Warhammer 4e Magic is ok, but not great … by design

A recent Reddit thread asked about Magic in 4th edition WFRP – and its worth a read if you area WFRP fan with a magical bent. Posting my comments on that discussion as a hook…

The question as asked:

I was looking into 4th edition looking for a system to play some whfrp. I first checked out the magic section as historically that is the most fragged up part of every WHF game. And first it didn’t seemed terrible looking at the spells, but than looking at the fire spells I fund there are only one direct damaging spell which is ridiculous for the most destructive wind.

But what really shocked me was that it was a difficulty of 10 which if I understood correctly means for casting it you should achieve 10 degree of success, basically meaning -100 on the test in a % based system. And looking at other magic difficulties it seems that magic is totally unusable, nearly impossible in every case to cast anything but the tiniest of spells. Also they seem weak.

Which begs the question why would anyone use magic in such a system knowing the risks?


Have I totally misunderstood the system or just the usual WHF curse took root again?

It’s not an invalid point, however that is be design. I say that as the design is so fixed and constrained that it must have been a choice rather than a mistake. In more detail my post comment was:

They are not great but it’s not a simple cause.

4e magic needs some tweaks to be better, however fundamentally it is still a magic system designed to be punitive and dangerous. That is appropriate to the setting. I hope I’m not telling you how to suck eggs, however the Warhammer setting has magic as directly sourced from Chaos and the massively unpredictable winds of magic – so your goal as a wizard is to see how you die with a particular botch. Expect to die horribly.

Wizards are also almost always glass cannon characters, so a good soldier in melee range will cripple them quickly. This is also by design.

Those basics aside it would be great to have more depth in the spell lists and broader application of smaller magical effects, and I agree with your criticism of the combat magic spells. Uninspired.

At lower xp levels a wizard isn’t “good” at all, but I think they become amazing at high levels.

Also a pre-2500 xp Wizard is needs to be either highly optimised to be effective, or will be disappointing.

At 6000xp and higher I think an ex-Witch who is now a Wizard is one of the best power choices because they can learn spells outside their Wind. Or an Elf Wizard. Amazing at high xp. (A shadow death and fire Elf would be very hard to stop)

A few house rules to consider:

  • a caster can channel and stop at whatever number of CN they choose. This means that a caster can try to cast even if they haven’t got their full CN channeled.
  • during the Talent learning Endeavour all Careers can take Talents from previous career levels without rolling. It still takes an endeavour and costs money, but there is no failure rate. This allows wizards to not stockpile Aethryic attunement early in their careers. Which is basically mandatory if your wizard intends to cast the powerful CN:8+ effects later.
  • I’d lower the CN by 1/4 rounding up on each spell. It makes higher end spells worth taking and still requires them to be cast over a few combat rounds, but means the wizard will cast more than one spell per battle.
  • Petty spells should still benefit from the Career Wind choice, but I think currently they do not. Changing that makes Dart very useful, and reduces the need to sink huge Xp into channelling as well as Language Magick.
  • If you are seeking a range dps class then look to the bow using hunter and ranger types. Solid dps every round at range with no real failure rate. Especially powerful at later career levels.
(Just adding to my previous comment) I’m playing a Wizard now, and at less than 2000 xp he would have been poor. At 3500 xp he can do some things well, but still isn’t as good as a soldier/duelist with a range weapon. I’m hoping that it gets amazing at post 5000 xp.
  • It is still very much a glass cannon, and still very slow in play (channel, cast.. or channel, channel, channel, cast) for almost all combats. Also Wizards spend 2-4 rounds “getting prep’d” so they don’t die instantly, so seem to do very little in short fights.
  • My advice is to play the Wizard because you want to play a character with knowledges and arcane feel. Playing a wizard because you like killing things in combat games will be disappointing imo.

Simple arcane marking spell for WFRP

A simple arcane spell used to inscribe or mark something. Often used to mark a wizard’s belongings, however also potentially to indicate any manner of hate, pettiness, or foul attitude.

Signia Arcana

CN: 3, R: Touch, T: 1, D: WPB Days, Arcane

The target creature or object is marked with a single glowing rune, sigil, or inscription chosen by the caster. This mark is typically placed on the forehead of the target, and often denotes a person or object important to the caster. The mark is imbued so it is simple to detect, glows unnaturally, and cannot be removed by normal means. As normal the spell may be dispelled by another caster.

