World of Darkness (WOD) : Skills to Pay the Bills

World of Darkness (WOD): Fighting That Which Goes Bump In The Night
World of Darkness: Simple Guide to Advanced Maneuvers

Greetings Boils and Ghouls,

Skills WODYep… always wanted an excuse to quote the Crypt Keeper. Anyway so last time we covered combat, and this time we will be covering skills. The fun part of WOD is that your skills very often can influence things outside of the norm. From your supernatural powers, to movement through the world, to even combat! Your abilities and attributes will enhance and define every aspect of your time in WOD.

So the skills you use is kinda a loose term as a part of the character’s sheet is actually titled skills but what we will be referring throughout this article is skills an an applicable use within WOD not the section on the WOD character sheet.  For this reason I will have to describe… well… everything! Because you will have to know when to combine what with what. See, you generally will roll one attribute and one ability whenever you have need of a skill in WOD.

Alright so the attributes are the top notch things. Because there is only nine of them and one is almost always rolled, they are used far more often then anything else.

Strength in WOD is used when you need to muscle something or hit it really, really hard. Lifting up things, jumping, running, and such are all detailed in each book individually. I suggest checking the “Feats of strength” section to see some of the fun stuff you can do. This is also used to determine melee and brawl damage. For the Gurahl (Werebear in WOD) strength is also used for melee. Expect in WOD to mix Strength with brawl, melee, intimidate, athletics with Strength.

Dexterity in WOD is used when you need to finesse something or hit anything precisely. Lock-picking, sneaking, shooting, running, many forms of ninja-ry are all forms of dexterity. In WOD expect to roll dexterity with athletics, brawl, melee, firearms, larceny, stealth, performance, and drive. Dexterity is used for the to hit roll in combat for most situations and for initiative rolls.

Stamina in WOD is used for anytime you need endure and survive something. WOD combat often calls for soak rolls which is a straight stamina roll. Stamina is also often rolled with athletics.

Charisma is for when you need to charm and influence those in WOD. It is not about looks or fast talking, it’s that innate ability that makes others to want to do what you desire.  Expect WOD to require you to roll Charisma with subterfuge, expression, leadership, streetwise, animal ken, etiquette, performance, politics and other skills meant for changing the minds of WOD.

Manipulation is for using guile, trickery, intimidation and fast talking in WOD. This is the bread and butter of con artists. This is used with the same skills as charisma. This is one of my favorite attributes as I am a fast talking son of a gun in real life. My friend Avery calls me the awe inspiringly smooth. None the less, this one is probably the funnest to roleplay. Rule of thumb, if it’s personality or innate use charisma. If it’s outsmarting or thought out, use manipulation.

Appearance is all about beauty being skin deep in WOD. You can be ugly as sin with a silver tongue, or vapid, shallow, and pretty (cough… kardashians… cough cough…). This WOD attribute is usually used for first impressions and for abilities where how you appear is the most important factor. Making disguises with subterfuge, seduction with subterfuge, expression, or empathy, or even just looking awesome as you command attention with leadership. This is much more limited than the other two social aspects but is important. If it’s audio, use the other two. If it’s visual, use appearance (in most cases).

Perception is what you notice, you observe, and it covers all five senses in WOD. For the most part this will be rolled with the skills of alertness, awareness, or primal urge.  Though do not neglect a very important feature in WOD, emotions. A perception+empathy check should be rolled to perceive how someone is reacting or feeling. Much like a insight check in Dungeons and Dragons. Also worth note is that when examining clues it is perception not intelligence that should be rolled.

Intelligence is your brains, your cognitive ability and your ability to simply put two and two squared together in WOD. This is typically rolled with the knowledge skills and encompasses any time you have to think your way out of trouble in WOD. Think of it this way, Sherlock uses his perception+investigation to find the clues, perception+empathy to notice mannerisms denoting mood, and finally intelligence+investigation to put all of it together into a manipulation+subterfuge roll to completely destroy Watson with another scathing one liner.

Wits is your intuition, instinct, and quick thinking. Much like the dynamic between charisma and manipulation, Wits sits close to intelligence and uses many of the same abilities. The rule of thumb is if you have to stop to think, it’s intelligence and if you are flying by the seat of your pants it is wits. Wits is also used for your initiative rolls.

WOD abilityThe attributes are more specific and case specific so I’ll keep the descriptions brief. Remember at the time of
character creation you may only have 3 dots in a skill.

Alertness is how much you pay attention to the world around you, or… WOD if you will. From your five senses to your ability to spot what’s wrong in a situation.

Athletics is your ability to run, jump, and do all those things we love to picture ourselves doing when we mentally design our characters.

Awareness is unique to creatures who are or were at some point normal human beings. This is essentially the training and experience you have with telling something is not right. A sixth sense if you will. Be it ghosts, magic, or some other oogie boogie… you know when the goosebumps are more then just bumps.

Brawl is your ability to fight in hand to hand combat. This includes martial arts and things like claws and teeth.

Empathy is your ability to to pick up on emotional or behavioral cues in others living WOD.

Expression is your ability to put your feelings out in the world and get your point across in any medium.

Intimidation is your ability to put the fear of Gaia into the denizens of WOD.

