Hurt Locker: Alpha Outline [World of Darkness]

This more or less speaks for itself, right?

I’ve been super busy with the V20 Dark Ages Kickstarter. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s hot.

I sourced a bunch of ideas. I compiled them, reinterpreted them, and this is the book I think I’ve got brewing.

Check it.

I’d love thoughts. Sooner than later, I’d like to move into drafting this, so we can thoroughly test, tinker, and all-around fuck with it. Keep thoughts here, or the forums. I don’t want to have to collate all over the place.


42 thoughts on “Hurt Locker: Alpha Outline [World of Darkness]”

  1. I have many ideas about merits and styles, both mundane and supernatural. If I post them here is it possible that they will be used or strip-mined for ideas (in this case I would view that as a good thing), or would I need to submit a formal work as a freelancer?

    • You’re welcome to post them here. I’ll be pointing my team at the threads that result from this open development stuff, so they’d be free to look over your stuff. You’re also welcome to drop us samples. I don’t know if I’ll need people for this book, but I haven’t even approached the hiring phase yet.

      • A book like this could do some good for the system, methinks.

        Something popped to mind, which is obviously in need of a rewrite, but the notion seems to fit your theme. At the very least, this should be rewritten as a a Merit which can trigger a specific Condition.

        Merit: Stony Switch: (o)

        You can serve your empathy; you can grind it to dust. Those with this merit figured out how to simply turn it off for a while. When you feel the need to fight, you just flip the switch, and people aren’t people anymore, they become obstacles and targets. Emotions, in general, dampen, and things like fear are easier to manage.

        Effects: When a character needs to fight, they take a mental action. This is not reflexive, without other merits. Once done, the character’s ability to empathize with other people is drastically curtailed, as is their susceptibility to emotional distractions of any sort.

        Empathy rolls are made at a -4 penalty, as the character’s mind becomes focused on the violence at hand. This is accompanied by a temporary Resolve bonus of +1 and Composure bonus of +2.

        Activating this state does not imply that the character engages in violence, just that they are prepared to do so. It bears noting that they are psychologically prepared to do so to an extent that prevents Integrity loss due to the violence while in that state. (Insert Integrity related fair rules for how to handle the possibility of getting a stuck switch to avoid the crushing guilt and the alternate possibility of something dramatically pulling you out.)

        If you’re including an Integrity system where a character would hesitate due to revulsion at an act (very much fair, given how this actually all works. Reading a comment below this leads me to believe that you are) this Condition would negate it, and could be otherwise toned down a bit, mechanically.

        If you include a Berserk state, it should trigger a similar Condition and some nastier stuff. A fair approach would be to make Berserk a lower level merit that automatically triggers with provocation, and then this switch which can be learned as an part of controlling it.

        Okay, another couple leaped to mind, too.

        Wary (Merit ? dots)
        Most people rest without paying any attention to their surroundings. Some cannot relax unless they are aware of their surroundings. This merit represents those of the latter camp. These are the people who sit with their backs to the wall or make sure that they can see their rear in a mirror, even at a restaurant with friends.
        The stress is a drawback, but there are benefits.

        These have the ability to scan their surroundings for people and any overt hostility (and, if Extraordinary success, even covert or planned hostility) out to the limits of their senses. If something blocks their line of sight or reasonable ability to hear a Size 5 threat in a radius of about 10yds, they must spend their action in the round checking those gaps. Once all such zones are checked, they can fend off the urge for a number of rounds equal to Composure.

        The character can suppress this Merit for a scene for a Willpower, removing the need to check as well as the reflexive ability to check. On their Initiative, the character can reestablish it and use it again.

        If the character’s wariness successfully protects anyone that he cares about, he regains a Willpower as if fulfilling a Vice.

        Combat eye
        Some people have a developed sense for who is mentally prepared to do violence. Wary characters show up as such. Anyone planning violence or who have activated the Stony Switch show up as ready for violence.

