Welcome to The Witcher RPG
  • Welcome to The Witcher RPG


    There are plenty of interesting ideas and novel approaches to adapting parts of the videogame to the tabletop, but The Witcher is tough as dragonhide and as intimidating as any wraith. But if you already love the series and are comfortable with simulationist RPGs, it’s a great way to forge your own stories in its dark, deadly world.


    Make no mistake, there is a lot to like about this game. It neatly captures the dark, depressing nature of The Witcher’s world, and even if you enter a campaign with the intention of being a stalwart hero you’ll soon find that repairing equipment and paying doctors’ bills can force tough choices that muddy your conscience.

    In fact, many of the issues that weigh the system down come from that way it seems to be trying to translate the feel of the videogames - the RPG doesn’t draw from the original books – to the tabletop a little too directly. This manifests in things like the elaborate systems for crafting gear, brewing mutagens and harvesting materials from slain monsters, and while these can be fun they also require extensive bookkeeping and fiddly inventory management that runs much smoother in the hands of a processor rather than a player.

    Of course, plenty of tabletop RPGs have complex rules hanging around the periphery in case people want to take advantage of them, but these are an iconic part of The Witcher’s identity. More importantly, you can’t afford to ignore them if you want to survive your first few battles.

    The relentlessly dangerous combat system means that charging into a group of enemies without these sorts of preparations is suicidal, and even if you’re careful the weaker party members will usually be one lucky – or unlucky – roll away from major injury. This forces the adventurers to construct battle-plans, lay ambushes and do everything in their power to secure an advantage before firing the first shot.

    The mechanics of combat see attackers and their targets exchange rolls to see if a blow lands or is evaded. If it does strike home then a second roll determines where it hits, unless you made a called shot to some specific part of the body – blows to the head, for example, do triple damage.

    This all means they you’re usually looking at a minimum of four separate rolls per successful attack. At times this feels slow and clunky, but when things are flowing well it adds to the tense atmosphere and gives every move a sense of gravity.

    The core mechanic that handles both combat rolls and conventional skill checks is a fairly simple d10 system, with bonuses coming from both abilities and skills as you try and beat a target number decided by the GM. Where it separates itself from so many others is in the range of modifiers you’re likely to have in even a low-level party.

    For example, it’s not too hard for sneaky criminal character to be sitting on a +16 stealth modifier fresh out of the box, while the clumsy doctor only has a +3. Because you’re only rolling a d10 for your random element this huge gap reduces the impact blind luck has on skill checks, which feels completely appropriate for a game based on the skill-intensive Witcher series.

    While the core mechanic is simple enough to understand, however, there are many minor systems that are weigh the entire game down with complexity. None of them are so complex that they’ll stump experienced roleplayers for long, but they raise the barrier to entry high enough that you need to be sure that you and your table can commit some major time and effort before you launch into the game.

    The Witcher’s steep learning curve, elaborate monster hunts and gritty fantasy setting have all survived the transition to the tabletop, but an unwieldy ruleset makes it hard to recommend this adaptation to anyone who isn’t already a committed fan.

    This article was contributed by Richard Jansen-Parkes (Winghorn) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      This forces the adventurers to construct battle-plans, lay ambushes and do everything in their power to secure an advantage before firing the first shot.
      The horror! Actually, planning can be cumbersome if you're just trying to get from point A to point B. And battle can be cumbersome if you have to make four rolls per attack. I'm a Witcher 3 veteran (30 minutes played), and I don't remember battles being terribly surgical.

      The inclusion of crafting and harvesting rules was a good idea - they seem pretty integral to the VRPG, and if a group doesn't like the rules, it's probably easy enough to hand-waive them.

      Thanks for the review!
    1. pming's Avatar
      pming -
      Hiya!

      Having avoided playing the Witcher 3 (and any of the Witcher games, actually; nor read the books), I can honestly say...I'm intrigued. I bought the original Cyberpunk 2010 (box set) back when it had JUST hit the shelves that week...I was in LA on vacation at the time. I remember getting it back to my aunts place where we were staying and cracking it open. After a quick skim I saw just how dangerous and deadly it was...and how much a characters stat/skill makes a difference!

      Four rolls in combat? Is that 1, PC attacks, 2, NPC defends, 3, Roll location hit, 4 roll damage? Or are we talking "Living Steal" type where...1, PC rolls Aim, 2, PC rolls Focus, 3, PC rolls Environmental Effects on Bullet, 4, PC rolls trajectory deviation, 5, PC rolls general location, 6, PC rolls specific location, 7, PC rolls Angle of impact, 8, PC rolls penetration of armor, 8, PC rolls penetration of clothes, 9, PC rolls penetration of epidermis, 10, PC rolls muscle penetration interference, 11, PC rolls tendon hit chance, 12, PC rolls bone hit chance, 13, PC rolls fragmentation of Bullet, 15...do 10 to 15 again but for each fragmentation of the bullet?

