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posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem 2nd edition is probably the closest any CofD game comes to actually being about personal horror. I mean, to one extent or another, they all try, but Vampire tries harder most of the time. It tries to focus on the power and freedom of vampirism...and its costs and the difficulty of retaining your sense of human connection, because vampires are immortal monsters that desperately need something to keep themselves from just being bestial killers.

”Truth and Lies” posted:

Vampires drink blood.
True. Feeding is a rush like nothing else - for us and our paramours. The blood sustains us, lets us wake each night to paint the town red.
Vampires are immortal.
Almost. There’s very little that can harm us. Sun. Fire. Maybe a heart broken by a wooden stake, followed by losing your head to a hacksaw. Other than that, yeah, the years stretch out like a banquet.
A vampire’s prey becomes a vampire.
You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. Most of the time the prey needs a dose of the Blood to wakey-wake. But there are exceptions, and you damn well don’t want to meet one.
Vampires have terrifying powers.
So very true. I can crush your hand before you can make a fist, make you want to kiss me when I’m covered in blood, and I know a guy who can sniff your dirty secrets from the sweat on your skin.
Vampires don’t show up in mirrors.
Not so much that we don’t. More that you never see us coming.
There’s no such thing as vampires.
Poor baby. There’s you. There’s me. And there’re some folks who are dying to meet you…

And, because we need to, our list of inspirational media. Already Dead by Charlie Huston, Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, The Hunger by Whitley Strieber (or the movie by Tony Scott), Near Dark by Kathryn Bigelow, Night Junkies by Lawrence Pearce, Brick by Rian Johnson, The Big Sleep, The Little Sister or Farewell My Lovely, all by Raymond Chandler, Go by Doug Liman, and Katja from the Punk Band by Simon Logan.

Our introduction to the world of vampires begins with the clans. Each clan is essentially a different archetype of vampire - in fact, the clan books from 1e and the recently released covenant book for 2e basically reveal that each clan is a completely different species of monster, all of which convergently evolved into very similar (but distinct) shapes. There are five primary clans: Daeva, who are the Sexy Vampires. Gangrel, who are the Violent Vampires. Mekhet, who are the Mysterious Vampires. Nosferatu, who are the Spooky Vampires. And Ventrue, who are the Noble Vampires.

Next time: Clans in detail


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Daeva, also called Serpents, are terribly dangerous. They’re strong and fast as hell, but that’s not why. They’re dangerous because they are beautiful. They are magnetic. They make you want to let them eat you. They fascinate. More than any other clan, they are the vampires that are social dangers. In ancient times, they were worshipped as gods, exploiting mortals directly. That is what they were born into, as a vampiric species. In modern times, the Daeva are temptation

Daeva exist in a state greater than any living being. They are stronger than human, faster than human, more attractive than human. They are cult leaders, socialites, rock stars - even if only on a small scale. They are takers, because to them, the world can only be the takers and the taken. They prey on human desire and human weakness, and they don’t even have to work for it - people fall over themselves to give it to the Daeva. They offer everything you want - and the worst part is, they’re not holding out on you. They’ll give you what you want, what you desperately need, and all they want in return is the blood that runs in your veins.

Some say the clan’s origins lie with the goddess Inanna, a mistress of war who slew her handmaiden, Lilith, who was known as the Stranger, the Scorned and the Serpent of Eden. She regretted it - and so she ransomed Lilith back from the owls of the underworld...but, well, she came back changed. Hungry. Some Daeva say they can hear the owls screeching in their dead slumbers - calling for what they are owed.

Others tell stories of the dancing plagues. Those are real - quite well documented, too. A woman in France began dancing. In days, thirty dancers were in the streets. In months...even more. They danced until the heat struck them down, until their ribs broke, until they died. Some went about naked, while others wore outlandish clothes, and others even had sex in the streets. Some became violent when others refused to dance, or around the color red or pointed shoes. No one knows why, to this day. Some villages lost up to 50 people to the dance - or more, because sometimes, well, the corpses didn’t stop dancing. They say there’s a woman in Strasburg, in a monastery, who has not stopped since 1518. She loves the color red.

Some tell the story of a wicked stepmother and a princess, fairest in all the land. In this story, however, the princess dies. Her stepmother tore out her heart and ate it. The next night, the princess rose from her grave - and so have her descendants. But they have no hearts, and they hunger for something to fill that void, which cannot be filled.

”Stereotypes” posted:

Gangrel: It’s so precious, how relentlessly they chase the prey. Must be exhausting.
Mekhet: They call us shallow. We call them concave.
Nosferatu: All in all, and I have to think that strumming love is more cruel than tickling fear.
Ventrue: Give them a series of puerile achievements to attain, and they’ll actually think they’re winning.

The Daeva are common in all covenants save the Ordo Dracul. Their charisma makes them naturals for the Carthians and Invictus, and their passion serves well in the services of the Lancea et Sanctum and rituals of the Circle of the Crone. Those that take to the Ordo tend to be the kind to become addicted to the transformative surgeries they undertake, becoming strange and terrifying gurus of the occult sciences.

Next time: Gangrel


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Gangrel, called the Savages, are survivors. They understand the Beast within, more than any other vampire clan. They are predators in the truest sense - not human at all, but animals. Hunters. They are primal creatures, resilient and strong and unstoppable. They don't seduce, they don't lie, they don't trick. They don't need to. They are the apex predator, after all. They just need to hunt. The entire natural world bends knee to them. Other vampires fear their Beast. They think it'll overwhelm them, make them do terrible things. The Gangrel never worry about that. It's not that they won't do terrible things - they just like it. They are wild creatures, unstopping and unstoppable.

It doesn't matter what you do to a Gangrel. They can take it - and they can dish it back a hundredfold. Anything you throw at them, they can push through - and they won't be alone. They are the masters of animals, able to command lesser creatures without even a word. They are shifting, changing things who are never able to be trapped. Their weakness, if they have one, is that they give up so much of themselves to their hunger. They give up their human bodies and minds for the power to hunt and kill. There is no escape from the Beast - not for the prey or for the predator. For the Gangrel, the hunger and the fury are always waiting just under the surface.

Some claim the Gangrel descend from the Mother of Monsters herself, Ekhidna. After all, they are monsters - the ultimate predators, evolution in action, taking out the weak and strong because there is nothing stronger than the Gangrel. Others date their origin to the Roman Empire and its farthest edges, where the barbarian tribes worshipped brutal gods. The offspring of man and god was a blood-crazed beast, and it hunted the Ventrue Gnaeus and devoured him. The vampire's blood corrupted the creature, creating the first Gangrel.

Other legends speak of an ancient, prehistoric bog. Deep in the water, left in a tomb of ice, is a decaying beast, an ancient creature that devoured the sacrifices of early man. In the deep bogs, it preserved this corpses with strange magic and moss. The first of these bodies emerged, powered by death and hungry for more. The first Gangrel was that first body of the bogs, and even now, some of the dead swallowed by the earth and mud are preserved and pickled and sent back to hunt.

One story speaks of a huntsman in the wood, a weeping man at midnight who had failed his queen. He resigned himself to death and lay down on the forest floor. The creatures of the wood came to peck and gnaw and feed upon him, but he did nothing. The flesh was taken, and what was left was burned away by the sun. The earth embraced the bones, taking them into itself for many nights. At last, the bones were spat back out. The huntsman's descendants can call out, and the beasts of the wood still answer, for inside the belly of every beast is a tiny bit of the huntsman, and all the world is his roaring, lowing, hunting graveyard, savage and free.

”Stereotypes” posted:

Daeva: Watch the peacock eat its own wings to make itself tame.
Mekhet: The shivering Shadows are always watching. So we just ramble to places they fear to go.
Nosferatu: The abandoned, half-finished sculptures of a lazy Beast.
Ventrue: Heya, little brother. Did you know that you'll last only as long as their termite towers? That'd make me nervous, staring down the mouth of forever.

The Gangrel can be found in any covenant. The Carthians like them because the Gangrel are dynamic. They bring change where they go, not out of new ideas but because they are wild, free and brutal, and things must change to deal with them. The Circle of the Crone welcome the Gangrel with legends of Ekhidna and primal magic, and the Savages take well to the bloody, cruel rites of the Crone. Gangrel in the Invictus are rarer, with their love of freedom, but some aspire to be free by rising to lead. They learn to turn their savage predation to politics, becoming almost noble, and...well, the Invictus respond well to primal leaders, after all. The Gangrel are useful to the Lancea at Sanctum, if not especially common. They are treated as the truest of God's beasts for the purpose of scourging the sinful, and some even take on the role of dark angels, using their shapeshifting ability to become flying reminders of God's wrath. The Ordo, on the other hand, likes the Gangrel and tends to actively recruit them because the shapeshifting abilities of the clan are fascinating. They are creatures of endless variation, unlike most vampires, and the savage freedom of the Gangrel can be useful in finding new hints to evolving the vampiric state.

Next time: Mekhet


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Mekhet, or Shadows, are quiet. Hollow. Hard to notice. They come in the dark and take when no one is looking. No one notices it, no one helps. And being invisible, they see all. They notice everything, find every secret. They are unknowable, because they are everywhere and nowhere. They see mysteries and darkness and are drawn to them, finding patterns where others see only mist and chaos. Where other vampires are loud, boisterous and, by comparison, blatantly obvious, the Mekhet is silent, cautious, hidden.

A Mekhet can go anywhere, see anything, and no one will stop them. They are not as strong as other vampires, not as fast, certainly not as charismatic or commanding. They don't need to be. No one can bar a Mekhet's path because no one can see them coming. You don't need magic to command others when you can take their secrets without them so much as noticing. The Mekhet enjoy watching those around them, studying them. Often they find their subjects beautiful, compelling. More than any other vampire, they can see their prey as friends...friends whom they just take a little from. Just enough. You'll never even notice they've been there, never notice the wounds they leave in their wake. Of course, the Mekhet lose something in hiding. They isolate themselves and become less human by doing it. They see the shadows and sins that others hide, and can never go back to the state of pleasant ignorance. They can never unsee what is behind the mask.

One myth states that the witch-king of Egypt, Akhenaten, gave to his high priest's daughter a terrible thing from beyond the world. This thing ate her heart, hollowedo ut her soul, and it married Akhenaten. The hollow woman and the king used an army of hollow soldiers to tear down the old gods, to destroy the Cult of the Phoenix...but they could not stop the Cult of Set. The priests of Set removed their own souls so that no demon could eat them. They rose again after death, hurling the tyrant Akhenaten to the underworld, but they didn't understand the price of what they had become.

Others say that there are far reaches of the world that ancient explorers found. The final seas, the moving islands, the waterfalls that flowed uphill. These explorers, going beyond all others, sailed into the dead lands, where there was no sun, no stars, no light but that of tyhe blind fish that glowed in the cold, dead water. They took direction from the dead, at the price of blood. First the men sold their livestock, then their own blood. Each cup of blood bought a single question - and at last, the men returned to the living world...but they left all their blood behind them. They had to get more, to fill that void...and to fill the holes in their being left by the secrets that the shades of the dead had told them.

One story tells about a witch who did something terrible. She was overrun by envy and pride, filling her with a terrible garden of thorny feelings. Her magic mirror consumed her reflection, full of her envy and her hate. Her children still stalk the shadows, obsessed with secrets and divination, but afraid of the mirrors that stole their ancestor's reflection. They search for something lost, but do not remember what.

”Stereotypes” posted:

Daeva: Suffering unnatural lust towards a Serpent? Just look into her soul. Clears that right up.
Gangrel: The Man and the Beast are having an amiable picnic in that Savage's head. It's rather disturbing.
Nosferatu: You look how the Daeva feel.
Ventrue: Those with the most schemes are always the most nervous when we walk into a room.

The Mekhet are not common among the Carthians, who prefer visibility and signal to silence and stealth, but they make excellent spies and reporters when they do join, often becoming expert vampiric whistleblowers. Among the Crone, they seek out dark occult secrets, diving deep into the unholy depths to retrieve them. Often they excel at blood sorcery. Among the Invictus, they serve as excellent spymasters - perhaps too good, even, as they make other clans nervous by what they know. They rarely lead, but when they do...well, the terror of a prince that rules by information cannot be denied. The Lancea tend to attract the Mekhet for the magic they teach...and then the zeal comes afterwards. The Lance are happy enough with the arrangement, given that they get vampires that can read out the secrets of relics with a touch and the sins of a man with a glance. The Ordo Dracul and the Mekhet are a natural fit, given the curiosity and undeniable skill of the Shadows at finding occult secrets and seeing beyond what others can, helping them discover what other clans can only barely grasp. They barely need to be given instruction - they'll delve into the mysteries the Order seeks all on their own.

Next time: Mekhet


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Nosferatu, or Haunts, are monsters. They're quiet, sure. You shouldn't notice them. But you do. They sneak up on you from behind, from the edge of your vision, and then you can't help it. They terrify you. They may look monstrous, or they may look normal, but something about them strikes you to the quick. Sure, every vampire is fearsome - but the Nosferatu are more than that. They are fear incarnate. They are wrong. Viscerally horrific, terrifying on a level that goes beyond conscious thought. There is always something wrong about them, even if you can't see it.

And they know it. The Nosferatu know that no one, no matter how strong or how tough, is immune to fear. They know that bravery is not enough, because they exist beyond that. They reach out from the ancient dark and grab the terrified monkey that lives in your brain by the throat. Fear is the ultimate democratizer. There's no option. You'll be afraid. You'll cower. They'll look at you and know what makes you sweat and shiver. They are terror living inside a human suit. They can't help it, and that's the worst thing about being Nosferatu. It doesn't turn off. The Nosferatu have no more choice in the matter than their victims. They are outsiders, wolves at the door, and can never be something else. They can use it, they can terrify, but they cannot be loved. They will always be alone and isolated, and that isn't good for keeping a human perspective.

Some say that the Nosferatu were born of corpses long dead - that one year, the graves simply opened and spat forth a number of rotting cadavers, which rose and become the first of the monstrous Haunts. Others name the progenitors of the race - the Brothers Worm, a group of vampires who dug into the holes and bones of the Earth, into the hollow places, where they find strange and writhing gods. They consumed the slimy deities and the divinity changed them, body and soul, into something new - something chthonic. They spent an age ruling in darkness and touch and fear, dancing in the bones of the Earth.

Other stories talk about a coastal city in which infants born deformed were cast into the depths of the sea. They sank, wailing and drowning, alone. And these dying babies landed in the crushing depths, among hideous things that never knew the light of day. And they returned, later, to the city that had birthed them, and taught what they had learned...taught it in the dark, with hunger and blood and terror.

One story tells of seven grotesque creatures that gathered about a glass coffin. A beautiful princess of pale skin had come to them, exiled, and saw the beauty that lay beneath their deformed visages. She lived among them, but poison and treachery slew her. The monstrous creatures, good in the soul, vowed to stand guard over her bodyu ntil a hero came to bring her back. But the night was long and cold, and no hero came. Starving, self-loathing, they nibbled at the corpse - only little bits, they said, that no one would miss. And when winter finally ended, they looked into the coffin and saw nothing but skin and bone. Horrified by their actions, they fled, and by some dark magic, their insides came to match their outsides, twisted and deformed in soul as well as body. Their children and their childrens' children continue their feast now - and will forever after.

”Stereotypes” posted:

Daeva: The Serpents tempt with spoiled fruit. We worms hide inside, eating your apple to the core.
Gangrel: For us, the worst has fallen that can befall. For them, it's still crawling out of their skins.
Mekhet: They are the silence. We are the stage whisper.
Ventrue: There is a moment - after the meticulous planning, the flawless execution, the perfect victory - a moment of triumphant respite. That is where we nest, in the shadow between seconds, waiting for you.

The Carthians do decently well with Nosferatu - the politics of fear can easily bring change, and the underground lairs that many Nosferatu favor are handy when taking on an entrenched establishment. Other Nosferatu see themselves reflected in the crone - divine in their horror. They believe that the Nosferatu are inherently beautiful...by the aesthetics of the Gods Below, the dark and ancient depths. The Invictus values the Nosferatu, who are often extremely good at creeping into places of power and finding the weaknesses of those around them. It is better, after all, to be feared than loved. To the Lancea et Sanctum, the faces of the Nosferatu are demons, agents of plague and God's wrath, who excel at terrorizing sinners. It gives them purpose and explanation for what they are. The Ordo, meanwhile, are a fit place for those Nosferatu that enjoy their seclusion and seek only something to think on while alone. Their lairs make excellent labs, and the Ordo provides them hope to alter their twisted forms - or to transcend their nature and become something even more.

Next time: Ventrue


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Ventrue, called Lords, are winners. Just ask them. They're tougher than anything, unafraid of anything. Their word is your command. They rule, they dominate and above all, they win. They take. They conquer. Much of vampiric history has been recorded by Ventrue, because the Ventrue love to talk about their own triumphs. This has resulted in a rather unreliable set of histories, because they love to glorify themselves rather than tell the truth. They claim to descend from Troy and the warrior Aeneas, from Roman gods. This is, of course, utter nonsense, but they don't care. Any proof that the world is theirs to rule is fine by them.

Not all Ventrue are rich, but none of them are followers. They lead. They rule. They command. Perhaps their kingdom is a group of homeless people under a bridge and a swarm of rats in the gutter, but they are a kingdom nonetheless. The Ventrue are meant to lead, at least as far as the Ventrue are concerned. They are terrifying because their confidence is not unwasrranted. They don't have to chase you down at a sprint, because you can't hurt them. You can't even threaten them. They'll shrug off anything you do, and with a word, they'll force yoou to obey. Indeed, that is in a way their curse. The Ventrue can command without question. They can mesmerize people, force them to obey. But they cannot sway hearts and minds - just force obedience. Better fear than love, sure, but they can't ever really know how those around them feel, and most Ventrue are always wondering if their peers just look down on them.

One myth claims that the Ventrue are descended from the children of Cronos. These children were swallowed by their father, but they gnawed their way free of his belly, and that emergence in darkness and blood stained them. Now their descendants rise to power in blood and gore, patiently destroying and consuming all obstacles. Others trace the Ventrue to Eastern European Gangrel bloodlines that broke away from their savage brethren, losing the power to alter their flesh in favor of the power to command. Some even claim the Ventrue are but a weak cousin to the Gangrel, deluding themselves with lordly claims.

Others claim the Ventrue descend from Rome and the ancient Camarilla sect, once led by the lost clan Julii. What remained of the Julii, these people say, became the noble Ventrue, each a shining monument to the glory once held by the vampiric race. This, adherents say, means that there are secrets yet remaining in their blood to be unlocked, to revive the ancient days. The Ventrue certainly tend to prefer this take on their history to the Gangrel theory.

One story tells of a dark night, in which the owls and ravens of the wood found a hero, guiding him deep into the woods where a pale princess lay sleeping. As the prince knelt to kiss her awake, he found her cold and dead, unmoving. The birds sang, and the prince felt a strange desire rise within. He took the corpse-princess, and at the height of their passion, she awoke, laughing madly and cruelly. Their children inherit the gifts that she gave to her erstwhile lover that night.

”Stereotypes” posted:

Daeva: Forever is wasted on those trapped in the tunnel of immediate gratification.
Gangrel: We are the monarchs of lesser beasts, we do not become them.
Mekhet: "Knowledge is power," he sneered to me. So I made him sing everything he knew to me in falsetto.
Nosferatu: If fear is your only tool, then every problem starts screaming.

The Ventrue like to win - and some of them like a real challenge. They are drawn to the Carthians, for what greater challenge than taking on the established structure of the world? Others are drawn to occult power, mastering the secrets of darkness with the Circle of the Crone. The stereotype, of course, is the Invictus Lord, and it's not wrong to say that the Invictus bring out the greatest strengths of the clan. More rarely, a Ventrue will feel the desire to be a moral authority, a spiritual one. They join the Lancea et Sanctum, and many are quite faithful, while others see it as a route to power. The Ordo Dracul draw the more frustrated Ventrue, those who wish they had as much control over their own weaknesses as they do others. They often seek the ways of the Dragon with a singleminded obsession, taking their own bodies as another Ventrue might take over a city. Many idolize Dracula as well, seeing him as the ultimate winner among vampires.

Next time: Lost clans


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The power of the Blood is not static, for all that the Carthians would say vampiric society is. It evolved over time, creating new breeds of monster. Clans rise and fall with history. Some clans have been lost to time, and it is unclear if some ever even existed. Only stories remain.

The Akhud, according to vampiric legend, date back to the time of Abraham. Five kings ruled the cities of Sodom, Gomorroh, Admah, Zeboim and Bela, but they themselves were ruled by the men of Elam. They rose in rebellion, but were crushed easily. And yet they rose again, and the second time, their elite forces utterly destroyed the Elamite armies. Some Kindred historians claim this was because the kings became vampires. It is unclear how - speculation ranges from dark ritual to a gift from a stranger to the sheer power of toxic hate poisoning their souls. What happened next? Well, the Curse corrupted the kings and their cities. They led their people into sin and slaughter, and their peace was worse than their war. The river Jordan ran red with blood.

Two visitors come and sty with Lot, you know that whole story. Lot offers up his own daughters to the mob to protect his guests, and the guests curse the names of the five kings. The guests send Lot and his family to flee, his wife turns to stone. Sodom and Gomorrah fall. Some say fire from the heavens, others say that the kings spread their Curse too wide, until more vampires than men lived in the five cities. The tensions of hunger and overcrowded predators, this theory says, started a communal frenzy, so feral that it spread to all five cities and destroyed them utterly, until only a few remained. Through an incestuous cycle of Embrace and Amaranth - that is, diablerie, the consumption of another vampire's soul - each became a walking grave, containing multitudes of souls.

This was the clan Akhud. They sought to restore the five cities, it's said, and the only way they could was to destroy every other vampire. None know where they got the idea from. It's said that they were bound blood-deep by a promise to never betray any other Akhud in word or deed. It is unclear if the Akhud ever existed, and if they did, whether they still do. They make for good bogeymen, though many would prefer the stories faded. It's dangerous to tell people that redemption might be possible by destroying vampires.

The Julii certainly existed. Once, they did what few vampires can now even imagine: they built the Camarilla, uniting the entire vampiric might of the Romans into a single government on which, it is said, the sun never rose. Nothing has ever equaled it since. But even the Camarilla could not last. It fell, it broke, and the Julii are gone. Some say they were cousins or parent to the Ventrue, or that they were born from dark owls of the night, or that they were an infectious idea, a contagious madness pretending to be a clan. Others claim they were only a bloodline of the Daeva. And yet others say the Julii did not die, that they raised their own Masquerade from other vampires, hiding to build a new and greater Camarilla on the dark side of the moon with the aid of strange machines.

The details of the Julii and their death don't really matter. What does is this: they existed, changed the world and became something to aspire to - but they also are a cautionary tale. They are gone, forever. Vampires aren't immortal, just less mortal than the living. Something killed every member of clan Julii, to the last drop of tainted blood.

A particularly bizarre clan was known as the Pijavica. They were found largely in Eastern Europe, and once a new Pijavica was Embraced, their body died. The limbs withered, and the stomach turned black and swollen. Most villages knew to burn these, but as time went on, they often came to believe the changes were just the effects of decay. A corpse left to term would burst as a sentient mass of blood emerged from the guts, red and black, clotted and boiling. It was vulnerable, as any vampire, to light, and fire and starvation. It could not truly hunt, and had to draw sustenance from spilled blood or the wounds of the sleeping. Many died, unable to feed, but those that succeeded grew over forty nights. They formed a jelly-like body that grew into a boneless, shapeshifting mass that would eventually spliut and reveal a largely human form to hunt with.

It is agreed by vampires that knew of them that the Pijavica are extinct. They were too strange to survive. Consensus is that they died out some time in the late 1800s. A Slovakian Dragon claimed to have studied speciments of the Pijavica into the mid-1800s, capturing and raising them in her lab. She made sketches of their many shapes, observing how quantity and quality of absorbed blood affected them. She experimented with many stimuli, getting the most extreme results from werewolf blood, and hypothesized that the Pijavica life cycle was an accelerated yet stunted version of that of elder vampires. However, her studies are now lost - a few decades ago, a werewolf pack killed her and burned her lab to the ground. All that remains are a partial set of notes and sketches, and the shattered remained of specimen jars.

Next time: Covenants


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Covenants are how vampires organize themselves. Vampires can exist alone, but it's not healthy. Without regular social contact, they tend to devolve into insane monsters. The problem is, the times when vampires are active makes it hard to meet with humans - and even if you do, well, they look like food. And so vampires tend to be social monsters, organizing and meeting with each other. There's five covenants found most commonly, and a terrifying rumor of another group. The normal covenants are the Carthian Movement, the Circle of the Crone, the Invictus, the Lancea et Sanctum and the Ordo Dracul. The other group, which few know much about, is known only as VII.

The Carthian Movement are political radicals, for the most part. They see the way that most vampiric societies aer run and they believe things need to change. The elders gather at the top, controlling those beneath them in a feudal mockery of the world. Change must come. And that's what the Carthians are doing: they're changing things. They use living ideologies to revolutionize the dead, and tend to blow up detractors. According to the Carthians, the natural condition of the vampire is stasis - and stasis is death. Human political movements can rise swiftly and keep power well. Thus, they take their cues from those movements, offering a chance for the young and outcast, a way to govern vampires without the Invictus' static and selfish aristocracy. Some of them are violent, others genteel and diplomatic. They take all types, and recruit from just about any vampires that feel wronged or disenfranchised for any reason. Vampires have so many.

As for what the Carthians want to change things into? Well, that's...a difficult question. The Carthians change themselves constantly, altering their ideals whenever they see the need to. The need comes often, when all you want is, ultimately, something new. They can be fractious, but they're often surprisingly well-prepared for any situation as a result.

The Movement was born in 1779 when a Parisian vampire, a Lance apostate, published a pamphlet named Contre Les Vampires Patriarcals, which on the surface appeared to be an allegorical text comparing aristocrats to vampires. In truth, it was a call to arms for the neonates of the city to rise up against the elders. It was published under the name Emmanuel Baptiste Carth, but was actuallly written by a man named Eric Giraud, who was destroyed in the 1790s. E. B. Carth, however, lived on. As France became embroiled by revolution, the name took on its own life. Across Europe, pamphlets signed 'E. B. Carth' appeared, offering up coded political messages behind the obvious text. Neonates and reformers had existed before, but now, they had a name to rally behind, a banner to raise. By the mid-1800s, the word 'Carthian' was well in use. E. B. Carth is still publishing these days, primarily online. Everyone knows the name is fictional, but that's the point. Carth is an idea, and the Carthians will kill for an idea. It's the power of that idea which has created the bizarre phenomenon of Carthian Law, which forces the Blood itself to obey the ideology.

Carthian rhetoric is all about equality and justice, which can make the Movement seem benevolent, especially in comparison to other covenants. This would be a foolish view, however. The Carthian equality applies only to the dead. The living, well, Carthians are often very utilitarian about them. The living are the means of production, not the hands that seize it.

Carthian activity is dedicated to the rise of a new order. The traditions of vampiric society haveu ses, but the way they are enforced is fundamentally flawed. The Carthians hold that all vampires are equal - but it's clear to anyone that in today's nights, some are much more equal than others. Because Carthians adapt modern ideologies, it's unsurprising that they often resemble human radical groups - and, like them, split often. The Carthians know how to bring splinter groups back to the fold, though. It's easier, when you have magic powers in your blood. Besides, Carthians are very good at cooperation. They need to be, to get anywhere. They're very busy, always looking for a project to work on or an opening to exploit. They tend to be more open to negotiation than most other covenants, but they also tend to be better at it. Carthians also often serve in the governments run by other covenants - their open agendas makes them strangely honest. Other covenants see them as the devil they know, especially the Ordo and the Crones. Sure, the Carthians are in conflict with existing governments, but their ideological purity can make them useful - and that gives them a way to push their reforms from below.

A city run by Carthians tends to start with purges and executions of defeated enemies. Those that surrender and recant are watched closely, and the Carthians can be particularly nasty about thought policing. However, they do allow outsiders in - Carthian states are at their best when they can convince other vampires to join their ideas. However, in victory, the Carthians also tend to be at their most fractious. They know power corrupts, and are more than willing to rebel against other Carthians if they feel the need. They actually tend to get on best when they're the public enemy. Without the problems of power, the Movement works. They support each other, help each other, work hard to keep each other alive. In the minority, Carthians are excellent spies, recruiters and revolutionaries...but not suicidal idiots. Suicide doesn't help them.

Next time: The Circle of the Crone


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Circle of the Crone are strong. They remember the past, when people didn't need so much structure and justification. Some say they are a religion. That's...not quite correct. Religion implies a stronger structure. They're a spiritual movement. And they are monsters - proper monsters. Other covenants hide their nature with self-control, with religion, with etiquette and ideology. It's all a lie. The Crones know that. You don't need to justify what you are. You never needed to. Others will tell you that to be a monster, you must serve God's will, or have the ambition to rise to power, or study the secrets of the world. That's all a lie. You can be a monster because you're a monster.

Not to say the Circle don't have secrets. They do. They are witches, pagans, orgiastic cultists. They can pretend to etiquette, but they have more vital, savage energy than any of their counterparts. Their studies, their diplomacy, all of it is backed by the pulsing of the Blood. They do not see the Curse as a curse - it is a blessing of strength. It is a part of nature. So they are monsters now. So what? That's just how it is. And natural beings develop and evolve on their own. The Ordo say you should become some new, different kind of monster. The Lance say you must subjugate your own desires to scourge humanity for God. Both of these are restraints. Embrace what you are. Enjoy it. Be it. That is the way of the Acolytes of the Circle. There is no structured theology for the priests of the Mother's Army. They'd kill anyone who tried that. They're more of a united banner of disparate pagan cults and fringe beliefs that can rally together against the more monolithic covenants. They'd be enemies, perhaps, in other circumstances, but with opposition they have found common ground. On their own, most of these groups would have been destroyed long ago. The Circle of the Crone may yet be destroyed - but when they are, they will take their enemies screaming into Hell.