        It takes literally unthinking violence or a supernatural effect to get around this otherwise unerring sense, but it must be intentionally activated. Usually, only individuals witnessed are sensed, but strange things abound in the World of Darkness.

        This is an Instant Action. When someone is examined with some other sensory check, the character with this ability may reflexively activate this for a willpower. If the character has the Wary merit, a Willpower allows the reflexive sensory rolls to include this information for the rest of that scene.

  2. One thing that I found was missing in Armory, and Armory reloaded was “slow built in traps” (armory covered improvised fine), like the hallway in “resident evil”, or the movie “cube”, or the entrance in the movie “the rock”. These traps are usually slow enough for people to attempt to dodge, though more lethal than improvised. Since they are usually part of the infrastructure, you can’t usually search for them.

    Also I found how “tranquilizer” guns work to be rather difficult to track down.

    Perhaps hurt locker could find space for these?

  3. Massive thumbs up, I don’t think I could ask for a better set of topics to be covered. Super excited for this book to come out.

  4. I… didn’t know I wanted this until now.

    Now I REALLY want this.

    Are you still accepting freelancers? Or do you already have a team set up?

  5. I’m glad Integrity is being treated more like PTSD since that’s really what it felt like they were going for in GMC. It worked out well enough but expanding it and adding in some of the real stuff that can happen to you if you’re exposed to those kinds of situations is a good idea.

    However, you shouldn’t tackle it thinking it will make you more likely to do bad stuff. You should really be showing how the character is being broken down by this constant stress from their life and how they can’t cope with it. They’re being exposed to these events that test their sense of self and reality. Even if you’ve killed people before and can do it again, everyone has their breaking point. Integrity should not be a free license to kill. PTSD only gets worse over time, not easier to cope with. If you wanted to go really dark, you can even have rules for drug abuse slowing Integrity loss.

    Also, and this is my own thought, maybe consider an optional rule that Integrity can be increased through roleplay. This would help encourage players to consider their Integrity, how it affects their character, and what they can do to fix it without spending their precious XP. I’m not sure if that’s already in WoD somewhere though.

    • The way I intended was more that they’re less likely to withdraw.

      If you’re shaken and numbed, you’re less prone to look inward and walk away when confronted with a temptation.

      It most certainly wouldn’t be a license to kill. It’d be more that people who have never killed have more hurdles before they will take that leap. Your average person will struggle to confront the possibility of killing someone to solve a problem.

      And yes, the thoughts on raising integrity without Experiences is a thing that I want to touch on. How that happens, et cetera.

      • I’m not sure that’s the right frame, though I’m not sure I disagree on the functional effects… I see low Integrity as being a lot less “shaken and numb and so less introspective and prone to impulsivity” and a lot more “broken emotionally and prone to mood swings and an inability to modulate emotions appropriately.” So yeah, more prone to extreme and intense behaviors, but there are different kinds of extreme and intense behaviors, and the differences matter.

        To use your example, the low integrity character can struggle, maybe even more than the normal range one, with the possibility of killing again, because they have intimate knowledge of just how traumatic it actually is. That needs to be as supposed as the guy that gets cold to the death and doesn’t have as much of an issue with it. So there need to be different ways to model what low Integrity means to a character. You need to have support for going into a panic and lashing out when cornered, or approached in the wrong way, but also for being so wracked with guilt and being unable to function or make necessary decisions. You can even have a pseudo sociopathic dead inside route, but it should only be one of many possible options. It’s hard to conceptualize a generic system that can represent all of those possible end states that doesn’t rely on Conditions pretty heavily.