Leadership is your ability to inspire others and be that being that others would want to support.

Primal Urge is your ability to tap into your beastial nature and let loose the animal inside. This skill is specifically used only by the Garou (werewolves) and other shapechangers.

Streetwise is your ability to get along on the streets, to understand slang, and even get information in said situations.

Subterfuge is your ability to fly through the air, shoot lazers from your eyes, catch subterfuge and lie through your teeth. Two of those is true. Also, I have a wonderful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Animal Ken is your ability to work with, communicate with, and understand animals. Think of it like all the social skills when it comes to human to animal relations. I am sure I could make a Scottish sheep joke here.

Crafts is your ability to make and create objects in WOD. It is multifunctional and useful in many many cases. I use it on my current character to create objects that prep and fuel his paranoid persona.

Drive is your ability for when you have the need, the need for speed.  Some storytellers allow this to cover planes and boats if you take a specialty in such. That being said, I like to run it like this: 1 point allows a automatic, 2 allows manual transmission, 3 allows for big rigs, 4 is for racing and a specialty vehicle, 5 is for drifting and other stunt racing.

Etiquette is not just manners but also propriety and respect. This is your sense of deportment and ability to be nice to people even when they don’t deserve it.

Firearms is your ability to use and maintain firearms. This is your sniping kill and is going to be the bread and butter for most hunters.

Larceny is two fold. On one hand it is what everyone thinks of when it comes to breaking and entering. Lockpicking, code cracking, etc. The part that most people don’t realize is that this skill is also what cops and such use to counter the more deviant uses of this skill.

Melee is the ability to use weapons such as knives, stakes, swords, and even the hammer of Thor. This ability is essential for the vampire hunters and samurai alike.

Performance is your ability to act, to sing, to paint, and do all the things that make Hollywood so amazing. That being said, you can also use this for scripted cover stories. Think of it this way, if you are thinking on your feet and having to improvise, it may be the subterfuge skill you are needing.

Stealth is your ability to be unnoticed, stay hidden from sight, and be silent. Your WOD character is going to use this alot as every supernatural being has at least some rule about maintaining a veil of secrecy from the humans.

Survival is your ability to find food and shelter. You are the outdoors man, the trained soldier, the guy who can somehow make my ex wife’s cooking tolerable… oh wait that is a different survivor… Anyway, your able to do this in multiple environments, even urban ones!

Academics is your training and education in a a formal setting. 1 point is a highschool diploma, 2 is an associates, 3 is a master’s degree, 4 is a doctor’s degree, and 5 is a a high scholar.

Computer is the skill to pay your modern WOD bills. Hacking ability, knocking down a camera system, and dang near everything in the modern world. Any game set past 2000AD will be seeing drastically increasing significance of this ability.

Finance is your ability and knowledge of how to work with money, the stock market, and things such that. If you expect to earn a background score of any significance, you will likely need this ability. I would also say a money changer con artist would use this skill.

Investigation is your ability to find the bonds of events that link seemingly unrelated events. The clues and triggers that most would fail to see are picked up for by this skill. Please note this extends from studying files, to studying a person or crime scene.

Law is your knowledge of the legal systems that apply to your WOD character. At higher levels I would allow the knowledge to apply to broader areas of the world or have the ability to apply to a specific form of law with that laser focus that makes the legendary attorneys of the world so memorable.

Medicine is not just being a doctor or a job in the ER. Your character could be a field medic, a police officer, or just a soccer coach that learned CPR to protect his children. This is your link to healing and curing the WOD.

Occult is your knowledge in the general practices of the supernatural world. It may seem like a catch all but I encourage you to see it as a peak into a very wide world unless you specialize into it. You are not likely to know that a Tremere mage can ward against everything but humans… Though you could tell that a vampire is vulnerable to sunlight, staking, and that they have their own government.

Politics is your ability to work the system, the laws, and make Washington work for you. Some people do this through other means but the better ones are able to work the system til everyone feels the Bern.

Science is an ability that steps on the toes of academics on multiple levels. That being said, I strongly suggest to handle academics like general knowledge (barring you specialty), and the skills such as science as what you use in those fields instead of academics.

Technology is an ability that seems redundant but it’s not in the slightest. Now computer may cover programming and hacking but this is the skill to know what wire goes where and how to repair or deal with all sorts of technology. Think of this as a repair skill.

Got that? So yeah… this should give you a strong baseline to build on to know what skill is needed. Remember that for all but very specific rolls, you choose one attribute and one ability. Each dot you choose to put on your sheet grants you a die, so… know there is a reward to having  a few points here and there, while dropping all your points in just a few things wields big bonuses to those skills. Personally I house rule that if you don’t have a point in the ability the DC goes up by 1 or 2 depending on how likely the training is to be known by the untrained.

Skills WODSo yeah… that was not very fun but really explaining what the skills are is important. I will get it into the advanced uses of rolls next week. For now I am going to have to head to bed as I have a new schedule to get used to at work.  Did I miss anything? Do you want me to cover anything specific? Have any questions? Please comment on facebook or here, I will do my best to respond to everything. Thanks for joining me for World of Darkness’ skills.

Role with it,



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Follow Nigel “Nubz” Sanford:
Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.

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