House Rules


This page contains all of the changes made to the Chronicles of Darkness ruleset.

The Face in the Mirror: Characters

Changes to this process are detailed on the Character Creation page.

Speed: This mechanical trait is deleted; distances and movement are covered by handwaving or other checks as needed.

Virtues and Vices should be moral qualities. Cowardly or Lustful is an acceptable Vice, but Oblivious or Introverted is not.

Changes to the game’s Integrity system are detailed on the [[Integrity & Insanity]] page.

The list of allowed and altered Merits within the game can be found on the Merits List page.

Infernal Engines: Dramatic Systems

Dramatic Failures: Dramatic failures (also called botches) occur whenever a character rolls a 1 and no successes. Dramatic failures with meaningful consequences grant a Beat.

Success: Players may choose to turn a success on any dice roll into a failure in exchange for a Beat. They may turn a success into a dramatic failure for two Beats.

Exceptional Success: At the GM’s discretion (and frequent preference) Characters can get outcomes besides beneficial Conditions on an ex success.

For every additional five successes characters achieve, they get an even better outcome of some kind. In effect, they get an exceptional exceptional success on 10 successes, an exceptional exceptional exceptional success on 15, etc.

Players may accept a Beat to turn a failure into a dramatic failure, a success into a failure, or an exceptional success into a success.

Players may accept two Beats to turn a success into a dramatic failure or an exceptional success into a failure.

Players may accept three Beats to turn an exceptional success into a dramatic failure.

Analepsis and Presage: Characters can use this subsystem to take retroactive actions outside of the normal timeline and perform other clever feats. See the full page for further information.

Extended Actions: To determine the difficulty of an extended roll, the GM assigns a numeric rating between 1 and 5, then requires successes equal to five times that amount. 25 successes, rather than 20, is the normal highest total.

Exceptional Success: Characters who roll multiple exceptional successes during an extended action cannot pick the same benefit twice. Characters who roll 10, 15, 20, etc. successes on a single dice roll, however, can still achieve exceptional exceptional (+) successes, as described above. They simply can’t do so more than once.

Multiple Actions: Characters can perform more than one instant action per turn by taking a -2 penalty to all dice pools for every extra action performed. For example, if a character tries to drive a car while firing a gun, she takes a -2 penalty to each of the two rolls. If she also tries to intimidate the terrified cabbie into not doing anything foolish, she takes a -4 penalty to each of the three rolls.

In combat, making attack rolls against multiple opponents instead divides the character’s dice pool by an amount equal to the number of opponents attacked (rounded down). Dice pools cannot be reduced below a chance die in this manner. (Ie, characters cannot roll chance dice against a dozen opponents when it’s already a chance die for them to attack three opponents.)

Readied Actions: Characters can “hold” certain actions to perform them later. To do so, they must specify the action they will take and the conditions under which they will take it. (Such as the classic, “Make one move and I’ll shoot!”) Declaring a readied action costs an instant action, and the action can be kept readied indefinitely.

If another character attempts to interrupt the readied character’s action (for example, shooting someone who has a gun planted to a hostage’s head), make a contested Wits + Dexterity roll. The readying character gains a +3 bonus to their roll. The winner goes first. If initiative would be rolled, then roll initiative as normal instead, with a +3 bonus to the readying character. The interrupting character does not get a surprise round.

Many resisted Social actions are instead contested. Interrogation, for example, is contested by the subject’s Resolve + Composure, fast-talk is contested by Wits + Composure, intimidation is contested by Resolve + Composure, etc. Contested actions make the odds even, unlike resisted actions, which favor the “attacking” character.

The following additional quality exists:

10-only: You treat any roll results of 8 or 9 as a failure. Only 10s count as successes.

Spending Willpower lets characters reroll a single dice roll and use the better of the two results. It may not be used to add +3 to a single roll.

Changes to the game’s Integrity system are detailed on the [[Integrity & Insanity]] page.

Beneficial Conditions (like Inspired) do not grant a Beat when resolved.

Whenever a character would gain a Beat from a roll penalty imposed by a Condition, they should roll the shaved-off dice as a separate pool. If any die turns up a success, they take a Beat.

