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Humanity, Atrocity, and Willpower

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  • Humanity, Atrocity, and Willpower

    I'm revising the Vampire rules, and I'm thinking a lot about roads we didn't take in 2e. One of those is merging Humanity and Willpower.

    Here's what I said to Eddy at the time:

    Originally posted by Rose Bailey, in the Dark Era of 2012
    I'm going over Humanity, mainly because I want to tweak or explain the Hierarchy of Sins to make it seem like you degenerate more from descending into being a bloodthirsty Beast who can no longer empathize with human beings than just from being destructive. I may not really change anything at all, I just want to investigate seriously the complaints that people have made over the years.

    But that's not the weird idea.

    The idea is, Humanity is self, right? So what if starting Humanity, no matter how good or bad a person you were, is Resolve + Composure. Your ability to hang onto your self, your humanity.

    Humanity replaces Morality. Twist is, it also replaces Willpower.

    So now, you have Humanity dots and Humanity points.

    Humanity dots work much as they always have: doing bad things risks degeneration. Humanity points are like Willpower points. You spend them for bonuses (+3 dice) or let them slip away to perform blasphemous miracles and stuff.

    But here's the really cool part: Virtue and Vice recharge your Humanity points, just like for Willpower. In other words, human strengths and failings reaffirm your identity and let you push harder.
    (Mask and Dirge were intended to be in there in their Danse Macabre form at this point.)

    The next question was how to do, well, Beast stuff. Eddy and I floated the idea of Beast traits and Beast archetypes, and/or ties to clan and covenant. Today, I think I'd go with Ben Baugh's Atrocity rules. Separating the Humanity and Atrocity pieces, while it'd take some finesse, fits into my more complex view of Kindred identity without complicating things much.

    Thoughts?


    Cavaliers of Mars Creator

  • #2
    I think merging Humanity and Willpower, while a novel and intriguing idea, would risk lowering the average WP capabilities of the PCs. Willpower points is a great thing that makes engaging with the system pretty rewarding so anything that messes with that might have negative consequences for the players' enjoyment. That's the same reason my group has house ruled that vampires still gain Willpower points from rest.
    It's flavourful, very fitting for the setting, and quite elegant, but I have some doubts about how enjoyable it'd be when playing. At least for my kind of group.

    As a side note: I think some Disciplines and other powers would have to be revisited in that case. It would be weird to me if a vampire who is more monstrous has a harder time using their vampiric powers because they are so monstrous and have less Humanity points to throw around. That they drain your Humanity reserves makes sense (since WP costs tend to be for capstone powers), but to circumvent the weird limit that would arise it might be possible to instead take a Condition (like Tempted or something new) if a power costs a point and you're all out.


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    • #3
      I'm actually not fond of Willpower costs for Disciplines to start -- I like every exertion a vampire engages in to bring them closer to feeding.

      The less-Willpower idea would (hopefully) be balanced by Atrocity -- you can always get more dice, at the expense of unintended consequences and moral callousing.

      When I've run with this, it tends to mean chasing anchors even more (which works for my style). The biggest mechanical gap that pops up is Theban Sorcery, but that also opens up L+S theology questions I'll have to address next time I have a Sanctified PC anyhow...


      Cavaliers of Mars Creator

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      • #4
        As a game designer and someone who has done a lot of homebrewing for Chronicles of Darkness (I might actually gather it all together and put it for sale on the Storyteller's Vault at some point) I'm always extremely excited to take a peek behind the curtains and learn about the thought process of the actual designers behind these products I love. It makes homebrewing easier and more interesting for me, as I always strive to hit the same quality as the official products OPP pushes out. So thanks for that Rose Bailey !

        In light of that, could you tell me more about Atrocity? Was that something that was introduced in first edition VtR? Where can I read more about Atrocity?

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        • #5
          Atrocity is in…oh, which book is it, I think Danse Macabre, along with some other replacements for corebook Humanity. That's also where 2e's Banes system originated in a much less polished form.

          And the idea is intriguing! I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, I think I'd have to see it in play, but I have confidence anything Rose writes is going to be good so.

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          • #6
            Draconis Ah, yeah, of course, I should have known. Reading that part of the book now, it kind of reminds me of the hunger dice system from V5. I wonder if the devs of V5 used the Atrocity system as an inspiration.

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            • #7
              • Is the Humanity Dot/Point system propotional to "peak humanness"? Or are HD an absolute scale?
              So do an 8 HD character and a 4 HD character feel the same at full HP, but when each spends one HP, they are differently affected?


              If so, the sunlight damage and torpor rules may need tweaking. Maybe just tie them to Blood Potency and be done? Or maybe Fledglings start out with some number of freebie Humanity Dots/Points, but once gone, full vampirism sets in?

              But that brings up Humanity Dot Loss.
              • Can you lose Humanity Dots? How easy are they to win or purchase back?

              If you can't lose HDs, I think this might get rid of Draugr. Probably not a big deal, I feel like becoming a Draugr isn't too big a threat for most PCs.


