Making Sense of Damnation

This is the first of two articles dealing with some new House Rules I’m going to be introducing into my Witch Hunter game.  The second can be found here.

One of the parts of the Witch Hunter rules that feels a bit threadbare are the rules for Damnation.  Oh, the basics make sense.  Characters earn Damnation points for giving into their sins.  Sins grant a special benefit (like a Talent, Edge, or Advantage) when activated and damnation points can be spent just like Hero Points in play. That part is crystal clear.  The rest is sort of…vague and handwavy.

Unlike 1st edition, the GM no longer has to worry about tracking individual Damnation scores for adversaries. Instead, many Powers can be enhanced by using the PCs’ own damnation against them. But the rules are unclear how this is supposed to work. Does it eliminate the PC’s damnation point? Can a player tap into a damnation point that has been used by an adversary? When does a PC’s damnation recharge for other encounters?

After reading over the Conan Quickstart and the new edition of 7th Sea, I’m going to test out a new feature in my witch hunter game: the Damnation Pool.  I want to see how they affect the ebb and flow of the game. With the Damnation Pool, damnation becomes a limited resource for the GM to heighten the tension of an encounter or a scene. It clarifies all the above questions and gives the GM some new tools for screwing with the players. About the only big change to the rules is how the GM activates character sins (which probably needed some guidance anyway).  There’s probably some cool way to tie the damnation pool into Story Themes, but I’m not there yet.

I wanted to throw this out there for anyone interested to review and play around with. I’d really like to get some feedback on this. So dig in and don’t hold back.

The Damnation Pool

Where heroes have Hero Points, the GM has the Damnation Pool. This resource allows you to add drama to a scene, reinforce your adversaries, and boosting certain diabolical powers of the Adversary.

At the beginning of each game, the Damnation Pool has a number of points equal to the number of players, plus one point for each point of damnation possessed by the Witch Hunters.

Using Damnation

  • Activate a Hero’s Sin. Spend a Damnation Point to activate a character’s Sin.
  • Bonus Success. Spend a Damnation Point to give a Villain a free success to any action (including damage). The GM may spend multiple Damnation points on a single action in this manner.
  • Seize the Initiative. Spend a Damnation to interrupt the Initiative order and allow a lieutenant or villain (but not minions?) to act early in a combat round.
  • Enhancing Villainous Powers. Many villainous powers (such as Blast Attack, Engulf, Gestalt Body, etc.) may be enhanced with Damnation. Typically any enhancement costs 1 Damnation Point unless the power indicates otherwise.
  • Ignore a Price. Spend a Damnation point to all a Villain or Mastermind (not a minion or lieutenant) to ignore a single Price for one round or appropriate approximation thereof.
  • Ignore injury penalties. Spend a Damnation point to allow a lieutenant, villain, or mastermind to ignore any injury penalties for 1 round.

Adding to the Damnation Pool

There are two ways of increasing the Damnation Pool. The first is whenever a player uses a damnation point. This adds 1 point to the damnation pool. Likewise, any time a player voluntarily activates his Sin benefit or gains a point of damnation by his or her own actions, the Damnation Pool is increased by 1.

The Damnation pool does not increase when the GM activates a character’s Sin. This will, however, mean the starting pool will be larger on the next game session if the damnation is not eliminated through Virtuous play.

The other means of increasing the Damnation Pool is called the Devil’s Bargain. (Hat Tip: Jon Harper’s Blades in the Dark)

 The Devil’s Bargain

When a player suffers Consequences in a roll (rolling more 1s than successes), he or she has the option of taking a Devil’s Bargain. They can either ignore the consequences that accompany the action or, if the roll failed, succeed with consequences. Either choice adds 1 point to the Damnation Pool. Of course, the player may always choose to accept the consequences that accompany the roll.


12 thoughts on “Making Sense of Damnation

  1. Pingback: Heroism and Damnation | …and a Brace of Pistols

    1. blusponge Post author

      It makes sense in Witch Hunter given that the heroes are sort of empowered by God (exact Faith’s may vary) and that the Adversary is a very real force. Sin and damnation carry with them real benefits and power, and the game reflects these as a slippery slope. If I have a complaint it’s that the slope isn’t slippery enough.


      1. blusponge Post author

        I don’t know that I would do this in D&D. It doesn’t really fit thematically. You could check out 7th Sea (Danger Pool) or Conan (Doom Pool) and adapt those to the game. But for D&D I’d probably go the Ubiquity route and award the player for playing up the character’s flaws. That could mean hero points, action points, inspiration, or just an XP bonus depending on the edition and your tastes.


      2. Higher Grounds Game Studio

        That’s what my thoughts were. The D&D setting tries to do sinning, hell and damnation but it’s never really stuck. I had a character who visited some of hell a few weeks ago and it wasn’t too much past just a fairly bad place.


      3. blusponge Post author

        Well if the characters visit one of the planes of Hell, I could see adding a “corruption” gauge. But that’s not quite the same thing. Take a look at Ravenloft 2nd edition (dark powers rolls, I think). But it really depends on the themes you want to explore.


      4. Higher Grounds Game Studio

        First off, the only ones with a true mechanic for it are the Void-Touched and The Corrupted. When the Book of the Void comes out you will see thw addition of a mechanic that degrades a person’s personality, emotions, con actions and sanity based on contact and interaction with Gafhuir, The Void.


      5. blusponge Post author

        BTW, if memory serves, Witch Hunter was one of two living campaigns that splintered off when WOTC killed the Masque of the Red Death living campaign. The other was White something or other. So WH has a bit of Ravenloft’s DNA baked in.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. blusponge Post author

        Oh! Likewise, Elric! and Magic World (BRP, Chaosium) had a mechanism that sort of served as alignment that would work nicely in place of damnation. Lejendary Adventure (Gygax’s last game) had scored for Repute, Disrepute, and Dark Repute that did much the same thing. The latter approach would fit D&D very well, regardless of edition.


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