GM’s Note: This is not technically a houserule, simply a system by which to determine when penalties cause rolls to fail.

The following Conditions are tweaked:

Something has frightened your character extensively. They must spend a point of Willpower whenever they want to take decisive action against the source of their fear (standing up to, plotting against, spying on, etc.). Attacking the source of their fear costs a point of Willpower per turn. This Condition fades without resolving after a scene.
Resolution: You run away from, don’t resist, or otherwise give in to the source of your fear.
Beat: n/a

Your character has seen something supernatural—not overt enough to terrify them, but unmistakably otherworldly. How your character responds to this is up to you, but it captivates them and eats their attention. They lose a point of Willpower every scene that they do not resolve this Condition. This Condition also naturally fades after a full night’s rest or a number of scenes equal to (6 – Composure), whichever comes first.
Resolution: Your character acts on her fear or fascination in a way that hinders the group or complicates things (she goes off alone to investigate a strange noise, stays up all night researching, runs away instead of holding her ground, etc.).
Beat: n/a

Consult the following page for how Persistent Conditions have been expanded.

Beats are awarded on an ad hoc basis for players accomplishing goals, facing particularly nasty setbacks, coming up with clever plans, and otherwise making for an interesting and dramatic game session.

Players may accept a Beat to turn a failure into a dramatic failure, a success into a failure, or an exceptional success into a success.

Players may accept two Beats to turn a success into a dramatic failure or an exceptional success into a failure.

Players may accept three Beats to turn an exceptional success into a dramatic failure.

We do not use this system.

We do not use this system.

We do not use this system.

Characters with a supernatural power that lets them kill or incapacitate people can roll its dice pool in Down and Dirty Combats.

Down and Dirty Combats may also be initiated against minor combatants during larger fights.

Initiative is equal to a character’s Dexterity + Wits + Celerity.

Weapons do not impose penalties on initiative. Though realistic, it has proven tedious to remember. Small weapons still have a significant advantage over larger ones in that they can be concealed more easily (and in some situations, even worn openly).

Surprise: Ambushers can roll other dice pools in place of Dexterity + Stealth as appropriate to the situation (for example, Manipulation or Composure + Subterfuge when attacking someone you are peacefully talking with).

Characters may add either Dexterity + Celerity or Strength + Vigor to Brawl and Weaponry rolls, whichever is higher.

Characters may choose to “hold back” when making their attacks and cap the amount of damage they deal at a specified amount (declared in advance of rolling the attack). Characters who want to deal less damage than a weapon’s base damage bonus take its base damage bonus as a penalty on their attack roll. (For example, wanting to deal 1 damage with a 3L longsword imposes -3 on the attack roll.)

Rolling an exceptional success on an attack roll inflicts a minor benefit at the GM’s discretion, such as disarming or tripping a foe. Such goes for PCs and NPCs alike.

Defense is calculated off (higher of a character’s Dexterity or Wits) + (highest of Athletics, Brawl, or Weaponry).

To reduce bookkeeping, attacking characters doesn’t reduce their Defense. Ignore everything on choosing when to apply Defense, the number always stays the same. The rule for retrying failed actions (where characters take a cumulative -1 penalty) also doesn’t apply to failed attack rolls.

Dodge: Dodge rules are streamlined as follows: Designate a single opponent to dodge. A character can spend an instant action to roll their Defense as a dice pool. The character subtracts their successes from the opponent’s successes on any attack rolls. This effect lasts until the start of the character’s next action.

A character can choose to apply the benefits of their dodge to another character. This is effectively how bodyguards protect someone.

If a character wants to dodge multiple opponents, they take a -1 penalty to their Defense roll per additional opponent.

Grapple: Grappling characters take -2 to Defense.

Grapplers cannot pick the same move twice in one turn against the same opponent.

Grappling characters act on separate initiative counts, not the same one. Each character, on their count, makes a contested (Strength or Dexterity) + Brawl roll. On a failure, they remain grappled and aren’t able to pick any grapple moves to use on their opponent (ie, their action is wasted). Their opponent gets a chance to use grapple moves when their own initiative count rolls around.

