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Behind the Design >> Exploring the Dice used in WFRP


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#1 ynnen

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 08:22 AM

The inclusion and use of custom dice is perhaps the most immediately recognizable new feature of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The brightly colored dice not only attract a player’s attention, they’re a pivotal part of the game. The dice mechanic is the core engine, the rules system that drives the game – but the dice also fulfill a significant role in the overall gameplay experience.

Joining me for this Designer Diary is Daniel Lovat Clark, one of the key members of the WFRP design team. We both put a lot of hard work, energy, and decades of GM and play experience into the project. In this Designer Diary, we’re going to take a closer look at the dice, the design and theory behind their development, and a few of the (often subtle) effects the dice pool system has on the game.

Read all about it here...



#2 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 09:32 AM

Did I just see action cards for baddies?

You just made a GM very happy!


Listen to my actual play podcasts at BeggingForXP.com.

 

Take a look at my Talent Trees (Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion), YT-2400 deck plans for the Lazy Bantha, as well as my other handouts.


#3 HedgeWizard

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 09:42 AM

 THANK YOU very much for offering up this inside look on the dice aspect.



#4 Armoks

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 10:45 AM

 I'm satisfied with this Diary, for now.



#5 mac40k

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 10:52 AM

I find this to be very interesting:

"The prime example is the expertise die. It’s the bright yellow one, and it has lots of great stuff on it. Notably, it is the only die that currently features Sigmar’s Comet."

The key word in that sentence is "currently". So the person who was speculating that they might release additional dice types could be right after all.



#6 nub5

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 11:19 AM

Nice article with sneaky teasers



#7 TonyACT

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 11:39 AM

 Nice one - love the dice and great to read more of the thinking behind them.

The teaser was also awesome 



#8 donbaloo

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 03:05 PM

Very interesting and, considering the recent big discussions, topical designer diary. Very much appreciated! Sweet teasers as well...



#9 Rorschach Six

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 05:22 PM

Yes, thanks for the additional look into dice pools. Hopefully it'll give some of the people so quick to change the rules a moment's pause. 



#10 willmanx

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 07:13 PM

Rorschach Six said:

Yes, thanks for the additional look into dice pools. Hopefully it'll give some of the people so quick to change the rules a moment's pause. 

I understand your point.

The designer's explaination is interesting : they wanted higher success rate, so that some call a "broken" system is not.

I don't fully agree with them because their point mainly stands for combat and action ruled by a card. What about skill based actions tried by PCs (sneaking, climbing, etc...) ? It is a bit harsh to always rule a "success scale" on the fly and some failure could be logical too.

 



#11 Necrozius

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 01:47 AM

Armoks said:

 I'm satisfied with this Diary...

...

...

for now.

Oh no!

What... happens when you AREN'T satisfied anymore!?



#12 TonyACT

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 09:06 AM

As an aside - when are FFG going to start using a printer who spell checks things that are (most likely electronically) typeset??



#13 commoner

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 09:38 AM

willmanx said:

Rorschach Six said:

 

Yes, thanks for the additional look into dice pools. Hopefully it'll give some of the people so quick to change the rules a moment's pause. 

 

 

I understand your point.

The designer's explaination is interesting : they wanted higher success rate, so that some call a "broken" system is not.

I don't fully agree with them because their point mainly stands for combat and action ruled by a card. What about skill based actions tried by PCs (sneaking, climbing, etc...) ? It is a bit harsh to always rule a "success scale" on the fly and some failure could be logical too.

 

I have to say, I love the dice mechanic and it is the main attraction I had to the game originally.  These dice, in my opinion, revolutionize gaming and really change the face of the way games can be played.  They are the greatest narrative tool ever created for RPGs and I am glad the designers came down to give us some pointers about them and the design principle behind them.  They are truly fantastic.  Now, this may make me sound like a fanboy, but besides a very few small portion of games (such as Cthulhu) I cannot imagine playing a game without them from now on, to the point, I am strongly considering selling my other dice (lol!).  Kidding, mostly...