Crone movements come in all kinds. Some are ancient blood cults, some postmodern feminist societies of magick. They share their secrets freely between themselves, but never to any outsiders. No member cult of the Crone is human or owes all that much to human beliefs - they are dark mirrors to living fears. In the centuries since the Circle was founded, they have made a contradictory and chaotic synthesis of beliefs that have managed to roughly define a very powerful system of blood magic.

Now, there's always been pagan vampires. The Circle of the Crone, however, is less than two centuries old. A number of Scottish and Irish coteries were nearly wiped out by the Lancea et Sanctum, and they decided ot organize. They won a few victories, and the news spread, first through Europe and then the Americas, where the indigenous and minority vampires chafed against the yoke of oppression and quickly joined. The Invictus and Lance were not ready for the violence of the Circle's eruption. Over a dozen princes were slaughtered in the span of mere decades. The Crone's leaders died, each a self-proclaimed Mother-Goddess, but it didn't matter. They swept through dead society, not uniting but giving the pagan groups common cause and common name.

Since the beginning, the Circle has functioned as a sort of underground railroad for vampires, allowing them to find each other with a speed that would be impossible for most covenants. They excel at rumor and use of the Cacophony, the underground communications channels that vampires hide among mortal graffiti and other means of casual communication. That, they claim, is where they got the power of Cruac. It's an Irish-Gaelic name for their blood sorcery, but the magic itself was born from the hwole covenant, synthesizing adozen different styles of blood sorcery, some ancient and some not. It is the most fluid and chaotic of vampire magical styles. The Acolytes like change and chaos. Sometimes it's violent, sometimes not, but change is a constant. The anger of the gods demands change. Always. For the new to flourish, the old must be purged in fire and blood. And that means the Crones themselves change constantly. They are not static - only evolution and death are acceptable, and if death is it, well, they won't die alone.

No single practice unites the Circle. Their rituals tend to be a mix of old and new, and every ceremony might change if they have a new idea. They'll try just about anything, from ritual bonfires (despite all the risks to a vampire) to blood sacrifice of human or vampire. That's not as common as other covenants believe, mind you, but it happens. Most Acolytes maintain involvement and generally control over a human cult of some variety, from Bacchanalian sororities to occult study groups to bloody covens. The cultists can be dupes or can be willing servants. They fund the Circle and bring them new agents. As a result, the Circle of the Crone is often the covenant most involved in the matters of humanity - at least, those humans that they care about. Humans are useful to them, if expendable. And they're needed - only the Ordo Dracul might be smaller than the Circle, and sometimes they are at war with the other covenants. They are not limited by ideology, but they do not have the tools of power that others do. They survive by one thing alone: their absolute need to improve themselves, to become truer to their nature. Cruac is just their weapon to that cause, shared freely among the covenant.

Only the Ordo runs fewer cities than the Circle. This is largely because when the Circle is running things, no one is actually running things. It's a free-for-all. They start by settling grudges and removing any laws. 'Do as thou wilt' is the whole of the law - and either that's perfect or perfect chaos, depending on who you ask. They need no justificaiton for brutality, and no explanation for their ways. When cornered or persecuted, however, the Circle of the Crone closes ranks. It hides, fading into shadow, and becomes much better organized. The Crones are capable of breathtaking violence when pushed to it, and those who try to oppress them must deal with vampires unafraid to burn havens, murder ghouls and leave your family dead and childer out to watch the sunrise. Possibly all at the same time.

Next time: Invictus


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Invictus win. It's in the name. You want to win, you want power, you want to be part of a system that's tried and tested. No reason to change things up. The Invictus have won for a very long time. They know where the crimes are, where the secrets live. They are the spider at the center of the web. The stereotypical Princes of Darkness, or so they'd have you believe. They don't really care what kind of web it is. Corporate, royal, military, democratic - power's power. The rest is set dressing. Power is the means, power is the end. The Invictus is made of vampires that either have power and want to keep it or don't have power and want to get it. An Invictus house, as any given ruling structure is called, could be just about anything - a corporate board, a military office, a criminal empire. The important thing is: it has power, and it's a hierarchy.

The Invictus are the most formal and polite of the major covenants, masking their nasty plots via archaic social niceties and complex etiquette. They aren't nice, after all - just polite. Their schemes can take decades to bear fruit, because for the Invictus, it's all about the long game. Every member wants the job above theirs and fears the plots of the vampire in the job below theirs. However, personal advancement must never come at the cost of the covenant as a whole. The Invictus have managed to last longer, now, than even the Camarilla ever did. The hierarchy must be maintained. One does not remove a prince if their absence would put the old ways in danger. The Invictus must survive - and it is the structure.

The Invictus claims dominion over all vampires, not just its members, unless they actively put themselves against it, as the Carthians do. In that case, they are dissidents - tolerated at best, warred on at worst. The Invictus' main goal, however, is the Conspiracy of Silence. They have ties to temporal power in many places, and that's useful for maintaining the Masquerade, ensuring that vampires remain hidden. Sure, the rules are unwritten and unspoken, but they're there. They can be and are confusing to many vampires, even after years of experience. But they're there. The Invictus uphold the Masquerade more than any other covenant...but they also use it to stay on top, in power. They are very good at using the Masquerade to keep others down, and at the upper levels, they can get away with more than most, as they have more ability to contain it.

The Invictus trace their own origins back over two thousand five hundred years, to Rome, when the Camarilla, or 'Small Debating Chamber,' was formed to govern the Roman vampires. It ended with the Roman Empire, of course, and the reasons are lost to history. As the medieval period began, however, the remnants of the Camarilla came together to form the Invictus, taking on the trappings of nobility and feudalism. They survived - hence the name. Unconquered. They and the Lancea et Sanctum, the longest-standing allies of the Invictus, were essentially unchallenged up through the Renaissance. Covenants rose and fell, sure, but they never really challenged the hierarchical structure the Invictus represented. (Or so the Invictus claim, and they write the histories.) It's only since the 18th century that real resistance has sprung up - and even now, the Invictus are most often the controlling covenant in many domains. Especially if you ask them. The Invictus never admit to a loss.

As human power structures have changed, so have the Invictus. They believe the Camarilla's end came when they didn't realize they needed to change with the times. The Invictus don't make that mistake. They are chameleons, always shifting to fit whatever power structure they need to inhabit to remain in charge. All of them are just ways to enforce hierarchy, after all. They put down dissidents, bury evidence and serve as pawns in each others' schemes. Every member of the Invictus knows, in their cold and unbeating heart, that they are a ruler, if not now then in the future. Sure, they're a henchman now - but they can rise. Better to be inside than out. They also should not be thought of as old-fashioned - as they've adapted to new power structures, so have they adapted to technology. The Invictus love technology - the more powerful the tools, the easier they are to use in enforcing the status quo.

The First Estate, as they call themselves, are in charge of more domains than any single other covenant. They are the 'default' government of most vampire domains, having made the traditions and power structures. In their domains, the Lance tends to have a significant, if not always favored, position, and the Carthians tend to be the low men on the pole. The Ordo and Crone vary more widely, depending especially on what, if any, magic the local Invictus feel they require to do their work. When the Invictus fall, well, they'll do anything to take power again. However, they won't die for their cause. If open war is declared on the Invictus, most members will defect. It's all about the long game, after all. They play nice, try to become part of the new power structure. And if they succeed...well, a Carthian or Acolyte prince whose advisors are all former Invictus usually has their nights numbered. The Invictus always rise again, when they see a chance to take advantage.

Next time: Lance and Sanctum


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Lancea et Sanctum are Christian vampires. In theory you might even call them Catholic. They are the bastions of tradition and those who claim to have found the meaning of the Curse. They give a route to salvation, and they seek to keep the life of vampires from worsening. They are the primary organized religion of the Kindred, and they hold this: God cursed vampires to their current state, and to be saved, vampires must do the work of God. However, the Lancea et Sanctum are heretical by any definition. They identify with Satan in the Book of Job - God's agent, tempting mortals to sin and punishing those whose faith is weak. They are to the real Christian churches out there the same as a vampire is to a human - a parasite that corrupts, mimics and feeds on the host. They claim that, in doing so, they serve God. They have called themselves the 'Third Version of Judas' - true betrayers, too pious to be allowed to be good.

For centuries, the Lance has maintained a strict seperation of themselves from the mortal flock in worship. Vampires must not, they say, pray with humans. However, they must do everything they can to ensure the mortal churches survive, destroying those that would harm the church. However, they must also keep their flocks strong. And they way they do this is with fear. A Sanctified vampire keeps the children of the church virtuous by punishing sin horrifically...and driven to sin by temptation, to weed out those who are too weak to be truly good. The Lance offers the pious the chance to do evil, over and over, and then scourges them when they take it. Often, those they tempt and find wanting are raised as the next generation of Sanctified.

The Lance's priests see themselves as the moral center of Kindred society, ministering to the laity of other covenants, who just attend service. They also serve as some of the archivists and librarians of the vampires, keeping the oldest records. Most cities with a strong Lancea presence have a Black Collection in which vampiric-focused texts are kept. They even maintain a small print-on-demand press, the Society for the Promulgation of Longinian Doctrine, to produce certain texts - most notably, the Testament of Longinus, the Bible of the Lancea et Sanctum. However, the Lance suppresses and destroys as much history as it preserves, picking and choosing what is remembered.

According to the Lance et Sanctum, the centurion Longinus thrust his spear into the side of Christ and was transformed into a unique and singular vampire. He wrote the Testament of Longinus, to instruct the dead as the New Testament instructed the living. His discples formed the church of the Lancea et Sanctum - the spear and chapel. The chapel was the church that they founded, and the spear was that which pierced Christ, now viewed metaphorically as a symbol of the role of the Lance as a thorn in the side of the living church and a conscience for the dead. The Lance was there when the Camarilla fell, and they worked with the Invictus to build a new society on the ruins. It was a Bishop of the Lance that first formulated the Traditions of mainstream vampire society and for a long time it was the Lance that enforced Masquerade. They have the oldest surviving written texts by vampires. Other covenants rose later, and the church weakened, much as the mortal Chuch has. Now, they are just one of many covenants, as they were in Rome. However, faith remains extremely potent, and the Lance can be found wherever there are Christian vampires in numbers.

The Lance believes in preserving the old ways and maintaining the status quo. Even if they bring chaos, it is to prevent bigger changes. They are preachers, who believe that all vampire exist in the context of the Church Eternal - either the priesthood of the Lance, the laity of all those who respect Longinus and take the sacraments, and damned heretics, which is everyone else but especially the Crones. They organize services and interfere in vampiric politics to push their conservative agenda, which often brings them into conflict with more radical, chaotic vampires.

The Lance also believe in studying history. They find and acquire documents and artifacts of the past, deciding whether to preserve or destroy them depending on whether what they find is seen as too dangerous to be allowed to exist...and, in some cases, too potent to destroy. It was in their search for the past that they discovered Theban Sorcery, a method of calling on miracles that descends from ancient Egyptian priests. These secrets are taught only to the priests of the Lancea et Sanctum now, and then sparingly. Beyond this, the Lance make a lot of work for themselves in manipulating the living church - testing and tempting, of course, corrupting and commanding at times, and of course protecting the flock from outside danger.

The Lancea et Sanctum are extremely powerful in some places - Rome, Salt Like City, Seoul, parts of the American South. They will use any tool to control the vamopires around them. However, they never openly rule. They pay lip service to some other prince - usually Invictus, sometimes Carthian. That prince is, of course, a pawn...but the Lance does not command, it requests. It advises. It controls from behind the curtain. The Lance is weakest in areas where Christians are persecuted or rare. However, in these places, they are often fiercest. They keep their secrets close, are dismissive of other vampires and wage secret war against any that would harm the Christian flocks they tend to and feed on. They also tend to be zealots, when their backs are to the wall.

Next time: The Order of the Dragon


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Ordo Dracul are devoted to one cause: make being a vampire the absolute and total awesome experience it should be. To that end, they take part in occult science and strange rituals of all kinds. They are occultists, ritualists, madmen and researchers who claim descent from Dracula himself. Philosophically, at least. They are something of a secret society, using mystical names, running cults, exploring forbidden places. They know more of occult lore and the secrets of the world than any other vampires, even if they don't always share that lore even with each other. In many ways, they resemble the Lancea et Sanctum. They seek out ancient texts and artifacts, for example...but it is not to keep these things or destroy them, but to use them. They collect and study these materials, no matter how dangerous, to turn them towards the ultimate purpose of the Order of the Dragon: Improve the vampiric condition, amass occult power and hurl God from his throne.

Again, like the Lance, the Ordo Dracul believe the Curse began with God. To the Ordo, the logical next step is clear: God is the enemy. God is unjust, mad, senile. God is a tyrant, to be cast down from Heaven. Heaven is to be stormed, and the Curse made a blessing. The goal is life eternal, greater than human, more than vampire, unchained by weakness and spiritual flaw. The Coils of the Dragon, the mystical rites that the Ordo has discovered to begin the process, do not go that far...but they're a start, and even a start on the path of transcendence is enough. What is the ideal post-vampiric state that they seek? Well, the Ordo has no answer to that yet. They'd love to find out, and when they manage to, they'll find how to do it, and they will smash the gates of Heaven and spit bloody defiance in the face of the tyrant God.

According to the Ordo Dracul, the first Kogaion of the Dragons - that is, the first leader - was Dracula. He wrote the Rites of the Dragon, a text that still circulates even tonight, which tells of his struggles to master his condition and overcome its weaknesses. The Ordo Dracul use his name without any real proof of permission - but then, that'd be what Dracula would have done. No vampire today can even say what Dracula was truly like. Outside of the Rites, all that can be said is that once, he was Vlad Tepes, the Impaler and hero of Wallachia. At the end of the year 1475, his assassins came for him, and he cursed them and God. God heard, and that night he arose as a vampire with no sire. The Ordo have discovered that Dracula was not the first to be born without maker and would not be the last. That is what makes the Ordo so frightening to other covenants - they find truth about the Curse and wield it as a weapon. By threatening those falsehoods that other covenants cling to, they make the vampiric race strong. From the start, that is the goal - harder, better, faster, stronger.

The Ordo seek self-improvement above all. Their use of the Coils is just one method. They hunt things that others say are best unknown, but to the Ordo, the only things not to be found are those which destroy the finder...and the only way to know if that's what you're hunting is to find it, isn't it? They have been blamed for many things, up to and including the return of the dark Owls to London. They do not deny these things. However, the Dragons are strangely united. The Kogaions rarely have to deal with upstarts aiming for the role - indeed, most Dragons seek to avoid it. This confuses those of other covenants, but the truth is, the secrets which the Kogaion must know are difficult, troublesome and maddening. But then, so is life in the Ordo.

A young vampire in the Dragons is always being tested - find this, discover that, get to it before the Lance burns or hides it. Do this dangerous thing just to see if you can handle it. Often, it is the neonates who are sent to first explore what the Ordo names Dragon's Nests - places of power that exist all over the world in great variety, sought after by werewolves, magicians, faeries, angels and more. The Ordo often learns nothing from them, but that never stops them trying. And sometimes, well, they learn great things. Often a vampire must die in the process, but that's research for you. The Dragons are aware that there is so much they do not know - and that they know so much more than other vampires. And they know this: knowledge is useless if you don't use it. The Order of the Dragon puts its members in danger coonstantly, because if something is worth using to improve yourself, it's worth risking your life for.

The Ordo Dracul is the least likely of any of the five major covenants to actually rule a domain. In the few places they do, the Kogaion tends to be fairly laissez-faire about other vampires and their plotting. It's not that the Ordo is weak - they just have very little concern for rulership, which tends to enrage other vampires. It's hard to deal with people who you don't understand, after all. Dragon princes (or, more traditionally, Voivode) are often just the strongest and most potent vampires in the domain, able to fend off assassins with sheer persnal might. They just don't care why they keep having to deal with assassins. This means that rivals of other covenants are often on the brink of insane fury and can make an Ordo domain a dangerous flashpoint. When the Ordo is persecuted, on the other hand, they seem to enjoy it. Struggle and trial make them stronger, they say. They are improved by the experience - and often, their foes are devoured.

Next time: Seven apples on a witch's tree...


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Even vampires are afraid of something. For many, that thing is VII. VII is a group, maybe, or a phenomenon. They've appeared more often recently, but they're not strictly new. No one ever sees them coming. Their attacks have no pattern. There is only one commonaltiy at all of their attack sites - after they leave, the roman numberal VII is left on a wall or a note or somewhere at the scene as a calling acrd. Never an Arabic numberal - always VII. They do not talk. Ever. Witnesses who have reported seeing VII in action report what appear to be vampires working in complete silence to murder other vampires. All such witnesses have been murdered by VII themselves shortly after making those reports. Besides cleaning up witnesses, there is no apparent motive behind their hunting. Every attack by VII occurs within 72 hours of a confirmed sighting of one of the Owls. That is all that vampire society knows about VII.

Vampires fear VII because they don't understand them. VII comes. VII kills. They appear unstoppable, and more terrifyingly, inexplicable. They have some connection to the Strix. No one knows if they are enemies or allies. There are a number of rumors as to why VII exist. Some say that VII are brainwashed sleeper agents. Anyone could be a member of VII because they don't remember what happens while activated. Something triggers them, they go kill a vampire, and then they go back to their lives none the wiser. Others say that VII are vampires captured and remade by the God-Machine, their souls replaced by clockwork and gears. They are a corrective engine, removing vampires that cause problems for their master. Only the Machine knows why there are only seven at any time, or why they leave the VII mark.

Another story holds that VII are a lost clan or led by one, princes of a city destroyed in the time of Abraham, now following some ancient mission to redeem themselves before God. Their sign is not VII, but instead an ancient sigil that resembles the Roman numeral. Other stories claim that VII have managed to escape the power of the Strix and now hunt them down, along with their servants and allies. Because it is impossible for most vampires to tell who the Strix have corrupted, the killings appear random, even though they are not.

Or maybe VII is the acronym of a mystic cult practicing potent blood magic. Their victims are given a choice: join or die. Joining has terrible consequences, perhaps even the loss of your soul. Or perhaps VII are the descendants of a mortal king of the middle ages who had seven children, who became vampires to better hunt other vampires. It is unclear what their plan would be if they manage to succeed in their purge. And then, perhaps, VII are not true vampires, but the supernatural doppelgangers of vampires, shadow-beings made or controlled, perhaps, by the Strix. Each one mirrors a specific vampire that it must kill, at which point it ceases to exist. Only seven exist at any one time.

Or maybe none of that is true. What is true: VII are silent. They hunt in perfect unison, without need to communicate. If their hunts last more than a night, they leave no sign of it. They always leave the VII mark near their victims. Almost all of their kills follow a sighting of a Strix. vII are calm and efficient. No one has ever seen them frenzy. They may or may not practice a form of blood magic. Occasionally, signs of ritual usage are found near their kills. These rituals do not match any known form of blood sorcery. The members of VII do not seem to care what happens to them or their companions. They do not rule domains. They do not answer to them. That is all anyone knows.

Next time: The lost covenants


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Covenants rise and fall with time. They've done so since the destruction of the Camarilla and its synthesis into the Invictus and Lancea et Sanctum. Very few last for longer than a few centuries, in fact, besides those two. The horrors they left behind may still lurk somewhere, however, or perhaps they still exist in rumor, hidden, without evidence.

The Legion of the Dead was originally part of the Camarilla's military wing, a group called the Grim Battalion. When the Camarilla dissolved, they chose not to join the Invictus or Lance. Rather, they served as a band of mercenary vampires, assassins andm urderers for hire. By the 800s, their creed was simple: profit or die. It was risky, and they ended up betraying or turning on too many people, taking too many bribes. Any trust they had was gone. One by one, they were killed, and by the 1100s, not one survived. Even now, though, their relics can occasionally be found - miraculously preserved ancient swords that bear a legendary curse, haunted suits of armor, hoards of cursed gold. It's said that the souls of the victims and the greed of the Legion infected all they owned.

The late middle ages, meanwhile, were a great time to be dead. Plagues swept Europe and North Africa, and people rarely traveled. Stories spread of strange monsters hunting travelers. The truth is that these monsters did exist - a loose group of vampires that came to be known as the Gallows Post. They did indeed hunt lone travelers...and for a price, they would arrange safe travle for other vampires and maintain secret spots away from civilization in which vampires could sleep out the day. They ensured the lines of communication that made covenants possible. As the world became more open and travel became easier for mortals, the wilderness that vampires elied on for travel came to be harder to find. The Gallows Post peaked in the 16th century, and slowly dwindled away as they lost their wild routes until the final known member died in 1892. However, if you knew the signs and ancient symbols, there are stlll secret places in the wilds where the Gallows Post let the dead sleep out the sun on their travels. But then, no one knows what else is in those places.

Most vampires, certainly those with any humanity left, try to avoid Embracing children these days, but that wasn't always the case. From the 12th century to the 18th century, there was a group that claimed sole dominion over Embracing children: the Children's Crusade. Indeed, many Lance and Invictus domains dictated that any Embraced child must be given to the Crusade. Child vampires are monstrous, terrifying creatures - denied the right to grow up, they often lack the emotional maturity to deal with the terrible nature of their condition. The Crusade took care of their own and took a strange, mad joy in hunting down those child-vampires that fell to madness. However, ater some time it became clear to the Invictus and the Lancea et Sanctum that the Crusade were corrupt in ways that adult vampires could not truly comprehend. They hid the crimes of the mad children in their ranks, made deals with owls. Hunts were called, and terrible acts were committed to put an end to the Children's Crusade. Now, they are gone, save for a few memories of older vampires, clouded by the fog of time and torpor, a handful of old letters and one book that was published in small numbers in the 1800s. However, it is believed that a few vampires escaped the destruction of the Crusade, hidden away in lonely places, trapped in torpor. Should they awaken...well, they could try once more to take up their traditions and begin a new Children's Crusade.

The Tenth Chour is not known ot have existed. It is heard of only in rumor and legend, though perhaps this is because the Lancea et Sanctum so viciously deny such stories and destroy what lore they find. The Plague Nun of London, Elisabeta, sometimes speaks of a group of vampires who believed that, as their condition was God's curse, they must take vengeance on the divine. Between the 17th and 20th centures, she said, the Tenth Choir developed a system of blood magic that let them consort with angels and devils. They drank angel blood and tried to murder God. The Beast of Uttoxeter, Ephraim Tench, claimed that he once saw a vam,pire Embrace an angel, or perhaps become a blood-drinking angel. He could not quite recall. This could have been metaphor and broken memories. The Tenth Choir may not have ever existed. Certainly, no one has heard any rumor of their activities after the London Blitz.

Next time: How2Vampire


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The next chapter spends a lot of time on the subjective experience of being a vampire. I'll try to get through it quickly. The hunger for blood is more urgent than normal hunger, and without it, you slip quickly into torpor, which is a long, long nap. The vampire's bite produces the Kiss, which feels incredibly good for both parties, and vampires can lick the wound of their bite closed, in much the same way they can seal their own wounds. Mortals that experience the Kiss have hazy memories of what has happened, and leaves its victims vulnerable and weak-willed in a sort of diluted version of the Curse of vampirism. Vampires burn in sunlight, so they need shelter from it.

Vampires need to keep in contact with the mortals that keep them grounded, in an attempt to slow their alienation and keep grasp on humanity. That's most of why they keep relationships with mortals, at least on the need-based level. However, as they feed on the mortals around them, they begin to influence and be influenced by it. It has no mechanical effect, but feeding on alcoholics will tend to give you a buzz, and feeding exclusively in New York may make memories of, say, medieval France fade away somewhat. The area in which you feed begins to reflect you, as well - a Gangrel's neighborhood becomes more primal and physical in its alteractions, while a Nosferatu's hangout seems more sinister and grotesque.

The Masquerade comes up a lot with vampires - and it's not some global conspiracy. The Masquerade is your personal attempt to protect yourself, the lies you tell that keep people from asking questions, the tricks you play to get blood without being noticed. All those lies add up. That's your Masquerade. It's not about keeping the government from finding out about vampires - it's about keeping the guy next door from finding out about you.

Ghouls, meanwhile, are your half-damned servants. Your blood can make mortals weak-willed - and if you put in the work, it can make them morep owerful. They are mortals fed on vampire blood, addicted to it in exchange for some of your powers and weaknesses. They make a great way to keep in touch with the mortal world. The best Masquerades rely on understanding the living well enough to bullshit the rest, and ghouls can help. They even get some respect from vampires - they're not family, per se, but they are someone a vampire was willing to put time and effort into. Of course, they're also vulnerable, and that can make them weak spots for their masters.

Vampire society, to go back to the Masquerade a moment, has three rules - the Traditions. Some say they came from the Camarilla. Some even say they're written into the Blood itself. The Lancea et Sanctum hold to that one, and some even claim that Longinue himself dictated them. Others hold that the Traditions are only universal because they're common sense - nothing supernatural, no consequences to breaking them, just cultural rules.

The First Tradition is Masquerade: Do not reveal your true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so forfeits you of claim to the Blood. No one is really sure what constitutes breaking the Masquerade. It varies from domain to domain, and there's plenty of wiggle room in which to survive and destroy your rivals. This is no global conspiracy - it's about keeping the locals from figuring things out. It's always a purely local issue. People can believe what they want, even in vampires. They just can't know you're a vampire. It keeps people from shaking up the world and making all your schemes and your existence fall out. Keeping the mob off your back personally. Minor sidebar - you can't detect most vampires with a camera or mirror. Vampires are not blurs in them. The Beast just knows where to stand - they don't show up because they're behind someone, their face is never towards the camera, the pictures gets over or underexposed. It's not supernatural except, perhaps, to a manic statistics professor trawling vampire sightings in their spare time. And it's a defense mechanism. The predator hides in the crowd, makes themselves harder to notice, make it easier to sneak up on people. So no, getting caught in a photo won't break the Masquerade for 99% of vampires.

The Second Tradition is Progeny: Sire another at the peril of both yourself and your progeny. If you create a childe, the weight is your own to bear. If it were followed in the extreme, of course, there would be no vampires. The Sanctified claim it's not the place of vampires to spread the Curse, of course. They warn of angering the morep owerful elders or offending God. However, this Tradition is rarely absolutely enforced - rather, it is used to limit siring new vampires. Sometimes the prince grants sanction case by case. In other places, especially Crone domains, it's a free-for-all. And some domains...well, some fear the Tradition and will put to death both the new childe and their sire. Some argue that this law barely needs enforcing, however. Predatory populations balance out naturally. The price of the Embrace will control numbers. And there is a price - the Embrace gives up something of yourself to your Beast.

The Third Tradition is Amaranth: You are forbidden from devouring the heartsblood of your Kindred. If you violate this commandment, the Beast calls to your own Blood. Amaranth scares vampires no matter how monstrous they are, and the Third Tradition is the least controversial of any of them. Even the most depraved monster does not take Amaranth lightly, because it is the consumption of another's soul. It's the fastest way to become a stronger and more potent vampire - but the price is all too great. You dangle your own soul before the Beast. You can never become callous to it. Even a torturer or serial killer will suffer the pangs of guilt and remorse. You take more than the victim's power. You take some of their memory - and some of their personality. It bleeds into yours, leaving their voice in your head, forever. And they never, ever want good things for you. Once you commit diablerie, you no longer exist as you were. Something else does - something darker.

Next time: Why vampires like cities.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Urban centers are a huge boon to vampires, and most vampires live in cities as a result. Everything they need is there, so they don't have to travel much. The city becomes a vampire's world. It's dangerous, but it has resulted in Kindred life being, generally speaking, divided into only semi-related city-states. All the food you might want is in a city, anywhere you look. Mortals are all over, and if someone vanishes...well, no one notices, for the most part. Plus, cities are alive at night. There's all kinds of community activities going on even in the dead of night that you can drop in and out of with relative anonymity. You like music? Go to a night concert. Sports happen at night, too. The local college has night classes. Vampires can hunt there...or they can have human companionship to keep them grounded. Sure, vampires can live elsewhere, but rarely in large enough numbers to be counted as a vampiric community - it's more like one or two vampires for an entire rural region, maybe, tops.

Most vampire communities are organized hierarchically, much as the Carthians would like to say otherwise. Someone is at the top - Prince, President, Bishop, it doesn't matter what they're called. They generally run their domain as an authoritarian one, but not as micromanagers. It rarely works. A Prince rules by controlling others and getting them to rule for him. Fear is the usual power source, the prime motivator for vampires. Not just fear of your elders, but fear of all the dangers that vampire society can protect you from when you buy in. Yes, everyone involved is selfish, but they come together when outside danger threatens, and vampire justice is ruthless and effective when that comes.

Not all city-states run on a Princedom, however. Coalition governments of vampires exist as well, though they aren't common. They're mostly found in Carthian or Ordo domains - the one for idealism and the other because sometimes the Ordo treat rulership as an experiment and might divide a city up into ley-line-based territories that each sit on a council in order to see if they can get something useful out of it. Coalitions aren't generally that much less authoritarian than a princedom, but the rulership is shared between several vampires at minimum.

Theocracies happen, as well. Mostly, this is when either the Lancea et Sanctum or Circle of the Crone are in power and demand everyone else takes part in their religious activities. It's not exclusively them, however - they aren't the only religious or spiritual groups in town, just the big ones. A domain could end up under the thumb of a vampire theocracy entirely undreamt of by most. These places tend to be full of enthusiastic and willing participants - but vicious against heretics.

The rarest and most dangerous is the cloister - a city cut off from all other Kindred society entirely. While most domains are isolated to a greater or lesser extent, they still communicate with the outside via letters, email, travel...not so in a cloister. These are off the grid. Cloistered cities sometimes happen under particularly effective totalitarian rulers, who control all routes in and out. Sometimes, though, cloisters are enforced from outside, put under interdict by the other vampires of the region. Perhaps the city is plagued by Malkavia, the hideously infectious madness-disease of the Blood. No one out on pain of Final Death.

