Blood and Bourbon
Paths of Enlightenment
“Places such as this remind us what it was like to be alive. Santiago has beaches much like Grand Isle’s, but high and grassy. Señora Evita, my second childe, would often climb to the tops and make picnics. Even on an empty stomach, she enjoyed smelling the ocean surf and feeling the breeze on her face. But as Kindred, she told me, it was was not the same. The ocean’s waters were dead and black. Breathing the air was forced. The wind had lost its touch, as if she were holding a cloth to her face. She felt as if she were a woman grown chasing after a childhood memory, one she could neither remember nor fully expel from her mind. Time may be the only balm for such feelings.”
“I remember Vetus Pearl saying such things. I feel as though I should share the same sentiment, but I must confess that I do not and, in some strange way, I feel almost guilty for it. While I do recognize the numbness Señora Evita spoke to you of, I find it somehow… liberating.”
—Accou Poincaré to Adelais Seyrès
The vampiric Beast is a powerful manifestation of savagery, temptation, and chaos. It is a needy, visceral thing, which needs to either be appeased into docility or dominated into submission. Humanity allows neither of these things to a vampire. Maintaining Humanity is antagonistic to the needs and drives of the Beast, and maintaining it is to be at odds with the Beast without the proper tools. Human morality is impractical to vampires, whose very unlife depends on breaking many of humanity’s taboos. While humans find drinking blood horrifying, vampires depend on it to survive. Humans condemn murder, rape, and other unsavory activities. Vampires murder all too frequently, and every exsanguination is rape of a level beyond human capacity and comprehension. All these factors slowly add up to one conclusion: vampires are not human, so the Path of Humanity is useless (and downright dangerous) to them.
From this tenet, centuries of study and experimentation by scholarly and spiritual vampires have led to the development of alternative codes of morality, the Paths. A Path seeks to reconcile a vampires beliefs and morals with their undead condition, to give their unlives a way of thinking that is compatible with the needs of the vampiric body and the demands of the Beast. Paths are active modes of morality, compared to Humanity’s passivity. While a vampire with Humanity has his moral compass slowly eroded away and loses ground to the Beast, a Path follower fights it or accepts it as part of their being.
|Creating a Path Follower|
|Switching from Humanity to a Path|
|Living a Path|
|List of Paths|
Paths are as diverse as mortal religions are. They range from the completely practical, like the Path of Honorable Accord, to the esoteric and religious, like the Path of the Bones. Some like the aforementioned Path of Honorable Accord seek the total subjugation of the Beast, while others like the appropriately named Path of the Beast seek harmony and integration of the Beast and the rational self.
Paths are not necessarily antagonistic towards humans, and some even place harming humans as anathema to their codes of conduct, but they are antagonistic towards Humanity. Even Paths like the Path of Blood and the Sharia El-Sama (a vampiric reinterpretation of the Muslim faith), which place humans as beings worthy of protection from vampiric depredation, consider Humanity inferior and dishonest, in the sense that trying to be human is improper of beings who are not human anymore. Paths have very little—in fact, sometimes nothing—to do with the mores of mortal culture. Adopting a Path of Enlightenment means giving up everything that matters to a “normal” person (or indeed, many vampires).
Paths are typically the province of the Sabbat, as Camarilla vampires adopt Humanity at least partly to enforce the Masquerade. Only those Cainites who have truly abandoned themselves to the dark majesty of vampirism follow Paths, and rarely do any turn back. Players may choose between a variety of different Paths (at the Storyteller’s discretion). It is important to know a few things before you commit to a Path of Enlightenment, however.
• Paths are exclusive. Few Kindred are initiated into the secrets of the Paths. Most vampires—even those of the independent Clans and the Sabbat—follow the ways of Humanity; they simply tend to degenerate to very low levels over time. Not just anyone can follow a Path; becoming such an inhuman creature requires discipline and spiritual strength, albeit of a distinctly alien sort. A person seeking to join a Path must have the capacity to discard her human nature, as well as the fortitude to survive the process.
