Blood Bonds

“I was never insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.”
—Edgar Allen Poe

“Take some of my blood, into the bowl you have, and mix in these berries and these herbs, and drink deep of the elixir.
You will be irresistible.
You will be potent.
You will be masterful.
You will be ardent.
You will be glowing.
The heart of Zillah will melt like the snows in spring.”

The Book of Nod, Zillah’s Tale

“Can you imagine that, by the way? Being forced to love someone, forever? Knowing that the love you have for them—which is so strong you’ll kill or die for this person—is a lie, a damnably induced lie? Hating them and loving them all the same time, and not being able to do a damned thing about it?”
—Anonymous

Blood_Bond1.jpg

One of the most wondrous and terrible properties of Kindred vitae is its ability to enslave nearly any being who drinks of it three times. Each sip of a particular Kindred’s blood gives the Kindred in question a greater emotional hold over the drinker. If a being drinks three times, on three separate nights, from the same Kindred, she falls victim to a state known as the blood bond. A vampire who holds a blood bond over another being is said to be that victim’s regnant, while the being subordinate to the bond is called the thrall.

Put simply, the blood bond is one of the most potent emotional sensations known. A blood-bound victim is absolutely devoted to her regnant and will do nearly anything for him. Even the most potent uses of Dominate cannot overcome the thrall’s feelings for her regnant; only true love stands a chance against the bond, and even that is not a sure thing.

The blood bond is most commonly used to ensnare mortals and ghouls, but Kindred can bind each other as well. Such is the blood bond’s power that a mighty elder can be bound to a lowly neonate; in this respect, the blood of a Thirteenth-Generation fledgling is (presumably) as strong as that of Caine himself. As such, the blood bond forms an essential strategy in the Jyhad; some Ancients are said to hold dozens of influential Kindred in secret thrall.

First Drink: The drinker begins to experience intermittent but strong feelings about the vampire. She may dream of him, or find herself “coincidentally” frequenting places where he might show up. The drinker wants to be close to the vampire and desires his approval.

Second Drink: The drinker’s feelings grow strong enough to influence her behavior. Though she is by no means enslaved to the vampire, he is definitely an important figure in her life. She may act as she pleases, but might feel the bond’s pull when she attempts to take actions directly harmful to the vampire. The vampire’s influence is such that he can persuade or command her with little effort.

Third Drink: Full-scale blood bond. At this level, the drinker is more or less completely bound to the vampire. He is the most important person in her life; lovers, relatives, and even children become secondary to her all-consuming passion. At this level, a regnant may use the Dominate Discipline on a thrall, even without the benefit of eye contact. Merely hearing the regnant’s voice is enough.

The blood bond is true love, albeit a twisted and perverse version of it. Ultimately, we can’t reduce the vagaries of love down to a simple “yes/no” system. Some thralls (particularly people with Conformist or other dependent Natures, or with Willpower 5 or less) will commit any act, including suicide or murder, for their beloved; other characters have certain core principles that they will not violate.

A full blood bond, once formed, is nearly inviolate. Once bound, a thrall is under the sway of her regnant and her regnant only. She cannot be bound again by another vampire unless the first blood bond wears away “naturally.” A vampire can experience lesser (one- and two-drink) bonds toward several individuals; indeed, many Kindred enjoy such bonds, as they create artificial passion in their dead hearts. Upon the formation of a full blood bond, though, all lesser sensations are wiped away. Vampire lovers occasionally enter into mutual blood bonds with each other; this is the closest thing many of the undead will feel to true love. Even this sensation can turn to disgust or hate over the centuries, though, and in any event few Kindred trust each other enough to initiate it.

A blood bond is a mighty force, but it is at its most potent when perpetually reinforced with further drinks. Feeding a thrall often reinforces the bond, while depriving a thrall of vitae may cause the bond to grow tepid over time. Like any other relationship, treatment and courtesy play a part in the dynamics of the bond. A thrall who is treated well and fed often will likely fall even more deeply in love, while a thrall who is degraded and humiliated may find resentment and anger eating away at the bond.


Attitudes Towards the Blood Bond


Most Kindred feel a healthy fear of the blood bond. They know how their kind treats its slaves, and they shudder at the thought of becoming the pawns of one of their fellows.

Princes: In most cities, the Prince or other dignitaries use a single drink from their veins as a common punishment for misbehavior. A Prince who too often orders other Kindred to submit to his regnancy, though, might provoke a rebellion. The Primogen tend to be especially wary of a Prince who orders too many of his subjects to submit to full blood bond (especially, ironically, his own childer), although some Princes are powerful or foolish enough to disregard these elders’ feelings.

