Streamlining the WOD: What I learned at UKGE 2015

In my previous post about streamlining the New World of Darkness I talked about condensing skills, this got a lot of interesting comments that make me think about the logistics of it a bit more and whether doing so would make the game too generic/less detailed; those of you who’ve been keeping up with my blogs and video posts will be aware that i’ve recently got back from the UK Games Expo, a large RPing convention that takes place over her in the United Kingdom. During the convention I played in two NWOD games games ran by Amy Williams, one was a mortals based game and the other Werewolf: the Forsaken; both games we very enjoyable and, by necessity due to the time-limits imposed by a convention slots, used a streamlined version of the NWOD rules.

I was absolutely blown away how the few minimal tweaks that Amy made actually made the dice-rolling/rules side of the game far quicker to play and, like any good GM, resolved to steal the ideas to use in my own home games.

So how did the method work?

Well keep in mind that we were playing pre-genned characters in a convention scenario, but basically there were a few things where dice-rolls are normally required that we were just allowed to do without recourse to a roll; the two main examples that jump out in my mind are entering the spirit world and changing shape in the Werewolf game.

I loved this because it not only reduced dice-rolling and sped up the game but it also meant you didn’t have that slightly deflated moment when you’re at a dramatic part of the game and you attempt to do something cool that is in the nature of your supernatural type only to be stymied by a poor dice-roll.

The other thing was that our gifts/supernatural powers were more loosely defined than they would be normally; basically if you had a group of powers that involved manipulating darkness, you’d simply say what you wanted to do and then make a dice-roll, success being based on your result.

One other aspect of the game that wasn’t really used in the tournament was the morallity mechanics, I’d like to keep these in the game somehow but will probably have to put more thought into how to streamline them (if necessary).

Using this method in Future

Okay, so below are my current thoughts for how i’m going to run a streamlined NWOD game:

  • Use existing character sheets with various attributes + skills.
  • Willpower expenditure adds 3 dice to a roll as normal.
  • Health works as normal.
  • Merit dots add to any roll where they are relevant and can be used (rather than the normal effects).
  • Supernatural powers: Players describe the effect they are attempting to achieve based on the purview of the power, they then make an attribute + skill + level of dots in the power roll to determine if they succeed.
  • Supernatural strength stats (blood potency, etc) can be added to rolls to resist the application of supernatural powers.
  • Werewolves can add reknown dots as extra dice to any appropriate rolls.
  • Changes or effects that are inherently part of a supernatural creatures make-up (as opposed to acquired by a power) do not require dice-rolls (ie. werewolves entering the spirit world, changing form).

I’m sure this will require some additional testing outside of a convention to make it work more in a campaign framework, but I think this is a great solid foundation to begin on for building a more streamlined WOD system.

5 thoughts on “Streamlining the WOD: What I learned at UKGE 2015

  1. I like where it’s going. In recent years I’ve grown more and more frustrated by White Wolf games. The premises are mouth-watering, character options are inspiring, the powers sound powerful… until you get to the rules. The systems have become unnecessarily bureaucratic, and what’s worse, characters are not as competent (in practice) as their dots might lead you to think they are.

    So I decided to houserule it, at least the skill rules: Skills ranked at 1 or 2 dots work as normal, but a Skill at 3 gives an automatic success intead of extra dice (so you’re only rolling an Attribute), Skills at 4 giving 2 auto sux and Skills at 5 giving 3 auto sux.

    Specialties are technically an extra dot in a Skill, so should it raise a Skill from 2 to 3, the carácter gets the auto sux instead of dice.

    Any dice pool reduction, be it from injuries or difficulty penalties are first applied to the auto successes. Note that when a character loses his last auto sux for these he’s being brought down to rank 2, which means he still get the equivalent dice back.

    We’re still playtesting it, but so far everyone seems to approve it.

    Sorry for the long post!

    1. Not at all, it sounds very interesting; like yourself I love the concepts and ideas behind the WOD but the rules seem a little unnecessarily fiddly and a little bit bloated to me, it’s why I’ve gone for a more freestyle approach to powers and tried to reduce as much as possible back to the core ATT + SKILL roll (which I believe to be fairly solid).

      1. Just did, and I really like it. And this comes from a guy who’s always run Gurps Lite, instead of the full thing. So, I totally sympathise with the effort!

        My fix is more intended to address the whiff factor rather than streamlining the rules, though. I just want competent characters to feel competent, but I welcome simplification as well.

        I find myself toying with shorter lists for attributes and skills myself, and once I have something more consistent I’ll make sure I share it on the proper post.

        Cheers!

        1. Understandable, I’ve generally just handled the whiff factor by setting difficulties at lower level than listed in the book, this seems to have mostly compensated for it, although there are certainly other ways of addressing it – I look forward to seeing your amended skill/attribute list (perhaps something similar to the shortened list of attributes spirits use might work?).

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