Monday, 12 May 2014

The God-Machine Chronicle - The Rules

The following list summarises the mechanical changes the new half-edition of World of Darkness (that is, The God-Machine Chronicle) has introduced; as such, it assumes familiarity with the game's previous incarnation. Note that it does not list every single rule or change in the rules but rather helps see the main differences; as such, it does not substitute the rule book proper.

Character Creation
  • The fifth dot of an Attribute no longer costs two points at character creation. Although it makes starting characters somewhat more powerful, it really is just one extra die.
  • Individual Merits are clarified and slightly changed. Also, if in-game events lead to losing a particular Merit, points equal to its former value may be spent acquiring another Merit; it makes sense and encourages players to invest XP in Merits.
  • When creating a character, each player chooses an Aspiration, a goal they would like to accomplish. Accomplishing these furthers advancement, and it also communicates what the players want to do with their characters. Fulfilled or abandoned Aspirations are replaced inbetween sessions.
  • There are no codified Virtues and Vices anymore; instead, there are only guidelines that players need to follow, i.e. they must be adjectives, they cannot be directly related to aspects already covered by other parts of the system (not even to Integrity), and of course they must be different for a given character. There are also some loose guidelines about how to change one's Virtue or Vice.
  • Acting in accordance with their Virtue, characters regain all their spent Willpower points, while doing the same with their Vice replenishes only one spent point. What changes is that actions reflecting one's Virtue must be risky, while actions in accordance with one's Vice must not - it really is an incentive to act sinfully, while one is truly virtuous only if he acts so in hard times.
  • Players need to answer the following questions in order to better define the character's background and moral code (cf. breaking points):
    • What is the worst thing the character has ever done?
    • What is the worst thing the character can imagine himself doing?
    • What is the worst thing the character can imagine someone else doing?
    • What has the character forgotten?
    • What is the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to the character?
  • Experience points are not awarded directly any more; instead, Beats are, of which five count as 1 XP. Beats are awarded for numerous things, including (1) fulfilling an Aspiration, (2) resolving a Condition, (3) taking damage in the rightmost Health box, (4) at the end of a session, and (5) exceptional role-playing, tactics, or character development. While I do not like the last one for it relies too much on non-transparent, subjective standards of the Game Master, I love the (6) option the most: if a character fails a roll, he may choose to make it a Dramatic Failure for which he is awarded one Beat.
  • XP requirements are flat values: 1 per dot for buying a Merit, 1 for taking a new Speciality, 2 for advancing a Skill, and 4 for advancing an Attribute. This change results in a somewhat accelerated advancement rate, which I really like; the old system was way too slow for my taste.
Resolution System
  • Conditions add additional complications and consequences to the game play; resolving one is rewarded by a point of Beat. Some of them are persistent, replacing Flaws of the original system. Conditions that apply in combat are called Tilts.
  • Morality is replaced by Integrity, representing one's ability to cope with his actions. Sins are replaced by breaking points, of which five are determined at character creation answering five questions related to one's moral background.
  • Extended actions are changed somewhat. As with normal actions, the dice pool is the sum of a relevant Attribute, Skill, Equipment and situational bonuses, +1 for each relevant Speciality. Each roll represents a time-frame determined by the Game Master (ranging from a round to weeks or months); successes are accumulated throughout, and the character succeeds if he is able to achieve a number of successes (usually between 5 and 20). Additionally, the number of attempts is limited to the character's Attribute + Skill + Speciality; if that many rolls have not generated enough successes, the actions fails. Now, the individual rolls:
    • Successes add up as before.
    • On a Failure, the player chooses one: (1) take a Condition offered by the Game Master (or suggest a more appropriate one and take that) or (2) fail the extended action.
    • If an Exceptional Success is rolled, add up successes as usual, and the player chooses one: (1) subtract the number of dots in the relevant Skill from the total number of successes required, (2) reduce time on each subsequent roll by one quarter, or (3) when you finally succeed at the task, use the "Exceptional Success" effect offered at the task's description (or have the Game Master make up one for you).
    • If a Dramatic Failure occurs, the action fails and the character takes an appropriate Condition; also, further attempts at the task are penalised by -2. It is possible to make a normal Failure a Dramatic one for a Beat, as described above.
Social Rules
  • The social rules are replaced by Social Manoeuvring. First, the player decides what he tries to accomplish (Goal). Second, the Storyteller determines the number of Doors that need to be opened; it is an abstract measure of the other person's reluctance, mistrust, and other factors that prevent him from blindly accepting the player character's offer. Doors must be opened sequentially (1 for a successful roll, 2 for an Exceptional Success); if the goal is abandoned, Doors opened up to that point remain open.
  • Impression determines how much time elapses between such rolls; it is based on first impression but can be upgraded by bribes, gifts, and exploiting the target's Vice.