In other words, there are no more shenanigans with characters acting on new initiative counts because they’re grappling. It’s the same as any other combat maneuver.

Example: Jacob, Lavine, and Doc Xola are in a fight. Doc Xola is grappling Jacob, and their respective initiative counts are Xola 13, Lavine 8, and Jacob 6. On Xola’s turn, he makes a contested grapple roll, beats Jacob, and chooses to inflict X amount of damage. Lavine does something irrelevant to this example with her turn. On Jacob’s count, he makes a contested grapple roll, loses to Xola, and takes no action. The turn concludes, and we cycle back to Xola’s initiative count._

Grapple moves are changed as follows:

Control Weapon: It is a reflexive action to draw a weapon, per our other house rules, so drawing one’s own weapon does not require a use of the Control Weapon move (ie, it is still a reflexive action). Wanting to deprive an opponent of their weapon still requires the Control Weapon move.

Damage: Damage is lethal if a character is using a weapon that inflicts lethal damage. Using a weapon in a grapple imposes a penalty on the character’s grapple roll equal to the weapon’s Size.

Disarm: Disarming an opponent does not require succeeding on the Control Weapon move (though still requires a successful grapple roll).

Aiming: Characters can spend an action to line up a shot against a single, visible opponent and gain +1 on their next Firearms attack roll, to a maximum of +3. If the opponent moves, the bonus is lost.

Autofire: Long burst is the only mode of autofire. It increases the shooter’s dice pool by +3.

Range: Rather than use exact physical measurements, there are three all-purpose distances: Close, Near, and Far.

Close applies whenever a character makes a Brawl or Weaponry attack against another character. It’s up close and personal. When characters use a Size 2+ firearm against an opponent they’re Close to, the characters subtracts their opponent’s Defense from their Firearms roll.

Near is within the same room or street, close enough to physically attack someone with a quick dash. There are no special bonuses or penalties for this distance. If characters make a Brawl or Weaponry roll against someone they’re Near to, they become Close.

Far is too distant to make melee attacks with. Ranged attacks are still possible, and may take a penalty depending on relative distance.

Reloading: Guns have infinite ammunition, as the GM prefers not to keep track of how many shots individual firearms have left. Characters are assumed to carry enough ammmo to meet their needs and to be reloading as necessary between scenes. Running out of ammo is one possible outcome on a botched Firearms roll, in which case it costs an instant action to reload.

All-Out Attack: For whatever reason, this maneuver isn’t mentioned in the VtR rulebook (but is in CofD). I reprint it here for convenience (and with a couple house rules applied).

A character can sacrifice her Defense until the start of her next initiative count in order to add +2 or her Brawl or Weaponry dots (whichever is more) to her next Brawl or Weaponry attack, throwing caution to the wind and leaving herself open to be more aggressive.

Drawing a Weapon: Drawing a weapon is a reflexive action.

Specified Targets: The following rules are changed.

Head: Firearms attacks to a vampire’s head are lethal instead of bashing. The vampire still applies their Stamina score as ballistic armor.

Killing Blows: Characters don’t need to bother tracking damage when shooting a helpless individual at point-blank range. (The current rules for killing blows are wildly unrealistic, requiring a Dexterity 2/Firearms 0 character to empty seven shots into a helpless man to kill him.) They can simply declare they’ve executed them. This “instant kill” rule does not apply to vampires and other supernaturally resilient creatures. (The GM considered using a dice roll of some kind. But even someone shot point-blank in the head is rolling a chance die, they have a flat 10% chance of survival.)

Medical Care: The Medicine Skill can be used to speed up healing in the following two ways. Much of this is unchanged from the core rules and reprinted for convenience (as well as reorganized to read more intuitively).

Field or ER: Roll Dexterity + Medicine. Each roll takes one minute and the target number of successes are equal to the total number of points of damage suffered by the patient. Achieving sufficient successes heals one point of bashing damage and stabilizes the patient. As described under “Full Health Tracks and Upgrading Damage,” a dying character takes one point of lethal damage per minute until they are successfully stabilized.