Lovers: Kindred who believe that love can be eternal (if not entirely natural) might drink each other’s blood to form a mutual bond. They also recognize that their mutual bond protects them from ever becoming bound to anyone else: this alone can be powerful incentive to submit their wills to another Kindred they trust. Such unions are colloquially known as “perversion” and are frowned upon by the All-Night Society at large. (After all, a Kindred fully bound to their lover can’t be bound by their Prince or enemies.)

Coteries: Many Kindred coteries engage in webs of mutual blood bonds with one another. These partial bonds can defuse conflict or mistrust among members (as well as seem less like a punishment if everyone participates), prove as well as secure the loyalty of newly-initiated members, or simply solidify existing fraternal bonds. The method to this is simple: every member takes one two drinks from everyone else, and the coterie grows closer together. Kindred youth have crudely dubbed this practice a “circle jerk”.

Much more rare is that coterie that completely bonds its members to one another. Since thralls can only be under full blood bonds to a single regnant, this requires one Kindred to bond herself to a second Kindred, who bonds himself to a third, who bonds herself to the first (or the fourth, depending on how large the coterie is, who bonds themselves to another, and so on). The amount of trust required to enter into such an arrangement is considerable, and the results are all-too frequently painful for those involved, as they must spend much of their time watching the object of their affections fawn over someone else. Many coteries that attempt this process eventually tear themselves apart out of obsession and petty jealousy.

Those few that manage to make it work, however, can be terrifying forces to reckon with.

The Invictus: The First Estate tolerates the blood bond more than any other covenant does. Its elders see the blood oath as another tool by which they can rule over their juniors. In some cities, elders routinely blood bond their childer and all of their line (a practice that was even more widespread in the Middle Ages). In most cities, however, a sire is wary to do this, for Princes do not like Kindred who love their sires more than they fear their rulers. Invictus elders accept such prohibitions because opposing them would turn too many Kindred against the covenant and would too blatantly contradict the covenant’s pretense of meritocracy.

The Other Covenants: The other covenants generally disapprove of blood bond, or at least their members say they do. The Order of the Dragon sees blood bonds as distractions, emotional baggage that diverts attention best focused elsewhere. The Lancea et Sanctum holds that Kindred should serve only God and Longinus. The Anarchs see blood bonds as the acme of elder tyranny, while the unbound simply loathe submitting to anyone else. The Circle of the Crone merely notes that while Kindred should accept the blood bond as one more aspect of their existence, forcing a Kindred into a blood oath serves no spiritual purpose.

Political or spiritual dogma seldom prevents members of these covenants from blood bonding other Kindred when it suits their purposes, though.


Forming a Blood Bond


Any time a character imbibes a point or more of Vitae, it creates or reinforces a blood bond. The bond comes in three stages, usually at the first, second, and third drinks. Characters can attempt to resist the blood bond, but this is not easily done.

Prerequisite: Supernatural Tolerance trait. Mortals and creatures with a lesser supernatural template (ghouls, kinfolk, fae-touched, etc.) cannot normally attempt to resist the blood bond.
Cost: 1 Willpower
Dice Pool: Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – vampire’s Blood Potency – number of Vitae ingested. (If the GM does not wish to give away the vampire’s Blood Potency, they can have the player simply roll Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance and ignore the results of any extraneous dice.)

Roll Results

Dramatic Failure: The character’s will utterly collapses. She cannot spend Willpower to resist the blood bond when she next drinks from the vampire. If the character is already three steps bound to the vampire, she can only roll her Resolve or Supernatural Tolerance (rather than both) if she wants to cause harm to her regnant. These penalties fade after a number of nights equal to the vampire’s Blood Potency as she recovers her self-possession.

Failure: The character is unable to resist the bond, and it progresses one step.

Success: The character manages to resist the bond… for now.

Exceptional Success: The character’s will is invigorated by her struggle against the bond. She regains the point of spent Willpower, and a second additional point.

Succeed or fail, the character still must roll not to develop vitae addiction. Any further attempts to resist the bond from the same vampire suffer a cumulative –1 die penalty; even ancient Kindred cannot resist the bond forever.

Full Blood Bonds in a Single Night?
According to this Onyx Path thread, characters can develop third-stage blood bonds in a single night under VtR 2e rules. Such is not the case in Blood & Bourbon: bar the use of special powers, a blood bond can only progress one step in a single night.


Conditions


Characters who have drunk their regnant’s blood within the past (regnant’s Blood Potency) nights take a penalty (-1 penalty per Vitae ingested) on all of the below rolls to act out against their regnant.

Blood Bound (First Drink)

You are under a first-stage blood bond to a vampire. During any scene when you would cause direct or indirect harm to your regnant, roll Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – your regnant’s Blood Potency. On a failure, you lose a point of Willpower. If you have no Willpower, you gain the Torn Condition. Your regnant also has +1 on all Social rolls and Discipline rolls to affect you.
Resolution: You break your blood bond.
Beat: You do something for your regnant that you wouldn’t normally do.