Within a city, vampires usually communicate via the Cacophony, a word used to refer to the hidden messages vampires leave each other in graffiti, art, magazines and so on. It's a mix of journalism, art and messages, and it really became big in the 1960s, when the counterculture started to rise in mortal society. Many believe that it was a Carthian innovation, but in fact the opposite is true - it was spearheaded by the young of the Invictus, who needed ways to communicate basic messages about how to maintain your Masquerade. The signal spread through various means - pamphlets, mix tapes, books, private galleries, even secret musical performances. It's more of a cultural network than an administrative one, and it's never realy stopped. More conservative vampires tend to dislike it, but the secrecy and shadowy nature of the Cacophony feels right to most vampires. The internet's just made it more able to spread. Find the right website, download the right demo track. Email's nothing new under the sun for vampires that have been communicating with graffiti for centuries. You just have to learn to read the Cacophony properly.

Beyond the single city is the conclave - essentially, a vampiric clique that extends across multiple domains. The name comes from an old habit of vampires gathering at neutral ground - old graveyards, diners, abandoned theme parks, message boards, anywhere you can meet with relative safety and neutrality. Conclaves are the closest many vampires get to friends among their own kind - correspondents and penpals whom you can deal with on a closer level. Thy form for many reasons - an alliance to share information, maybe, a specific agenda within a region, a shared bloodline, a former coterie spread out as it got older. Sometimes, conclaves even go global, but their influence is thinly spread unless they get big enough to be considered a covenant.

Now, let's talk about blood ties. You're dead - but the Blood and the Beast is not. The Beast within you emanates a sort of metaphysical 'scent' - an aura that causes friction when two vampires meet. They innately sense each other and size each other up. They must then decide how to respond to each other. Violence, cautious neutrality, attraction - any of that is possible. But it's never simple ignorance. Vampires can always tell each other by the predatory aura they exude, and they use it to claim turf. It's the main reason vampires fight each other - turf is food, turf is personal. Your turf changes you, and you change it. For a vampire, travel across a city can become complex, keeping in mind the various territories that are staked out, who claims what street and what you need to do to keep the peace. Ignorance is no excuse.

And blood calls for blood. The Blood knows its own. It knows your sire, your siblings, your clan - even when you don't. No matter how selfish you are, the Blood ties you to others. 'Family'. It matters. Meetings between vampires of related Blood become very dramatic, as both Kindred feel the Blood pulling at them. They are more easily affected by each others' magics. And blood ties can go horribly, horribly wrong. During Katrina, the vampires of New Orleans and those they were related to went mad, frenzying in a nightmare that went out through the Blood. There were riots across America as vampires were struck by the feeling, and the Masquerade was weakened.

And of course, there's the fear and the hunger. Everyone knows it - as vampires get older and more powerful, human blood is no longer enough. To sustain an elder of a certain strength, more is needed. Vampire blood. Your elders might need to eat you, and no one is really sure how old they have to be. It's not like they broadcast the information. They smile, they plot, they offer you advice - but how do you know they aren't looking at you like you look at an appetizing mortal?

Even with all this, there's things you don't do. Things that just aren't done. Not primal laws or Traditions or anything, just...things that other vampires will find creepy and gross. First, there's the Kiss. The Kiss contaminates mortals by transmitting some of your corruption through the bite, clouding their judgment. Normally, this doesn't affect other vampires...but if you try, you can do it. It takes effort, and other vampires frown on it. It's an insult - a killing one. There's also perversion - that is to say, a blood bond that is reciprocated between two vampires. It's love, of a sort. Real love. It's bound deep in the Blood. But love isn't safe. Love is fearful, insecure, jealous. Now give it magically induced codependence, and the knowledge that you could hurt them, they could hurt you. It happens often enough, but vampires don't like it. Perhaps because they hate the reminder of the love they don't have, perhaps because they have the common sense to know that this kind of mutual, codependent magical bond is dangerous. Could go either way.

Next time: Oh right this book has mechanics.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The vampire template is pretty simple to apply. You take your normal Chronicles of Darkness character, then overlay a few traits. First, pick your clan. Each clan gives a +1 to a single stat, chosen from two for each clan. Daeva can raise Dexterity or Manipulation, Gangrel get Composure or Stamina, Mekhet get Intelligence or Wits, Nosferatu get Composure or Strength and Ventrue get Presence or Resolve. Then you pick your covenant. The Circle, Lancea and Ordo get access to special Disciplines, while Invictus and Carthians get special merits.

...and then you pick Mask and Dirge. I have no idea why they exist because Virtue and Vice work quite well, but hey! Your Mask is your public persona, the identity that keeps you going among mortals and lets you deal with human society. Any time you overcome a small problem in defense of your Mask, gain 1 Willpower. Any time you commit terrible, damning acts in defense of your Mask, regain all Willpower. Your Dirge is who you are in private and when dealing with other vampires. When you withdraw from outer life in defense of your true self, regain 1 Willpower. When you do terrible, awful things to defend your personal identity, regain all Willpower.

Then you name your Touchstone. You only get one free, and it's the person, place or thing that keeps you grounded and human. It is tied to your 6th dot of Humanity. You can take a merit to have more Touchstones at other Humanity dots. After that, you pick 3 dots of Disciplines. 2 must be in-clan, while the third can be anything - including a Coil, Cruac or Theban Sorcery, if you qualify for those. Clan Disciplines are simple. Daeva get Celerity, Majesty and Vigor. Gangrel get Animalism, Protean and Resilience. Mekhet get Auspex, Celerity and Obfuscate. Nosferatu get Nightmare, Obfuscate and Vigor. Ventrue get Animalism, Dominate and Resilience. After that, you get Blood Potency 1, ten dots of Merits and start at Humanity 7.

Why do you want Touchstones, incidentally? Well, you care about them, for one. For another, they keep you grounded when you're monstrous. You fear losing your Touchstone - hurting them or driving them away. While you have a Touchstone, you get +2 to detachment rolls to avoid losing Humanity, or +3 if you have more than one Touchstone. When you have no Touchstones, you roll at a -2 penalty. When you lose the Humanity dot that the Touchstone is attached to, even if the Touchstone is still alive, you lose the benefits of having them. However, you can benefit from defending them. Whenever you defend your attachment to them, regain 1 Willpower. Whenever doing so does you serious harm, regain all Willpower. When you lose your last Touchstone, you can choose two things. First, you can lose 1 Humanity immediately and then have one month to find a new Touchstone or else gain the Languid condition. Alternatively, you can became Languid immediately. Getting a new Touchstone is buying a dot in the Touchstone merit. Languid, side note, is a growing penalty to all actions while you have the condition and makes it harder to rise from daysleep. It lasts until you enter torpor.

Now, Blood Potency is your power stat. It determines how strong the Blood is in you, how much Vitae you can contain and whether you can achieve superhuman traits. However, the higher your Potency, the harder it is for you to feed and the worse sunlight affects you. Also, it increases the length of torpor. You can lower Blood Potency, too - specifically, it drops by 1 per 25 years spent in Torpor, and many elders will willingly enter torpor to make feeding easier when they get powerful enough. From BP 0-2, you can feed from animals. From BP 3-5, you require human blood. BP 6-10, you need vampire blood. Superhuman traits are available at BP 6-10. Blood Potency can be raised with XP, but also naturally goes up by 1 every 50 years you spend active.

So, what are the natural benefits of being undead? Well, first, vampires are fuckin' hard to hurt. Anything that would normally cause Lethal damage to mortals only deals Bashing damage to them unless it's supernatural. They just don't need those internal organs so much. Vampires also can't fall unconscious from Bashing damage, though they can suffer wound penalties. Further, most sources of Aggravated damage to mortals only deal Lethal damage to vampires. Bashing or Lethal damage dealt to a vampire appears as it would on a corpse (unless the vampire is using the Blush of Life), while aggravated damage is clearly unnatural. Once a vampire takes a full health track of Lethal damage, they fall into torpor. More on torpor in a while. Full aggravated damage is required to permanently kill a vampire, at which point they revert to their true age within a minute.

The Blush of Life is the ability to appear alive. It costs 1 Vitae per scene, and while it's active, a vampire appears alive in all respects. They bleed (though it costs them no Vitae), they have bodily fluids, they can have sex, they can even eat and drink (though they'll vomit it up later). It's very handy to do when people are suspicious.

Vampires naturally have excellent senses. They can see in darkness, and even in total darkness they take only a minor penalty to vision rolls. They can immediately spot any traces of blood. They can hear a heartbeat at (3*Blood Potency) yards and can smell blood at (10*Blood Potency) yards - multiplied by Auspex dots if they have any. If they've tasted someone's blood, they can add their Blood Potency to any roll to track them by scent, as long as the victim is mortal. Vampire blood does not offer this benefit, and instead smells of a mix of all the victims that fed into it. Further, if any of these senses would be helpful, you can add Blood Potency to rolls to detect hidden details or people by their blood.

Vampires can spend Vitae to boost their physical stats for a turn on a 1 for 1 basis, or to heal their wounds - 1 Vitae per 2B or 1L, while 1A requires 5 Vitae and a day of sleep. Only aggravated damage will leave a scar behind, though the scar appears natural. Sleep is also naturally restorative to vampires. Anything that would not constitute an actual HL of damage is automatically healed and returned to its original state during the daysleep. Vampires will also automatically spend any Vitae required to heal wounds while sleeping, which can be a problem unless they spend Willpower to 'preserve' the wound, which renders it permanent until healed. Tattoos, haircuts or other marks can also be forced to remain permanently for a Willpower.

Next time: Predatory Aura and the Embrace.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

We've discussed what the Predatory Aura is in fluff terms. How's it work mechanically? Well, first: if a vampire perceives a vampire with any of your senses, they know they're a vampire. This is not symmetrical - if the other vampire can't sense you, they have no idea what you are, or that you're even there. This is both mystical and physical - vampires can smell the faint scent of victims' blood on each other, can see the shallow breath, etc. Beyond this, a vampire can lash out with their aura. Against a vampire, this escalates things to either a fight or someone running. Against a mortal, it's an assertion of power. Against a vampire it costs 1 WP. Against a mortal, it's free.

Lashing out takes one of three forms at your whim. The Monstrous Beast draws on the Beast's destructive nature, its instinct to kill and crush. It forces the victim's survival instincts to the fore and applies the Bestial condition, which weakens the target's defense and ability to resist frenzy and boosts others' attempts to make you escape or perform aggressive actions. The Seductive Beast draws on the Beast's ability to tempt others, its nature as an escape from reality. It draws the need for instant gratification out and applies the Wanton Condition, reducing resistance to social and mental effects and attempts to resist temptation. The final type is the Competitive Beast, drawing on the Beast's need to dominate others. It draws on the instinct to dominate and control, placing the Competitive condition, which reduces your rolls when you don't spend Willpower while competing with another and makes it easier to get you to compete.

When hit with the Aura, no matter what it is, the victim can choose fight or flight. Fight costs Willpower if you're not a vampire or are a weaker vampire, but lets you try to resist. If you're a vampire, you can even try to turn the aura back on them. Flight does not resist - you take the condition and try to get the fuck away.

Now, how are vampires made? Step 1: Drain someone of blood. Step 2: Put some of your own blood in them. Bam. Done. Of course, it must be an act of will - you can't Embrace a mortal accidentally. (Mostly.) Any attempt to make the Embrace work costs a dot of Humanity as the price for raising them. That isn't the only method, though - it's possible to give a posthumous Embrace. This must be done within a week of the victim's death, and you have to put your blood in them somehow. If you do this on purpose, it still costs Humanity...but it's possible, if rare, that this happens by accident. Most vampires look down on the posthumous Embrace and those who are made from it, though some of Clan Mekhet practice it for spiritual reasons.

It is also possible for some victims of vampire attack to spontaneously be Embraced. Ghouls and victims of violent feeding occasionally rise for no clear reason. They are known as revenants, and they're not true vampires - not yet. Someone can Embrace them properly, raising them up to full vampire status, for a Humanity dot. Until then, they have no clan (and so no clan weakness), cannot store much Vitae, can't learn many Disciplines, cannot make ghouls or blood bonds, and are very good at tracking the vampire that infected them. They also use all of their Vitae to rise each night, awakening starving no matter how much they ate. Most revenants die quickly.

It should be noted that feeding comes in two varieties. Subtle feeding via the Kiss won't usually make revenants. Aggressive and violent feeding can do it more often. Aggressive feeding uses a vampire's fangs as a weapon in combat, draining their blood as part of an attack. Violent feeding inflicts the Scarred condition, making it harder for them to resist fearand intimidation, as well as making them more angry and paranoid. Subtle feeding does not hurt, and is in fact extremely pleasurable, as noted in prior posts. This applies the Swooning condition, making it harder for your victim to harm you and easier for you to manipulate them.

Vitae, it should be noted, is not blood. Not in the direct sense. A vampire does not actually lose physical blood when using Vitae. Rather, Vitae is the energy vampires gain from drinking blood. Human blood is best eaten from a living vein. Every human contains Vitae equal to their lethal Health Levels, and basically you deal 1L per Vitae. Taking too much from them weakens them and makes it harder for them to resist disease and wounds. Blood kept outside the body for more than a few minutes is much less tasty, and is worthless if it's more than a night old. You must consume (Blood Potency/2) pints of cold blood to get 1 Vitae. Refrigerated blood bags are absolutely useless, as is any other form of technologically preserved blood. Animal blood is of limited use, and only to young Kindred, providing Vitae based on the animal's size. Larger animals can give more.

At the start of most sessions, you are going to roll to see how much Vitae you have. It's 1d10+(Feeding Ground merit dots), or your maximum capacity, whichever is less. The game also offers two options for feeding scenes if you want to go hunt for more blood. One method uses dice, the other doesn't. For the dice version, you roll whatever pool the GM deems appropriate to your hunting activity. Succeed and you can drain however many victims you were hunting for. Usually one. On an exceptional success, though, the GM tells you a little about your victim, and you can get a Beast by asking that they become involved in the plot in a later scene. (If you killed them, maybe the cops get involved.)

The diceless version is intended to produce intimate and dramatic scenes. You tell the GM what kind of person you're hunting for. The ST then gives you a situation and some action to go with it - what the mark is doing, some details about them. You go back and forth, one action or exchange at a time - and unlike normal play, whoever's narrating can dictate the response of both parties. At any time, the other players can raise their hands, and the narrator can call on them to step in with a bit part in the scene. The hunting PC can, at any time, interject and have their character contradict the current action, but must do so in a way that involves the character's Mask or Dirge. Each time they do, the ST marks down a check. The PC can also interject at any time to frenzy. This does not add a check. You go to the logical conclusion of the scene. At the end, you count up the checks and roll for detachment at Humanity (6-check marks). You also add a check mark for any actions that would have called for a detachment check during the scene.

Next time: Sleep, bloodlines and the Blood.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

At sunrise, vampires are naturally drawn to sleep. Indeed, they can barely resist it unless they're at risk of death by sunlight. It takes a roll, and even if they manage it, they get the Lethargic condition to penalize their actions. Vampires are also heavy sleepers, woken only by direct threats like fire, sunlight or the building collapsing on them. Waking is hard and fast, and it's not pleasant, in those cases. You have to make a Humanity check, and get to remain active for (successes) turns. Once that's over, you have to roll again or fall asleep, though you can stay awake indefinitely if you get (5+Blood Potency) successes total over all your rolls. However, any time a vampire awakens, it costs 1 Vitae. Normal waking happens shortly after sunset, and is painful, like a reverse heart attack.

Vampires are not divided just by clan, but also within those clans, by bloodlines. Bloodlines essentially are a specialized clan variant, which gains a greater curse, but also greater access to Disciplines. You can join your sire's bloodline at BP 1, or the bloodline of any vampire you share a blood tie with at BP 2. At BP 4, you can join the line of any vampire of your clan. Whoever inducts you into a bloodline is your Avus and must feed you at least one point of their Vitae - with all the risks it brings. At BP 6, you can invent your own bloodline, and all bloodlines were born that way. You may never be part of more than one bloodline, and you can never leave a bloodline once you join. Every bloodline gives you a fourth "in-clan" Discipline, and this can be one unique to the bloodline, which no other vampires can learn, even by diablerie. Of course, as noted, every bloodline has an additional bane on top of their clan bane - and often it's rather worse than a clan bane.

Vitae, as we've noted before, is not literal blod. It doesn't get drained when you bleed while, say, under the Blush of Life. However, the energy of Vitae can be placed in your blood by use of certain Disciplines, the act of making a blood bond or the Embrace. Vampires in their normal state do not bleed when cut, as the Vitae prevents it. However, loss of a limb can cause limited loss of Vitae, though this is rare. Blood that bears Vitae is slightly darker than normal and is almost syrupy. It smells like blood, but also sweet in a subtle way.

The Vitae of related vampires calls out to each other via mystical sympathy. It allows these vampires to sense each other and feel, in a limited sense, each others' emotions - frenzies, great joys, the pain of violence, the shame of def eat. It's rarely clear, instead coming in the form of dreams, symbols and hallucinations, except in the case of the strongest ties, which are generally between sire and childe. This is the once-removed tie. At this level, you get the greatest bonus to actively seek out the other vampire, and can do so from anywhere in the world. The twice-removed tie is for siblings, grandchilder and grandsires. It gives a nice bonus to sympathy checks, and can be used anywhere on the same continent as the other vampire. Thrice-removed tie is your cousins, your sire's siblings, and your great-grandsires or great-grandchilder. It gives a smal lbonus and can work anywhere in the same city as the other vampire. Four times removed is any clanmate. No bonus, but you can use it anywhere within a mile of the other vampire. Sympathy automatically is felt whenever a related vampire enters torpor or dies, though often in symbolic terms. You can also engage sympathy to send messages about your state of being to thise relativesd only once or twice removed, though it costs Willpower and a Blood Potency check. At the GM's whim, any strong emotion can trigger sympathy, but this is more of a dramatic device. The death of a relative may cause frenzy.

You may also spend Willpower and roll Wits+Blood Potency to try and detect a specific vampire, assuming they're in range. This can prove quite handy if you want to track them down - but of course, it also lets them do the same to you. You can also sense if the relative has entered torpor or died, but won't know which without an exceptional success.

Drinking the Vitae of other vampires is dangerous. It's highly addictive, both to mortals and vampires. This is extremely useful, though - even without the blood bond, Vitae is a valuable bargaining chip. Addiction is a nasty, nasty thing. Vitae addiction feels rather like addiction to a drug, and it's always there, in the back of your mind. You can't let it go. Some addicts even resort to attacking other vampires or even diablerie to get their fix. Any time you consume vampiric Vitae, you have to make a check to avoid addiction, with a penalty based on how much you've consumed. Fail, and you've got a persistent Addicted condition.

To make it worse? Vitae also create the Vinculum, the blood bond - a one-sided, powerful emotional tie to the vampire you drink from. Many intentionally expose humans to it as part of, say, the ghoul-making process, but vampires are no less vulnerable to it. Many sires bind their childer, and Princes often impose the Vinculum asp unishment for a crime. Every city, covenant and vampire has a different view on the bond. Bound characters are known as thralls, and those they are bound to are regnants. Any time you drink one or more points of Vitae, it creates or advances a blood bond, up to the third (and final) stage. Vampires can resist the bond with Willpower and a Blood Potency roll, but even that's not easy. Mortals have no defense.

The first stage of the blood bond is like having a crush. It's not love, unless you're some inexperienced teenager...but it does make you want your regnant, want to be close to them and get their approval. It gives the regnant a minor bonus to social rolls or Discipline usage against you, and makes harming them a breaking point. The second stage of the bond is easy to confuse for love. It makes you feel tense when thinking about the regnant, makes you want to be near them all the time. The bonus your regnant gets against you is higher, and the breaking point is harder. The third stage of the bond is obsession and desire on an extreme level, to the point that you'd sabotage other relationships just for fear that they might intrude. It's total infatuation, and it makes the regnant's bonus quite largeand your breaking point quite nasty if you harm them. Worse - any Disciplines they use on you last longer than normal. However, any third-stage blood bond will break any other bonds you have, and prevents new ones from forming. Blood bonds last one year from the most recent drink of the regnant's Vitae. No matter how strong the bond is, it will fade in that time. It's not a strict limit in character - it can vary by a few weeks - but it's always around a year.

Ghouls are what happens when a mortal drinks Kindred blood and the vampire decides to give them a taste of power. Ghouls have limited access to certain vampiric traits - they don't age, and they can spend Vitae to heal or improve their physical abilities. They can even learn Disciplines. However, this all goes away if the ghoul goes a month without Vitae. The gifts are lost, as if they never were. It's a very powerful tool for vampires to use in controlling mortals and, thus, maintaining their Masquerades. Ghouls are loyal and effective allies, able to work during the day. Most cities see the use of ghouls as a necessary one, though some Princes outlaw ghouls. Most cities treat killing or permanently harming a ghoul to be identical to attacking a vampire's safe haven. Vampires often guard their ghouls jealously, and even an abusive master will be defensive of them - they're investments of Vitae, after all. At least one Carthian faction, the Anti-Obstructionist Army, feel that interfering in mortal life is wrong and so vampires that maintain large ghoul stables must die. The Carthians as a whole disavow this but do nothing to get rid of the Army. Ghoul rules are at the end of the book, but to make one, you spend 1 Willpower and 1 Vitae. Further feeding only costs Vitae.

Next time: Why being a vampire sucks


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

A note before we head into weaknesses. Diablerie! To diablerize a vampire, you have to drink them dry. After that, you drink further. Each Vitae that would be taken instead is 1L damage to them. You keep going until they're full up on Agg damage. Then you spend a Willpower and roll Strength+Resolve. You can keep doing this at 1 WP per roll until you get the target's BP in successes. Then you're done, you've done it. If you give up or fail, you're done and you can't try again. Anyway, once you do it, you get 1 XP - that's XP, not Beat - per dot of BP the target had, which you can use only to purchase Blood Potency (or save up for a BP purchase later). You also get a free dot in the highest of the victim's Disciplines that you don't already have. If you had all their Disciplines at equal or higher level, you get one of their Skill dots instead. Diablerie is always a breaking point no matter how low your Humanity is. It feels wrong, no matter who you are. It feels dirty. And after, you can hear the victim's voice in your mind at times, urging you towards death as penance. You gain the Tainted condition - basically, once per session, your victim can come back within your soul and penalize one of your actions or buff an enemy due to their subtle manipulation of your psyche. Oh, and like Vitae, diablerie is addictive. The sense of power you get afterwards is a huge rush. No matter what, once you do it, you are addicted, and resisting the opportunity to perform diablerie later is hard.

Now, weaknesses. All kindred suffer from three weaknesses universally. First is the 'Pain of Purity' - sunlight. It represents truth, visibility and honesty to creatures that exist in darkness and lies. It burns the flesh of vampires. The Lance claim this is God's judgment, particularly as more potent and monstrous vampires burn hotter and faster. Qucik damage looks like a burn, while slower damage resembles decay. Your Humanity determines how much damage you take from sunlight, while Blood Potency determines how often. At minimum, Humanity 7-10, you take 1L per period, while a Humanity 0 draugr would be taking 5A per period. BP 0 is no damage, but at BP 1-2, it's per ten minutes, and BP 10, it's five times each turn. You can lower your effective Blood Potency by one if you cover yourself such that only your eyes are uncovered. Anything else is not enough.

Second is the 'Pain of Knowledge' - fire. Fire represents human dominance over the natural world, and it is a very human tool. It destroys vampiric flesh easily. The Circle of the Crone believes this is a lesson: humanity is where you came from, and you can never return to it. Most vampires avoid fire at all costs. Fire deals Agg damage to vampires per turn of exposure - no roll, just, if you're hit by a fire bigger than a candle, you're burning and taking agg, while mortals would take only lethal.

The third weakness is the stake to the heart; we'll discuss that more when we talk about torpor. Each clan also provides a Bane, a weakness that affects only that clan. Clan Banes do not affect newly turned vampires until they drop to Humanity 6. At that point, the bane sets in - and even if you raise Humanity again, it never goes away. The Daeva suffer the Wanton Curse. They not only feed on mortals but are compelled by them. If they drink from a mortal once, that's fine. No harm, no foul. But a second drink from the same source (and any further drinks) requires a Humanity roll to avoid gaining the Dependent condition towards the mortal - and that can only go away when the mortal dies. Essentially, they act as if they have a second stage blood bond towards the mortal. As a result, Daeva tend to either focus on drinking only once from many mortals or developing deep relationships with a small 'harem' of feeding targets.

Gangrel, whose Beast is so close to the surface, suffer the Feral Curse. They are excellent at working with the Beast within...but they're absolute pants at fighting against it. Their dicepool to resist frenzy can never be higher than their Humanity dots - ever. This does not affect dicepools for riding the wave, however.

Mekhet are of the shadows and secrecy, and so they suffer the Tenebrous Curse. When a Mekhet first reaches Humanity 6, they take a single bane, not tied to any breaking point, which counts towards the three banes any vampire can have. (More on banes later.) Further, Mekhet treat their Humanity one dot lower for all Humanity-based banes - including sunlight and torpor.

Nosferatu are monstrous, disgusting, fearsome creatures. Some are inhumanly ugly, some have a gaze that makes others feel violated. All Nosferatu have something that makes it hard for them to deal with humans. Nosferatu treat their Humanity as two dots lower for the purposes of social penalties from low Humanity, and any failures on Presence or Manipulation rolls are dramatic failures. Neither of those penalties, however, apply to interactions with Touchstones or vampires.

The Ventrue are arrogant, confident and often treat others as objects. They suffer the Aloof Curse. Their first Touchstone is tied to their seventh Humanity dot - the first time they lose Humanity, they also lose the benefits of the Touchstone. If they buy Touchstones with merit dots, they can fill the sixth through second dots. A Humanity 1 Ventrue cannot have a Touchstone until they raise their Humanity.

We've mentioned frenzy. What is frenzy? Well, sometimes, the Beast grows impatient with your human whining. When you face danger, hunger or threats, the Beast can reach up and goad you into an extreme response - usually a murderous frenzy. All frenzy, no matter the source, has one goal: end the problem by any means necessary. You can temporarily hold the Beast back, but eventually you have to face it - fight, feed or flee. While frenzying, a vampire can still lash out with the predatory aura, however. Resisting the Beast is a Resolve+Composure roll. Dramatic failure means you're frenzying and it won't end until you reach a breaking point. Once the Beast gets what it wants, it picks a new target. Failure, well, you get frenzy. Success means you instead get tyhe Tempted condition, which maes it harder to resist future frenzy until you either frenzy or have some significant interaction with a Touchstone. You cannot spend Willpower on the frenzy resistance roll. Rather, spending a point of Willpower automatically delays the roll for a turn and lets you control your actions, and provides a bonus to the roll equal to the turns you spent putting off the frenzy this way. The fact that frenzy can sometimes be caused by insults is part of why vampires are so cautiously, cattily polite to each other most of the time.

When a vampire frenzies, you determine what the Beast wants. Escape, punishing the person that insulted the vampire, food. The frenzy typically ends when it gets what it wants, when a magic power says it does, or when you enter torpor. A Touchstone can talk a vampire down from frenzy with extended social rolls, but it ain't easy and the vampire's going to be causing problems the whole time. While in frenzy, a vampire is stronger, faster, tougher. Their Blood Potency is added to any and all physical rolls or resistances, though not the Health track. They ignore wound penalties. They can grab and bite as a single action rather than needing to establish a grapple, then bite. Any attempt by anyone but a Touchstone to make you act contrary to the Beast's desire via Social actions fails automatically, as does any attempt to do so by magic, though it is possible to distract the Beast to a similar target to the one it's already seeking. A frenzied vampire will do anything and everything they can to do what the Beast wants, but the Beast is not stupid. It will do anything a starving, enraged or terrified predator might, and will use the predatory aura to its best ability to help it. To do anything contrary to the agenda of the Beast costs 1 Willpower. Also, the first to frenzy in a scene gets the biggest benefits - any vampires that frenzy afterwards only get half their Blood Potency bonus.

It is, however, possible to control the frenzy. This is known as riding the wave. You spend Willpower and make the normal resistance roll, no bonuses. If you succeed, you can act as you wanted. You keep doing this until you fail, run out of Willpower or get five successes. Any failure, however, is a dramatic one. Once you get up to five successes, you're riding the wave. You get all the benefits of frenzy...but you choose the Beast's desire and target, which need not have anything to do with the provocation that caused the frenzy. Frenzied vampires do not normally commit diablerie, but you can choose to do so while riding the wave.

Next time: Torpor, stakes and Humanity


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Torpor, also known as the sleep of ages, is what happens when a vampire is horribly injured or is too hungry to rise. While in torpor, a vampire appears to be a corpse - hardened, dry skin, hard joints, ashen and dusty flesh. During torpor, a vampire experiences strange, often nonsensical dreams that keep their mind active as they sleep. Usually, this means they're well-prepared to adapt to a new world when they awaken, but it can also go poorly, altering the vampi're personality or memories.

A vampire enters torpor if they get full up on lethal damage and can't heal it immediately, or if they're in daysleep but have no blood to rise with. A vampire can also enter torpor voluntarily to lower their Blood Potency over time. In the first day of torpor, a vampire will spend as mich Vitae as required to heal any wounds they have, as long as they have Vitae to spend. If, after doing that, they still have lethal wounds in any of their final three Health boxes, their Humanity is considered one lower for purposes of length of slumber. As mentioned before, every 25 years spent in torpor reduces Blood Potency by 1. The higher your Humanity, the shorter your Torpor is, at minimum. For Humanity 9-10, base torpor duration is a day, while Humanity 1 is 50 years and Humanity 0 is 100. You take the base duration and multiply by your Blood Potency. You can wake up after that period, usually. Sometimes it's up to 25% shorter or longer. Further, any vampire with two or more dots of Blood Potency than you can feed you one Vitae to immediately wake you - though that carries with it all the risks of drinking another's Vitae.

