Since Revised edition, I have found that Dexterity is a very powerful trait and that Strength is not so important.

  • Dexterity + Wits determine initiative, which is a big advantage in combat.
  • Dexterity + Brawl/Melee/Firearms give the dice pool trying to attack.
  • Dexterity + Athletics(v20)/Dodge(rev.)/Brawl/Melee give the dice pool avoiding the attack.
  • If the attack hits, each success above the first give an extra die to the damage roll, so Dexterity also contributes to damage.

On the other hand, in the basic combat, the only use of Strength is:

  • In melee or brawl the damage is calculated with Strength + weapon/maneuver bonus + extra successes.

This way a character with high Dexterity can compensate a low Strength (dexterity successes contribute to damage), but a character with high Strength can't compensate a low Dexterity (he will act later, will impact less times, and will receive more hits).

That seems unfair to me, because Strength dots cost just as much as Dexterity dots, so I want to fix it. But first I want to know if I'm wrong, (surely the White Wolf professional game designers knows better than me) and the system is not as unbalanced as I feel it.

If people share my views and find that imbalance to be a problem, I would like to hear proposals about how to fix it. The house rule we are using is adding half the successes in melee and brawl (round down) to the damage dice pool instead of successes-1, but I have fear that it can't damage the game balance in some aspects (like the weapons damage).

Note: I know that WoD is not as mathematically balanced as other games. Still I think that some balance between fresh created characters is desirable. I'd prefer that the answers are not centered in discussing if game balance is important or not in a Narrative game, because I have my own opinions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How about replacing Dexterity by Strength for brawl/melee and by Perception for ranged attacks? To be honest, there are bigger problems with the storyteller system... But this one, I did not know about. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 24, 2013 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, this is Old World of Darkness, right? New World of Darkness uses the fix suggested by Sardathrion: Brawl/Melee is resolved using Strength + Skill, rather than Dex. \$\endgroup\$
    – Discord
    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Discord Yeah, it's Vampire the Masquerade, then, it's classic World of Darkness. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Sep 25, 2013 at 8:36

3 Answers 3


Where Strength matters:

Look at close combat maneuvers such as clinch, tackle, and hold. They all use Str instead of Dex. Your High Dex guy will suck at this. Sure, David will get a hold on him, but he cannot realistically tie-up/bring down to the ground Goliath.

The devil's own luck

Assume for a minute that every die you roll succeeds, none hit a 10, and none roll 1. Your two characters do equal damage. However, once you remove "automatic successes" and replace them with dice rolls, then you start to see the strong fighter getting better as compared to the quick fighter.

Let's look at numbers:

I will assume that we are looking at a combat-oriented character with physical attributes as primary.

Strength Fighter:
Dex 3, Str 4, Brawl 3, fighting with a sword (Str+2 damage)
So, you roll 6 dice with a TN 6, or a 40% chance of succeeding. meh, give the guy a +1 on the roll to make it an even 50/50 (I'm lazy at math this morning). So you are likely to have 3 successes, with 1 going to the "hit" and 2 adding damage. IIRC, a sword will do 6+2 dice damage, which have an average of 50% chance of hitting (again for lazy math), resulting in 4 levels of damage.

Dexterity Fighter:
Dex 4, Str 3, Brawl 3, fighting with a sword (Str+2 damage)
Again, my math laziness will strike here so I'll count the 7 dice as having a 50/50 chance of success. Therefore, 3.5 successes per swing (or 7 total successes), will mean that 5 go to damage, and 2 are used for hitting the guy. Your sword does 5 levels of damage per swing (or 10 for 2 swings) plus the bonus dice (for 15 dice total). Let's figure that half succeed, so your TWO swings yield you 7.5 levels of damage. The strength fighter does 4 per swing, or 8 per 2.

Granted, this is ONLY for melee/brawling fighting. Once guns come into the equation, well... as the old saying goes, "God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal," and the guy with dex will likely win in a fight against the guy with strength.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd agree with you about the Dexterity Gun fighter winning out over the Strength Melee fighter, except for the rule that Vampires take half damage from Firearms. (I never liked that rule anyways.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Discord
    Sep 24, 2013 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Was that a later addition? I don't recall that one (or we never followed that rule). \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Sep 24, 2013 at 14:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. Gun damage is considered bashing for vampires since Revised edition (unless the they shoot the head). The reason is that vampire organs do no functions (except head and heart), so being pierced by a bullet is not big deal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:20

Is Strength underrated? Not necessarily. Is Dexterity crazy powerful? YES!

