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[V5] Reworking Messy Crits

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  • [V5] Reworking Messy Crits

    So, I sort of like the idea of Messy Crits in theory, but I never like them in practice. It just seems like adversarial game design to punish players for good rolls but I do like the idea of tempting the Beast to get a better outcome in desperate situations. I also remember reading in the V5 Companion that feedback from players suggests people weren't using Blood Surge much. So I've sort of folded the two together to come up with a possible house rule I want to moot. This is in addition to the standard benefit of Blood Surges.

    Firstly, you ignore the standard V5 Messy Critical rules. Doing well on a roll is a good thing, even if you have Hunger Dice. That means you really only need to worry about 1s on Hunger Dice.

    Secondly, the 'Messy Critical effect' becomes an outcome of an alternative (more risky) use of Blood Surge, linking the risk to a tangible reward. In addition to the usual Blood Surge rules, add the following option:

    Unleashing the Beast
    You may call on the Beast to empower you beyond even the strength of your blood, turning your Hunger into a deadly weapon against those who would get in your way. Your action is shaped by your Beast in some way -- a vicious all-out attack, snarling intimidation with bared fangs, sniffing and hunting like an animal -- and mortal onlookers, regardless of their scepticism and disposition, will immediately sense your inhuman nature.

    System: Make a rouse check. Then add your full Blood Surge plus Hunger Dice as a bonus to the total dice pool. If you roll more successes than your Composure, your Beast is also unleashed, revelling in its triumph and power, and you gain a relevant Compulsion. Bestial Failures apply as usual.

    Whatever else happens, you have revealed your true nature to those present. Any attempt to peacefully socialise with mortal witnesses suffers a penalty equal to your Hunger, while you add your Hunger Dice as a bonus to intimidation attempts instead.

    Example: Jim has Blood Surge 2 and is at Hunger 3. He really wants to kill this pesky Inquisitor who's invaded his haven, but two extra dice won't cut it for weakly Jim, who normally only has a Strength + Brawl of five dice. So, he Unleashes the Beast. First he makes a rouse check, which he fails, increasing his Hunger to four. Then he adds his Blood Surge (2) and his Hunger (4) to his regular dice pool (5) for a whopping total of 11 dice! He rolls 6 successes, easily surpassing his Composure (3), and so gains a Compulsion. But he gets to tear that hunter limb from limb, and the Beast is going to enjoy it...
    Last edited by adambeyoncelowe; 03-21-2022, 04:06 PM.


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  • #2
    Should a failure with a 1 on the Hunger Dice lead to a Frenzy instead of a Bestial Failure, and a failure to Bestial Failure instead (pushing the failed results up by one severity, in effect)? Or is that too punishing?

    What I'm trying to get at is a system where risk-taking and roleplaying the Beast become an active (even a desirable) choice for players rather than an entirely random outcome.
    Last edited by adambeyoncelowe; 03-21-2022, 04:04 PM.


    Writer, publisher, performer
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    • #3
      I like it but I think blood surge should be buffed in this case, those 2 dices come at a pretty high risk and potentially long lasting consequences, not enough to risk it in my opinion.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post
        Should a botch lead to a Frenzy and a failure to Bestial Failure? Or is that too punishing?

        What I'm trying to get at is a system where risk-taking and roleplaying the Beast become an active (even a desirable) choice for players rather than an entirely random outcome.
        V5 doesn't do botches. Bestial failures took their place.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Newb95 View Post
          I like it but I think blood surge should be buffed in this case, those 2 dices come at a pretty high risk and potentially long lasting consequences, not enough to risk it in my opinion.
          There is already a boost because you add your Hunger Dice to the total as well. I.e., they no longer replace existing dice but get added as a bonus.

          I have added an example at the end to clarify. Take a look.

          Originally posted by Vilenecromancer View Post

          V5 doesn't do botches. Bestial failures took their place.
          Yeah, that's me not updating this to remove references to my other house rules. We added V20 botches back in, in addition to Bestial Failures. So the terminology gets a little messy. Sorry about that. I've corrected the first post for clarity. I meant 'when you fail and a roll a 1 on a Hunger Die'. Either way, I was overcomplicating things and have fixed it.
          Last edited by adambeyoncelowe; 03-21-2022, 04:13 PM.


          Writer, publisher, performer
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          • #6
            I can sort of understand the perspective that Messy-Crits punish players, though that hasn't typically been my experience as a player or an ST. The important thing I find with Messy-Crits is that the result is still a crit, odds are you still succeeded at what you were trying to achieve (though it's not a guarantee).

