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.

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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.
 
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Richard Jansen-Parkes

Richard Jansen-Parkes

Pardon the minor thread necromancy, but I finally finished reading the book cover-to-cover.

On the whole, I like it. It is indeed a little bit fiddlier than, say 5e D&D. But not odiously so. Skill checks are nice and straightforward. Combat takes a bit more work, but really should still flow pretty quickly once you get used to it. It is deadly, and bad luck could see your character maimed or dead in short order.

It does a great job at replicating the game in mechanics and atmosphere. The DM advice is quite good towards that end, too.

I’ll restate that art is pretty gorgeous, though one or two of the pieces suffers pixelation due to being blown up too big.

For me, I think it hits some similar notes to Warhammer Fantasy without the cumbersome complexity of the new edition.
 

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My mom taught me if I don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Which, I just realized, is a double-negative. (?)

As for the Witcher, I bought it at GenCon the day it came out. Had been following the game since the news came out that they were making one. Absolutely think the setting is fantastic and would make a perfect TTRPG. Read the rulebook... I like the cover.
 

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