With that being said, as one who is changing the system I figure I should rise to my own defense on this issue.  As I said before, this game is designed around the principle of success and seeing what happens when two people succeed against each other based on the effect of their die roll.  This directly ties into the impact of how the action cards play out since more boons and comets means greater levels of successes since they can be spent over and over again (unlike successes).  So yes, the absolute best case is to generate 3 successes and as many boons as possible. 

The assumption however, that I wanted to adjust the die mechanic to account for a slower and lower power curve comes from the assertion of how those effects impact non-combat rolls.  These types of high-success rolls are mostly designed for their relationship to action cards.  Higher the level, the more successes and Boons occur, meaning the more powerful you are.  However, once you roll outside an action card this high success rate becomes problematic to translate without them where a player rolls 6 boons, where do you stop dolling out the positives?  It is easy to translate into a damage mechanic (as the cards do), but that level of finesse becomes hard to translate in lets say a climb or sneak check.  It also becomes problematic because at those higher levels there is absolutely no fail chance.  So why roll?  Most of the time I run without rolls, but when a roll becomes critical (i.e. sneaking out of a room full of guards with the hammer of Karl Franz) I consider to be a very dynamic moment; the rogue should have some chance of failure.  With a high level of dice and this high of a success rate, he will always succeed.  So he will not be only running around with Hammer of Franz, but the spellbook of Teclis and the sword of Felix, because really, who is going to stop him?  This is why I call the system "broken" not in terms of what the players can do, but in the fact at high levels this system has no need of dice, period (except in combat to arbitrate damage), in a game with a written high focus on combat (we have an entire stance tracker that is really designed to combat, the rules going as far to say, in story mode, well, just skip it or maybe give them one).  With 8 dice, three yellow, and 1 white against 4 purple and a black, the chances of banes are non-existent, all they will ultimately do is simply subtract boons. 

However, given the nature of the action cards and a basic attack needing three successes for a +2 damage, the designers had to push the amount of dice high in the beginning to give some probable chance of getting 3 successes and 2 banes based on the probability of rolling that level of success with the penalty dice when your pool is roughly 4 characteristic  (2 of which, on average, is converted to a stance) +1 Yellow.  This is why the dice, at low levels, must be inflated otherwise, at low levels action cards are nearly pointless since most 1 success lines strike for "normal" damage.  Which does translate, in the end, a need for ten + dice in a pool at high levels so you can finally be the "bad ass" you originally intended. 

It is the relationship between action card and dice is where the mechanical flaw occurs which has a direct impact when you are attempting any action not on an action card...since most action cards are tailored toward combat and combat functions in a mechanical design focused around how much damage each combatant is dropping on each other (their DPT - Damage Per Turn) it is a system that does not translate well outside of the action card - combat mechanic and thereby creates a system where a guy is climbing the most impossible mountain in the world.  Well he has enough dice to pull it off no matter what.  Unfortunately, for the GM, the mountain does not get to roll back on its initiative to slow or stop his climb.  That is the problem I have with the way the dice express themselves which has nothing to do with combat, it is that combat is the only system truly designed for the game and everything else seems secondary.  Some people play that way and there is nothing wrong with it, I do not. 



#14 gruntl

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 08:47 PM

commoner said:

  This is why I call the system "broken" not in terms of what the players can do, but in the fact at high levels this system has no need of dice, period (except in combat to arbitrate damage), in a game with a written high focus on combat (we have an entire stance tracker that is really designed to combat, the rules going as far to say, in story mode, well, just skip it or maybe give them one).  With 8 dice, three yellow, and 1 white against 4 purple and a black, the chances of banes are non-existent, all they will ultimately do is simply subtract boons. 

The case you present here is not very interesting in my opinion. This is a rank 3 PC with all advances spent on being good at one single thing (assuming a starting char of 5, it will cost 6+7+8 = 21, just to get a characteristic of 8). If the player really really want to be good at this one thing I think it's fine if he has a success rate of 90+% even on the hardest of tasks. He has made a choice which makes him into a specialist, he will be weak in many other areas.

