D&D 5E [+] Converting WFRP to 5e

TheSword

Legend
Converting Warhammer to D&D

After few discussions about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) and the revitalized Enemy Within Campaign with folks like @Retreater , I’ve been giving some though to converting WFRP adventures (which are many and excellent) to 5e. Getting players for a new system like WFRP 4e (or indeed any edition) could be a challenge. So I thought I would make suggestions for how someone would recreate the Warhammer feel in 5e. I’m going to go through the change I would make.

For those who don’t know the Warhammer Old World, key themes are Class struggle with a powerful venal nobility. Corruption of body and soul (both obvious and hidden). Fighting against the odds typically in spite of open disbelief or the enmity of influential foes. Prejudice be it tradition vs technology, rich v poor, elves v dwarves, or rural v urban. Deadly combat with critical hits, long term injuries and nasty diseases. There is also a strong comedic element running through the setting with many Pratchett-esq popular references and Easter eggs. I’ll go through the elements I think will make this awesome world come alive and make it possible to convert what are some truly top-drawer adventures.

Character Creation and Fate

I’ve thought long about character creation in a WFRP campaign and all the restrictions that could be put in place. The more I consider it, the more it seems a list of what should be in or out is a fools errand. Instead of giving a lot of restrictions for things that don’t fit, better to reward players for creating a Warhammer-like character.

Fate is the perfect mechanic to reward this. A meta currency that can be temporarily spent to reroll a saving throw, ability check, or attack roll (like inspiration) or permanently spent to save a character from death. My suggestion is to award Fate based on how thematically appropriate the character is.

  • A character who exemplifies the themes, style and lore of the Old World gets 3 fate points each session.
  • A character who creates a character who could exist in the warhammer but doesn’t really embody its themes gets 2 points
  • A character who would be out of place in the Warhammer world would get 1 or in worst case 0 points.
For example Dave creates a Dwarf Druid with the circle of the moon so he can change into a panther. This really isn’t in keeping with WFRP so the DM assigns Dave 1 or 0 points. Jake also wants to play a dwarf and has heard of trollslayers so chooses a barbarian with the Path of the Beast, while not a terrible fit, troll slayers don’t really draw upon animalistic power so the DM assigns two points because the subclass is only slightly jarring. Claire creates a dwarf artificer as a discredited member of the engineers guild. She picks low magic, high tech abilities that an engineer would reasonably have and spells that could be the work of reagents. Claire gets 3 Fate points because she’s picked her characters abilities to fit the themes of the setting.

Players get a number of Fate Points at the start of each sessions to do one of the following.
  • Re-roll a saving throw, attack roll or ability check.
  • Ignore the effect of any conditions for one round.
  • Players can permanently reduce their Fate Point total by one to save a character from death. The NPC is miraculously saved from death by some twist of fate. The encounter is not over for them, but they will awake on 1 hp at some point after the encounter ends.
Level Up’s non-magical ranger and multiple interesting martial classes make Level Up the perfect chassis for a WFRP based game. It is worth remembering that even spell casting classes in 5e have a place somewhere in the world. A Paladin makes an excellent Grail Knight; a Bard an elf minstrel, a Warlock a devotee of the chaos powers; a Druid a priest of Taal or Jade Wizard.

I would heavily encourage character creation to include plenty of multi-classing, and options to allow players to create a character that fits. Even if it doesn’t fit, then who cares. As long as players are having fun and there is some internal consistency, move on.


Careers & Classes

Careers in WFRP carry all the weight of character development but don’t easily translate to 5e classes. They do fit backgrounds very well though. Every career in WFRP can be translated to a background: wizard, noble, rat catcher, boatman. Just give the PC the trappings of that career and two skills or one skill and two tool or weapon proficiencies that fits (the player chooses). Give the player proficiency on any check that makes sense to their background.

Players can change careers/backgrounds if they acquire the trappings of that career and there is a good in game reason why it should be possible. If it makes sense add a skill that would be needed for that career. Though they lose the benefits of being in the previous career.
Every career has a status level in WFRP - brass, silver or Gold. Keep these status tiers. If a character in WFRP attempts a charisma check to influence a character with a lower status it gains advantage on the check. If it attempts to influence a higher tier it has disadvantage. Checks to try and beg money or a favour out of pity are reversed (advantage for lower tiers and disadvantage for higher tiers). To maintain their status players have to spend their Status in Gold, Silver or Brass each week. Otherwise they drop a point of status each week. A rat catcher might get away with sleeping in a barn because they’re short on cash, a noble is going to suffer the derision of their friends.