Vampires whose hearts are penetrated by a wooden stake immediately enter torpor. However, stake-induced torpor ends the moment the stake is removed and cannot be ended while it's still in. Targeting the heart is a pretty difficult called shot, and must deal at least 5 damage to penetrate.

Now, Humanity. Where mortals use Integrity, vampires have Humanity, which represents their ability to understand and deal with other human beings. It can be anywhere from 0 to 10, with PC starting at 7. The lower your Humanity score sinks, the clearer it is to everyone around you that you are a monster, more focused on survival than anything else. Often, this comes off as detached, aloof behavior. Low Humanity also penalizes attempts to relate to humans - not manipulating them for food or scaring them, but trying to read their emotional cues, say. These penalties do apply to Touchstones.

At Humanity 9-10, vampires are experts at human behavior and come off as idealized, iconic people. They even get a small bonus to relating to humans. Humanity 7-8 is where your average vampire starts. They can blend easily and remember the feelings of mortality with clarity. At Humanity 5-6, you're the average young vampire that's been around for a bit. You're beginning to accept your condition as part of just existing and know you'll never be a mortal again. Often, you have a subtly ashen cast to your skin and take a minor penalty to human relations. At Humanity 4, you've seen terrible things and have probably killed and will probably kill again. You're okay with that. These vampires tend to be calculating and avoid situations that might endanger them somehow, and take a penatly to relating to humans. At humanity 3, you're a callous, cynical creature that will do just about anything to survive. This is where most vampire elders sit. Killing witnesses or otherwise taking the safe but monstrous route is second nature. Humans are naturally uncomfortable around these creatures and they take a penalty to relating to humans that is quite large. At Humanity 2, that penalty gets even bigger. These vampires are barely human, resembling walking corpses far more unless they're actively acting the part. They tend to be short-tempered, selfish and viciously brutal. Mortals are seen, at best, as resources. Humanity 1 vampires are almost animal in their stoicism. They rarely speak or act without a clear reason to do so - everything is a tool to hunt. They can fake humanity but usually don't bother and instead tend to just look like corpses. Crowds naturally part for them out of fear, and their attempts to relate to humans only get a chance die.

At Humanity 0, personhood is gone. The Beast is all that's left. You have become draugr, unable to interact with society in any way. Draugr will do anything to survive, even break the Traditions, without a second thought. They are forever lost, feral hunters that can no longer remember what it was to be a person. In most cities, draugr are put down as soon as possible. Some, however, can be quite careful, even cunning predators, or retain ritualistic behavior from their old lives - they might still live in the library they once maintained, though they can no longer read.

Breaking points for vampires tend to revolve either around having no significant social interaction with human beings for extended periods of time, suffering losses or reminders of your vampiric state, harming others or killing them, or surviving things that would undoubtedly kill a human. The lower your Humanity is, the worse it has to be - but the worse a breaking point is, the harder it is to resist, because the dicepool isn't decided by your stats - it's just a number of dice determined by the breaking point's severity.

One way that a vampire can resist Humanity detchment in the future is to take banes. When a vampire loses a dot of Humanity, they can take a Beat to gain a bane. That particular trigger can never be a breaking point for them again...but they get -1 to all further detachment rolls. You can only ever have three banes, and once you have one, it's never going away. Banes are supernatural weaknesses possesed by your vampire, most of which are folkloric in some sense. The player chooses them, but the vampire does not. Some examples follow.

Bells: You can't stand the sound of bells, and suffer intense pain. Recordings don't bother you - just actual bells. For each minute you are exposed, you roll (10-Humanity) dice and take (successes)B, and must check for frenzy.
Blood of the Unwilling: You gain no sustenance from the blood of the unwilling or unknowing. When you feed on them, you get nothing out of the first (10-Humanity) Vitae you take.
Crossroads: You are confused when you knowingly pass through a crossroads, and for the rest of the scene, your dicepools are capped by your Humanity.
Face of Hunger: When you are hungry, your skin tightens on your face and your eyes glow red. Hungry is whenver you have less than 5 Vitae, and it causes your Humanity to cap all social actions and all rolls to resist hunger-based frenzy.
Grave Soul: If you do not sleep with at least a handful of dirt from the region in which you died, all your pools are capped by Humanity for the next night.
Hatred of Beasts: Animals hate you and will make this clear when you approach. Further, any attempts to deal with them by Animal Ken or Animalism take a penalty equal to (10-Humanity).
Holy Day: On one day of the week, you cannot resist the daysleep nor awaken during that day unless you take at least (10-Humanity) damage.
Invitation: If you enter a private dwelling uninvited, you take (10-Humanity)B and can't heal it until you leave.
Open Wounds: Your wounds remain open until you enter daysleep. You can still heal them, but they will remain visible and apparent that night.
Plague of Purity: Any touch from a human of Integrity 8 or more causes you (10-Humanity)B.
Rat King/Rat Queen: You are always surrounded by rats, cockroaches or other vermin. This disgusts mortals, causing you to automatically fail any Social roll not based on Intimidation. You can send the vermin away for (Humanity) minutes with a Willpower point.
Repulsion: You have a weakness to a specific substance likely to be found in many homes, such as garlic, salt, roses or silver. You cannot get within (10-Humanity) feet of that substance without spending Willpower, and if it enters a wound, you take (10-Humanity)B.

Next time: Neat merits, and Disciplines.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Some neat merits that vampires can take include a one dot merit to get even better supersenses, including vision in total darkness and perfect identification of any prior experienced stimulus, merits to boost specific types of predatory aura at the cost of the other two, covenant-specific merits that enhance other merits, such as Invictus being able to take Retainers who come with free Contacts, Resources or Safe Place, or the Lance being able to get free Herd or Retainers out of Library. Herd is one of the easier ways to get blood - each week, you get twice your Herd dots in free Vitae, basically.

The Invictus have access to a unique set of Merits, the Invictus Oaths. They are the Invictus method of establishing and maintaining hierarchy. They mustb e officiated by an official Invictus Notary. (Being one is a two-dot merit which prevents other Invictus from using their Invictus Status against you as well as giving you a free dot of Allies, Contacts, Herd, Mentor or Resources.) Notaries can preside over any Oath so long as the participants meet the Merit prereqs, and it is expected (sometimes even required) for most Invictus to have at least one active Oath. Almost all Oaths have two participants - the liege and the vassal. The vassal takes the merit, the liege doesn't. The participants must define terms in addition to the Oath's mechanical effects - typically, a time limit, such as a year and a day, conditions of what violates the oath (and thus ends its effects) and so on. Most of the time, the vassal need not be Invictus, and many aren't. Even ghouls or mortals can enter Oaths, but most Notaries will refuse to preside over that. Oaths are temporary, with the merit dots reverting to XP when the Oath ends. Oaths with non-Invictus lieges are a death sentence for any Notary that administers them knowingly, as are unwilling Oaths.

Example Oaths:
Oath of Action (4 dots): The vassal swears to do a service for the liege, which must be difficult and have definite criteria for success or failure. Both parties agree on one of the liege's Disciplines. The vassal gains access to the Discipline, and the liege gets +1 Blood Potency. This can, incidentally, grant temporary access to bloodline Disciplines. If the vassal succeeds, the Oath ends and the liege takes (Discipline dots granted)A. If the vassal fails or a month passes, the vassal takes the damage instead. The liege does not, side not, lose access to the Discipline.
Oath of Fealty (1 dot): The vassal may draw up to (Invictus Status) Vitae from the liege per week, with no risk of addiction or blood bond, at any distance. The liege always knows if the vassal is lying to them, in voice or writing.
Oath of Penance (3 dots): The liege gains every tenth Vitae the vassal drinks instead, over any distance, without risk of blood bond or addiction, and it counts as Kindred Vitae for feeding purposes. While the Oath is active, the vassal is immune to the liege's Disciplines. However, the vassal loses all benefits of any other Oath while retaining any drawbacks.

Carthians, on the other hand, have access to Carthian Law merits. The Carthian Law grants Carthians advantages when operating with the recognized law of the city. In most cases, the Carthians didn't write the law - but that doesn't mean they can't use it. This gives Kindred laws a metaphysical weight htat makes them hard to break, and it makes Carthians valuable even in non-Carthian cities.

Example Carthian Laws:
Lex Terrae (2 dots, requires Carthian Status 2 and Feeding Ground 1): Any Kindred that you do not specifically allow to feed in your territory has any poached blood tainted. When they next sleep, the blood dissolves and they lose all poached Vitae, taking 1B per Vitae lost. Further, their lips and motuh stain with black streaks for one wek. This requires, however, that you publically announce and clearly define your territory.
Mandate From the Masses (5 dots, requires Carthian Status 5): You may call on the will of the people to weaken an enemy. You must clearly and directly admonish the enemy and temporarily give up a dot of Willpower. You then gather support of other Carthians with a vote, both NPCs and PCs. If the vote favors your admonishment, add the total of supporting Carthian Status dots (including your five) up. For every full five dots, reduce the victim's Blood Potency by 1. If they drop to 0 dots, they become a revenant for all purposes. The dot of Willpower you gave up and the victim's Blood Potency return only if the victim flees the city or dies. If you die, they regain their Blood Potency. You can only level this against one victim at a time.
Strength of Resolution (1 dot, requires Carthian Status 1): Add your Carthian Status to any dicepool to contest a Discipline or other supernatural power that would cause you to violate acknowledged city law.
Plausible Deniability (4 dots, requires Carthian Status 3): Any attempt to use a Discipline or other supernatural power to prove your guilt in a breach of city law or tradition automatically fails, and you cannot be forced to confess by any means. Any attempt to force your honest by mundane means takes a peanlty of your Carthian Status dots. Your aura does not stain from diablerie. However, you cannot use City Status or Carthian Status in any Social rolls against anyone that knows for certain your guilt and opposes you.

Now, Disciplines. These are your weird magic powers. They come from the blood, and tap into both your mind and the Beast. Some of them are a part of your nature, though they may require you to spend Vitae or Willpower. Others require you to make a roll to activate them. When you fail a Discipline roll, it doesn't mean nothing happens - the Beast still does something. The lights might flicker, your flesh might write, your victim might see a sudden screaming face behind your eyes for a moment. It's not enough to freak anyone out mechanically, it's just a reminder that the Beast is within you and you don't fully understand or control it.

Disciplines can spontaneously manifest due to connection to the Blood, but generally this is only in-clan Disciplines that do so. To learn another clan's unique Discipline, yu need a vampire to teach you - and give you a point of their Vitae, with all the consequences.

The first Discipline we're going to look at is Animalism. The Beast is not just your predatory nature - it is the apex predator. You can let it loose a bit to overpower lesser beasts, forcing your will on them. Most Animalism powers affect predators and scavengers, so in a city you're going to likely be using feral cats and dogs, pigeons, crows, foxes and many, many rats. In rural areas, you can get bats, wolves, mountain lions, bears...the key is that they eat other flesh.

Animalism 1: Feral Whispers. You can speak to animals and force them to respond to you asb est they can. With a bit of focus, you can force them to obey. You can get them to tell you what they've sen over the past night, albeit through the lens of their own perception, or you can give them a simple command, which generally lasts for only a night because animals have shitty memories.
Animalism 2: Raise the Familiar. While animals cannot be Embraced, lacking the necessary humanity, you can halfway do so with this power. You feed a drained animal some of your Vitae and it returns as an undead creature with retractable fangs like yours. However, it cannopt ingest Vitae itself. It will retain signs of any injuries it had when it died, but they are only cosmetic - tire tracks across it, not crushed bones, for roadkill. These zombie beasts do not hunt for food and aren't afraid of loud noises. They sleep by day and act by night, and will live for a while based on their Stamina and your Blood Potency. You can keep feeding them Vitae to keep them going past that. The creature is bright enough to obey complex orders and interpret the spirit of your commands. It takes damage like a vampire and doesn't decompose, and you may use Feral Whispers on it at any time, from any distance, telepathically.
Animalism 3: Summon the Hunt. You can spill Vitae on the ground, an object or even a person to call out to the beasts. They will attempt to destroy whatever you got your blood on, stopping only once they succeed or the sun rises. You can choose to call only a specific kind of creature, such as birds or rats. Prey animals avoid the affected area, and you can imprint a command on the beasts as if you used Feral Whispers - except it can last multiple nights.
Animalism 4: Feral Infection. The scent of your blood can inspire rage in animals and even humans and other monsters. Any animal that can smell the blood you spill lashes out at the nearest victim in a feral, unthinking rage. It will eat them once it takes them down. You can direct the animals towards a specific goal or target, though you can't give direct commands or instructions - just who to target or what direction to go. Humans and supernatural creatures that can smell the blood must resist you to avoid going under your command. Vampires and werewolves frenzy, but you dictate their actions. Humans and other supernatural beings enter an atavistic state of attack. If you don't command them, your victims will fight each other, though a supernatural creature can spend Willpower to ignore your orders.
Invitation: If you enter a private dwelling uninvited, you take (10-Humanity)B and can't heal it until you leave.
Animalism 5: Lord of the Land. You can encircle an area in your Vitae to claim it, walking its entire border. Once you do, animals will not enter it and will fight to escape it if forced in unless they are controlled by your powers. Humans and supernatural creatures have to make a roll to enter or stay in the area, and still suffer a penalty to act in it. Vampires also have to check for frenzy. Your explicit guests do not suffer these penalties, nor do ghouled animals. While in your territory, you can sense when anyone crosses into it and the Blood Potency if they are a vampire. You know where they are unless supernatural powers hide them, and anyone frenzying in the area cannot attack you or spend Willpower to resist your commands via Feral Infection. Any commands you give via Feral Whispers last indefinitely as long as the animal is in your territory. You can also share the senses of any animals you raised via Raise the Familiar while they're in your territory, and you may use them to deliver commands via Feral Whispers.

Next time: Auspex, Celerity, Dominate


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Auspex focuses the Beast's instincts on secrets, weakness and the hidden. It reveals information to the user via visions, sometimes direct and sometimes hallucinatory, and it is impossible to tell from the outside when Auspex is in use. This means the Mekhet are often the subjects of vampiric paranoia, since...well, they're the only ones who can normally learn Auspex.

Auspex 1: Beast's Hackles. By tapping into the Beast's sense for danger and weakness, you can ask the GM a question related to who is most dangerous to you or who is weakest. The answer always comes through the Beast's imagery. Sample questions include 'who here is most likely to give me what I want?', 'who here is most afraid?', 'who or what here is most likely to hurt me?' or 'who here is closest to frenzy?' but you can come up with your own.
Auspex 2: Uncanny Perception. You focus your thoughts on a single victim, sniffing out their secrets through the Beast. You can ask the GM questions about the victim related to their secrets or weaknesses. Sample questions include 'what is this person's mood?', 'what is this person afraid of right now?', 'what is one of this person's psychological vulnerabilities?', 'is this person a diablerist?' or 'is this person a supernatural creature, and if I have seen them before, what type?' but again, you can come up with your own. The answer, as before, is via imagery rather than words.
Auspex 3: The Spirit's Touch. You can turn the Beast on an object or place, discovering the secrets around that as easily as a person now. You can ask questions about the place, or those of earlier Auspex levels. Sample questions include 'who last touched or owned this?', 'what is the strongest emotion associated with this object?' or 'what was this object used for at the point of strongest emotion?' but you can come up with your own, too. Your answer is, as usual, in images, rather than words.
Auspex 4: Lay Open the Mind. You can focus the Beast to make your thoughts like those of the victim - or vice versa. You can hear the victim's throughts as if they were speaking them aloud and always know their mood and intention, plus some of their current motivation and worries. You may also project thoughts into the victim's head, either as spoken words or mental images. You may also focus to bring full memories out of hte victim's mind, experiencing them as if you were the victim. You may also transmit that memory back to the victim to cause appropriate mentally-based Conditions.
Auspex 5: Twilight Perception. You loose your mind from your body, taking on astral form. While in astral form, you have neither physical nor spiritual substance, and only vampires with Auspex can notice you. You can move at incredible speed and may go anywhere within the moon's orbit, unbound by gravity and able to pass through anything. While you travel in astral form, your body lies as a still but non-decaying corpse. You cannot interact with the physical world or use Disciplines, but retain all of your normal senses. If someone kills your body or forces you into torpor, it brings you back to the body. Beyond that, you must return your mind to your body to awaken. Every sunrise you spend away from your body causes you to lose a dot of Blood Potency, dying if you hit 0. These dots return when you re-enter your body, and you must still spend a point of Vitae each night while astral to 'awaken.'

Celerity is the power to unleash your Beast to increase your speed and reflexes to vastly superhuman levels. Physical disciplines like Celerity don't have new effects at each dot. Rather, they have two basic effects - one that's always on, and one that must be activated. Celerity adds directly to your Defense and to any active Dodge rolls. Against firearms attacks, while you lose normal Defense, you still use your Celerity dots. However, you must still be aware of attacks and be able to move to use Celerity to dodge them. You may spend Vitae to boost your speed even further, allowing you to temporarily jump to the top of Initiative, interrupt another's action with your own, or vastly increase your movement speed.

Dominate is the Ventrue power to demand obedience. It modulates their voices to create absolute authority, and is exceptionally powerful, even at the low levels where its control is weakest. Your victim must meet your gaze to use this, though it works through sunglasses or other 'shields.' You don't have to see their eyes, see, they just have to see yours, and it works through mirrored lenses or tinted windows...but not through video feeds.

Dominate 1: Mesmerize. You inflict the Mesmerized condition when someone meets your gaze, forcing them to obey your direct commands for the scene. Your commands cannot currently be more than three or four words, and they must be direct - vague commands don't work. 'Follow me' or 'repeat after me' or 'shoot that guy' are fine. 'Forget' or 'Submit' are not. However, you can fuck with memory by making a statement about the current scene which the victim will remember as true, as long as it's simple, unambiguous and no more than four words. But hey, you can do a lot in four words.
Dominate 2: Iron Edict. You may now issue longer commands to Mesmerized victims - up to three sentences long, and they can include a series of actions. However, it takes a while to give these commands, so it's harder in combat, and anything that relies on the victim's interpretation is still no good. For these longer commands, the victim gains the Dominated condition, making them unable to disobey your command for the most part until they succeed or the sun rises. They begin obeying the moment you stop speaking. And yes, 'follow me nad obey my direct instructions when I give them to you' is a valid command.
Dominate 3: Entombed Command. You can now implant a subconscious trigger which will activate a command you place in your victim. You define the triggers and what will happen when they are triggered. These triggers must be specific events or sensory stimuli. You can use this to drop the Mesmerized condition on them when the trigger is met, imprint a command on them via the Dominated condition that begins when the trigger is met, or, with a later step, lock or release a memory each time the trigger is met.
Dominate 4: The Lying Mind. This'd be that later step. You may now alter the victim's memories to your desire. You must either feed them Vitae or drip it on their forehead, but can create or erase memories as you like. You must speak to the victim and describe the changes you want to make, and this power grants you no special knowledge of the victim's memories. Crude changes usually only take a minute to implant, but more detailed ones can take much longer. Further, you do not control the victim's thoughts or feelings - just the factual content of their memory. You just have to hope that they react the way you expect. These changes are permanent unless you used Entomed Command to make them come out/recede on a specific trigger.
Dominate 5: Possession. Now, you achieve such control that you can take the victim's body over completely, moving your mind into it. You control them for several nights, using their physical stats and physical or combat merits. You may even, in a mortal form, spend Willpower to remain awake by day...and you don't take any damage from sunlight while in a mortal body. You must still spend Vitae each sunset as normal. You cannot use any Disciplines or Blood Sorcery while possessing someone, nor any of their supernatural powers if they have any, but otherwise have total control over them, though attempts to kill them give them a chance to resist. While you are possessing someone, your body remains in a torpor-like state until you return. If you remain away so long that you enter torpor from hunger, you automatically return to your body.

Majesty, on the other hand, is the Daeva power to amplify your animal magnetism and force of personality via the Beast's tempting nature. It makes people like you and want to make you happy. This isn't the ability to command them directly, but rather making them want to listen to and help you in exchange for your attention.

Majesty 1: Awe. Uou are clearly the most important person around, no matter what you look like or are wearing. You cannot take penalties to Social rolls from your actions or appearance, no matter what, and you are automatically the center of attention. You add your Majesty to all Presence rolls against people around you, though not to any supernatural powers, and anyone trying to notice something else takes a penalty equal to your Majesty. You can make anyone approach you with a single word - not due to magical compulsion, but because you're that damn cool. Vampires may lash out with the predatory aura to become immune to this power.
Majesty 2: Confidant. Once you use Awe, all you have to do is briefly talk to someone to apply the Charmed Condition, which makes it very easy to manipulate them and hard for them to tell when you're lying or what you're thinking. Further, they want to help you and won't feel tricked or ripped off while the condition is in place.
Majesty 3: Green Eyes. You now have an extreme control over the emotional states of those whom you've placed the Charmed or Enthralled conditions on. You can shift them into violent rage (or even frenzy), make them super depressed, whatever. You can also ask a Charmed victim to do something in such a way that they will feel an obsessive need to do it, no matter what it is, right up to the point where they get really hurt or suffer a breaking point because of it. Enthralled victims asked this way will do anything short of suicide.
Majesty 4: Loyalty. You can make someone utterly focused on you once they have the Charmed condition, upgrading it to Enthralled. Enthralled victims must spend Willpower to do anything that goes against your orders, and even if they do, it's a breaking point where failure means they don't disobey.
Majesty 5: Idol. Your Awe is enhanced to nearly divine levels. You can use this when establishing Awe or to upgrade it later. Anyone affected must roll Resolve with a penalty of your Majesty dots to do anything that might harm or embarrass you in any way. If you've caused the Charmed condition on anyone nearby, they must make a Resolve roll when you activate this or become Enthralled, and those who you have already Enthralled cannot spend Willpower to act against you.

Nightmare is the Nosferatu ability to tap into the Beast's desire to cause terror. Not just fear - fear is rational. The Beast likes terror, raw and insane and brutal.

Nightmare 1: Dread Presence. You exude an unsettling aura of fear. You add your Nightmare dots to all Intimidate rolls, and those acting against you can't spend Willpower to boost actions (though they can still use it to boost defenses). Vampires may lash out via the predatory aura to become immune to this. Further, you may reflexively create brief illusions - someone's food looks rotten and gross, someone briefly sees a head on their late, a doorknob appears covered in blood. This can only affect up to two senses and can never be very big. They last only a few seconds but are always unsettling and gross. They cannot, however, cause any harm or significant pain.
Nightmare 2: Face of the Beast. You can magnify a victim's fear intensely. If you know what they fear, you can choose to enhance that specifically, but otherwise it's just an unguided, raw terror. No matter what, the victim gains the Frightened condition, making them unable to approach the source of their fear or act against it and making them want to flee its presence. If you had Dread Presence active, you can make yourself the source of the fear.
Nightmare 3: The Grand Delusion. You speak to the victim for a second or two and force the Delusional condition on them. They now believe something that is absolutely not true, defined by you, and can only briefly suppress it by spending a Willpower to come up with an explanation for themselves as to why their delusion does not apply to the current situation. You can force them to believ anything you want as long as it would not make them homicidal or self-destructive (so 'your friends hate you,' fine. 'you must attack your friends,' no.) and you can't control how they react to the new belief. This lasts several nights.
Nightmare 4: Waking Nightmare. You cause the victim to hallucinate in disturbing and awful ways. This manifests to all of their senses, though generally will not change more than one person, object or feature of a location - inverted colors, a hallucinatory monster, a nightmarish appearance, whatever. You control how the vision reacts while you can see the creation you made, but once it's out of your sight it runs on its own...and will do so even if you die. Even if you didn't make it overtly horrifying, it is still nightmarish for the victim, never pleasant, though the visions can't cause actual direct harm or significant pain. Via Dread Presence, you can cause the hallucination to affect any number of people rather than just one. While they are together, their perceptions of it will remain roughly consistent.
Nightmare 5: Mortal Terror. You can twist the world around your victim to make their worst fears appear real. You can't do this unless the victim is already under the Frightened or Delusional conditions, however. The fear you create is so powerful that it deals actual Lethal damage to the victim - and even if they survive the assault of fear, it leaves a permanent mark on them - a nervous twitch, a white streak of hair, whatever. If Dread Presence is also active, they lose dots of Composure as well as take damage, regaining Composure at the same healing rate as Lethal damage.

Next time: Obfuscate, Protean, Resilience, Vigor


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Obfuscate draws on the Beast's ability to be a hidden killer, lurking unnoticed. It messes around with memories, vision and senses, allowing a vampire to turn invisible. Obfuscate is extremely good at this, because it removes you from your victims' minds directly, rather than just turning you invisible. It affects all senses, even if they're superhumanly good.

Obfuscate 1: Face in the Crowd. You can make it so people just don't notice you. They know that a person is present, but can remember absolutely nothing about you other than that you are average in every respect unless you are actively doing something to draw their attention, such as screaming at people or pulling a gun, or you are somewhere where no one is expected to be. Anything else, you just get ignored. They don't care what you're carrying - they wouldn't notice an assault rifle on your back or a body over your shoulder, as long as you don't use it to draw attention. If you are violent towards someone, that person can automatically notice you, and everyone else gets a roll to notice what's going on, but at a penalty equal to your Obfuscate. Further, while this is active, your predatory aura vanishes, preventing other vampires from automatically sensing it when they look at, smell, touch or otherwise sense you.
Obfuscate 2: Touch of Shadow. You can now touch an object or animal and place Face in the Crowd's effects on them. People still remain subconsciously aware of them so they don't walk into them, but won't register them at all. You (or anyone) can hide behind an occluded object to make it much harder for people to notice you.
Obfuscate 3: Cloak of Night. You may now upgrade your Touch of Shadow to affect other people. Further, you can upgrade Face in the Crowd when you activate it to become utterly imperceptible rather than registering as a nondescript person. If you attack someone while 'invisible' or otherwise draw attention to yourself, you remain obscured and add Obfuscate to the surprise roll - and even then, only the person you attack can perceive you. If another vampire manages to spot you with Auspex or some other method, they can sense your predatory aura and may lash out with theirs to end your use of this power. You may also be tracked by indirect clues left behind by the Beast's magic - drifting smoke, creaking floorboards - but it is very difficult, even with Kindred senses.
Obfuscate 4: The Familiar Stranger. When you use Face in the Crowd or Touch of Shadow, you may activate this to, rather than making yourself or the target appear nondescript, make them appear as a specific image, either a subjective category or specific person. So you can say 'someone that is small and weak-looking' or 'Tom from Accounting' with the only limit being that you can't specify it based on someone's subjective reactions, so 'someone that Joe will fall in love with' is no good. If you use this on objects via Touch of Shadow, you can redefine the object to appear as anything of roughly the same size. These illusory disguises will pass most forms of mundane inspection (though a rock disguised as a gun still won't fire, though this will not break the illusion).
OBfuscate 5: Oubliette. You may mark an area, covering its boundary and exits with your Vitae, then sleep for a full day in the area. This causes the area to become invisible to Kindred senses. You may use Touch of Shadow, Cloak of Night or The Familiar Stranger at any distance, on anyone or anything within the area. You can affect multiple different targets with a single use of those powers, such as making the exits vanish or making ghouls look like people that someone wants to see. You can alter individual aspects of the area seperately, like making rifles appear to be snakes, or oyu can make more sweeping changes with a single use of The Familiar Stranger, such as making your gross old shack look like a manor house, complete with altering yourself and other inhabitants. Anyone interacting with elements of the Oubliette can see the true nature of what they're dealing with, but only for a few seconds, and most people will shrug this off as a trick of the light.

Protean is the Gangrel ability to draw on the Beast's savage nature, becoming formless and terrible predators.

Protean 1: Unmarked Grave. You merge with the earth, becoming immune to most harm, and may remain there indefinitely. This works just as easily in concrete as dirt or stone, as long as the thing you're hiding in has enough space to contain you. You have no normal senses, but you can remain conscious if you want. You are aware of what is happening to the ground above you, and you can still sense predatory auras. If someone spills blood or Vitae on the ground, you may absorb it - and this dilutes it enough that it can't result in a blood bond. The only way to harm you is to destroy the ground you are in, which causes you Bashing damage equal to any Structure damage dealt to whatever you're inside. When you take the first point of Lethal this way, you are forcibly removed from the ground.
Protean 2: Predatory Aspect. You may allow your Beast to slip out through your flesh, warping it and manifesting various changes. When you learn this power, you pick three from the list of examples or create new ones with your GM. You might be able to grow webbed hands and scales that let you swim at your running speed, claws that serve as 1L Brawl weapons, extra sensory organs granting tremorsense, echolocation or some other sense that gives you a 360 degree field of 'vision' without eyes, improve your senses to serve as if you were 2 BP higher than you are, grow a flying-squirrel-like skin flap that lets you glide or reduce fall damage, a prehensile tail, warp your limb shape to let you run faster on all fours, or grow barbed airs along your body that let you climb walls and ceilings. You can change which adaptations you have access to this way by spending a day underground in Unmarked Grave and spending Vitae. Your changes should always reflect some kind of predatory or scavenging beast.
Protean 3: Beast's Skin. You may take on the shape of any animal you have fed on until the animal died, so long as it was a predator, a scavenger, a plague-carrier or a parasite between Size 1 and Size 7. You can have up to (Protean) forms at any given time, and to replace one you eat the appropriate animal and then sleep a full day and night in the Unmarked Grave. In animal form, you use the animal's Physical attributes and skills, and have all of its natural movement and sensory abilities, along with any attacks it can make. You may remain in animal form indefinitely, but you still hunger for blood and are harmed by sunlight.
Protean 4: Unnatural Aspect. You may warp your body via the Beast such that you take on new, entirely monstrous abilities. This can be used when you call on the Predatory Aspect, producing a new feature chosen from the examples or made by you and the GM. You might grow tiny barbs on your hands and arms to add Protean to all grappling orlls and deal Lethal damage in a grapple, you might sprout horrific fangs and talons that give a +2L Brawl weapon with Armor Piercing 2 which can even deal Lethal to vampires, you might get rubbery, flexible flesh and bone that let you stretch and contort yourself such that you can pass through any gap more than an inch across, or you might grow wings of bone and leather that let you truly fly. You may change what your Unnatural Aspect grants by spending a full day asleep in the Unmarked Grave and spending Vitae.
Protean 5: Primeval Miasma. You can dissolve your body into a cloud of smoke, in which faint yellow flashes can sometimes by seen. You may condense or expand yourself easily, moving through anything that isn't airtight and moving at half your normal speed. You may perceive anything inside your cloud as if you were looking at it with your normal senses, but anything outside your form is blurry and muted. You are immune to all harm except fire, sunlight or any banes you've taken. If your form is fully exposed to sunlight you return to normal, but otherwise you can maintain it indefinitely with all the benefits of being in the Unmarked Grave. If anyone passing through your smoke has an open wound, you may feed on them by drawing blood out of it. You may also force yourself into someone's lungs to 'bite' them and steal away their life force through the breath.