The chance of banes might be low, but the chance of getting one or more chaos stars on the 4<P> test is ~40%. He might succeed, but what else? Maybe he succeeds to sneak past all those guards, but stumbles outside and an alarm is raised.

Ultimately, if the situation is very dramatic and you want a real chance of failure to exist, maybe use an opposed roll or set the it up as a non-combat encounter (which will allow stance dice, but also allow the opponents to make actions). I do not agree on your statement that the stance tracker is designed for combat, it's designed for encounters. I find it a bit hard to construct non-combat encounters, but the rules support it (check the encounters in Hedgewizards, scenario A Shadow Falls for some great examples).

One thing you could do is to use a one-time "progress tracker". Let's use your sneak example, first you decide that the PC has time to do 3 checks before discovery is certain. Then you say that the PC needs to have 7 progress steps to escape, each *S* and *B* lets him move one step, each *C* moves one step and provides a [W] on subsequent checks, each {B} moves one step back and each chaos star moves the progress back 2 steps and adds a <P> to subsequent checks (another guard comes wandering in).

Use the (in my opinion quite overpowered) dice pool above (rolling in the dice roller):

Roll 1: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 1[W], 4<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 2*B*, 1*C*
=> moves 3 steps and 1 extra [W]

Roll 2: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 2[W], 4<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 1*S*,1*B*,1{S}
=> moves 2-2=0 steps and adds one <P>

Roll 3: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 2[W], 5<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 3*S*, 1*B*, 1*C*, 1{S}
=> moves 5-2=3 steps (and adds some dice, but no more checks can be made)

The PC got 6 steps, and thus he failed to sneak out. Of course, if you really want to use these kind of progress check you have to try them out before. I think the system can be used very well to construct exciting and challenging non-combat checks, it just requires a lot more work than rolling a d100 vs 44%.

Of course, the easy way if you really want to make things hard on the PCs is just to add misfortune. If you have your sneaky git above trying to sneak past a group of alert guards (4 of them), warranting a base difficulty of 4<P>,  each guard has 3 cunning which is all spent, that results in 12 [B] added, success is far from guaranteed. Rolling 100 times I get a success rate of 24%.



#15 commoner

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 09:42 AM

gruntl said:

commoner said:

 

  This is why I call the system "broken" not in terms of what the players can do, but in the fact at high levels this system has no need of dice, period (except in combat to arbitrate damage), in a game with a written high focus on combat (we have an entire stance tracker that is really designed to combat, the rules going as far to say, in story mode, well, just skip it or maybe give them one).  With 8 dice, three yellow, and 1 white against 4 purple and a black, the chances of banes are non-existent, all they will ultimately do is simply subtract boons. 

 

 

The case you present here is not very interesting in my opinion. This is a rank 3 PC with all advances spent on being good at one single thing (assuming a starting char of 5, it will cost 6+7+8 = 21, just to get a characteristic of 8). If the player really really want to be good at this one thing I think it's fine if he has a success rate of 90+% even on the hardest of tasks. He has made a choice which makes him into a specialist, he will be weak in many other areas.

The chance of banes might be low, but the chance of getting one or more chaos stars on the 4<P> test is ~40%. He might succeed, but what else? Maybe he succeeds to sneak past all those guards, but stumbles outside and an alarm is raised.

Ultimately, if the situation is very dramatic and you want a real chance of failure to exist, maybe use an opposed roll or set the it up as a non-combat encounter (which will allow stance dice, but also allow the opponents to make actions). I do not agree on your statement that the stance tracker is designed for combat, it's designed for encounters. I find it a bit hard to construct non-combat encounters, but the rules support it (check the encounters in Hedgewizards, scenario A Shadow Falls for some great examples).

One thing you could do is to use a one-time "progress tracker". Let's use your sneak example, first you decide that the PC has time to do 3 checks before discovery is certain. Then you say that the PC needs to have 7 progress steps to escape, each *S* and *B* lets him move one step, each *C* moves one step and provides a [W] on subsequent checks, each {B} moves one step back and each chaos star moves the progress back 2 steps and adds a <P> to subsequent checks (another guard comes wandering in).

