White Wolf Combat Sucks

White Wolf games always mentioned how small their system was - roll a number of D10's equal to your Wits + Athletics (or whatever), and count all the dice which land on 6 or more. The player then reads the dice like so many runes, and the final result would yield detailed information.

  • 0 successes means failure, or at least no progress.
  • 1 success meant you fixed the car enough to get to the next town.
  • 2 successes means the car works, but imperfectly.
  • 3 successes were just 'success'.
  • 4 successes suggested it was better working than before the fix.

It works eloquently, and the constant demand for interpretation really helped drive stories forward.

The Storyteller knows the local Cainites hide in a house by the trainstation, and have ghouled the local police. When the players investigate and receive a single success, the Storyteller then has to invent some appropriate, but small, clue. Perhaps they notice a police officer using abnormal strength, or a police officer pulls over a car to ask the group what they're doing - not an amazing clue, but it points out that the police are unusually active.

The simple rules had a couple of variations, such as extended rolls (where you roll many times, and accumulate successes), and resisted rolls (where you roll against an opponent, and the lower roll subtracts from the higher roll.

This wonderfully parsimonious system fit onto only two pages.


Combat, on the other hand, felt like a putrid mess. A player might want to put that uppity-Gangrel in his place with a fast brawl, but when they go to attack, with horror, they find the Storyteller doesn't ask for Dexterity + Brawl, vs the Gangrel's Stamina + Brawl, or anything similar to the existing system.

Instead, we have 5 distinct stages to this action:

  1. Initiative
    • Roll 1D10! (that's a first)
    • Then add your Dexterity + Wits (it's the only time you add two Attributes)
    • Actions are declared in ascending order of initiative,
    • but resolved in descending order of initiative.
  2. Attack
    • Dexterity + Brawl.
  3. Dodge from the opponent Dexterity + Dodge.
  4. Damage
    • Strength + [ total successes on previous roll ] - 1
    • (what the hell is this roll about?)
  5. Soak
    • Stamina

This bizarre set of rules, after 5 distinct actions, lets people score off health boxes (time for yet another rule!). And now that player, who thought he could enter an exciting combat, finally marks off two of the Gangrel's health boxes.

"Round 2!", says the Storyteller.

"I'll help!", says another player.

"The Gangrel has back-up", nobody is surprised to hear.

And the next round gets worse. The Gangrel also wants to attack, so he rolls Initiative, Attack, Damage, and Soak. Four rolls, with three players, and four antagonists, means 28 rolls, and EVERY SINGLE ROLL WORKS DIFFERENTLY.

Heaven forbid that anyone start a bar-room brawl. The vampires might feel up to brawling with thirty mortals at a time, but the players will almost certainly expire before the second has died.


I reckon I can see the motives for this bizarre system.

What should you roll for a fight? Dexterity or Strength?

Fights are life and death. Whichever Attribute help with fights will become a necessity. So whoever made the rules added Dexterity, but then had to add Strength to it. But then combat allowed more successes than any other roll, so they used the last physical Attribute as a penalty (after more rolling). In this way, all the Physical Attributes could show their importance.

Trapped and Rolling Maths

The combat rules hold no real choices, and that might be fine - the other rolls don't give you choices once you've decided to take the action. But here, after so many rolls, the only choice present is this:

1    Roll again? [Y/n]

But these combat rules (over a great many pages) keep trying to convince the players that they have options, and that they can use special tactics to do better, to perform outlandish manoeuvres, like stabbing at someone's eyeballs, or biting them. These rules on different attack-types cast an illusion of choice, but a little Mathematics clearly shows no tactics exist. Anyone rolling 4 or more dice should perform an ordinary roll. Anyone rolling fewer dice should attack their opponent's eyeballs (+2 Damage, +3 difficulty).

Later White Wolf books would taunt the notion of players who bought 5 dots in Dexterity and Mêlée instead of 'proper roleplaying', despite the fact that their own rules had focussed on combat more than anything else.

The Path to Golconda

I have spent many moons in labour, crafting and testing a new combat system, bespoke for the World of Darkness. And then I spent many more, recreating the White Wolf books, so that I could present a new combat system, with all the beauty of the original books intact.

I present to you, dear reader, the fix .