Blood and Bourbon
The Players' New Player's Guide
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
Welcome to Blood and Bourbon’s ‘Players’ Players Guide’, a player managed resource that aims to provide guidance and advice to players new and old to facilitate their success in Blood and Bourbon. It’s broken down into two sections, a ‘new players guide’ for character creation that aims to provide a degree of guidance on creating successful characters beyond that in the Player Quick Start reference, and a ‘best practices’ section that aims to provide hints, tips, and detailed explanations on practices that have been successful within the game.
By no means is this required reading, but it is intended to be useful reading, and supplemental reading for newer players.
What This Guide is Not
This is not a replacement for the existing New Player’s guide, general familiarization with the wiki, with the rule systems. At its core, success in Blood and Bourbon is dependent on an array of factors, but perhaps none so much as knowledge.
What This Guide Is
At its core, this guide is hints, tips, and often hard won knowledge offered up by players that have seen a degree of success with their characters across an extended period in Blood and Bourbon. It offers up advice that is intended to be taken less as gospel, and more as guidelines. Think of it like the pirate code. It isn’t always going to apply, but it will generally point you in the right direction. When in doubt, ask the OOC room. While players are under no compulsion to dig deeply into this guide at the onset (indeed, there’s plenty of other reading to do on the site), they are encouraged to poke around it at their leisure.
Know Thine Self (Or at Least Thine PC)
As boring as it sounds, if you’re new to the system, the game, or the medium, it’s strongly recommended that you create a character that has some basis in a real life subject you know enough about to pass yourself off as an expert in. Failing that, do your homework. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone who knows nothing about something try to run a character heavily invested in it.
This doesn’t mean play yourself. Players in the game include active duty military, psychologists, accountants, and students. They do not include former police private investigators, wealthy heiresses, billionaire psychopathic redneck cannibals, or fencing savants. That said, those characters all have some background in subjects of interest to their players, that they can speak to. We’ve had Native American experts playing Native American PCs. Former law students playing characters with legal backgrounds. People from poor backgrounds playing characters from the hood. It adds authenticity. This shouldn’t discourage you from branching out. Lord knows the game could use a few more PCs with connections to some of the less featured bits of the game (like Vodoun, the African-American community), but if you are stretching your horizon, you need to do your homework. Do some research. Read some books. Familiarize yourself, or at least familiarize yourself such that you’re able to fake it to those less familiar.
The Value Added Rule
Something I’ve seen overlooked several times by new players that are generating characters, and who have their hearts set on a given sire, is the importance of bringing something to the table for that sire. The Embrace is the kind of thing that’s typically not given out willy nilly by established Kindred. Most (though not all) Kindred (especially elder Kindred) tend to treat it as an investment, and as such, you need to bring something to the table for them. This doesn’t mean your PC has to be tailored to be an ideal fit for their needs, but it does mean that it’s unlikely that a powerful elder is going to Embrace your vagrant on the street out of the goodness of his heart. That value can take many forms. Maybe it’s skills. Maybe it’s connections. Maybe it’s resources. Whatever the case, when creating your PC, you should be keeping that in mind. The more mundane your character, the more likely they are to get a very ‘mundane’ Embrace.
GM’s Commentary: Beyond this, it also helps when a PC goes out and accomplishes impressive feats in the game world. Sires can have many reasons for Embracing beyond wanting a competent childe, but demonstrating competence can only ever help your PC. Elder sires are going to be a lot more picky about granting the Embrace than neonate sires.
I’ve had a number of PC concepts pitched from players who seemed to take pleasure in their PCs’ haplessness, irreverence for authority, naiveté, incompetence, and general emotional problems. These sorts of characters are unlikely to earn the Embrace from an elder sire who has little use for such traits in a childe.
Naturally, an elder sire might not be what you want for your PC. Maybe you’d prefer a more “street-level” game with a sire who’s closer to an equal, or you want to deal with the narrative challenges of being Embraced by a sire who didn’t have enough clout to get the Prince’s permission. Simply be aware what kinds of PCs are likely to attract what kinds of sires.
Some of you are probably looking at your starting character stats and wondering how you do that, especially in terms of Merits. “Am I expected to spend all my Merits on Allies, Status, or Resources?” You might ask. Not at all, but I’m glad you ask, because it leads me into…
No Purchase Necessary (Some Exclusions May Apply)
A starting character doesn’t have to (and indeed, should not) possess Merits and Skills invested in everything they might have justified in their background. Not only is such nearly impossible for a new player that carries over no Experiences, it leaves with you limited outlets for newly-earned Experiences at the onset. This rule applies to a far greater extent to Merits than Skills, as Skills are more likely to come up through outside means.
