Why I think combat is less exciting in v4

The enemy lurks in shadows
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ExReey
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I've been playing a WFRP 4 campaign for months now, and I finally realised why combat was more exciting for our players in v2, compared to v4!


In v2, every attack roll was exciting because every roll counts, all players are watching when you roll, and everyone knows exactly what your chances are: when I have WS 35, everyone watching knows my chances, and cheers when I roll 25 and hit the enemy; same when I roll +35 and fail to hit.

In v4, a lot of that excitement is taken away: I roll against my WS of 35, but when I roll 25, or 75, it doesn't mean a thing: everything depends on the (secret) opposing roll of the GM. So let's say I attack and roll 25, instead of cheering everyone looks at the GM: he does his secret roll and says "oke you hit for 2 SL". Same when I make a very bad roll, it all depends on a secret roll.
So the players don't even know what their chances are, or if it was a close roll or not! Every single attack is now (partially) a hidden roll, and the GM tells us the result, which takes away ALOT of the excitement.

Even having the GM make all rolls visible (and not secret) wouldn't solve the problem, because the players don't know the enemy's stats. And showing all enemy combat stats to the players is not something you want to do...

Does anyone recognize this problem? How do you deal with it?
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Chuck
Power Behind the Throne
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Playing 4e I do wonder whether whiff factor is preferable to Success Levels in combat. I'm still not sure -- some problems are solved, some problems are introduced. But I've never enjoyed combat, as a player or GM. That's not only WFRP though, I've always thought combat was the least enjoyable, most mechanical portion of any RPG.
Whymme
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Yeah. I could start a thread "Why combat is less exciting - period" :-)
Generally, in most RPGs it's where the storytelling ends and where the players start thinking in terms of tactical positioning, action economy, and so on, instead of in terms of the story.
I like what Feng Shui does in that regard; there, even in combat it puts the story center stage, and mechanics are less important.
Herr Arnulfe
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I try to roll the NPCs' attacks or defenses first and announce the result e.g. "-3 SL to parry". That way the players have an idea of what number they're aiming for when they roll.
ExReey
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Herr Arnulfe wrote:
Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:02 am
I try to roll the NPCs' attacks or defenses first and announce the result e.g. "-3 SL to parry". That way the players have an idea of what number they're aiming for when they roll.
Hey, that's an awesome idea!
yoroba
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When I'm GM'ing, I roll at the same time as the players (with us having different colored dice). This improves the feel of rolling "against" eachother. It works great. Lots of good tension. Much better than old versions IMO.
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Orin J.
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While you aren't wrong, that's really a symptom of the problem- which is that the contested rolls are painfully swingy. Due to the way they built the system even a small advantage is quicklu overwhelming due to both the SLs system and the nature of single-die rolloffs. The result is either the GM lets the combat turn into mathhammer the moment ONE of the players starts gaming the system or they keep everything behind the curtian to maintain the illusion of control by fudging the numbers to avoid random lucky rolls snowball and roll over the entire party.
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Toby Pilling
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It is interesting that combat - something that should be exciting and fast-paced - can become so dull in loads of RPGs. I never got to play it properly, but I always wondered whether 3rd edition had it right, in that as soon as combat starts you sort of switch into another game, bringing in all the cards and tactical play. Of course, it enormously slows down the proceedings, though.

However, with regards to the original poster - I prefer 4th edition combat due to it getting rid of the constant parry or dodge rolls.

Toby
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Wyrmslayer
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It looks like our group are having our final session with 4th edition tonight. We played a bunch at a table, then jumped online when the pandemic hit. Initially with a dice roller before going all in using Foundry.

It does feel like the system would be great, for a video game. Where all the maths is handled off stage. The SL's for the attacker compared to the SL's for the defender, then remembering there's a talent that modifies their SL, and a distracting weapon that modifies the opponents.
A lot of seemingly rules heavy systems get easy after a while, with familiarity and practice. This one only gets a little smoother but that learning curve never quite arcs down far enough for comfort.

I lucked out with the advantage metagame. with some of the martial characters splitting their xp across more than one melee-skill, and getting expensive talents. My humble rat-catcher just put up his WS and melee-basic. He's only just started the third tier of that career and he's sitting at about 70% to hit and defend. Has become a joke that he ends a scrap untouched. When the heavily armoured and wider skilled fighters have taken some damage and my chap remains unscathed for the upteenth time, is clear that simply having a higher % is the winning way to go and to forget about all the characterful ways a fighter can round themselves out.