  • The exact dice pool varies from situation to situation, depending on how exactly the player tries to earn the NPC's trust. There are a few cases which make it impossible to continue with manoeuvring (such as rolling a Dramatic Failure, having a Hostile impression for more than a week, and the NPC's feeling he has been betrayed).
  • The system also deals with forcing Doors: use the current number of closed Doors as a penalty. Success means the player character achieves his Goal; failure, on the other hand, makes the NPC immune to further social manoeuvring from that character.
  • Successive attempts at influencing the same NPC are similar to the first one; however, the number of Doors is 1 less for each Goal previously reached, and 2 more per failed Goal or use of Hard Leverage (violence, drugs, etc.).
  • Influencing groups is similar to influencing a single NPC, only harder (i.e. there are usually more Doors).
Combat Rules
  • Whenever combat has minimal effect on the ongoing story, it presents little danger to the character, or it is merely a means to an end, combat is resolved with a single contested roll. The player rolls (1) Dexterity + Firearms, (2) Strength + Brawl, or (3) Strength + Weaponry; whereas the opponent rolls either one of the above pools or (if attempting to escape) Strength or Dexterity + Athletics.
    • On a Success the character inflicts damage to the opponent equal to his weapon rating plus any difference between their successes; the character also achieves his goal.
    • Failure results in damage inflicted upon the character (opponent's weapon rating plus the difference in successes); the opponent may escape freely, if he wishes so.
    • Exceptional Success is as per Success, plus a point of Willpower is regained.
    • Dramatic Failure results in utter failure, usually the opposite of what the character attempted to do.
  • When a character is dealt more bashing damage than his Stamina or any amount of lethal damage, he gains the Beaten Down Tilt, meaning he does not want to fight any more. It costs him 1 Willpower point to take a violent action (but he may use Defense, Dodge, or run away freely). Such a character may also give in and do what the other person wants; if he does so, the character giving in regains 1 spent Willpower and gains 1 Beat, as well.
  • Consequently, violent actions are always a means to something (Intent). If there is no other end besides acting violently (e.g. you want to kill that guy), the opponent will not gain the Beaten Down Tilt and may not give in.
  • Storyteller characters have a reduced amount of Willpower based on their significance (to balance the fact that they could easily spend all of their Willpower in a single combat without consequences).
  • Weapons may incur an Initiative modifier.
  • Surprise is a contested roll of one side's Wits + Composure and the other side's Dexterity + Stealth.
  • Attack rolls remain unchanged; however, weapon rating is not added to the attack roll but directly increases one's damage (but only on a successful attack roll).
  • Defense is the lower of one's Wits and Dexterity, plus his Athletics skill; it is subtracted from the attacker's melee or thrown attack pool. Dodging is a contested roll with the defender's doubled Defense rating.
  • Many combat manoeuvres are included, reworded, and/or updated to the new system, including the list and capabilities of weapons and armour. Also, every weapon deals lethal damage.
  • Some other rules are also updated, including suffering a car wreck, catching a disease, taking drugs, acting in an extreme environment, and being poisoned.
Ghosts, Spirits, and Other Creatures of Ephemera
  • Ephemeral creatures are invisible and intangible to everything except beings and objects of the same kind of ephemera (i.e. ghosts cannot interact with humans, nor spirits).
  • Ephemeral beings can Manifest and interact with the rest of the world but it requires a specific area, object, or person (e.g. Anchors for ghosts, Infrastructure for angels, and emotional Resonance for spirits). The more powerful the Manifestation, the stronger the Condition needed is. Summoning and banishing ephemeral beings is a matter of creating or destroying such Conditions.
  • Ghosts are the most numerous of the supernatural creatures. They are created when a person dies, particularly in a sudden or traumatic way. They are attracted to places, items, and people (collectively known as Anchors) that remind them of their former lives. Ghosts feed on Essence created by memory and emotion, fed to them by being remembered by the living; they use their power to further their goals left undone. Upon losing their Anchors, ghosts fade from the world and pass over to the Underworld.
  • Spirits reside not in the physical world but in the Shadow realm, a twisted, murky reflection of our reality. Every creature (save for humans), place, emotion, and idea spawns a corresponding dormant spirit in the Shadow that feeds on Essence actions in the physical world create. Awakened spirits also prey on other spirits, merging their ephemera and further twisting their form, becoming less of a pure embodiment of whatever they originally represented. Sometimes powerful spirits also cross the Gauntlet that separates the two worlds; they can barely survive without the necessary amount of Essence, so they usually anchor themselves to a place or creature, a host which is capable of generating the appropriate kind of Essence. Furthermore, spirits usually manipulate their surroundings to ensure their survival and further their goals.
  • Ephemeral creatures entering our own reality exist only in Twilight unless they Manifest. Beings in Twilight cannot interact with flesh-and-bone creatures, nor any physical objects, save for ghost structures (objects that are still remembered or held precious by certain individuals).
  • Detailed rules for creating ephemeral creatures are included, as well as how combats between physical and ephemeral creatures differ, plus their many supernatural abilities are revised and summarised.

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