        Which creates a bit of an open question to me though, as to whether specific low Integrity rules are needed beyond expanding persistent Conditions and tying them to low Integrity states, so that you definitely end up with some if you get low enough. I feel like you can model the emotional instability and excessive reactions you seem to be aiming for just using good Conditions. Maybe there can be some more things that key off of those Conditions as your Integrity drops further, but whether that’s necessary or not would depend on how much lifting you can get the base Conditions to do, and you can certainly tie the Condition mechanics into the Integrity score itself. Roll Integrity to avoid Persistent Condition effect is an obvious example of that.

        Obviously having some benefits for high Integrity doesn’t have this issue, as that’s decidedly more generic, and it’d give a reason to bother having a high Integrity score. (I could write a lot about the mechanical and incentive issues with the current implementation of Integrity, but I’m sure you’re aware of them)

        • Following on both of your ideas, a set of low integrity conditions that have you react inappropriately; given that this is a book about violence, there would surely be one where you get a bonus to your Integrity check if you react with violence to a triggering situation. You’ll hold on a little longer without going totally off the deep end, but the fact that you might hurt yourself or others when you don’t need to adds a lot of drama.

          Especially since your character is probably aware of how they are trying to compensate for their issues: with violence.

          • I think it’d be more appropriate, at least as far as persistent Conditions are concerned, to simply have Beats key off of acting violently, rather than acting violently providing a boost to stave off further Integrity loss. The remove a Breaking Point for something like a Bane mechanic could also play a roll in modelling what you’re describing. And some kind of Merit or Condition that lets you do something like get a boost to Breaking Point rolls but the next Failure is automatically a Dramatic Failure could also be interesting.

            I could see the last working out interestingly as an optional rule for Integrity falling below a certain level even. One of the big problems with Integrity right now is that it’s possible to avoid Dramatic Failures with a high enough Resolve and Composure score. That’s especially not good if persistent Conditions are going to get played up more. A mechanic that ‘forced’ one as you started to spiral, while also slowing down the rate of spiraling, would both fix that and allow more control over pacing.

          • Kinda describing a Vice, here aren’t you? (not trying to be a dick; I mean that literally.)

            If a low Integrity is an automatic excuse for that dual vice merit, or something equivalent, you’d get Willpower for following it. It’s not Beats, but it certainly is a mechanical reward for the behavior.
            If you need to spend Willpower to resist some of the effects of your degraded state, that, too, would be another pressure.

            The Integrity spectrum is not good vs. bad nor violent vs. peaceful. There are non-violent people who have slid into a place where their mental Integrity should be considered low, too. Similarly, the other extreme exists, where you have decent people who are not brought low by the violence that they committed, since they feel fully justified. Agressiveness should certainly not be the only option for result of this degradation. Hopefully, this deeper treatment will help with those sorts of notions.

          • Why would increasing the number of Dramatic Failures for Integrity rolls be a good thing, as opposed other ones?

  6. In the introduction, themes, mood, and tones, sounds like Killing Streets. The content sounds more like WoD: Combat.

    Seriously, you should still include Killing Streets in the reading list, for it was a mature and cool book.

  7. I have to say I’m looking forward to this!

    I really like how rules and systems seem to be put into their own chapters in a manner that makes them easier to use. I hope this will be how all 2nd ed books are made to simlify rules ad systems into one place.
    Less clutter and more structure.

    I utterly adore the concept of Urban Scene Cards.

    From the looks of it: I will buy this book.

  8. In terms of announced books, Hurt Locker and WOD: 2nd Edition are my most anticipated.

    This is going to be awesome.

    So much good stuff coming next year.

    Any chance this goes Kickstarter, David?

    • Unless something has changed, the only nWoD books that are going to get Kickstarters are new game lines, or a fill in for a new game line, like Dark Eras. So I think it’s very unlikely. They’ve said the 2e books won’t and those would definitely happen before something like Hurt Locker.

  9. I liked very much the outline, specially the idea to have supernatural fighting styles like for Phsychokinesis.
    The only thing I didn’t like is how people of Low Integrity are supposed to be more prone to do bad things. I tought Integrity was a departure from the Morality system from the 1ed. I expect some people with Low Integrity would probably have some condition that makes them just hide and curl in a ball as a reaction to violance, not necessarily being more violent, trauma can affect you in a lot of ways not necessarily making you more violent.