Maybe 5th edition will do better.
yoroba
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That does sound like a bummer Wyrdslayer, but I see nothing against houseruling a bit here. Maybe you can only get such and such stat so high, if you have such and such stat this high. Thus forcing the players to spread out their XP.
Herr Arnulfe
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Wyrmslayer wrote:
Thu Jun 23, 2022 8:06 am
It does feel like the system would be great, for a video game. Where all the maths is handled off stage. The SL's for the attacker compared to the SL's for the defender, then remembering there's a talent that modifies their SL, and a distracting weapon that modifies the opponents.
A lot of seemingly rules heavy systems get easy after a while, with familiarity and practice. This one only gets a little smoother but that learning curve never quite arcs down far enough for comfort.
I houseruled Advantage so that you only gain it for inflicting damage, and Advantage bonuses apply only to attack rolls (not defense rolls or skill tests). This is more consistent IMO with the 1e "winning" rule that inspired the Advantage system in the first place. When playtesting stuff for C7 we revert temporarily to the RAW Advantage system but it always feels a bit jarring. I'd prefer less abstraction and more tactical choices for all that bonus-tracking effort, maybe some cool maneuvers that you can spend Advantage on? Using minis & poker chips helps with tracking Advantage. I agree that combat Talents, Traits & weapon qualities never quite become rote with experience.
Zisse
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Have you tried the group advantage rules from Up in Arms? I have not yet, but I read several comments that it solves at least some of the issues of the advantage rules.
Herr Arnulfe
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Zisse wrote:
Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:33 am
Have you tried the group advantage rules from Up in Arms? I have not yet, but I read several comments that it solves at least some of the issues of the advantage rules.
I haven't used Group Advantage yet because it's even more abstract than the core system and we normally use minis for combat. For example, we didn't feel it was appropriate to give the rogue combat buffs against cultists when fighting 3 rooms away from where the Dwarf is fighting a Chaos Warrior. If the rogue becomes cut off from the tank in a combat, he's on his own.

Tracking Advantage with minis and streamlined houserules isn't a problem anyway. However, Group Advantage certainly looks easier to track if you aren't using minis & tokens, so we'll be using it for any "theatre of the mind" combats in the future. We have used a couple of the special maneuvers, even though they're designed for Group Advantage.
macd21
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Herr Arnulfe wrote:
Mon Jul 04, 2022 9:35 am
Zisse wrote:
Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:33 am
Have you tried the group advantage rules from Up in Arms? I have not yet, but I read several comments that it solves at least some of the issues of the advantage rules.
I haven't used Group Advantage yet because it's even more abstract than the core system and we normally use minis for combat. For example, we didn't feel it was appropriate to give the rogue combat buffs against cultists when fighting 3 rooms away from where the Dwarf is fighting a Chaos Warrior. If the rogue becomes cut off from the tank in a combat, he's on his own.
Just treat those as two separate combats. If you’re not in one group, you can’t use group advantage.
Herr Arnulfe
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macd21 wrote:
Fri Jul 08, 2022 5:29 am
Just treat those as two separate combats. If you’re not in one group, you can’t use group advantage.
If the fight had started with the PCs separated, that's probably what I would do. In this case, they'd started the fight together but the rogue stayed behind searching and freeing prisoners while the Dwarf forged ahead. Plus we weren't really looking for excuses to use Group Advantage because our CRB houserules work well. Advantage now reflects momentum and speeds up combats rather than buffing defenders and attackers equally.
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Hyarion
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ExReey wrote: In v2, every attack roll was exciting because every roll counts, all players are watching when you roll, and everyone knows exactly what your chances are: when I have WS 35, everyone watching knows my chances, and cheers when I roll 25 and hit the enemy; same when I roll +35 and fail to hit.
....
Even having the GM make all rolls visible (and not secret) wouldn't solve the problem, because the players don't know the enemy's stats. And showing all enemy combat stats to the players is not something you want to do...
I'm afraid I'm not understanding your problem.

From your post, it sounds like you/your group really likes the unchanging nature of 2e's success threshhold. Johan has a WS of 35, he rolls under 35, the attack is successful, otherwise it's not. This has (at least) 2 flaws. One, you're still waiting for the Ungor to decide to dodge or parry. It waits until Johan's attack succeeds or fails before deciding to parry (for this example). 4e just takes that sequential series of rolls and rolls them in parallel. The second flaw is that it is just as easy for Johan (WS35) to hit a Gnoblar (WS15) as it is to hit a Bloodletter (WS50) which is very silly.

All of this is further compounded by the fact that even in real life, you can only guess at the martial prowess of anybody until you actually see them fight (you can guess, but there's no certainty, and even then there's luck or special circumstances).
- Case in point 1: Spiderman, Tobey Maguire vs Randy Savage. We the movie audience know the surprise in store for Randy Savage, but the wrestling announcer/audience certainly does not.
- Case in point 2: Princess Bride, Westley vs Inigo: "There's something I ought to tell you. I'm not left handed either." Enough said.
- Case in point 3: Conan the Destroyer. Conan vs the Thoth-Amon. Weapons aren't always what you need to win.
- Case in point 4: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy vs the Arab Swordsman. Even then, sometimes you can just misjudge somebody.
So while I agree with you that player's shouldn't know with any degree of certainty what the enemy's stats are, they should be able to size up their opponents, be bluffed, and bluff their enemies in return.

Compare that to 4e, you know that if you are fighting a weak enemy and you roll even a moderate number of DoS, then you'll get a hit (unless you're being bluffed). Likewise, if you roll a moderate to high number of DoF against a (seemingly) skilled opponent, you're going to lose. That would seem to provide the same amount of certainty as in 2e, while waiting to see if the Ungor is going to dodge or parry.
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