The Game: Monte Cook's World of Darkness
The Publisher: White Wolf
Degree of Familiarity: Read and considered system hacks, but not done anything with it yet.
Books Required: McWoD corebook only
I'm going to waffle for a bit now (cue cries of "Shock! Horror!" from the peanut gallery). A while back, before the end of the World of Darkness, the games seemed to wander in focus. Some books (hell, some writers) focused more on the action and others more on the horror—Werewolf, for example, flip-flopped between Garou who could make a difference and who stood a chance of winning, and doomed anti-heroes who were going to give the dragon at the end of time one hell of a case of indigestion. The re-released World of Darkness core, and all the games that followed it, stuck closer to the horror side of thing (and thank fuck, comparing systems between WoD and Scion). Which is a good thing, the renewed focus really helped. But it had no real support for the more action-oriented gamers.
Not to say that action games are badwrongfun, especially not WoD games. For example, Tales of Magick: Dark Adventure is one of the best books made for the line. And with the release of Monte Cook's World of Darkness, they got their wish: a game focused around dark action in the same way that the World of Darkness core focused on horror.
The game has some differences. In McWoD, the Nightmare Wave happened just one year ago, and most of the monsters in the night are servants of the Iconnu, unknowable creatures from beyond time and space that are trying to destroy the world. The Iconnu's servants include vampires, werewolves, mages, and demons. A few monsters go rogue, and they're helped by the Awakened—humans slightly more in tune with the world, with action-movie skills.
It's also a d20 game. Not just that, it's a d20 game that expects someone to know the basics already. All characters, for example, start at 1st level, but have 4 Hit Dice. This is because the maths of much d20 stuff rely on balancing by hit dice (which in other games equals level). Different things balance by level or hit dice, and the choice of which appears random to someone who's never run the d20 maths. Unlike Star Wars: Saga Edition, the game doesn't want to redefine the rules, just shift them about. In addition to that, the individual supernatural templates are simplified (well, there are five of them in the book) and take elements from the current games and Monte Cook's imagination. It's trying so hard to be the action game that the old WoD once could have been. But unfortunately it doesn't quite succeed.
Now, this post is going to be tricky. The game's for people who understand what a WoD is, and/or who Monte Cook is. That much is clear from the title. Perhaps that's why there's no character creation guide anywhere to be found. So I'm going to make up the titles as we go along.
And here I want to punch someone. "There are many ways to generate ability scores." Apart from being a hideously passive sentence, that lump of text is then followed by a grand total of one method of ability scores. So it's not only grammatically incorrect, it's factually incorrect as well. And that one method is rolling dice. Ugh.
Save me, random.org! You're my only hope!
I should really decide what I want to make. Demons look funky, but I want this guy have some ties to humanity. I'm leaning towards either Awakened or Werewolf. Werewolf. I want to know what one of my guys looks like through the d20 lens. That means a physical character. I'm going with either a Rahu or an Irraka. Flip a coin, and Rahu it is. That means a very physical character, a human possessed by a bestial spirit of hate and destruction. Not a cunning one, nor one bent to act as a cosmic judge, but a basic beast of kicking arse and taking names.
Fenris, in other words.
That 16 goes right into Str, with 15 in Con. 14 goes into Wis, 13 into Dex, leaving 12 into Cha and 8 into Int. That negative modifier in Int is going to bite me on the arse, but I don't care.
Jenny Creed was never the smartest cookie, but she sure came out powerful. A year ago, she got a passenger in her body, a rampaging beast of destruction that knew itself as "Fenris". Since then, she's not stopped pushing herself to match the beast within, in the hopes of controlling it. Before the Nightmare Wave, she worked in a wrecking yard, though now she's a wandering force against the Iconnu.
A Focus gives a +2 to one Ability, and a group of skills considered "class skills" for that level. Shifting Focus effectively does the multiclassing aspect, though only the Ability bonus from the current focus carries over. For now, Jenny's focused on Might. That gives her a bonus to Strength, and class skills of Balance, Climb, Demolitions, Escape Artist, Jump, Navigate, Pilot, Repair, Swim, Tumble, and Use Rope.
