When you hit someone and then roll for damage, you cause damage, which should be narrated, such as "You cut him in two with a single strike! He falls down and is going to die soon!", "You chop his arm off!", etc.

But it's also possible to fail the roll and cause no damage. How should I narrate it? "You hit him with your claws (with 4 hit successes), but barely scratch his skin"? Can hardly imagine that, but ok, not impossible. How could such a thing happen to a firearm? If you hit someone with a pistol, he is wounded, probably not severely, but still.

Should I ignore how many hit successes were scored and just narrate all attacks that hit but cause no damage or low damage "barely a scratch"?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is one of those things that later games (like the Chronicles of Darkness/nWoD games) found solutions to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc After half a year of waiting, I dare to remind the almighty Jadasc about this... \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2017 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


This was an issue I always had with WoD when playing. Frankly, I never found a better method than to just pretend that it's minor damage (ignorable), or perhaps caught on armor/fur/whatever, or even resisted in some more active way. I always took the "soak" roll to be just that, last ditch defensive moves designed to reduce the damage impact. Rolling with the punch, as it were. You see it in movies frequently, when the bad guy has the hero dead to rights, but the hero manages to have a lucky charm in place to stop the bullet or turn just right to get knocked over but not seriously hurt.

So for example, "you viciously slash your claws down at his face, but at the last second he turns a shoulder, deflecting your blow but leaving red lines of blood welling from his cheek".

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ My group has always viewed a vampire's damage soak as literally their ability to absorb blows without being injured by them. This is an extremely common trope in vampire literature. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10, 2017 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great point, @legendarydude, though might not work as well when the target is a mortal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ One can be hit and have damage dealt, but simply have the damage not harm anything significant. A fighter can emerge from a fight covered in cuts and bruises while still being able to fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – FluxIX
    Jul 15, 2017 at 19:30

How Chronicles of Darkness does it.

Later World of Darkness games like Chronicles of Darkness found a solution to this issue. At author request, I'll recount how CoD handles it:

  1. In the Chronicles of Darkness games, weapon damage is added on as extra successes once the Attack roll is determined to be a success or failure. If you roll successes to hit that are not reduced down by Defense or Dodging, the damage of your claws (or your gun) are added to those that remain as points of lethal damage, not as dice. Whether you can soak lethal damage depends on your template, naturally.

  2. The "Down and Dirty Combat" rules (CoD 87) allow for a single contested roll for combat, making it more like a skill check. This abstracts the fight down to a level where you don't have a separate damage roll to fail.


I agree that the combat system in oWoD is lacking, but I haven't found describing failed damage rolls too difficult. Assuming a hit, there are two possible scenarios: soak or poor damage roll.

Soaking is easiest because it is defined as:

"resist[ing] a certain degree of physical punishment"

and a general example is given:

"a normal human can soak only bashing damage (this reflects the body's natural resilience to such attacks)."

I've always taken those to mean that a successful soak does not equal a miss or maneuver, but is more like getting punched in the side and the force dissipating through the body rather than doing "noticeable" damage like breaking a rib or causing a bruise.

For vampires soaking lethal damage I interpret a successful soak as the fact that a vampire has some inherent toughness, and that a vampire's body has little worth damaging. Even a bullet that passes through the vampire's kidneys, intestines, and stomach won't impair anything the vampire needs and won't necessarily register on the health chart.

A failed damage roll I usually describe as a scratch, unlikely deflection, graphic but cosmetic damage (the bullet tears his ear away, but he's still coming at you!), or even (as a last resort) a solid-seeming hit that does no observable damage (the characters don't think in terms of health levels, just what they directly perceive). Just because the damage doesn't register on the health chart doesn't mean it can't exist or have gameplay consequences, it just doesn't move the character closer to destruction or impose dice pool penalties.


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