Bonus Points: an Advancement House Rule for White Wolf Games
It is about time someone wrote a little something for World of Darkness. Many roleplayers are hardcore fans of the d20 system and thus never try the d10 system (or the White Wolf or Storytelling system as it is also called) which is used in the World of Darkness game line, the Exalted game line and the all new Scion game line. Personally, I like the d10 system just as much as I like the d20 system. It really depends on what I want to play what kind of system I prefer. If I want to play a fantasy game with a lot of exploration, medival battles and so on, I’ll use the d20 system. If I want a tough game with slow advancement I’ll go with the d10 system. Let’s face it: Characters in a White Wolf game generally advance slowly.
If we are looking at the three game lines that I mentioned earlier, which we are, they make a certain point at giving the characters very few experience points. White Wolf tries to keep advancement a bit more realistic than say any d20 system. You must use your hard earned XP to buy the skills you want and those are rarely cheap. Exalted and Scion generally reward you with more XP than WoD because of the Stunt Bonus rule. That is, when you are really cool you get one extra XP per session that you are so cool. That is still more of an exception that frequent occurance. Most of the times, you get no more than 10 XP per session which you can’t spend until the end of the story. By then you are most likely dead and all XP is lost.
I’m here to introduce new approach in advancement for d10 system games which I call Bonus Points or Advancement Points. The general idea is that you (the Storyteller or GM) award Bonus Points (BP) much like you would award XP, except that you do it then and there. Any event in the game that you think should award the player an XP at the end of the session awards him a BP at that very moment. As an example for this article I’ll be using a player named Danny and his favorite character Cujo (which appears in all three game lines as a different base character). So for the first example:
Danny is playing a game of Exalted with his friends. Danny’s character, the Magnificent Solar Cujo of the Dawn caste, pulls off a 3-dice stunt, knocking away sixteen enemy soldiers in a single smooth action. Should this have been fitting with Cujo’s Motivation, the ST could reward him with a single XP but instead awards him a BP.
So how do BPs deal with character advancement? Here’s the fun part: At any time during play, the player can ask the ST/GM for an advancement roll. The rules in the above three game lines are a bit different when it comes to rolls as well as traits and XP costs, so when the time comes I’ll explain them seperately. In basics, the player rolls one die plus another die for every BPs he has earned. This obviously means that he can ask for the roll without even a single BP earned and that is OK. It is just far more difficult. The player asks for an advancement roll with a certain trait and the ST/GM may not allow it, but if he/she does the roll is made in pretty much the same way any other roll in the game is rolled with few exceptions depending on the game (like I said, more on that later). The general rule for STs/GMs to decide if the roll should be allowed is to ask yourself if the character has been using or focusing on that trait enough. If not, then don’t allow the roll, but allow it if he has. There is no guideline as to how often he needs to, just follow your gut. If the player gets enough successes, he/she adds another dot to that trait.
Danny is now playing Cujo the Werewolf in a game of Werewolf the Forsaken (WoD line). After his fifth run in with the Pure (each of them ending in a massive brawl) Danny asks the ST if he can make an advancement roll for his Brawl Skill. The ST decides that all this fighting with the Pure should have advanced him a little bit so the ST allows the roll. Danny already has 5 BPs so he rolls 6 dice (5 BP +1 standard) and gets enough successes for an advancement.
So what next? If the advancement roll is successful the BPs should obviously be reset to zero. If the ST/GM did not allow the roll, nothing happens. But if the roll fails, something should happen. The roll isn’t made without cost. If you want to be really nasty (and possibly hated) you can rule that all bonus points are lost if the roll is unsuccessful. This will mean that the player won’t ask for a roll unless he has enough bonus points to be sure to get enough successes. If you don’t want to do it in a “all-or-nothing” style, you can set a cost for every unsuccessful attempt, like -2 or -3 BP per failure. Don’t ever let this cost result in a negative BP total, that is if the cost is more than the player has you should not take it off the BPs he is yet to earn. It goes to 0 and that is it. If you are a kind and ‘wise’ ruler of your people, you won’t charge them anything for a failed attempt, but they can’t make another advancement roll until the next session at the earliest.
