House of Cards: Reckless Cleave in Warhammer 3rd

Having already generated the dice pools to analyze Troll-Feller Strike I figured I might as well see what would happen if I applied those results to a different action card, Reckless Cleave.

Weapon Change

For reasons that will become apparent in future articles I chose to switch the base weapon for the simulation. Instead of using 5 strength and a hand weapon I used 5 strength and a great weapon giving a base damage of 12 and a Critical Rating of 2. For those unfamiliar, a Critical Rating is the cost in boons for any attack made with that weapon to generate a critical hit, as will be seen in the card description.

Action Card

Here are the available results for Reckless Cleave

Conservative Reckless
1 success base damage +2 1 success base damage +1
3 successes D +3
2 boons +Str^ dam, delay this card 1 boon +Str^ dam, delay this card
2 boons# +1 critical 2 boons# +1 critical
-1 boon -1 soak -1 boon -1 soak
-2 boons* 1 fatigue -2 boons* 1 fatigue
1 comet +2 critical
1 chaos delay defense 1 chaos delay defense

^ assumed to be 5 for this example
# from the Critical Rating of the weapon
* all physical actions have this as a possible result so it isn’t listed on the card

Assumptions Continue reading


Reckless or More? Damage and Stance in Warhammer

The mechanics of the new Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying edition (WFR 3rd) are very opaque. This results in many questions about how the mechanics really work. One common question revolves around the mechanics for stance. Characters can choose to be in reckless or conservative stance and this choice can change the dice that they roll and even the outcome of the same roll result. One analysis tried comparing reckless versus conservative stance for the classic test action Troll-Feller Strike. Unfortunately, errors in the probability generator they were using made the final result more difficult to interpret. This article is an attempt to answer the question of how the reckless and conservative stances effect attacks.


For people that aren’t familiar with the mechanics.

Rolls in WFR 3rd use dice pools. These consist of dice of different sides, colors, and symbols. The basic roll uses a number of Blue dice equal to the controlling characteristic plus Yellow dice equal to the skill and possibly a number of White dice for a variety of reasons. The pool will also contain dice that represent the difficulty of the task, Purple and Black dice with negative results on them. Players can change this pool by choosing to go into what are called stances. These are either reckless, nominally representing risk taking, or conservative, nominally what it says on the tin. When they do so, they then replace a number of the basic Blue dice with either Red (reckless) or Green (conservative) dice.

As an added wrinkle, the results of the die rolls are determined by referencing a card. This card will often give different results depending on which stance the character is in. Also, even when someone isn’t in a stance, i.e. they are rolling all Blue dice, they still have to reference either the reckless or the conservative side of the card. Each character has a default side so that if they are in a neutral stance they will always use either the reckless or the conservative side depending on the character.

Basic Dice Probabilities Continue reading

The Correlation Effect

The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game 3rd edition (from now on WFR3) employs an unusual resolution mechanic with specialized dice. The results are very non-linear and the resulting probabilities are not intuitive. As a result there have been a number of good statistical analyses of the new mechanic. So why am I doing another one? One aspect of the mechanics is generally left out of these analyses because it is such a pain to deal with. So, in my fine tradition of dealing with stupidly complicated game mechanics for no good reason, I decided to see just how important this aspect really is to the game.

The Question

So what is this aspect? That takes a bit of explaining. Thanks to the different specialized symbols rather than just numbers like an ordinary die WFR3 has several axes for resolution on any roll.

What do I mean by that? The classic d20 system only has one axis. Roll a d20 and add a number to it. The result can be higher or lower but it just produces one number. This is why in d20 systems everything uses a separate roll. In contrast the One Roll Engine, as the name indicates, resolves entire actions from initiative to hit location with a single roll. Its dicing mechanic has two axes. A player rolls a number of 10 sided dice and looks for matching numbers. For example if 3 of the dice showed the number 2 this would be 3 2’s, while 2 dice showing 8’s would be 2 8’s. The number of matching dice and the number on the die give two different results to use to resolve an action. This is why I don’t care for the One Roll Engine. It only has two axes. However, those two results are used to determine every aspect of a roll leading to strange links. So an attack will have initiative, damage, to hit, and target location, four different things but using only two numbers for them. Thus the earlier an attack goes in the round the more damage it does and it is easier to avoid an attack that might hit your feet than it is to avoid one that might hit your head.  Continue reading

Kobolds Possessed My Cleric!

