Ian Reads World of Darkness: Chapter 5: Merits

Today for Ian Read Worlds of Darkness, we talk about Chapter 5: Merits!  Does a Stunt by any other name smell just as sweet?  We’ll find out!

Hey everyone!  Sorry this post is so late.  I spent a lot of time trying come up with what to say about this chapter, wasn’t coming up with much, and then work and needing to find an apartment for June/July hit me full on in the face.  So without further ado…

I still don’t have much to say about Chapter 5.  It’s about Merits!  Which just feel like Feats, or the Stunts from the Dresden Files RPG and Fate Core.  Granted, they have a different name, but functionally it’s the same, and that makes it feel like there’s not much to discuss without getting into the nitty gritty of individual Merits: overall they just feel like little bits of extra skill that could maybe go a long way towards defining your character, and that don’t break new ground mechanically in the same way a lot of Storyteller does when compared to, say, D20.

I did notice that a lot of these skills feel really expensive.  (Gaining fluency in extra languages stuck out as extra costly to me.)  So you probably won’t end up with a pile of merits like you would Stunts in Fate.  This has the potential to make each Merit more important, and to have each one truly differentiate your character from the pack.  Of course, I might just be misunderstanding how expensive getting a dot is, especially after character creation, but it does seem pretty pricey (at least, without having gone though and made a character myself).  Many of the Merits also have steep prerequisites as well, which I liked.  Your character can’t casually wield a gun in each hand and aim at two targets, for example.  They have to be both highly dextrous and an excellent marksman to even attempt it, and they still take penalties for splitting their aim.  These kind of steep prerequisites let specialists get something that feels truly special and also makes a huge impact on their gameplay.  Now that’s a good way to make a player feel good about investing all those points in their particular skills and attributes.

One thing I did find interesting is that for a game that spends so much time in its rules on combat, there are relatively few combat styles.  There are only two hand-to-hand combat styles, for example: kung fu and boxing.  It’d be nice if they added a few more, but I understand that you could use the given styles as a basis for new ones and re-skin as appropriate.  Maybe they added more in later splat books?  But as it is, it feels a little limited.

The Mentor Merit also stuck out to me.  If you invest enough points in it, you can get a grandmaster of whatever field you wish on your side to help you out from time to time.  This seems like something that, while creating a nice plot hook for the GM, could also be pretty seriously abused by a crafty player.  “Oh, of course we get in, X will vouch for me.”  Or “Don’t worry about spending weeks doing research, we can just call up my mentor.”  If anyone has any experience with this Merit being used during play and would like to share an example story or two, I’d love to see how this shakes out at the table.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about Chapter 5.  Join me next week (I promise!) for Chapter 6: Dramatic Systems.

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