Storytelling System

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The Storytelling System, formerly Storyteller System, is a role-playing game system created by White Wolf, Inc. in 1991 that premiered in Vampire: The Masquerade, a part of the World of Darkness series.[1]

History[edit]

Storyteller System[edit]

While on the road to Gen Con '90, Mark Rein·Hagen came upon the idea of a new game design that would become Vampire: The Masquerade. Tom Dowd, co-designer for Shadowrun, worked with Rein-Hagen to adapt the core mechanics from his previous game success to use d10 instead of d6 for calculating probability.[1]

Over the next few years, several games were published under this rule set.

Storytelling System[edit]

The Storyteller System was discontinued in 2003 after completing the metaplot building up since Vampire: The Masquerade. It was replaced by the Storytelling System, a more streamlined rule set. The Storytelling System premiered in The World of Darkness in 2004.[15]

Games using variants on this set of rules include Exalted, Scion and the Trinity line.

Character creation[edit]

Storytelling System characters are built with character points that represent a Dot on their character sheets. Each Dot represents a ten-sided die (d10). The more Dots in an Attribute or Skill, the better the character is at those abilities. A set of dice representing the Dots in an Attribute or Skill forms a Dice Pool that the character uses to see if he/she succeeds or fails at specific tasks.

Attributes[edit]

Characters have nine Attributes in three groups: Mental, Physical, and Social. In the Storytelling System, Attributes are also divided into three use-based categories: Power (the ability to alter one's environment), Finesse (the ability to use power efficiently), and Resistance (the ability to cope with power being exercised upon one's self).

  • Power Category (the ability to alter one’s environment):
    • Intelligence (Mental Group) — how mentally resourceful they are.
    • Strength (Physical Group) — how physically forceful they can be.
    • Presence (Social Group) — how socially influential they can be.
  • Finesse Category (the ability to use power efficiently):
    • Wits (Mental Group) — how clever and insightful they are.
    • Dexterity (Physical Group) — how physically graceful they are.
    • Manipulation (Social Group) — how socially dominating they are.
  • Resistance Category (the ability to cope with power being exercised upon one’s self):
    • Resolve (Mental Group) — how mentally determined they are.
    • Stamina (Physical Group) — how physically enduring they are.
    • Composure (Social Group) — how socially dignified they are.

All Attributes begin with one Dot. Normally, Attributes can have up to 5 Dots. With one Dot, a character is "poor" in that Attribute and gets one die. With two Dots, they are "average" and get two dice. Three Dots, they are "good." Four Dots, they are "exceptional," and with five Dots, they are "outstanding" and have five dice.

Starting characters get a number of Dots to add to their Attributes. The player must choose primary, secondary and tertiary attribute categories, getting a large number of dots to assign to primary Attributes, a moderate number to assign to secondary Attributes and a small number for tertiary Attributes. The first Dot of each attribute is free, the 2nd to 4th Dots cost one Dot each, and the 5th Dot costs 2 Dots to fill in. The primary, secondary and tertiary designations have no effect after character creation.

Abilities and skills[edit]

Characters have a wide array of Skills (Storytelling) or Abilities (Storyteller) to choose from that represent specialized areas of knowledge.

In the Storytelling System, Skills are divided into Mental, Physical and Social skills. In the Storyteller System, Abilities are divided into three Types: Knowledges, Talents, and Skills.

Like Attributes, each Ability / Skill has 5 Dots that represent how many dice a Skill gets.

Characters get a number of Dots to "fill in" the Ability / Skill Dots, and like the Attributes, they must assign a specific number of skills to the primary, secondary and tertiary skill groups. Like Attributes, the 5th Dot costs two Dots to fill in, and the primary, secondary and tertiary distinctions have no effect after character creation.

Advantages[edit]

Advantages in the game are such things as the character's Defense score, Health, Initiative, Morality, Size, Speed, and Willpower. Some derived Attributes are as follows:

  • Defense: is the negative Modifier an opponent gets when he tries to attack a character, which is equal to the number of Dots in whichever Attribute is lower, Dexterity or Wits. It is exclusive to the Storytelling System.
  • Health: is how well the character copes with injury. In the Storytelling System, Health is equal to Stamina + Size. In the Storyteller System, characters almost universally have exactly 7 Health levels.
  • Initiative: is a measure of the character's reaction time. It is equal to Dexterity + Composure, and is exclusive to the Storytelling System.
  • Morality: is a measure of the character's sense of compassion toward their fellow man, and respect for the law. Morality has a base numerical value of 7, and can change higher or lower throughout the game depending on what the character does. It could rise for doing "good" things and lower for doing "evil". Losing morality can cause characters to gain derangement, and affects the self-control of certain supernatural creatures, such as vampires and werewolves. In the Storytelling System, all playable characters have a morality stat whose name changes with the setting (Morality for Humans, Humanity for Vampires, Harmony for Werewolves and so). In the Storyteller System, only Vampire: The Masquerade uses a morality system.
  • Size: is how big or small a character is. It is a numerical value, and for base humans, Size is equal to 5, and is reduced for smaller, and increased for larger sized creatures. Size is only used by the Storytelling System.
  • Willpower: a measure of a character's self-confidence and determination, and determines the size of a character's Temporary Willpower pool. In the Storytelling System, it is equal to Resolve + Composure, unless it has been temporarily lowered, in which case it can be bought back with experience. In the Storyteller System, Willpower is rated from 1 to 10, and the method of calculating a character's base Willpower rating varies by game line.

Nature and Demeanor[edit]

Exclusive to the Storyteller System, Nature and demeanor paint a character's personality in broad strokes. Characters can regain Temporary Willpower by acting in accordance with their Nature.

Virtues and Vices[edit]

In the Storytelling System, each character has one Virtue and one Vice. A Virtue is some defining quality of a character's personality and is one that clearly reflects their basic beliefs. Players chose from the Seven Virtues, which include Charity, Faith, and Justice. A Vice is a basic weakness in the character's personality. They are the Seven Deadly Sins such as Envy, Lust, and Greed. Characters can regain willpower by fulfilling their Virtue or Vice.

In the Storyteller System, virtues are only used in Vampire: The Masquerade, in which they are used for self-control, and Hunter: The Reckoning, in which they are tied to Hunters' supernatural powers.

Supernatural templates[edit]

In the Storytelling System, playable supernatural characters are created by applying a template to the character during character creation, before Merits or Experience. For instance, with a Vampire character, a template describing certain vampiric attributes (Disciplines, Blood points, etc.) is added. To keep the game balanced, only one supernatural template can be applied per character.

Backgrounds and Merits[edit]

Merits are special beneficial abilities and strengths a character may possess. They are similar in a way to Feats in d20 System games, allowing characters to do something the main rules usually don't allow. They are organized in the Mental, Physical, and Social categories like Attributes and Skills. In the Storytelling System, starting characters get 7 Dots to purchase Merits. Some Merits apply to certain Attributes and provide a bonus when using them. Some also require a certain number of Dots in some other Attribute in order to purchase them. Each Trait has a certain number of Dots associated which indicate its Dot cost. A Trait with 4 Dots, for example, "Common Sense", costs 4 Dots to purchase. Others have a range of Dots; "Language" for instance, is one Dot, and a character can buy a certain level of it as they choose. In the Storyteller System, Merits are optional, are purchased with bonus points and have costs ranging from 1 to 7 points.

In the Storyteller System, Backgrounds are advantages such as Contacts, Resources and Status. In the Storytelling System, Backgrounds have been absorbed into Merits. Furthermore, the Linguistics Knowledge, representing knowledge of specific languages, has also been absorbed.

Experience or bonus points[edit]

In the Storytelling System, more powerful or experienced characters can spend Experience Points at the end of character creation instead of Bonus Points.

Exclusive to the Storyteller System, Bonus Points are used to increase traits at character creation, with more powerful or experienced characters getting additional Bonus Points at character creation.

Game mechanics[edit]

All mechanics of the Storytelling System utilize a number of 10-sided dice (d10s). World of Darkness games suggest players to have at least ten d10s available to roll for their character's task resolutions and Attribute tests. The system of determining success or failure is very similar to the system in Shadowrun and is based on rolling a number of Successes that meet or exceed a set Difficulty Number. The more Successes rolled, the better the character performed the task.

The Game Master in a WW game is called the Storyteller.

Dice pools[edit]

Depending on what the situation calls for, a character has a number of Dots in Attributes and Skills associated to the task. Each Dot represents a d10 die that is added to a dice pool to roll for task resolution. For example, if a character is making a Dexterity check, and has three Dots filled under their Dexterity Attribute, they roll 3d10 (or three ten-sided dice) when a check is called upon.