Use the (in my opinion quite overpowered) dice pool above (rolling in the dice roller):

Roll 1: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 1[W], 4<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 2*B*, 1*C*
=> moves 3 steps and 1 extra [W]

Roll 2: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 2[W], 4<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 1*S*,1*B*,1{S}
=> moves 2-2=0 steps and adds one <P>

Roll 3: 8 <B>, 3(Y), 2[W], 5<P>, 1 [B]
Result: 3*S*, 1*B*, 1*C*, 1{S}
=> moves 5-2=3 steps (and adds some dice, but no more checks can be made)

The PC got 6 steps, and thus he failed to sneak out. Of course, if you really want to use these kind of progress check you have to try them out before. I think the system can be used very well to construct exciting and challenging non-combat checks, it just requires a lot more work than rolling a d100 vs 44%.

Of course, the easy way if you really want to make things hard on the PCs is just to add misfortune. If you have your sneaky git above trying to sneak past a group of alert guards (4 of them), warranting a base difficulty of 4<P>,  each guard has 3 cunning which is all spent, that results in 12 [B] added, success is far from guaranteed. Rolling 100 times I get a success rate of 24%.

Some of your points here are not that bad actually Gruntl.  I know this has largely been addressed from the standpoint of high level stat dumping, but there are many ways for PC in this system to absolutely mitigate his power-curve rather than stat dumping.  And the argument that leveling Advancement Points being the restriction is hardly a case for the dice mechanic being "flawless".  The problem is still there, simply masked by the limitations of play frequency, which not all groups play the same.  This also does become highly problematic to play beyond rank 3 since "free advancement" points need to be given to adjust for the power curve.  Six dice + 2 yellow dice and 3 stance conversions is enough to overpower the game rather quickly. 

Fact is, this type of high level game (rank 3 and beyond) will be plagued not only by huge stats, but it will also yield mega-dice pools.  For a simple sneak check, as you propose above, you need to roll at the minimum (assuming no white dice or yellow dice) 24 dice to resolve a single sneak check.  Your use of cunning was well, cunning, here, but at the same time seems to be a needless complication to a system simply to arbitrate the mechanic.  I do also like your use of tracker and maybe my example was poor, but the tracker is a decent way to mitigate these high rolls as well, no dispute there.  Again, it does prove my point that the system is designed of throwing successes at successes and see who rolls the most successes, be this an opposed roll or a series of you go, I go rolls.    To that point, I think sneaking past four guards would be a contested roll meaning the guards would only offer 1 purple (sneak versus spotting), but honestly that is just knit picking if you ask me. 

 



#16 42!

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 08:00 PM

I'm wondering if it would be an idea to "upgrade" misfortune dice to challenge dice when you have enough of them.

IE. you can never roll more than 3 misfortune dice (just an example number) and if something would add more then 3 of them gets changed into a challenge die. Obviously this means fewer banes can be rolled but also less dice to roll and higher difficulty.

Just a thought....



#17 TonyACT

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 09:45 AM

42! said:

I'm wondering if it would be an idea to "upgrade" misfortune dice to challenge dice when you have enough of them.

IE. you can never roll more than 3 misfortune dice (just an example number) and if something would add more then 3 of them gets changed into a challenge die. Obviously this means fewer banes can be rolled but also less dice to roll and higher difficulty.

Just a thought....

I think this is always an option for the GM - who is the final arbiter of how much challenge the task represents.  I know I would be thinking that another challenge die might be appropriate if so many misfortune dice were required - and maybe a misfortune or two as well - this is the Warhammer world after all



#18 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 03:09 AM

42! said:

I'm wondering if it would be an idea to "upgrade" misfortune dice to challenge dice when you have enough of them.

IE. you can never roll more than 3 misfortune dice (just an example number)

Seems like a good idea to me.

 

Looking at the math of it all, 1 Challenge die is roughly equal to 2.5 Misfortune dice. So you might do it as if you get to 5 black dice, you swap them for 2 purple.

If you were using any of the various optional rules people have proposed on the forums for making Chaos Stars nastier, that would push the purple die closer to being equal to 3 black.






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