            As you likely succeed, the 'Messy' part to me has always served to simply add an interesting complication to what's taken place. You intimidate the detective by bearing your fangs at them, you find the book by trashing the archive, etc. You get what you wanted, possibly against the odds or in a spectacular fashion, but there's a complication. (I'd differentiate this from succeeding at cost, because of the likelihood of a greater margin of success.)

            Especially with the suggestion in the Companion (as best I can recall) that you can use the same effects for both bestial failures and messy crits, I've only found they augment play. Lasombra succeeding and getting ruthless, Malkavians finding what they were after and having visions, all seems thematic already.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Karos View Post
              I can sort of understand the perspective that Messy-Crits punish players, though that hasn't typically been my experience as a player or an ST. The important thing I find with Messy-Crits is that the result is still a crit, odds are you still succeeded at what you were trying to achieve (though it's not a guarantee).

              As you likely succeed, the 'Messy' part to me has always served to simply add an interesting complication to what's taken place. You intimidate the detective by bearing your fangs at them, you find the book by trashing the archive, etc. You get what you wanted, possibly against the odds or in a spectacular fashion, but there's a complication. (I'd differentiate this from succeeding at cost, because of the likelihood of a greater margin of success.)

              Especially with the suggestion in the Companion (as best I can recall) that you can use the same effects for both bestial failures and messy crits, I've only found they augment play. Lasombra succeeding and getting ruthless, Malkavians finding what they were after and having visions, all seems thematic already.
              Sure, and your points have been stated quite a few times by various people in other threads on Messy Crits. But I'm not really interested in being convinced that, actually, they're great as they are, which can quickly become threadcrapping or, God help us, another edition war.

              (I find that often in threads about V5, it's either total criticism of the game or else a call for you to love every bit because you just don't understand its genius -- I'd like to approach things from a bit more of a balanced perspective, if we can.)

              Quite literally, RAW Messy Crits are complications that arise from a good roll. Not even a partial success, in most cases. That's where the disconnect is for many people.

              And I've been re-watching V5 reviews on YouTube and re-reading reviews on Reddit, etc, where that seems to be the number one complaint for a lot of players. (Beside the layout of the core book.) It also feels like one thing too many -- people rarely complain about Bestial Failures in comparison. But Messy Crits seem much more divisive (even though I love them in theory).

              The simplest fix, of course, is just to make them a consequence of succeeding at a cost, as that would make sense. But it adds a disparity between succeeding at a cost for mortals and succeeding at a cost for vampires (the former just get ordinary drawbacks, the latter would replace those with vampiric drawbacks, which reduces the space for those ordinary drawbacks to affect the narrative too).

              So, I was hoping to give Blood Surge a boost, and make risking a Compulsion an active choice. I also want Kindred to be able to achieve really amazing things -- but at a really high cost. To me, it is more horrifying if your own *active* choices lead to atrocity and destruction every now and then, rather than those mostly being the passive result of inaction (i.e., not feeding) and random dice rolls.

              ETA: Another option, of course, is to make Messy Crits a consequence of succeeding at a cost where unnatural powers and the Beast are involved (e.g., Discipline use, rolls boosted with Blood Surge, etc).
              Last edited by adambeyoncelowe; 03-22-2022, 03:42 AM.


              Writer, publisher, performer
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              • #8
                Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post

                There is already a boost because you add your Hunger Dice to the total as well. I.e., they no longer replace existing dice but get added as a bonus.

                I have added an example at the end to clarify. Take a look.



                Yeah, that's me not updating this to remove references to my other house rules. We added V20 botches back in, in addition to Bestial Failures. So the terminology gets a little messy. Sorry about that. I've corrected the first post for clarity. I meant 'when you fail and a roll a 1 on a Hunger Die'. Either way, I was overcomplicating things and have fixed it.

                Oh right, in that case I think its perfect, I like the idea of weaponizing a frenzy like this, the only thing I would add is the option for high composure and resolve vamps to avoid frenzying altogether, it would be voluntary and basically a way to show that vampires with cooler temperaments can effectively control their beast like the description for the composure attribute says, the way it would work is to basically have a composure+resolve roll with a penalty equal to hunger and with a difficulty equal to the successes rolled with the hunger dices, like in the Jim example you made, if out of his dice pool of 11 dices all of his hunger dices came as successes then he would make a composure+resolve check at minus 4 with targeted number of successes of 4 if he succed than he will skip the frenzy and the compulsion altogether if not then he gets the usual results, it can be very hard but can also give more uses to composure and resolve other than increased willpower.

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                • #9
                  I really don't like messy crits/Beastial failures. Vampires and their players should be personally responsible for keeping the Beast in check, if it keeps rearing it's ugly head during every slightly difficult action then we devolve from "a beast I am lest a Beast I become" and move more towards "The Beast made me do it".


