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Defensive Fighting or Opposed Checks

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 Hello all,

Didn't know whether to post my question here or on the rules questions - some guidance is more than welcome.

As a long-term WFRP GM we are getting our first games of v3 under our belts. I was looking at the combat rules again, with the Target Defence which I found out in the meanwhile what it means. And quite some remarks on this forum that combat is so over-deadly, for both sides. Lots of people get creative with the ACE system, I know, but still…

Now I was also looking at the rules from The Burning Wheel - and I have to say that quite some concepts seems 'borrowed' from that game. But when looking at the combat system there I couldn't think but: did they totally skip the defensive actions in WFRPv3? Ok, you have the active defense cards, but what about really fighting defensively? If I am in a conservative stance, equipped with a shield, having Weaponskill trained twice and Strength 5 this should give me some more than a black or a purple die (purple for the advanced block/parry). Where are the opposed checks? Because weapon skill training should keep snotlings from splitting my skull, right?

And then I broadened up on that question: where are those opposed checks for non-combat? it seems like the game designers needed something simple so they resolved this with varying the amount of purple dice based on the relative level of players. But once you get to the higher levels 3 purple dice are not that hard anymore.

Am I missing something here or would more decent opposed checks resolve quite some issues people have posted on these forums? Is the A/C/E system too simplistic and only balanced at rank 1-2 and almost useless above that level?

And what would a simple fix be? Take the combat example above. As a Bretonnian knight I am fighting an Orc. Would it be a possible fix if:

- During my action I assemble my dice pool based on my profile.

- I leave out a few dice (of my choosing) and put them aside for my defense.

- Then I hit the Orc with my remaining attack dice. Assume for simplicity that the Orc uses all his dice for the attack (a reckless stance in that case).

- When the Orc tries to hit me he rolls his own attack dice. Assume 2 hammers and an eagle as a result.

- Then I roll my defense pool. Each hammer counters a hammer, each eagle counters an eagle and so forth.

This does not seem over-complicated, is it? We still base this on dice pools, they are simply used in a different way.

Am I on to something interesting here or am I seeing problems where in reality there is no real issue? 

Thanks in advance


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It seems reasonable to hold on to a couple dice and use them for defense, but check out your statistics and see how much you actually want to alter them.  Typical chance to hit/get hit is 86%, so then all that really matters is soak.

If you do the math on how often a character takes a hit, having IMPROVED dodge/parry/or block helps, but it doesn't knock it down a ton unless the GM is simply not using ACE dice.  You can test out your chances of success and tailor them to what you think it appropriate:



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 You have defensive fighting already in the game. It's simulated by the action Guarded position (basic) and Improved guarded position. Both of these are excellent cards that the PC's can use to give themselves extra defense.

We haven't really reached the epic ranks yet, so I'm not sure if things become very broken at that point. One idea would be to give really high rank PC's abilties similar to what the most dangerous monsters have, that add challenge dice to any checks targeting them.

Your ideas of a shared dice pool for attack and defense kind of makes sense, but I'm guessing that they might already have tried that approach during playtesting. I can't spot any obvious problems with it though. 

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HI all, 

I played a bit with these dice probabilities (i'm this exact kind of guy - sorry it's my daytime job) and discovered that the closest thing what I want to do is the "testing mettle" action card. You can use it to remove (yellow) dice out of your dice pool to increase your defense value. What I have seen is that replacing a yellow or blue die from your dice pool corresponds somewhat with increasing your defense value by 1 - so that's some rough mathematical support for that single card. I'll spare you the math and approximations - scientifically it won't make a lot of sense. 

So no need for extensive house-rules, more a variant of this action card that I will hand out to each NPC that has to fight defensively. And perhaps a "social encouter" variant as well. It's a nice variant on the A/C/E pool that does not need so much tracking. When attacked the NPC can reduce the stats for this round but replace them by black dice - call it a per-round pool. 

The Testing Mettle card was somewhat unique within that set of about 80 melee action cards. The case where a skilled Bretonnian knight is mainly fighting in a defensive style to get the damsel safely out is not really foreseen. The game is geared more towards killing the heretic knight so the mutant witch won't escape. 

Thanks for the input guys.


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Basic hit probability is indeed high in WFRP v3.