A dying character who is stabilized in an ER or other intensive-care facility is safely out of the woods. A dying character who is stabilized in the field, however, only stops taking damage for the remainder of the scene. This time window is long enough to rush them to a hospital, but if such a facility is particularly far away (GM discretion), the driver may need to make an extended Dexterity + Drive roll to get there in a timely manner. The driver can try again if they fail, but the stabilized character resumes dying (taking one point of lethal damage per minute) and requires another extended Medicine roll to stabilize.

Characters who receive supernatural healing that instantly restores lost Health count as being stabilized, as well as having received hospital care. They are at no risk of taking further damage and dying from their wounds after benefiting from such miraculous healing.

Suggested Equipment: Set of surgeon’s tools (scalpels, retractors, clamps) (1), field surgical kit (1), military surgical kit (2), access to surgical facilities (3)

Possible Penalties: Lack of tools (-1 to -4), bad weather (-2), distraction from noise (-1) to imminent danger (-4)

Long-Term Hospital Care: Once a dying character is stabilized, they can receive round-the-clock, intensive care to diminish their injuries and downgrade the nature of their wounds. The caregiver makes an extended Intelligence + Medicine roll. Each roll requires one hour. With 5 successes, the caregiver can downgrade one point of lethal damage to bashing. With 10 successes, the caregiver can downgrade one point of aggravated damage to lethal. This kind of treatment always focuses on the worst of the patient’s injuries first. Thus, an aggravated wound is downgraded to lethal before a lethal wound is downgraded to bashing. No more than one wound can be downgraded per day of treatment, and such treatment can occur only in a hospital or other intensive-care facility. Patients who are in treatment for aggravated damage are typically in the ICU; once their aggravated wounded are healed, they are moved to the hospital’s non-ICU wing and allowed to recover on their own. (Recall that characters naturally heal one point of aggravated damage per week, one point of lethal damage per two days, and one point of bashing damage per 15 minutes.)

Suggested Equipment: Set of surgeon’s tools (scalpels, retractors, clamps) (1), access to surgical facilities (3)

Possible Penalties: Penalties are unlikely to apply in a hospital setting.

Example: Someone has beaten the crap out of Emir. He has lost all of his 7 Health points to lethal damage and is now bleeding to death (taking one point of lethal damage a minute, which gets upgraded to aggravated damage since he has already taken lethal damage equal to his Health). Landers discovers Emir and performs first aid. Landers’ Dexterity is 2 and Medicine is 1. He must accumulate seven successes to stop the flow of blood and save Emir’s life. Four rolls (and minutes) pass before Landers accumulates the required successes, at which point Emir stops incurring aggravated injuries. That leaves him with four aggravated and seven lethal wounds. (Until Landers accumulates the number of successes required to stop the bleeding, Emir continues to gain one aggravated wound per minute as he keeps bleeding. If Landers’ rolls were repeatedly unsuccessful, Emir could have died while being treated.)

Later, in the hospital, the attending physician puts Emir in intensive care to alleviate the worst of his injuries. The doctor has 3 Intelligence and 3 Medicine, and gains four bonus dice for tools and facilities. In three hours, 10 successes are rolled for him and he reduces one of Emir’s aggravated wounds to lethal damage. At least three more days of such successful treatment must pass before Emir’s remaining three aggravated wounds are reduced to lethal, one per day. After that, Emir is moved out of ICU and allowed to recover on his own with rest. It takes two days before he heals one of his lethal injuries, and it will take him fourteen days to heal all of them. Before any more time is lost, however, a staggering Emir escapes from the hospital to avoid explanations, to hole up and to plot his revenge.

We do not use this system.

Appendix One: Equipment

Weapons do not impose penalties on initiative. Though realistic, it has proven tedious to remember. Small weapons still have a significant advantage over larger ones in that they can be concealed more easily (and in some situations, even worn openly).

Armor’s penalty to Speed (which we do not use as a trait) applies to Dexterity-based rolls instead.

House Rules

Witiko Falls: Disillusion Parasomniac Calder_R