Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Werewolf: the Apocalypse hack job (ruleset option)

I've got a lot of experience with the old Werewolf game and always enjoyed it, despite its many flaws. My take on Werewolf is a bit more brutal and unforgiving than most people, leading to a lot of division amongst my players.

At times, I've considered revisiting Werewolf, and I wrote an epic theatrical roleplay doing just that for a couple of recent conventions which got it largely out of my system. However, a mate of mine has been considering running a Werewolf game and wanted some advice, so here's a brief run-down of what I would do if I were to run a Werewolf freeform now.

The Basics
First off, there's a lot of flaws in this game. The Umbra tends to damage the realism of the setting, though it can be essential for great story opportunities, so you need to limit it. That affects the gameworld immensely. In addition, the threat of the Apocalypse is kinda played out, and the 20th anniversary concept of the Prophecy of the Phoenix being "a call to arms" is a major cop-out. Address these concerns early or they'll take over your game.

Secondly, the system sucks. It may call itself a "storytelling game' but it's really just a task-based game system. Overhaul it.

On a related note, adjust character creation. The various tribes and auspices are wildly unbalanced, which works fine with some mature players, but most of the time you're gonna end up with a lot of applications for Lupus Stargazer Ahrouns.

Probably the most important part of the overhaul is this; Werewolf can easily fall for the trap of becoming a game where players hoard superpowers in order to bash up monsters. That's not what makes the game cool, so anything you can do from the onset to prevent this happening is positive.

The Setting
Pretty much everything here can be considered optional, but it's what I'd do with Werewolf now.

Consider the Apocalypse over. The Garou lost. The result of the Apocalypse was that the Umbra was destroyed, meaning that the world is spiritually dead. There may be small pockets in the Umbra in important spiritual spaces (major caerns and nodes, Wyrm hives, Weaver infestations) but the spirit realm is mostly unreachable. Nobody returns from the Deep Umbra, but Incarnae and Totems can sometimes be contacted.

So we're now living in the aftermath of war. The Wyrm is largely attacking the Weaver. From a Mage point of view, the Sleepers have won the Ascension War and thus refuse to believe the world can be destroyed by a spiritual force they don't recognise, so the mundane world continues on, dead inside.

The Garou lost many in the Apocalypse and are fewer than ever. Totems are jealous of their tribes and mixed-tribe packs are very rare. There are less than five thousand Garou remaining worldwide (or even less, if you prefer).

Sept warfare is more prevalent than ever, battling for control over the few remaining caerns, allowing access to the Umbral pockets previously mentioned. This has the bonus of keeping tension between PCs rather than the typical problem of chucking outside threats at the characters.

Character Creation
I'm giving the system a big overhaul. Pick a Breed, Auspice and Tribe.

- Homid: +1 Gnosis, +2 Willpower
- Metis: +2 Gnosis, +1 Rage
- Lupus: +3 Gnosis

- Ragabash: +1 Rage, +2 Willpower
- Theurge: +1 Rage, +2 Gnosis
- Philodox: +2 Rage, +1 Willpower
- Galliard: +2 Rage, +1 Gnosis
- Ahroun: +3 Rage

- Black Furies: +2 Gnosis, +2 Willpower
- Bone Gnawers: +2 Willpower, +1 Rage, +1 Gnosis
- Children of Gaia: +2 Willpower, +2 Gnosis
- Fianna: +2 Rage, +1 Gnosis, +1 Willpower
- Get of Fenris: +3 Rage, +1 Willpower
- Glass Walkers: +3 Willpower, +1 Gnosis
- Red Talons: +3 Rage, +1 Willpower
- Shadow Lords: +2 Willpower, +1 Gnosis, +1 Rage
- Silent Striders: +2 Willpower, +2 Gnosis
- Silver Fangs: +2 Willpower, +2 Rage
- Stargazers: +3 Willpower, +1 Gnosis
- Uktena: +3 Gnosis, +1 Willpower
- Wendigo: +3 Willpower, +1 Rage

In addition, put 3 more points into Rage, Gnosis or Willpower, allocating where you will.

(Example: I make a Homid Philodox Fianna. I thus have Rage 4, Gnosis 2 and Willpower 4. I have 3 more points to allocate, so I knock up my Gnosis by 2 and Willpower by 1, ending up with Rage 4, Gnosis 4 and Willpower 5.)

This is where it gets kinda tricky. I'd go largely for a systemless game with a few conventions thrown in. Keep in mind that I haven't fully designed most of these ideas to a complete stage. These could be considered principles more than rules.

I'm not big on Rage being a big battery that you trot around with until you find a fight. So I propose trying a different method. Werewolves have a current Rage and a Maximum Rage. The current Rage is usually at 0.

