WFRP 4 analysis

Cubicle 7 // 2018
CapnZapp
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I am deeply frustrated with 4E in many respects. In order to know how to proceed I need to make clear what I like and what I want. Posting this here if anyone else has any relevant thoughts.

Please don't defend Cubicle 7. The aim of this post is to sort out my thoughts, not battle self-appointed shining knights defending C7's honour. That is, if you want to offer an alternative take on individual points, I'm willing to listen. If all you want is argue why C7 is so much better at creating rules than I am, this is not the thread for you.



Concepts I hate
Dwarves/Elves being so much better than Humans/Halflings. I don't want to have effectively level three characters in my level one party.

The idea that NPCs don't get access to the special abilities of PCs. For example: an NPC Cat Burglar should definitely be able to have the same Alley Cat Talent available to thieving PCs.

The default implementation of Advantage - what were they smoking when they decided a creature could quickly gain +100% to attacks?!

Armour crit negation, since this makes armour a must-have. This is a most unwelcome shift compared to how 1E/2E made armour "nice" but far from essential

The split between unopposed +20 Tests and opposed +0 Tests: I want to just ask my players to make a Test without having to tell them if they get +20 or not. The rule should make it the DMs internal business to decide whether a result of -1 SL is good enough and/or the Test is important enough that an opposed roll is mandated. Do note: the idea that you generally succeed even if you fail by less than 20 is reasonable. I just don't want the players to have to adjust what SL they report.

I want all kinds of characters to be able to participate in dangerous adventuring (ie combat), not just the Warriors. Being stronger, faster and more skilled is already advantage enough. Looking at NPCs, the difference between "civilians" and "soldiers" is perhaps reasonable, but when it comes to player characters they're adventurers first, and civilians or soldiers only second. I consider every edition of WFRP to fail in the way it allows some characters to use much better weapons, and get two or even three attacks; while others are stuck with hand weapons and the single attack.

Loads of special rules and exceptions in weapon qualities

Loads of special rules and exceptions in monster traits

Loads of special rules and exceptions in critical hits

The notion that spellcasters should suck and that anything more than a basic zap spell should require you to spend rounds channeling

The "fantasy battle" heritage of WFRP magic sucks donkey balls. Specifically, I detest the idea that

Spellcasters must be college-educated, and that there's only one set of colleges, and that they're all based in Altdorf

A spellcaster is either an Uber-Elf or restricted to just one colour of magic

Complicated, incomplete monster stats

Bretonnia past 1st Edition


Concepts I don't like
That WS/BS now is of supreme importance, relegating Strength/Agility to secondary status

That Agility was split into Dex, Agility and Initiative with no effort to rebalance the full set of characteristics, making Dex the ultimate dump stat if you're lucky not to need Dex for your concept

Meta-concepts such as Motivations; having to come up with "short term goals" to get your points back (Bonus XP, Resolve, etc)

That having just a single +1 Advance counts as being proficient in a skill.

Lots of niggly -10's and +10's modifying everything

Lax "help other" bonuses. Players should not routinely say "I help her" and expect to get a bonus to the test. Tests are generally calibrated for the case when one hero steps up and attempts the test.
Sure, some tests assume multiple people, but that's the exception and not the rule. For instance, if you need to remove a fallen tree to be able to keep moving, the Test difficulty already from the start assumes a single character can't do it and that several people will help out. In this case, helping out bonuses are reasonable.

Absolutes. Abilities that say "you can't be surprised" or "you attack before everyone else" or "you can't be spotted" or somesuch. They need all to be replaced with a generous bonus that still allows uncertainty.

Rules that take away the GMs final authority to decide whether you succeed or fail. No rule should allow a player to point to the rulebook and say "it says here I do it, you can't tell me I can't". Believe me, I can

Advantage, a number we have to track for every PC and every NPC

A lack of easy and simple-to-remember rules governing "try again". Any time you're allowed to just try again next round, there must be a cost or risk. If there isn't there must be a limit on retries. Otherwise the action should simply be resolved as "you succeed eventually".

How some tests interact with Success Levels. (Fear, Fatigue, the list goes on) A test that requires you to get 2 SLs is not twice as difficult as a test requiring 1 SL. The much more sensible implementation is to count successes (each round you succeed means "+1") and when you reach 2 you're done.

How fear is only fearsome if the enemy comes closer

Too many combat modifiers are too large and/or too easy to come by.

Size modifications complicated and hard to remember

Encumbrance

Don't use money or encumbrance as a balance factor!