In World of Darkness, Dexterity is basically the "God" stat. As you've mentioned, it's vitally important for almost every action in combat. However, Strength isn't underrated. A high Strength allows you to easily build "base damage", which is the amount of damage you are doing before adding your accuracy successes. Base damage is good because it's not-dependent on an excellent attack roll and it's not taken away by defensive rolls.

A high-Strength character built around Melee (and to some extent Brawl) can quickly outpace anyone else in base damage. Here's an example. Boom-Boom Bukowski has a Strength of 4. He's wielding a sword that deals Strength +2 base. Before we account for any of his accuracy success as damage, he's doing a base damage of 6 dice. That's in the same range as a Heavy Pistol! That's not even accounting for the Strength of lower generation vampires, larger melee weapons, or the Potence discipline, all of which boost that even more.

Accuracy successes, while extremely helpful, aren't a very consistent way to damage your opponent. If you were rolling a full ten dice (the soft cap) for an attack roll, only around 50% should be coming up as successes. (Successes being 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 a D10.) When you subtract the single success needed to hit, and any successes achieved by the defender, you don't have a lot left to add to the damage. There is the potential for a huge roll with a lot of accuracy successes, but generally you want as high a base damage as possible, because that damage is more consistent.

Of course, any high Strength character is still going to need good levels of Dexterity and their chosen skill to hit in combat. That much is unavoidable based on RAW. It's also important to remember that the two are not mutually exclusive and that a character with both high Strength and high Dexterity is going to be absolutely deadly in combat.

I've run several OWoD chronicles with strong characters (Werewolves and Boom-Boom the ghoul with Strength 5 and a couple dots of Potence) and I wouldn't reduce the cost of Strength dots. Yes, Dexterity is the single most important stat, but Strength is powerful enough as it is. Besides that, you (probably) don't want all the characters running around looking like bodybuilders or WWE Superstars, with 4 or 5 dots in Strength.

EDIT: I'm not sure that his is fixable within the OWoD rules. You'd have to make a lot of different changes to the system. My recommendation would be to check out the New World of Darkness combat rules, and see if those are more to your liking. The developers realized that the combat system had a lot of issues (I'm sure that the issue with Dexterity was one of them), so they completely overhauled the system for the new edition.

I'm a huge fan of Old World of Darkness, but the New World of Darkness system helped combat a lot. It reduced the number of dice rolls per attack, so you don't have a to-hit roll, a defense roll, a damage roll and a soak, which speeds us combat quite a bit. It also changed Brawl/Melee to be based off of Strength and Firearms to be based off of Perception.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Then, any idea to make Dexterity not so powerful? For me it's nearly the same problem. Also, what is RAW? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Sep 25, 2013 at 8:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flamma RAW is an acronym which means Rules As Written (follow the rules by the letter, without regards to the actual intentions of the riles writer - possible typos, contrasting references in similar rules etc are ignored until specific erratas are issued). This is often opposed to RAI (Rules as Intended) where a softer, common-sense and cross-referenced logic is applied. \$\endgroup\$
    – STT LCU
    Sep 25, 2013 at 9:49

In addition to the great points made by Pulsehead and Discord, high Strength does two and a half more things for a character (in any halfway realistic game, not just Vampire):

  1. It allows you to use larger weapons. Pulsehead's comparison gave both vamps a sword, which is fine for nearly-equal builds, but it would be fair to compare a strong fighter with a two-handed sword on the one hand to a dexterous fighter with knives on the other, adding three points or so to the difference in the characters' damage pool. Even if using firearms, the one build may use a Desert Eagle without penalty, while the other is limited to a more modest 9 mm Glock.
  2. While a greater damage pool is always valuable, it's especially important against high-soak targets. Say one character does six dice of damage and hits 50% of the time, while the other has four dice and hits 75% of the time - they each inflict three dice per turn in damage. But if the target can soak two dice worth on average, now it's (6-2) * 50% vs (4-2) * 75%, and the strong fighter is out-DPS-ing the weak one.

And the half-thing? Armor. In the modern era, it's not usually important or available, but playing Dark Ages for example, having the Strength to wear metal armor should have a big impact.


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