Resilience allows the Beast to reinforce your corpse-body's natural endurance to impossible levels. Its presistent effect is that you add Resilience to your Stamina for all purposes, and whenever you take Agg damage, (Resilience) of it is downgraded to Lethal, including fire damage (but not sunlight). You may spend Vitae to reinforce your body, causes all damage dealt to you by non-bane sources to be reduced by (Resilience+1). This manifests visually as the damage appearing on your body but causing you no actual impediment unless they actually remove a limb, eye or whatever. These superficial wounds can be healed for one Vitae during daysleep. This also makes it harder to stake you. Alternatively, you can cause all damage from fire or banes (but not sunlight) to be reduced by (Resilience), though again, all superficial signs of damage remain, so if you walk through an inferno, you look like a burnt corpse. Either of these effects lasts only one turn.

Vigor allows you to reinforce your Strength through the Beast's power. Its persistent effect is that you add Vigor to your Strength for all purposes and multiply your jump distance by (Vigor+1). You may spend Vitae to gain a huge boost to your strength as well. You can add Vigor as a weapon bonus to all Athletics, Brawl and Weaponry attacks, at the cost of damaging any improvised weapon you use in this way. Alternatively, you can lift and hurl any object of Size no more than your Strength, using it as an improvised melee or throwing weapon. Objects over Size 5 deal Lethal to mortals, and those over Size 10 deal lethal even to vampires. In either case, the boost applies for only one turn - and yes, you can use both at once.

Now, that's not the only weird powers you can have. Many vampires develop the Disciplines above - but it is also possible for new techniques, known as Devotions, to arise, either spontaneously or after careful work honing your abilities. Once you know a Devotion, you can teach it to others the same way Disciplines can be taught. Anyone with the right prerequisites can learn a Devotion, either from a teacher or by long practice. Still, most are kept secret, passed along rarely. Each Devotion requires a certain level in one or more Disciplines to learn, and the more Discipline dots are required, the harder they are to learn.

Example Devotions include:
Chain of Command (Dominate 3, Vigor 1): You can implant some of your own will in a dominated victim. You explain how to use this power, either generally ('tell this to the first person you see wearing red') or specifically ('tell this to Joe at 6:45 PM on Tuesday evening'). This implants one of your Dominate effects in the target, allowing them to unleash it at the time and target you specify, rolling your dicepool to do so.
Cult of Personality (Majesty 4, Vigor 3): You may spend a massive amount of Vitae and use this to apply the effects of Loyalty to an entire crowd, enthralling them all at once.
Enchantment (Majesty 4, Obfuscate 2): You may use this to apply the effects of Loyalty to a target, but leaving them Enthralled to someone or something of your choice rather than yourself.
Foul Grave (Protean 1, Nightmare 1): You maintain a vague awareness of people around you when you are in the Unmarked Grave, and you may lash out with your predatory aura while in it.
Hint of Fear (Celerity 2, Nightmare 2): You may use Face of the Beast without the normal eye contact required, activating it reflxxively and unnoticeably.
Juggernaut's Gait (Resilience 5, Vigor 3): For 5 Vitae a turn, you are immune to all harm. Period. Even sunlight and fire cannot touch you during turns in which this is active.
Quicken Sight (Auspex 1, Celerity 1): You can accelerate your own vision to insane levels, allowing you to do superhuman acts. You can read multiple pages of text in seconds, you can apply Defense to Firearms attacks, you can aim reflexively to get the benefits instantly.

Devotions can do almost anything, depending on how many dots get involved and what Disciplines are combined to make them. Their limits are entirely up to the GM.

Next time: Blood Sorcery


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Blood sorcery is the domain of the Circle of the Crone and the Lancea et Sanctum. Unlike most Disciplines, these are not so simple to use. Most disciplines require no ceremony or external action. However, the Blood has great potential, and by using the Disciplines of Cruac and Theban Sorcery, you can perform rituals that go out far beyond your body, twisting the world itself. It looks like magic. To the Lance, it's prayer, and to the Acolytes, well, it's what you're worshipping. To the Strix, it is an affront and an insult to see Kindred using it. The rewards are immense, but the costs are not insignificant. Broadly speaking, the process of using Theban Sorcery and Cruac is similar, though their effects and what they can be used for are very different.

Cruac is an ancient and malevolent art, which some opponents of the Circle believe is a literal infection, an alien thing living inside the Vitae of its users. The power that Cruac summons, though, is the Beast itself, paid for in blood and made to taint the world via the invocation of the Crone's primal gods. Casting a Cruac rite is an all-consuming, ecstatic experience that can push you to the edge of frenzy. Cruac itself is a corrupting, wold thing that degrades everything it touches with the Beast's aura. It is sorcery used on flesh and wood and stone, with little concern for thought and intellect. Only Acolytes with Circle of the Crone Status 1 or higher can learn Cruac or its rites. If you lose your status, you can still develop Cruac dots, but not more rites. The Circle will also often hunt down those who try to teach Cruac to outsiders. Bad things tend to happen to vampires that use Cruac after leaving the Circle, and stories disagree on whether this is the Circle's fault or not. Due to the fact that it rouses and taps into the Beast, Cruac pushes you away from Humanity - learning a dot of it is a breaking point, and you can never have Humanity higher than (10-Cruac dots). You can only learn rituals up to or less than your Cruac dots. Interestingly, some Strix are able to use Cruac with as much skill as Circle masters - though they require Kindred vitae to do so, not their own shadowy essence. They seem to regard Cruac as belonging to them, and will demand a terrible price indeed from any vampire that wants to learn from them.

Theban Sorcery was discovered early in the history of the Lancea et Sanctum. Saint Daniel, one of the early members of the covenant, wrote that he was led by the angel Amoniel to a cavern beneath the city of Thebes in Egypt. There, the walls were coated in diagrams and incantations. Daniel recorded them and passed them on, using them to form the basis of Theban Sorcery. It is a stern and judgmental magic, requiring uncompromising faith, and its power is just as harsh. Some ritualists claim that their miracles channel the power of God's Curse, rather than the Beast. These miracles can reveal truth or sin, and can easily punish those who break the law of the Lance. Performing Theban miracles is an act of intense and exhausting faith, and each requires a physical sacrament, a symbolic item that will be destroyed by the magic when the ritual is completed. Only those with Lancea et Sanctum Status 1 or higher can learn Theban Sorcery or miracles. If you lose all status, you can't learn new miracles but can take more dots, as with Cruac. And, as with Cruac, the church punishes those who teach it to others, breaking their oaths of secrecy. Due to its careful and deliberate use of intellect and faith, Theban Sorcery requires you to maintain your human rationality. You must have Humanity at least equal to the dot rating of any miracle you wish to call on.

You get one rite or mriacle each time you gain a new dot in Cruac or Theban Sorcery, respectively, as long as you have the required Status dot to learn new ones. You can also buy new ones with XP. Both forms of blood sorcery require a ritual sacrifcce to perform any rite or miracle. Cruac rites cost one Vitae per dot of the rite, the first of which must be spent by you, as if fuelling a Discipline. The rest can be either spilled from your own body...or sacrificed by another vampire. It has to be vampiric Vitae - mortal blood is simply not strong enough. Further, any Vitae spilled for a ritual becomes inert, useless for feeding. Theban Sorcery, on the other hand, requires one Willpower to prepare for the ritual, plus a sacrificial sacrament to the angels and saints that oversee miracles (according to the Lance). Fail or succeed, the sacrament is lost. Many ritualists also use various props and performances; this is primarily for their psychological benefit in mustering up the necessary willpower.

Once the sacrifice is made, you make your roll - Manipulation+Occult+Cruac for the one, or Intelligence+Academics+Theban Sorcery for the other. In either case, it's an extended roll, which each ritual requiring a different number of successes, and it can take quite a while to finish a ritual. They take a long damn time - usually an hour or more. Cruac can be made easier by sacrificing extra Vitae, while Theban Sorcery can be made easier with meditation. Your victim is always aware when they're targeted by a blood sorcery ritual, though they need not be present for it. If the ritual doesn't specify how far away they can be, you get a penalty for each mile. The Beast just instinctively reacts to the sorcerous presence throughout the entire ritual. Even vampires in daysleep or torpor sense this, though they can't do much about it. This does not, however, provide any awareness of what the ritual does - just that it's happening. During the ritual, they also can sense you as if you were two ranks closer to them for blood sympathy (or, if they were a different clan altogether, as if they were the same clan as you).

Sample Cruac Rites include:
Pangs of Proserpina (1 dot): You cause the victim to suffer intense hunger, provoking a hunger frenzy in other vampires as if they were starving, regardless of how much Vitae they have. They must be no more than a mile away when the ritual is cast.
Rigor Mortis (1 dot): The victim, who must be within a mile when the ritual is cast, suffers a sudden loss of reanimating power, giving them -3 to their next physical action.
Cheval (2 dots): You must touch the victim, who must be present for the ritual. For the rest of the night, you may see and hear what the victim does, no matter the distance.
The Hydra's Vitae (2 dots): You curse your own blood and poison it. Vampires and Strix that drink from you take 1L per Vitae taken but gain no nourishment. Mortals and ghouls take 2L per Vitae taken if they drink from you. Your blood is only venomous while in your system, and this ends at sunrise.
Deflection of the Wooden Doom (3 dots): Any attempts to stake you fail automatically until sunrise.
Touch of the Morrigan (3 dots): The first time you strike someone with your open palm, they are wounded based on how well you performed the ritual. This goes away at sunrise or once you use it, whichever is first.
Blood Price (4 dots): The victim must be a vampire or ghoul present for the casting. Every time they drink blood, a number of Vitae based on how well you did the ritual goes to you instead of them first. If they take more, they get the rest. This lasts until sunrise.
Willful Vitae (4 dots): You are immune to blood bonds and blood addiction for the rest of the night, though any blood bonds or addiction you already have remain.
Blood Blight (4 dots): You taint and destroy the victim's blood. Mortal victims take damage based on how well you did the rite, while Strix, ghouls or Kindred victims lose that much Vitae instead, which can often provoke frenzy.
Feeding the Crone (4 dots): You transform your fangs into a wicked, tearing maw. You gain no Vitae from feeding while this is active, but your bite is a 2A weapon. This ends at sunrise or when you spend Vitae to cancel it early, whichever comes first.

Sample Theban Miracles include:
Blood Scourge (1 dot): You transform part of your own blood into a weapon. At any point until sunrise, you may create a 2L weapon in the form of a whip made of Vitae, which crumbles to dust at the end of the scene it's used in or at sunrise.
Vitae Reliquary (1 dot): You infuse an object with Vitae based on how well you did the miracle. The Vitae is mystically transferred from your body into the item, and can be retrived by any vampire, Strix or ghoul that touches the item. It still causes blood bonds and blood addiction. After one lunar month, the ritual ends and the object is destroyed.
Blandishment of Sin (1 dot): The victim of this ritual must be within one mile. The next time they would take Bashing damage before sunrise, it is upgraded to Lethal. A four-dot version of this ritual exists to upgrade Lethal to Aggravated. In either case, the ritual ends at sunrise if the victim is not injured before then.
Curse of Babel (2 dots): The victim must be within one mile. They are unable to speak or write until sunrise.
Liar's Plague (2 dots): If the victim lies over the course of the next scene, beetles swarm from their mouth.
Malediction of Despair (3 dots): The victim must be within one mile. You name a specific action. The next time the victim does that within the lunar month, they get a -5 penalty. If they don't activate the curse before the month is up, it goes away.
Gift of Lazarus (4 dots): You animate a human corpse as a semi-sentient servant. It has no Willpower, but retains all skills it had in life. The longer the corpse was dead, the lower its stats are. You may command the servant yourself or order it to listen to someone else. If the corpse takes a full Health bar of Agg damage or a full lunar month passes, the servant is destroyed.
Stigmata (4 dots): The victim of this ritual must be present for it. You ritually curse them with the wounds of Christ for a number of turns based on how well you did the ritual. Mortals take 1L per turn, while vampires and ghouls lose 1 Vitae per turn. If a vampire runs out of Vitae this way, they take Lethal damage damage instead and provoke a frenzy.
Transubstantiation (5 dots): You transform one substance into another. Water to win, lead to gold, human to stone, dog to cat, whatever. The object, creature or person to be targeted must be present for the ritual, and it can't affect anything larger than you, cannot create intelligence and cannot harm whatever is being transformed, though any injuries the target ha remain when the ritual ends. All transformations are ended at sunrise.

Next time: the Mysteries of the Dragon


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

So, the Ordo Dracul has a ton of stories about how Dracula escaped his Curse by transforming it. It's said that Dracula could walk under the sun, go for ages without blood and never fell to the Beast's frenzy. No one can confirm if any are true, but they provide hope that the vampiric condition can be changed and surpassed. The Ordo takes the knowledge passed down by the brides of Dracula and has been searching for and refining methods of transcendence. They scour the Earth for mystic secrets to better understand the vampiric Curse. The results, found by self-control and study, are known as the Mysteries of the Dragon. Unlike Disciplines, which augment the body or aura, the powers granted by the Mysteries, known as Coils of the Dragon, manipulate and change your nature. Each ties into some universal aspect of the vampiric condition, twisting it and the Beast to your benefit. They also do not ever drain your Vitae, though they may alter how you use it.

The Ordo argues a lotover where their actual goal is. Some believe that the end goal is total dominion over all banes of undeath, while others hold that the true succeess is n manipulation of the Beast rather than denial of it. Some stick to the traditional goal: transcendence is the defiance of God and/or nature. Others belive that this traidtion is a metaphor for the triumph of vampires over the unknowable forces that created them. The important thing, however, is that the Coils are proof that their methods work. Each step on a Coil, much like a Discipline, brings a new ability - a powerful and permanent change to your vampiric state. Through the changes wrought by the Coils, the Dragons can learn to get around their banes, empower their own blood and even tap into the Curse for power in a way deeper than most vampires dream of. Some believe that the best way to defeat a divine Curse owuld be to find a bigger curse and let the two fight it out.

When a vampire joins the Ordo Dracul, they choose a single Mystery to focus on. Each Mystery contains a single Coil, which they dedicate themselves to refining. At the theoretical pinnacle of every Coil is enlightenment, different in form for each Mystery. Achieving it would put you in an entirely new state of being. So far, no one has ever confirmed any of these pinnacles to exist, but what has been found is taken as evidence that more is possible. Essentially, your chosen Mystery is considered an in-clan Discipline for XP costs, while all others are out-of-clan. You may never have more dots in any specific Coil not of your Mystery than you have dots in Ordo Dracul Status.

On top of the core Coils, the Dragons perform many horrific experiments on themselves and others in the name of self-improvement. Most of these end in failure, generally death or maiming. However, sometimes they will bear fruit and find a new procedure that actually does something useful. These are known as Scales. Via the Scales, the dragons can share with others some aspects of their enlightened nature. Vampires can be made to sleep by night and wake by day, mortals may be given some power of the blood, ghouls made to last well beyond they normally can. These procedures are often brutal, torturous and have significant side effects. As a result, most Dragons that use them maintain private labs in which to perform them. Scales each have a prerequisite Coil, and knowing that reduces the cost of learning them. New Scales can be made via experimentation (and work with your GM), but creating them, succeed or fail, is always a breaking point. Still, creating a new Scale and giving it to your boss in the Ordo is always grounds for promotion.

The Mystery of the Ascendant has one clear goal. The sun is the enemy, and to defeat its power is to defeat all problems. By overcoming fire and sunlight, you may defeat every problem of the vampiric state. They do not, however, seek a return to mortality - that would be just an exchange of weaknesses, not true transcendence. Even if you managed it, the Ordo would laugh at you. Scales of the Ascendant manipulate the bounds of life and death, pushing the mind and body to their limits as they seek to find a perfected 'near life' state. Direct exposure to sunlight or fire, sleep deprivation and medically induced death are all common experimental practices. All have one goal: cure the vampire of the vulnerability to sunlight and allow them to walk by daylight, lucid and unharmed.

Coil of the Ascendant 1: Surmounting the Daysleep. As long as you have the benefits of the blush of life, you don't have to roll to resist daysleep and will not gain the Lethargic condition for remaining active by day.
Coil of the Ascendant 2: The Warm Face. When you activate the blush of life, it now lasts 24 hours, not a single scene.
Coil of the Ascendant 3: Conquer the Red Fear. You no longer risk frenzy from exposure to fire or sunlight, though they are no less dangerous to you.
Coil of the Ascendant 4: Peace with the Flame. As long as you have the benefits of the blush of life, fire only deals Lethal damage to you, not Aggravated. Further, Resilience now reduces one point of Lethal fire damage to Bashing per dot.
Coil of the Ascendant 5: Sun's Forgotten Kiss. When you activate the blush of life, you may spend extra Vitae to reduce your effective Blood Potency for purposes of determining the interval at which sunlight harms you, to a minimum of BP 1.

Sample Scales of the Ascendant:
Day-Wake Conditioning (prereq: Surmounting the Daysleep): The target must resist daysleep until the penalties from Lethargic reduce their roll to a chance die. They must then slumber at dusk in a brightly lit chamber - traditionally, this uses lots of candles, but high-watt lamps are just as good. This reverses the subject's sleep cycle indefinitely, causing them to wake at dawn and slumber at night, for as long as they slumber in a brightly lit location at night. Failure to do so for more than two days consecutively ends the effect.
Epidermal Shielding Bath (prereq: Sun's Forgotten Kiss): You fill a bathtub or other vessel with a mixture of blood, salt, pulped human fat and other mystic ingredients, then submerge a subject completely in it for a full hour while you bleed Vitae into the mix. (If you are the subject, you can do that bit underwater.) You increase the subject's effective Humanity based on the Vitae bled into the bath, solely for purposes of determining damage dealt by sunlight. This lasts for 24 hours, starting when the subject emerges.
Flash Graft Treatment (prereq: Peace with the Flame): You use a system of skin grafts and mortal blood transfusions to bring dead flesh to a near-living state, allowing for rapid healing. Skin grafts must be prepared 24 hours in advance and allowed to soak in fresh human blood. To begin treatment, you wrap the grafts around the damaged regions, then inject them with fresh human blood, no more than a minute old. The subject's flesh is thus briefly reinvigorated, allowing Agg damage to be healed as if it was Lethal. Mortals become able to heal Lethal with Vitae, though obviously you need to give them Vitae to let them do so. If you do, this will also induce a stage two blood bond (as you are providing the Vitae intravenously) and may also be used to turn them into a ghoul.

Next time: The Mystery of the Wyrm and the Mystery of the Voivode


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Mystery of the Wyrm holds that vampirism is no curse or affliction - it is a blessing. The problem is just that the Beast is savage and really panicky when you get down to it. Thus, the Mystery tries to fix that, refining the Beast and making it more obedient to your desires. Scales of the Wyrm, even by Ordo standards, are savage and monstrous - dissection, forced frenzy, and so on. The focus is on guiding the Beast and augmenting your natural abilities.

Coil of the Wyrm 1: Stir the Beast. You may now spend Willpower to enter frenzy without a cause. When you do, you pick a target or goal, no more than a few words, which becomes your frenzy objective. You have no more control over your actions than any involuntary frenzy, and all attempts to escape the frenzy before its goal is met are at a penalty. When the goal is no longer pressing or possible, the frenzy ends. You can, however, use this reflexively and to avoid involuntary frenzy, so that's handy.
Coil of the Wyrm 2: Beast's Hunger. Whenever you frenzy, for any reason, you add your Coil dots to Blood Potency for purposes of Kindred senses and predatory aura.
Coil of the Wyrm 3: Leash the Beast. You no longer need to spend Willpower to attempt to ride the wave, and you add your Coil dots to the roll.
Coil of the Wyrm 4: Beast's Power. When you enter frenzy, you may choose to not resist at all, enterining a frenzy that will not end until the Beast is sated. (You can still ride the wave, however.) If you do, you add Blood Potency to Defense, Health and Speed for the duration.
Coil of the Wyrm 5: Eternal Frenzy. While you are in frenzy, you will not fall to torpor even if you are full up on Lethal damage. If you end frenzy while still full on Lethal, you will immediately enter torpor. However, you may now retain your frenzy beyond the end of the scene, riding the wave from impulse to impulse until you are killed or choose to stop, which you may do at the end of any scene.

Sample Scales of the Wyrm:
Augmented Vitae Draught (prereq: Beast's Power). You prepare a container and various equipment to drain blood into it. Then, you put the needles into key veins in your chest, arms and legs, spending Vitae to make the blood flow as if using Physical Intensity. Your actual abilities remain unaltered. Instead, the Vitae goes into the container you prepared, where it remains potent for several hours. If any mortal drinks it in that period, the Vitae raises their stats as it would have yours...except that it lasts an entire scene, not a single turn. However, the solution is exceptionally poisonous and the physical augmentation is very hazardous. At the end of the scene, the subject collapses and takes Bashing based on the Vitae invested into the concoction, and also becomes addicted to blood.
Kindred Sense Endowment (prereq: Beast's Hunger). You prepare a concoction of blood and bone, boiled and distilled into a sludge over the course of two hours. You then apply this to a mortal's eyes and nose, then feed them the rest. The victim will shortly vomit that part out; that's fine, it's intended. The subject is sickened, but may now see and smell blood as a BP 2 vampire would. They also develop a hunger for human blood, as would a newly Embraced vampire, though it will not given them any benefits - just risk of Integrity loss and horrible sickness. These both last for about 24 hours.
Surgical Heart Removal (prereq: Eternal Frenzy). Over aobut six hours, you surgically remove a vampire's heart, customarily storing it in a black onyx box. You then rebind the veins. This is a very risky procedure, requiring an extended Medicine roll, and can be reversed with a similar one. If you pull it off, however, the subject is immune to stakes, but can no longer gain Vitae from feeding, though they may still use Vitae previously stored and can still gain it by methods other than feeding, such as blood sorcery rites. If the subject's body is destroyed, they will regenerate from the heart itself after an appropriate interval in torpor. If the heart is destroyed, they die instantly. (If you fuck up, they just enter torpor until you out the heart back. Fuck up bad enough, and you destroy the heart and send them into a permanent, mindly frenzy until their death at the end of the scene. Whoops.)

The Mystery of the Voivode looks at the blood and finds power. Other Dragons care about banes and the Beast, but the Voivode focuses on the power of the blood bond and the vampire-as-king. These Dragons seek to rise above the politics of the dead, becoming beings of pure and transcendent will, as Dracula was unquestioned in life. The Scales of the Voivode focus on servitude and blood. Often, experiments involve psychological torture, Vitae addiction and the creation of blood bonds, ghouls or even childer. As a result, these experiments tend to be done in even more secrecy than others.

Coil of the Voivode 1: Taste of Fealty. Each point of your Vitae now counts as two for the purposes of Vitae addiction. Further, only those with this Coil produce blood that will satisfy those addicted to your Vitae.
Coil of the Voivode 2: Into the Fold. You now experience blood sympathy towards those you have blood bound. Stage one bonds are four times removed, stage two are three times and stage three are twice removed. (If you're already related to them, use whatever connection is closest.)
Coil of the Voivode 3: Call to Serve. When you are making a blood bond, you may spend extra Vitae to speed it up. Three Vitae jumps straight to a stage two bond, while five goes straight to stage three. This Vitae must be shared over a period of no more than a few minutes, but you are not subject to the normal limits of Vitae spending per turn for it.
Coil of the Voivode 4: Voivode Undisputed. Those connected to you by blood sympathy get no bonus to use disciplines on you, and your blood sympathy bonus adds to resist blood bonds and contest the predatory aura of anyone bound to you.
Coil of the Voivode 5: The Vast Dynasty. You no longer automatically lose a dot of Humanity to perform the Embrace. Instead, it is a breaking point, and you get a small bonus to the roll.

Samples Scales of the Voivode:
Blood Cleansing Ritual (prereq: Taste of Fealty). You prepare a wash of animal blood, viscera and some of your own Vitae. You then repeatedly pour this into the subject's nose and mouth, typically while the subject is restrained. Each time you do so, you get to make a roll based on your Blood Potency to remove any blood bond the victim has. Despite the use of your Vitae as part of this, you create no blood bond towards yourself.
Fealty's Reward (prereq: Call to Serve). You can only ever do this to a mortal in a stage three blood bond to you. You feed on them until they have only one Health box not full of lethal damage, then slit your wrists and spill all the Vitae you gained into a basin. The subject then drinks the Vitae and rests for 48 hours. When they awaken, they are a ghoul, are full to natural capacity on Vitae and remain in this state for a full year, not just a month. They may renew this state only by you giving them the standard expenditure of Vitae. However, should the condition ever expire, they die immediately and rise as a draugr on the next new moon.
Mass Embrace (prereq: The Vast Dynasty). You get a group of people you want to Embrace, and ideally bring along some of your friends to help you. You bring the subjects into a low, concave space capable of containing large amounts of liquid. Then you hemorrhage out all of your Vitae. You move among the subjects, draining them all dry and bleeding the gains into the pool you've just made. Finally, you sip from the pool at your feet and inject it into the veins of all your now-dead subjects. After this, you should probably run for cover, but it isn't actually formally required. The subjects are all Embraced and rise at BP 1 and 1 Vitae. Each, however, rolls a chance die. Those that succeed have all their faculties. Those that fail awaken in Frenzy. Those that dramatically fial are draugr. Also, no matter what, this costs a full dot of your Humanity.
Sanguinary Invigoration (prereq: Into the Fold). You take a large syringe, extract some Vitae and mix it with some mystic ingredients. Within ten minutes, you inect this into a living human or animal vessel. (After ten minutes, it becomes worthless.) The victim is not killed, blood bond or even Vitae-addicted. Rather, they feel invigorated, like someone on a stimulant binge. This is all the victim gets. You, however, treat your Blood Potency as four dots lower when determining if you can feed from the subject, and four dots higher for determining the distance at which you can smell their blood. (In fact, I believe this applies to all vampires; the text is somewhat unclear.) This lasts for one week, though the side effects on the victim may wear off sooner. Any vampire that feeds on the subject besides you ingests some of your blood, with all the inherent risks, but those addicted to your blood will find it as satisfying as yours.

Next time: The hell is a Strix?


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Strix are eternal. They've been in the dark for as long as humanity has feared it, these strange shadow-creatures that hunger for life. You hear tales of corpses ripping from their graves, eating flesh and blood. These are not about draugr or revenants or vampires, not always. These are the strix - shadowy counterparts and perhaps even relatives of vampires. They are not and were never human. They steal life away by breath and move their shadow-bodies into corpses to experience the thrills of the flesh. They have no Humanity, but neither are they controlled by the Beast. The Strix are evil in a cold way. They hunger for life and hate the living for having what they lack. They see vampires as perversions, for the most part, creatures that need to learn to be truly inhuman. I mentioned that the strix enter corpses and control them? A vampire is a corpse.

In its natural form, a strix appears as an owl-shaped mass of smoke and shadow that is cast by no light. It is coherent only when perched and still. In motion, it half-flows, half-flies across the area is a blur of shadows and a mass of chilling cold. Even this is mere convenience - strix may abandon their owl shape entirely to flow through any crack or gap large enough to be seen by the naked eye, reforming as soon as they have the space to do so. Strix are vampires, much like the Kindred, in that they feed on the living - they absorb Vitae through breath. Some feast on sleeping victims, but they're equally capable of taking osmeone down and draining them. Legend tells of them feasting en masse after battles and mass carnage. They ignore most attacks, lacking physical form, but are not without weaknesses. They share the vampiric fear of sunlight and fire, but in a different way. They are not harmed by these things - rather, to the strix, sunlight and fire are impenetrable barriers of light which they cannot cross. Every strix has additional banes on top of that, which can drive them away or injure them.

The Strix hate all living beings for the vital force within them that the owls lack. They steel Vitae by feeding, but many want more. They want to experience the life denied them, to eat, and fight, and have sex, and fel pain. Some want to punish the living by destorying their lives. Some want to show Kindred how to be true monsters. Most of them achieve these goals by theft. They perch on corpses, as if to feed, but rather than draw out breath, they force themselves in through the mouth and nose, down the throat and into the gut. There, they settle into the bones and viscera and take over the corpse. Inside, they now can experience all flesh. If they know how, they can steal breathe while embodied, but for most Strix it's just a chance to go joyriding in violence. Often, they eat the flesh of their victims, gaining Vitae this as a near-afterthought. Others feed more calmly by drinking blood - though, lacking fangs or the Kiss, their rotting hosts need to find other ways to get it.

To the strix, vampires are an excellent host. They're still dead bodies, after all, but they don't decay, they can feed more efficiently, they're often full of Vitae that the strix can tap into and, frankly, fuck the Kindred. They deserve it, sneaking around and pretending they aren't monsters. Not every city has had a strix attack, but there's always rumors of yellow-eyed demons and evil shadows, though not all realize these refer to strix, or even that strix exist. Most strix are far too patient, after all. Their hatred is cold, not wild. They infiltrate. And even then, they're exceptionally rare. Accusations of strix possession are far more common than the Birds of Dis themselves.