Danny is playing Cujo son of Thor in a game of Scion. He has just finished banging a Frost Giant in the head with a motorcycle when he asks for an advancement roll for his Melee Skill, which the ST is kind enough to allow. Danny has 2 BPs saved up so he makes the roll with 3 dice. The roll is unsuccessful. Luckily for Danny the ST is of the kind variety and Danny loses none of his saved BPs. Instead he must wait until the next session until he can ask for another advancement roll.
And now for the details. Each game line has its own cost and the system for rolling dice is slightly different in each of them. So I’m going to go into some details regarding each game line, starting with World of Darkness. WoD has the target number of 8, meaning that each die showing 8, 9 or 0 counts as a success. Furthermore, if you roll a 0 on any number of dice you get to roll those dice again. If they show 0 the second time, you roll again and so on. If you roll 5 successes or more it counts as an exceptional success and usually includes some sort of bonus. This is not the the case with advancement rolls, but if you get 0 on any die you roll that one again as normal. You should also note that spending a point of Willpower will not give you +3 dice on the roll as normal. When I say ‘new rating’ in the following list I mean that you take the rating that you will get if successful. Unless the ST/GM is very generous, the new rating is always your current rating +1, so if you have a rating of 2 in Drive the new rating is 3. Current rating is the rating you have before the roll.
- Attribures: New rating +2
- Skills: New rating
- Morality: New rating +1
- Merits: Current Rating
- Skill Specialty: See below*
- Supernatural Power-Source: New rating +5 (This is Blood Potency, Rage, Mana and so on)
- Supernatural Power°: Power rating +4; see below for other**
- Willpower°°: New rating +1
*There are two ways to solve the Skill Specialty bit, although the former is better than the latter. You can buy Specialties with 3 BP per Specialty or you can roll for it and use the Current rating of the Skill in question as the number of successes needed. The latter is a better choice early in the game when the character has a low rating in the Skill but the former is better later when the character has advanced his Skills beyond the rating of 3.
**This ‘other’ are powers like the Vampire’s Devotions and the Mage’s Rotes. Much like Specialties they should be bought using the BPs as if they were XP. However they can be rolled as well, using the highest rating power included as base and the needed successes should be that rating +3 or +4, depending on the ST/GM.
°Some powers are favorite among certain types of characters. Lower the successes for such powers by one (New rating +3) for such powers. Likewise, some powers are inferior to certain groups. Increase the successes needed for such powers (New rating +5).
°°Willpower is only advanced by a roll under certain circumstances, such as if a permanent dot is spent. Permanent Willpower never rises above Resolve+Composure in WoD.
Danny wants to advance Cujo’s rating in Morality. After getting acceptance from his ST, he makes the advancement roll with the 4 BPs he has earned. Cujo has a Morality rating of 5 (Danny has made him go a little wild) so Danny needs 7 successes, something that is hard to do with 5 dice but not impossible. Danny rolls and gets 3, 8, 9, 0 and 0. That is four successes but he still needs three more, so he rolls the two 0s again and this time gets 5 and 0. Now he has 5 successes and rolls his 0 for the last time and gets 8. Danny gained a total of 6 successes, but needed 7 so the attempt failed.
Exalted and Scion work a little bit differently than WoD. The target number for those games is 7, meaning that every die that shows 7 or more counts as a success. You don’t roll 10s again but they instead count as two successes. Sidereal Exalted have the power to lower the target number for their rolls. It should be noted that it does not work on advancement rolls, not only because the roll isn’t really associated with any trait but mostly because it is just plain wrong.
