Obscenity ahead. You have been warned. In order to provide a proper buffer, I give you this picture of a typical pastoral landscape in Warhammer 40K:
There. Now. Where was I about to be? Right.
Fucking World of Darkness! I was looking at jeffwik’s list of systems and thinking about my go-to systems, which led me to think about Adventure. I’ve run Adventure in the D20 version and it was fun cause I had great players. But the system was a bit of a hack and eminently prone to abuse, so why was I not going “Oh, yeah, the original version, yeah.”?
Well, because there’s this stunningly elegant skeleton in the middle of Storyteller. Dots are great, the attributes are great, every shuffle of the names of the attributes and skills and shit has been just fine. Skill plus attribute is the best system, because even if you’re mostly using Guns and Dexterity, hey, the ability to use Guns plus Intelligence is fun. Yes it is.
And then there’s this steaming pile of wacky complexity called the combat system, and I lose it entirely, because I hate it, and while various and sundry people at White Wolf have made great attempts at revising it — the Aeon version of the system is pretty OK! — it’s still just oh god my head hurts. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I get trapped in this every single time, too, I go “but the character creation system is great, how bad can combat be?” and it’s bad.
You roll! And then you maybe roll again, or maybe there’s soak, and you lose some dice for armor, or do you lose successes based on armor? Do you add Strength to your damage? Do you add Dexterity? Do you add an attribute sometimes, but not sometimes? Does it matter how much you succeed by? Can I dodge? Can I parry? Do I roll for dodge? What do I do with my dodge successes? FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!
I mean. I play Champions. For fun. Don’t get on my ass about complexity, it’s my breakfast cereal. This shit makes no fucking sense!
Fuck this noise. I’m rewriting it. I even have design goals. Look, here they are.
1. Maintain compatibility.
That’s huge. I mentioned I like the character creation system, right? The character sheets, those are awesome, let’s keep those. Also let’s avoid the terrifying bit where you wind up rewriting every single power, okay?
2. Speed saves lives.
This, both in terms of how many rolls it takes to resolve a combat and how fast combats go. That latter bit is trickily personal. I like to run fast, hard, mean games. Not necessarily deadly, but I don’t want my combats to linger, so I’m in favor of people taking damage.
I.e., I’m writing a combat system which is optimized for two humans getting in a gun fight and one of them dying before very long. Alternatively, it should be good for one vampire ripping apart an entire night club.
I have an alternative system floating around in my head that I think would encourage longer, more delicate combats with a lot of parries and tactics and so on. It has action points and is based on Feng Shui’s shot system. But that’s later.
3. My brain is small.
I basically don’t want to have to store more than like three numbers in my head at once. Like, to just hit someone with a sword in D&D 3.5, you need to know a) what your current +attack is, b) how much damage the sword does, and c) any modifiers, like say you have your target flanked. A lot of the time that’s only two numbers. Three is OK. Four is scary. Five sucks.
Sidenote: there are three ranges in an RPG unless it’s played on a grid or a hex map, OK? And none of them are measured in feet or meters. There is too close to shoot at safely, medium, and risky shot. 50% of the time, when you hit someone at the risky shot range, you miss anyhow. There done.
The previous paragraph was not absolutely true but I’m still pissed off because for the life of me I can’t remember how to figure out if someone dodges in the new World of Darkness system, and I’ve run a Vampire game using it for a year, and I’m in a Changeling game, and it’s so fucking confusing I haven’t internalized it. So you can blame dodging for my knee-jerk reaction to the question of ranged weapons.
Again: there is only room for three numbers in my head.
OK, so let’s write down a system. Let’s not playtest it yet. But let’s do playtest it someday.
How It Works
This is aimed at Vampire, in that I’m noting some things vampires can do. But only a few.
Basics: target number is still an 8, unless it changes, which it will sometimes. Dice pools are dice pools. Roll that many ten sided dice, and the number of dice that get 8 or over, that’s your number of successes. Tens roll again and accumulate successes. All that is very good.