To fight the Defensive fight you need A LOT of Active defences. Things like Celerity, for example, and of course Improved or advanced versions of the Active defences. Use two of those cards EACH round and you might just avoid getting hurt badly. You will probably get hit and take 2 or 3 Wounds, though.

To REALLY play defensive, you need to be with comrades and have someone use Improved Guarded position on top of your Active defences. You might be able to total 2 Purple and 2 Blacks, with this. Add to that 2 Blacks for Shield and Armour and you definitely have something going. The opponent will add the 1 Purple basic difficulty + say 2 Blacks for his action card… Total 3 Purple 6 Blacks. Most enemies won't hit you then.

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Yeah I have made it my goal to try and create a balanced fighter character that is capable of delivering good damage but also put up a stout defense. To do so I went ahead with the Swordmaster action cards combined with some Zweihander for offense and some improved defenses. We'll see how it works out. :)

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I am mulling over allowing to convert unused Successes or Boons to improve Defence…

So a very good Attack gives you an Edge, or can give you an edge if you save some successes instead of using them in the result.



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Below is the text from page 55 in the Player's Guide. Personally, I find that messing around trinkety boons every single round gets to be a little bit too much accounting.  Star Wars can pull it off because it is a much less advanced game (simplified/dumbed-down) than WFRP3.  A player brought it up our last game, but I'm keeping ours at:  2 boons/2banes minimum. 

 “Freestyle” Banes & Boons
At times, banes or boons will be generated on a check without a clear and unambiguous way to spend them, particularly on skill
checks that are not based on a specific action card or uses of the flexible Perform a Stunt action. Leaving banes and boons unspent
may be perfectly acceptable, but for some rolls where the dramatic impact of the result of the check is strong (but the possible results
aren’t strictly defined) the GM and players may prefer to ensure that each symbol has an impact.
There are any number of possible effects for banes or boons— results that are related to and contextualise the success or failureof the task, but rarely overshadow success or failure itself. Perhaps an attempt to climb a wall that generates boons gives the character a good look into the garden beyond, revealing a vital clue. Perhaps banes on a Guile check attract attention from the local thieves’ guild. There are any number of story-related ways to use banes and boons as inspiration to drive the narrative.
There are also a wide variety of mechanical effects that banes and boons can generate. What follows is a list of possible bane and boon
effects. This list is not at all comprehensive, and should be used merely as a guideline. As a GM and the players grow more comfortable with the system, finding interesting ways to interpret banes and boons becomes second nature.
pic1521645.pngSuffer a Δ misfortune die to your next attempt at the task or
next related task
pic1521645.pngGrant a Δ fortune die to your opponent’s next action
pic1521645.pngSuffer fatigue or stress
pic1521645.pngLose your free manoeuvre on this or your next turn
pic1521645.pngDrop your weapon or other item
pic1521645.pngDraw the attention of the enemy
pic1521645.png Decrease the quality of success, if the check is successful (less
damage, reduced magnitude)
pic1521645.png Worsen the effects of failure, if the check fails (opposite of
desired effect)
pic1521649.pngGain a Δ fortune die on your next attempt at the task or next
related task
pic1521649.pngGrant a Δ fortune die to an ally
pic1521649.pngInflict a Δ misfortune die on an enemy
pic1521649.png Recover fatigue or stress
pic1521649.png Gain a free manoeuvre
pic1521649.pngIncrease the quality of success, if the check is successful (critical
effect, additional target)
pic1521649.png Ameliorate the effects of failure, if the check fails (status quo

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Duplicate post, so I'll come up with some new ideas.  below is my actual chart for chaos stars and sigmar's comets:



GM’s Suggested Effects for Unresolved Star or Comet (PG:57)


Chaos Star Effect  pic1521700.png

1.        PERSONAL Fall prone or drop an important item or weapon. Make a fool of yourself (shame or stress). BLACK DAMAGE SUBJECT render them impossible (i.e. break a lock you were attempting to pick, if you also failed the check; get ejected from court for offending a powerful noble, etc.)  BLACK Suffer severe penalties (one purple or more) to figure related tasks or

2.        ENVIRONMENT Suffer an environmental mishap, such as falling from a high place, breaking through ice, or spraining an ankle on debris (fall prone)

3.        TERRAIN Discover a new or unexpected hazard or enemy, suffer the effects of worsening conditions (weather, mud, etc.) or otherwise advance the story to the detriment of the active player.