There are two surefire ways to know if someone is possessed by a strix. One is subtle: it's in the eyes. When light catches them just right, the eyes of a strix glow yellow, no matter what form they're wearing at the time. The more violent and easier way is sunlight. A possessed vampire's soul is dormant, and the banes it faces are the strix's, not the vampire's. Hiding inside a corpse protects the strix from its banes, so they don't really harm it. Fire still burns, but only as much as any corpse. Sunlight? A vampire with an Owl inside can walk untouched by the sun's curse. There's only one known to kill the strix inside the host, though: if the body is destroyed while completely surrounded by one of the strix's banes, the owl has nowhere to go and dies. Most of the time, this means incineration. Only a body reduced entirely to ash, with no exposed parts, is certain to keep a strix from escaping. Yoiu'd wonder, incidentally, whether Auspex can tell a strix from a vampire. The answer? A strix inside a vampiric host looks exactly the same as a vampire who's committed diablerie. Exactly the same. Funny, that.

Vampires know a group of strix as a 'parliament', and these gthaterings are very rare. Most owls operate singly, isolated by choice. When a parliament of Owls gathers, it's a signal of doom for the city. War, natural disaster, plague - all of these can follow a parliament. It's said that in ancient Rome, an entire clan was destroyed by the strix in reprisal for some forogten sins. The owls came into the city from the darkness outside, possessing the clan and forcing them to slaughter each other. Desperate to end it, the other Kindred of Rome slaughtered any of that clan they found themselves, possessed or not. It is known that in 1303, strix-ridden bodies rose from the sea in Alexandria after a major tsunami and earthquake. Somehow, they knew where tind the havens of every vampire in the city. Only one survived, maddened by the experience, to tell the tale. In 1547, the Caesar of Moscow was diablerized publically by his own childe and heir presumptive. The childe claimed not to remember, and might have become Caesar had their support not all died by fire. In 1738, hundreds of strix appeared in Transylvania alongside the bubonic plague, attacking any vampires they found for no clear reason. This started an eight year war between the Romanian vampires and the strix, which the vampires won. The majority of known strix lore in Europe and Russia descends from this conflict, though its reasons have never been discovered.

Strix are intelligent creatures and can speak, though in their natural form their voices speak directly into the minds of those they talk to. Sometimes, they are talkative. They claim a shared bond of history and hunger with Kindred. They claim to have taught the first Kindred to survive, nurturing their Beasts until they had the instinct to do what must be done to live. Sometimes, the strix claim to be the Beast, that every vampire is host to a dormant strix that whispers to them. Some even say that the existence of human vampires is a gift given by the strix to mortal cannibals and pathetic minor undead, ghosts or whatever. The strix honestly cannot seem to make their minds up on how they're related to vampires - but all see the relation as self-evident and become very cruel when it is denied. No matter what, however, they take the human side of vampires as a denial. They only approve of the most monstrous, debased vampires and of draugr, and then just grudgingly. After all, even then a vampire has physical form, strength and the joy of blood flowing down their throat. All undeserved.

The strix no longer recall much of their own history. They have been in the world since the first fires were lit to ward off darkness. They are not spirits, nor ghosts, nor demons, though some vampires might argue otherwise on that point. Legends get them all tangled in with the origins of vampires, sometimes treating them as the first Kindred, or the catalyst for the first Embrace, or those who raised the first postmortem Embraces to full Kindred. There is reason to believe that, like Kindred, they're actually many distinct types of creature with many similarities rather than a single line. The strix have never gone away since they came, though. They may have come from some other world, but none remmeber it, even if they claim to. They don't age, but they die when destroyed, and when they reproduce the original strix is lost and two new ones take its place. All modern Owls are as native to this world as the vampires they often prey on. Their reproduction occurs when a particularly old and powerful strix just tears itself in half. Occasionally, new strix seem to just appear out of nowhere, coalescing near mass graves or murder victims. Legend claims that the Julii founder had a way to reach a strange, hungry place outside the world, where he made a bargain with the strix that his clan later broke. It doesn't really matter where the strix came from, though. They're here, and have always been here.

Next time: Strix mechanics


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

In many ways, the strix rules are similar to the ephemeral entity rules used for ghosts or spirits - but there are some key differences. Strix aren't ephemeral. Their natural state isn't in Twilight, they haven't got Rank or Essence, they have neither Influences nor Numina, and they don't have bans or banes the way spirits or ghosts do. However, in many other ways they are quite similar.

Strix do not have Blood Potency, because, among other things, they don't have blood or drink it. Instead, they have Shadow Potency. It does a lot of the same things - it determines stat caps, how many dots of attributes the strix has, how many Dread Powers it gets and what Embodiments it can use. It also determines max Vitae pool and how uch Vitae can be spent for turn, and how many extra banes the strix has. Unlike vampires, however, strix have no Shadow Potency-based feeding restrictions, even when possessing a vampire. If an elder is suddenly and inexplicably able to feed on mortals or animals again, that's a bad sign. Strix gain a dot of Shadow Potency every 100 years. Other than that, the only way it rises is diablerie - either possessing a vampire who commits diablerie on another vampire or by feeding on and diablerizing another strix in shadow form. Strix immediately gain any new attribute dots, powers and so on when they rise in Shadow Potency. Because strix do not enter torport, they never reduce their Shadow Potency. Instead, at any time, they can roll Shadow Potency to split off a 'child', dropping their Shadow Potency by however many successes and giving those dots to a new 'baby.' If a Strix has SP 10 and would gain a new dot, it must do this.

Strix can store and use Vitae in all the ways vampires can, but with some key differences. First, they can boost any stat, not just physicals, and they get more of a bonus from doing so. Second, they have different powers they activate with Vitae. Third, they don't need to spend Vitae to rise from daysleep because strix never sleep, not even when in a vampire host. They may spend Vitae to heal a host as if it was a vampire. Shadow vitae cannot sustain life, so strix can only feed ghouls by possessing a vampire, and being possessed by a strix does not make a mortal into a ghoul. Strix may also spend Vitae to regain Willpower once per scene. In shadow form or when embodied and using the Breath Drinking Dread Power, strix feed directly on the life force of the living. They must be within a foot of the victim's mouth - and usually closer. They then grapple and 'bite' the victim, drinking their breath away. They may also feed on each other by colliding and forcibly merging, rather like diablerie. Both strix roll as if feeding, stealing Vitae back and forth. If one of them loses all Vitae, they take Lethal damage instead. Once a strix has gotten another to the point of death, they can then diablerize them, destroying them utterly and gaining a dot of Shadow Potency. Strix can also feed in other ways depending on how they are embodied. Even while embodied, strix are entirely immune to blood addiction and the Vinculum.

Strix have ephemeral entity attributes, but possess skills as normal. They start with Brawl, Athletics and Occult at 2, and anything else is leanred by feeding or reading the minds of hosts. They do have Willpower, and may spend it to heal their shadow forms. They do not have Virtues, Masks, Dirges or Touchstone. They do, however, have a Vice, the urge that pushes them to sek a body. They regain 1 WP per night at sunset, but only if when they perceive that the sun has set - so a strix underground won't get it back until they can see the night sky.

Strix have Corpus like spirits and ghosts do, rather than Health. They are immune to almost all physical attacks, though some rare magical ones can harm them - primarily Cruac rites, high-level Disciplines and some banes. Strix do not naturally heal other than in the methods above. Their injuries appear as tears on their shadow form. They do not ever fall unconscious, no matter how hurt they are, and they can only be destroyed by a full track of aggravated damage. They are immune to any physical or ephemeral attack that does not cause aggravated damage - and those only cause bashing damage to them. Any time they take lethal or agg damage (for real, that is) they also lose Vitae equal to the damage. However, while within a host, a strix is entirely safe - any damage is done to the host rather than the Owl. Strix do not speak language, because they are telepathic with anyone they can make eye contact with, which causes their eyes to flash yellow in any form. In a host, they can speak any language the host knows or can still use their native telepathy. Most stick to language when in a host.

Fire and sunlight, as noted, do not physically harm a strix unless it is entirely surrounded by them. Instead, any strix hit by sunlight or flames is forced to retreat by any means available, even possessing a host or hiding through small gaps if it must. If it has no merans of escape, it takes 1L per minute of exposure. Host bodies protect against the damage and repulsion, though fire will still damage a host normally. Starting at Shadow Potency 3 and every two levels after, strix gain a new bane, similar to those developed by vampires.

Sample banes:
Abjuration: The strix is vulnerable to abjuration, warding and exorcism as if it were a spirit, which can forcibly end their Embodiments.
Bells: The strix can't stand the sound of bells - true bells, not recordings - and takes (Shadow Potency) dice of Bashing for each minute of exposure.
Counting: The strix must stop to count anything in disarray, even in shadow form. Unless injured or forced to stop, it will not stop counting for (Shadow Potency) minutes.
Loner: The strix cannot handle the presence of other strix, and must retreat if it comes within (Shadow Potency) yards of one.
Material Bane: The strix is repulsed by a substance as if it were sunlight, and if the material is used as a weapon against them, even in shadow form, it deals lethal damage.
Running Water: The strix treats flowing water and the air above it as if it were sunlight. It can fly over a bridge, but not an open stream, and it takes 1L per turn if immersed in moving water.

Strix sometimes claim to be the Beast within vampires, and many believe them. They never frenzy, but even in shadow form, they trip the predatory aura. Vampires may sense strix as if they were vampires, and a strix can sense both vampires and other strix. Neither is able to tell the two apart by aura alone. (A vampire's first instinct when sensing a presence they can't see is usually 'vampire with Obfuscate' rather than 'strix'.) Strix may lash out with their aura just as vampires can.

Next time: Strix powers


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

There are four universal powers that all strix share. First, they have the Gathering Cry - the ability to spend Willpower and let out a high-pitched screech audible to other strix, certain animals, children, and vampires (or other critters) with enhanced senses. It extends out several miles and is used only in rare cases, such as crises. Second, strix have the Owl Eyes. They can see in total darkness without trouble, and get a big bonus to vision rolls if there is light enough for a human to see by. Third, they have the Taint of Life, the ability to sense and track prey by its life energy or Vitae. They can sense any living thing or anything with Vitae inside it within several yards and are extremely good at tracking anyone they've taken Vitae from before. Lastly, strix possess the Doom Sense, an innate ability to sense destiny and impending disaster. Without powers to further evolve this ability, all they know is if some disaster is happening within the next few months, though they can always sense any active powers or Merits that fuck with luck or fate.

Further, a Strix gains more Embodiment abilities as its Shadow Potency rises. At 1, it can only exist in its shadow form and has no other ability to interact with the world. However, at 2, it gains the ability to possess a corpse by pouring itself into the thing. While in a corpse, it uses the physical attributes it had in life, but its own mental and social ones. Any damage is dealt to the corpse, which only takes Bashing from any attack except for banes that say otherwise. Corpses can remain active until filled with agg damage. A strix in a corpse cannot use any of the host's skills or languages, but can sitll use any skills it already has. If it has the Auspex power The Spirit's Touch, however, it may read the host's memories as if it was a revenant. We'll get to that in a moment. While in a corpse this way, a strix can only feed by devouring living human flesh, at a rate of 1 Vitae per 2L damage, or by drinking vampiric blood. Every minute the strix remains in the corpse, it hastens the body's decay. It loses one dot of attributes per week. When it hits Strength 0, it can no longer lift anything or inflict melee damage. When it hits Dexterity 0, it can no longer move. When it hits Stamina 0, it instead begins to lose 1 box of Health per week. When Health hits 0, the body collapses into a useless heap and the strix is ejected. If the body is destroyed by damage, however, if the final turn's damage was more than the strix's Shadow Potency, the full damage is also dealt to the strix itself. Strix can possess any corpse short of a skeleton, but any existing rot removes stats the same way.

At SP 3, a strix may invade and take over the body of a sleeping revenant, sending their mind into torpor and all its dreams while they joyride. The victim's banes are replaced by those of the strix, and the strix uses their physical attributes. You use the strix's SP and Vitae capacity, not the host's Blood Potency, but damage is dealt to the host via normal vampire rules. Staking has no effect beyond the damage it inflicts, as the revenant is already in torpor. (Likewise, it won't stop moving until full up on agg.) The strix may read the host's mind after the first night and can tap into their skills and Disciplines with increasing ease over time. The revenant's corpse does not decay like a normal corpse does, so the strix can stay in until it's destroyed. While in a vampiric body of any kind, the strix can drain blood as a vampire would, with all benefits of the Kiss, and also gets all the Vitae the host had when it took over, up to its cap. Revenant bodies do not lose all Vitae each night while possessed. The strix may also commit diablerie while in a vampiric host, and both the host and strix get the benefits - though the host still loses a dot of Humanity. Any other breaking points are at the GM's discretion. If the strix leaves before the host dies, they are treated as a torpid vampire reaching the end of their torpor, and retain any Vitae left in them when the strix.

At SP 4, a strix can possess a full kindred, not just a revenant. There are a few changes, though. A kindred must be torpid, not just sleeping, and a strix has no access to any blood sorcery, Coil benefits, Carthian Law or Invictus Oaths - and the other side of the Invictus Oath loses the oath's benefits while the victim is possessed. Strix can Embrace while in a vampiric host, but lacking Humanity, it almost exclusively produces revanants. (Side note - at this level, a strix can also possess a Sin-Eater, Mummy or Promethean, but gets no access to any soul-based powers, just any that are part of the host's physical nature. Mummies immediately, as a result, die and become corpse-hosts.)

At SP 5, a strix can possess a living host. The process of possession damages the host and gives the strix Vitae from it. If the host survives, the strix sends their mind and soul into dormancy, returning only if the strix ends the possession while the host lives. Strix do not fall unconscious from bashing damage while in living hosts, and they can tap into memories and skills as before. However, it is difficult for a strix to keep a body healthy. They often forget to eat, and if they take full lethal damage, the body will die and become a corpse-host. While living, the strix may spend Vitae to heal the host as if they were a ghoul, and they do still heal naturally. A living host can drink vampire blood as ghouls do to provide the strix with Vitae, and the Strix can also 'farm' the living host for its own life energy, damaging it for Vitae as it likes. This level allows them to possess werewolves, mages, changelings or demons - but, again, they lack any soul-based powers, such as magic or Gifts. They do, however, retain werewolf shapeshifting at the GM's whim.

Where shit gets real weird, especially with nonstandard supernatural hosts, is at SP 6: Synthesis. The strix can permanently infuse a bit of itself into its victim. It must be possessing the host to do this. If it succeeds, weird things start happening. Corpse hosts are immediately turned into Kindred with BP 1, losing Humanity equal to however much Shadow Potency the strix spent to fuel this. Revenants become full Kindred but also lose Humanity this way. Kindred gain Blood Potency equal to the Shadow Potency lost, but lose that much Humanity. Living hosts are damaged by the ability. If they die, they are raised the next night as BP 1 Kindred. The Clan of the new vampire is that of the last vampire the strix fed on. If that doesn't exist, it is the clan of the vampire that made the revenant. If it's not a revenant, the clan is randomly determined.

At SP 7, the strix is able to force its shadow-self into a materialized state. It uses all of its normal stats for shadow form, but can attack others physically and can be attacked physically...though it still takes only Bashing damage from any source but a bane. It may feed normally, or by eating flesh or drinking vampiric blood. At SP 8, the strix may also enter Twilight, to better hunt ghosts. While in Twilight, it is invisible and intangible, and any damage it suffers from banes is reduced one step - to nothing, if it would take Bashing. It may perceive and interact with ghosts and spirits, and may feed on their corpus for Vitae. However, it is stuck in this form until it forces itself back to materiality, and doing so costs a dot of Shadow Potency.

At SP 9, a strix may teleport by leaping into a shadow and emerging from any other shadow within seeral miles. However, doing so costs it 1L per mile traveled, plus 1L. It may even do this in a host body, causing the host to take the damage - but doing so costs it Vitae as well. At SP 10, the strix nears the abilities of the primeval ancestors it had that first entered our world. It may make an area of darkness into a gateway to the world the strix came from. This requires an area of at least a cubic yard in which there is no illumination whatsover. The strix enters the area as if it were a host, integrating itself into the shadow-space the strix originated in. Anything with a taint of strix nature, such as other strix, vampires or ghouls, may cross over into the strix world ofr a single Willpower. However, the gate remains open for only one scene, and anyone who does not cross back in time is lost forever. While the gate is open, new strix occasionally emerge from it.

Next time: Dread Powers


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Dread Powers are the things that individual strix develop but which aren't universally shared. They gain them as they rise in Shadow Potency, and lose them when they drop down. They come in several types. First are the Doom Powers which augment the strix's ability to sense disaster and, to some degree, shape it.

See the Cracks: The strix is able to sense the Vice, Integrity and related Conditions of humans, or the Humanity, related conditions and banes of vampires.
Ambition's Source: The strix is able to sense the target's Aspirations.
Tip of the Tounge (prereq: SP 2): The strix gains a bonus to Manipulation-based rolls against a victim for a scene by anticipating what they are going to say and think.
Web of Destiny (prereq: SP 3): The strix can bend probability, either giving itself 8-again for a while or giving a victim a penalty to all rolls for a while.
The Beast's Rebuke (prereq: SP 4): The strix can strike a vampire with hallucinations that tempt them to indulge their Beast for several nights, causing penalties to intarct with mortals or resist frenzy. Further, while suffering from these visions, the vampire gains no benefit from Touchstones.
False Fiend (prereq: SP 4): The strix may curse someone it touches with the appearance of being possessed by a strix - waxy and corpselike skin, eyes that glint yellow, apparent (but not actual) immunity to sunlight and fire for vampires, and so on. This lasts for several nights.
Vice Manipulation (prereq: SP 5): The strix may alter the victim's Vice (or equvalent trait) to one of its choice for a month.

Host Powers are those which alter a strix's Embodiments or abilities within them. Most of these powers are permanent alterations rather than active abilities.

Breath Eater (prereq: SP 2): The strix may feed by breath-stealing even while embodied in a host.
Hollow Bones (prereq: SP 3): A possessed host of the strix has tripled jumping distance and reduced falling damage, plus the ability to spend Vitae to ensure landing safely on all fours.
Sheep's Clothing (prereq: SP 3): As long as the strix possesses Vitae above a certain level, the host shows no signs of physical degradation, though they are still occurring beneath the illusion.
Preservation (prereq: SP 5): Corpses the strix possesses do not decay. Living hosts continue to age but do not die of old age. Instead, they are warped to become more strix-like, growing claws and fangs and eventually resembling a walking corpse with a permanent snarl. If the possession lasts longer than a year, the body become so warped that when the strix leaves, the host dies.
Contagious Genesis (prereq: SP 6): The strix may create a new strix within a v ampiric host, holding it dormant in the host's blood and draining the host's Blood Potency instead of the Strix's Shadow Potency. If the embodied strix then feeds that blood to something the child-strix can possess, the child awakens and immediately possesses the victim. Otherwise, it awakens and is ejected from the shared host after several nights.
Talons of Fury (prereq: SP 7): The strix's talons and beak deal aggravated damage while materialized.

Shadow Powers grant the strix control and communion with the darkness that it lives within.

Sudden Surprise: The strx gains a large bonus to ambushing others.
Screech (prereq: SP 2): The strix can make a horrible screech that stuns its victim.
Smoke and Mirrors (prereq: SP 3): The strix may manipulate shadows and smoke to create illusory distractions. It is easiest for the strix to create shadow copies of itself or its hosts, and more difficult to make more abstract shapes. Taken a second time at SP 7, the strix can even make its illusions physical to an extent, allowing them to harm others (and be physically damaged or destroyed).
Labyrinth (prereq: SP 5): The strix takes control of a building, sealing all exits and making them vanish, except for a single access point of its choice, which need only be large enough for the strix to get out of in shadow form, but can be larger if it wants.

Vitae Powers give the strix altered or increased ability to consume and use Vitae.

Indomitable: The strix is immune to Majesty, Nightmare, Obfuscate, Dominate or any other mind-affected discipline, and when targeted by one has a chance to reflect the power back on its user, penalizing their mental and social rolls for the rest of the night.
Kindred Disciplines: The strix gains (Shadow Potency) dots spread among any Disciplines it has ever encountered, and may give up dots to gain Devotions instead. It cannot use this power to gain Theban Sorcery, but can learn Cruac and Cruac rituals. However, this still requires blood for all but the first point of Vitae, so it can only be used in a vampire host or by sacrificing vampire captives. This power can be taken multiple times.
Command the Lost (prereq: SP 4): The strix must target someone whose will is broken, by the strix or others. This includes any third stage blood bond, having no Willpower points, or having any of the Broken, Fugue, Intoxicated, Enervated or Soulless conditions. For the rest of the night, the victim must obey any instructions the strix gives, even fatal ones, and may not spend Willpower to resist any of the strix's abilities.
Shadow Infection (prereq: SP 8): The strix can put forth an enervating aura. All living beings near the strix get a penalty to all rolls and take 1L, giving the Strix 1 Vitae each. Vampires and ghouls in the area cannot spend Vitae. All of these effects last for one scene.
Soul Bite (prereq: SP 7): The strix can now attack the soul. The victim must be a conscious, living human with no supernatural powers. The strix removes the victim's soul, causing the Soulless condition. This cannot be diablkerized, but does continue to produce Vitae. The strix can shove the soul into an object, making it a phylactery that produces Vitae the strix can absorb by touch. However, anything not absorbed is lost - the phylactery can never hold more than 1 Vitae. Occasional variant powers exist that allow the strix to do things to the victim by doing things to the phylactery.

Next time: Sample striges


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The strix are a very diverse crowd. One of the more 'normal' strix is known as Anna Red. She's more rumor than fact, but is a very widespread rumor. All sorts of stuff is blamed on Anna Red. A Nosferatu vanishes in Portland. A ghoul family is massacred in Georgia. All sorts of stuff gets blamed on her. A lot of vampires don't think Anna Red exists as more than an urban legend and convenient name for fear. The truth? She's around. She's a cunning sort, and sees her work almost as art. She likes a refined sort of fear. She starts off by killing some random person that won't be missed, then again, and so on. Eventually the cops realize a serial killer is out there - though sometimes she has to start leaving clues to get them on that track. The media begins to get involved, but because of who Anna targets, the community rarely rallies. She leaves just enough clues to get vampires to believe it's another vampire doing the killing. She evades the cops for a while and the vampires begin to grow concerned and start covering things up. That's when she moves on to committing hate crimes on minority groups, in order to get people angry and suspecting coverups. Once that happens, she will pick a random, completely average family and breakinto their home. Ideally, this sparks a panic and a few copycats. That's when she finally goes after a respectable, wealthy person, ideally a vampire or servant of one, and kills them in public but without being spotted, always in a clearly supernatural manner and always leaving the victim drained of blood. Then she has fun keeping the panic going for a while before getting bored and wandering away for a few years to hunt travelers.

Then you have the Baron. Since 1853, it's been riding around in a Mekhet by the name of Boron Ornskold, who was less than a decade dead when he ran into the owl. It diablerized Ornskold's sire, the Countess Oxenstierna, and then took off for America, for safety. Since then, Ornskold has been torpid in his own body and the strix has done a very good job pretending to be him. He's sired three childer, none of which have spoken to the actual Mekhet. All are in some way marked by strix weirdness, but only one suspects anything is up. The Baron enjoys his life as a eccentric vampire in an expensive manor house, maintaining his charade of vampirism with care. He sees himself as a hunter of other vampires, but the joy is in the hunt, not the catch, and his grounds are his manor. He only ever picks those vampires that will not be missed - mostly itinerant Gangrel or outcast Nosferatu, though he will occasionally spice it up with more potent prey. His first method, the one he favors, is to get his prey to come to him. He does, after all, have a carefully grown reputation for listening to and hjelping the oviceless. Many come to him for aid. Three out of four are allowed to leave. The other method is kidnapping, and he only uses it when very hungry. Regardless of how he gets his prey, however, it all ends the same: the victim awakens in the mansion to find all the exits have vanished. The Baron appears and tells them that if they can escape the place intact, they may go free. Very few ever manage it.

The Black Cat is a strix that prefers to hide within animals. They coexist with humans, so it has plenty of prey. Once it has a dead animal to live in, it starts looking for vampires, studies them to learn about them and then begins to plan. The Black Cat has a goal: it wants to tear down the kingdom of glass that vampires have made for themselves, to show them the truth: they're monsters, cannibals that prey on their former families, bringing pain and misery wherever they go. They're just pretending to be refined, having forgotten the laws of the jungle. The B lack Cat hates vampires because of this, because they have forgotten that it is force that proves their worth. It almost respects those vampires that set themselves up as kings and queens of blood, but the days of these old tyrants are gone. The Black Cat hates the modern world for its bringing of weakness to the Beast, and it wants to bring things back to the hunter's paradise, one vampire at a time. It will only ever use animal hosts, and will do anything it can to provoke the Beasts of the vampires it stalks. It will occasionally possess draugr, whom it likes for having returned to their primal selves. When it speaks, which is rare, it says that vampires were made to be the world's greatest predator - untiring, unaging, immune to disease and poison, hunting by night. They were meant to rule the night, but now they hide and humans rule the world. The Black Cat wants to remind them that they aren't a 'who' - they're a 'what.'

Granny is one of the rare strix that tries to both be hidden and notorious. She presents herself as a benevolent old creature while leaving a deliberate trail of clues that point to her true nature. She prefers to wear the bodies of kindly-looking old women, often making deals with them to get their cooperation. She is a strange and quiet creature that trades advice for trinkets and small favors. Her advice is well sought, but she's never easy to find. She is always helpful and insightful, however. Most who know of her believe her to be some kind of witch or perhaps a knowledge spirit. Her price is always low, but her advice and her cost are always chosen to benefit her. She gives advice that nudges people to what she wants, and her price is never as harmless as it first seems. Granny is excellent at seeing the web of influence and connection around her and loves finding just the right thread to pull to cause disaster. It can never be easily traced to her, but she loves putting out clues that she knows her mental inferiors will never find. Sometimes, she is wrong. She doesn't especially favor any specific kind of disaster, save that she likes targeting the wealthy and powerful. She sees herself as a master of manipulation and is proud of it. The effect is less important to her than the act - she'll as happily cause plane crashes as ruin happy marriages. The problem is that since the consequences rarely hit those who come to her for aid and her advice is so good, many would still seek her out if they knew what was going on and even what she was. Granny is not entirely indirect, however. She becomes extremely enraged when her plans are foiled, and she is nowhere near as old or fragile as her favored bodies look. When angered, she sprouts owl talons and attacks, then generally finds a way to make the death cause more chaos and keep her hidden. However, she finds simple murder to be unspeakably unartistic most of the time.

Hantu the Sorcerer is first mentioned in legends from Indonesia. Unlike most strix, it never possesses vampires and only rarely possesses corpses. Instead, it sticks to its natural form, though it does raise zombies as servants at times. Hantu despises the Kindred for reasons now lost even to it. It prefers not to speak anyway, keeping its mystery to enhance the fear its victims feel. Some believe it once made a clan, but they betrayed or failed it. These theories claim Hantu was the Mekhet progenitor, and certainly it seems to hate the Mekhet more than other clans. The problem is that it is a master of dark magic, having learned its skills over centuries. It is more skilled in blood sorcery than any mortal or vampire, and legend holds it even can command souls. Some say that vampires themselves are unsafe from its soul hunger - it diablerizes them and uses their souls to fuel its powers. Whether true or not, it certainly does prefer to keep some victims, often Mekhet, 'alive' and incapacitated. No one knows why. Hantu is rarley seen in urban areas, and always at times of great disaster for vampires. Once, this meant vampire hunting crusades, inexplicble thinning of the Blood or plagues that killed most of a domain's mortals. In the modern era, vampires blame Hantu for bridge collapses, tornados and ice storms. Hantu is one of the most feared of the strix, especially by elder vampires.

The Lady of Shivs is a strix that works to vent her rage against the elder vampires. Three incidents are known to be her fault. One of them ended with every vampire in one city gone without trace. Her MO is subtle - she recruits the weak and the bottom of vampiric society, uniting them under banner of revolution. She works her way up by charisma and perceptiveness, personalizing her pitch to her audience. She brings the hope of change to young vampires, and when her nature is finally discovered, she has built an army of fanatics. Tensions rise around her, and even the most skilled politicians find their options limited to violence. The best way to handle her is to find her early, before she has a chance to build up her forces. That's not easy, though, and she's just one strix. Often the paranoia of her is just as bad.

The Lord of Irons likes cops. Mostly corrupt and brutal ones. It enjoys being them. It doesn't wreck societies - it's just a parasite, enjoying the failings of law and order. It doesn't scheme - it's up close and personal. It just does this because it's fun, because it's thrilling. It messes with its victims, and sometimes it loses. Then it just finds a new host and moves on. Sometimes, it's simple - beat someone up badly, discredit them, whatever. Sometimes it's subtle - take bribes, allow crime to happen, tamper with evidence. It's never very long-term. The Lord of Irons is a creature of instant gratification, with no true goal. It just likes ruining lives. It's spiteful, vindictive - and because it doesn't care about sticking around, it doesn't hold back. It usually takes over a crooked cop, since that's easier for it to do unnoticed, especially in underfunded departments where crime is already high. It prefers poor targets. It is persistent - if caught or killed, it tries again with a new cop, usually going for revenge on whoever spoiled its fun. Usually, it's caught and driven off after a month or two, but that's plenty of time. Some who notice its trail of rotted corpses suspect a curse or angry spirit. His victims really don't have many options except getting friends to help protect them, unfortunately, given how determined the strix is to cause problems and how little it cares about its hosts.