Generally speaking the way this is handled in game is that until you spend points, a resources is unavailable. You might then, for instance, write in Allies for your background, but not call them in until you spend the Experience on the Merit. This doesn’t always mean you can spend those Merits on demand (indeed, you cannot suddenly spend Experience on Allies (Police) the moment you get arrested without a Declaration or Setup), but it does mean you can slowly backfill your Merit list over time, calling in and showcasing your PC’s skills over time.
Take, for instance, Caroline Malveaux. Her background suggests connections and status in high society and her own family, possible Allies in Police, Law, Corporate, High Society, and Health, and additional Merits in Resources, Retainers, Fame, and an array of other fields spots. She certainly did not spend points in all of those areas from the onset. Instead, as her story moved forward, she’s invested in various Merits that fleshed out her existing background rather than creating an array of new connections out of whole cloth for an established PC. Be careful with this however, because if you try to trade on benefits you don’t have, the GM is well within his rights to throw it back at you—see George’s powerful Archon sire that he didn’t’ pay for—and who was a persistent thorn in his side.
Another Brick in the Wall
Integrate your character into the established game world. There are literally dozens and dozens of NPCs on the The Living page, and that list grows all the time. Use them! These NPCs can and should serve as bedrocks you can build your background on, select as allies, and build attachments to. The more connections you have to the setting and its residents the more successful your character is going to be at fitting into the world. They’re going to have people they care about, people that care about them, and possible complications. There is nothing more disruptive and boring in any game than a selfish PC that doesn’t care about anything but himself. Not only does it shatter suspension of disbelief (because almost everyone has at least a couple people that they care about, or who care about them), but it sets up the character to lack dramatic weight. It makes them boring. No one enjoys reading about the sociopath that cares only about himself.
Flesh out your character’s background. Who are their family members? Who are their loved ones? Who are their rivals? Build the world around you. Not only is it extra experience, it’s an opportunity explain how your character became who they are and develop relationships that will make their experience both pre and post Embrace that much more meaningful. That said, don’t block yourself in. Build a background, not a straitjacket. You need to flesh out people, not timelines. Leave yourself room to block other people in. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Old friends. Past experiences that haven’t come up. Leave yourself enough rope to hang yourself with, if needed.
Be Special, Not ‘Special’
Be good at something. There’s a value in specialization, and if you aren’t good at anything, what do you bring to the table? That said, the nature of this system is that it heavily favors a degree of generalization (especially with Mental Skills). A 1 dot investment in most Skills is a 2 dice swing on most Skills. It’s a 4 dice swing on Mental Skills. That’s an average of more than a success on rolls with that mental skill for the cost of a 2 Experience investment. Keep just how far a single point goes in mind when you’re assigning Skill dots. Have a broader Skill base, unless you have a very specific reason not to, is almost always a good investment as a player.
The Meritorious Merit of Merits
Merits are, hands down, the best point for point investment possible in the system, especially for a new player or character. In particular, Allies, Retainers, Status, Patron, Mentor, and Resources are all incredibly powerful Merits that allow you to leverage far greater resources than your character is personally capable of managing. For the same cost as an increase to an Attribute that lets you throw a single extra die you could purchase three allies, upper-middle class wealth, a position of power in an organization, a moderately old elder vampire as a Patron/Mentor, or a dedicated expert on call. This shouldn’t discourage you from spending points improving your character, but a good rule to follow, if nothing else, is that you should probably be matching any investments in Skills, Attributes, and Disciplines point for point with investments in Merits.
For new players in particular Mentor and Patron are wonderful investments, because they allow the GM to offer a voice of reason to you or take actions in the background that benefit you. Does this potentially create new headaches for you? Absolutely, and many players are going to balk at being under someone else’s thumb or indebted to them. Get over it. The nature of a more social game like Blood and Bourbon combined with your starting status as a mortal makes this almost guaranteed at some point. Make it on your terms as best you can.
Successful characters tend to have a lot of Merits. Be successful. Have lots of Merits.
