Storytelling System

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The Storytelling System is a role-playing game system created by White Wolf, Inc. for the Chronicles of Darkness (formerly known as the New World of Darkness), a game world with several pen and paper games tied in. The Storytelling System is largely based on the Storyteller System, the rule set used for White Wolf's other, older game setting, the World of Darkness (for a time known as old or classic World of Darkness).


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]

New games from Onyx Path, such as They Came from Beneath the Sea–as well as new editions of some older games, such as Scion and the Trinity line–will use a new variant, the Storypath system.

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.


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 Resilience (the ability to cope with power being exercised upon one's self).

Storytelling System Attributes
Mental Physical Social
Power Intelligence Strength Presence
Finesse Wits Dexterity Manipulation
Resilience Resolve Stamina Composure

All Attributes are rated on a scale from one to five dots. Two dots represents an average capacity in that attribute, while five displays the peak of human ability. Attributes generally cannot have a rank of zero within the Storytelling System.

Within the Storyteller system, the Mental attributes included Perception instead of Resolve, while the social Attributes of Charisma and Appearance were replaced on the sheet by Presence and Composure, respectively. Unlike all other attributes in the Storyteller system–and unlike all attributes in the Storytelling System–Appearance could have zero dots in it, although this was only to reflect particularly hideous or monstrous characters.

Abilities and skills[edit]

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

Like Attributes, each Ability / Skill has up to five dots to represent a character's abilities. Unlike attributes, however, abilities can have no dots filled in to represent a complete lack of training and experience.


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 the lower of 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 others, 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.
  • 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.

Virtues and Vices/Nature and Demeanor[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 an ideal which they struggle to aspire. A Vice is a basic weakness in the character's personality, and a flaw or guilty pleasure they may indulge even while knowing that there may be consequences to suffer. Characters can regain willpower by fulfilling their Virtue or Vice.

In the earlier Storyteller System, different sets of virtues are used, and only in a couple games: Vampire: The Masquerade uses them for varying forms of self-control, and Hunter: The Reckoning ties them directly to Hunters' supernatural powers. In the mechanical place of Virtue and Vice, most games had instead "Nature," reflecting a character's innermost personality, and "Demeanor," showing the persona the character displayed to the world at large.

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.

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; other games, such as Exalted, may use more.

The Game Master in a Storyteller or Storytelling 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 with 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 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.

Target numbers[edit]

Both systems roll their dice pool with the goal of beating a target number. The Storyteller system has no consistent target number; it is referred to as the "difficulty" of a roll, and may be adjusted up or down to reflect how easy or hard a given action should be. In Chronicles of Darkness games the target number is always 8. Regardless, each dice that comes up at or above the target number counts as a "Success," with higher numbers of successes reflect a greater degree of accomplishment.


Modifiers are either bonuses or penalties to a die roll that are determined and added in by the Storyteller.

Within the Storyteller system, this can change the number of dice or the difficulty that they are rolled at.

With Storytelling's fixed target number, modifiers subtract or add to the number of dice that can be rolled in a Dice Pool to a maximum of 5.

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. Only a result of 10 is a Success on a Chance Roll, but it can be rerolled for more Successes as above), on the other hand a result of 1 is a Dramatic Failure.

Keeping time[edit]

Time in Storytelling System is measured in small Turns of three seconds. 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 the 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.

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 White Wolf 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. 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.


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.

Variant systems[edit]

In the classic World of Darkness, 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 standard Target Number in the previous World of Darkness systems was 6, equaling a 50% success chance for an individual die, with a sliding scale for difficulty. The Exalted, Scion Trinity systems use a flat target number of 7 for almost all rolls.

A more dramatic variant is the Mind's Eye Theatre system, which is designed for LARP rather than tabletop roleplaying.

God-Machine Rules[edit]

In July 2013, White Wolf released a rules update and the first in a series of intended "Chronicle Books" that would give a default focus for games and update their rules to work with the new rules released in The God-Machine Chronicle. The system changes include the addition of Conditions and Tilts, which are usually-temporary traits that can impact characters' abilities; while Conditions apply at all times, Tilts usually directly affect combat.

The Experience Point system also changed greatly: throughout a session, players now accumulate "beats" through coping with or resolving Conditions, dealing with hardships, or accomplishing goals. When the player accumulates five beats, she may redeem these for an Experience. Improving character traits is now flat, such that buying the first dot of a trait costs the same as purchasing the final dot of the same.

On August 16th, 2014, Onyx Path Publishing revealed that they were publishing a second edition of the Chronicles of Darkness setting, using the God-Machine rules. They also announced that they would be releasing new editions of their first five games in the setting. While Vampire: The Requiem had released its The Strix Chronicle less than a year previous, Onyx Path conceded that the second edition of Requiem would be identical enough to Strix that they would supply a free PDF of the second edition to anyone who had already purchased a PDF copy of that book.[16]


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
  • The God-Machine Chronicle (April 2013)


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