• (Most) Paths are utterly inhuman. Players wishing their characters to adopt Paths of Enlightenment are in for extremely demanding roleplaying experiences. These are codes of immortal ethics that Kindred have spent hundreds of years, if not millennia, studying. It’s fine and good to have a Lasombra character following the Path of Night, but the player will have to devote an enormous amount of energy toward understanding how that character really thinks.
• Paths shock conventional moralities. Paths use game systems similar to Humanity, but the codes that constitute these ideas emphasize such alien ideals that mortal characters observing an adherent is likely to be put off. Some codes espouse killing, while others cannot be bothered with it. Indeed, some codes are so selfish that even thinking about helping others constitutes a moral failure. The transition to a Path is by no means easy. A prospective Path follower literally has to rewire the way he thinks into a completely new and alien framework. A Path like the Path of the Bones not only denies that murder is a sin, it actually holds death as a concept worthy of worship and praise (except under extreme circumstances, Paths seldom allow for mindless rampages), an attitude that would horrify any rational human being.
• Paths are especially rare among the Camarilla. Most cities held by the Ivory Tower contain no Path followers whatsoever. The Camarilla’s foremost purpose is to enforce the Masquerade, which the behavior espoused by many (though not all) Paths of Enlightenment is detrimental to. Path followers within the Camarilla are likely elders who predate the formation of the sect, childer of those elders, or Kindred who have had prolonged contact with the Sabbat or independent clans. When creating a Path follower within the Camarilla, consider where they’ve had the opportunity to learn their Path and what relationship they’ve established with the city’s authorities, who may view them as a danger to the Masquerade. This Onyx Path post offers an excellent in-depth analysis on how almost all of the Paths may be viewed within the Camarilla.
Paths are meant to illustrate how utterly inhuman and removed the Kindred are from humankind, and to give them spiritual protection from the talons of the Beast. Use the Paths when the story or character demands them, not to free the characters from penalties for wanton murder or perversion.
If a player wishes to create a beginning character on a Path, a few changes in the character creation rules take place.
• A vampire following a Path of Enlightenment must begin the game with a Willpower score of 5 and Resolve score of 3, minimum. Beings of lesser ego simply do not have the spiritual vigor needed to break down their souls and rebuild them from the ground up.
• Neonate characters start the game with Path ratings equal to their Resolve or Composure, whichever is better. Bonus Experiences may not be spent to increase a beginning character’s Path rating above 5. Beginning character vampires who subscribe to these codes still have only several decades (at most) of experience as Kindred—hardly enough time to master the rigors of inhuman codes of behavior. Ancilla characters begin with Path ratings equal to (Resolve or Composure) + 1. Bonus Experiences may be spent to increase their Path ratings as high as 7.
A character may also elect to eschew his human nature in favor of a Path. This is exceedingly difficult, and those who fail find themselves permanently soul-scarred as a result.
A character seeking to switch from Humanity to a Path must have a Humanity rating of 3 or below. During the chronicle, a candidate is typically approached by a Kindred already on the Path; in this sense, Paths resemble secret fraternal orders, approaching candidates they deem worthy rather than being open to solicitation. This process should be roleplayed. If the character chooses to initiate himself toward the Path, he begins a program of rigorous study, and a vampire already on the Path is assigned as the initiate’s mentor. An initiate spends at least a year in contemplation and study of the Path’s ways. During this time, the initiate must forcibly degenerate himself, dropping his Humanity to “acceptable” levels (3 or below) if he has not done so already.
The vampire then undertakes a test, which can be roleplayed by the player and Storyteller. This test can involve study of forbidden lore, answering of riddles, completion of ordeals and tasks, or whatever else the Storyteller deems appropriate for the given Path. However, part of the test always involves the vampire committing an act that, in human terms, would be viewed as an atrocity. Such a deed is undertaken not for the sake of mindless evil, but rather to impart a lesson about the character’s nature in relation to the Path.
Following the completion of the test, the character makes an Intelligence + Resolve roll. If the character’s Humanity is 3, the roll takes a -2 penalty. If character’s Humanity is 1, the character rolls with a +2 bonus.
Dramatic Failure: The character commits an atrocity so stupid and pointless that it sets back his understanding of the Path. He may not reattempt to the test for an entire year.