Love the Horror
No jokes here. Ultimately this game is set firmly in the horror genre. Embrace it. That doesn’t mean you can’t have positive interactions, but you should expect that horrible things are going to happen, and that they are going to affect your character (or at least should). You’re going to be responsible for horrible things, and even under the very best of circumstances you’re going to be an unliving undead abomination that literally sucks the life out of people for their own survival while playing host to a demonic presence inside them that wants to get out and destroy everything and everyone. Your character’s hopes and dreams are probably going to die one by one along with him or her. Their relationships are going to suffer and likely die. They are going to suffer.
What this means, other than a primer on what to expect, is that you should, unless playing a sociopath, be playing a character that is, you know, horrified. What form that horror takes is largely going to depend on the character you are playing, but you should take the opportunity to explore how that horror affects them. How it changes them. This is deeply personal horror the likes of which you’ll rarely get to explore in another setting or game, due to the medium we play in. You have the opportunity rarely afforded to you. Enjoy it. Play it up. But know what it is.
GM’s Commentary: This is critical. I firmly believe that vampirism is a curse and that getting Embraced is an awful, horrible thing to happen to anyone. Vampires can fight against their Beasts and try to retain their Humanity (that’s the whole point of the game, after all), but it’s a hard and uphill battle. Most vampires eventually lose it.
As one PC remarked in-game, “I don’t know how to win, only how to lose more slowly.”
Check your Bag(gage) at the Door
Every Storyteller / GM is different. Everyone expects different things out of their players, views things differently, and sets up their world differently. Your last game might have had elders behave in a certain way, or might have assumed that a ghoul’s blood bonds dissolved after an Embrace, or might have allowed Dominate to work over Skype. Don’t bring that into the game and let it trip you up. Nothing is worse than to have some great plot lined up, work all the parts of a plan, then have everything come apart when you made an assumption based on prior experience that doesn’t hold true in this game. When in doubt, ask ahead of time. Bring it up in a private room. Ask in the OOC room. Get a clarification. This is especially true when playing an older and more experienced character.
GM’s Commentary: My take on Vampire probably errs more towards the “conservative” end of the GMing spectrum than some players may be accustomed to. Blood bonds stick for Embraced ghouls, Kindred won’t teach clan-exclusive Disciplines like Thaumaturgy without substantial favors, frenzy and Humanity rolls are regularly called for, elders won’t tolerate disrespect from neonates, knowing about obscure Disciplines like Koldunic Sorcery requires substantial dots in Occult, and so on and so forth. I think all of this stuff is pretty in-line with the way White Wolf envisioned Vampire’s setting, but I have met players who either didn’t feel so or simply didn’t prefer that type of game.
Care About your PC (Because No One Else Does)
So, the title here is a bit of a lie, because generally speaking most other players will care about your character’s story, but at its core this point is mostly a reminder that you control your PC’s fate, and that if you aren’t taking actions that benefit them, if you aren’t invested in them, and if you don’t guide them down the right paths, they’re going to meet a shitty end and probably suffer along the way, whether as a mortal or a vampire. If you don’t think that Cal plays for keeps, take a look at Emmett’s, Lavine’s, Baptiste’s, Mike’s, and Julien’s storylines. Poor choices or a failure to look out for your character’s interests can result in them getting (among other things) maimed, dismembered, raped, not Embraced, blood bonded, murdered, and/or executed, and with a quickness.
Take things seriously. While this is a game, Blood and Bourbon strives to mirror real life. It’s a twisted version of real life, but it is not narratively driven. There is no genre-based nonsense. Plots do not exist for your characters and are not designed solely for your enjoyment. NPCs have their own agendas. Not every ‘hook’ is one you need to bite on, and you shouldn’t be doing things ‘just to see how they turn out’ unless your character has an interest in doing so. Actions have consequences. If they don’t then your choices have no consequence, and the world loses its depth, its horror, and its suspension of disbelief.
Embrace the Suck (When you Can)
This is one that has tripped up a few players. The nature of the Storytelling System used in Blood and Bourbon promotes embracing setbacks as sources of both XP and new plot twists. Tons of interesting plots have been kicked off by botches that took stories in completely different directions and many a mundane scene into something far more dramatic. You can, and should embrace these events as a player, even while your PC struggles to overcome the adversity created. That said, and this is the most common sticking point, know when you can afford to do so, and when you can’t.
