Monday, 21 May 2018

WFRP 4th Edition - System Preview

Cubicle 7 have released a nice preview of their upcoming WFRP system changes. There's not a lot of detail but there's enough to give us something to mull over until the release.

They say the new system is '"..a new implementation of the familiar d100 dice system, that you’ll be able to modify it to suit your play style, and that it will offer resolution options with a variety of levels of detail."

I thought I'd go over the preview and I've put my thoughts under each of the points below. Bear in mind that 99% of my WFRP gaming has been done with 1st Edition so that is what I'll be comparing it to.

"When a test is called for – generally a situation where a character is attempting an action, or reacting to an action affecting them – the GM has three choices:

1 – GM decision based on the characters’ abilities

Keeping the game flowing smoothly and quickly is important to keep everyone actively engaged in the adventure. Sometimes, especially when the outcome doesn’t really matter all that much, or the most likely outcome is pretty obvious, the GM is better off eyeballing the relevant character(s) abilities and making a call as to whether or not the action succeeds.

When situations are resolved this way, players will need to show trust and respect to the GM – the decision will need to be accepted as logical and impartial and not signal the start of a discussion!"

This leaves a lot to the GM and may not work in every situation, but this is something that I've done before, usually after taking a look at the character's stats and deciding that after modifiers the skill roll is as good as successful, and especially if the progress of the plot depends on success. If it's a high tension situation or a combat and there's still a chance of failure, I'll still ask for the roll to make sure that everything is fair, even if the chances of failure are one or two percent, and if it does go south then I'll make the most of the tension; this is a grim game, after all.

"2 – A simple pass/fail test

This is the one most players are familiar with! You decide which characteristic or skill to test, adjust for the difficulty of the test (for example, a hard difficulty subtracts 20 from your ability) and then roll equal to or under that total to succeed. It’s simple (hence the name), quick, straightforward, and tells you if you succeed or fail.

The downside of the quick pass/fail test is that the action stops dead if you fail. It’s fine in many situations, but that hard ‘No’ can be unsatisfying. And if you have grim and gritty, low-skilled characters, they can fail a lot, and that can get frustrating."

This is the norm for me, and to be honest the failure is just as good as the success as it can really create some interesting situations and can also be really challenging for me as the GM to deal with the fallout. Either roll, success or failure, can really throw the story into chaos and it's up to me to get it back on track or make sure that the resulting story is as entertaining as my original design. Some of the best adventures came off the back of unexpected roll results, but there is a negative effect to this, too, when a bad roll throws the game into disarray or derails it altogether. The nature of roleplaying has changed somewhat since 1st Edition came out and I'm much more focused on creating a great story with my group.

"3 – A more nuanced dramatic test giving a range of outcomes and success levels

Sometimes you need to know what happens next, rather than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. The Dramatic Test helps you generate an outcome instead. Using Success Levels to show just how well or poorly you’ve done, these tests give you a result that keeps the story moving.

Rather than just failing to jump across the ravine and plunging to your death, maybe you almost made it and are left hanging onto a root at the other side of the gorge. The negative success levels of a Dramatic Test can help to keep the game interesting and help guard against arbitrary and disproportionate dice-based punishment.

Similarly, the positive success levels mean you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams, with unanticipated consequences piling good fortune at your feet, or scrape past by the skin of your teeth, achieving most of what you wanted, but with some complications.

The Dramatic Test is a tool for the GM to make tests meaningful and… well… dramatic!"

This is the part that interests me, and excites me, the most. If the rules are able to give degrees of success, or give an 'out' to those situations that arise when a bad roll occurs, then that will make for a much more malleable game that forgives any derailing issues. This may seem a little opposite to the spirit of WFRP I love so much - if you fail and die, that's just because the world's grim and it sucks but that's that - but it helps those situations when a bad roll really messes things up. There have been a few times when the players have gotten to a key moment and it's all gone wrong or they've played for weeks only to die at the hands of the big bad or one of his minions. Levels of success can make for some great story options and if done right can make events much more exciting. Let's hope that it sits well with the grim, hopeless atmosphere of WFRP, but these three  options are just that; options. By the sounds of things if you don't like the roll interpretation you can go back to what you know.

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