Failure: The character commits a stupid, pointless atrocity without gaining any corresponding understanding. He loses a dot of Humanity and fails to attain the rudiments of the Path, but may reattempt the test (with a bonus appropriate to his lowered Humanity level) later, often in a month or so’s time.
Success: The character succeeds, he sheds his human nature and the Humanity that accompanies it, and gains a Path rating of 1.
Exceptional Success: The character experiences a profound (if twisted) enlightenment, gaining a Path rating of 2.
Each Path adopts a separate lost of breaking points which impacts the character’s Path rating. Unlike the breaking points for Humanity, Path breaking points usually involve condemning humane behavior. This is not to say that a follower on a Path is necessarily a psychotic killer, but their reasons for preventing a murder may be radically different than those from a human perspective. A follower of the Path of Night, for example, will discourage murdering innocents in order to let them grow into the full flower of depravity before killing them.
Whether the appearance of a Path is nonviolent or not, the follower of a Path is inhuman. Following a Path grants a vampire control over their Beast, but it does not make them human. Path followers appear detached, even insane, to normal human beings.
How much a Path follower deviates from Humanity is quite varied. Some Paths draw upon human concepts, but drive them to an extreme (such as the Path of Honorable Accord). Others are more religious structures that accommodate the vampire’s natural impulses towards violence and brutality while still providing a moral structure and internal logic (such as the Path of Night).
Still others adopt a bizarre and alien morality, which makes the follower a truly frightening monster: a vampire not bound by good or evil, who can perform the vilest deeds without risk of degeneration (such as the Path of Metamorphosis). Most Paths are not directly inclined towards wanton aggression; rather, their sensibilities of good and evil are different (or perhaps good and evil, as concepts, simply do not exist for the follower). This results in a great deal of variety in Path followers. For example, by the standards of human ethics, a Metamorphosist is far more evil and inhumane than a Path of Harmony follower.
• The Path follower substitutes their Path score for their Humanity score wherever applicable (except as noted below). This can mean that elder Path followers are less susceptible to sunlight, banes, torpor, and other innate weaknesses than they would be if they simply maintained low Humanity scores.
• The Path follower is treated as though they have a Humanity score of 3 for purposes of interacting with mortals and using Blush of Life. If the Path follower’s Path rating is less than 3, use that score instead. At the GM’s discretion, more humanistic paths (such such as the Path of Entelechy or Harmony variant of the Path of the Beast) may allow the character to use their Path rating as their equivalent Humanity rating.
• The Path follower cannot take banes to become inured to breaking points. Paths of Enlightenment are highly codified systems of behavior that do not allow for the “loopholes” which Humanity does. The Path follower may, however, still acquire banes.
Camarilla characters are aware of Paths of Enlightenment at the following Occult ratings. These ratings are one to several dots lower for characters from other sects and clans where Paths of Enlightenment are an accepted part of their culture.
• The Path of the Beast
• The Path of Blood
• The Path of Bones
• The Path of Caine
• The Path of Cathari
• The Path of Honorable Accord
• The Path of Metamorphosis
• The Path of Night
• The Path of Paradox (no variant)
• The Path of Power and the Inner Voice
• The Path of Typhon
• The Path of the Beast (Feral Heart variant)
• The Path of Ecstasy
• The Path of Evil Revelations
• The Path of Lilith
• The Path of Paradox (modern variant)
• The Path of Paradox (western variant)
• The Path of Redemption
• The Path of the Warrior
• The basic Roads from the Dark Ages
• The Path of the Beast (Harmony variant)
• The Path of Entelechy
• The Path of Night (Allied Night, Cold Path, Hot Path, Lightless Night, and Righteous variants)
• The Path of Orion
• The Path of Paradox (eastern variant)
• The Path of Redemption (Nocturnal variant)
• The Path of the Scorched Heart
• The Path of Self-Focus
• The Sharia El-Sama
• The variant Roads from the Dark Ages
Occult ••••• •
• The Path of the Hive
• Via Primordia
• All but the most obscure Roads from the Dark Ages