Blood Bound (Second Drink)

You are under a second-stage blood bond to a vampire. During any scene when you would cause direct or indirect harm to your regnant, spend a point of Willpower and roll Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – your regnant’s Blood Potency. On a failure, you gain the Torn Condition. If you have no Willpower, you cannot act against your regnant. Your regnant also has +3 on all Social rolls and Discipline rolls to affect you.
Resolution: You break your blood bond.
Beat: You do something for your regnant that you wouldn’t normally do.

Blood Bound (Third Drink)

You are under a third-stage blood bond to a vampire. Whenever you would cause direct or indirect harm to your regnant, spend a point of Willpower and roll Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – your regnant’s Blood Potency. On a failure, you cannot muster the will to take any harmful action against your regnant. On a success, you gain the Torn Condition. This independence lasts for one scene if you merely wish to plot against your regnant, deliver confidential information to an enemy, and so on. If you wish to physically attack your regnant, this independence lasts for a single turn. You can spend a point of Willpower to extend its duration by one additional turn. Once you stop spending Willpower, the blood bond resumes at full force. Your regnant also has +5 on all Social rolls and Discipline rolls to affect you. Additionally, you do not need to make eye contact with your regnant for her to use Dominate on you. Merely hearing her voice is sufficient.
Resolution: You break your blood bond.
Beat: You do something for your regnant that you wouldn’t normally do.

Torn

You are attempting to rebel against your regnant and the psychic strain is tearing you apart. Your dice pools for any action that would harm your regnant are capped by your Willpower. This Condition naturally fades (without granting a Beat) at the end of the scene.
Resolution: You abandon a harmful action you are attempting to take against your regnant.
Beat: n/a


Breaking a Blood Bond


A blood bond can be broken, though this requires the thrall to not only avoid the regnant entirely for an extended period of time, but also spend great amounts of Willpower to overcome the addiction. As a general rule, a thrall who does not feed from her regnant for a period of (6 – Resolve, minimum 1) months can make a Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance roll with a penalty equal to the regnant’s Blood Potency. If the thrall does not have any contact with her regnant throughout this time period, she makes the roll at a +3 bonus. On a success, she reduces the bond’s level by one step. Reducing the bond’s level to zero nullifies it entirely.

Blood bonds to Kindred with Blood Potency 6+ last especially long, and substitute the following durations in place of months. For example, a Kindred with Resolve 4 under thrall to a Blood Potency 9 Kindred would have to wait 1,000 years before the bond risked eroding on its own.

Blood Potency Length of Bond
6 Years
7 Decades
8 Centuries
9 Millennia

Mistreatment can also weaken a blood bond. If a regnant gives his thrall reason to hate him, that hatred can prove stronger than forced devotion. At the GM’s discretion, exceptionally heinous acts of abuse or betrayal may allow the thrall to make an immediate Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – (regnant’s Blood Potency) roll to reduce the bond’s level by one step. This can potentially cause the thrall to go mad, though, as love, hate and terror simultaneously roil within her heart. If the thrall successfully reduces the bond’s level, she must make a Resolve + Composure roll at the same penalty to avoid gaining a persistent Mental Condition.

GM’s Note: I err more towards the side of not allowing rolls to break a blood bond than allowing them—Kindred rightly fear how permanent they are. Something like a regnant murdering their thrall’s friends and loved ones is grounds for a roll to break the bond, but not simply physically abusing the thrall (unless the abuse inflicts truly long-lasting or permanent injuries).
These criteria also grow increasingly strict the stronger the bond is. A regnant is the most important person in the thrall’s life under a third-stage bond—ask yourself what it would take to permanently alter your feelings towards a (beloved) spouse or child? That’s what it takes to break a third-stage bond, and even more.
Finally, note that the criteria to break a bond is also relative to the thrall’s experiences. A ghoul who’s accustomed to being heaped with scorn and abuse isn’t going to break free of the bond unless he’s subjected to abuse of a magnitude so far outside his preconceptions that it makes him see his regnant in a new light.
In short, rolls to break blood bonds are only allowed during truly dramatic moments, rather than anytime a regnant is cruel to a thrall. Most Kindred aren’t afraid of abusing their slaves—but it happens just often enough to keep the wiser ones wary.

Another, though somewhat less certain, way to be rid of the bond is to kill the regnant. Such a choice is extremely perilous on many levels, and makes no guarantees that everything will go smoothly. Those who have been released by such means claim the bond shatters like spun glass upon the moment of the regnant’s Final Death. Any thrall to a destroyed regnant faces detachment as if they had committed a Morality 1 breaking point. Vampires who fail this roll gain a persistent Mental Condition instead of a bane. Some thralls are driven to psychotic rage by their regnant’s deaths, while others remain in eternal mourning for their lost “loves.”

Blood Bonds

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