A Dungeon World game recap

“Wake up!” hissed Mouse the Halfling thief having spotted shapes moving in the night woods. Caleb the cleric who had set himself to saving Mouse from himself roused and grabbed his shield and long club (ok it was a quarterstaff, but then he wouldn’t be able to use the shield, I hadn’t noticed at the time). Athena Mace, the person responsible for them all being at the edge of the kingdom grabbed her birthright. The axe was ridiculously large and covered with spikes but as the girl she had got to choose last from the seven familial weapons and this was all that was left. Athena’s governess Cassandra also woke. It was unclear to many why someone with that axe would need a governess but the properly Wagnerian bard took her job seriously. She grabbed her harp and made sure her rapier was handy.  Continue reading

Mapping Your World: Brush Packs

Edit: There are also commercial options available, but I only review free brush packs in this article. 

Edit 2: Here is a nice, huge new set of 200 Photoshop Map Brushes. Some sub-sets are reviewed in this article.

If you wish to use a tool like Gimp, Photoshop, or PaintShop Pro to create maps for your game, it’s nice to have some ready-made symbols for mountains, trees, cities, etc.  You can have those by using (or creating) appropriate “brush packs.” Today, we’re going to look at some ready-made brush packs you can use, and we’re going to talk about how to convert from one software to the other.


A brush in this type of software is essentially a little image file that provides the shape your cursor will leave on the image, accompanied by a series of instructions for the software telling it what to do with with parameters such as speed, pressure, transparency, rotation, etc.  Note that some of those parameters only matter if you are using a pressure-sensitive tablet.

Most brushes are created by editing a PNG image and saving it as a brush in the software of choice.  Alternately, the software’s brush editor function allows you to create brushes based solely on specified parameters.

A brush pack is a collection of several of these brushes, usually assembled by theme by its creator and saved as one single file.  Here are some common file extensions you will see:

  • .abr: Photoshop brush format, also usable without conversion by Gimp.
  • .gbr: Gimp brush format, for ordinary and colour brushes.
  • .jbr: older PaintShop Pro brush format
  • .PSPbrush: more recent PaintShop Pro brush format
  • .vbr: Gimp parametric brush format, i. e., brushes created using the Brush Editor.

There are also some animated brush formats, like .gih for Gimp; we will not discuss them here, since they are not typically used for map-making.

Ready-Made Map Symbol Brush Packs

Some people have made nice, useful brush packs that will probably cover most game mapping needs.  Here are some of my favourites:

hexGIMP_samplehexGIMP brushes by Thorfinn Tait.  Thorfinn’s original brushes were created for Adobe Illustrator, but were converted to Gimp format by The Isomage for use with his hexGIMP plugin for Gimp.  If you only want the brushes, you can extract the Gimp .gbr files from the Brushes folder inside this .zip file (the other files are for the script itself, which I recommend if you are using Gimp.)  If you have Adobe Illustrator, you can download Thorfinn Tait’s cartography resources, including the brushes, in this other .zip file.  The brushes are copyrighted by Thorfinn, used with permission.

MapSymbols_sampleMap Symbols by Crimson Vermilion.  A very nice Photoshop map symbol pack created in a hand-drawn style, including mountains, rivers, city markers, marsh, prairie, forests, hills, farmland, compass symbol, etc.  Particularly good for fantasy maps but can work for an Old West game, for example.

OldMaps_sampleOld Maps from WebTreatETC.  A bit different: the “brushes” are entire old maps which have been turned into Photoshop brushes so you can stamp an image with them.  Great to create props for your players.  The stamps thus created are large enough and have enough resolution that you could print them as just one map each.  Or you can clip and edit sections to fit your fancy.  The “brushes” are monochrome, but you can add colour to produce a richer result, as shown here.

