In percentile-based RPGs, there seems to be a fundamental problem with high-level play.

Consider this, from any of the Warhammer 40k RPGs, such as Death Watch: My character has 70 WS(weapon skill), so he usually hits. My opponent has 70 dodge, so the attack is usually avoided. The combat quickly becomes repetitive and frankly a bit boring.

Me: I hit! Opponent: Dodged. Me: I hit! Opponent: Dodged. Me: Miss. Opponent: Haha! Me: I hit! Opponent: Dodged.

I was considering that maybe the rolls could be combined so that the difference between the attack and defense be added to the attack roll, e.g. I have 55 WS and my opponent has 70 dodge, therefore I subtract 15 (the difference) from my WS and just make an attack with no dodge roll. This is just a suggested compromise to reduce repetitive rolling.

Are there any other potential ways to get around this issue, or are systems like this simply not cut out for epic level play?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is there any way to move the target number by applying penalties and bonuses for good tactic or cover etc? I never played Warhammer 40k RPG before..but for me it's an obvious solution unless the problem is not clear to me \$\endgroup\$
    – user4000
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't seem to me at all system-specific; the 'usually hit, usually parry' problem is widespread, e.g. rpg.stackexchange.com/q/19425/2451 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 11, 2013 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington My question wasn't system specific, but then Ace edited it to make it so. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2013 at 10:19
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ As the Orkz say, you need More Dakka: you can only dodge once per attack round (unless talented with Step Aside, in which case you need Even More Dakka!) \$\endgroup\$
    – Kaz Dragon
    Jan 30, 2014 at 9:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feint (half action, opposed WS test or next attack cannot be parried or blocked) will help in your particular example \$\endgroup\$ Feb 15, 2016 at 10:39

3 Answers 3


In Deathwatch rpg you measure how well you do things against others by comparing degrees of success in what the rules calls an opposed test. For every 10% you roll below or above your percentage you gain one degree of success or failure. So if your character with WS 70 roll 47, he has 2 degrees of success (70-47=23, use only the tens). If your opponent dodges and rolls 51, he has one degree of success (70-51=19). His degree counters one of your two successes, but you still have one left so you hit as his dodge wasn't good enough.

Unfortunately the Deathwatch rule book does not state that dodge is an opposed test, but in other 40k rpgs this is changed. So I suggest you do the same.

All of the 40k rpgs use degrees of success in their rules, but with small variations when it comes to how you calculate them. In the newer ones (Black Crusade and Only War) you gain one degree by succeeding with your roll and add 1 degree for each 10% you roll under. So in the example above your character would have 3 degrees of success and your opponent 2.

Hope this helps.:)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. The 40k games slowly adjusted problems in the system over time as new games were released, but degrees of success is generally the answer when it comes to these games. Other d% games often have something similar, such as Unknown Armies: the dodging character must roll under their Dodge skill as well as roll over the actual attack roll of the attacking character in order to fully dodge the attack. (IIRC in UA, rolling under your Dodge and under the attack roll means 1/2 damage.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Nov 11, 2013 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ As far as I know, swift/lightning attacks work a bit like opposed tests, since each [two] degree of success on attacking is canceled by a degree of success in dodge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Medinoc
    Aug 27, 2014 at 9:34

An habitual houserule for our group when playing games with percentile-based rolls is to compare success margins:

Following your example, with both attacker and defender with 70 in their relevant skills. Both of them roll and get the following results:

  • The attacker rolls and gets 55. He succeeds by a margin of 15. (70 - 55)
  • The defender rolls and gets 60. He succeeds by a margin of 10. (70 - 60)
  • Both of them passed their respective rolls, but attacker did it with a better result, so he hits and the defender is unable to dodge the attack.

Possible Cons:

  • It requires some additional math to be done.
  • It does nothing to reduce repetitive rolls.
  • It certainly adds a little more randomness to the system.

What I would say from my experience of GM-ing and playing Deathwatch over 5 sessions is that you are / should be rarely in a combat facing one enemy. The best way to avoid this from a GMs perspective is not to allow 1:1 combat to last more than one round.

The reason for this is that you can only perform a Dodge once per combat round, so if you are fighting two NPCs in close combat, you can only Dodge one NPC per turn.

If your are in a 1:1 situation with an NPC, and a team-mate is not currently engaged, they really should be helping you. A, so you don't suffer as a team, and B, so you don't sit in a Dodge for Dodge combat.

So as players, you can gang up on NPCs to stop this. As a GM you can get the NPCs to gang up on individual players. Just remember you can only make one dodge per combat round.


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