tables. If you roll double and fail a test you fumble instead. This is in addition to whether you win or lose the Opposed Test with your opponent – so for example you could win the Opposed Test, but roll under your Melee skill and a double and get a fumble. If you are defending and roll a double and less than your skill you can inflict a Critical to the attacker as well. There’s also other rules that can influence Critical Hits.
Wounds and Damage
Suffice to say getting to 0 Wounds puts you out of the combat. There’s more complication in various conditions inflicted on you, but for simplicity let’s ignore that for now – the PC or NPC on 0 Wounds is effectively out of play.
There’s loads more complexity to add. There are modifiers that can be applied – for instance if outnumbered, or if opponents are bigger or smaller. Many weapons have special rules. There are Conditions to take account of. And also non-combat skills like Intimidate and Leadership can be used instead of Melee or Ranged skills. I would avoid these in your first few sessions. Probably starting off with the Advantage rules is enough for now.
That’s it. There’s loads more on combat you can include. This is really just touching the surface. My plan with this guide was to provide a really simplified version of the rules as written.
If you’re interested in getting into Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay then you can buy the current edition from Cubicle 7 or the PDF from DriveThruRPG.
I have some other Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition on this site as well, so have a look at that as well.