Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Gripe With nWoD

I started playing old World of Darkness so, of course, I turn my nose up at a few things that the new World of Darkness does and I generally do so because it's different to what I liked about the original game. I actually liked merits and flaws because it gave the players a chance to have a say in the sort of game they wanted to play (Haunted, Hunted, and Infamous). I also liked the added realism that the severe wound, healing times, and movement penalties gave.

Over time I've come down off my white horse and accepted that a lot of the changes do make a sort of sense.

But my other gripes are more because while they made the game more player-friendly they pulled away from the Horror Genre. Take a look at Justin Achilli's article on how the rules used (and skills given) are the designer's way of encouraging the use of certain skills and abilities. It's like Chekhov's gun, if you put it in the game, expect it to be used.

In the same way, if you make combat less lethal and more player-friendly, they'll turn to it more often.

In oWoD, you had merits and flaws but very few of them involved combat. There was a Strong Right Hook which gave you a slight damage bonus, but that was mostly it. Different gamelines doubtless had a few more but there weren't oodles of them. Now there are more Fighting Styles in the various core books than Social OR Mental Merits. While I approve of the complexity this can give combat in the game, I disapprove of what such a focus on these styles indicates to players.

Also, long healing times can irritate players so I understand why they massively reduced them. It's not very player-friendly. Of course, most supernaturals have a way to heal themselves so you can continue your more brutal vampire-vs-vampire or werewolf-vs-spirit games but also, in a real horror game, players should be trying to avoid their characters taking damage. Health points just don't cut it. Especially when there's nothing backing it up.

It's hard to say "that really hurt" when the characters are otherwise unaffected by losing, say, four hit points.

I've seen a player about to charge his character in to combat on a -2 penalty with two health points left in oWoD. When I told him that his character would be crawling at three yards per turn, he changed his mind and decided that the injury actually was too grevious.

Also, more lethal games mean characters have to be clever about avoiding damage and taking out their targets at range. Why do you think most successful Call of Cthulhu characters are the ones with Dodge who know how to use Explosives?

Of course, the downside is that Horror games are more constricted and less accessible to players. Most players want a chance to feel Awesome. They're attracted to games that allow them to feel that. Most 'horror' players generally want to take part in dark fantasy games, nasty thrillers, or action with a backbone of hi-octane nightmare fuel. They don't want to spend their whole time running from bad guys, looking for clues, and getting themselves killed all the time.

nWoD catered more to that style than oWoD and kept threatening to give my players bad habits. But even so, I stopped bitching about nWoD's changes with Armory Reloaded and it's wonderful Combat Hacks. Now it's quite easy to make the game as Wire-Fu or brutally horrific as I'd like to be. In truth, I like it somewhere between oWoD's One Shot Can Incapacitate and nWoD's You Can Take Three Shots With Little Effect But The Fourth Will Kill You!

On the other hand, nWoD's three tracks of damage is pretty awesome. Fill up on Bashing and you start filling up on Lethal. Fill up on Lethal and you start taking aggravated damage if anyone hits you or simply fails to heal you. Nothing raises the tension like having your character pass out from damage while there's still time to keep them alive!

So yeah, I guess that after three years of playing nWoD, I can put the banner down and accept that with a few tweaks (many provided nWoD itself), I can have my cake and eat it too with an updated rules set that does iron out a lot of kinks.

Rant over!

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