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Core Rules

This page covers the mechanics that apply to everyone.  For supernatural rules, see the pages of each particular venue.

Time

Time is broken down into the following categories
  • Reflexive An action in combat that takes negligible time to perform.
  • Turn Your go in combat.
  • Scene The events that happen at a single location. This is usually about 20 minutes or an hour.
  • Chapter A session.
  • Story A single-storyarc collection of chapters.  Often called a simple campaign.
  • Chronicle A campaign that includes multiple stories.

Dice System

Roll dice in a pool equal to an Attribute plus an Ability (like Perception + Awareness for listening at a door) or just an Attribute (like Strength for lifting something heavy).  Once rolled, every die showing a 7 or better is a success.

The standard difficulty – the number of successes required to succeed at the task – is 1 for an unopposed roll or the reacting opponent's successes for an opposed roll. Higher difficulties represent harder tasks, the presence of an applicable penalty, or both. Difficulty may go as low as zero, meaning the character succeeds so long as she doesn't botch (see below), and as high as five, though superhuman tasks may have superhuman difficulties. Any successes scored in excess of the difficulty grant extra effects at Storyteller option: extra damage on an attack, extra information from research, etc.

If you roll no successes and any 1s – that is, none of your dice show numbers above 6 and at least one shows a 1 – it's a botch; something more dramatic than just a failure occurs.  At Storyteller option, multiple 1s in a botch can make for extra drama just like extra successes add extra effects.  Certain rolls, such as soak and damage rolls, cannot be botched.

1s don't subtract successes and 10s don't count as two successes (though see the <Ability> Specialty Merit, below). You can always choose to fail a roll.

Automatic Success

When time isn't a factor and you're able to devote your full concentration to a task, you can choose not to roll if you have enough dice in your pool. Three dice entitles you to one automatic success, five dice to two successes, seven dice to three successes, and 10 dice to four successes. Any supernumerary dice are lost (e.g. nine dice still gives you three successes) and you can never get more than four automatic successes in this way. The Storyteller is the final arbiter of when this rule applies.

Traits

Any trait that has dots can be rolled (even Backgrounds and Willpower). Traits without dots are used in other ways.

Nature and Destiny

Nature embodies the core of your identity and disposition, while Destiny describes the role that fate intends you to play.  Each of these traits is chosen from the list of archetypes.

Goal

Simply, what you want out of life. This is what motivates you throughout the events of the story. If you're participating in something, it's probably because, at root, it's a means to an end. That end is your Goal.

Goals don't have to be epic in scope or impersonal in nature, although you're welcome to make it either or both. "Find my lost daughter," "learn the secret my company's hiding," "master Okinawan karate," and "fall in love" are all excellent choices.

Attributes

In three categories (Physical, Social, Mental), there are nine Attributes. They're your raw stats.

Physical Attributes

  • Strength Your raw physical might.
  • Dexterity Your quickness, agility, and manual dexterity.
  • Stamina Your toughness and endurance.

Social Attributes

  • Charisma Your personal magnetism. Used for passive social rolls, like giving a speech or intimidating a bouncer.
  • Manipulation Your way with people.  Used for active social rolls, like persuading a customer or lying to a fence.
  • Appearance Your looks and your ability to control them.  Higher is usually prettier, but not always.

Mental Attributes

  • Perception Your ability to notice details.
  • Intelligence Your ability to think critically and analytically.
  • Wits Your ability to think quickly, as well as your creative side.
The minimum rating in an Attribute is •, average is ••, and the peak of human ability is •••••.

Abilities

In three more categories (Talents, Skills, Knowledges). Think of them as the way you put your Attributes to use: you channel your Attribute through the funnel of an Ability you've developed.

Talents

  • Awareness Your sensitivity to your surroundings.
  • Athletics Your basic running/jumping/swimming/throwing trait.
  • Brawl Unarmed fighting.
  • Dodge Getting out of the way.
  • Empathy Understanding emotion.  Used to read someone's motives and to evince an emotional state.
  • Intimidation Provoking fear in another person.  Out of my way.
  • Leadership Inspiring others and interacting with groups and crowds.
  • Linguistics Your way with written words, both using and comprehending.
  • Socialize Your way with people, used to interact with one or two people at a time.  Lying, persuading, debating... you get it.