  10. Looks very interesting! Tackling Integrity will be a big boon to everyone’s games, but it might be hard to put in 5k words. Good luck to the writer/editors and hope you come up with something good, because I’ve tried and it’s haaard. I suppose a good readthrough of Unknown Armies’ system would be a good starting point for ideas.

    The part that grab me immediately (in the ‘my brain is coming up with ideas’ way) is the Framing Scenes. Lots of great ideas, none of which I’ll remember when actually playing unless they are written down. Abandoned, overgrown lots, trashed tenement stairwells, subway platforms crushed with humanity, A MOVING CITY BUS. Not to mention supernatural possibilities: a hungry grate in the sidewalk. The tangled non-Euclidean fire escape. Streetlights that dim, flicker, and feed on violence…

    Sounds like something you’d keep to yourself, but expect a first-timer here making a freelancer submission.

  11. another thing I’d like to see, streamlined rules for larger battles, e.g. a werewolf pack against maybe a horde of really low powered pandorans, led by a centimani (or pick your low powered, but large numbered thing here, maybe a gang of humans). A thought, maybe pre calculate the dice pool for all the non important enemies (pandorans), roll their attack as a group, and then allow the GM to split successes to the players. Problem with this is what about individual player defense, etc. Basically if I have 10 low powered low health enemies attacking, I’d rather not have to roll and target a specific player for each of the 10.

    • Yes, advice for running huge battles is key. I suspect something like L5R’s narrative combat scenes could serve. The status effects were things like “your side is winning,” set adjusted the encounters. Those sound translatable to Tilts and Conditions. They had a general set of rolls for each side, with bonuses for each success on a side, and then rolled it. Suggested opportunities were on their chart, with things like “you are close to the enemy’s standard bearer” or “you are in range to an enemy officer”.

      Gut says that’s a good notion to start with and tweak.

      • yeah, seems like there are 3 types of fights, small (troupe size vs ~ same or less) medium (troupe size vs double or so) and large (larger than troupe vs larger than troupe) I’m mostly concerned with the medium size, when I’m ok with dealing the troupe’s rolls and maybe some important npc rolls, but have filler npc’s that exist to up the challenge (mobs) or give the sense of being overwhelmed. The rules for settling larger scale things would probably be nice too.

      • You know, I’m not sure nWoD is the best fit for Mass Combat systems… it kind of cuts against the whole intensely personal theme that’s so core to the type of game it’s trying to enable. I’m not sure I’d want space devoted to it over systems that play up personal drama.

        • When you hit sufficient scale, *any* time spent on personal drama/touches for the characters involved is too much time to spend. (Each extra second spent per character builds up. Almost a minute for fifty, and almost two for a hundred.) This is past the point where things can remain personal without carving out areas of focus, and rendering other parts of the conflict to be scenery. (or un-characterized, anyhow)

          (Although I’m simplifying to two, here, I agree that three tiers is probably more correct.)

          Most of this is ST advice, of course, and won’t really need rules as much as rules of thumb. Why bother grinding away rolling 7-8 dice thirty times a round for squad combat when you can reasonably focus on the six most important figures to your story?

          Basically, we’re just talking about ideas on how to let the players have an effect, but not *too* overwhelming of one, on the overall outcome without needing to model the entire war using the normal scale rules. (An ST can certainly already wing this sort of thing, but a little help from people paid to create and balance rules can be welcome.)

          Of course, these sorts of lines are close enough to the psychic lines between intimate/involved/overwhelmed as to responsibility, so that could also fit into the scheme for Integrity and narration in general.