Marty Baxton, Bax if you're a friend, seems to be an easygoing Carthian neonate. He's awkward but friendly enough and seems lacking in guile. He has little ambition and is quick to make friends and help others for little payment. He knows he's being used but doesn't care as long as it's friendly. And...well, Marty is a strix. He's not really malicious. He just likes pretending to be a vampire. He has no apparent goal, and the only real odd thing about him is that he doesn't frenzy or even get angry - though sometimes he'll feign anger, though the clever will notice that it's not very sincere. This is because the strix inside doesn't really get emotion. It finds pleasure easiest to understand and is trying to leanr anger, but finds it difficult to feel. It wants to avoid making waves and is eager to please. Most take it for a fool and are happy to use and discard Marty, unaware that as they do, the strix is learning more and more about them and how they think. Smetimes, Marty will give away the secrets he learns, because his payment is learning to hide among and master the emotions of those around him. His ultimate foal is unclear, perhaps even to himself. For now, he just studies, makes allies and gathers secrets. Perhaps one day he'll go for a power play or spread mass chaos among his community, then vanish to do the same thing again somewhere new.

Mother is a strix that has lost her way. She once had a purpose. She had wrath that sustained her, a line of vampires that she once tormented. They're gone now. There's no joy for Mother in tormenting the children of another. She wants something new, exciting. Specifically, Mother wants to make a new clan of vampires so she can spend her time joyfully tormenting them and venting her rage upon them. Owl imagery is common in the legends of the Daeva and other clans, and it is believed that the Julii were somehow created by the Strix. Mother has no idea how, though. So far, all she can make are flawed creations, though she believes practice will improve her abilities. She lets her monsters run free, invariably to be destroyed by the sun, mortals or vampires. Thankfully, the stories of half-owl mutants are tabloid fodder, but vampires are afraid. These creatures are vampiric in that they drink blood, are undead and burn in sunlight, but all are monstrously deformed, with beaks or owl eyes or ugly feathery growths or mouths full of beak-like fangs. None can pass for human and none have any more intellect than a draugr. Mother doesn't mind. She may be decades away from her goal at best, but she's immortal. Few suspect a strix is behind these creatures, but all of them are a threat to the Masquerade and an affront to the pride of the Kindred. If Mother succeeds, a new clan will be born, and the Kindred do not like the new and unknown. Or perhaps Mother will end up tearing down the Masquerade. Either way, her creations need to be destroyed - and so does she.

Next time: More strix


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Mr. Scratch likes to break Princes. Not that they often need the help - many vampires go mad fine on their own. Mr. Scratch just helps it along. When a vampire wants power at any cost, Mr. Scratch is happy to help make them prince, or keep them there. But there's a price. Generally, the price is that he takes over your body and then uses your political power to fuck with people. Sometimes, he prefers a long game, running the chaos out as far as he can. Sometimes he is simple and brutal. Every so often he's just petty, doing things like banning the use of red clothes or other stupid edicts just to annoy people. The one thing he always has is a goal of undermining vampiric faith in their own societies. Beyond that, he's just bored. He wants to be entertained, and his entertainment is cruel and ridiculous. Sometimes, he burns a domain to ruin. Others, he's just goofy and harmless until some decade-later event brings it all down. His sense of humor is inhuman and usually fatal. If confronted, he often just leaves his host to take the fall and skips town. Mr. Scratch can be charming, charismatic or brutal as needed, and is very good at hiding what he is. He truly enjoys gaining the trust of an entire domain, then betraying them all and fucking off. If he beleves that someone has figured out his next action, he will always do the opposite - a trait that can be used to trap him.

Ms. Gem has a simple set of behaviors. Live hard, die young, find a new toy. She enjoys stealing the bodies of the young and thriving, then wringing them of all they have to offer. Drugs of all kinds, parties, extreme sports, sex, street fights, riots - anything exciting, fun or adrenaline-fueled. She'll do it over and over, until she destroys her host, then she'll move on to do it again. She prefers young, attractive and fit hosts, usually middle class and under 25, but she'll make exceptions for others that catch her eye. She takes them and rides them to destruction. She's not sadistic about it, just utterly indifferent and amoral. She doesn't care about those she hurts, she just wants to have fun. The fact that she ends up destroying lives and reputations is just how things are. She's selfish and sees the world purely in terms of obstacles to overcome or avoid and opportunities to seek out and savor. Ms. Gem also enjoys bodies that experience chronic and painful conditions, abusing them as much as she can to experience and savor the pain. When she gets a vampire, which isn't often, she is very happy - they're so resilient and can suffer and feel pleasure in so many ways. If she could, she'd love to try other supernaturals, too, but has never had the chance and is too impatient to plan out such a thing. She's been around since ancient Rome and knows quite a lot about their ancient mystery cults, but she doesn't care much about the knowledge. It's boring and valueless to her, and she'd happily trade it for some new fun.

Old Man Marshe likes to eat vampires. He is neither subtle nor suave. Indeed, he rarely even speaks. He just stalks and kills, and he's very good at it. He always goes after those who hunt vagrants, especially vampires, though a human is just as much fun for him to devour. And that's literal - he eats everything. Blood, flesh, bone and even clothes. All that ends up left are specks of blood and bone in his beard - because unlike most strix, his host always has the same appearance. He's an old, bald man with a long and scraggly beard full of gross bits. His eyes are always yellow and glossy, and his skin is covered in dark splotches. He does not appear to decay and he has never had another body. It is unclear if the strix preserves the body or if it transforms all of its hosts into that shape. His clothing is filthy and he stinks of urine, blood and booze. He lurches, but it is deceptively fast, even able to catch up with Celerity. Only a few have ever survived his attacks, and he is exceptionally strong, able to crush bone with his bare hands. He enjoys prolonging the suffering of his victims, killing from the feet up. He mutters strange things as he eats, usually unintelligible. He is rarely seen in the same place twice and he has never been caught by any vampires hunting him. Occasionally, a lucky and skilled vampire will escape him or defeat him, but even the greatest wounds have never slowed him down. When seen next, the wounds are always gone. Some vampires believe he heals his host by devouring others.

Pastor Samuel is a strix that saw early potential in religion. He's been many names for many years, but for the last 20, he's been the Pastor. He started a small church in a poor area, taking in the lost and disenfranchised by his charisma. From the outside, his church appears old and rundown, but inside it is warm and welcoming, though the iconography is surprisingly bloody. Pastor Samuel favors hellfire, damnation and demons in his sermons, and he actively encourages his flock to help him banish them. Violent criminals, suspected witches, vampires - especially vampires. He directs his loyal church to hunt them, helped by the information he gives them. They bring these creatures to the church, where they are burned in secret. Despite his age, 'Pastor Samuel' looks no different than he did thirty years ago. No one questions it, though. The strix has found a way to slow the corpse's decay, allowing it to hide the rot, but its people wouldn't care anyway. Samuel is their leader, period. They are a blind cult that believe in him utterly. He maintains himself on their freely offered blood and donations of money, which he has used to create a horrific dungeon under the church, in which his prey are 'cleansed' by blood and fire while the congregation prays. The church never meets except at night, and Samuel personally welcomes every new member. Once he's accepted them, they never feel again the need to belong or any uncertainty. They know their place in God's plan, and Samuel is happy to tell them what it is. He's also happy to burn vampires, because hey, if they want to call themselved Damned...

The Photographer is...different. It is obsessed with photographs. It will take any host that owns the equipment it wants - correct lenses and cameras, never digital. It is an artist, consumed with the need to take the perfect picture, captured in the perfect moment. Sure, you could work with software and airbrushes, but to the Photographer, that makes it painting. It wants pure, perfect photography. To do that, it needs the perfect object, which doesn't exist. So, instead, it creates it. The Photographer's camera does not capture reality as it stands, but as it could be if it were perfect. The act of taking the picture turns its subject into the perfect version of itself, making it and the picture flawless. All it costs is your soul. And hey, that doesn't show up on camera, right? The Photographer is a myth that passes between people who care about apperances - sometimes a catuionary tale, sometimes not. Youth and beauty are very tempting, after all. And it's real, the offer is genuine...and hey, maybe the people who take the deal end up robotic, distant, easily commanded...but that's just a job hazard for show business, right? The act of being photographed by the strix, however, is addicted - and those who keep coming back eventually go into a coma and die. And...well, it's not perfect. All the flaws the camera removed, everything stolen - that all ends up in the photo negatives. Develop the picture, it shows perfection, but the negative shows a run-down, broken world of flaws and failures...a vibrant, lively one, of course. (The Photographer's art uses a unique version of Soul Bite. It must be done to a target that consents to be photographed, and it only takes a part of the soul each time, but it can't be resisted and it also gives Striking Looks 2 and a persistent Addicted condition.)

The Ringmaster dates back to ancient Rome. It became fascinated by gladitorial combat. Bloodsport has fascinated vampires for a long time, as well, and the Ringmaster has decided to fill that need. Some of its shows are open to anyone that pays, some to only an exclusive few. It does not offer up mere violence, though. Its fights are special - supernatural. Vampire on vampire, vampire on hunters, vampire on werewolf, whatever he can arrange. The Ringmaster doesn't especially care where his marks come from. What he wants is to see the blood. He feeds on it, literally - every match drains the spilled blood into a tank the strix then bathes in. His matches are always to the death - you never get more than one loss. But even more than the blood, the Ringmaster loves the humiliation. He hates vampires, and he loves to see them debased, exposed for the pitiful worms they are before a roaring crowd. He revels in the loss of Humaniuty as the warriors fight and kill for no reason. He makes them into animals, and the equally animal viewers pay him for the privilege. Not all of his fighters are willing. He pays well, but some need convincing. That's why he uses a Ventrue host athat is a master of Dominate, and on top of that he's also learned some Majesty and is just charismatic on his own. And, of course, if need be he's not above kidnapping. His big weakness is that the Ringmaster is complacent. He's got a good thing going, he's spent time on it, and he will fight tooth and nail to keep it. He could start over, but his pride won't let him. His big strength? Almost everyone involved is willing. Sure, there's plenty that aren't, but most are. The crowd loves him, too. The Lancea et Sanctum thinks he's a valuable member. He's connected, and he'll use that to the fullest.

The Strix Hunter is weird even by strix standards. The strix aren't a monolith, of course. Each is its own mystery. To vampires, it seems the strix were made to harry them, but they also fight each other for reasons few outsiders could ever grasp. Their goals are sometimes at odds, and of course, they are hungry. They hunger for blood, yes, for Vitae...but they also hunger for each other. Vampires rarely have the chance to study this, but they know that sometimes, the strix are fierce with each other. You can't trust the enemy of your enemy, though. Even the most benign are monstrous predators with alien motives. The Strix Hunter, though, exclusively hunts other strix. It rarely explains why. Instead, it just tends to possess a vampire in a strix-heavy area and use the body to hunt down its prey. Once it corners them, it devours them. At that point it leaves its host, confused and having lost Humanity for no clear reason. It's clear the Strix Hunter gains something from it. No one is sure what. Some think that it uses vampires to do the devouring because diablerie is as much a sin for strix as for vampires. Others believe the Hunter just likes the rush and uses a body because that heightens the pleasure. Some wonder if the Strix Hunter, like vampiric elders, can no longer make do with mortal blood - or even vampiric blood.

Teach is a monster among monsters. It knows that preying on children is something only the worst creatures do...so it's decided that'll be its MO. It does not favor one gender or the other for hosts, but because of modern demographics, it often ends up in a female body. That's because Teach exclusively targets popular and beloved grade school teachers. Once it finds one, it takes over, feigning illness to avoid daylight when it can and having the kids come to it for well-wishing and questions. It brainwashes them into its own tiny cult. Teach has developed the power to brainwash children - and only children. The power doesn't work on adults for some reason. Teach will occasionally kill children, for food or fun, but the other kids do anything htey can to cover it up, even at the cost of their own lives. That's part of why Teach does it - it's an easy life to maintain, at the center of the web. When discovery looms, iut just kills all its slaves in a ritual murder-suicide, lets the news media do the rest and goes on its merry way, having ruined the life and reputation of an innocent teacher. This makes fighting it difficult - wait too long and it'll eat the kids, but tip your hand and they all die. Its weakness is the paper trial it's left. It does the routine every 10 years or so, starting 30 years ago. On the second one of these, someone almost found out its nature and it didn't cover up well enough. The clues are there for anyone to find, if they're willing to deal with vampires. Teach does have a goal - the killings are not random, though many are just for food. There is a method. It's working at a sorcerous pattern, though it's instinctive rather than conscious. Teach only knows the pattern exists, not what it does, and if that pattern can be broken, it will be too stunned even to harm its children.

The Thief of Masques has a really special hate on for vampires. Or, more specifically, for the Masquerade. It believes that vampires have become weak, letting themselves be ruled by fear of humans and the Beast. It wants to return them to their roots by fire. If the Masquerade falls, vampires either adapt or die. If they can't, they don't deserve to exist anyway. This makes the Thief one of the most dangerous strix. It knows why the Masquerade is there and how to break it. It likes flagrant displays of power and high profile violence. It's an excellent mimic, able to take on nearly any form, even those of its former victims. It often uses Disciplines so that it can fuck with the Masquerade even without a vampiric host. When it does take a host, it abuses its ability to walk in sunlight to overpower other vampires and stage high-profile crimes, particularly those that involve more violence to itself than any human could handle. It obviously draws the hatred of any vampires it meets, and sometimes other supernatural beings. It's hard to catch because it will flee if found without a host unless a fight would damage the Masquerade. It will happily possess anyone it needs and is very good at hiding when it has to. It will also happily bring hunters down on vampires, but only if it can ensure the information will somehow be spread. It thought the internet would be a great way to shatter the Masquerade, but it turns out that easily faked videos and Internet jadedness have been super disappointing to it. Still, it never stops trying.

Last on our list is Varney the Vampire. Strix occasionally do go mad. Vampires theorize that when not in a host, their minds often warp, much as some vampires can in torpor. This is why they make so many conflicting claims. Of course, they may just be lying. Varney - Francis Varney, these days - has lost most of the truth in all its lies. It haunts a family, the Bannerworths, who have long believed themselves cursed. Those who succeed in life invariably find their fortunes destroyed and often come to a violent end. Even marriage and relocation doesn't help. Ten generations ago, the strix - who has forgotten any name it had - possessed the Bannerworth patriarch, Matthias, initially just to torment people for its own amusment. It soon found it liked the body too much to give up. It remains in it for years, then decades, until the family could no longer ignore its lack of aging. By then it was far too late. Varney had become obsessed with the family, and it's driven him to follow future generations, scheming to ruin them. He's been great-grandfathers, great-uncles, inheritors, forgotten cousins...eventually, he took his current name, Francis Varney, and now terrorizes the descendants of the Bannerworths in many ways. Related families have also fallen into the web, like the Croftons. His memories are hazy and dreamlike, and both host and owl have had their memories mix together to make things even weirder. Now, all Varney knows is that the family is his, and he wants to torment them. This comes from his cruelty and his hatred of humans. Unfortunately, he focuses his efforts solely on the Bannerworths and Croftons and anyone that marries in. He preys on them in ways that make the agony prolonged, plotting to ruin their business, drive their leaders mad, send them visions of death and decay and monsters. If he can make them ruin themselves in pursuit of selfishness, that's even better. If not, grief's just as good. When he's done, Varney discards that relative and moves on to find more.

Next time: The world of vampires.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The city of Athens has existed for a very, very long time. It is proud of its heritage and deeply scarred by war and a very deep gap between rich and poor. The vampires that live there are, officially, an independent and democractic parliament that is open to a diversity of stances and political views from any recognized citizen of the city. In practice, the place is a madhouse of influences, Byzantine dealing and vicious infighting. Greece itself largely falls out of modern history books after Rome invades, and that kind of stings, but modern vampiric history for the city is not old at all. Sixty years ago, the Invictus Prince Kallikrates Makridis invested heavily in certain mortal interests, lost big and was staked and left out for the Carthians, to distract them. It failed. His childer and the Invictus in general were hunted down, and those that were not killed quickly changed sides. The Carthians quickly took over, their groups swelling massively in post-war Greece. Briefly, they were held together by idealism and the wish for a unified Athens.

That didn't last long. Within a generation, the mortal Greeks were still rioting and raging against their economic conditions. The Carthians, meanwhile, had been utterly overwhelmed by their sudden growth and began fracturing pretty much immediately. Their loose coalition of rebels had been tabling some conflicts with themselves for centuries, and now had nothing better to do. It didn't help that none of them agreed on how to help revitalize the Athenian economy or how to re-establish a Greek cultural identity for the vampires, free of both the influence of the Roman Camarilla or the Turks that followed or the Europeans who'd pillaged the nation. First, the group called 17N split off, taking the communists, anarchists and angry revolutionaries. Then came Alecto, who took most of the ex-Invictus with them in a bid to punish the world for its actions against Greece. Those that remained became the Ypochreosi, after their leader, who managed to beat a kind of unity out of the chaos and maintain the theortical goal of a unified and working Athens. The Circle of the Crone, meanwhile, has managed because they were always present but never large. Small cults here and there, always on the edges. They'd stay that way, but these days, they are receiving messages from Ekhidna, or so they claim. Strange dreams that whisper through the Cruac they learn, which have been urging them to spill blood and bring forth a purer, better vampire in the streets of Athens.

Clan Daeva was hit hardest when the Carthians of Athens fractured, as most of the clan was Carthian. Now, they have turned on each other viciously. As the Ventrue have fallen from favor, the Daeva are disproportionately powerful in Athenian politics - but if their infighting continues, that may not last. The Gangrel, well, they used to be very tight-knit families of vampires. However, they are running out of resources, and as a result, those families are strating to fracture. They, too, may soon break out in civil war. The Mekhet...well, historically they have never been liked in Athens. They are not permitted to hold citizenship. And yet, they are prospering. Unlike many of the others, they aren't infighting at all, just watching, nudging things when they must, and waiting. They are present in nearly every aspect of Athenian vampiric life, unnoticed but slowly becoming indispensable. The Nosferatu, on the other hand, have been deeply respected in Athens as bearers of tradition and civic service. They are unusually welcome in Athenian vampire society and more than any other clan, they want to preserve it. The Ypochreosi have many Nosferatu, often idealistic and violent ones. The Ventrue have fallen, as they were the clan of the last Invictus Prince. Their reputation went down with him, and the Ventrue have had to adapt and survive, becoming errand runners and killers for hire. They're trying to get back to the top, and hey, mercenary work is a good way to do it.

The Kataramenon is a uniquely Athenian covenant. They are the Church in Exile, claiming first to have been cursed by Apollo, then by God, to be demons haunting the lives of the favored children. While teychnically separate from the parliament, they are the keepers of Greece's oldest faith in the Apollonian and Byzantine traditions. They are oracles, plaguebearers, confessors and revolutionaries. They are always near political power but never quite ready to take the responsibility. Today, their main job is trying to get everyone else to push their aggression outwards, not at each other. Ypochreosi is one of the covenants born from the Carthian collapse. Their sole goal is a functioning, thriving Athens. They run detention camps and festivals and assassinations as needed, trying to keep the city working without having to give up too much of their own power or pleasure. Alecto is another of the fragment covenants. They look to the past, striving to take on the cultural legacy of the ancient Greeks and emulate the successful leaders of Greek society. They believe that tyranny is the only method that works in Greece, and just need people willing to fight off the outsider Europeans and police the citizens against the problems born of foreign rule. 17N, meanwhile, are anarcho-communist vampires. They hate the nostalgic fascists of Alecto and the brutal moderates of Ypochreosi, and they want to burn the whole thing down and start over - a revolution to a revolution.

The Circle of the Crone have been around forever, in the cthonic cults and strange priesthoods of Greece. Most of them are female, by tradition, and they are making ready to rise up and fight thanks to the dreams of Ekhidna. The Lancea et Sanctum came from Tarsus around a decade ago to help 'reintegate' the city. Their envoy was welcomed warmly and has been a guest of state since. No other envoys have been requested - or allowed to enter Athens. The Ordo Dracul has a few boltholes in the city, but for the most part they prefer and are more welcome in the Turkish and Arabic cities to the south, and find them a better atmosphere for transcendence.

From Athens, we head east to the city of Beijing. Until 1958, vampires were spread widely and quietly through eastern China. They swore loyalty to a Ventrue Empire in Beijing, an Empire that rivalled the Camarilla in size. And, like the Camarilla, it fell. In 1958, Mao ordered the Chinese to destroy the 'Four Pests' in the name of hygeiene - particularly sparrows. Li Songlian, the leader of the Henan vampires and administrator of vampiric city in the city of Xinyiang decided to join, despite her sire's disapproval, though for her own reasons. Specifically, she believed that the sparrows were the form of the strix and wanted revenge for the death of her lover. Soon after the killing of the birds, tales of locusts ruining crops began, as no birds were around to eat them. By 1960, the Masquerade began to thin, as the blood supply began to dwindle. Some of the village elders under Li Songlian's command began to hide their herds, and some of the humans even began to turn to cannibalism. She feared diablerie was next and asked for Beijing aid. It never came. The King of Beijing, Zhao Xiangjun, didn't care. His district was fine.

Mao sent soldiers to Henan after hearing the reports of cannibalism. Many humans died in the beatings and raids that followed. All but 47 vampires were captured and bound, and 30 more died by sunlight. The survivors made their way to Beijing, picking up a few more vampires on the way. They'd heard food was there. When they finally arrived, they were not allowed in. No one remembers the war in the same way. Some say there was a siege, some spies, some that the invaders used the power of the Beast to unseat the Emperor. Only one thing stays the same: when Li Songlian's sire heard that the Empire had fallen and how many vampires died with it, he smiled, walked out into the sunlight and did not burn.

The Mekhet of Beijing now control the Bureau of Silence and Bureau of Childer because they are a close-knit family. They maintain their food supply and funding by selling information, safe passage, technology - anything at all, for the right price, except their own plans. The Ventrue, of course, have been there forever, and will tell you so. They will do anything they want...except rule the city. They've been putting in the work to gain influence in the new Beijing government, and are beginning to bend, even break the rules. That won't be going anywhere good. Gangrel, meanwile, are the liaisons with the outer villages and hate the city itself. Everyone taste bad, they're too polite and the Mekhet and Ventrue keep watching them. The Nosferatu, meanwhile, hide out in the pollution, with the beggars and abandoned construction. There aren't many Daeva in Beijing - they find life there too restrictive.

Two of the main covenants of Beijing are the Way of the Dragon and the Dragon's Path, both not members of the Ordo Dracul but influenced by their ideas. The Way of the Dragon hold that the best way is to listen to and align your will with the Beast's. The Dragon's Path, on the other hand, try to detach from the Beast's hunger, to not feed on humans for fear of strengthening the Beast and to avoid connection to other vampires. Both insist they have mastered a Mystery unknown to others but will not explain. Once a year, they send a few vampires to the mountains on pilgrimage. The Bureau of Childer is the covenant in charge of processing requests for new Embraces, which are rarely approved. The Mekhet control it almost entirely, and do not explain themselves. The Lancea et Sanctum are small, highly selective and only accept absolute loyalty. Many Ventrue want to join, but few others do. The Mekhet like it, though - it keeps the Ventrue content, though it has also meant the Lance's influence is growing. The Bureau of Silence is made of 50 Mekhet and 10 Ventrue. The only one publically known is the Premier, because the Bureau's job is to maintain the Masquerade by any means necessary. They are highly connected in the human government, but at any given moment, only 10 of the vampires have any power - and it's never the Ventrue.

You may have noticed that Beijing doesn't explain what the fuck is going on with most of its stuff, and that Athens was very detail-light and didn't do a ton that was new besides the splinter Carthian factions. This part of the book? Not the best.

Next time: Berlin and Montreal


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Berlin is a city of terror, for vampires. Something is going after them, and they haven't been able to find out. One in four has vanished or died, and it's getting faster. History-wise, modern Berlin dates back to 1945 and the disappearance of the Kaiserin Clara von Magdeburg, who had ruled the city's vampires and led her Shadow Empire. Her bank accounts were likewise drained, and her Empire fell with her. After a year of brutal fighting, the Elector Council largely united behind a young Daeva, Joachim Hirsch, who was the childe of the Ordo Dracul elector and had never before shown much promise or ambition. Upon being crowned, Joachim declared himself the legitimate heir of the old Margravate of Brandenburg, styling himself Margrave Heinrich III. He quickly proved ruthless and competent, and within twenty years the electors served him loyally, including his sire. When the Berlin Wall fell, he moved quickly to gather allies who wanted peace, annexing East Berlin within less than a year.

The 90s were a chaotic but hopeful period for vampires, and when a young vampire vanished without trace or explanation in 1998, no one thought much of it, though a few especially sensitive Kindred felt a cold wind from the south and became nervous at bird cries. On New Year's Eve of 1999, just at the stroke of midnight and the change to 2000, his body was found, with claw marks over the heart but no signs of decay. Another vampire vanished that night, and three more over the next two years. All were young neonates. Then, ancillae and even a few elders. In 2009, Maria Goldstein, the Invictus Elector, became a victim. The margrave ordered a series of new embraces, establishing an elite corps he named the Watchful Eyes, to police the domain. At first, they seemed to be working.

A year after their founding, to the day, the Watchful Eyes headquarters burned to the ground during their anniversary celebration. None of those present for the event escaped alive. The margrave was out of options. On New Year's Eve, 2011, he told the Elector Council that he was going to get the vampire hunters of Berlin to solve the problem. 2012 began with a rash of near-public vampire attacks. It worked - rather than lone hunters, Berlin now had a number of hunter cells. Step two, the margrave was going to feed them some scapegoats. Step three, planting clues. It's not an easy game. The margrave needs to feed the hunters enough information about vampires to work with, but not too much. He hopes that by giving the hunters clues on the mysterious attacks on vampires, carefully edited to appear to be attacks on mortals, he will get them to root out what he could not. He needs to feed them enough vampire scapegoats to keep them going, but not enough that the hunters or the neonates of Berlin realize the game. And he must Embrace enough people to rebuild the Watchful Eyes, but not so many that the hunters realize he's targeting them. The margrave has publically announced that he's manipulating the hunters to go after the assassin, but not how. Should the young Kindred of the city figure it out, he might have to deal with a large revolt. His hope is that the problem is solved before that happens, but he's prepared emergency measures to abandon the city if he must.

While the Margrave is himself a Daeva, the clan receives no preferential treatment - indeed, he tends to give them less than anyone else, to avoid appearing to have a favorite. As a result, the clan tends to define themselves as opposing him, and are disproportionately members of the Invictus or the Revolutionary Council, and very rarely Ordo Dracul. The assassin has also hit more Daeva than any other clan, and between that and their tendency to leave the city, they're down to a quarter of their old numbers. The Gangrel, on the other hand, are in a strange position. They dislike that there are no Gangrels among the Electors, but they also are slowly growing to outnumber all other clans, being largely untargeted by the assassin. They quite like being a third of all vampires in the city. The Nosferatu and Mekhet have been coming together, united in greater safety than the Ventrue or Daeva due to their ability to hide. However, even in hiding, they have been targeted, and they have banded together for safety. Mutual blood bonds between Mekhet and Nosferatu are uncommon, and some wonder if the two clans will end up merged into something new. Fully half of the electors are either Mekhet or Nosferatu, which makes some people nervous about the alliance. The Ventrue, like the Daeva, have lost a lot. They're down to half of their old numbers, and they tend to be the strongest of the margrave's supporters. Their increasing political irrelevance, however, has split the clan between old and young, as the young radicalize against the apparent uselessness of their elders.

The Watchful Eyes are a very small, Berlin-exclusive covenant - less than half a dozen survivors of the 2010 attack, a few newly Embraced vampure hunters selected personally by the Eyes' leader, the Mekhet Sara Ferreira, and a handful of promising recruits from among the city's vampires. They're almost cult-like in their fervor when it comes to hunting down the assassin, whom they have named Abaddon. They are paranoid to a fault and operate in cells that answer only to the First Cell, Ferreira's group of survivors. They are extremely powerful politically, with Ferreira as their elector, and have the margrave's ear. The Revolutionary Council is the other Berlin-exclusive covenant. They were the only covenant in East Berlin during the Cold War, and clearly in charge, if very fractious about leadership. The margrave gave them a set on his Elector Council, led by Ludwig Schneider of the Ventrue. They rapidly assimilated the Carthians after the Wall fell, surprising many, and over the last two decades they have gradually shed their Communist ethos in favor of Westernizing and becoming, essentially, Carthians in all but name with a few old guard that still grumble about communism. They are espcially discontented over the wealthy outpowering them politically, however.

The Circle of the Crone are rare in Berlin and are faced with suspicion over the attacks, because some believe the assassin has performed Cruac rites. Tehir elector is the Nosferatu Augustus. The Invcitus are in a position of near-irrelevance thanks to the margrave, and they do not like it. They have become an almost mystical group focused on the idea of producing their own secular Messiah to take back the city. Their elector is Sofia Goldstein, Mekhet and childe of the lost Maria. The Lancea et Sanctum are popular and the margrave likes them, allowing them to perform public prayer and rites at all events. Their elector is Cardinal Margarete Kohn of the Ventrue. The Ordo Dracul are essentially an extension of the margrave's will, as he has blood bound his sire, the elector Werther the Younger, and is able to command the old vampire easily.

Now we had to Montreal. Montreal is...not a good place to be a vampire. A being known as the Nameless has been keeping vampires from doing as they will for as long as anyone can remember. No one is sure what the Nameless is. Some say the devil, some an ancient draugr. Whatever it is, it is exceptionally dangerous when crossed. Vampires have been in southern Quebec for a very long time, among the native Mohawk and Iroquois, but not in any great numbers. The only remnant of this period is a small Ventrue family called the Tsihstekeri, who remain largely aloof from politics. By the 16th century, however, Europeans had come to the region, and by the 17th century, European vampires joined the French settlers. They rapidly outnumbered the native kindred and used conflicts between the French and the natives to their own benefit, at one point even enslaving an entire village of natives as food. For decades, the native vampires fought to free those prisoners, but it took them fifty years. The final battle slew most of the European vampires, and it took twenty years for them to return in the form of British vampires, who allied with the native vampires against the French, even if the native mortals did not. The two groups ended up growing together and Montreal established a society and its first prince, the Invictus Ventrue Thomas Sheridan. He was popular and maintained the peace for about a century, until November 5, 1935.