Combat, Healing and Lingering Injuries

Combat in WFRP can be deadly in a surprising way. 5e isn’t really designed to have that unpredictable risk of death or dismemberment. However it can be simulated in two easy stages. The first is Farland World lingering injuries table which give options for more lasting injury. My suggestion is for these to be tested when a PC is dropped to 0 hp and thereby falls unconscious. They’re nasty but so is life. Don’t forget a PC can spend a Fate point to avoid an injury that would kill them. Lingering Injuries by Damage Type
Critical Hits have been a staple of WFRP since day one and are one of their most evocative elements. Nord Games do a set of critical hit cards for both Players and Dungeon Masters - recognizing that these two entities are affected very differently by crits. We know they have a greater impact on players than foes but that’s all part of making Warhammer more dangerous and encouraging out of combat solutions. I would definitely use the rule from Level up which lets you sacrifice a shield to negate a critical hit.

GM Critical Hit Deck
Critical Hit Deck for Players (5E) - Nord Games

Finally @BookTenTiger has come up with some interesting mechanics for escalating combat. I won’t go into all the detail instead posting a link, however it definitely incentivizes out of combat solutions and escalates combat quickly to an appropriate level of difficulty. D&D 5E - Escalating Conflict: a House Rule to curb the amount of death in D&D

The combination of escalating conflict, critical hits and lingering injuries should make combat suitably deadly and even a simple conflict with the town watch could go nastily.

Races

These are pretty standard - humans, dwarves, elves and halflings. Not too complicated. Level Up‘s flexibility around Heritage and Culture create a lot more flexibility around these limited races.

Corruption

These kinds of mechanics can be controversial. My gut feeling is that it’s definitely an optional extra. There are lots of options if you did want it, AIME’s Shadow Points mechanic being my preferred. Alternatively you could keep things simple and use Level Up’s Strife mechanic. It would be easy enough to add mutations as some of the consequences if that’s how you wanted the game to progress. Alternatively, mutation could be a result of a specific creature or items abilities and don’t worry about a generic mechanic at all.

These kinds of mechanics can be controversial. My gut feeling is that it’s definitely an optional extra. There are lots of options if you did want it, AIME’s Shadow Points mechanic being my preferred. Alternatively you could keep things simple and use Level Up’s Strife mechanic. It would be easy enough to add mutations as some of the consequences if that’s how you wanted the game to progress. Alternatively, mutation could be a result of a specific creature or items abilities and don’t worry about a generic mechanic at all.

Equipment

I think this can be ran pretty much as written with the optional rules for firearms included. If you wanted to keep the old world feel you could convert all GP prices into a silver standard of Shillings. Then have one Gold Crown be 20 silver shillings and one silver shilling be 12 brass pennies.


Magic

Similarly to character creation, I could spend weeks arranging spells into the Warhammer Colour colleges and still not make them balanced or fair. Instead I would just say a wizard (or priest) can learn magic if it fits within their area of influence. A lot of spells - fly, Magic missile, shield etc can be part of multiple schools if they are flavored that way. All wizards and priests have an effect similar to the spell Thematics feat from 3e reproduced below) also their casting focus becomes the trapping of their college or temple that call to the winds of Magic. The main colleges and temples are detailed below with some suggested spells and themes.

Amber Beasts, the wild. Rage, Polymorph, Summon Swarm.

Amethyst Death, silence, force. Resilient sphere, Silence, Ray of Enfeeblement.

Bright Fire, destruction. Fireball, Wall of Flame, Fire Shield.

Celestial. The heavens, fate, lightning, weather. Lightning bolt, True Strike, Gust of Wind.

Gold Metal, transmutation. Fabricate, Mending, Magic weapon.

Grey Shadows, illusion, befuddlement, obscurement. Obscuring Mist, Mirror Image, Charm Person

Jade Life, plants, growth, protection. Plant Growth, Tree Stride, Regenerate.

Light Light, Excorcism, Entrapment. Daylight, Banishment, Hold Person

Ulric War, Winter and Wolves. Mages Hound, Ice Storm, Rage.

Sigmar Protection, Glory and the Empire. Heroism, Magic Weapon, Divine Favour.

Shallya Healing and Mercy. Calm Emotions, Restoration, Cure Wounds.

Morr The Dead and Dreams. False Life, Dream, Sleep.

Myrmydia War and Tactics. Warding Bond, Spiritual Weapon, blade barrier.

Ranald Trickery. Invisibility, Pass Without Trace, Modify Memory.

