Hunter: the Vigil and the New World of Darkness

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.

6 thoughts on “Hunter: the Vigil and the New World of Darkness

  1. I agree. I don't really like their new dice mechanics, either. I think 'exploding dice' are a bad system regardless of where it's found, since it puts way too much emphasis on fantastic luck.

    Dice should support the roleplaying game, not coopt it.

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  2. Maybe we can just change it? It might be better if it just changed to, say, straight difficulty 7 (which was sort of the standard in the previous WoD in a lot of ways). Obviously it'll jostle the balance a little, but I think it might work out better.

    Exploding dice – well, they work in a game that rewards player luck and supports wildly disparate results. Maybe superheroes or something. Or giant monsters battling in Tokyo.

    Hunter, though, seems built to reward spending and wagering Willpower more than anything else – that and working together.

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  3. *nods*
    Works for me.

    I seem to recall that in the previous edition, you could only explode your dice if you had a specialization that applied to the situation. I could be wrong.

    But yeah. Hunter seems very much a game built to reward the spending and wagering of Willpower – it already has a mechanic for potential catastrophic failure. It doesn't need exploding dice.

    What I might do is say that on weapons or rolls which allow you to roll up on 9s and 0s, a 0 counts as 2 successes (no roll up). Not sure.

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  4. Have been working on some number crunching, and I'm not exactly satisfied with the results I've been getting.

    Assume an average defense of 3.

    Well trained character (3 in firearms) who is fairly dexterous (3 in dex) fires a +2 dice pistol at a character who has a defense of 3.

    Your chances of doing 1 damage to your target with your pistol are 83.19%. You have a 47.18% chance of doing 2 damage. You have a 16.31% chance of doing 3 damage. You have a 3.08% chance of doing 4 damage. You have a 00.24% chance of doing 5 damage.

    So here's a well trained person with a deadly weapon who has less than a 50% chance of doing anything more than bruising his target.

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  5. Awesome commentary here guys. I agree about not liking WW new die system (though I felt it worked ok in changeling, or at least it didn't bother me as much for some reason).

    The flexibility of the old system was its great strength. And it wasn't really complicated, so I don't think this was a wise move for simplification purposes. It does prevent “gaming” the system as much, but it does so by making everything very random and unpredictable – not a good trade.

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  6. I recently ran a NWoD game using a target number of 7, and I found that the small change made a big difference. Characters tended to get much bigger successes, and more consistently succeed generally. Using the OWoD target of three successes = complete success worked well – it meant that to do something right all day long you need, on average, 7 dice. Anyway, it worked well for the Mage/Ars Magica hackup game I ran, and I did like how much faster conflicts got resolved with the one-roll system compared to the roll-to-hit, roll-to-defend, roll-to-damage, roll-to-soak system…

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