I have trouble understanding the reactive dodge mechanic in V20. The combat rules state clearly that the decision to split a dice pool should be done before the action takes place. But on the other hand the rulebook says that a character that is attacked can take measures to defend himself or herself, e.g. by dodging, and is able to split pools. I do not see how to apply that. Can you please help me decide if the dodge is allowed and how the pool should be split (if at all) in the following situations? Is what I've written correct?

Consider it a melee duel between two characters. Keep in mind that according to WoD initiative, the actions are declared in the reverse order (the character winning initiative declares last, acts first).

  1. The PC won initiative. NPC declared attack, PC declared an attack and a dodge. PC attacks first, NPC attacks second with PC dodging. Pools are split. This case I'm pretty sure of.
  2. The PC won initiative, NPC declared attack, declared an attack but no dodge. The PC attacks at full dice pool. NPC attacks second, but can the PC dodge (as per reaction to the attack)? If so, what would be the pool?
  3. The PC lost the initiative. PC declares attack and dodge, NPC attack. NPC attacks first, PC dodges at 1/2 pool, then attacks at 1/2 pool. Seems easy.
  4. The PC lost the initiative. PC declares attack but no dodge, NPC attack. PC then (reactively) decides to dodge the incoming attack at 1/2 dice pool and proceed to attack at 1/2. Similar situation.
  5. The PC lost the initiative. PC declares attack and dodge, NPC declares not to attack (e.g. full defense turn). What is the pool of PCs attack, full or 1/2? Does the dodge happen nevertheless? (It could be important if, say, there is a danger of tripping on failure or a trap that a player could unknowingly sidestep on)

This situation would be even more complicated with withholding actions (you lose a turn, but you win the initiative on the next one) and declaring reactive actions (e.g. I shoot the guy as soon as he draws his sword). Can you please explain the above situations?


3 Answers 3


To be able to make a defensive manoeuvre (dodge, parry or block), the character needs to have at least one action left to perform it.

You may announce a defensive action at any time before your character’s opponent makes an attack roll, as long as your character has an action left to perform. You can declare a defensive action on your character’s turn in the initiative, or can even abort to a defensive maneuver. You must make a successful Willpower roll (or may simply spend one point of Willpower) to abort. If the Willpower roll fails, your character must carry out the action that you declared originally.

So, let's see the different situations:

  1. Indeed, this is pretty straightforward.
  2. No, if the character has no actions left, he cannot dodge.
  3. It works as you said.
  4. The PC needs to roll or spend Willpower to be able to change his action. Nothing is said about splitting, so I think it's up to the Storyteller if it is allowed (once willpower roll is successful).
  5. That's the trickiest. AFAIK the manual don't allow to change actions, except when aborting one to make a defensive action. But not the other way around. So, according to RAW, if you declared dodging an enemy, and the enemy don't attack you, you lost your action. You spent the time preparing to manage an attack that never came. If the character actually tries to dodge, depends on the situation and players judgement. It doesn't seems logical to sidestep for a sword swing that never happened, but it makes sense to jump to ground if you think you are going to be fired at.

Anyway, remember that in Storytelling games manuals players are constantly encouraged to apply common sense and narrative over rules. So, if a situation doesn't make sense by rules, players should solve it other way. For instance, if you declared a dodge, but your opponent gives you his back and run, it makes sense that you can abort your dodge and shoot him.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding #5 it might actually be logical to block a punch that never came - see boxing matches and holding the garde. Fencing manuals sometimes advise to retreat to a parry stance after attacking anticipating a riposte even if none is delivered. I guess it just depends on how the player described his actions. If the PC says he's going to stab and roll away asap, he will do so regardless of retaliation (athletics roll would be easier. On the other hand, declaration along the lines of "I stab the guy and roll away if he is still trying to hit me" would be more flexible. \$\endgroup\$
    – eimyr
    Jul 15, 2014 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @eimyr That's the idea. You use your common sense to know what the character actually did. I personally wouldn't penalize more the character (e.g. making him trigger a trap), since he already lost his action. But that's personal taste. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Jul 15, 2014 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember reading in one book (who knows which!) that you could change your action anytime with a +1 dif penality. This makes #5 easier. Anyway, cannot the PC use all dice pool except one dice for the attack? I think you dont have to halve the dice pool but you can assign any amount of dice to each action so if you dodge/attack you use, for example, 1 dice and 5 dice, basically using 1 dice for a dodge that will never come (not a bad deal to be safe!) \$\endgroup\$
    – Random
    Jul 16, 2014 at 10:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Random That rule you talk about was used by some STs I had. I haven't found it in V20 though (that doesn't mean it doesn't exit). The other thing you pointed out is true, as in Mu answer. I think you could even use 0 dice for the dodge, but I'll have to read the rule. What you wouldn't recover are the dice lost due to splitting (if you had 8 to attack and 6 to dodge, you could use only up to 6 to attack). \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:57

I think that you are missing the fact that splitting dices does not mean that you have 1/2 the dice pool. You take the smallest pool of all actions and assign the number of dices you wish to each one.

So, I will answer the same questions (based in part in Jadasc answers).

I'm using an example in which you (the PC) have Dex 3, Brawl 3 and Atletism 2, and you dodge (you can't block because you have no weapon and your enemy has). If you split, you have 5 dice to split, and if you only attack you use 6 dice.

  1. True. You have 5 dice to split. You could assing 3 to attack and 2 to defense, 2 to attack and 2 to defens, 1 to attack and 4 to defense and so on.

