WFRP 4th Edition – Still Waiting

I thought by now I’d have some things to post about the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  Cubicle 7 started taking pre-orders in early May and claimed that the PDF would be out first in June, with print copies to follow in July.  It’s now July, and I haven’t seen a PDF. Sigh.

There have been two more previews posted to their site, neither with any mention about delays or new release dates, but some interesting insights into the direction of the new system.  In the first, they continue to focus on how the new system makes combat faster:

The design goals were to speed up fights and eliminate boring stalemates arising from repeated attack roll failure.

..

D100 systems can suffer from so-called ‘whiff factor’ – endless inaction due to everyone failing rolls time and time again.

This isn’t exactly what my problem was in 2nd edition combat.  Sure, early characters had around a 30% chance to hit, which does mean a lot of misses.  However, I think the real problem comes up at higher power levels.  At the extreme, you start to have characters with 2 or 3 attacks per round at 80-90% chance to hit.  However, assuming the bad guys are scaling to match that also means each enemy has multiple hit mitigation systems – in the form of Dodge and Parry, two skills that can completely negate a hit.  So combat goes something like this: 

  • <roll> I hit!
  • <roll> He parries.
  • <roll> I hit!
  • <roll> He dodges.
  • <roll> I hit!
  • OK, roll damage.

That is a lot of dice rolling for nothing actually happening.  Now, if their design goal was to speed up combat, hopefully they’ve addressed this.  However, I’m worried that they focused solely on low powered characters and did not spend a lot of time at the higher end of the power curve.  Having played with groups play-testing new rules I’d say it’s very likely, as unless you specifically set up tests where you’re making characters already very advanced, most games will start at the bottom of the power curve and are unlikely to continue all the way to the top, leaving the high end as the least tested.

The rest of the combat review goes on to describe the concept of Advantage, which is an interesting mechanic, and totally different from the one of the same name in D&D 5th edition.  Are they just trying to confuse us, or could they just not come up with a better name?  Despite the unfortunate name, it does sound like there’s an interesting effect there of building up Advantage over time, and having spells and talents that hook into Advantage manipulation.  At it’s base it seems that Advantage gives you bonuses to hit, and hitting grants Advantage, which sounds like it could create a crescendo effect similar to that in Demon Wars created by enemy balance and the charging of ring stones.  I’m hoping they really dug into it, and that there are some cool things unlocked or powered by Advantage, rather than it just being flat bonuses all the time.

Let’s move on to the second preview, regarding characteristics.  They start with their list of the basic stat block, which honestly is a bit long.  They state that while they’re the “same general scale as those used in first and second edition” they have “no upper limit”.  Huh?  I suppose that means we’re not rolling d100 under the value for checks?  Demon Wars does this as well, appearing to be 100-based but then doing a bonus and roll above mechanic.  This means rolling a d100 plus a bonus that can range anywhere from 1-50+, and trying to hit targets like 75, 100, 150, etc.  The scale of the math is quite large for my liking, and having to add say +17 to a roll of 48 in your head quickly is frankly annoyingly slow.  I’ve said a couple times to the Demon Wars designers that they really should consider dividing all their numbers by 5 and making the game d20 based.  You use some precision, but that’s a good thing – a +1 or +2 in those kind of number scales feels pretty insignificant.

Back to the WFRP preview – they spend the rest of the article defending their choice to split out Dexterity, Agility, and Initiative as three separate stats.  It does seem a bit overwrought to me, despite their humorous claim that it allows “Dwarfs to make intricate machines, jewellery, and artefacts, but not have a natural flair for dance.”  Ultimately it’s not a huge deal for me, and while I’ll be very surprised if it adds much to the game, I also hope it won’t get in the way.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now.  Unfortunately the dribs and drabs in these previews are really not enough to make real judgements on, and I therefore find my opinion of the game vacillating wildly.  Ultimately I don’t need this game to be amazing, I just need it to be good enough to overcome my annoyances at 2nd edition and entice Jenn back to the gaming table.  So here’s hoping they don’t completely screw it up.

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