Skills

  • Animal Ken How good you are with animals.
  • Crafts Making and fixing things.  Crafts typically has a Specialty, like woodworking, automotive, panting, and the like.
  • Drive Operating a car.  Without it, you're a terrible driver.  You need •• to drive stick.
  • Firearms Likes to shoot his gun.
  • Larceny Not just sleight of hand and burgling, but security systems and casing a building.
  • Melee Fighting with melee weapons, like swords and fireaxes and the ever-popular chainsaw.
  • Performance Dramarama. Singing, dancing, comedy, musical instruments, etc.
  • Stealth Sneaking, hiding, crouching down real low.
  • Survival Wilderness survival, tracking, gathering food, direction sense, all that.

Knowledges

  • Academics The liberal arts.  Philosophy, literature, religion, history, what have you.
  • Business Bureaucracy and finance and marketing.
  • Computer Using them and, with more dots, building and programming them.  Hack the planet.
  • Investigation Searching, shadowing, forensics, research.
  • Law Your command of the law and your ability to use it. Used by lawyers, legislators, cops, and criminals.
  • Medicine • for first aid, •• for paramedic or med student, ••• for resident or attending, and so on.
  • Occult The folklore of magic and curses and the like, as well as animistic religions and traditions.
  • Science From my heart and from my hand. Chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, archeology, and many more.
  • Streetwise You get street culture and you can pass in and out of it. You know gangs and criminals and people who just have no where else to go.
Abilities don't have minimums (below zero, that is). No dots means you're bad at it, •• means you can make an okay living at it, and ••••• is world-class Also of note is that you lose one die on rolls involving a Skill in which you have no dots and two dice on Knowledges in which you have no dots.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds are (typically) external connections to the world.  Different venues have others, but the following backgrounds are available to everyone.
  • Allies People who'll help you out.  Roll it to catch up with your friends and see who's willing to help you move a couch.
  • Contacts People who'll hook you up with information.  Similar to Allies, roll Contacts to connect with your informant and get what you need.
  • Fame Your presence in the public mind.  When applicable, roll Fame to see if it makes an impact you otherwise might not.
  • Fortune You've got some money socked away. Roll it when you're trying to buy something big.  Use it too much, however, and it'll deplete.
  • Mentor A teacher or trusted friend who can be trusted.  Roll to be given wisdom or insight or instruction that you otherwise might not.
  • Patron A better form of Fortune or Resources that belongs to someone else.  College kids and secret agents have someone else paying their way.
  • Resources Steady income that you haven't been able to save (see Fortune).  Roll to buy something not so big.  Doesn't deplete without losing its source.
  • Retainer Kind of a reverse mentor, your retainer is a loyal servant (or group thereof).  Roll to have a task performed for you.
  • Status Your rank or reputation in an organization.  CEOs, politicians, prominent socialites, James Bond, and so on.
A rating of •• is respectable; ••••• signifies a one-of-a-kind Mentor, a nigh-unlimited Fortune, Fame across the country or the world, etc.

Background ratings are usually static in that they can't change with Experience, but events in the story may reduce or raise them.  Their ratings are usually representative – that is, the have an inherent meaning instead of a potential one like Attributes and Abilities – but they have dots, so they can be rolled.

Merits

These are capabilities that expand the uses of other traits or let you go beyond the usual rules. Depending on your venue, you may have additional options.

Merits come in a few categories.

Physical Merits

  • Block Requires at least as many dots in Brawl. You may use Block instead of Dodge when defending against Storyteller-approved attacks: punches and thrown chairs are okay, axes and pistols and flamethrowers are not.
  • Endurance Add your Endurance on all Stamina rolls involving endurance, like staying awake on a long drive or running a marathon.
  • Fast Reflexes Add your Fast Reflexes to your Initiative and to dice pools involving a quick start (drawing guns in a showdown, being first off your mark in a footrace, etc).
  • Fleet of Foot Add your Fleet of Foot to your Speed and to dice pools involving running.
  • Pain Tolerance Requires at least as many dots in Stamina. You may reflexively roll Pain Tolerance at the beginning of your turn to ignore wound penalties equal to your successes for that turn.
  • Resistance Add your Resistance to all Stamina rolls that involve resistance, like eating week-old meat or resisting toxins or illness.
  • Parry Requires at least as many dots in Melee. You may use Parry instead of Dodge when defending against Storyteller-approved attacks: kicks and swords are okay, chainsaws and shotguns  are not.
  • Two-Weapon Style You may ignore multiple-action penalties equal to your Two-Weapon Style on every attack you make on a turn in which you use multiple weapons.  At Storyteller option, this Merit may be split into two: one which applies to Melee attacks and another which applies to Firearms attacks.  Split or not, Two-Weapon Style does not apply to unarmed or thrown attacks.

