Power Corrupts (a class hack for Whitehack)

Recently, Whitehack 3rd Edition was released, and so I excitedly picked up the PDF. Overall, it’s a great revision to an already-great game, and I might do a full review of it when I get the print copy. However, I was discussing it with a friend of mine, who objected to how the Wise class fuels Miracles. So I’ve decided to figure out a house rule to change how the class works.

(Brief disclaimer: have I tested this at all? Hell no I haven’t.)

Here’s how it works

Typically, the Wise class fuels Miracles (aka spells) by spending HP. Unlike in games such as D&D, these Miracles are flexible in scope and intent (for example, a Miracle called “Flames” could light fires, shoot gouts of magic flame from the fingertips, and even extinguish a conflagration, depending on what makes sense). The cost in HP is determined by how much the Miracle breaks reality, as well as factors such as area of effect, duration, and so on.

In this hack, Miracles are not fueled by HP loss, but rather by taking on Corruption. Corruption is an optional rule that the game uses to track effects like radiation or exposure to 40K-style Chaos, and here it would be similar to this latter example. The bigger the effect, the more Corruption accumulates. Up to a certain threshold, the player has the option to make a saving throw, where failure produces manifestations of the power’s malign influence on their self. (Past that threshold, saves are mandatory. Good luck!)

So, for example, let’s say Uthred the Unwise is sitting at Corruption Level (CL) 2. True to his title, he wants to summon just a smidgen of the Gibbering Madness Which Lies Between The Stars. The GM decides, rightly, that this is a serious breaking of reality, and assigns a cost of 2d6, as per the guidance the book provides. However, instead of this costing HP, this will accrue Corruption. He rolls 2d6 and... gets lucky. He rolled a 3, so his Corruption is now 5. Going by the guidance in the book, he has the option to make a save, but if he fails, a Corruption of 5 means he’s going to have a noticeable manifestation of his transgressions against reality for a couple of days. Maybe a tentacle or two.

Stuff to look out for

First off, you’ll want to remove the Wise’s special rules on regaining HP. Those no longer apply.

Second off, the Wise has restrictions on not being able to cast Miracles that cost more than their HP (initially). I’m not sure if it makes sense in this context. Personally, I feel like being to cast powerful stuff even if it might ruin you is thematically appropriate.

Lastly, I do have some concerns about abusing the Corruption mechanics. I could see a scenario where a player would jam on low-Corruption spells, knowing that failing their save only causes temporary alterations to their bodies and failing this save almost certainly means the Corruption count is reset. I think this is mostly a table-culture sort of issue, as applying appropriately-gnarly complications for, say, growing lobster claws out of your face should have meaningful impact on the character’s relation to the fictional world, even in the short term.

Anyway, I’d like to know what you think!