Reckless Dice #9: Omens of War

Our biggest episode yet filled with WFRP 3rd Edition goodness! Paul, Jesse and Lester are reporting in to talk all things Omens of War. Special guest Ian Robinson who actually wrote stuff in the product stops by for an interview. (Ian is also the first person on RDP with an authentic British accent.) We dig into the new mechanics, knightly orders, the history of warfare in the Old World, Khorne, and the included adventure. Even with all that we still manage to pack in some news and your questions.

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13 thoughts on “Reckless Dice #9: Omens of War

  • Hey guys, thanks for the episode. As always, it was full of information and fun. I wanted to open two lines of discussion and am not sure how best to go about it in this format. I’ll split them between comments.

    First, your discussion of the expanded combat bits in Omens brings me around to wondering about one of the design directions, that of “it’s easy to succed”. We touched on this in last eps comments, and with Omens now I’m wondering just how far thinking this design may have been.

    Jesse mentioned the notion that the new Enhancements may springboard off of the high success rate, utilizing it for making the Enhancement gamble. I think this is an interesting notion. Had the designers started with a default low success rate it would perhaps limited the wiggle room for implementing something like Enhancements.

    Also neatly tied into this though is the permanent effects of Severe Wounds. By defaulting to high success rates the designers have also left themselves room to really explore the more grim side of the system. Permanent penalties certainly draw down that high success rate. The high rate actually serves to highlight just how grim permanent injuries are while still providing the possibility of a functional character afterwards. A default lower success rate would in essence make a permanently injured character a certain failure on most rolls.

    Just some thoughts. Do you agree and do you think that the design goals were this far reaching or is this simply serendipitous?

  • The second item is related to the question at the end concerning the weirdness that appears in opposed tests. Now my thoughts are purely academic, without play experience yet, but I believe there is a reasonable possible explanation for the “weirdness”.

    Consider two Joes with stats of 2 opposing one another. The success rate is relatively low for that roll, 2 blue and 2 purple. I don’t find that hard to believe, and most of us probably share that opinion. You’ve got two untrained, below average guys trying to accomplish something against the other. I’d expect that to look like a clumsy mess.

    But as the skill levels climb, even though the participants are just as equally matched, i don’t find it unreasonable to see the success rate climb as well. Watching two highly skilled sports teams face off demonstrates this. Success rates for specific actions tend to climb and the successes that we do see are much more dramatic, i.e. 50 yard touchdown passes, breakaway end runs, eye popping dunks, amazingly timed KO’s, etc.

    Now this is just one way of modeling conflict and I point it out simply to raise the notion that perhaps opposed rolls are as broken as lots of folks want to think. I think the designers again have a specific vision of what they want to model and it appears that they want to reward characters who have achieved high levels of proficiency. They want to model those dramatic successes and not have a bunch of unrewarding whiffs when we’re watching the equivalent of professionals doing what they know best.

    Of course this is all speculative on what the design goals are, just saying that this is one reasonable way of looking at and it jives pretty well with my real world views.

    • Typo above, meant to say that perhaps it’s NOT as broken as we might first imagine.

      Also consider that the opposed rolls scale somewhat similarly to combat in general, in that we get much better offensively but not quite so much better defensively. Again, it appears that the goal is to see good stuff happen when those skill levels go up. It also increases the danger of tangling with skilled opponents, even if you are skilled yourself. With just a little time thinking about it, I’m not finding it hard to accept this vision of conflict.

    • Chris you make a really good point. The more i think about it the more i am coming around to your base of reasoning. Thanks so much for puting the thought into it, its been troubling me since we were asked the question.

      I like the idea that two sloppy fighters with STR 2 have a medium change of landing hits, but those two expert fighters with STR 5 are each landing deadly blows.

      Sorry for the short reply, after the novel you wrote =), but i just wanted to chime in and say thanks, and that you put some solid thinking into that.


      • Haha, yeah, I can tend to ramble. Since becoming a stay at home dad a couple years ago my opportunities for adult interaction have dwindled. So when given the opportunity to geek out with gaming peers I’m prone to getting carried away. Thus far my daughter has expressed limited interest in gaming conversations.