Social Merits

  • Independent Income Requires at least as many dots in Resources. You do not have to work to maintain dots of your Resources equal to your Independent Income.

Mental Merits

  • Excellent Memory Requires at least as many dots in Intelligence. Gain extra dice equal to your Excellent Memory when trying to recall something important– a list, an election speech, a walking tour of someone's house, etc.
  • Intuition  If you find yourself at an impasse in the story and you're out of ideas, your character's unconscious mind might've figured out another avenue of action.  Your Storyteller may allow you to roll Intuition to come up with an idea for how to proceed.  Multiple successes may give you multiple options or a better idea. Storytellers may also use Intuition as a "common sense" Merit :if you're about to do something that's obviously a bad idea, the Storyteller can ask for you to make an Intuition roll, success indicates that you know it's a bad idea.  Of course, you can go ahead with it, but your common sense told you so.
  • Polyglot Requires at least as many dots in Linguistics. Every dot in Polyglot doubles the number of languages you know (usually one).  For example, with three dots in this Merit you know eight languages, including your native tongue.  Add your Polyglot to rolls to understand dialects and variations of languages you speak.
  • Unflappable  Requires at least as many dots in Willpower. Gain extra dice equal to your Unflappable on Willpower rolls to keep your composure when confronted with the supernatural or in the face of mundane fear.

Other Merits

  • <Ability> Specialty Requires at least as many dots in the relevant Ability. Choose an Ability and a specialization thereof, such as Academics: Research or Melee: Swords. Write your Specialty in the blank next the Ability dots. When making rolls of that Ability to which your Specialty applies, 10s count as two successes.  You can also take this Merit again for a different Ability or you can take multiple specialties in the same ability (one for each dot in this Merit).  When multiple specialities apply, they overlap – that is, using an Ability to which two Specialties apply still makes 10s count as two successes, not three.
  • Lucky You may make a number of rerolls per story equal to your Lucky.

All Merits are rated from • to •••••.

Humanity

A measure of the usual moral level of your actions.  Everyone, supernaturals and mundanes, has Humanity.

Humanity's rated from • to ••••• •••••, with ••••• •• the average for normal people.  It comes in dots (the big circles on your character sheet) and specks (the little circles below the big ones).  Each dot is worth its value in specks.

When you sin (or do something morally questionable), the Storyteller will have you make a Humanity roll. Roll dice equal to your dots. Your difficulty is based on the sin, from 1 (petty theft) to 5 (casual or premeditated murder). Success indicates that your character feels guilty and probably makes a resolution to do better. If you fail, your character may not believe she's done anything wrong, or she might try to rationalize, convincing herself that her sin was acceptable or even necessary. Either way, lose a speck. If you botch, your character revels in her sin and might want to repeat it for the dark thrill: lose as many specks as the 1s you rolled, plus one.

Like I said, each dot of Humanity is worth it's value in specks, your fifth dot of Humanity is worth five specks, your sixth dot is worth six, and so on.  When you have no specks remaining and you lose a speck (or more), your Humanity drops by one and your speck pool refills to the new dot rating.

Example: You have a Humanity of ••••• •• and no specks left. If you sin and fail your roll, you lose a speck, dropping your Humanity to a ••••• • and giving you six specks in your pool. Because the seventh dot of Humanity was worth it's own value (seven) in specks, losing a speck when your pool is empty effectively cashes in that big dot for specks; since you lost one, you have six specks left, which go to your pool.

Like you'd expect, if you lose multiple specks with a botch and it causes your Humanity to drop, you lose as many specks from your new pool as the remainder. In the example above, if you'd lost three specks from a botch, your Humanity would drop to ••••• • and your speck pool would sit at four.

When reduced to zero Humanity, you lose your mind. You're no longer a playable character. Make a better one.

However! If you sin but the Storyteller agrees that you acted in keeping with your Destiny, the difficulty of your Humanity roll is decreased by five – you're doing what the universe has planned for you, so you won't spiral toward madness and out of it's plan.