Yeah, you read that right. Use cocking Rope. In a modern game of espionage and occult violence.
Damn you, Monte Cook. Why the buggering hellfire did you let that "skill" remain in the game?
Roight, off to the Werewolf class writeup.
Some elements of jargon are too strong to break from.
I've already chosen subtype, in that I'm going for a Rahu. Sometimes you've just got to play the guy (or girl) who beats people up and eats their stuff, y'know? First thing is Hit Points. Rather than maximizing the HD, I've got to roll four times and add the Con modifier. But hold up, my Con might not be fixed yet...
Ignoring that, I have 1 Skill Point. Go me. Two Feats to assign, and a +1 to any Ability (on account of being what any other d20 game would call 4th level). Plus, as a werewolf, I get a +2 to both Strength and Con. See what I mean? I put the floating ability point into Con, as that gives me the big jump to the next modifier.
4d12 gives me 29, add four times the Con mod and that's 45 HP. That's quite a bit. Then again, I'm making a character designed to interface with the combat mechanics...
I note the BAB, Defense, and Saves, then move on to the funky shit. Shapeshifting is a big thing, and I'm not about to note every last detail onto the sheet. I also note the other details, including the Auspice ability. Another two points of Strength. Motherfucker... I thought 18 was supposed to be plenty, not 22. I have Essence as a power battery equal to 10+Con mod. One Rite (Gifts, in normal Werewolf parlance) to pick.
That's it for the Template. Err, Class. Err, Type. Whatever.
Right. Rather than just multiply the available Skill Points by 7 (most characters have x4 at first level, and we're creating someone at effectively 4th level), I get to pick two Theme and get all the Skills therein at three points. Which is a bit shitty, as the skill max is at first level is 7. I assume that if I pick two groups that have an overlapping Skill, that one's at 6 ranks total, or else this way of working is even worse...
I pick the Stealth set and the Might set, and drop the extra one point into Intimidate. At least Skills aren't anything I need.
Feats and Rites
I get two Feats to pick from. Only at this point do I notice the lack of weapon proficiencies listed. Oh well, that matters only when it comes to equipment... Power Attack is pretty much a given. It's not clear if I can pull a Weapon Focus on Claws, but it does mention unarmed attacks, so I'll go for it and assume it's legal.
For a Rite, there's a few I could pick from, though Clarity looks pretty tasty. No surprise attacks, and an Initiative boost. And one hit is all it takes.
Fill In The Numbers
At this point, I work out the save modifiers, Defense, and derived traits. At several points I have to hit the index, say to work out the differences between Defense, Touch Defense, and Flat-Footed Defense. Looking at the character sheet, there's Humanity Points listed, but no sign as to how many a starting character has. Even the entry in the index doesn't help too much, so I have to guess at 0.
It just took me 10 minutes to find the base speed. Augh, this is harder than it has any right to be.
Finally, stuff. Turns out there's no proficiencies for weapons. Melee weapons will come in handy for when popping claws isn't the best way to go. An axe for controlled violence, and a shotgun for when the Iconnu's minions remain too far to kill and tear and rend. Armour's a bad idea for a shapeshifter. Duct tape and a wrench for random stuff in the panniers, camping gear and flashlight on the bike. Yeah, she's got a bike.
And that's me.
Name: Jenny Creed
Strength 22 (+6)
Dexterity 13 (+1)
Constitution 18 (+4)
Intelligence 8 (-1)
Wisdom 14 (+2)
Charisma 12 (+1)
Hit Points: 45
Base Attack Bonus: +4
Melee Attack Bonus: +10
Ranged Attack Bonus: +5
Move Silently +4
Weapon Focus (Claws)
Sprint Healing 5/20
Vulnerable to Silver
Axe (1d8 19+)
Shotgun (2d8 20+)