SketchyCartography_sampleSketchy Cartography by ~StarRaven.  This is an extensive collection of symbols, once again in a hand-drawn fantasy style, including various types of terrain, symbols for cities, castles and other man-made structures, “magical” glyphs, and more, for Photoshop.  I particularly like that some icons look European and some look Asian, so the set can be used for different flavours of maps.

TolkienMapIcons_sampleTolkien-Style Fantasy Map Icons by calthyechild.  This brush set explicitly tries to replicate the feel of J.R.R. Tolkien’s hand-drawn maps and is available in both Photoshop and Gimp formats.  The brushes are larger and drawn thicker, and can be made to look like they were made with a wide-nib quill or with charcoal.

Converting Formats

Gimp, Photoshop, or PaintShop Pro?  I have used all three and was happy with results in all three, so it’s really up to you.  Photoshop is the most expensive of the three, PaintShop Pro is actually fairly modestly priced, and Gimp is free and open-source.  PaintShop Pro has the advantage that it can handle both raster and vector formats and even mix layers of both types in the same image.  Gimp can be used on Mac, Windows, and Linux.  You can exchange most brush files between the three fairly cleanly.

Photoshop to Gimp: The easiest.  Files with the .abr extension can be used directly in Gimp (version 2.6.10 and forward) without conversion.  Here is a tutorial on installing brushes in Gimp on any OS.  For older versions of Gimp, see this tutorial.

Photoshop to PaintShop Pro: You need to essentially export the .png files that are inside the .abr brush file, then convert them to a .jbr or .PSPbrush file as normal.  Follow the instructions found here.  However, some sources say that you can simply rename the file by changing the extension from .abr to .jbr/.PSPbrush; I don’t know if it always works.

Gimp to Photoshop: Open the .gbr file using Gimp, save the image as .png format.  Next, open the .png file using Photoshop and create an .abr brush file as normal (tutorial here).

Gimp to PaintShop Pro: Open the .gbr file using Gimp, save the image as .png format.  Next, open the .png file using PaintShop Pro and create a .jbr or .PSPbrush file as normal

Paintshop Pro to Photoshop: This source indicates that .jbr and .PSPbrush files can be merely renamed with the .abr extension.

PaintShop Pro to Gimp: Since the .jbr and .abr are interchangeable by simply renaming, all you need to do is rename the .jbr file to .abr and open it in Gimp as normal.  For the newer format, open the .PSPbrush file in PaintShop Pro and export it as a .png; then open this .png in Gimp, and create a brush file as normal (tutorial here).  (Alas, you cannot simply rename the .PSPbrush files and have Gimp directly recognize them.)

Making Brush Packs

There are many good tutorials out there for making brushes in Photoshop, in Gimp, and in PaintShop Pro.  Look for animated ones on YouTube as well.

You can use these to create your own map symbols.  For example, I collected images from Dr. Seuss books and used them to create this map for my friend Mark’s “Savage Lorax” game.


Review: Misspent Youth

Note: This review was also published on

Misspent Youth coverMisspent Youth is a game firmly anchored in the subgenre of story games. The players (the Young Offenders, or YO) and gamemaster (the Authority) work together to answer a series of questions about the setting and characters to create the setting, then play out episodes in which the Young Offenders fight off an oppressive, corrupt, or abusive Authority and generally stick it to The Man. What will they sacrifice for their ideals?

Disclaimer: I received free print and PDF copies of the book so I could playtest and review it.

Continue reading

About Face: thoughts on who rolls the dice

One recent Thursday we were trying out a new system. There was some confusion as to whether both the players and the game master rolled or just the players. Rolfe referred to only the players rolling as ‘player facing’. I had never heard that term before, but it does seem to accurately describe mechanics were only the players roll dice. This got me thinking about player facing mechanics and what they mean for a game.

Continue reading

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