Humanity can be raised only with Experience.

Willpower

Your inner drive and determination. You have dots (which you roll) and a pool of points (the boxes under each dot). Every entity, mortal and supernatural and spirit and anything else, has Willpower.

Like Humanity, Willpower is rated on a ten-dot scale.  Like Attributes, average people have •• and the strongest-willed normal people have •••••. You roll Willpower to resist mental influence – natural (like persuasion) and unnatural (like mind control) alike – to remain active when reduced to Incapacitated (with difficulty equal to the number of turns elapsed since you were Incapacitated), and to retain your composure in the face of stress like fear, rage, or other powerful emotions.

You can spend a point of Willpower to ignore all wound penalties for a turn or to gain an automatic success on a roll that involves an Ability (or on other Storyteller permitted rolls, like Contacts or Allies). You may spend only one point of Willpower per turn.

You regain a point of Willpower upon waking from a good night's sleep and when performing an act in keeping with your Nature. At Storyteller discretion, you may regain a point of Willpower when you accomplish something significant to the story. At the end of each story, characters regain all their Willpower points.

Health Levels

Health boxes are much like the old system.  You have seven: a Bruised, two Wounded (-1), two Hurt (-2), a Crippled (-5), and an Incapacitated.  When you've taken damage that puts you at that level, you take the listed penalty to all dicepools that involve an Attribute.

Experience

Again, a lot like the old system.  At the end of each chapter, characters get three automatic Experience points, plus one if they learned something or advanced the plot, impressed the group with their roleplay, and/or did something really memorable.  At the end of the story characters get an extra point for success (they achieved their goals, or part of them), danger (they survived against the odds), and wisdom (they came up with a great plan that helped the group or advanced the plot significantly).

Here's the Experience table. You can spend points only between chapters and only on Traits approved by your Storyteller.
Trait Cost
New Ability 4
New Merit 3
Attribute Current Rating X 5
Ability Current Rating X 3
Merit Current Rating X 2
Humanity Current Rating
Willpower Current Rating

Combat

Initiative and Movement

Roll your Initiative, total your successes, and take your turn on that count. The Storyteller will count initiative from highest to lowest.  On your turn, you can take one action without penalty.

You can move yards equal to your Speed as an action, or twice that if you take no other actions. If you take multiple actions, moving yards equal to your Speed can be one of them – the distance doesn't decrease regardless of which action it is.

Attacking

If you're within range of your target, you can make an attack.  Roll Dexterity + [Brawl if you're unarmed, Melee if you're using a close-combat weapon, or Firearms if you're using a gun].  Your difficulty to hit her is the number of successes she gets on her defense roll; if she gets no successes, your difficulty is zero, so you'll hit if you don't botch.  Any successes in excess of the difficulty get added to your damage roll as bonus dice.

Damage

If you hit with an attack, roll Strength + weapon damage + any extra successes from your attack roll; if it's a Firearms attack, don't add your Strength.  The damage roll is unbotchable.  Any successes are dealt as raw damage to your opponent.

Defending

If you're attacked, roll Dexterity + Dodge (or the Block or Parry Merits, if you have them); if you're not aware of the attack (a reflexive Wits + Awareness roll versus probably the attacker's Dexterity + Stealth), you don't get to defend.

Defending itself is reflexive – doesn't cost you an action – but each successive defense roll incurs a cumulative +1 difficulty onslaught penalty until your next turn.

You can also choose to take a total defense, taking no actions other than defending until your next turn. You don't incur the onslaught penalty. You can still move your Speed while taking a total defense.

Soak

If you're dealt raw damage, roll your Stamina + the rating of any armor you're wearing and subtract your successes from your attacker's raw damage; if the damage is lethal (or aggravated), you can only soak it with armor.  The soak roll is unbotchable.  If there's any damage remaining that you haven't soaked, you take that many health levels of damage.

Health

For every point of damage you take beyond your soak successes, mark off a box in your Health.  Start at the top and work your way down.  Bashing damage is marked with a / and lethal with a X.  The worst damage always goes to the top, shifting not-as-bad damage down. For example, if you've taken two levels of bashing and you take a level of lethal, make the top / a X and add a new / to your third health level – see?

