The New World of Darkness games seem to be intentionally designed to give players insane results. In the old world of darkness system, you could get crazy results, but it was because you gamed the system well – you set up a roll with lots of dice and low difficulty.
In the NWoD, everything is target 8, so successes can be relatively rare, but you also have “exploding dice”, re-rolling 10’s and sometimes even 9’s and more rarely, 8’s as well. This means that the most common results of rolls are one or two successes or a large number, and it comes out of nowhere. It is also less under your control. Even when you can make some of your successes explode, they are relatively rare, so its more of a game of luck and randomness.
One effect of this that I found in my own play is that it turns the game towards comedy. There is a lot of botching and absurd successes, and it is hard to handle.
The exception here is in combat, when some kind of defense number is subtracted from almost all of the dice-pools for attacks and special abilities. This means that you’re rolling fewer dice than you’re used to, which in turn means that combat involves a lot of singular successes or marginal failures.
This can get to be…a little unexciting. Your vampire grows her agg-dealing supernatural claws, leaps from the rooftop onto her opponent, slashes the claws down his back, and deals…one aggravated damage. Nowhere near a would penalty or anything. A scratch, really. Then in rage he turns around, pulls out his Desert Eagle, shoots you, and deals…two bashing. And so it goes until one of you has some exploding dice and randomly ends the battle in a paroxism of bloodshed.
I like a lot of the changes that were made to Vampire, Werewolf and Hunter. I think that Mage took a step backward both in its fluff and in the system itself in almost every way. But the dice system is just sort of hard to manage sometimes. It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t deliver the play experience I want – it isn’t reliable when it should be, and it isn’t exciting when you want it to be.
I find that I’m left wanting to hack White Wolf’s games all the time. When we used to run V3 (Vampire third edition), we probably had a minimum of house rules, but by the end of a chronicle we had a few to make the system more playable.
I wonder – did they playtest the new system before they brought it out? It just comes off as…unfinished in a lot of ways. So you have huge, beautiful books with unfinished systems in them that don’t deliver what you want them to deliver.
I sort of want White Wolf’s graphic designers and artists and setting designers to team up with Paizo, maybe, or a team of designers who can create a game that is tight, efficient, and delivers when you want it to deliver.
We just had a session of Hunter: the Vigil with some members of our new home group we’re trying to put together, and it went really well and was a lot of fun. It isn’t like I’m not having fun with White Wolf’s games – I almost always do. It just isn’t…reliable. Their new system, its core dice mechanic, just isn’t as good as their old one, and it takes something away from the game that used to be there. I’d have kept a similar dice system, with variable pools and variable difficulties on d10s, because that just lead to a more interesting game, a system that the players can use to set their characters up for huge success or for big risks at critical moments. The dice helped the game along – not so much with the new WoD stuff. Its really too bad.