As I plan the next Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle I intend to run, I find myself looking at different blogs and message boards for pointers to help me up my game as a World of Darkness Storyteller. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that I run a good WoD chronicle, but there is definitely room for improvement.
Today, I’d like to share a really good idea that I came across on Reddit. One user over there suggested a while back that the GM (he was not speaking in terms of World of Darkness, so ‘storyteller’ was not the term used), rather than the player, takes any knowledge rolls that a player needs to make. This allows the GM to roll in secret and, in the case of a success, impart any relevant knowledge to the player. The secret roll, however, allows the GM to, in the event of a failed or botched roll, give incomplete or outright incorrect information to the players without them realising their character is misremembering, misinformed or just plain stupid.
I love this idea.
My only minor concern is taking agency away from my players. Someone on the thread offered a way around this, with a player rolling three differently coloured dice and the GM selecting in advance which he will use. This gives the player more an inkling of how reliable the information is. If, for example, the player rolls a 20, a 1 or a 12, it will be more likely that the information is accurate. This is a good solution for games that only require a single dice roll per test, but it does not work quite so well with games in the World of Darkness range where you are more likely to be rolling a larger pool of dice and counting successes.
With this in mind, I think that I will go with the first idea and roll knowledge tests myself. The main advantage for me is that I have a group who, for whatever reason, seem to distrust a lot of what I tell them. This leads to a lot of discussion and consideration among the group, which is something I really like and want to foster. I think that secret knowledge tests with the chance of faulty knowledge will give the players more opportunities to engage in this sort of communication.
Another question is whether this should be extended to other rolls. Perhaps stealth rolls would benefit from this approach? I envisage players believing themselves to have successfully passed a stealth check, only to discover that they have actually been quite clumsy or not as subtle as they thought. Technically, it could work on a number of different skills, but keeping it to just knowledge does minimise the loss of player agency and interaction/control over their own character. Interesting thought, though.
Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to my next chronicle.