  12. When I sent in my Open Call submission, I had some merit stuff in there about violence (specifically, violence within the context of interrogation/coercion) that I think could work for this with some tweaking

  13. Touch on torture, maybe? Especially if you’re covering violence.

    How to make horrible things seem really visceral and there and horrifying, rather than ‘awesome’, would also be good.

  14. I don’t know if combat stress is something you’re going for, but as a disabled vet something keeps cropping up that I’ve yet to see mentioned in any of the fiction that deals with this sort of thing.

    When people died before social media existed, like facebook, that means they didn’t get a facebook because they weren’t alive. So family members like to make memorial facebooks and set the permanent unchanging photo to some picture their child in Afghanistan, perhaps on the actual tour he may have died fucking doing.

    Now what sucks is, generally the people that knew that guy knew you and facebook likes to just throw these pictures of the deceased into your face along with everyone else you might know. So you log on and get hit with “Do you know ‘RIP Firstname Lastname he was the light of my life?'” And this shit sucks because sometimes you can go on for a few days without thinking about these deceased individuals or the places they happened to die in and then you want to check your stupid facebook farm and bam, there he is, forever in Afghanistan where he fucking died.

    Now I don’t know how this would translate to fucking world of darkness (roll conviction to see if you get shaken because your social network just asked if you knew your old friend who died thousands of miles from everyone who ever loved him) but I think it might be worth a mention.

    If you’re going for that sort of thing.

    • I have no appropriate words or ability to even properly understand what that feels like but, 🙁

      My heart goes out man, for whatever little that’s worth.

  15. Well that was one of the themes of the movie this post is titled after. Once you see that kind of stuff it’s hard to go back to the grocery store and think about what kind of cereal to buy. So I figured I’d post something.

    Given the content though, such as “the lasting effects of violence,” these don’t seem like rules I’d ever enforce. I might use the armory section though, or some of the merits and flaws.

    But hey, author says this book isn’t for everyone.

    • I think the lasting effects of violence and that stuff is mostly relegated to the Storyteller advice section, and the Integrity rework. Integrity needs a rework fairly badly, and that hopefully won’t be just about violence, so there’ll probably be parts of that worth keeping even if the rest isn’t useful to you. And it certainly looks like there’ll be a lot of useful stuff in there that’s got little to do with lasting effects or whatnot. The Violence Groups and Scene Framing bits look really handy to me as an ST, and better guidelines for Condition and Tilt creation should be very useful. Also if we get any neat mechanical stuff out of the all the skills in combat thing.

  16. One important thing to remember is that a message about violence should not take precedence over making a viable character. Integrity now has three channels to decrease, including the “trauma” of committing or even seeing violence, with no way to increase except by spending experience. Ordinary humans who defend themselves are considered little better than serial killers, but vampires and demons can defend themselves without a roll IIRC. Demons can even eat babies raw in their demon forms and consume souls without a roll. Possessing Integrity instead of Wisdom is a major flaw for Mages. It’s a weird inversion where humans have lost their one advantage: remaining human. Now they degenerate into permanent mindlessness faster than any monster.

  17. One thing to consider, even Call of Cthulhu has a mechanism for characters becoming used to horror. In place of a hierarchy of sins like in V:tR where the character can settle at a level, shouldn’t there be a way to remove Breaking Points?

  18. When dealing with the psychological ramifications of violence, one thing to consider would be the level of training someone has. A convenience store clerk could suffer a lifetime of trauma and guilt from killing a robber in self defense, but someone with high levels of military training could mow through a squad of enemy combatants without hesitations and not have a second thought of it before bed. A regular person may have recurring nightmares from seeing pictures of a serial killer’s crime scene, but a homicide detective may treat actually being at the aforementioned crime scene like another day at the office. Every theoretical person mentioned here could be a completely normal, balanced person, but their capacity to mentally handle violent situations (and cope with the aftermath) are completely different. Could there be a background or merit that reflects that (almost like a mental stamina check against this sort of thing?).


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