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                    I really don't like messy crits/Beastial failures. Vampires and their players should be personally responsible for keeping the Beast in check, if it keeps rearing it's ugly head during every slightly difficult action then we devolve from "a beast I am lest a Beast I become" and move more towards "The Beast made me do it".
                    What's the difference to a neonate who doesn't know better? The beast has always screwed the kindred in various ways. Heck, by RAW in V20, an insult, as well as public humiliation, can call for a frenzy check. These are things common in vampire societies, especially the Camarilla. Heck the young might even use the "the beast made me do it" excuse, but the Camarilla will still prepare the axe as they repeat, "a beast I am..."

                    The beast has always been a looming force, and bestial failures represent this perfectly. That said, I do think it takes away a lot of player agency, which isn't fun for anyone.


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                    • #11
                      I like it because frenzy is so all-or-nothing that ST's are reluctant to actually call for frenzy rolls. The messy-crit/bestial failure and succeed-at-a-cost system allows the beast to be used in a more routine way, and gives the ST more options for enforcing it that don't break the game. The ST wants to interpret it in a way that is almost as bad as a frenzy this scene? (S)he can do so. The ST wants to interpret it in a way that merely complicates the players life but doesn't result in near suicidal or otherwise game-breaking behavior? The ST has that option. Whereas frenzying on the Archbishop is so suicidally game-breaking that most ST's wouldn't call for a frenzy roll even if the Archbishop openly mocks the character in the most humiliating terms.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Newb95 View Post


                        Oh right, in that case I think its perfect, I like the idea of weaponizing a frenzy like this, the only thing I would add is the option for high composure and resolve vamps to avoid frenzying altogether, it would be voluntary and basically a way to show that vampires with cooler temperaments can effectively control their beast like the description for the composure attribute says, the way it would work is to basically have a composure+resolve roll with a penalty equal to hunger and with a difficulty equal to the successes rolled with the hunger dices, like in the Jim example you made, if out of his dice pool of 11 dices all of his hunger dices came as successes then he would make a composure+resolve check at minus 4 with targeted number of successes of 4 if he succed than he will skip the frenzy and the compulsion altogether if not then he gets the usual results, it can be very hard but can also give more uses to composure and resolve other than increased willpower.
                        Remember that in my system you only gain the Compulsion if you roll more successes than your Composure. That already takes that trait into account. However, I suppose you could let the PCs take WP damage to ignore the Compulsion, and that would take into account high Resolve too (since WP starts at Composure+ Resolve). What I'd be wary of is removing any risk at all, though. You want that sweet spot of 'dangerous, but totally worth it'.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Vilenecromancer View Post

                          What's the difference to a neonate who doesn't know better? The beast has always screwed the kindred in various ways. Heck, by RAW in V20, an insult, as well as public humiliation, can call for a frenzy check. These are things common in vampire societies, especially the Camarilla. Heck the young might even use the "the beast made me do it" excuse, but the Camarilla will still prepare the axe as they repeat, "a beast I am..."

                          The beast has always been a looming force, and bestial failures represent this perfectly. That said, I do think it takes away a lot of player agency, which isn't fun for anyone.
                          Yeah, I think even V20 works better when you have some Frenzy checks in there. Rage is the most commonly overlooked trigger, in my experience, as people tend to remember fire, sunlight and blood pretty well.


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                          • #14
                            I think rage gets overlooked a lot because players generally respond to situations that should anger their characters by becoming snarky rather than angry. And ST's rarely want to interrupt that with a frenzy roll, because the player is obviously having fun playing his/her character as being in a snark-off with the NPC.
                            Last edited by CajunKhan; 03-22-2022, 01:50 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post

                              Remember that in my system you only gain the Compulsion if you roll more successes than your Composure. That already takes that trait into account. However, I suppose you could let the PCs take WP damage to ignore the Compulsion, and that would take into account high Resolve too (since WP starts at Composure+ Resolve). What I'd be wary of is removing any risk at all, though. You want that sweet spot of 'dangerous, but totally worth it'.

                              The problem I see with the system is that, with a pool of 11 like in the Jim example, you are most likely going to surpass your composure anyway and that is with a vamp that doesn't have high base skills, another character with higher base stats is going to fly into a rage every time he tries to blood surge, that sounds silly and would ironically push players away from blood surge even more, I think that a better way to do it would be to treat the extra dices from the surge as hunger dices on top of the rest of the hunger and then only count the successes scored on those dices for the purpose of entering frenzy or not, like in the example you made Jim would roll his 11 dices 4 normal dices and 6 hunger ones (4 hunger+2 dices from blood surge) shall the the result on the 6 hunger dices surpass his composure+resolve (it should be both to account for crits on hunger dices) then he enters a frenzy or he takes aggravated willpower damage to resist it.

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