When you fill your Incapacitated box with bashing damage, you pass out; any further bashing damage upgrades a bashing level to lethal.  If you take lethal damage beyond your Incapacitated box, you're dead.

Healing

You heal one bashing level per [total damage] hours of rest, one lethal level above Wounded per [total damage] days of rest, and one lethal level from Wounded to Incapacitated per [total damage] weeks of rest.  Double healing time if you remain active instead of resting. The lowest level always heals first, and healing times are calculated based on your current health.  For example, having taken two lethal and three bashing (X, X, /, /, /), the first bashing heals in five hours, the second heals in four, the third heals in three; the first level of lethal heals in two days, and the last level heals after one day.

Damage Type Healing Time per Level
Bashing [Total damage] hours
Lethal (Bruised or Hurt) [Total damage] days
Lethal (Wounded or below) [Total damage] weeks

If you're Wounded and have even a single lethal level of damage, you require medical attention, and you won't heal naturally until you get it.

Combat Complications

Aiming

If you spend a whole turn aiming at a target, add your Perception to your first attack against that target next turn. If you're performing multiple actions, this attack must be the first of them.

Called Shots and Staking

The combat rules assume attacks that exploit weaknesses to maximize effectiveness, but STs are free to add +1 to +3 to the difficulty of the attack roll if they choose.

The classic stake-through-the-heart maneuver is a Dexterity + Melee (or Firearms, if you're using a crossbow) attack made at +3 difficulty.

Clinching

Initiating a clinch is a simple Dexterity + Brawl attack, but instead of doing damage you grapple your opponent. You and she can take no actions other than making opposed Strength + Brawl rolls to escape or maintain the clinch. If you maintain it on your turn, you can do crushing damage as a simple contest of your Strength (damage) versus her Stamina (soak).

Cover and Distance

Attacks against opponents with cover are made at +1 or +2 difficulty, at Storyteller discretion.

If your opponent isn't in close combat with you, they're at a range: short (the length of a large room, maybe 10 yards) medium (the length of a building, maybe 25 yards) or long (the length of a football field, around 100 yards). Each increment beyond your weapon's inherent range (close for melee weapons, short for thrown weapons, and various for firearms) adds a cumulative +1 to the attack's difficulty.

Disarming

Make a normal Dexterity + Brawl/Melee attack at +1 difficulty versus a Strength + Brawl (or Parry, if they have that Merit). If you succeed, you deal no damage but knock your opponent's weapon to the floor. If you have a free hand and you performed your disarm with Brawl, you can grab it instead.

Full Auto

Add ten dice and +1 difficulty to a Firearms attack with a gun that's full auto-capable and at least half-full.  This maneuver empties the clip. If you choose to strafe an area rather than fire at a single target, add an additional +1 to the difficulty and the attack applies separately to everyone in the strafed area (up to, say, a 60-degree arc).

Knockdown and Knockback

Knocking an opponent down or sweeping her feet is a Dexterity + Brawl (or Melee, if you're using a long weapon to trip her) attack at +1 difficulty. Weapon or no, the attack deals Strength damage and lands them on the floor. It takes an action to rise from prone.

Knocking an opponent back is similar. Make a Dexterity + Brawl attack at +1 difficulty. The attack does Strength damage and knocks the opponent back yards equal to the damage done.

Multiple Actions

On your turn, you can declare your intent to take multiple actions. Your first action loses dice equal to the total actions you mean to take and each additional action loses one more die than the last. For example, if you mean to take three actions, the first loses three dice, the second loses four, and the third loses five. If one of these actions is movement, it isn't reduced (see Initiative and Movement, above).  If penalties (multiple action or otherwise) decrease your dicepool to zero, you can't act.

Three-round burst

Add a die to a Firearms attack with a gun that's three-round burst-capable. This uses up three rounds of ammunition instead of the standard one.

Thrown Weapons

Attacking with a throwing weapon or throwing a melee weapon is a Dexterity Melee attack at a +1 difficulty; this difficulty penalty comes from exceeding the weapon's Range. You may substitute the secondary Skill Thrown Weapons for Melee, but only for weapons specifically made to be thrown (shuriken, throwing knives, darts, and the like). Secondary Abilities must be purchased with freebie points or Experience.

In a pinch, you can hurl non-weapon items like baseballs and barstools with a Strength + Athletics roll, but the damage done (if any) is entirely up to the Storyteller.
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