              I love the Atrocity Dice system because it lets us put more emphasis on the Bestial Triad, which I find really useful in characterizing kindred psychology. But I think the frenzy rules might need to be tweaked.
              • How are you thinking of dealing with the Gangrel Curse?
              As it stands, Gangrel are always capped at their Humanity to resist Frenzy, but given these rules, everyone is capped by their Humanity. Maybe they just gain Atrocity faster? If Atrocity ends up replacing Frenzy, it might make a problem for resisting impulses.


              Finally, just a fun fact: it turns out that what we call Willpower seems to cover three different capacities: resisting a desired action, aborting an action midway through, and forcing an action which is not desired. All three are governed by three different anatomical sites within the brain, and you may be deficient or excel at any one. They are not drawing from a common pool or resources.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Rose Bailey View Post
                I'm actually not fond of Willpower costs for Disciplines to start -- I like every exertion a vampire engages in to bring them closer to feeding.

                The less-Willpower idea would (hopefully) be balanced by Atrocity -- you can always get more dice, at the expense of unintended consequences and moral callousing.

                When I've run with this, it tends to mean chasing anchors even more (which works for my style). The biggest mechanical gap that pops up is Theban Sorcery, but that also opens up L+S theology questions I'll have to address next time I have a Sanctified PC anyhow...

                This gave me an idea.

                What if, like Physical Intensity (which allows a vampire to add dice to her physical actions and resistances at the cost of Vitae), you allow a vampire to use Vitae to add dice to her Discipline rolls?

                Basically turn your Vitae in Willpower, but only for vampiric actions. It could either be done equally to Physical Intensity (1 Vitae adds +2 dice to the roll) or perhaps like normal Willpower (1 Vitae adds +3 to the roll) or if you really want to drive a vampire to feed, have it be 1 Vitae for a +1 modifier (but at that point, players might feel it isn't worth it).

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tomorrow's Nobody View Post
                  Draconis Ah, yeah, of course, I should have known. Reading that part of the book now, it kind of reminds me of the hunger dice system from V5. I wonder if the devs of V5 used the Atrocity system as an inspiration.
                  From what I've heard about the V5 rules, I'm sure they are. Which is nice, actually.

                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  • Is the Humanity Dot/Point system propotional to "peak humanness"? Or are HD an absolute scale?
                  Absolute scale, I think, to the extent that any Humanity scale can be.

                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  But that brings up Humanity Dot Loss.
                  • Can you lose Humanity Dots? How easy are they to win or purchase back?

                  If you can't lose HDs, I think this might get rid of Draugr. Probably not a big deal, I feel like becoming a Draugr isn't too big a threat for most PCs.
                  I think you can lose them, in a way similar to the current scheme.

                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  I love the Atrocity Dice system because it lets us put more emphasis on the Bestial Triad, which I find really useful in characterizing kindred psychology. But I think the frenzy rules might need to be tweaked.
                  Yeah, I'll definitely be tying Atrocity back to Lashing Out and so on.

                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  • How are you thinking of dealing with the Gangrel Curse?
                  As it stands, Gangrel are always capped at their Humanity to resist Frenzy, but given these rules, everyone is capped by their Humanity. Maybe they just gain Atrocity faster? If Atrocity ends up replacing Frenzy, it might make a problem for resisting impulses.
                  I'm not sure! I've got some ideas bouncing around my head about how to characterize the Beast, and that'll impact how Gangrel in my game have to deal with it.

                  There might be particular Atrocity effects for each clan.

                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  Finally, just a fun fact: it turns out that what we call Willpower seems to cover three different capacities: resisting a desired action, aborting an action midway through, and forcing an action which is not desired. All three are governed by three different anatomical sites within the brain, and you may be deficient or excel at any one. They are not drawing from a common pool or resources.
                  That's neat! Where's it from?


                  Cavaliers of Mars Creator

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                  • #10
                    Work in progress...

                    Originally posted by Rose's draft
                    Atrocity measures a vampire’s willingness to hurt and destroy.

                    On any action, except a Humanity breaking point, you may take 1-3 Atrocity dice and add them to the roll.

                    Answer three questions:
                    • Is it reckless?
                    • Is it callous?
                    • Is it cruel or vindictive?
                    For each “yes,” take 1 die for your pool.

                    Each success on the atrocity dice you take gives you 1 temporary atrocity point.

                    At the end of the scene, if the atrocity was satisfying, take an additional temporary Atrocity point.

                    Grievous Attacks

                    Normally, a called shot or an attempt to inflict a Tilt like Arm Wrack subtracts a penalty from a character’s roll.

                    As a vampire, when you make a successful attack, you may add the effects of a called shot after the roll, by taking temporary Atrocity equal to the penalty of the shot.

                    This can absolutely be used to kill, usually in quite a gory fashion.

                    Lingering Atrocity

                    For each point of temporary atrocity you have, replace one die in every pool, 1 for 1.

