Saturday, March 27, 2010

Running away with WFRP 3rd

In the FFG forums devoted to the 3rd Ed of Warhammer Fantasy RPG, people keep posting various house rules and special action cards for Running. They vary a bit in execution, but the goal is to allow player characters to move much faster, with no fatigue penalties, if you're doing nothing but move.

I've been managing to stay polite thus far, but it's not easy. I feel this whole notion is horribly misplaced, because WFRP 3rd already has the most generous running rules in gaming history, it just didn't specifically label them as "running", so people are too dense to figure it out. That's a little harsh, but pretty much spot-on.

How running works in WFRP 3rd:
The game allows you 1 action per round, plus 1 free "manoeuvre" per round, plus as many additional manoeuvres as you'd like at a cost of 1 fatigue each. Your attributes range from 1 to 6 (2 to 5 for starting characters), and you never want more fatigue than your lowest-rated physical attribute. So, most PCs don't want to take more than about 3 fatigue.

Instead of measuring things in feet, the game uses abstract range categories. If someone is within "Close" range, you can pay 1 manoeuvre to engage them in melee. If they're at "Medium" range, you can pay 1 manoeuvre to move to "Close" range from them. If they're at "Long" you can pay 2 manoeuvres to move to medium, then 1 more to move to close (and 1 more to engage them). The furthest possible range is Extreme, which takes 3 manoeuvres to reduce to Long. So, you could for 7 manoeuvres, run from Extreme to Long to Medium to Close, and then engage someone in melee combat. Doing this in a single round, you'd suffer 6 fatigue. If you wanted zero fatigue, it would take you 7 rounds, which is just too much for some folks, and thus the various house rules keep getting thrown around. I think they are being unreasonable.

Compared to WFRP 2nd Ed: To illustrate my point, let's explore how this system compares to it's previous incarnation. (My 2nd Ed is really rusty, so if anyone spots any mistakes, let me know).

In 2nd Ed, most humans have a Movement statistic of 4. This allows them to move 8 yards per combat round normally, or up to 24 yards in an all-out run where they're doing nothing else. Within that system, bows and firearms have a range of 48. So if you were attacked by someone with a bow at long range for their weapon, it would take two full rounds of just running to get within melee range. If you were taking a more cautious approach (not running or charging) it would take 6 rounds to reach them.

Now compare that to 3rd Ed WFRP, where the equivalent weapons (the shortbow and handgun) have range "Medium". Moving at a full run, you can get there in a single round, for 1 fatigue, and you still get to attack. (You spend your free manoeuvre to move from Medium to Close, and then pay a fatigue to engage them.) If you take a more cautious approach (no fatigue), you get there in just two rounds. So, characters in 3rd Ed are, by default, moving much faster than characters in previous editions.

Compared to D&D: Running the numbers, we'll again see that WFRP characters are by default moving really fast. In 3.5 D&D (likewise, my 3.5 is kinda rusty, so correct me if I'm wrong), a shortbow has a range increment of 60 feet, and it's maximum range is 600 feet. You won't often take shots at that kind of range because your odds of hitting at 10 increments are pretty dreadful, but a reasonably competent archer is likely to be willing to take shots out to four range increments, aka 240 feet. An unarmored human PC can walk 30 feet per round, or run 120 feet per round. So again, to travel from the likely archery range to melee range takes 2 rounds of full-out run, or more than 6 rounds of more reasonable exertion. And if you were taking fire from some hotshot archer who wanted to hope for natural twenties at the full 10-increment range of their shortbow, it would take you 5 rounds of full running to reach them.

What I conclude from all those comparisons is:

  • a) WFRP 3rd Ed assumes your basic movement in combat is a hearty jog, not a calm walk.
  • b) If you're taking one or more fatigue from movement maneouvres in WFRP, it represents a full-on run.
  • c) WFRP 3rd, as written, is much kinder on the melee-only character than either 2nd Ed or D&D, at least in terms of them trying to get into range while taking fire.

So, given those conclusions, I see no need or reason to allow any better movement than the default manoeuvre rules in WFRP.

Taking it to Extremes: Just to make sure those conclusions hold up, I also ran the results on a longer-range weapon.