        And my posts probably come across as an FFG apologist, which isn’t actually the case. I just enjoy thinking about systems and what the designers are trying to do with them. For all I know the opposed test mechanic could be a mistake, but I like to assume that the designer had a purpose in mind when crafting it. Im just taking some shots at what that purpose may have been and why I (theoretically) like it.

        But like I said below, I think it would pay to really look at what each of the test systems are doing and when it’s appropriate to use each specific one. I know some guys that do a sweet WFRP3 podcast that could probably do a good job of exploring that very topic!

  • I agree with what you’re saying here Chris, however I think people are getting confused about the Opposed Check Mechanics over very specific instances such as the grapple example. Why would a character with ST 5 have a better success rate when trying to grapple another ST 5 character as opposed to a ST 2 character vs. ST 2 character. This seems not to make much logical sense. Wouldn’t the defender in the strength 5 example have a better chance of warding off the Grapple attempt?

    This is a trivial quandary I’ve found in the rules and so I seldom use opposed checks without modifying them specially per instance. I happen to agree, an ample grin planted firmly between my cheeks, with what your comments state concerning the whiff factor.

    Thanks for the support and well thought out points. I enjoy the way you think man.


    • Yeah, I hear ya Lester. The grapple example may appear a little weird in the context of the opposed check. But it’s not a complete stretch of logic for me and I just wanted to make those points to show how it perhaps was an intentional design choice.

      And the mechanic says a few things about this game world. For one it says that if youre unskilled at something, expect some difficulty even if your opponent is as unskilled as you. But contrastingly it says that if two highly skilled but matched opponents face off, then expect some mutha effin fireworks! (and though my tone indicates physical conflict, we could be talking about a chess match or a debate) Not a long, drawn out, grueling defensive showdown.

      The mechanic is also saying, to the skilled aggressor goes the advantage. Skilled obviously trumps unskilled, but in an even match of skilled opponents, the one who takes action is more often rewarded. And I’m probably far reaching here but I think that philosophy serves the the game world to some extent. If the world is this grim place where evil closes in all around you, and the cosmic scales are tipped against you…sloth and indifference may very well be deadly. Those that take action and confront conflict have the best odds, if they are skilled.

      However the reverse is also true, if you are relatively unskilled it’s tough to overcome an opponent or change status quo. And being the aggressor in such a situation will quickly teach you humility.

      Like I said, I could be far reaching with some of the philosophical side of the design but man, I like the way it sounds. I do believe that the mechanics of any game serve to illustrate how the world functions…and the more I study this mechanic the more it feels like its saying something very intentional and pretty nifty about what conflict is like in the Old World.

      Am I just nuts?

    • All that said, and it’s possibly moot any way. I think a good discussion to have is when you’d even want to use an Opposed test by the RAW. The rules give us, lying to someone, sneaking past someone, and resisting torture. Seems to me that the only time you’d use it is when one skill is being actively resisted by a different skill.

      Why would a grapple default to Opposed? Wouldnt that be the same as the arm wrestling example which is a competitive test? Same skill being used by both parties to achieve the same outcome?

      • I would like to say that having a higher strength does not necessarily make you more skilled at something. That’s what the skill die and fortune die are for.

        But sadly according to how the system works, having a higher str does make you more skilled.

        Say grappling is athletics, and a Str 2 person has athletics trained, and even a specialization in grappling, but a Str 5 person doesn’t. The Str 5 person is statistically better at it.

        But the skill die does give a chance that Str 2 could do just as well with the exploding side.

        • Joe,
          You’ve got it right. Opposed tests in WFRP fall into the Murphy’s Rules category. Almost every system breaks down at some point (heck, there’s a funny book about them). The trouble here is the relative frequency of opposed tests in RPG’s. Most out of combat challenges rely on the opposed test rule (e.g. charming the ladies, gambling in a card game, bargaining with a merchant, sneaking past guards, interrogating a prisoner, etc.) The lack of scalability in opposed tests presents a serious shortfall in the rule. A reason I’ve yet to use it in my games. I default to a competitive test.

          • As I look at opposed rolls, I’m thinking build the dice pool with misfortune dice equal to the opposed characteristic and challenge dice for the opposed skill.

            The probility curve favoring high stats still exists, but it’s not as drastic. And skilled opponents become worrisome.

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