Verana Truth and Knowledge. Legend Lore, Identify, Zone of Truth.

Taal Beasts and the Wild. Polymorph, Speak with animals, conjure woodland beasts.

Rhya The Earth, growing things. Plant Growth, Erupting Earth, Conjure Elemental (Earth)

Maanan The Sea and Storms. Control Weather, Water Breathing. Conjure Elemental (Water)

Tzeentch Fate, Trickery, Magic and Mutation. Fire Ball, Divination, Polymorph.

Slaanesh Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. Dominate Person, Slow, Otto’s Irresistible Dance.

Nurgle Disease and Fortitude. Contagion, Insect Plague, Poison Spray.

Spell Thematics: Choose a theme for your spellcasting, such as "ice" or "fire" or "screaming skulls." All spells you cast have this theme in the manifestation of their effects, although this does not actually change the spell in any way. You cannot use this feat to make your spell manifestations invisible, and it never causes your spells to deal more damage because of the visual change. (You may still cast spells without this thematic manifestation if you so choose.) For example, if your theme is "fire," then your magic missile spell might appear to produce bolts of fire, although the bolts still are a force effect and cause normal damage, not fire damage. If your theme is "screaming skulls," your fireball might manifest as a small screaming skull that impacts the target and explodes into a fiery ball that momentarily resembles a 20-foot-radius burning skull, although it causes damage exactly like a standard fireball (and doesn't cause any sonic damage, despite the screaming of the skull).

Conclusion

So that’s it. Plenty of info to think about there. With Level Up’s release, there has never been a better time to give it a go. Let me know any feedback or alternative ideas. My plan is to go through some conversion ideas of existing adventures over time for anyone who wants pointers.
 
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GreyLord

Legend
I wouldn't try to exactly convert the game system (So, no career swapping as you put it, unless they match the trappings of multiclassing minimums) as it were, but recreate 5e to resemble the dark world of Warhammer.

To do that, I'd bring over the Warhammer ideas and the world.

To make 5e grimmer, I MIGHT do the following.

Allow them to have a maximum of 4 HD rolls. They roll for Hitpoints at 1st level. They then do not get HP at 2-4th level, but roll every 5th level (So at 5th, 10th, 15th) up to 4 maximum rolls. They roll for HP at 1st level (So no maximum HP).

This could also correlate to the different tiers.

Death is ALWAYS at 0 HP. They can use a Point (Hero/Fate, whatever you want to call it in your system, it's in D&D though) to stop from dying (maybe it reduces them to 1 HP) but, otherwise, they die.

You can allow changes in "career" but only AFTER they qualify for a multiclass change (so, minimum ability score requirements). They'd still get their ability score increases, so if they really want it, they can get their minimum's that way.

No FEATS. (unless you severely weaken some of them).

I think your ideas for criticals are fine.

I'd make the rests different, more like the DMG's suggestion of longer rests. A short rest may be an hour (or if you really want deadlier, make it a day). A long rest a day (or, if you want it deadlier, make it a week or so).

In my mind:

The thing about Warhammer isn't so much they system, but the atmosphere. Players don't get the idea that they are invincible, but that they could die to any little thing, even that little goblin over there. They are fragile and so is life, just like the balance between Law and Chaos.

I feel you can recreate this in 5e without changing the entire system of classes. Keep the class system as it is, just make it more dangerous in the world itself. Use the Lore, but not necessarily the game system of WFRP.
 


TheSword

Legend
I agree better start as playing in a WarHammer inspired setting and add slowly some setting tweaks.
I think the problem is that adventures as written don’t really translate well to 5e. Combat is too rare and I think the world just doesn’t fit to normal class and spells school arrangements.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
IMHO you certainly can convert 5e to be kinda like WFRP, but it requires so many changes that making somebody learn a system built to do that thing from the ground up is probably easier?

Take careers for example, the whole brass 3, silver 1 etc progression of careers in WFRP 4e can kinda sorta be kludged somewhat into 5e, the previous paradigm of massive and voluminous career trees certainly can't.

I think the main problem here is that you would be starting, as a base, from a game pretty much designed to do the exact opposite of what WFRP does. I can't think of many games outside of maybe, 13th Age and Exalted that are starting off from a worse place to do this from. 5e is designed to make very capable, hard to kill heroes that feel heroic and capable from jump and everything is designed around that, and WFRP certainly isn't.

I realize this is a thought exercise so it doesn't really matter, but if this were a discussion about somebody wanting to actually do this I would try to dissuade said person from doing it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think the problem is that adventures as written don’t really translate well to 5e. Combat is too rare and I think the world just doesn’t fit to normal class and spells school arrangements.

