Thoughts on how to “fix” Warhammer RPGs
(or “better gaming through different dice”)
My gaming group tends to play quite a bit of Warhammer. Over the last decade I’ve played in multiple games of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WHFRP), both 2nd and 3rd edition; and 40K games of Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Only War.
I find the setting reasonably entertaining (more so in the form that we play it rather than by the book – we lean a bit more towards humour, whimsy, and high adventure than the grim-dark default), but I’m not a fan of the systems.
I find that the d100 system of 2E WHFRP and the 40K games (DH, RT, DW, BC & OW) is way too random, swingy, and inconsistent. I appreciate the to a large extent this is a deliberate feature rather than a bug – the Warhammer setting focuses on (bad?) luck, fate, the randomness in its violence and the harsh uncaringness of its universe. However, I find that the end result of the system is that characters are only erratically competent.
Take a character early in their career: 30% is a fairly good stat for a starter 40K character to have in something that they are quite good at, e.g. Weapon Skill for a solider, Willpower for a Psyker, or Balistic Skill for a sniper. Let’s imagine that the sniper character has some beneficial circumstances or assistance; such as close range, a large target, and time to aim. They could probably clock up a bonus of about +50% in very favourable circumstances. This would give the sniper about an 80% chance of hitting a large target, such as the side of a barn. Put another way, that it a 20% chance of failure for the sniper to hit the side of the barn. From a few feet away. And 50% would by an unusually high bonus; shooting some mooks in a corridor as they run towards you with kitchen knives would probably be a +30% bonus, or a 40% chance of failure. And that is before they roll for their chance to dodge, even if your shot is on target.
This doesn’t make it feel like you are moderately skilled professionals who are way out of their depth in a gritty world, so much as an incompetent clown who pulls off the occasional trick shot.
Fine, but basically not my cup of tea.
In order to twist the system to my taste, I’m thinking that I may switch it to a build of Fate if I run Warhammer again; a quick and dirty hybrid system. Basically take out the d100 and swap for for 4dF (fate/fudge dice), stick a zero on the end of the fate ladder numbers, and call it a day.
Maybe 25 ranks to assign across your 9 attributes (two at +40, four at +30, two at +20, and one at +10?), use a default difficulty of 20, and then apply the modifiers from Warhammer as normal. So a character with an attribute of 30 and a bonus of +20 would still rolling on +50, but 4dF rather than d%, with wither each + or – on the fudge dice being read as +/-10 rather than +/-1. Then use all or the weapons, skills and stats as normal. I’d also keep the aspects and fate points from Fate.
I have less beef with the 3rd Edition of WHFRP. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn to parse the strange dice symbols the system can be quite quick and light, which I appreciate.
The problem for me is that there are simply too few success/failure symbols and way too many advantage/disadvantage (boon/bane) symbols. This be really tricky to adjudicate as a GM, and after a while it becomes hard to constantly thing off ways to explain your highly advantageous failures. This once again gives the feeling that the characters are incompetent by lucky clowns, rather than professionals. I’d simply fix this by using different dice. You can pick up blank d6’s pretty cheap. I think that I’ll experiment with adjusting the odds of the different symbols, next time I play WHFRP 3E for FF Star Wars (Edge of Empire, Age of Rebellion, Force & Destiny).
RPG, WHFRP, 40K, Star Wars, Fate, Dice, Hack