Calder doesn’t pull punches. He isn’t going to always give you an out if you dig your hole too deeply for yourself, and sometimes the way out you find for yourself isn’t going to be one that comes without cost to your character. If you keep falling down a rabbit hole of botches and things keep getting worse, you need to consider spending Willpower to break free and turn things around. It is entirely possible to dig yourself into a hole that you cannot get out of in this game. Unlike many settings and GMs/Storytellers, Cal is willing to let you fail. So be aware when you can afford to have bad things happen. Make good choices. If you’re at 1/10 Vitae and carrying a ton of damage, that’s probably not a good time to accept a Beat for a botched hunting roll.
The House Always Wins (The Nature of Establishment)
This isn’t intended as a direct rebuke of characters that align against Vidal faction, because, indeed, the game could use new characters that aligned with some of the other factions (especially the Baron’s). That said, know what you’re getting into when you pick a direct fight with the establishment in New Orleans, or any other Kindred city. In particular, understand that they hold all the cards, guard all the doors, and have all the power in the world to decide not only if you are punished if you fail and how you are punished if you fail, but also how you are punished even if you succeed. They are the sole authority that can have you legitimately executed, full stop. They command the greatest resources and wield almost all of the levers of power.
What that means is, be careful over the fights you pick with the establishment, because in those fights you’re risking not only your credibility, your resources, your allies, and your minions. You’re risking your life, and not only in the immediate. Make sure that what you’re going to war over is worth it. Make sure it’s worth your life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t win those fights, or that you shouldn’t. It does mean that they should be picked carefully, and skillfully, and with an eye towards allies and appearances. Cletus’ story is a good example of a fight with the establishment done right, where he’s leveraged allies and sought modest goals. Indirect combat, in which you undermine their credibility, pull away their allies, and leverage resources against them politically or socially is even better. The establishment is built on legitimacy.
GM’s Commentary: While the Lancea et Sanctum is the most powerful of the city’s factions, there are checks and balances upon their power in the form of rival (and even allied) political factions, as well as the facts that more heavy-handed actions require pretext, and in some cases simply aren’t worth the cost. Princes who execute older Kindred without good cause are setting themselves up to be overthrown, and the Sanctified’s rule has been threatened in the past by their ideological extremity (until they adapted with the times and relaxed certain stances that were engendering needless enemies).
There are many corridors of power they have only limited access to, as well. The Baron’s followers have far greater sway over the city’s African-American, Vodoun, and blue-collar working communities. Savoy’s people enjoy far more sway over organized crime and the French Quarter, where a great deal of New Orleans’ wealth and influence is concentrated. Savoy and the Baron have waged cold war against the Prince and stood up to him for over a hundred years.
Savvy players who’ve taken on the city’s dominant political faction have done it by playing smart. George’s reveal of Matheson’s secret was a significant blow against the establishment, because it made them out as bad guys to everyone else and undermined the legitimacy of their rule. Cletus had valid pretext to kidnap Rocco, because the Hound was trespassing in his domain.
Not all players have been savvy though. Baptiste launched an unprovoked attack on the Prince’s headquarters with neither allies nor justification for his actions, so no NPCs threw a fuss when he was executed. Players who’ve broken the Masquerade and been caught have likewise been at the establishment’s mercy.
Pete is right that the establishment holds the most cards, but there are also smart PCs who’ve dealt them some bad hands.
The Law of Willpower Conservation (The 3rd Rule)
Willpower is an awesome resource in the system we use. It powers the use of many supernatural powers, allows rerolls in key circumstances, lets you overcome the drawbacks of various Conditions, and can even let you make outright declarations about the setting. In my experience it is the most valuable resource you have as a player. It’s also a resource you can blow through with a quickness, and one that can be slow to recover.
PCs naturally regenerate one Willpower a night and regain Willpower when they take risky or costly actions in keeping with their Virtue and Vice. Given how eventful nights can be, it’s easy to run yourself down into the ground (and stay there) if you’re constantly rerolling failed rolls, ignoring your Conditions, or altering the very nature of the game world. So where do you draw the line? How do you decide when it’s worthwhile to spend Willpower? When do you use it, and when do you conserve it?