Movement. On one hand, if movement is a cost, combat becomes static and boring. On the other hand, being able to move much and still do your action before the opponent is simply too much. The nature of turn-based combat means you should get to move for free, but only a little. (If you want to make a longer or more elaborate move, that's your action for the round). If this means combat rounds can't realistically be 10 seconds long anymore, so be it.

Charging. Just downing one foe and engaging the next should not count as a charge. A charge is running towards a foe screaming.

Armour and shields too good

Dual wielding too complicated

Random risk of getting a Bleeding critical that will kill you if you don't have magic or medic (or Resolve). I dislike that the rules doesn't seem to care about the fate of hapless NPCs

That Initiative is non-random. I want every player to have at least a small chance of getting to experience their character going first, being able to set the tactics for that encounter. No player should be able to count on going 100% before the nasty monster in the corner. (At least there's ready-made options for this one)

Falling damage too realistic. Any game that wants characters to do rooftop chases need to make sure players don't avoid rooftops!

There are way too many spells basically zapping you

There are too few "interesting" or "atmospheric" or non-combat spells

The notion that counterspelling is free and effective. Counterspelling should be an interesting tactical consideration, not a wet blanket on wizard effectiveness. If you want magic users "dueling" this is not how to implement it

The lousy "game fun" value of criticals. 2E sucked because any crit above maybe 2 was too lethal (you basically always spent a Fate point if you had one). 4E sucks because there's too little differentiation between a "small" crit and a "big" crit.

Not all wizards should be assumed to be "battle wizards" trained in Weapon Skill. Not all religious careers force you into using magic, and there should be easy options for the "bookish" wizard.


Concepts I don't especially like but can live with

The 4E career framework (I loved the career network of 1/2E)

The 1 point advances

The advance XP costs

That some Talents are worthless while others are extremely good

Introducing Resilience/Resolve

Not separating between mental corruption (=insanity) and physical corruption (=mutations)

Loads of special rules and exceptions in talents

Making spellcasting into a language test

Price lists that make no sense :)


Concepts I like

The fact opposed tests reduce the number of combat rounds. 4E did do away with "whiffiness".

Endeavours

The social status of careers

That not all religious characters are assumed to use magic

That WFRP remains a percentage-based and skill-based game
Last edited by CapnZapp on Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
magnus the flyest
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Sounds like this isn't the system for you.
Clint
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:12 pm

magnus the flyest wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:12 pm
Sounds like this isn't the system for you.
This. Personally I love almost everything in the book. Seems like you dislike most of it, so I think you should stick to 2nd, and maybe introduce the few concepts you like, as they don't seem to interfere with the 2nd Ed rules too much.
MasterBeard
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CapnZapp wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:18 am
Rules that take away the GMs final authority to decide whether you succeed or fail. No rule should allow a player to point to the rulebook and say "it says here I do it, you can't tell me I can't". Believe me, I can
Since I don't have the book yet, can you give me an example or two of that thing? It's the first thing to go when I houserule if it is what it sounds like.
Then again, my players are reasonable so I doubt that they would try to force that rule.
makrellen
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:01 am

I generally agree with everything you wrote - thanks for taking the time to spell this out.

There are 5 things in particular that made 4th ed a dealbraker for me:
CapnZapp wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:18 am
Loads of special rules and exceptions in weapon qualities

Loads of special rules and exceptions in monster traits

Loads of special rules and exceptions in critical hits

Complicated, incomplete monster stat

Advantage, a number we have to track for every PC and every NPC

As a GM the last thing I need is to be a living game manual. I want to focus on being a living game world instead. So every thing I need to track or every special case I need to look-up takes time away from what I want to focus on.

And if C7 had looked around at other systems they could have found multiple elegant solutions that didn´t require more GM table-time to manage.
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skerrigan
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I've run WFRP4e once, and it was fun. I like the system more or less, and if you like 2e I think 4e's material is easily converted back, at least compared to 3e.

Skills work better in 4e than 2e - where a Perception Skill check without the skill gives a PC about a 10-20% chance of success.

Advantage - seems to me if you don't like it don't use it! But also don't forget that there is a rule that lets you limit advantage to the Initiative Bonus (i.e. if your I stat is 30 you can only get 3 Advantage points). This also makes I a more important stat than just determining how fast you go in combat. It's also very vulnerable to ranged weapons and other 'tricks' that make combat more tactical than just "swing, miss, swing, miss, swing, hit".
Verdant Castellan of Bretonnia and Purveyor of the Perilous Realm Podcast
makrellen
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skerrigan wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:41 am
I've run WFRP4e once, and it was fun. I like the system more or less, and if you like 2e I think 4e's material is easily converted back, at least compared to 3e.

Skills work better in 4e than 2e - where a Perception Skill check without the skill gives a PC about a 10-20% chance of success.

