Whitehack Modern & SF

My Whitehack posts have been really popular recently so I thought I should share some ideas for running Whitehack in settings other than fantasy.

Whitehack is essentially D&D, so it is written to provide fantasy adventures, characters are defined (primarily) in terms of their combat capabilities and their ability to survive danger. But it is also built with that structured improvisation mentality where the powers and culture of the PCs will, during play, help to define the world you are playing in. There is no reason that this should only work for fantasy settings and with the abilities of the different classes being so freely open to interpretation, you barely need to change anything to use Whitehack to run Star Wars, Half-Life, Persona, Shadowrun, Buffy, Mass Effect, Firefly… The list goes on.

There is the question of why you would want to, when there are so many other systems out there already built around these concepts, the answer is tied up with the limitations of the Whitehack rules. Whatever setting you choose to run with Whitehack, the characters will always be both powerful and vulnerable. This is an exciting combination which should give your players agency within the story while also keeping them on their toes. There are too few systems which can both empower and threaten your players.

So some examples:

In Star Wars you could play a Brave Smuggler who is always getting himself into trouble, and then somehow against the odds always gets himself out again. Or a Deft Pilot attuned to his X-wing and his father’s lightsabre. A Fortunate Diplomat and her protocol droid companion. A Deft technician with the Wookie group next to Strength and Charisma. And of course, a Wise Jedi with the miracles of We Are All One With The Force and A Weak Mind Is Easily Swayed.

In Half-Life you could play a Strong Soldier or Wise Scientist with the miracles of Multidimensional Physics: Portals and Experimental Military Hardware Development. How about a Brave Security Guard or a Fortunate Administrator with his bodyguard?

In Shadowrun you have Deft Street Samurai, Strong Mercenaries, Wise Magicians and both Deft and Wise Hackers. The species Groups will come in handy here too.

Buffy is probably the easiest of the lot with Slayers and Champions being either Strong or Deft, Witches and Watchers are Wise and the Xanders, Dawns and Wesleys are Brave.

Pretty much whatever you want to do, it can be done with these five classes thanks you the versatility of the class powers and Groups. There are two potential issues worth considering though:

The first is how do you justify spending HP when a Wise character is doing science or hacking. It’s easy to justify magic draining your life energies, but using a computer? Or building a gadget? Firstly, remember that HPs are a very abstract pool of “Not Dead Yet” points. It stands to reason that you might find is harder for your Wise Mad Scientist to look after himself in a combat if he’s been up all night building a new robot. Maybe your Hacker always feels more at home in Cyberspace and when he comes out it takes a couple days to get his head back in reality. Maybe your character’s nanotech is powered by your Stark Technologies chest-mounted Arc Reactor; this gives them incredible power to play with but use it too much and your heart might stop. There is usually a way to explain it with a bit of thought and it will often make your character more interesting to boot.

The Second issue is that the Whitehack book doesn’t have much in the way of blasters or semi-automatic firearms, it is also lacking in mechanics for taking cover during a firefight. I was going to share with you my houserules for this but, I think I might have written enough for now. Check back soon for that!

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3 thoughts on “Whitehack Modern & SF

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