Saturday, April 20, 2013

System Shopped: Aspects in World of Darkness

Aspects (From Houses of the Blooded)
System Shopped: World of Darkness
by Tobie Abad

I have to open this article with a disclaimer.   When I first started writing this, I was not aware of the recent developments in relation to the new rules that were to come with the God Machine Chronicles.  The only rule set that I encountered was when a fellow gamer posted about the new Morality rules.  So my original article had a lot of mentions about using Aspects as labels you can place on characters to infer upon them conditions or tags which can be used against them.  These were ideas born out of the Houses of the Blooded game, which used a wonderful system where each Aspect had an Invoke, a Tag, and a Compel.

I've recently read up on some of the proposed rules and discovered they've gone for Conditions which work in a similar manner.  However, Conditions were still keyed into the system in terms of dice reductions and the like.  So while I've shortened this article to a great degree, I do hope no one thinks I'm trying to pass off someone else's system as my own.  I just so happen to be thinking on a similar train of thought.

Now I love Aspects.  Given how the huge wave that everyone is excited about is the FATE system, I still find myself dearly liking John Wick's approach to FATE, which he encountered from the game Spirit of the Century.  And there, he kept things simple:  Aspects had an Invoke, which was when the Aspect worked in favor of the player, granting dice, a Tag, where the Aspect could be cited to work against the player, giving the opposing player dice, and a Compel, where the Aspect could be cited for the player character having it to portray him or herself in an appropriate manner in exchange for a Style point.  This encouraged players to play both their strengths and weaknesses to dramatic effect.

This was the same effect I wanted to accomplish for the World of Darkness.   

Given the rules for the World of Darkness are currently in flux with the Onyx Path streamlining some of the rules  into smoother ones, I decided to just push through with this article anyway.  (Let's not get into the house rules I worked out for my other game, the Umbra Group, which I discovered once again match a lots of the new changes they are doing in the upcoming God Machine Chronicle book!)

Aspects in the World of Darkness can be approached in the following ways:
1) Replacing Vice and Virtue
While retaining the existing rule set of the World of Darkness, you can add Aspects into your game by removing the Vice and Virtue system and replacing it instead with two Aspects:  The two Aspects should BOTH reflect you at your worst, and you at your best.  For example, Carlos Moridino the Detective might have the Aspects (Meticulous) and (Rough).   While Duhki the Daeva Assassin might have the Aspects (Deadly) and (Sneaky).  In the existing rules, Vice and Virtue allow you to regain WP when they are portrayed in a scene.  Here, the Aspects can be tagged when the character is acting in a manner appropriate to the Aspect, giving that player an extra three dice for free to use.    However, wise players might opt for only one extra die, since the two other dice can be traded in for temporary Willpower recovery instead.

Also, if another character tags you for your Aspect (say a non-playing character tags Carlos Moridino's Rough to gain an edge against him in a debate about the police being abusive), giving the opposed player an additional two dice to use against you.

Finally, any player or Storyteller can offer the player one Willpower point to compel them to act a certain appropriate way.  (Duhki might be compelled by the other character to feel uncomfortable being visibly alone under a harsh light or Carlos might be compelled to shove a certain suspect too harshly since he tends to be Rough.)   So with this approach, while we lost the full refill of WP (from Virtues), we have replaced it with a chance to recover a point of WP every scene, not to mention free dice for portraying your character better.

2) Replace Specialties
This is how I am doing them in my game now.  Specialties are more like Aspects now.  In the old rules, you'd get a skill, say Drive, and if you had a Specialty in Motorcycles, you get to roll an extra die when driving a motorcycle.  This time, Specialties are Aspects.  You still choose three at the start of character creation, but rather than just being locked to one skill, they now represent a catch-all bonus across all appropriate skills.    For example, you have a Specialty with Kidnappings.  Your Intelligence+Streetwise gain an extra die when you're studying where the kidnapper might have taken the child.  Your Stamina+Academics gains the extra die because your researching all night for which pattern that serial killer is copying. 

Likewise, these Specialties may be Compelled, forcing the player to portray his character in a certain way.  (Duhki might opt to stay hidden than just come out and admit she is not behind the attack) This of course is accompanied with a point of Willpower which can be seen as a welcome bribe.

3) Free Aspects Instead
One can keep the game as it is and instead add the concept of Free Aspects to the game.  In Houses of the Blooded, you can "tag the scene" to give it an Aspect which all others can from that point use to their advantage is they so desired.  For example, your character might kick at the fire place, and the player then declare, "On Fire" as the Aspect of the room.  Now, those who want to use that to their advantage can do so, but of course its not without a cost.

A Free Aspect grants the player 2 extra dice when it can be used in play.  However, in Houses the cost is paid for with Style Points.  Given how Will Power gives a player THREE dice, clearly it cannot be the cost to pay with here. 

Instead, at the center of the table is a bowl of 2 tokens per player.  All players have access to the bowl and can draw from it to pay for establishing a Free Aspect.  There is no cost to actually use the Aspect.  The use of the Aspect however must be appropriate or the GM has the right to veto the roll immediately and simply declare the results.  The GM can reward more tokens whenever the players do something cool in the game.  And any of the player can draw from it at any time.
John Wick's Houses of the Blooded.
Highly recommended game.

4) Shortened Non-Playing Character
Alternately, you can just use the Aspects as a way to stream line your NPCs.  Rather than have long pages of stats, just write three things about them.  And when these things apply, get three dice each time they do to represent their dice roll.

For example:
Security Guard - Focused, Keen Eyed, Brave.
So this guard would have six dice to check if anyone is sneaking about.  Nine to roll how much he recalled seeing after that terrifying moment.  But only three if he were to go head to head against a vampire.

Anyway, there you go.  Just some shopped ideas on how to add Aspects to your World of Darkness games.
I must add this early that I've finally been reading up on the God Machine Chronicles rules adjustments and many of them are looking VERY interesting.  The huge debate on the new calculation on Defense is interesting, and I'm undecided on how I stand on it as of yet, but I was surprised they were doing what I've been doing for the longest time in nWOD, which was Damage bonus from weapons is damage and not dice to hit.  So yeah, I'm studying the new proposed rules now and adopting some.  Others, will have to wait and see when the free rules book comes out.

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