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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Shadow of Madness: a New World of Darkness houserule

This is a rules hack that I've already mentioned on Google+, and now I've revised it a little. It was inspired by the mention of a "Shadow Points" system for Cubicle 7's The One Ring RPG. That system works as follows: as your character progresses, they get more experienced, but they also have more of a chance to accumulate "shadow points" that bring them closer to the brink of madness and evil...so it's a good idea to retire characters before that happens. Thinking on it, it could be a marvelous idea when adapted to WoD. My brain started clicking, and, well...

Visions of Madness: Gaining Stress
The main part of the system is what I call Stress. This is a measure of a bunch of different things all rolled into one: seeing unearthly horrors, committing grave acts (even in self-defense or justified by what is right and good), and being exposed to new facets of the strange and scary World of Darkness. You'll notice that some of this, such as coming into contact with the supernatural world for the first time, overlaps with, say, experience rewards for Hunters. In other words, it's a double-edged sword to deal with the supernatural, as a mundane.

Any time you encounter a particularly stressful/taxing situation for your character, such as watching innocents get slain by a supernatural ugly, or watching someone you care about get hurt by said ugly, or any time you come into fresh contact with the World of Darkness (such as finding an ancient evil tome of arcane knowledge, or seeing a monster for the first time), you gain a point of Stress. The Storyteller can control the rate of craziness in characters by controlling the rate at which these events happen.

You also gain Stress for dropping Morality. Whenever you commit an act against your current Morality, and make a degeneration roll, you have a chance to fail that roll and drop in Morality. This should be old hat for WoD veterans. Here's where it changes. Instead of making a second degeneration roll to avoid gaining a derangement, you gain two points of Stress when you fail the first degeneration roll. If it's a drop to Morality 3-5, you gain two extra points of Stress (four total). If it's a drop to Morality 1-2, you gain four extra points of Stress (six total).

So Stress is a sort of "bad experience points". And here's what it does. Every 5 points of Stress imposes a flat-out -1 penalty to all rolls. Yep, everything. I know that sounds pretty harsh, and it is. This is the toll that you take for encountering the World of Darkness, and for getting your hands dirty.

Wrong in the Head: Getting Rid of Stress
And here's where the final piece comes in: getting rid of that Stress. Because a -1 Penalty to everything is really hefty. And it just so happens that WoD has a nice built-in mechanism to handle this. It's called Derangements. In a nutshell, you can rid yourself of 5 Stress by taking on a minor Derangement. Or 10 Stress by taking on a major Derangement. I like this, because it means that instead of getting derangements randomly assigned to you (as in the old system), you have control over when they manifest, as well as a heavy incentive to manifest them.

Getting rid of Derangements is fairly simple. Whenever you increase your Morality with experience, you can get rid of one minor Derangement, or knock the classification of a major Derangement down to minor (in other words, it becomes less severe and you can now erase it when you bump up your Morality next time).

As for the role of Virtues in Morality? They remain with the first degeneration role, simple enough. So, what do you think? There's obviously a lot that can be done with this rule, but I think it stands as a pretty nice basic rule.

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