      Anyway, I plan on playing Witcher 3 (video game) first. Probably soon now. I've up until this point avoided watching any play through's or even looking at many screen shots. All I know is you play some bad-ass named Gerald? Gerrin? Gerard? And you kill monsters and magical beasts via sword and steel. And something about convincing people to have sex with you.

      This game, if using the same general rules as other R.Talsorian games and their "Friday Night Firefight" combat rules...yeah. I'm in!

      ^_^

      Paul L. Ming
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      The rules system described doesn't seem particularly more complicated than a raft of other, similar rpg systems out there. There are ways of speeding up play - like rolling different coloured dice to represent different things (attack, hit location, damage) all at once, or having GMs take fixed amounts rather than rolling dice at all. I'm not sure if they are presented as options or not in the book, but often this is all it takes to get the system motoring. I'm quite used to the Interlock system myself, and I'm glad they didn't go with the more convoluted Fuzion system as previously mooted.

      To be honest, I find The Witcher a bit of a side show anyway. While I'm sure it has lots of fans transporting over from it's video game source, I've not really heard of it at all. What I have heard of, however, is the prospective new version of Cyberpunk (2077), which this game provides a bit of leverage for. New editions of Cyberpunk have been notorious examples of vapourware in the past, but The Witcher shows that R. Talisorian can put out new games on schedule. A potential high profile, high production value release of Cyberpunk could be one of the big releases of next year? Perhaps...
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      I've enjoyed both the Witcher 2 and 3 games. Its right up there with Skyrim with my favorite VGRPGs.

      I'm sorely tempted to purchase this for the lonely fun of reading, but I doubt I would ever play it, given my limited time for actually playing--and, let's be real, I'd have to run it as it is unlikely I'll find anyone else running it, so it'll decrease the time for me to be a player. Really don't want to use my limited game time on another fantasy game campaign.

      Also, this game doesn't seem to lend itself for one-off play. With the emphasis on crafting and updating/altering your character, much of the play is in the downtime fiddly bits.

      I think I'll just wait for the Witcher IV to get my Witcher gameplay fix.

      That said, I haven't paged through the book...it very well may be an impulse buy if I run across it on the shelves of my FLGS.
    1. The Fighter-Cricket's Avatar
      The Fighter-Cricket -
      Quote Originally Posted by pming View Post
      Having avoided playing the Witcher 3 (and any of the Witcher games, actually; nor read the books),
      Don't worry about not having read the books. They are, well, okay but not great. I found the Witcher short-stories ("The Last Wish") much more engaging then the pentalogy (beginning with "Blood of Elves").

      And while having played the earlier games gives you more background to care about, the third game makes it quite easy for you to get into the whole story.


      Quote Originally Posted by pming View Post
      Anyway, I plan on playing Witcher 3 (video game) first. Probably soon now. I've up until this point avoided watching any play through's or even looking at many screen shots. All I know is you play some bad-ass named Gerald? Gerrin? Gerard? And you kill monsters and magical beasts via sword and steel. And something about convincing people to have sex with you.
      Yeah, Geralt! So basically you are a stern but likeable monster killer for hire who just wants to go on with his profession as well as protect his friends. But all the emperors and kings of the lands suck you into the hard world of politics. Often you ride between hamlets and cities and solve the villagers' monster (and people) related problems. And you play cards against barkeepers. Best game.
    1. Adammar's Avatar
      Adammar -
      Is the game world based or story based. I have never had a liking for realistic games with deadly combat that doesn't seem to actually model the fiction that it is based upon.
    1. trancejeremy's Avatar
      trancejeremy -
      Steep learning curve? It's a pretty simple system, the original incarnation of it was like a 20 page book in the Cyberpunk boxed set.
    1. Hand of Evil's Avatar
      Hand of Evil -
      Rule system is simple and does capture the world but overall it seems to lack something going to the table. Maybe it will grow on me the more I run and play it. Feel there is a lot (maybe too much) down time gaming in the game.

      Think it is a bit over priced for the material.

      They also failed in not having a GM screen out with the book, a lot of tables and such in the game and with the amount of time they had producing it, this should have been addressed.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Urgh, that’s…not appealing to me. I think that’s on-par with Shadowrun, though. Which is another game where people spend an inordinate amount of planning for combat.

      I’ll agree that the Witcher books aren’t great (though they’re not terrible, either). They get better as the series goes on, and I like the distinctly Eastern European philosophizing and governmental cynicism.

