The Storyteller System is the ruleset published by White Wolf for use in the World of Darkness roleplaying games and, later, the Street Fighter RPG. A modified version of this system, the Revised Storyteller System, was introduced for the Trinity Universe games (Trinity, Aberrant and Adventure!); changes from this version of the system informed subsequent revisions of the Storyteller System, as well as the adaptations of the Storyteller System used in Exalted and Scion. The "New" World of Darkness (now known as the Chronicles of Darkness) later introduced its own variation on the system: the Storytelling System.
The core task resolution system in the Storyteller System is a dice pool system, which uses only ten-sided dice (d10s) to resolve conflicts. The key traits of characters in the Storyteller System are the nine cardinal Attributes, a larger number of more detailed Abilities (which are usually divided up into three categories), and further Advantages like Health Levels, a Willpower score, Backgrounds and optional Merits and Flaws.
Actions are resolved in the Storyteller System by rolling a pool of ten-sided dice, with the number of dice determined by one or more of a character's traits. Each action has a number that each die must meet; this number is either called a difficulty (in the World of Darkness games and Street Fighter) or a target number (in the Revised Storyteller System). This number is usually 7, although some World of Darkness games instead use a baseline difficulty of 6. Any dice that come up as this number or higher are counted as successes; in some versions, each die showing a result of 1 actually subtracts a success. The more successes, the more favourable the result. One success is sufficient for basic tasks, while more successes may be required for difficult tasks or tasks performed in trying conditions; in the Revised Storyteller System, the difficulty of an action instead refers to the number of successes required to carry out that action. Additional (often optional) rules exist for more complicated actions, including contests between two or more characters, tasks that may require an extended period of time, and botches, or failures with disastrous consequences.
Beyond basic action resolution, another basic mechanic concerns the expenditure of points. Some traits, like Willpower, have temporary "points" as well as a permanent rating. These points may be spent to gain various benefits, depending on their nature; some may be used for enabling particular actions, healing wounds, or augmenting normal actions. Character types capable of supernatural or paranormal ability typically have a trait that represents their source of supernatural power, such as blood pool for vampires, Quantum for novas or Essence for Exalts. Such points may be regained in different ways.
A character's health is tracked via health levels. When a character suffers wounds, these are marked in the health level boxes in sequential order. The first few health levels represent minor damage, while the later ones indicate serious injury which debilitates, incapacitates or even kills the character. In addition, there are three different types of damage, which determine how long a wound takes to heal and the effect a final wound has on a character (i.e. unconsciousness, torpor, death etc.). Most character types have seven health levels, though exceptional characters like novas and Exalts may have more.
The Storyteller System has predominantly seen use in the Classic World of Darkness and in Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game. An updated version, the Revised Storyteller System, is used in the Trinity Universe, Exalted, and Scion.
The first edition of the Storyteller System was introduced in 1991's Vampire: The Masquerade First Edition, the first game in the Classic World of Darkness game line. Merits and Flaws were introduced shortly afterwards in the Vampire Players Guide First Edition. As the first edition of Vampire was succeeded by the second fairly quickly, the first edition has few distinctions to set it apart from the second edition; most of the changes between the first two editions were made in presentation and formatting, with only minor updates to fix errors in the actual rules text.
After the initial run of World of Darkness games, particularly with how quickly they came out, it became obvious that a revision was in order. 1992, little more than a year after the game's first edition. This placed it as releasing between the first editions of Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension. Similarly, each of the original five World of Darkness games (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith and Changeling) got their own second editions two years after their original release. In each case, the original rulebook was a softcover release while the second edition was hardcover.came out in
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Second Edition, Mage: The Ascension Second Edition, , and . With this release of Changeling in 1997, the initially-envisioned run of five core World of Darkness games was complete. All subsequent game lines were added later, during the Revised era.
Unfortunately, due to low sales, Wraith and Changeling were never updated, and their Second Edition incarnations remained the most recent until their 20th Anniversary revamps.
The Second Edition era also saw the release of Vampire: The Dark Ages, as well as the release of the non-World of Darkness game Trinity (using the Revised Storyteller System) which sparked some of the design decisions that went into the later Revised Edition.
