Challenge Systems for Werewolf the Apocalypse

My last post examined challenges and their place in Garou society, some of the reasons for issuing challenges and listed some of the types of challenges in which Garou engage.

Today I’m posting an examination of the in-game mechanical systems used to resolve challenges. These rules are scattered across a couple of different sources, and in some cases are not provided in rulebooks so where possible I’m citing my sources, pointing the reader to where to find the rules, and where necessary I’m making them up based on how some other contests work. Unlike last time Black Spiral Dancers are addressed here, so there is some non-explicit reference to how some very twisted sexuality figures in to that tribe’s challenge culture.

Facedown – (WtA Revised, p. 200) This is an extended and opposed roll. Each contestant rolls either Charisma + Intimidation or Rage, though characters whose Rage is the higher value may only roll Rage. Difficulty is the opponent’s Willpower (if one of the characters is of much higher Rank than the other, then their adversary’s difficulty is raised by 1 for each two ranks of difference). The character who accumulates a number of successes equal to the opponent’s Wits + 5 wins, forcing the other to look away. The character that is on the losing end can spend a point of Willpower to extend the contest for another round… but if they keep it up, they are likely to run out of Willpower eventually. Any character rolling their Rage on this roll and scoring four or more successes Frenzies as normal. A character losing a facedown loses a point of Glory renown.

Duel – These are handled according to the standard combat rules, with special attention being paid to the rules for Rage and frenzy. In most duels that are not explicitly being fought to the death, a frenzy will prompt outside intervention to split up the combatants and to declare that the frenzied Garou has forfeit. Klaive Duels also use the special rules and maneuvers from Player’s Guide to Garou (PGG), pp. 217-220 (we don’t have room or inclination to repeat those in full here).

There’s a special form of duel that (for the first law of the Litany reasons that should be fairly obvious) hopefully only happens among and between Black Spiral Dancers: literal sexual conquest of the opponent. This takes two main forms: either the two contestants engage in intercourse with the intent of being the dominant partner – who’s “on top”, if you will  (These won’t usually happen during actual play, but off camera between NPC villains… but if you must use rules, treat this as equivalent to a fight where only grappling-related maneuvers, jaw locks and the like are permissible, or it could also be handled as an endurance challenge, seeing who can go on longer… in which case it could be handled as equivalent to a facedown, where the two parties  are rolling Stamina + Primal-Urge instead of Charisma + Primal-Urge). The other form this challenge takes is for the challenger to ambush and attempt to rape the challenged party (as Pirog tried to do to Zhyzhak in the opening fiction of the Book of the Wyrm, 2nd Edition) without prior notice or regard for the challenged party’s gender. This is handled according to standard rules for ambush and combat, though again the challenger is likely to rely mostly on tackles, grapples, clinches and jaw lock type maneuvers in order to secure submission. Frequently, standard duels devolve into this format as well.

Gamecraft – Each different type of gamecraft challenge is likely to have its own systems. See examples below:

  • Riddle Contest (WtA Revised, p. 202): The character asking a riddle rolls Wits + Enigmas (difficulty 6), and the character attempting to solve it rolls Intelligence + Enigmas (difficulty 6). If the character answering the riddle fails to equal or exceed the questioner’s successes, then they lose. Challengers take turns asking one another riddles until somebody fails to answer. Again, if one of the characters is of much higher Rank than the other, then their adversary’s difficulty is raised by 1 for each two ranks of difference.
  • Race to the Umbra: This simple, relatively quick challenge is a race between two Garou to see who can cross the Gauntlet faster, usually without the aid of a reflective surface. Resolution is simple: whoever can score more successes on a simple Gnosis roll versus the local Gauntlet rating wins. Frequently, the race will require the challengers to race to the Umbra and then to some particular objective within the Umbra, and then to Step Sideways back to the material world. This variant works as a standard race, but with the wrinkle of having each character have to Step Sideways at the beginning and end.
  • Feats of Strength, Endurance or Dexterity: Most of these are handled as per the relevant systems as normal for archery, lifting etc in chapter 6 of Werewolf Revised.
  • Basketball, Athletic Events etc: A wrestling match is resolved as a combat using the standard rules for grappling, and is usually fought until one of three conditions: one side loses consciousness due to damage from Clinch maneuvers, until one side is pinned or submits. A character that has been successfully been kept immobilized after three attempts to escape (three actions used in unsuccessful attempts to break the hold) can be safely considered pinned. If the fight is to submission rather than pinning, then the character can submit at any point as health levels of damage add up, or by failing a Willpower roll (difficulty 6) on any turn in which they have either suffered damage in a clinch maneuver or failed to escape a hold. most STs will almost certainly call for Rage rolls on the part of a character that looks like they’re starting to lose a wrestling match. A one-on-one basketball game can be handled as an extended and opposed Dexterity + Athletics roll (difficulty of the opponent’s Wits + Athletics) where the first character to achieve a pre-specified number of successes is the winner (perhaps 11, so each success can equal one basket in an 11-point match).
  • Races: Handle these in the same way as pursuit, long running (for distance races) from Chapter 6 of Werewolf Revised, with one notable exception: typically, neither character has a head start – both start at a flat zero successes.  If the challenge is a pursuit and/or tracking challenge  (“Catch me if you can!”) then it is handled using the unmodified systems from that chapter.
  • Drinking or Eating Contests: The standard rules for consumption of alcohol and other drugs are found in chapter 6 of Mage Revised rather than Werewolf, because Garou regeneration knocks out alcohol’s effects (see Werewolf revised, p. 188) unless either the Garou is in a form that lacks regeneration or the spirit of the booze has been awakened. Accordingly, I’d think that most Garou drinking contests will take place between Homids, and in Homid form, unless maybe they’re a couple of Get or Fianna that take this stuff way, way too seriously and want to go Awakening several casks worth of the stuff. The standard system for just seeing how debilitated a character is from a couple of drinks doesn’t make for a very interesting contest though: Every two drinks, each participant suffers one die (not level, die) of bashing damage, which can of course be soaked as normal… you’re in for rolling a lot of soaks that way, and passing out from boredom long before either party is seriously impaired. I’d rather use a slightly abbreviated version for purposes of drinking contests that should go a bit faster: each “round” of drinking, which can be regarded as several drinks, consists of a Stamina roll against difficulty 7. Failure results in suffering a level of Bashing damage with no soak (that was what the Stamina roll was for), and a botch results in suffering two (or, if the character’s already pretty far gone, maybe vomiting and thus a forfeit). Wound penalties apply in full to this roll. Whoever’s wound penalties have reduced them to zero dice on these rolls first passes out or otherwise can’t continue. Regeneration works as normal (nixing the point of the competition outright) unless the booze has been Awakened. Awakened liquor raises the difficulty to 8 (thus making it possible for even Crinos Garou to fail these rolls) and prevents regenerating the damage incurred – it must be recovered from as normal over the course of the next several hours. This has no effect on the Garou’s ability to regenerate actual wounds that they might suffer somehow during the contest, however.
  • Recitation of the Litany: This is a challenge of memory, erudition and devotion to Gaia, as the characters are forced to recite portions of the Litany from memory. Note that this is not recited in the abbreviated form that is quoted so often in Werewolf books, but in a much longer, more flowery and detailed manner that is more difficult to memorize. Each contestant rolls Int + Rituals, difficulty 7 in an extended roll. A failure at any time causes the character to lose their place and the challenge. If neither character has failed before one of them accumulates 10 successes, than the first character to reach that total wins.
  • Poker, Chess and Similar Games: For a hand of poker, each character involved makes two rolls; one Wits + Empathy, difficulty 8 (to guess when to fold or call) and one Manipulation + empathy, difficulty 7 (to properly bluff or conceal the strength of one’s hand). The character who tallies the most total successes on these two rolls wins the hand. At the storyteller’s discretion, add about 3 dice to everybody’s pools to simulate the luck aspect of the game. (Werewolf: the Wild West, P. 267). Chess uses a similar system, but the rolls are Intelligence + Enigmas for the first roll  and Manipulation + Subterfuge for the other. There are no extra free dice to represent the luck of the draw in chess though since it’s a game of pure skill alone. Other sorts of gamecraft challenges that take the form of skill-based games tend to be resolved in similar ways.

Social Challenges – These come in various forms, and each form is likely to have its own rules. See examples below:

  • Howl Challenge (PGG, p. 115 sidebar): Attempts to overpower rivals’ howls require opposed Charisma + Primal-Urge rolls, difficulty 6. Attempts to match rivals’ pitch exactly require opposed Manipulation + Primal-Urge rolls, difficulty 6. In either case, it is an extended roll for a pre-specified number of turns. Once the specified time has elapsed, whoever has acquired more successes wins. The winner will often earn a point of Glory (for the first couple of moots where the character wins one, anyhow). Using the Gift: Call of the Wyld to win automatically is considered dirty pool, and tends to lead to a new challenge in a different format.
  • Oration and Performances: See Werewolf Revised, pp 200-201 for details of these sorts of rolls. Usually oration is Charisma + either Leadership, Expression or Performance depending on the specific format, and performances are similarly a social attribute + Performance. Difficulty is based on the audience, at the storyteller’s discretion. For purposes of a challenge, use contested rolls. For something like a back-and-forth debate, make the rolls extended as well, until one party or the other has a pre-specified number of successes.

If you’ve got critique for the systems I’ve created, or alternate ways to handle any of the above, feel free to toss it my way. Also, if you’ve got systems for other types of challenges that this post doesn’t address, feel free to toss  them my way. If you’ve got one that’s not here and zre not sure how to resolve it, ask me and I can take a stab at a system for it.

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4 Responses to “Challenge Systems for Werewolf the Apocalypse”

  1. Mike Says:

    For the Facedown challenge, may want to check your wording – according to the book (revised) its *More* than 3 successes.

  2. Mike Says:

    *More* than 3 successes on the Rage-roll to Frenzy… sorry – complete sentences help.

  3. Nick Says:

    Nice, thank you!

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