At that point, Sheridan was slaughtered and discovered by a young Carthian, who witnessed his destruction at the hands of some black figure with shining eyes. Since that night, Theban Sorcery has not functioned within Montreal at all. The locals panicked, and within a month their elected pro-tem leader was murdered by the figure, who left a scrawled message reading 'No more Princes.' The city fell into chaos, with each of hte major covenants trying to take control and not acknowledging the others. In 1960, the Carthians attempted to seize power over the entire city when the mysterious figure showed up and killed all but one of them, a woman named Eva Dubois who said that the figure killed the rest singlehandedly and gave her six rules before removing her eyes. In 40 years, they have not regrown. Rumor is she was told not to try. She named the figure 'the Nameless.' Since then, the rules have been in place. Anyone that breaks them is killed. The Tsihstekeri claim that the Nameless is just a harbinger of worse things to come.

The rules are simple: 1. Don't kill each other. 2. Don't gather more than five at a time. 3. Don't leave the city. 4. Don't look for me. 5. Don't impersonate me. 6. Stay away from the cross.

Montreal's Daeva primarily are French, with three major families - the Leclercs, the Guillaume and the Vasseur. The Gangrel maintain small urban packs, primarily nomads who are trapped in the city since the rules were established, and they especially would love to see the Nameless found and destroyed. The Mekhet do not like Montreal, because they can't figure out what the Nameless is or why it can find any rulebreaker. The Nosferatu aren't too bad off, and are especially good at moving around the city safely, so they make a good living as escorts and bodyguards. The Ventrue are among the eldest vampires in Montreal, many either native or British descended. Those Ventrue who speak to the Tsihstekeri family line tend not to fear the Nameless. No one knows why. They do, however, tend to fear something else entirely, which they never describe to others.

There are exceptionally few Carthians in Montreal, thanks to the slaughter of 1970. They're trying to create a network of safe havens. The Circle of the Crone maintain small cults of four vampires each, with various beliefs, but most of them see the Nameless as the ultimate trial and lesson. They like the fear and strange rules of the environment around them, even if it means the Nameless keeps taking a few for trying to learn more about it. The Invictus exist, but are ineffectual, given their inability to properly organize under the rules. They are dying and even worse at recruitment than the Carthians. The Lancea et Sanctum are banding together well...but they'vel ost their sorcery. In its place, they've been pooling resources to help each other, and all members get Retainer, Herd and Haven equal to their Lance Status. The Ordo Dracul tend not to have many problems, as a group, and have adapted well to the problems.

And that is literally it, no explanations again.

Next time: The Triangle and San Francisco


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The Triangle is the extended metropolitan area composed of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina. It's a growing city, but a city of contradiction - poverty and wealth exist side by side. For vampires, however, it's quite a nice place. Growing population, established gentry, and so on. It'd be the model for any vampiric domain, really, set apart by one fact: it has six clans, not five. It's not entire clear how the clan Jiang Shi came to become such a big part of the Triangle, but they're here, and their eldest are extremely bizarre, different from other vampires in ways that the younger Jiang Shi are not.

No one has nay idea how they got to North Carolina. They appear to have always been there. The eldest vampires never saw them as fellow Kindred, but the younger ones see them as clearly a clan to be reckoned with. There's too many Jiang Shi to eliminate and keeping them out would harm the Masquerade. Until a few decades ago, the area was a set of half a dozen smaller domains until the Queen of Raleigh became powerful enough to annex the rest. Now, she is the Queen of the Triangle, aided by the Privy Council. She spends most of her time on elders' affairs and other high-level projects, leaving the lives of younger and weaker vampires to essentially be as they will, very lenient. The Triangle itself is divided up into dozens of fiefs, each ruled by a local baron or baroness, whose job is to keep things in order and pay tribute to the Quyeen. Baronies merge, divide and change as the Queen sees fit, and as long as a baron does what the Queen says, they can do whatever else they like. Some baronies are extremely hierarchical, but most commonly the baron just has one or two lieutenants, demands some tribute every so often and enforces a handful of laws. The Queen doesn't care about any internal unrest as long as she gets her tribute and the Traditions remain unbroken - but if either fails, the baron is responsible, no matter what. As a result, revolts are rare.

The Jiang Shi are highly established in the city. The Ventrue are known for seeking power, the Mekhet for seeking the occult, but the Jiang Shi are famous for being scholars and librarians. They are often stereotyped as being frail but intelligent, and their powers are rarely as dangerous as those of other clans. However, they have some abilities that no one else seems able to learn. It is said that they're easy to kill if you catch them off guard, but that itself isn't easy. Within the Triangle, mortals are easy prey - mostly middle class, not especially wary and generally out of shape. However, disappearances can't happen too often without drawing attention - the locals are too educated and too wealthy. The Queen is more than happy to throw a baron to the wolves if they let the media catch on. She's Invictus, after all, and the Masquerade trumps all. She typically Dominates these victims and subjects them to carefully planned vigilante justice or one of the other methods she's found of persuading mortals the problem is solved. This doesn't mean everything is safe - you get your obsessives no matter what, of course, and there's strange things. But those happen everywhere, right?

The Daeva do well in the Triangle. There's plenty of nightlife to be part of, and the clan as a whole does not really organize itself. The sire-childe bond is more a patronage than anything else - the sire starts the childe off with some contacts and resources, and in return the Daeva childe helps maintain their image and reputation and sometimes does favors. At least, that's the theory. The Gangrel, meanwhile, tend be on the outskirts, primarily suburban if not sedentary. They are very much drawn from the middle class and many do not take the 'Suburban Savages' very seriously. The Jiang Shi are half scholar, half early warning system. They've found several major threats early - a bronze bull that led to the deaths of several vampires in the late 60s, for example, and tend to operate in clutches of three to five that share resources. Typically Jiang Shi sires induct their childer into a clutch and then expect them to find their own once they become more powerful. They heavily recruit from the city's researchers, scientists and occultists.

The Mekhet, meanwhile, are excellent at hiding. They often pretend to be ghosts haunting an area, and they become invisible quite well. They have very deep influence over the city - their role as occultists has largely been usurped, but they instead operate as a sort of network of 'Shadow Guilds' that plot and maneuver to control the city through their abiliuty to spy and hide. The Nosferatu, likewise, thrive - they hide among the freaks and weirdos of the colleges in the area and mostly draw their childer from thisp opulation as well. Many were outcasts in life, either homeless or alienated students, and they're very diverse as a result. The local Ventrue tend to be pretty laid-back, young and well-liked. They're stylish, hard to offfend and ruthless when they must be. It's a carefully groomed facade by the clan elders, who maintain it despite the fact that many young Ventrue don't actually live up to it. It's resulted in the Ventrue being very respected and influential, leading by example.

The Invictus are absolutely in charge under Queen Carla Williams - though if you're smart, she's just the Queen. The Masquerade is hard to keep in an area this large, but the Invictus do a damn good job of it. They rule by an elder council of seven who serve to advise the Queen; in theory, she's just one member, but in practice, she's in charge. The Lancea et Sanctum are ppretty standard - they hold sermons and so on. They're maybe a bit less formal, but no more forgiving. The church midnight masses are very well-attended on Sundays, as most other vampires attend out of a sense of obligation, though enough don't that open scorn or defiance of Church doctrine is a recurring conflict. The local Circle of the Crone is much more open than normal - they believe that every Acolyte has the right to worship as they like. Tolerance of others' beliefs is key to how the local Circle operate, even if those beliefs seem monstrous. Those that want to enslave humanity and those who believe harming them is unforgivable have learned to live together and be friendly. The Ordo Dracul recruit largely from the collegiate mortals, and tend to be highly academic. They even have their own coded research journal. The Carthians tend to allie with the Circle, feeling that as the Acolytes are to religion, so must they be towards politics. All beliefs must be accepted. In theory, anyway. In practice, they tend to be at each others' throats about political stances, and as a result they tend to be very irrelevant, but also very dynamic, as new people are brought in and old ones driven away by the constant arguing and grandstanding.

Sidebar: the Jiang Shi! No one knows where their origin is. They appear across the world. In the Mediterranean, they claim to be the Sons of Phobos, who stole a pure heart to replace the one stolen from him. In Iceland, where they are also disproportioantely common, they are associated with druagr folklore. In Eastern Chin and Korea, they are believed to know forms of blood sorcery no one else has. The Mekhet lore about the Hollow is sometimes believed to be related to them, and some think they are related to the strix. Worldwide, there aren't many Jiang Shi, due to the nature of their Embrace. A Jiang Shi is made by replacing a normal person's blood with that of an extremely pure person, as determined by the tastes of the Jiang Shi sire. (They can tell at a taste of the blood.) Thus, two deaths are involved, one of which doesn't involve the corpse getting back up. The blood need not be fresh, but it's not exactly easy to raid a blood bank for the pure of heart. If the Jiang Shi also takes the donor's heart and implants it in the childe, they awaken at BP 2 instead of 1. Jiang Shi can feed as other vampires do and even learn Disciplines...but because of their clan bane, they do not produce the Kiss. They can neither cause the Swooning condition by their bite or the Scarred one - their Kiss is just one of intense numbing cold. As they become low on Vitae, they appear more monstrous - their fingers become claw-like and a strange green mold grows on their skin which produces a somewhat milder chilling effect. A Jiang Shi can spend Willpower to teleport back to the site of their death...but if they daysleep anywhere else, it costs 2 Vitae to awaken instead of 1, though they can change the site vy a ritual heart transplantation at a new site, with the usual purity requirements. Because there are so few Jiang Shi, they are rarely met by other vampires outside of areas in which they are strangely common. Their favored attributes are Intelligence and Dexterity, and their clan Disciplines are Animalism, Obfuscate and Celerity.

Some other minor weirdness in the area - Devil's Tramping Grounds is a campsite in which there is a circle that has no plants growing in it whatsoever. Local urban legend holds that those that sleep in it never return, though this isn't quite so - many do. Vampires with sensitivity to such things report uneasiness in the circle, as though being watched by something slumbering and ancient, and some report that no animals but birds will enter it. There's also a set of old railroad tracks that used to go past Maco STation - or, rather, there were. They got pulled up in the late 70s, and with them ended the Maco Light, a strange recurring event where odd green lights would race down the tracks. Some now report ghostly whistles in the distance or seeing distant tracks, and one ghoul with a strong sense for these things said he felt as if something large were pushing against the veil from the world of the dead.

Now, we jump over to San Francisco, particularly the Mission District. The city is old, but it runs on youth. The Mission is the name of the local vampiric domain - one that has some of the oldest vampires in North America, yet is controlled by the young. It is believed that the vampires of San Francisco came with the Spanish de Anza expedition that resulted in the founding of Mission Dolores. These vampires were as driven and obsessed about their faith as the mortals they traveled with. When the Spanish vampires arrived, however, they found native vampires already. It is unclear what happened next - the Lance does not share any records they keep of it. Officially, the story is that the locals converted to Christianity and the conquest was peacful. In truth, the Spanish vampire known as the Cardinal went mad at finding his own kind, and the locals helped bring him back to sanity. On the surface, the local Lance appeared normal, but in truth, the Cardinal and his inner circle, particularly his lover, Hummingbird, put together a version of the local religion that mixed some Lance ritual but did not accept its doctrine. This secret religion is still practiced in the Mission today, hidden within the Lance. This is why the Mission's Lance has been so permissive about allowing other heresies and cults to show up - it's good to have them around as foils when more hardline Lance vampires come to ask questions. Meanwhile, the local Invictus were having new ideas and hoping to take over the Mission. They watched the rise of the telegraph and understood even then that control of what others saw and understood was the key to controlling the masses. Books were primitive, but the rise of technology would be much better, if they could master it.

The local Daeva and Mekhet are masters of the Cacophony, rumormongers and gossip who hide their own messages in those of the mortal media and local gossip chains. The Daeva and Mekhet believe the local Cacophony has actually begun to take on a life of its own, guiding vampires as it will. Popularity and influence don't seem to control who gets what information. The two clans have begun investigating. The Gangrel, meanwhile, serve as messengers and deputies in the urban sprawl. The Mission Gangrel love the city, seeing it as a jungle all its own that they can dominate. The Nosferatu, meanwhile, are tied into plague - from the bubonic outbreak of 1900 to the AIDS epidemic. They aren't afraid of the plagues, and they are quite numerous in the Mission, but are insular and mostly related. It is believed by some that they all share a bloodline and are led by a priest of the Lance obsessed with controlling and spreading disease. She is rumored to have consumed the souls of a number of Morbus, a Mekhet bloodline of disease-spreaders. Certainly, the Nosferatu are mostly one extended family...and a bit of a powder keg as a result. The Ventrue, meanwhile, are charismatic and competitive. They are also at fault for several extremist groups in the Bay Area, though certainly not all. However, they do make almost a sport of pushing their vassals to extremism - especially the hippie ones.

Many other domains near San Francisco look on the Mission with interest and no small fear. 'Tolerance' is much talked about to explain why so many different Circle groups have been allowed to set up and actively practice. The truth is, the local Lance would love to destroy all these heretics in fire and blood and show the truth of the hidden cult in the Mission, but he dares not do so because the other local domains in LA and Portland are paying so much attention. Thus, he lets the Circle do what it likes as cover for his own cult. The Invictus, meanwhile, appear to have declared war on the Internet. They work to control local nodes, regional server forms and local legislation regarding the internet, and are experimenting with using DDoS attacks as a means of control. They're actively Embracing the best they can find in IT, and are extremely good at media relations and control. They are running a grand and somewhat harebrained scheme to control humanity via its media, and most recently have begun investing in the casual gaming market, reasoning that they can use short-term incentives to influence long-term behavior. They are also studying the use of social networking and data mining. The local Carthians appear to be strong-arm thugs and grifters...but it's a long con, one which has kept the Movement pretty much under the radar. They like that. Their goals are not really tied to the Mission itself, but in taking over Oakland and declaring it an independent Carthian domain, which is something they've been working at for some time patiently.

I actually quite like the Triangle and the Mission, myself.

Next time: Swansea, Wales and Tokyo, Japan


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

The city of Swansea in Wales is a very working-class city. It and the surrounding regions of Neath and Port Talbot are also largely unclaimed territory for most outsider vampires - and not worth the effort. The locals like it that way - there's more there than they let on, because they like their freedom. The domain, known as Beddnerys, is ruled over by the Assembly, a council of one member each of four different clans. The locals name themselves the Dead Jacks, and they can't exactly leave. In the east, the Metronome of Port Talbot is a constant if mysterious danger, and the werewolves in the south and west are a neverending battle.

For a very long time, Beddnerys was the sole domain of Nerys ferch Owain, an ancient Gangrel, and her childer. However, she died on September 21st, 1839. Modern vampiric history in Swansea begins around then. Legend abounds as to what Nerys was like - some say she spent most time in torpor, attended by her brood, while others say she had invented a unique form of blood sorcery and created some strange otherworld. (This is kind of absurd.) Certainly she must have fallen torpid sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s, as that is how she was found in 1838 when the other vampires came for her. There was a mock trial and her sleeping corpse was found guilty of crimes against the common vampire. She was left out for the sun, her tomb sealed off and its location lost. The victorious conquerors soon fell to arguing about who should be in charge, but the nearby werewolves forced them to make some compromises to stay safe. The Assembly was established.

At the time, Swansea was desolate and lifeless, horrifying even to vampires. The local vampires were not wealthy or ranking people, but farmers and craftsmen and factory workers who resented Nerys for her actions against their kin in life. High and mighty vampires visiting the area tended to vanish, so it wasn't long before they stopped visiting. The peninsula werewolves considered it their own territory, and the skirmishes between them and the Dead Jacks have never ended nor have they solved anything, despite all the tricks both sides have tried. No outsider is trusted to not be a spy for the werewolves after one of the werewolves' human kin deliberately got himself Embraced and spied on the vampires for over three years before being discovered. The Dead Jacks are suspicious, even paranoid lot who hang together out of need. They value their independence and see vampirism as a state free of mortal restrictions. The Assembly is only barely tolerated, and the locals espeically despise the wealthy and exploitative classes, as they see it. They have remained in power largely because Beddnerys is surrounded by foes, they give the locals what they want in order to maintain their position, and they make sure to keep up at least the semblance of democracy, even if young vampires running for the position are usually set up to fail to demonstrate that only elders have the wisdom to rule well.

In Beddnerys, clan is far more important than covenant. Clans are inherent, defined and not abstract. Blood ties matter in a small community, and each clan can trace their origins back to maybe three, four vampires, tops, outside the few strangers. The Gangrel of Swansea have a reputation of strength, independence and neutrality. They are the judges of Beddnerys, a fact only ever questioned in private, and even the Assembly pay lip service to the idea. They were here first, after all. The Daeva are a raucous, gregarious group prone to fighting and parties. They tend to be very close among their own lines, trading favors up and down the chain of relation. The Nosferatu of Swansea make up almost a third of the Lancea et Sanctum and have a reputation for weirdness and asceticism which makes them come off as very virtuous. The Mekhet are largely viewed with suspicion. Some are tolerated and they do have an Assemblyman, but they came later than the others and brough the Circle of the Crone with them. (Indeed, all the Crone elders are Mekhet.) They tend to be the ones that dabble in the dark and occult secrets, and they are often blamed for the existence of the Metronome. A few even think they have friends among the Gower wolves. The real outcasts, however, are the Ventrue. Beddnerys was made by laborers, and they resented the upper classes. The resentment has not gone, though it's died off. The Ventrue are no longer killed on sight, but the ban on their presence was only lifted recently. They have no seat on the Assembly and are unlikely to gain one. It doesn't help that many of the Beddnerys vampires are old enough to remember their time working factories.

Covenant is secondary in Swansea, with political power being mostly family-based. The covenants are more cliques than anything else. The Lancea et Sanctum are the largest by far, though they have long abandoned their Catholic trappings for a more austere Protestant faith based on the beliefs of the locals. Their severe views tend to be challenged by the younger vampires, who see faith less as a way of life and more as a tool to help in life. However, about three quarters of the domain at least pay lip service to Lance beliefs. There is, however, no formal hierarchy, just a number of ministered congregations. The Circle of the Crone make up about half of the vampires that aren't Lance. Their beliefs tie to ancient Welsh myth, particularly tales of the head of Bran the Blessed and the Mabinogion. They broadly split into two groups - first, a reactionary group of bloody ecstatics who care less about myth and more about hating the Sanctified, and the more restrained second group who seek a darkness within themselves that Christianity cannot explain. The Ordo Dracul are a small group, but have plenty of younger dabblers who later go on to rejoin the Church. The elders tend to be ascetics who believe in self-deprivation, which is why the recruits tend to leave. The elders consider this a good thing, as the Order is not for all. The Invictus, Carthians and unaligned are all essentially interchangeable, a sort of blended group of youngsters that tend to be atheist, agnostic or Muslim and who tend to be discontent with how things are. They are growing.

I've mentioned the Metronome. The Metronome is a strange force centered on Port TAlbot and its polluted steelworks. It is nearly predictable, and broadly follows the same set pattern of reactions. Vampires do one thing, it reacts in a specific manner. They do others, it reacts in another manner. Hunting is not a good idea in its area, because...well, you can exist safely in Port Talbot until you accidentally break one of the Metronome's hidden rules. At that point, you probably die. For some, the risk is worth it.

Hopping over to Tokyo, most of the western covenants are ill represented. Rather, the city's vampiric population is run by four 'zaibatsu' - structured conspiracies, three of which are vampiric and one of which is human. The vampires of Tokyo have been organized for a very long time, and they flourished there. By the late 19th century, they had the largest population of vampires in a single city, anywhere. They may still. However, modern Tokyo really began with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Nearly half the vampires of the city were killed, particularly among less privileged dynasties. The Invictus and Lancea took the opportunity to come in and take over Tokyo by force, with the Invictus ening up on top shortly before the Great Depression hit. This and the Japanese war effort led to a strong vampiric presence in the Japanese army during World War II, which further depleted their numbers as the Japanese vampires ended up unlucky in alliances and unable to find friends in distant Germany or nearby Russia. In 1945, the Invictus regime collapsed, and the Tokyo vampires agreed to dissolve the covenants and forbid further centralized Princes. Instead, large coteries, known as zaibatsu, emerged. Over the next decade, they largely filtered into three major groups - the Takahasi Family, the Maeda Group and Ume House.

Meanwhile, a mortal named Inoue Akio got involved, pissing off some vampires who bullied him out of a business deal. He began to look deeper, finding proof of vampiric influence and control around him. Through mysticism and skill, he fought free of them and formed the Hototogisu, which proved able to compete with the three zaibatsu, gaining grudging acceptance as a fourth major power. Several times, other vampires attempting revolts or power grabs, Each time, the zaibatsu and unaligned vampires stopped them, arguing that they'd violate the agreements set...and, of course, deprive the zaibatsu of their control. In 1987, the Carthians claimed leadership, with twenty of them announcing their desire to take the city publically. In the next few months, all 20 lost their fortunes and influence, and then died, one at a time, over the course of 20 weeks. The Carthians were banned from Tokyo.

In 2010, the Hototogisu sent all the zaibatsu leaders an identical letter, a five-year plan to relieve the zaibatsu and in fact all vampires of major influence over Tokyo, with an offer to work with the Hototogisu to unify Tokyo itself under four seperate groups. Those who responded well received good fortune and gifts, which led them to succeed in their zaibatsu, and within the first few years, leadership has swung heavily in favor of the Hototogisu sympathizers. Recently, some of the Lancea et Sanctum have stood up against the Hototogisu as heretics and violators of the Masquerade, but have yet to openly aggress. Still, certain people have vanished. Now, things are unstable, and any sharp actions could tip the balance of power.

Clan is generally unimportant in Tokyo, as the zaibatsu claim to meritocracy, even if that's not true in practice. Those who care about family tend not to be part of the zaibatsu, as well. The Daeva mostly align with the Zaibatsu, but some find their structure boring and limiting. This minority tend to be Lance and are often disproportionately powerful within anti-zaibatsu groups due to their passion. The Gangrel are mostly apolitical, acting as enforcers for hire and seeking stability. The Mekhet tend to be exceptionally wealthy, due to their ability to gather blackmail material. Some are neutral as much as they can be, while some care only about making their way to the top. The Nosferatu are almost all zaibatsu members, who find that the claimed meritocracy frees them of the prejudices they often face. However, one thing is clear: the clan runs the Tokyo Metro, a strong exception to the weak clans of Tokyo. They are currently trying to find a way to demand tribute from the Hototohisu mortals for subway usage. The Ventrue, meanwhile, tend to be the most vocal anti-Zaibatsu, as many of their dynasties lost power in the takeover. They are often Lance sympathizers as well.

On paper, the Zaibatsu claim 3/4 of the vampiric population - nearly 250 vampires, nominally. The Hototogisu are nominally exclusively human, though som vampires have officially signed on. They take their name from a breed of cuckoo, and they operate as a business conglomerate - food manufacturing, taxi services, fashion. They know about vampires and seek to control them rather than be controlled. Inoue remains at the top, and can dismiss any member of his board, but each member company operates independently and only ranking officers know of the group's real goals. They maintain a private library on supernatural and useful mundane topics, and often hire 'contractors' - usually cops or criminals - to serve as specialists in various problems. This extends their influence greatly. The Maeda, meanwhile, began with control of agriculture and moved into retail. They have a reputation for using physical force and serving as the zaibatsu enforcers. However, their influence has waned quite a bit as violence has become less necessary, and their profits are dropping due to anti-GMO beliefs, many of which are pushed by the Hototogisu. They are seeking to expand, and quickly. The Takahashi Family see themselves as the leaders of the zaibatsu, though no one else agrees. They are the most closely tied to the Hototogisu, and also have influence with the Bank of Tokyo, the Japanese exchange and Honda. They are not actually a family, and indeed disallow blood relations to serve on the board simultaneously. They limit membership to 90 vampires at a time, though they rarely have the full capacity. Each member of their six-member board oversses a broad industry, and they focus on transportation, finance, energy, media, manufacturing and health. Ume House, meanwhile, see themselves as the spiritual wing of the szaibatus. They do hold influence in mortal areas, such as the Narita airport, but focus mostly on history and spiritualism, particularly shrines, museums, historical societies and cults. They have less monetary power...but they do have strong influence over traditionalist politicians. They practice a form of vaguely Shinto blood sorcery known as Kigan, which...is essentially a Japanese variant of Cruac, though the two cannot be mutually taught or understood by each other. Nearly half the city's coteries have an Ume priest, though the Lance reject them.

The Lance agenda is pretty clear - remove the Hototogisu and, after that, the zaibatsu. They hate that humans know about them in such large numbers. However, the Tokyo Lance have barely over a dozen members, so they can't act directly. Instead, they sow dissent and rebelliousness among the independent and disenfranchised. It's not that hard for them to do, but it's still an uphill battle. They believe, however, that if any one zaibatsu falls, the whole system will collapse. The independent groups have had trouble organizing politically, and come in many stripes, none large.

Next time: Ghouls


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Vampire: the Requiem, 2nd Edition

Next up is the ST section, which is quite lengthy and has a lot of detailed advice for how to bring out the drama and pathos of Vampire if that's what you want to do, how to make feeding encounters seem more personal and so on. It's pretty good advice, on the whole. And we're wholesale skipping it because you can buy the book if you want to run Vampire.

Thus, we're heading into the appendix on the living. It discusses handling humans and human PC even in Vampire games, from the dangers if the Masquerade is breached, whether to your neighbor or to Majestic 12, to blood dolls - the people who are in the know and get off on being bitten. They exist. In fact, some of them become political players because they collect information. Then you have the mortals who are being groomed to become vampires, or the ones you fall in love with against all odds, or your mortal family. All of these get story hooks and ideas.

But most of hte text is on ghouls. Ghouls are empowered and addicted. No one knows when the first ghoul was made, and no one cares. Being a ghoul is about being alive, in the now, and making your now last forever. It feels incredible. It's like being a vampire, but better. You get the youth, the powers, the knowledge, the parties. The price? Just doing some favors for your fixer...and keeping on your doses. See, you miss one and the entire Vitae train derails. The withdrawal is worse than anything you've ever had - and you're stuck being a normal person again. See, ghouls are more than just mortals with a Vitae addiction. They have a little vampiric will within them. They are at once the most trustworthy and most treacherous servants of a vampire - they're blood bonded and potent, sure, but the blood bond is not an infallible keeper of loyalty. It doesn't compel action - it just compels emotion. And a ghoul that needs a fix...well, they'll give anything up for it. Anything.

Many vampires end up making ghouls because, subconsciously, they need the company. It gives them a reason to stay up, a reason to care. Even vampires need company. And the feeling of being a ghoul is intensely pleasant. It makes you feel more living than living. The ability to make ghouls is, essentially, an extension of the corruptive and infectious nature of vampirism. They are infected with the Vitae and gain some measure of the power. There's many reasons that vampires choose to make ghouls, even ignoring their unconscious desire for company. Sometimes, a vampire wants tools to influence the living world with. Sometimes, a vampire wants to empower their old friends, or to have a way to better control a minion. Sometimes a minion begins to grow old and a vampire wants to keep them around, perhaps for their knowledge, skills or connections. And other times, it's because the vampire cannot bear to lose the ghoul. My favorite example here is a French vampire who has ghouled the last living castrato. He believes that what was done to the man was heinous, but the voice is too beautiful to lose, and the two of them agree that the man must be made immortal...but worry that a full Embrace might change his voice when the fangs come in. Sometimes, a family is made ghouls as part of their ongoing existence. These ghoul dynasties tend to serve similar kindred dynasties, but not always. Sometimes they are a specialized group that is good at finding vampires and offering their specialized services in exchange for blood.

A ghoul is made when a vampire feeds a mortal at least one Vitae and invests it with a point of Willpower, both of which are given to the ghoul to use as their own. It's an energizing, invigorating feeling. A ghoul also gets two dots of their regnant's clan Disciplines...though there's a few restrictions which we'll get to in a moment. Ghouls are considered to have Blood Potency 0, which can never be raised. They don't age, so long as they remain a ghoul, and may tap into Physical Intensity and healing as if they were vampires. They also remain conscious even when full of bashing damage, like vampires. They lack vampiric senses but can still try to track people by the taste of their blood.

Ghouls can learn any vampiric Disciplines as vampires do, but may not learn blood sorcery or the Coils and Scales of the Dragon. Whenever a Discipline would be contested or resisted by a vampire, they don't get to add their Discipline dots to the roll, and automatically fail if they have any stage of blood bond towards the vampire they're targeting. Further, any Discipline requiring the user to spill blood or feed it to someone is impossible for a ghoul to actually use, though they can learn it on the way up a discipline.

Ghouls automatically expend one Vitae each month to maintain their nature. If they have none at the end of the month, they need to get a fix. If they don't, they get the Deprived condition as they enter withdrawal and begin to age towards their natural age, at the rate of one year per week. Once they get their fix, the condition goes away...but they need to get Vitae equal to the Blood Potency of the last vampire that fed them, even if that's more than they can hold. They'll vomit up the rest. While in withdrawal, they can use no Disciplines, even costless ones or persistent effects, but do retain the knowledge of them for if they become a ghoul again. Any aging during withdrawal is permanent and irreversible. (Animals get less out of this, but can be ghouled. They get only one dot of Disciplines, always a physical one, and will act on instinct and survival. They can spend Vitae on their powers and to boost their abilities, but will never spend their last Vitae except to heal a potentially deadly wound.)

Ghouls can take special merits based on the clan of their regnant. A Mekhet's ghoul, for example, can learn to track vampires and their actions by asking the shadows around them for answers, while Daeva ghouls are extremely seductive, Gangrel ghouls can ghoul animals in turn, Ventrue ghouls gain Willpower by beating others in competition and Nosferatu ghouls can say secret things that terrify others. There's also a few other special mortal- or ghoul-only merits to make you both more useful and more dangerous to vampires.

The End.