So, I managed to get through Chapters 2 and 3 and finally found time to write on them. These are basically obligatory chapters describing, in detail, what's going on with the character sheet. Because it's a dice pool system, you actually need to explain how you combine one with the other, in two separate chapters, and have it make sense rather than having an extremely dry but even-more-straightforward list of where character stats create derived values ala Dungeons & Dragons. (This latter bit being confusing in a different way to deeply grok, but easier to use in the event that you just have all the derived values written down before you start.)
Chapter 2 : Just check out those... Attributes!
I liked the art on the chapter intro and I liked the story. It set a tone pretty well but, once again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the chapter so, in the greater scheme of things, I felt it was somewhat wasted space. Could'a left it blank. OR, actually, just take all the pages you used and take the best of those beginning of chapter prompts, and write one last end-of-book longer fiction piece. Oh well.
Both chapters have a pretty similar format, in that they explain what attributes and skills are, how they're used in a dice pool system, and go through each one individually. I'm not going to do that, I'm just going to hit a brief overview of my system thoughts and point out anything that specifically comes to mind as noteable.
One of the things that I like had major ramifications for the gameline, which is the 3x3 chart of Mental, Physical, Social and Power, Finesse, Resistance. There are things that don't have certain traits, like ghosts and spirits, which just end up using Power, Finesse, Resistance though I don't think I've ever seen anything just use a Mental, Social, Physical. The 3x3 gives you a good shorthand for what you need to be rolling in abstract dice-pool situations. The writer also explains the 1-5 dot scale pretty well.
2's average and 1's below average while 3, 4, and 5 are above average to astounding. Attributes can go well above 5 if needed, but the lowest they can get is 0 in really unusual situations and generally inept behavior or capacities are typical modeled through Flaws or non-standard Merits. The unspoken implication for this is just that it's not really useful or interesting to get really detailed at how abysmal someone is at something. Attributes from 1 to 2 do just fine in modelling that spectrum.
Each Attribute (and Skills are demonstrated the same way) are modelled identically. There's the Attribute or Skills name and a really short fictional blurb involving the characters of either Martin, Becky, or Josh demonstrating the Attribute in action by example. You get a short explanation of what it is and how, if needed, it's different from other Attributes. Each one is given an explanation of a botch rolled on a chance die, a normal failure, a standard success, and exception successes, then each one is given an example of how equipment can be used to make a roll more likely to succeed and situations where rolling is more difficult (represented by bonus dice and dice subtracted from the dice pools).
On several pages, there's art that I consider to be stylish and evocative of the mood as presented in the chapter fiction, and all of the art pertains directly to the text in the book which is something I really appreciate since it gives an overall sense of mood; it helps present a unified experience that I rarely get from a gaming book.
One of the things that I noticed is that things that tend to go wrong in a dramatic failure aren't what I would call 'tame', but normal examples of failure in high-stakes environments. However, a dramatic failure only occurs when you're rolling a chance die (reduced to 0 dice on a dice pool roll), and then only if you roll a 1 on that die. You're really only going to be rolling a chance die when the situation is so abysmal that your negative modifiers from your situation are higher than your whole dice pool, which is attribute + skill + equipment - situational modifiers. And then, it's only one in ten times you'll botch the situation. The dramatic failures range from inconvenient to almost catastrophically bad, but there's a surprising amount of word count directed at an event that's generally going to be so unlikely as to basically never occur.
The only time I can really see this happening is in a generally low-point game where the ST really doubles down on making characters roll for a majority of situations and the character is placed in a situation that they have few, if any skill points in or it's a life or death situation and the character can't simply opt out. I think that I may have had someone roll a chance dice exactly once, and literally nothing came of it. (A 2-9 standard failure result.) That tends to imply that, even at fairly low experience levels, you're usually better off shooting for the brass ring than not shooting at all, ie, the game rewards playing it rather than trying to sit things out, if you're looking at the RAW.
I could talk about equipment modifiers, but that's better left for our next section to put it in the proper context.
I'm not going to talk about WoD Classic much, here, but both noticing things and rolling initiative used to be actual skills you'd have to specially designate to put points in, but abilities like Defense ratings (actively derived and listed on the character sheet), Health, resisting mental effects, reaction to surprise, and the above are functionally derived wholly from your Attributes. It used to be that a new player could try to build someone competent in combat and totally not realize that Awareness was critical for your basic initiative for combat, and that you could absolutely build a character who could fail to notice a barn in an empty field if you didn't take dump points in the right skill. In WoD, these are no longer skills you can totally avoid by accident (and which eat up precious scant skill points), but something you'll tend to have between 2 (minimum, if you're really unhappy) and 10 points in. (Though I imagine that between the small-medium-large attribute spread you have to take, you're more likely to roll between 4-5 dice.) I find this to be very satisfactory now that I think about it, though it used to bother me because I was always asking people to make Wits+Awareness rolls or whatever to react to combat or to notice shit.
Okay, I'm going to do Chapter 3 later and tag this in a bit. It's taking me longer than I expected.