There’s no hard rule for those questions, but my quick and dirty, which has worked out so far, is the 1/3rd rule. If I’m at full Willpower I can spend my top 1/3rd frivolously rerolling, declaring, or ignoring things. Essentially, it’s free use, because floating at full Willpower isn’t particularly advantageous as a PC. It’s the free use I have to give me an advantage or set myself up for success down the line. The middle 1/3rd is objective focused. It’s points that I reserve to spend on things that matter to me. Maybe I’m trying to accomplish a goal, maybe a fail significantly slows me down or sets me back, and I want to get around it. This third is mission oriented. Finally, there’s the bottom 1/3rd, which is an emergency reserve. Essentially this is life or death stuff reserved to hold off a frenzy at an Elysium, break a botch chain, take reactive actions in combat, reroll a botch with the Prince, or otherwise save your skin.
This isn’t to say you have to follow this rule. By all means, spend your Willpower as you please, but it’s very much a ‘best practices’ experience.
Lifeline: Ask the Audience
You have an OOC player room with a collective thirty or forty years of RPG experience, to say nothing of a couple centuries worth of life experience. You have people from a huge array of backgrounds, with a wide array of skills. Use them! While Blood and Bourbon does allow player vs. player conflicts, such is not the focus of the game and, in all but the most adversarial of circumstances, players are inclined to provide input, guidance, and information of all kinds when polled for it. They’re happy to make mechanical suggestions or offer asymmetric solutions that might not have occurred to you. Sometimes you just need to see something from a different point of view, or bounce a problem off a few other people.
I cannot tell you how many times a PC has been saved by a suggestion from someone in the peanut gallery that the player was just too close to see. This is especially true of newer players who may be less familiar with all of the options available to them under the rules.
GM’s Commentary: Also, while I’m always happy to answer player questions and provide feedback on ideas (when asked), I’ll only provide ideas/tactical advice of my own after it’s too late for them to be of help. (Ie, “Here are some things you could’ve done back during Scene X that would’ve helped…”) Fellow players are under no such restriction, and are free to toss out brilliant ideas at any point they might be useful.
If it’s sensitive subject you don’t want to share with the group as a whole, or don’t want to bring up where the GM can see it, bring it up in a private chat with someone, especially one or more of the veteran players (Sam is a particularly good choice, if available). Again, there’s a great deal of experience vested in some of the players, both in general, in the hobby, in the game, and with the GM. Please, take advantage of it.
Talk to the GM. No, seriously, talk. Do so on a regular basis. Maintain a running dialogue with him. Talk about your goals, your thoughts, your concerns. Bounce concepts off him. Bounce ideas off him. Run plans past him. Ask questions about the world and ask for amplifying information. The information put forward in the IC room is the baseline of information you should have. If you need more, ask. If you have questions about a mechanic, ask. If you don’t agree with a ruling, talk about it. Don’t argue, and if he makes a ruling accept it, but don’t be afraid of bringing things up to him if they don’t look right. You’re running a single PC, he’s running a game for a half dozen players. It’s entirely possible that you’ll catch something that he missed.
It also clues the GM into your thinking, your motivations, and your interest (and interests) in the game. If you’re going on and on about how interested you are in a given plot, he may try to find a way to work you into it. If you’re talking about how much you hate a given plot, he may deemphasize it. If you’re really frustrated and don’t understand something, talk about it. Ask questions. The most successful players in this game and most games keep their lines of communication both open and active.
GM’s Commentary: We also have the aptly-named feedback forum for players to provide feedback on the game. They even get XP for posting on it, too.
Again, there’s no joke here, no cleverness. Be honest with your GM. Period. Related to communication above is making sure that communication is both clear and trusted. The first step in that is being honest at all times. There’s no room for lies between you, and I don’t even know where you’d get there. If you don’t trust your GM why are you playing with him? If he doesn’t trust you, why are you in their game? That doesn’t require immediate disclosure of every detail, plan, or plot, but as above, conveying those plans to your GM in advance lets him point out holes or problems within them ahead of time, rather than springing them on you at the 11th hour because your plan doesn’t actually work.
Pick Your Battles
The nature of the system, and the game as a whole, is to de-emphasize direct combat. That said, times are going to come up where it becomes a very real option. When it does learn from the mistakes of many players before you: pick your battles. It’s really quite simple here, like, Art of War stuff. Attacking when your enemy is strong and you are weak will lead to defeat. Attacking where they are strong will lead to defeat. If you are forced to resort to combat to resolve something, do everything in your power to ensure it is on your terms, because you can be sure that the other guy is probably doing the same thing. Weapons, allies, Willpower, and Vitae are all valuable resources you should be trying to employ, rather than have used against you.