      Quote Originally Posted by Winghorn View Post
      This all means they you’re usually looking at a minimum of four separate rolls per successful attack. At times this feels slow and clunky, but when things are flowing well it adds to the tense atmosphere and gives every move a sense of gravity.
    1. mpathy's Avatar
      mpathy -
      While the core mechanic is simple enough to understand, however, there are many minor systems that are weigh the entire game down with complexity. None of them are so complex that they’ll stump experienced roleplayers for long, but they raise the barrier to entry high enough that you need to be sure that you and your table can commit some major time and effort before you launch into the game. The Witcher’s steep learning curve, elaborate monster hunts and gritty fantasy setting have all survived the transition to the tabletop, but an unwieldy ruleset makes it hard to recommend this adaptation to anyone who isn’t already a committed fan.
      That was my fear, when they let Pondsmith doing this stuff. While he gets a setting quite right, he is somehow fixated on super-crunchy roleplaying systems.

      The days of those are over a long ago, luckily, so that also newbies, people that dont have so much times then when they were young (oh and btw young people back then were also more intelligent. change my mind.), people who dont get a boner on page longe tables and calculations, can enjoy roleplaying games.

      That most companies understood this, made it possible that Pen&Paper now is a huge success, more stuff is sold than ever.

      Pondsmith seemed to be stuck in some decades ago with his understanding of how roleplaying should be. It is so sad.

      The Witcher could have been a mayor competitor to even D&D!

      Because many long to play in a more adult, more grim and dark setting.

      But it was missed. This thing wouldnt sell. Or maybe in the beginning, with people not reading reviews. But will get dust on it quite soon.

      CD Projekt Red missed the change to have some other source of income and fame.

      Dont get me wrong - Pondsmith as a consultant is great, nothing would be better for this game.

      But I hope they sit down with him and tell him "Try to make the rule system for the new Cyberpunk Pen&Paper for our current times, otherwise we need to get a game designer to help you there"
    1. mpathy's Avatar
      mpathy -
      Quote Originally Posted by trancejeremy View Post
      Steep learning curve? It's a pretty simple system, the original incarnation of it was like a 20 page book in the Cyberpunk boxed set.
      Yeah but you couldnt play with them alone.

      I really was pumped, highly pumped, to play in the World and in Shadow City with my friend and we got all material.

      When we looked at the ruleset we said: "Okay . Lets take the setting and use some other system. Thats the best we can do with this rule dinosaur from another decade."
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ralif Redhammer View Post
      They get better as the series goes on, and I like the distinctly Eastern European philosophizing and governmental cynicism.
      One of my favorite parts about the Witcher World is it seems so real. If there was elves, dwarves, halflings, amid kingdoms of humans in a real medieval setting it's easy to see it playing out like the fictional history of the Witcher.

      I've wanted to play an RPG set there for ages.

      I'll probably pick this one up even if I can't get my group to play it, but a part of me wishes it had been a 5e OGL Product.

      Take TOR for example. By all accounts it's a great game, but getting my group to play Adventures in Middle-Earth was much easier. And judging by the sales numbers I'm not the only one.

      I may end up seeing what I can extract and insert in my current game.
    1. Hand of Evil's Avatar
      Hand of Evil -
      Quote Originally Posted by BookBarbarian View Post
      One of my favorite parts about the Witcher World is it seems so real. If there was elves, dwarves, halflings, amid kingdoms of humans in a real medieval setting it's easy to see it playing out like the fictional history of the Witcher.

      I've wanted to play an RPG set there in ages.

      I'll probably pick this one up even if I can't get my group to play it, but a part of my wishes it had been a 5e OGL Product.

      Take TOR for example. By all accounts it's a great game, but getting my group to play Adventures in Middle-Earth was much easier. And judging by the sales numbers I'm not the only one.

      I may end up seeing what I can extract and insert in my current game.

      If you want background and information on the world you may be better served buying The World of the Witcher: Video Game Compendium. More information and value.
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hand of Evil View Post
      If you want background and information on the world you may be better served buying The World of the Witcher: Video Game Compendium. More information and value.
      Information probably, but value I'm not so sure. I want to lay my eyes on the Lifepath system and see if that can be extracted to another system. I want to take a look at the various non combat specialized classes and see what goodies they have that I can strip away too. Alchemy and Herb gathering systems to and all sorts of these they have thought about to give myself a head start.

      i think it would be a lot less work to adapt those things to use a d20 than to define them myself purely from setting information.

      Edit: I should probably get both.
    1. ajevans's Avatar
      ajevans -
      I was initially intrigued by the Witcher RPG, but a visit to the publishers website and then a flick through the book dampened my excitement somewhat.

      I get the distinct feeling this hasn't been shown much love. Back when it was released at GenCon there was very limited information on the Publisher's website, and trying to find info on the RPG was not easy.

      Then I flick through the book, and it's got a bit of a homebrew feel. The layout looks unprofessional, I feel I could comfortably and quickly recreate it in PowerPoint. It appears to be either been given no resources or a 'f**k it, that'll do approach'. I get the distinct impression that this is very much a periphery project for the developer, a pet project for someone. If it takes off they may support it, but it certainly doesn't look like they're planning for it to.
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