Roll To Destroy Everything
Welcome back guest author Eris Esquire for an article on the awesomeness of D10 RPG systems!
I am banned from playing a melee class in the state of New Jersey, and it’s all because of this one time when I destroyed an entire city block in a blood-fueled frenzy that I had no control over.
….Let me back up.
I’d come home from college for the summer, and had plans with a few of my high school friends who were back in town at the same time. It was four of us total: myself, one of our guy friends, the GM (that’s game master rather than dungeon master) who had gathered us all together, and some other broad who’s better left unnamed but I guess I’ll admit was Ness. This elite squad of complete nerdlingers was assembled for the purpose of testing a “Vampire: The Masquerade” scenario the GM had cooked up to inflict on her college friends. We’d all played characters using the White Wolf D10 system before, and the GM had kindly written up some character sheets that would be randomly assigned to the three players.
As a career caster, I knew I wanted the Tremere. I’d played one before and knew the sneaky, mysterious tone and motivations for a member of the blood mage clan. On the other hand, there was a rogue-ish character from clan Gangrel, a growly bunch of anti-social types that I would be able to at least keep quiet on while still being in character. So, of course, I got the big burly anarchist Brujah and the game’s fate was sealed.
Note that I didn’t complain about knowing any mechanics. That’s the beauty of the dearly departed White Wolf D10 system. There’s almost no math! You only use one kind of dice! You never have to do a goddamned caster level check! The fun comes from role playing the character in the world you’re presented with, and you get a lot of latitude from the system itself. The outcomes of your dice rolling amount to, “you didn’t do the thing,” “you did the thing,” “you super did the thing and it was awesome,” or the dreaded “you not only didn’t do the thing but it was so bad that your failure gets a special description.”
The doing or not doing of things is decided by rolling a bunch of 10-sided dice (a/k/a: D10) and seeing if more landed on successful numbers than unsuccessful ones (the person running the game will tell you which is which). How many of the D10s you roll is based on your character sheet, where each point you put into a skill, stat, or other trait is one more die you get to add to your pool. You tell the GM that you want to do something, she tells you what trait to use, you roll the number of dice you have for that trait and then you figure out how many “successes” you have as opposed to failures according to what number the GM says has to be on the dice for it to be a success. From there, you have a ton of freedom to decide what your character does and how she goes about it. Combat is only one, minor part of the whole storytelling experience.
Unfortunately for my friends, I had no idea how to competently play out the planning and social interactions of a bruiser with a short fuse. We needed to gather information about some facility on the map before we could do much else. I figured I’d apply my more recent “Dungeons & Dragons 3.5” experience to the problem by sending my beefy biker Brujah to the nearest bar and asking NPCs if they knew any gossip.
I found a guy in there who I decided to approach with my surprisingly decent “talking to people” abilities. I ask him if he had a second. He ignores me. I ask again, knowing that my temperamental character wouldn’t take kindly to this, and was a little more insistent. In hindsight I can see that the GM was trying to get me to stop wasting time with an irrelevant NPC, but I was absolutely convinced he was hiding secrets from me. So my character taps the NPC on the shoulder and the mayhem begins.
He grabs me by the shirt collar, I tell the GM I want to push him off, GM says to roll for it with some combat stats. Again, I could have stopped there and made a different decision, but I didn’t and have to live with the consequences. I roll my pool of D10s and get almost all successes. A few too many successes. It was not looking like a gentle shove away anymore. I rolled a willpower check to see if I could avoid dealing a ton of damage, but one thing about playing a Brujah is…they don’t get many dice for that check. I needed to get successes on all but one of my dice. I got the exact opposite and cratered the guy’s face, unleashing a torrent of blood.
The other thing about Brujah is that they are more likely than other characters to fly into an uncontrollable, murderous frenzy at the scent of blood.
What followed was about fifteen minutes of me trying and failing to not kill or break everything in the game setting. I don’t think Ness and our other friend even tried to intervene, and I can’t blame them. If I were in their shoes, I’d probably want to see how bad things could get too. I managed to fail every single opportunity I had to stop this madness and get back on track while also rolling maximum damage on everything I hit. I distinctly remember the cackling laughter coming out of Ness as I flipped a cop car. The GM had to hit the reset button and made someone switch characters with me before we started over.
After that, I was banned from playing a melee class in the state of New Jersey.
That was over 10 years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. I’ve been in the same “D&D” campaign for almost three years now and had a prestige class cooked up for me that would let me be a ranged blaster when I wasn’t healing. Bad things happen when I play anything other than a squishy back-liner.
On top of getting to share one of my many, many stories of me being terrible at games, I wanted to bring more attention to good ol’ White Wolf. You can still find a lot of their games at Drive-Thru RPG even though they were pretty much stopped existing in 2006 after a merger with CCP. The core games, which are pretty easy to learn, are “Vampire,” “Werewolf,” and I think “Changeling” would qualify as well. I’m also going to sneak in a shout out to my all-time favorite D10 book: “Adventure! Tales of the Aeon Society.” You can be a scientist who explores an ancient temple in search of an artifact that will help her save the world from the plans of a megalomaniacal business kingpin who also commands an army of zombies and it’s all set in the 1920s!
…goddamn I love “Adventure!”…
To wrap this up, if you want a flexible, relatively easy tabletop system to get started with in pen-and-paper rpgs, I strongly recommend things published by White Wolf, or really any D10 based book. What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you destroy the entire campaign setting and get a story you and your friends will be laughing about for decades to come.