When a Skill check is called for, a character adds the Dots of the Skill being tested and any extra Dots granted by a particular Attribute linked to that Skill to determine their Dice Pool. For example, if a character is scaling a wall, they add the number of Dots in their Strength Attribute and their Athletics Skill together. In this case, if the character has a Strength of 3 Dots, and an Athletics Skill of 4 Dots, they get 7 dice in their Dice Pool.

Storyteller System Difficulty[edit]

In the previous edition of WoD, the Storyteller dictated a Target Number which was a number a player needed to roll at or above on his dice in order to generate a Success. The number of successes determines how well the action or task was performed. The standard Target Number in the previous WoD systems was 6, with a sliding scale for difficulty. The Exalted and Trinity systems use a flat target number of 7 for almost all rolls.

Each die rolling above the target number is a success. Most tasks require only a single success, but some require more. Each die rolling a 1 cancels out a success. If the net number of successes is 0 or less, the action is a failure. If no successes were rolled and one or more 1s were also rolled, the action is a botch, resulting in detrimental results to the player.

Storytelling System[edit]

Target numbers[edit]

The basic Target number in WoD games is 8, meaning a d10 dice roll needs to roll 8s, 9s, and 10s to bring up a Success. A roll of 7 or less is a Failure.

This Target number is fixed, never changes.

As long as one Success is rolled, that character has achieved their task. Five or more Successes in a roll is an Exceptional success and usually something very beneficial happens for the character, above what they had expected.

Anytime a die comes up as a 10, a player may reroll it to see if it gets another 8 or higher. This is called 10 Again. If the reroll succeeds, it counts as another Success to be added in.

Anytime a character has absolutely no dice remaining in their pool as a result of negative Modifiers, the task would seem impossible to perform. The character is still allowed a single d10 die roll, called a Chance Roll, to see if sheer blind luck or divine intervention allows them to succeed. Result of 10 is a Success (can be rerolled for more Successes, see "10 Again" rule above), 2–9 is a Failure and a result of 1 is a Dramatic Failure when something really bad happens to character.

Modifiers[edit]

Modifiers are either bonuses or penalties to a die roll that are determined and added in by the Storyteller. This will subtract or add to the number of dice that can be rolled in a Dice Pool. A maximum of five dice can be added to a Dice Pool as a bonus for really easy tasks. Likewise, a maximum of five dice can be subtracted from the pool for really hard tasks.

Keeping time[edit]

Time in Storytelling System is measured in small Turns. Each Turn is three seconds of real time and are usually important during Combat Scenes. Turns further make up a Scene, which further make up a Chapter. A Chapter is usually one gaming session and Chapters are linked together into an overall Story set in a Chronicle (or the Big Picture), the theme and setting of the entire game.

Actions and Combat[edit]

There are three basic kinds of Actions in a Storytelling System. Instant Actions take up very little time like taking a gun off safety, or shouting a small message to an ally. Extended Actions take longer time to accomplish and can extend over a number of Turns to complete, like getting a stuck window open, or changing a light bulb. Contested Actions are Actions that involve dealing with what the opposition does, like shooting at a running target during a Combat Scene.

Initiative is determined by making a single d10 roll and adding the number of Dots from their Dexterity and Composure scores to the result. Those who win Initiative, may act first during Combat or hold their action to see what the opposition does.

There are two kinds of Attacks in the game: Close Combat, which is fighting with hand-held weapons or bare fists against something right in front of the character, and Ranged Combat, which involves projectile weapons against targets farther away from the character. Close Combat involves using the character's Strength + Brawling, or Strength + Melee Weaponry dice pools against the target's Defense and Armor Values. Ranged is handled similarly, but the character rolls their Dexterity + Firearms, or Dexterity + Athletics (Throwing) dice pools to hit the target, further Modified by distance and any cover.

Taking damage[edit]

For every Success a character has on their Attack roll against an opponent, they inflict one Health Point of Damage upon the target. There are three kinds of Damage in WW games: Bashing, Lethal and Aggravated. Bashing Damage is inflicted by blunt objects that bludgeons targets like a baseball bat. Lethal Damage is caused by slashing and piercing weapons like knives and guns. Aggravated Damage is inflicted mainly by supernatural sources and the weaknesses of supernatural creatures (such as fire and sunlight against vampires or silver against werewolves), however it can also be inflicted by severe radiation poisoning. Characters recover from Bashing Damage quickly, while Aggravated Damage takes the longest to recover from.