Advantage - seems to me if you don't like it don't use it! But also don't forget that there is a rule that lets you limit advantage to the Initiative Bonus (i.e. if your I stat is 30 you can only get 3 Advantage points). This also makes I a more important stat than just determining how fast you go in combat. It's also very vulnerable to ranged weapons and other 'tricks' that make combat more tactical than just "swing, miss, swing, miss, swing, hit".
I disagree that 4th ed material is easy to convert back to 2nd ed - you need to completely rebuild characters/NPC´s using the same XP in 2nd. The skill levels are not comparable - having a Melee (Basic) of 60 in 4th does not translate to a WS of 60 in 2nd ed.

We can agree that skills work better in 4th than 2nd when it comes to chance of success - but this was (in my opinion) an area where the designers dropped the ball in 2nd ed compared to 1st ed. In 1st ed your base chance is your characteristic + a bonus for applicable skill (although many skills have special cases).

And no - you can´t just remove advantage in 4th ed. It is baked into the concept of many talents and traits so removing it means having to make even more special rules for those.

I would in fact call 4th ed just as incompatible with 1st and 2nd ed as 3rd edition was (regrettably).
Clint
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Fortunately, no one will force you to buy or play the game :)

You dislike both setting (magic, races and so on) and the mechanics and rules, and many of the points you make are not tied to only 4e, but the whole WFRP series and universe. Without them, it wouldn't be Warhammer.

Maybe, if you want more simplistic rules and more freedom in the setting, move on to D&D 5e? The races are pretty balanced there, and magic is for everyone.

Or Numenera for more GM freedom?
If you really dig the grimdark rennessaince setting, you could take a look at Zweihänder.

That's what I would do if I were in your shoes. If the RPG doesn't fit you ideas or resonate with your style, find another. I'm going to play first time tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited :)
CapnZapp
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makrellen wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:03 am
I generally agree with everything you wrote - thanks for taking the time to spell this out.

As a GM the last thing I need is to be a living game manual. I want to focus on being a living game world instead. So every thing I need to track or every special case I need to look-up takes time away from what I want to focus on.

And if C7 had looked around at other systems they could have found multiple elegant solutions that didn´t require more GM table-time to manage.
Thank you and I hope this thread's solutions will be useful to you :)
CapnZapp
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Location: Norsca

PS. Please don't tell me I should switch systems, how you love WFRP4 as is and/or why I'm so wrong. It's not that I'm ignoring you (though I am) - it's that this thread is about moulding WFRP4 into the game I want and need. If that doesn't interest you feel free to post in other threads. Have a nice day. DS
CapnZapp
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Location: Norsca

makrellen wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:11 am
And no - you can´t just remove advantage in 4th ed. It is baked into the concept of many talents and traits so removing it means having to make even more special rules for those.
I'm currently planning to reinstitute the Winning and Gaining concept.

When you deal damage and as long as you don't suffer damage yourself, you're considered to be "winning and gaining".

It allows you to move your Move forward, pushing the enemy ahead of you (the "gaining" bit).

If the enemy don't want to be pushed back or can't (perhaps because you've pushed him up against the wall), you instead gain +20% to your next attack.

You either are winning and gaining or you aren't. No levels of advantage; no numbers to remember.

This also replaces Advantage for purposes of all those talents. If you needed to have Advantage, you now need to be Winning and Gaining.

(For those niggly special talents where the number of advantage was important (a cluttery mechanism I really dislike) my short and simple answer is: Winning and Gaining counts as 2 advantage. If that's not good enough, suck it up or get a refund on your Talent XP.)



---

My overall analysis is that Cubicle 7 has completely misjudged the value of plus bonuses to attacks. In 2E, collecting a few +20 bonuses was fair, since all it meant was that you probably hit. The enemy still get to parry or dodge normally.

In 4E a +40 bonus is obscene, and completely overshadows your own abilities, twisting the game into a "hunt the bonus" metagame that should burn in hellfire.

Any skilled designer should have caught this and reined in Advantage. And size bonuses. And prone bonuses. And outnumber bonuses. Not to talk about the headless distance bonuses. Or... or...

Instead of just ending with a sigh, I'm gonna fix c7's bloody mess, or at least as much of it I can muster. :geek:
Graak
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In 4E a +40 bonus is obscene, and completely overshadows your own abilities, twisting the game into a "hunt the bonus" metagame that should burn in hellfire.
And THAT is the phrase that effectively sums up the impression I got reading fanatic (pro) reviews. I got that feeling reading among fans sentences (!) and now you are giving me confirmation I saw right!