Revised Storyteller System
The Revised Storyteller System first saw the light in 1997 with the publication of Trinity. It was fine-tuned for Aberrant in 1999 and again for Adventure! in 2001. Of these, the Adventure! incarnation is arguably the most distinctive, largely because of its Dramatic Editing mechanic. Exalted First Edition was also released in 2001, and used its own particular variant of the Revised Storyteller System. This was overhauled again, including a major rewrite of the combat rules, for a Second Edition in 2006 and again for a Third Edition in the 2010s.
Significant variations from the original Storyteller System include:
- the differentiation of damage into different types: Bashing, Lethal and Aggravated
- improved rules for botches, making them less likely for higher skilled characters
- a fixed target number for all die rolls
- difficulties represented by the number of required successes, rather than a varying target number
- the removal of the Ability categories: Talents, Skills and Knowledges (though Exalted uses Caste (or equivalent) categories for Abilities instead)
- default pairing of Abilities with Attributes
Many of the innovations of the Revised Storyteller System, most notably the updated damage and botching rules, were incorporated back into the original Storyteller System with the Revised Editions and their subsequent revisions.
Many of the best elements of both the base Storyteller System and the Revised Storyteller System were mixed together to create the Storytelling System used for the Chronicles of Darkness (the "New" World of Darkness). For example, the Storytelling System uses fixed target numbers and difficulty based on required successes, and categorizes Skills as Mental, Physical or Social rather than Talents, Skills or Knowledges. Elements of that system were combined with the version of the Revised Storyteller System as implemented in Exalted Second Edition for Scion.
Sometimes called "Second Edition Revised," but more frequently considered the Third Edition, the Revised Edition was a broad attempt to clean up, standardise and consolidate not only the rules of the World of Darkness games, but also the metaplot and various loose ends. It incorporated a large number of rules changes, many from the Revised Storyteller System, though several key features - variable target numbers, Ability categories, etc. - remained to make a distinction between the two systems.
The Revised Edition was used for the final editions of the World of Darkness games, beginning with Vampire: The Masquerade Revised Edition in 1998. Werewolf and Mage followed, and the Revised system was also used for Hunter: The Reckoning, Mummy: The Resurrection, Demon: The Fallen, the new Dark Ages line, Victorian Age: Vampire and - in further modified form - Orpheus. Lower-selling games like Changeling: The Dreaming, Wraith: The Oblivion and the other historical settings did not get Revised editions; books published for these lines after 1998 rarely made explicit reference to the new rules, but conversions for some, most notably Kindred of the East, were included in the .
Just as Vampire: The Dark Ages informed the creation of the Revised Edition, the Revised-era version of the setting, Dark Ages: Vampire further developed the system. Many of its specific rules (for example, the functionality of certain Disciplines) are considered the best incarnation of them across all versions which have appeared over the years.
20th Anniversary Edition
After a seven-year hiatus between the end of publication of Classic World of Darkness material (and a whopping 13 years since the release of the previous edition of the rulebook), White Wolf made the decision to release a deluxe, limited run of a new Vampire rulebook to celebrate the game's 20th anniversary in 2011, the , or "V20." The content would evoke the feel of the Second Edition of the game, while retaining all the design sensibilities and rules of the Revised Edition. V20 took the bold step of having open development, for the first time asking fans how they played and what rules they had issues with.
The resulting collection all fit well within the Revised framework — for example, using dodge rules from Orpheus, or using Discipline rules from Dark Ages: Vampire — so this ruleset would more properly be "Revised-point-five," with its content 95% compatible or more with other Revised books. However, since the name itself admits this is an "edition," it may be considered a "fourth edition" of the Storyteller System ruleset.
Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, and Wraith have been published as 20th Anniversary Editions following successful Kickstarter campaigns for each, and updated rules for Orpheus were included as an appendix to the Wraith hardcover.
Following its acquisition of White Wolf, Paradox Interactive announced plans to renew publication of White Wolf books through traditional publishing channels, beginning with a Fifth Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, to be followed by a new edition of Werewolf.
- The Mind's Eye Theatre system used in Classic World of Darkness LARPs, which is based on a heavily modified version of the Storyteller System
- The Storytelling System, as seen in the Chronicles of Darkness (formerly the "New World of Darkness")
- The Mind's Eye Theatre adaptation of the Storytelling System as used in Chronicles of Darkness LARPs