During your turn, you MUST spend any available Rage on certain actions. Rage actions include:
- shifting one body type toward Crinos form
- running toward an opponent (3 steps)
- running away from an enemy (Fox frenzy; also 3 steps)
- attacking an enemy (if no enemies are available, the garou must attack another valid target, which may include allies, which accounts for frenzying. Also, you may move 3 steps toward an enemy as part of this action.)
- performing an aggressive act of strength (ramming a door, throwing a car, ripping through a wall)
- howling, roaring or screaming (once per round of combat)
- healing a wound (you may not heal aggravated or silver damage)

However, during your turn, you have the option of:
- Gaining Rage (at the end of this turn, increase your Rage by 1)
- Maintaining your Rage (leave your Rage at the current rank)
- Reining in your Rage (at the end of this turn, decrease your Rage by 1)

Effects that give garou Rage still occur (being hurt, touched by silver, seeing the moon) and may force a Garou into performing a Rage action.

Keep in mind this will totally change the way werewolves operate. They won't be awesome for two rounds and then slack off; they'll be mediocre for a round or two and then become devastating. Gifts may need to change (Stoking Fury's Furnace may allow you to gain 2 Rage per round, for instance).

Gnosis (and Gifts)
Big changes here.

You don't so much "spend" Gnosis as use it as a constant source of power. Gifts now only work through fetishes, so if you want to access a rank 1 Gift you need to be carrying a fetish to activate it. You can never carry more total "points" in fetishes than your maximum Gnosis.

Effectively, you're dedicating Gifts to yourself. If you have spare Gnosis left over, you are able to use that Gnosis to power Rituals, or add it to someone else conducting one.

Gifts are much rarer than ever before and you may only know a few at a time. Every Gift is closely connected to the spirit that has granted it to you and you must show the fetish of their favour somewhere on your person. This also allows for costuming fun.

At this stage, I haven't got a list of appropriate Gifts, so use your judgement for now.

Rituals can still be performed by most Garou who know them. You'll need access to an amount of Gnosis equal to the Ritual rank, or possibly more. Stepping Sideways is now a Rank 1 ritual taking at least five minutes to perform, typically at a caern or other significant spiritual space.

A starting character currently has fetishes for a number of Gifts equal to her Gnosis -1 (so a Garou with 4 Gnosis knows 3 rank 1 Gifts).

More big changes.

You'll note that we don't have Attributes, Abilities and Backgrounds. These are covered under Willpower.

For each point in Willpower, gain a Personal Trait. These may be skills, professions, convictions, ideals and the like. They also take the place of Merits.

Examples of Personal Traits include:
- I am in love with Walks the Night
- Nothing can hold me back
- Neurosurgeon
- Loyal to my Alpha
- Spirit guardian
- Pure breeding
- Corax ally
- Smooth diplomat
- Never leave a man behind
- Grand klaive

Once per hour (or game session) you may invoke one of your Personal Traits to affect a scene. The GM should give advantage to characters doing this. Effects may vary and no system is included so far. Still working on it.

Maybe you can take Personal Flaws as well at character creation, allowing you to gain more points to spend amongst Rage, Gnosis and Willpower. It's a nice idea.

Damage and Wounds
Werewolf claws and teeth inflict one non-aggravated Wound (another change). Most weapons should follow suit. Gifts and the like may increase this damage.

Characters tend to have four Health Levels: Bruised, Hurt, Wounded, and Incapacitated. 

Silver, acid, fire and the like cause aggravated damage that takes time to heal. Typically one week per Health Level.

Final Notes
This is far from perfect, and combats are still going to take a long time. There's still work that needs doing on Gifts and Rituals, and how exactly does this whole "Personal Trait" business work?

I'm not sure. But I think it's worth trying.

Additionally, there's more detail I could go into on the setting, such as the Garou Civil War, the demise of the Silent Striders and the Ronin Tribes, but that's for people who really want to know. For now, I'll let it be

1 comment:

  1. Using a similar idea, you can play with a Vampire game. Ideas follow:

    Pitch: Vampire: the Masquerade game using a Narrative system.

    Concept: PCs have three primary attributes, being Willpower, Humanity, and Vitae.

    You split 10 points among them,

    Willpower: For each point in Willpower, gain a Personal Trait. These may be skills, professions, convictions, ideals and the like. They must be about abilities and experiences personal to the character.
    Examples of Personal Traits include:
    - Master swordsman
    - Nothing can hold me back
    - Neurosurgeon
    - Loyal to House and Clan
    - Spirit guardian
    - General of the Confederate army
    - I never break if I can bend

    Humanity: These work like Willpower Traits but have to do with mortal society and interactions. Vampires who lose their Humanity often have trouble dealing with their prey.
    Examples of Humanity Traits include:
    - Adoring fans
    - Mafia contacts
    - In love with Eric Smith
    - Successful nightclub
    - Pillar of the community
    - Political Influence
    - Blood Doll

    Vitae: This is akin to the NWoD Blood Potency idea. It affects your Generation, power and general Vampireness. Disciplines are the iconic example of this.
    Examples of Vitae Traits generally are on par with 2nd-3rd level Disciplines, and include:
    - Presence
    - Obfuscate
    - Dominate
    - Potence
    - A Thaumaturgical path
    - etc.
    (Maybe "Mastery" ranks can be bought for multiple points.)

    System: You can use one Trait once per hour/session. Vitae Traits can be regained by feeding. Simple feeding on a human restores one Vitae. Sucking a mortal dry restores all Vitae. Vampires feeding on each other which share a Blood Bond may be able to access Vitae powers of their Bonded Kindred.

    More work needed.