                    When an atrocity die rolls a 10, your action has unintended, dark consequences, or the situation escalates in a violent or cruel way.

                    If your temporary atrocity reaches your Humanity dots, add a point of hardened atrocity.

                    Each point of hardened atrocity adds an atrocity die to every roll you make (rather than replacing another die).


                    Cavaliers of Mars Creator

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                    • #11
                      Huh. Have you seen Don't Rest Your Head? This reminds me of Madness dice from that game.

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                      • #12
                        Just a matter of taste, but the way I was personally trying to implement the use of Atrocity Dice was that whenever an Atrocity Dice contributes to the success of a action, you must choose an appropriate aspect of the beast which the action expresses. The degree of expression is determined by the number of Atrocity Dice contributing.

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                        • #13
                          The Willpower replacement is interesting, thematically, though I worry that it makes Humanity more swing-y than I feel it should be. But I do very much like the concept of Vampires struggling to hold onto their Humanity in a more visceral way like that.

                          Atrocity, on the other hand, I have to confess to not liking. Partly the lack of direct cause and effect (you viciously killed a mugger last scene, so now something bad happens to you because...?), but mostly because I largely play online. And when largely playing online, it is difficult and troublesome to use special props or bookkeeping like Atrocity Dice seem to require. You can't just replace a die, for example, you'd probably have to roll twice: once for each type of die, or say the last X dice are Atrocity dice. Either way, it slows down play. Condition Cards already make running VtR online a bit difficult, logistically. Online play is only getting more popular, due to the difficulty of scheduling things in-person.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Michael Brazier View Post
                            Huh. Have you seen Don't Rest Your Head? This reminds me of Madness dice from that game.
                            It does have that element! I've also been doing indie games with a system I call Impact, which uses groups of colored dice and derives results from matches between them.

                            I'm probably going to do an Impact game of paranormal drama in the near future, too!

                            Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                            Just a matter of taste, but the way I was personally trying to implement the use of Atrocity Dice was that whenever an Atrocity Dice contributes to the success of a action, you must choose an appropriate aspect of the beast which the action expresses. The degree of expression is determined by the number of Atrocity Dice contributing.
                            That's a really good idea.

                            Originally posted by Maina View Post
                            The Willpower replacement is interesting, thematically, though I worry that it makes Humanity more swing-y than I feel it should be. But I do very much like the concept of Vampires struggling to hold onto their Humanity in a more visceral way like that.
                            Yeah, a lot of my favorite fictional vampires (like Angel and Spike) suffer big swings, and I'd like to incorporate that. I usually aim for a TV drama feel to my games, and part of that means characters change direction throughout the chronicle.

                            Originally posted by Maina View Post
                            Atrocity, on the other hand, I have to confess to not liking. Partly the lack of direct cause and effect (you viciously killed a mugger last scene, so now something bad happens to you because...?),
                            I should clarify -- it's not a karma thing, it's a thing of your action going out of control.

                            Originally posted by Maina View Post
                            but mostly because I largely play online. And when largely playing online, it is difficult and troublesome to use special props or bookkeeping like Atrocity Dice seem to require. You can't just replace a die, for example, you'd probably have to roll twice: once for each type of die, or say the last X dice are Atrocity dice. Either way, it slows down play. Condition Cards already make running VtR online a bit difficult, logistically. Online play is only getting more popular, due to the difficulty of scheduling things in-person.
                            That's a good point, and most of my gaming is online these days. For colored dice, I use Roll20 and make a rollable table that includes images of the die faces. Then I do something like this...

                            /roll 3tVampire
                            /roll 1tAtrocity

                            ...and get immediate visual output. Making dice images also lets me color successes and such.

                            I have a lot more trouble (in general) with Discord, but for my Bright & Terrible campaign, I use custom emoji to tag different kinds of actions and different special effects applied to them. That also lets other players tag reactions onto the message, which is potentially really neat!


                            Cavaliers of Mars Creator

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                            • #15
                              I don't remember if I've ever actually used the Atrocity system in full, but something I've had a small issue with in V5, the couple times I've played it, is what to do with actions like Perception when you get a "messy critical" with the Hunger dice. There definitely are bestial Perception rolls in certain contexts, but it sometimes felt like a stretch to come up with meaningful consequences when there weren't other people involved, or at least consequences that don't derail the story in odd ways. I love things like Atrocity/Hunger when it comes to social interaction and violence, but when it comes to information gathering rolls (and other little reflexive things of that ilk) it can feel wonky. To put it another way, sometimes I find systems like this can be a bit too pervasive, if that makes any sense?

                              Like, I could just not call for a roll, because being a vampire isn't (always) relevant to noticing a crack in the wall, but I'm also the kind of player/ST who likes the dice to dictate small things like that. Sometimes fate is more interesting...but I also want the narrative to make sense, and sometimes fate makes the Beast do weird things while dusting for fingerprints.

                              Honestly, this might just be a me issue, but it's food for thought! I'm very interested to see what you do with this. It's real cool.



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