  2. You have no actions, you can't dodge.

  3. Yes, but you can choose to assign the dice like in the first question (in all means it is the same case as 1).

  4. You can change your action if you pass a Willpower roll or spend a Willpower point.

  5. Remember that you can assign the number of dice. The thing I did not find is if you have to declare how many dice you use for each action in the moment of action declaration or in when you are going to roll the dice. If the second, you can use all 5 the dices to attack, but if the Storyteller chooses to make you declare how you will split the dice when declaring, you have to stick with whatever quantity of dices you chose. Or roll Willpower to change actions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ yes i agree on option 5 just like you can change to a dodge action use same rule to change a dodge action to an attack action. why would it work one way and not the other? \$\endgroup\$
    – AquaAlex
    Jan 20, 2015 at 12:48

Ok, I will write an absurd example of how we do such things in our games and hope for the best! (this is probably not RAW)

You try to convince the bouncer to let you stay in the party


roll initiative!

Bouncer (NPC) wins initiative

PC declares that will quick talk him into staying

NPC declares that will resist quick talk + flee (he is scared!)

NPC flees with 2 dice (Des + Ath is high (6), but Man + Sub is low (4))

Of your pool of 7 dice (Man 4 Subterfuge 3 whoa! (although it could be animal keen, you know how that guys are...) ) you spend 4 diff 6 but the storyteller tells you that now he is too far to listen to you, so you change your action to 'hang to the chandelier (there is ALWAYS a chandelier in WoD) to close the distance', since you hav a dex of 4 but ath of 1 you have 5 dice max pool, you use 3, you have a +1 diff for changing action

You hang the chandelier and fall more or less gracefully in front of the scared bouncer

Bouncer still doing nothing (as he won the initiative every time all involved characters ends their action (not turn) the initiative goes around), waiting to see what happens.

If the player does nothing (and the bouncer complies) the turn ends, but our intrepid player thinks he has enough and since he is near a piano is going to throw said piano to the bouncer (Str + music anyone? :D) , you have 3 Str and 2 Music but you already spend 3 dices so you have 2 dice left with a +1 diff for changing action (you did declare quick talk after all...) +1 diff for changing action AGAIN (you did declare that you were going to hang the chandelier but nothing else!(that was on purpose, you wanted to save dice for whatever happened after that)) and a +1 diff for second action in your turn (+1 diff every action, so +2 for third, +3 for fourth... powers that give you extra actions negate this)

The Bouncer declares dodge Des + dodge is high (6) and he has 4 dice left with a +1 diff for changing action (he did declare that was going to resist quick talk), the +1 for doing nothing is not applied because he was waiting to know what others declared (you still must remember that it is declared inversely to your initiative).

Our player rethinks this 'I'm not going to put a piano in his head! there is no way I am succeeding in this!' so he changes his action... AGAIN. You know, I rather just punch this dude in the face and the hell with it!

The bouncer then declares that the hell with it also, that he is fit enough to stand it (sta 4) and that he will grappling this stupid dude and maybe kick him out in the next turn.

The bouncer goes first, so his (dex + brawl = 7!) but he has already used 2 dice and the maximum pool from everything he has used (not declared!) is 6 (his Des + ath from the first action) so he only has 4 dice left, with a +1 diff for changing his action from defence from quick-talk and a +1 diff from declaring to dodge and another +1 diff for second action in turn.

Our player thinks 'No way I'm letting this moron grab me!' So he changes his action one more time to enter a competition of grappling (haha! I'm better than this block!) he has Dex 4 Brawl 2 so 6 dice, the last roll was (dex + ath = 5 to hang on the chandelier, since you did not through a piano it doesn't count for the max pool) so, you have a max of 5 dice to roll and you already spent 3! and the diff keeps crumbling up! it is +1 diff to change quick-talk, +1 diff to change throwing said piano (that was a stupid idea after all...), +1 diff AGAIN to change the punch in the face AND a +1 diff for second action in your turn. Man! this is going to be hard...

The Bouncer then changes his action so we now is going to be grappling you PLUS kick in you (NOTE: I'm not sure you can do this because the Grappling rules are very complicated and I don't have books at hand, but bare with me) since it is the same dice pool he still has 4 dice left. Bouncer now has a +1 diff from changing defence from quick talk, +1 diff from changing from dodge the piano, +1 diff from changing grappling contest and +1 diff for second action. The kick has a +1 diff from changing defence from quick-talk, +1 diff from changing from dodge the piano, +1 diff from changing grappling contest and +2 diff for third action (it may not be mathematically possible to do this actions with out extended rules for diffs above 10)


The bouncer comes to you, but has he sees you are going to start talking he gets scared and flees a few paces, with the sound high enough to not to listen to you (maybe this bouncer had enough of certain need-to-talk discipline...), with your agility and grace you cover the distance by hanging onto the chandelier and gracefully falling in front of him, you then faint for the piano, the Bouncer is Genre Savvy to know what is next so he starts to move to do a barrel roll, you got him! now you can cover the few paces separating both of you and punch him in the face! But the Bouncer is just to quick and he grabs you by the wrists, you decide that two can play this game and grab him also but when you are going to grab him... he knees your nuts! (playing dirty are we?)

Some of the examples are exagereting quite a bit to see how the diffs crumble up ad how you can back and forth declare/change actions so the player with more dice gets advantage, how can you 'save' dice to do sudden things at the cost of more diff and how you can if you do not watch out, bury all the advantage you had by changing too many times. Of course you can see how having the initiative saves you to change actions since you are reacting with a counter-move to whatever people declares, if they want to succeed they need to change and then you change also or maybe you can go for it, you go first, after all... Having powers that give you extra actions negates that you can divide dice pools (that is a horrible rule but if it didn't you should be stabbing people with a dagger like 12 times in a turn, my ST sometimes admit that we can divide dice pools and sometimes doesn't) but your difficulties don't sky rocket and you have more dice to do this stuff.


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