4.        FATIGUE/STRESS draw crit, suffer that much stress/fatg, Suffer a large amount of fatigue or stress (1-3 short of unconsciousness) – or gain a Condition!  SUFFER CRITICAL FATIGUE (lasts all scenario or until extended rest)

5.        WOUND  Suffer a wound or convert a normal wound to a critical. Past misdeeds catch up to you:  gain corruption

6.        ENEMY/DISPOSITION: Make an enemy or attract the attention of foes. Foe gains Frenzied condition.

7.        PARTY Cause two members of your party a misfortune.

8.        ITEM Weapon or item gains the Damaged condition or lose your free maneuver or Stack two conditions or the same condition twice (if stackable)


10.     Roll and gain a random condition or two or PLAYERS SUGGEST.


Random Item Chart

Roll d20: 1. Armor, 2. Shield, 3. Special, 4. Weapon, Melee; 5. Weapon, Ranged; 6. Weapon, Ranged, Ammo; 7. Academic & Bureaucratic, 8. Arcane, 9. General Equipment, 10. Clothing, 11. Military, 12. Divine, 13. Food & Alcohol, 14. Hand Tool, 15. Illumination, 16. Medical & Herbal, 17. Rogue, 18. Shelter, Retreats, & Property, 19. Transportation, 20. Chartered Services or race-specific item


For the second roll, roll a d20 and estimate an appropriate item (you don’t need to count exactly). Consider that what is found may be incomplete, a written credit, broken, or simply a letter or adventure lead instead.

Sigmar’s Comet Effect (in addition to critical PG p.57)  pic1521660.png

1.        Cause critical effect or extra progress on a progress tracker

2.        Gain yellow or blue to a future related task or confer bonus to ally

3.        Receive aid from unexpected source, make new ally

4.        Open a new avenue of approach, reveal an unsuspected information source, or otherwise advance the story for the benefit of the player. OR all positive effects on the card occur.

5.        Recover 2 fatigue and 2 stress or cause armor damage to opponent. OR gain a free maneuver.

6.        Cause a foe to suffer an environmental mishap, such as knocking him off a bridge or dropping a chandelier on him.

7.        Reveal an OMEN, lose a corruption point, or other similar.

8.        Opponent drops a weapon or shield (maneuver to recover); or you become Attuned to your item (bonus white) for the remainder of the act.

9.        Opponent’s weapon or armor gains the damaged condition.

10.     Regain a fortune point or Other positive effect (Players Suggest!). ALLY regains a fortune point.


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Are you feeling like combat is too deadly? Do you not want PCs and NPCs to hit each other?

Instead of using the default difficulty of 1, making combat (vs Defense) checks be opposed checks will, generally, make attacks more difficult. A 3 ST vs 3 ST will have a default difficulty of 2d, instead of 1d.  Attacking larger creatures, with ST of 6+ will lead to usually 3d or potentially 4d for all except the most maxxed characters. The only time that combat gets easier, is if the attacker has 2x or more ST/AG than the defender, where the difficulty becomes 0d, although you could just house rule a minimum difficulty of 1d for combat.

Additionally, you could add in an additional misfortune for each level of training in the appropriate skill the defender has. WS for melee, Coordination for ranged.


As a last option, that is slightly more time-consuming, is to ignore difficulty entirely. Both attacker and defender roll a dice pool. No challenge dice are added to the pool (or potentially rolled, but only for the purposes of a chaos star, all other results are ignored). Defense dice, instead of giving the attacker misfortune, give the defender fortune dice.  The attacker then compares their number of success vs the number of successes the defender rolls. I.e the defender's successes cancel out the attacker's successes. (boons cancel boons)

This is more time consuming, because many more dice are rolled. It will probably give a "truer" skill vs skill element to combat, though.

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Thanks for the input everyone. 

I have recently started a mini-campaign with a group of veran WFRP2 players before starting with TEW2. I'm using the RAW for this mini-campaign and will ask the players whether they feel that changes to the combat rules (or anything else) will be necessary or not. I'll put some deadly combats into it as well just to see what happens. 

It's a 6-player group so modifications have to be really simple and I would like it to be fast as well. Making it an opposed check seems a good way, along with adding the misfortune die for ranks in WS. 



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