Saturday, March 7, 2009



The New World of Darkness uses a system for regaining willpower whereby each character has a virtue and a vice. Willpower is a spendable resource pool whose capacity is based on your Resolve and Composure score--spending a point of willpower gives a character a three die bonus on a single roll. Once per chapter (session), a character may act based on their virtue (one of the traditional seven) to regain all spent willpower. Once per scene, a character may act based on their vice to regain a single point of willpower.

I was never really happy with this system. While, theoretically, it should reward a character for acting against their best interest in order to fulfill their character concept, I found that players were more likely to act against their character concept--or behave in an inappropriate and disruptive way. Further, certain virtues and vices were problematic--sloth, for example, generally led to characters skipping out on scenes. I ran a game where the majority of characters chose sloth as their vice. It was problematic.

So, if the virtue/vice system is inadequate, what can replace it? Well, I happened upon an article on Amagi Games ( that offers a plug-in to create a soap opera feel for a game. Soap opera's not quite what I'm looking for, but changing a few small things makes this very workable as a plug-in for a serious nWoD game. Luckily, Amagi Games puts their material into the public domain, so I shall butcher it and display the remains publicly.

One of the things that is ideal about this system is it rewards characters for developing meaningful relationships. Oftentimes in a game, players can feel reluctant to become attached to NPCs, because they fear the Storyteller will just use this to punish them.

This is an optional sub-system to replace virtue/vice in the New World of Darkness. At the beginning of a chronicle, each character is assigned a certain number of "relationship" slots. The development of a small number of in-character relationships will be rewarded. The number of slots should be assigned based on the expected length of the chronicle. A short three-session game will probably do with just one relationship slot. I have yet to play-test this, but I suspect there should be roughly one relationship slot for every three sessions played, guaranteeing that players will not be able to regain full willpower every session without making difficult choices. It is certainly possible that a storyteller could add relationship slots at key moments in the plot--perhaps starting with four and adding one at the beginning of each new "Act," if using a five-act play format. Or, the storyteller could add new slots when appropriate for the story--if the PCs move to a new a city, adding two or three relationship slots will indicate to them that they should be exploring their new locale and meeting new people.

The seven basic types of relationships, as defined by Amagi-Games, are as follows:
• Anathema: Someone you want to destroy.
• Exemplar: Someone you want to follow.
• Keeper: Someone you want to escape.
• Paramour: Someone you want to obtain.
• Rival: Someone you want to defeat.
• Protégé: Someone you want to mold.
• Ward: Someone you want to protect.
In general, a character should not have more than one of each type.

There are four levels of intensity to a relationship:
• Implied: Your character feels a particular way about the other party in the relationship.
• Overt: Your character acts based on feeling a particular way about the other party in the relationship. This is the level at which a healthy relationship will remain.
• Abusive: Your character behaves in abusive ways based on the relationship. The target of abuse may not be the other party in the relationship. For example, you may get in a fist fight when some guy starts talking to your paramour at the bar.
• Murderous: Your character is willing to kill to get what he or she wants out of the relationship. As with the abusive level, this may not be directed at the partner in the relationship. For example, you may be willing to kill in order to protect your ward.

Starting a relationship:
Once per session, you may fill an empty relationship slot with a character that is not in any other relationship slot. This counts as intensifying a relationship for purposes of only being able to do so once per session (see below). This character can be any NPC, and this relationship does not need to be reciprocated. You regain full willpower and the relationship is set to the Implied intensity level.

You may choose a player character to fill your relationship slot, but the player (not necessarily the character) must consent to this.

Acting on a relationship:
If your relationship is overt or more intense, once per scene you may act out your relationship at that level in order to gain a point of willpower. You may take your overt paramour out for dinner at a fancy restaurant or you may threaten your anathema.

Intensifying your relationship:
Once per chapter (session), you may intensify a relationship by acting out a scene at the next higher level of intensity. For example, you may have a retainer who serves as your assistant in magical experiments and your protégé in your relationship slot. You may be working long into the night to prepare a powerful spell to break your rival's ward. The events are stressful, and you find yourself using your assistant as a scapegoat. You begin to chastise and belittle him for his shortcomings, blaming your falling behind schedule on his repeated errors. You have intensified your relationship to abusive, refilling your empty willpower pool and ensuring success, but at what cost?

Mechanically, intensifying a relationship beyond overt is rewarding in a pinch because you will totally refill your willpower pool. However, in the long run, it means that you will need to engage in more extreme behavior to gain willpower from that relationship from scene to scene.

Ignoring it:
If you ignore an established relationship, the Storyteller or another player may call you on it. If you fail to act on the relationship at the next appropriate opportunity, you lose a point of willpower.

Ending a relationship:
If your character ends a relationship or a relationship ends because of circumstances beyond your control (the other character's death, for example, though it might be interesting to play out a relationship in the absence of the character), the relationship slot becomes empty. If you want to end a relationship, but the storyteller thinks that doing so is inappropriate, he may ask you to spend a willpower dot (which can be bought back for 8 xp). The now empty relationship slot behaves differently than before, however. If your character intensifies a relationship in that slot (including when a character is first chosen to fill that slot at the implied level), you do not regain full willpower, but, instead, regain only one point of willpower. This remains so until the relationship reaches the intensity of the previous relationship.

A storyteller may, at his discretion, allow you to empty a relationship slot but still receive full willpower for intensifying the relationship from the beginning. This option may be used in especially long chronicles, or in chronicles where the storyteller is okay with a rotating cast of characters. This may be necessary in a game concerned with very long-lived characters, for example, if your playing a Vampire chronicle that takes place over several centuries.

Monday, March 2, 2009


When I was in high school, I was very active in the drama club. Every once in a while I remember one particular incident that still brings about a strong response. I was playing Louisiana Capote in Southern Fried Murder (he's an effeminate southern writer that's a combination of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote). In one line, I was to call another character, a stupid southern sheriff, a neanderthal. Now, obviously, Louisiana was an educated person, like me, and knew that Neanderthal is a word with French origins and is properly pronounced (in both languages) with a hard t, not an English th. The director laughed at me and insisted I was saying it wrong. Even once I proved that I was right, I was told to say it incorrectly. This pushed my buttons in about 37 different ways--I hate being corrected when I'm right, I hate pandering to the ignorant, I hate taking direction from someone who's not committed to doing things correctly, etc. Ultimately, I said it correctly anyway.

The important thing about this incident is it still gets me fired up when I think about it. We all have all sorts of experiences in high school that are varying degrees of humiliating, and those of us who are well adapted move on. Despite all of the indignities suffered in my childhood, I've grown into a pretty healthy person. I hold almost no grudges. But this, for whatever reason, cannot be forgotten. Funny the things that stick with us.