If (as always, in my experience) Vampire had another underutilized game mechanic in addition to Humanity, this was Willpower. Yes, we used it to boost up rolls and such, but it just never had the oomph that it seems that it should have. I take some of that responsibility myself as the Storyteller; I rarely, if ever, pushed my characters to the brink of having to use their Willpower, nor did I force the scenes that I should have in order for them to recover spent points. It just sort of existed there.
In rereading the section on Willpower in VtM, I realize that it was mostly me; the advice is there on how to use it, I just didn’t quite heed it. Willpower is even better explained in VtR, I have to say, though I still feels like it doesn’t delve deep enough into what Willpower can truly mean for a vampire story (this, when it comes to VtR, seems to be a side-effect of the main book + monster setting book approach; the former has to keep it fairly generic, the latter can’t change it so much as to invalidate the core book).
Willpower, to me, is a driving force, and a very limited force at that. It’s what gives you the inner gumption to push back the darkness, but there’s only so much of it to go around, so much you can take before that reserve is depleted. That’s what the beast wants. That’s what I, as game designer, want as well.
For my rebuild of Vampire, as much as I’ve been vacillating back and forth away from the keyboard pretty much since I started this whole project, I will be using Willpower as the short-supply, dwindling resource that characters need to keep an eye on lest they lose control of their character to the beast. It is Willpower that helps a character fight off the loss of Humanity; what allows them to make their presence known in the world (a fancy way of saying it grants players temporary authorship of the story); what allows them to triumph against all odds (your good ole dice bonus). It is also the true measure of damage for a vampire, that which gets eroded along with Humanity as the beast takes over, that which must be protected from extinction at all costs.
Characters start with 5 points of Willpower; as you use Willpower points, you may replenish back to this original number unless you have lost permanent Willpower (older, more experienced vampires can be created by a combination of higher Beast dice and lower Willpower points, but I won’t get into that now). Willpower points may be used during the game to affect the story and the mechanics in various ways, but as they are used, they are gone until replenished. It is a delicate balance between achieving goals at critical times and having enough Willpower left in case one needs to stave off the loss of Humanity. Some will hoard, some will spend like crazy – that’s just fine. When something happens that a point of Humanity is at risk of being lost, the Beast rolls dice and must get more successes than there are Willpower points at that moment; if these are achieved, Humanity is lost.
Willpower also serves as a sort of “hit point” for vampire characters. When these take damage, whether physical, mental or spiritual, it is from Willpower that they pay the price. If damage dealt is more than the current amount of Willpower, the character loses one point *permanently.* To avoid getting to this, characters take consequences, as I discussed in my last post. Willpower also limits the amount of consequences a character can take, as you may only take as many consequences as you have permanent Willpower points.
You replenish Willpower by having Joy and Sorrow Scenes in which you actively address the emotional issues of your character. I on the fence about allowing the Game Master to also grant a free replenish after a significant amount of free and relaxed time (not a full night/day of rest, as in VtM/VtR), but I haven’t decided yet.
I think I’m getting to a point where I’ve addressed the major thematic points I want the mechanics to support and will have to put together a mock-up character sheet just to see how it all looks like together. I know I still need to talk about vampiric powers, which I’ll do next.
Willpower seems to be that one mechanic that brings in a few of the other ones I’ve written about already, which means it’s the one that scares me could break the entire tower I’ve built. What do you think of Willpower as described here?