In WFRP 3rd Ed, a Hochland Long Rifle or a Longbow can hit to Extreme. It takes 7 manoeuvres to reach that distance. You can cover the whole distance in a single turn if 6 fatigue isn't enough to knock you out. Or you can cover the distance over 7 turns at a slow pace without fatigue.

In WFRP 2nd Ed, a Hochland Long Rifle has a range of 96. A typical Move 4 human can cover that ground in 4 turns of all-out full running. If they try this without running, it'll take them 12 turns to get there.

In 3.5 D&D, a composite longbow has a range increment of 110 feet, so from the point where they start having a better than 5% chance of hitting to when you reach melee is about 3 or 4 turns of all-out running. At a non-run pace you're looking at about 14 rounds of walking.

So, in terms of getting somewhere in a hurry, WFRP 3rd is being very generous to the guy who rushes into melee. He moves 3 or 4 times as fast as his equivalents in other games if he's willing to take a modest amount of fatigue. You may be able to shrug off all or some of the fatigue with the right Talents or Career Ability, and even if you don't, you still get an action on the turn(s) you run, unlike the other systems. If he's fatigue-averse and insists on "walking", he'll get to sword-swinging range in half the time that D&D allows.

If my players complain about there being no running option, I'm going to politely tell them that spending fatigue for extra manoeuvres is the running option, and that it's far more generous running rules than any non-supers game I know.

I suppose I could see room for some sort of enhanced move Action being added to the game, as in one you pay an Advancement to purchase. You'd have to be careful not to make it too good, though, or else it would become an automatic upgrade for all melee characters. As it is, various Talents and Career Abilities within the game make it very easy to build a character that can cover Extreme to Close range in 2 or 3 rounds without taking more than 2 fatigue, so I don't think there's much need for extra specialization options in running.

Portions of the above appeared in a slightly different form on the FFG forums, posted by me.


Unknown said...

I've only ever played one game of WFRP (2nd ed) and never read the rules, so I'm going entirely by your description. But it sounds to me like they have a very elegant running system. I just got back from my wind sprints and can tell you from personal experience that significantly increasing your running speed tires you out very quickly. So spending fatigue to run faster makes perfect sense.

That being said. I think that you could easily introduce a running mechanic that works with the game system. From your description every turn you get a valuable action for things like hacking people and a less valuable maneuver for moving and such. It seems like you could have a choice of turning your action into a maneuver, giving you two maneuvers but no action. This would also be useful beyond running for say moving and drawing a weapon. As the action is more valuable it shouldn't be that destabilizing.


rbbergstrom said...

You could easily add a running mechanic that works with the system, but even if it, like you proposed, only gives the amount of movement that one gets from a single maneouvre (and thus fatigue point) it would break the system.

A short bow only reaches to medium range. That's 2 maneouvre's away. If I can move that distance in a round with no penalties (as your proposed rule would allow), archers will never be able to get a second shot at anyone. You could automatically outrun any ranged assailant. Or charge them before they get a second shot.

So if you work in a rule like that, then you make ranged combat useless. At which point you have to either extend weapon ranges (which would effectively undo the running bonus you just gave) or come up with some other rule to counter-balance and make bows still useful.

People keep trying to put it in for realism's sake, which I think is weird given how much of combat the game chooses to abstract. It's not a heavily simulationist game.

rbbergstrom said...

Oh, and by the way, the 3rd Ed system has almost nothing in common with the WFRP 2nd Ed system. It's a totally different game engine with the same setting. Not tweaked, not facelifted, but rebuilt from the ground up.

Amehdaus said...

I discovered you're blog today and spent most of it enjoying your reviews of games I had never before heard of. Thank you for that.

Regarding this particular topic, I want to also point out that in the middle of turn of "sprinting," you have the opportunity to perform an action. Of note, is the Assess the Situation basic action that, lo-and-behold, restores a fatigue (i.e. grants an extra maneuver) should you net an almost guaranteed success. You even have the benefit of dodging and weaving as you make your break for it. It may not be called "Sprint," but it serves the same purpose as you watch where not to put your feet.