Exalted 2nd ed:
- Attributes: New rating +2
- Favored Attributes: New rating +1
- Abilities: New rating
- Favored Abilities: Current rating (min 1)
- Charms: 5
- Favored Charms: 4
- Non-Type Charms*: 7
- Willpower: New rating +1
- Virtues: New rating +1
- Essence: New rating +5
- Combos: see below**
- Spells: 5
- Spells (if Occult is favored): 4
- Backgrounds: Backgrounds are not bought or rolled but gained through roleplay
- Specialties: see below**
*Solars of the Twilight Caste and Abyssals of the Moonshadow Caste can learn Charms of non-Solar or non-Abyssal Exalted or spirits, but at a cost.
**Combos and specialties are bought with BPs much the same way as it would be bought with XP.
- Attributes: New rating +2
- Epic Attributes: New rating +2
- Non-favored Epic Attribute: New rating +3
- Abilities: New rating
- Favored Abilities: Current rating (min 1)
- Specialties: see below*
- Virtue: New rating +1
- Willpower: New rating +1
- Legend: New rating +5
- Pantheon Purview: New rating +3
- Favored Purview: New rating +3
- Purview: New rating +4
- Knack: see below*
- Favored Spells: Rating +4
- Spells: Rating +5
*Specialties and Knacks cost as many BPs as they would XP.
Danny wants Cujo, also known as Walker Among that Which is Naughty (Abyssal title), to advance his one of his favored Abilities. The ST allows it and Danny gethers his 4 dice (3 for BP and 1 as standard) and makes the roll. Cujo already has a rating of 3 in the Ability in question so Danny needs 4 successes. He rolls a 2, 7, 9 and 0 for a total of 4 successes (7 being the target number and 0 counts as two successes). Cujo has now a rating of 4 in the desired Ability.
Cujo, the illiterate bastard of Athena, has just finished running from New York all the way to Los Angeles without stopping, so Danny asks the ST if he can check for advancement roll with his Epic Stamina. Since the running was completely pointless the ST says “no way”. Devistated, Danny asks if he can buy the Knack
Lightning Sprinter instead. Filled with guilt, the ST accepts and Danny pays the price listed.
The following bits are optional. There might come a time when certain players will have massive amount of BPs saved up for their characters. Successfully rolling for advancement as per the rules mentioned above means that the player loses all the BPs he has saved up, regardless of how many they are. That is a bit harsh for the players who have worked hard for the 25 BPs that they have. 25 is about the number of BPs you would have given a player after only five sessions so this is certainly not a distinct possibility. What you can do is allow the player to make a bet with his saved up BPs. If the roll is successful the player only loses the BPs he bet on the roll.
Danny has saved up 25 BPs and has been given a green light to attempt an advancement roll for Cujo’s Stamina rating (currently 3). Danny needs 5 successes, so he decides to bet 7 BPs for the roll and rolls 8 dice (7 BPs and 1 standard). Danny gets 6 successes and he loses the 7 BPs he bet for the roll. Danny has now 18 BPs to use the next time he is allowed an advancement roll.
Another optional bit is regarding automatic successes. Generally speaking, in all of the above game lines, if you would roll as many dice as the target number (8 for WoD, 7 for Exalted and Scion) you get an automatic success, but only one. This option allows the same thing with the advancement roll. If the player would roll as many dice as the target number (7 or he gets a single automatic success. Any other success gained from the roll is added to that success.
Cujo Barks with Dogs (Werewolf the Forsaken) has just finished negotiating with a local spirit and the ST has allowed Danny to attempt to advance Cujo’s Occult Skill (current rating 2). Danny has 8 BPs saved up and needs 3 successes. Danny decides to roll them all, gaining an automatic success because he rolls 9 dice (the target number is and gets another 4 successes on the roll. His total number of successes is thus 5 and Cujo now has the rating of 3 in his Occult Skill.
This is the end of this article. I hope you found it both interesting and worth trying in your game. Now, who can tell me how often I used the word ‘general’ in any form?
Thanks to Skari-dono for this contribution!