I wish you good luck with the rewriting task you are embarking in! :)
Iltherion
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Dwarves/Elves being so much better than Humans/Halflings. I don't want to have effectively level three characters in my level one party.
In what edition of WFRP was that not the case?
Desalus
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Iltherion wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:31 pm
Dwarves/Elves being so much better than Humans/Halflings. I don't want to have effectively level three characters in my level one party.
In what edition of WFRP was that not the case?
Third edition. Does that count? ;)

First edition was by far the most imbalanced when it came to elfs. Second edition made things much more balanced when it came to characteristics, but then humans received quite a few less racial features. Third edition, besides not including halflings, nearly balanced the races out. Fourth seems to have taken a cue from first edition with quite imbalanced starting attributes, but attempted to balance things out in the way of more points of fate and resilience.

When I play 4e I'll just tell my players that they have to use the Random Species Table to determine species/race. There's only a four percent chance that they end up as a halfling or a dwarf and a two percent chance that they are an elf. If I let them choose I can see most of them choosing to be an elf (the additional 80% points over humans would be too enticing for them to pass up).
Whymme
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As someone who doesn’t have fourth edition, I’d like to know why you couldn’t compensate the advantage of elves and dwarfs at chargen with extra XP for the less advantaged races. So either you choose an elf, or you choose a human and get 600 XP extra to spend on skills and advances.
Silke
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Whymme wrote:
Sat Feb 02, 2019 6:12 am
As someone who doesn’t have fourth edition, I’d like to know why you couldn’t compensate the advantage of elves and dwarfs at chargen with extra XP for the less advantaged races. So either you choose an elf, or you choose a human and get 600 XP extra to spend on skills and advances.
Yes you can do that but that would mean the the starting humans would be in tier 2. And that in itself is not a good solution, imho.
But you could fix it that way :)
makrellen
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Whymme wrote:
Sat Feb 02, 2019 6:12 am
As someone who doesn’t have fourth edition, I’d like to know why you couldn’t compensate the advantage of elves and dwarfs at chargen with extra XP for the less advantaged races. So either you choose an elf, or you choose a human and get 600 XP extra to spend on skills and advances.
Also - in 4th ed characteristics and skills are not increased on a linear scale. For example - increasing your WS by 1% can cost 25 XP if it is your first increase or 50 XP if it is your 16th increase. So effectively your improvements slow down the higher your get.

So for a starting human to catch up to staring elf in WS would be 10 increases (elves start with 2d10 +30 compared to 2d10 +20 for humans). That would cost the human 275 XP. But when the game starts the elf would still pay 25 XP for his first increase where as the human would pay 40 XP. So essentially the relative gap becomes larger when you look at the XP cost.

What it boils down to is that you can't compare elves and dwarfs to humans based on XP. So to level the playing field you would probably need to look at other options. If I were to try it out (which I probably won't) I would probably completely remove Fortune and Resolve from elves (effectively not giving them the option to re-roll a failed test or remove a condition).
Desalus
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CapnZapp wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:45 am
PS. Please don't tell me I should switch systems, how you love WFRP4 as is and/or why I'm so wrong. It's not that I'm ignoring you (though I am) - it's that this thread is about moulding WFRP4 into the game I want and need. If that doesn't interest you feel free to post in other threads. Have a nice day. DS
Is it really worth your effort to try to house rule that long list of complaints? I mean, that really is a huge list of things that you don't like about the system. I think most people would decide the system is not for them and move back to a previous version or move onto something else (since there are other options). I understand that If you and your group already purchased the core rulebook, that you'd feel it would be a waste of money to abandon it now. However, it seems best to cut your losses now rather than spend a great deal of time and effort attempting to fix a system that you find so broken.
Bitsa
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When I played WFB once upon a time this was something I always wondered about every time a new edition came out - people would say "GW you've killed wfb, I'm out!" (and no I'm not talking just about the change to AoS, you'd hear this every new edition)

And I always wondered why, because the old editions still existed and there was nothing to stop you playing them instead.
Perhaps there was another aspect to it I hadn't considered.

It's what I'm doing in this case - 4e looks good, but not as good as 2e, so I'm playing 2e. No drama.
It's what everyone did with 3e.
Iltherion
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Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:44 pm

So for a starting human to catch up to staring elf in WS would be 10 increases (elves start with 2d10 +30 compared to 2d10 +20 for humans). That would cost the human 275 XP. But when the game starts the elf would still pay 25 XP for his first increase where as the human would pay 40 XP. So essentially the relative gap becomes larger when you look at the XP cost.
Does that compare favorably or unfavorably to 2nd edition, where the human will never catch up to the elf?
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