I don't think it's a problem of the frequency of combat, we are running D&D with very few combat, it's just that when a setting and its rules are perfectly integrated to deliver the right feel and ambiance, it's really hard to separate the two, and it often feels awkward. I have the same problem with Runequest and Glorantha, I would know know how to begin converting from one to the other.
 



TheSword

Legend
I think the point is as @Retreater has mentioned in a few threads, that players of WFRP are hard to find.

Out of my three groups I may be able to persuade one group to give it a go for the two years or so it would take to complete Enemy Within. One of those players is a serial complainer who could easily derail it 🤷🏻‍♂️
 

Stormonu

Legend
I think E6 would be very helpful to use - leveling up to 6th level max in a class, no hit point gain past 6th level. Maybe allow slow advancement beyond 6th level (around double "cost", but still no HP gain).

Will you be considering the elvin colleges of magic? In the past, they tended to map very well to the D&D schools of magic.

Chaos worshippers (and their ilk) would likely map very well to Warlocks, and you may want to map out some basic paths for the four Chaos gods (Khorne = Fiend, Slaneesh = Fey, Nurgle = Great Old One, Tzeench = ? )
 

TheSword

Legend
I’ve just added a [+] just so the thread doesn’t go off topic into whether a conversion is possible/practical and sticks to what can be done.
 

TheSword

Legend
I think E6 would be very helpful to use - leveling up to 6th level max in a class, no hit point gain past 6th level. Maybe allow slow advancement beyond 6th level (around double "cost", but still no HP gain).

Will you be considering the elvin colleges of magic? In the past, they tended to map very well to the D&D schools of magic.

Chaos worshippers (and their ilk) would likely map very well to Warlocks, and you may want to map out some basic paths for the four Chaos gods (Khorne = Fiend, Slaneesh = Fey, Nurgle = Great Old One, Tzeench = ? )
I remember running E6 for pathfinder in a WFRP. It worked really well. We did find that once a got to level 6, some of the fun did go out of it. So the suggestion has merit. I think it would be a hard sell for a group wanting that full progression but slow advancement is not a bad idea at all. For The Enemy Within something longer term helps.

I totally agree with everything else. To be honest, I’d just let elven mages take any spell they like (barring necromancy, daemology etc) I definitely agree that Warlock maps really well to any kind of Chaos Worshipper.
 

TheSword

Legend
IMHO you certainly can convert 5e to be kinda like WFRP, but it requires so many changes that making somebody learn a system built to do that thing from the ground up is probably easier?

Take careers for example, the whole brass 3, silver 1 etc progression of careers in WFRP 4e can kinda sorta be kludged somewhat into 5e, the previous paradigm of massive and voluminous career trees certainly can't.

I think the main problem here is that you would be starting, as a base, from a game pretty much designed to do the exact opposite of what WFRP does. I can't think of many games outside of maybe, 13th Age and Exalted that are starting off from a worse place to do this from. 5e is designed to make very capable, hard to kill heroes that feel heroic and capable from jump and everything is designed around that, and WFRP certainly isn't.

I realize this is a thought exercise so it doesn't really matter, but if this were a discussion about somebody wanting to actually do this I would try to dissuade said person from doing it.
I do agree. That’s why I would put choices back into the players hands.

I don’t think any but a small handful of careers map at all into 5e. They do fit really well into Backgrounds though, with almost no effort as Backgrounds are largely fluff. It does allow you to migrate the status easily too. Albeit not sure why a character wouldn’t just pick a high Status background! Need to think about that.

I think the changes above will do fine at making 5e more deadly. Level Up already kinda fixes that by removing whack-a-mole. Slower healing, injuries and critical hits mean often I wouldn’t expect PCs to be walking round hale and hearty.
 

TheSword

Legend
I wouldn't try to exactly convert the game system (So, no career swapping as you put it, unless they match the trappings of multiclassing minimums) as it were, but recreate 5e to resemble the dark world of Warhammer.

To do that, I'd bring over the Warhammer ideas and the world.

To make 5e grimmer, I MIGHT do the following.

Allow them to have a maximum of 4 HD rolls. They roll for Hitpoints at 1st level. They then do not get HP at 2-4th level, but roll every 5th level (So at 5th, 10th, 15th) up to 4 maximum rolls. They roll for HP at 1st level (So no maximum HP).

This could also correlate to the different tiers.