Estimating the CN level for spells in WFRP is something of a mystery to me. This effect isn’t powerful in terms of heavy game mechanics, in game power level, and really could be a cantrip (is that Petty Magic?); except that Petty Magic don’t have CNs. That said, I made this spell last for many days so that the caster could use it to denote somebody who obviously has been recently talking to a wizard, and can have it’s duration and target expanded through Overcasting. CN:3 seemed a good level.

I’ll soon need a set of mechanics for CN estimation (which I’m writing at present, stay tuned).

Find a small but growing list of new spells for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay here.

More Journal notes from Warhammer RPG

Carrying on from the aside of sharing my rpg game notes, these are more pages. As I continue to enjoy scratching notes and doodling, I wish my drawings were of a far higher quality. And now that I’ve shared a few pages there is a temptation to make each page as good as I can, which is counter-productive to taking notes. Yikes eh.notebook sketches of a fire, fox and half drawn inn

notebook sketches of a foot and wing,

Journal notes from Warhammer RPG

My hand written notes from the Warhammer fantasy roleplay sessions are normally just text and pretty mundane; so last two sessions I decided to up the detail a bit. Just as a bit of fun.

WFRP Tweak to Talent Endeavours

Pondering the strange rule where a character can advance any skills in their current or lower career tier, but they cannot advance talents unless they are in the current tier. I don’t like it, but thought rather than removing the limitation altogether there is a compromise in the “Between Adventures” Talent Endeavors which might be useful.

House rule – If the talent being learnt is in a lower tier of the same Career, then the roll to learn it is automatically successful. This keeps the xp cost the same, keeps the extra money required the same, and demonstrates that it should be easier for a person to briefly step down to pick a boon, when compared to learning Talents outside their Career.

C7 Art of War Blogpost – Chop Chop Chop

The post of C7 highlights a few of the optional rules, and add an additional optional rule to make combat more granular. Ostensibly it suggests that a large part of the fun for many players in WFRP combat is the details and specials moves, and how they interact. Yep, that’s true for me I guess, so I agree.

That said, the suggested rule on closing inside a weapon’s reach is tricky though, because it devalues the In-Fighter talent. Its a good suggestion, but a character who already has In-Fighting might feel they’ve just had the leverage from a talent reduced. Likewise a character with good combative skills would be foolish to spend 200 xp (buying the talent outside a class) as they probably have better things to spend xp on, such as 200xp of Weapon Skill (WS).

Use it careful and chat about it, find something that works for the players.

Ok, if the designers liked crunchy details, then why are all Melee (basic) hand weapons the same?

All well and good to add more optional rules about weapon lengths, but ignoring the fact that a mace, axe, and sword are apparently the same in RAW is bloody odd.

Melee (Basic) Hand Weapons:

  • Swords, gain Sharp – Critical strikes ignore non-metal armor AP values.
  • Axes, gain Bite – Critical strikes inflict an extra wound.
  • Maces, gain Crunch – Critical strikes inflict the Pummel quality.

No idea if this is OP or not, it certainly will add more complexity to an already complex system, but it will give players a reason to try to select each different weapon. I hope you have a grim and dangerous day. Chopy Chop Chop.

Changing how to use Shields in Warhammer roleplay

I don’t understand how the use of shields became so messy, so here is a re-cut of the rules as I think they should be. I know this isn’t RAW…

  • Any weapon held in either hand (including shields) adds the benefits of the Defensive trait. If both weapons have the trait then the trait applies twice.
  • There is a -20 attack penalty for attacking with the off hand, including a shield. There is no -20 while defending.
  • The armour point AP reduction benefits apply all the time.

This means that a character with Melee (Parry) might use both a shield and sword breaker at once, gaining +20 to their Defense checks.

It means that all characters have an advantage in using shields, which is helps to counter balance the fact that most single handed weapons do not have special traits (damaging, etc). Melee basic can still be good, but it stays basic.

Also as a much broader change … I’d like to suggest that the Parry skill be totally removed and all the parrying weapons added into Melee Fencing instead.

This is a big rule change, but it is one that I think will increase the likelihood of players choosing these alternate Melee skills. The rules as written make it cumbersome to create a fencing character who is wielding a rapier in one hand and a parrying weapon in the other.