Health boxes are checked off by Damage. Whenever a character is down to their last 3 unchecked Health boxes, they begin to suffer a -1 die penalty to most rolls, With two left, they suffer -2, and with one left, they suffer -3. When the last box is checked with bashing damage, a character is generally at risk of passing out, if the last box is checked with lethal damage, a character is helpless and generally at risk of dying without medical attention, and if the last box is checked with aggravated damage, a character is dead. If a character's Health track is filled with Bashing Damage, any additional Bashing Damage is upgraded to Lethal, and if a character's Health track is filled with Lethal Damage, any additional Bashing or Lethal damage is upgraded to Aggravated.

Rewards[edit]

After a game, a Storyteller can award experience points to players to improve their character's Attributes, Talents and Skills. Experience distribution is typically based upon roleplaying performance (especially if flaws are present), as well as accomplishing short and long term goals. Longer games typically yield less experience per session, whereas shorter games usually yield higher amounts. A typical experience point yield is 2-4 points.

Variant systems[edit]

Both Exalted and Scion use variants of the Storyteller system. The prime difference is the absence of a cardinal Virtue and Vice. There are instead four virtues (in Exalted, they are Compassion, Valour, Temperance and Conviction, while each pantheon in Scion has a unique set) which determine the character's moral values and actions. Also, the target roll for dice is 7 rather than 8, and different attributes are used from other ST games. Also, Exalted uses different Abilities to WoD games, which are not divided physical/mental/social, but rather by the caste of the character (the only exception to this is Lunar Exalted, who instead divide attributes by caste and use the physical/mental/social dividers for abilities.) As of Second Edition, time within Exalted is also kept track of not in turns, but in ticks (which are equivalent to one second each). A more dramatic variant is the Mind's Eye Theatre system, which is designed for LARP rather than tabletop roleplaying.

Books[edit]

New World of Darkness (nWOD)

  • World of Darkness Rulebook (Aug 2004) WW55002
  • Second Sight (April 2006) WW55100
  • Armory (Jan 2006) WW55102
  • Chicago (Dec 2005) WW55200
  • Antagonists (Dec 2004) WW55301
  • Mysterious Places (June 2005) WW55302
  • Ghost Stories (Nov 2004) WW55400
  • Storyteller’s Screen WW55701
  • Shadows of the UK (June 2006) WW30202
  • Skinchangers (July 2006) WW30305
  • Tales from the 13th Precinct (July 2006) WW55001
  • Shadows of Mexico (Oct 2006) WW25201
  • Urban Legends (April 2007) WW55303
  • Book of Spirits (May 2007) WW55202
  • Asylum (Aug 2007) WW55204
  • Reliquary (Sep 2007) WW55203
  • Changing Breeds (Oct 2007) WW55103
  • Midnight Roads (Feb 2008) WW55205
  • Innocents (April 2008) WW55004

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Appelcline, Shannon (2007-02-01). "A Brief History of Game #11: White Wolf, Part One: 1986-1995". RPGnet. Skotos Tech Inc. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  2. ^ Wieck, Stewart; Stevens, Lisa (1991). Vampire: The Masquerade. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 0-9627790-6-7. 
  3. ^ Campbell, Brian (1992). Werewolf: The Apocalypse. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-365-0. 
  4. ^ Wieck, Stewart (1993). Mage: The Ascension. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-065-1. 
  5. ^ Wieck, Steve (1995). Street Fighter: The Role-Playing Game. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-118-6. 
  6. ^ Dansky, Richard (1996). Wraith: The Oblivion. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-600-5. 
  7. ^ Lemke, Ian (1997). Changeling: The Dreaming. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-716-8. 
  8. ^ Achilli, Justin (1998). Kindred of the East. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-232-8. 
  9. ^ Baugh, Bruce; McCoy, Angel (1999). Hunter: The Reckoning. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-735-4. 
  10. ^ Bates, Andrew; Baugh, Bruce (1999). Trinity. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-622-6. 
  11. ^ Grabowski, Geoffrey C. (2001). Exalted. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-56504-623-4. 
  12. ^ Hubbard, Conrad; Chambers, John (2001). Mummy: The Resurrection. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-58846-203-X. 
  13. ^ Rein·Hagen, Mark (2002). Demon: The Fallen. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-58846-750-3. 
  14. ^ Armor, Bryan (2003). Orpheus. White Wolf, Inc. ISBN 1-58846-600-0. 
  15. ^ Appelcline, Shannon (2007-02-07). "A Brief History of Game #12: White Wolf, Part Two: 1993-Present". RPGnet. Skotos Tech Inc. Retrieved 2007-09-16.