Death is ALWAYS at 0 HP. They can use a Point (Hero/Fate, whatever you want to call it in your system, it's in D&D though) to stop from dying (maybe it reduces them to 1 HP) but, otherwise, they die.

You can allow changes in "career" but only AFTER they qualify for a multiclass change (so, minimum ability score requirements). They'd still get their ability score increases, so if they really want it, they can get their minimum's that way.

No FEATS. (unless you severely weaken some of them).

I think your ideas for criticals are fine.

I'd make the rests different, more like the DMG's suggestion of longer rests. A short rest may be an hour (or if you really want deadlier, make it a day). A long rest a day (or, if you want it deadlier, make it a week or so).

In my mind:

The thing about Warhammer isn't so much they system, but the atmosphere. Players don't get the idea that they are invincible, but that they could die to any little thing, even that little goblin over there. They are fragile and so is life, just like the balance between Law and Chaos.

I feel you can recreate this in 5e without changing the entire system of classes. Keep the class system as it is, just make it more dangerous in the world itself. Use the Lore, but not necessarily the game system of WFRP.
Some really good points. To be honest, I’ve found 4e WFRP players to be pretty robust with amour deflection, and resilience. Whack-a-mole is reborn in WFRP 4e.

Yeah, I wouldn’t change classes, just move them to backgrounds. So it would be more like Background Swapping than Class Swapping. Which i don’t really see as an issue. You’re just changing status and maybe a skill/proficiency or two.
 

Voadam

Legend
I use plenty of Warhammer themes in my D&D games. 5e has plenty of bestiaries with ratfolk so you have stats for Skaven. Orks are a fantastic way to conceptualize and play your D&D orcs.

Chaos and Daemons, Chaos Knights, and Beastmen can be done easily in D&D.

Give your dwarven barbarian a mohawk, tattoos, some lard for his hair, and some glorious death wish and you have a troll slayer.

For the WFRP character feel you could go with appropriate custom backgrounds. You could pick or roll in the Warhammer books for starting careers and make custom backgrounds for them as suggested in the PH, (two skills, proficiency or language and a minor ability). The starting careers would even give you the appropriate (sub par) background equipment "small but vicious dog".

As a DM have bad things happen a lot. In the opening everybody meets in a tavern game, everyone's drinks get spiked. When monsters or PCs die use the language of the WFRP crit tables. Thieves and pickpockets are as rampant as poor hygiene and diseases. A wagon could be good loot.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
I, for one, would absolutely love the chance to play Enemy Within under 5e rules. The Old World is a great, dark setting and everything I’ve heard about the EW campaign has been positive.
Go for it, @TheSword
 

If you want to merge D&D 5E and WHFRP...how about Shadow of the Demon Lord? I'm running a campaign right now and it gives a nice gritty feel while being super easy to learn.
 

TheSword

Legend
If you want to merge D&D 5E and WHFRP...how about Shadow of the Demon Lord? I'm running a campaign right now and it gives a nice gritty feel while being super easy to learn.
Probably not right for me. Part of the attraction is the 5e ruleset itself and not having to learn a whole new rule set. Otherwise as others have said, I’d just play WFRP 4e, which may end up happening anyway.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
There's a few rules that would be great for a Warhammer feel in 5e:

1) Slow Healing (or Gritty Realism, but I prefer the former)
2) Survivors from VRGtR + Background for 3 levels BEFORE reaching the 1st level of a class.
3) Honor and Sanity score rules from the DMG.
4) Use the Scroll Mishap from the DMG for any spell cast. The DC to cast a spell without Mishap if 10 + spell level.

5) (optional) Use only the Sidekicks classes as playable class, have the various archetypes bolt unto the closest sidekick class (ie: Expert Thief, Warrior Berserker). If an archetypes requires a specific class features that's no longer present in the Sidekick class, replace one feature of the sidekick class with the one required from the original class) ala 2e kits.
6) (optional) Have the Mage class learn Disciplines from the old UA Mystic instead of the usual spell list. If said rules is applied, the Mishap table is instead a DC of 10+ nb of points used to cast the spells.

7) Use the Fear rules from VGtR. Sanity score may be used in these case instead of Wis.
8) System Shock, Lingering wounds and Morale could be added for hardcore mode.
9) Downtime rules and Lifestyle expenses should be applied.

10) Do not use feat, but give the ''racial feat'' from XGtE of each race at either character creation or at 6th-ish level.
11) Use the improved critical add-on from the feats of Tasha's has a base.

NB: the Feat for Races and Feat for Skills from UA could be given at each X levels instead archetypes features.
 

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