Saturday 16 April 2016

A Place for WIL

When I wrote about how Oddities don't have to be magic item equivalents I also touched on my lingering issues with the WIL Score.

A Place for WIL

As it stands, WIL is used by players in the following ways:
- Making a good impression in risky situations (Active, but not always used. Would be trumped by character action)
- Keeping up morale and other leadership things (Active, but relies on having NPC followers)
- Bending an Arcanum to do something different to its usual function (Active, but less of a focus with the new Oddity framing)
- Resisting mind-control and other psychic effects (Passive)
- As a pool that can be drained away as any other stat by nasty effects (Passive)

So as you can see, if you roll a character with a high WIL your active things you can use it for all carry some sort of caveat. The passive uses work fine and I find myself using them pretty often.

It's great for NPCs, No issues at all for how it works there.

So my train of thought goes like this:
- WIL is sort of a lame stat to have your high score in
- It doesn't matter from a balance perspective because it's random chargen anyway
- It matters even less because you get one stat swap, so if people roll 18 WIL and don't like it they can just swap it over into STR or DEX
- If everyone dumps WIL then it makes monsters that attack WIL even scarier, because you end up with a lower average WIL amongst PCs
- If dumping WIL seems like a smart choice and the player gets punished for it later by some monster that they didn't know exists, that's unsatisfying
- I absolutely want to keep WIL, as I like the three stat spread and want a non-physical stat in there
- WIL should have clearer uses that can be explained to new players rolling up a character

So, a brand new player is sitting down to roll their 3d6 in order. I explain that STR is doing strong stuff, DEX is being quick, agile, and precise. WIL is...

Well let's forget mechanical stuff and look at how I see the WIL score as a concept. Originally it was the D&D scores of INT, WIS, and CHA mashed together, minus the bits I didn't want to be mechanised.

- How smart a character is when it comes to making decisions (you make the decisions)
- How knowledgeable a character is (that's also down to you)
- How good you are at talking to people (well, sort of, but see below)
- Anything that makes decisions for you. In the same way that STR alone won't win fights and DEX won't let you pull off a great burglary.

WIL is:
- How well you can impact others, socially
- Your strength of mind against mundane mental fatigue and supernatural effects
- Contentiously, I see an element of Spirit or Luck within the stat. High WIL is that charismatic person that seems to have things fall into place for them? WIL is almost the "Other" stat for non-physical factors.

There's a conflict when it comes to using WIL in social situations. I don't want it to replace talking things out at the table and making smart choices, but I want it to be a factor.

I've probably created a false dichotomy in my head over this. The Choice come before Saves in every case, so as long as there's a choice before you roll then what's the problem?

If you have WIL 5 you can still make good and bad decisions when it comes to social situations. When they're good, they're just less likely to be outstanding, and when they're bad you've got a higher chance of it going really sour. 

As as Referee, I will do the following to help raise WIL's presence in the game:
- ALWAYS use the Reaction Roll, even in extreme cases where the encounter is immediately hostile/friendly. Just apply impact for passing/failing the Save. Only one of you failed the Save with the Mushroom Dealer? He takes an irrational dislike to you and gives the others preferential treatment. Half of you passed your Save with the Insatiable Devourer? The other half are the prime targets, they must smell especially tasty.
- Make early and frequent use of the Pick or Push system in social interaction, and tie that in to a WIL Save if they're going to push.
- Drop some WIL damage early on. I've started using a mechanic called Stress that's essentially damage, but instead of moving to STR after running out of HP it moves over to WIL.

It's becoming increasingly clear that social interaction is really where WIL can shine. Into the Odd is at least equally as much about talking to people and weird creatures as it is about fighting them.

So to boil it down to something I can say to players at the table when they ask where to swap the 18 they just rolled.

STR is for if you want to fight and be tough. 

DEX is if you want to sneak or run past hazards and dodge stuff.

WIL is if you want to talk your way to success. and resist mental stress. 

1 comment:

  1. Planning to run Iron Coral this weekend and I've been trying to work in a Death and Dying table parallel to/instead of straight STR damage. I love the idea of characters going coal-punk cyborg with weird prosthesis.

    In this process I considered swapping out the STR save to stay standing after critical damage with a WIL save. This seems to give WIL a more static place in the game as critical damage save is one of the more oft tested saves. Do you think this ruins the streamline of the combat system?