Combat is in rounds still. Initiative still exists. Declare and resolve actions in order of initiative. Why the hell does the old “declare, then resolve in reverse order” thing stick around for some people? It’s another thing to remember! I’ve been over this already.
OK, I am going to hit you. This is a fight. You are going to be able to hit me back. You roll your dice pool, I roll my dice pool, the person with more successes does damage as follows:
Number of successes + weapon damage – 2 if you’re the defender
In theory you could do something where each additional time you defend, you take an additional -1. Whatever. Too much in my head. Screw it.
If I shoot at you and you can’t shoot back, obviously you’re not getting to do damage. If you can shoot back, hey, maybe you get in a shot.
Let’s simplify the fuck out of weapon damage. A weapon gives you +1 damage. A big weapon gives you another +1 damage. A badass weapon gives you another +1 damage.
I have a knife; that’s +1. It’s a badass knife that I stole from the Prince with mystic runes inscribed on it that hurt you a lot. OK, +2. I have a sword, that’s a big weapon, also +2. Badass sword, +3. Pistol is +1. Rifle is +2. Do you think shotguns are badass? OK, +3.
The GM may make stuff bigger at his discretion.
Injury. You have as many health points as you always did. If you drop to half, -1 to all pools. Done.
If you defended, you still get to attack stuff, but take a -1 to your attack pool. That’s one thing to remember: was I attacked? Acceptable.
There is a big interesting side effect to all this, namely: if ten mooks attack a scary person, all of them may die. That’s OK. I want things to be scary and quick, remember?
Oh, yeah, mooks. Like this.
Mooks: fixed number of successes. This is stolen from Cinematic Unisystem. Most mooks just always get 1 success. Beefy mooks always get 2 successes. Beefy mooks can take two points of damage, and normal mooks go down after one. Done.
Multiple attackers coordinating: attack goes off on the lowest initiative. Maximum number of attackers = lowest Wits value among all of them. Add up all the die pools, subtract 1 die from each pool for each person attacking. I.e., two attackers, lose 2 dice from each of their pools. Three, lose 3 dice from each of their pools. Etc. You need to be competent to make this work.
Armor: what the hell? It’s not a military game, dude. Fine, add the armor value to your defense pool.
Dodge: you don’t get any attacks this turn. In exchange, you get to add dice to your defense pool, like this. For every die you add up to a maximum of your Dexterity, you lose two points of damage if you win the roll. Clear? So you have four dice of defense base, and you add two dice, and you roll six successes, and your opponent rolls two. You have four successes over him, so four points of damage.
Subtract two for being the defender, add two for the sword, still four points! But you added two dice, so subtract another four, and no damage. I.e., you can be pretty defensive, but you won’t hit anyone while you’re doing it.
Is this keeping too much in my head? Defensive pool, that’s one thing. Amount you dodged, that’s another thing. Weapon damage, three things. I think we’re cool.
Stunts: describe a cool thing. If it makes your character’s life easier, it’s worth a die to the pool. If it makes it harder (aimed shot, whatever) subtract a die.
Feel free to keep all the existing stuff about cover and prone and aiming; it’s all compatible. Love the die pool. It is your friend.
OK, some vampire stuff. This is really pretty optional, this is just me wanting to make vampires kick more ass.
Burn a blood point, reduce your target number by 1 for a turn for a single stat. I guess it could be just physical. I’ve always liked the idea of burning blood for charismatic stuff or thinking faster or whatever, but that’s me. If you want really scary old vampires, let them reduce target numbers by 2 if they can burn 2 blood points in a turn, and so on. If you only want sort of scary old vampires, they’re still scary, cause you burn 2 blood points and reduce both Str and Dex targets by 1.
For megascary, make it the entire encounter rather than just one turn, but better not let ’em stack it. Alternative or additional megascary: vampires always have a target number of 7. Always. They kick your ass, hombre.