As a whole PCs that have been physically defeated in this game usually had such happen because they took avoidable fights on bad terms. In contrast, PCs that have had successful combats have tended to do so when they did everything in their power to set the stage in their favor. Sometimes they also got lucky, but often that luck was also a byproduct of advanced plans, those little things they set in motion that gave them the edge against a given threat. While no plan may survive first contact with your enemy, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Try to avoid being maneuvered into positions where you are the one playing defense, pinned down by something, and forced to fight on someone else’s terms. Plan ahead. Think ahead.
GM’s Commentary: Declarations and Setups are very useful resources for when you haven’t (or to supplement existing plans), too.
Well, I do Declare (World-Shattering Power)
Declarations are the most world-shattering tool you have available to you, and the best part is that the first one every week is free. Like, 100% completely free, no money down, no exclusions apply, throw it out there. Make use of them! I make it a point every week, come Saturday night, to use an unused Declaration for some purpose that tilts the world subtly to my advantage. Whether you use them subtly, aggressively, ambitiously, or carefully, they are a means by which you can alter the nature of the world and stack the deck in your favor. Past Declarations have inserted bombs into situations, made phone calls, arranged meetings with past people, set up escape routes, brought in allies, leveraged political support, established prior relationships, allowed people to spend Experience on the fly for an applicable Skill or Discipline, and otherwise allowed players to triumph when all the odds were stacked against them at the onset.
Doing so is especially important when you’ve got something you don’t want to give up on the line, or when you’re playing a scheming character that got caught with their pants down because you as a player made a mistake. The very reason they exist is to help account for the fact that you as a player are not as invested in the world as your character, may not have plotted things out as well as they have, or got caught up in a narrative like they would not. Think outside the box on these, or ask for help, if you need to. Going back to an earlier point, you might not have a great idea, but another player might have faced a similar circumstance or have an off the wall idea that saves you. Get comfortable with the idea that you can change the narrative. It’s not something most players are accustomed to wielding, but the sooner you get accustomed to the awesome power you wield in your hands, the sooner you can start to succeed. You can read more about Declarations on the Declaration and Setup main page.
I shouldn’t really have to say this, because I’m almost certain it’s mentioned in numerous other places on the wiki, but I will anyway. Manners. Manners get you everywhere. They are a medicine for every ill and a balm on all wounds. Not always the most effective medicine. Not always (or even often, given the brutality of Kindred society) a complete balm on a wound. But they very rarely set one back, and when in doubt, when in a position of huge positional authority difference, being polite can only help you. Now, maybe your PC doesn’t get that at first (though if they’re a native, they probably should, given that it’s the South), but even the most belligerent character is likely to realize before long that they get a lot further with honey than with vinegar. It’s effective with most modern Kindred, and it’s even more important with older Kindred where politeness was socially required and much stricter than today. Knowing one’s place. Knowing the difference in status. Knowing what was asking too much. These are things that elder Kindred know and still live by. So yeah. Depending on the PC, keep it in mind. Being polite can be the difference between something unpleasant happening and something horribly unpleasant happening.
GM’s Commentary: In the South it’s traditional to address your elders/superiors as “sir” or “ma’am.” Nothing to do with vampires, it’s simply part of the regional culture. If you call the mayor by his first name, he’s probably going to be ticked.
Like Manners, this is something that’s going to vary a lot by player and character, but the long and short is that Kindred are predators. Even the nice ones literally hunt human beings to survive pretty much every night. They live in a vicious and backstabbing society. In short, they recognize weakness, and most are going to instinctively want to take advantage of it. Characters that set themselves up socially or physically as victims, especially those that let themselves get pushed around by peers, are unlikely to see matters change for the better. Kindred society is one in which the people at the top grind down on the people at the bottom. It’s vicious and infuriating and demeaning, and most people in that position want someone else to take that unpleasantness out on. If your PC presents them as that next person, the next person down the chain, there’s a high probability that they are going to keep getting shit on. If they’re subordinate to you, it’ll probably get worse. No one, whether in Kindred society or the real world, respects someone that they can push around, and when people want an outlet for their own shitty lives they’ll take it out on someone.
Don’t be that someone (unless you want to be). When possible, push back. Do it hard and early. Establish yourself. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know when to pick your battles: the Sheriff, Prince, and elders probably aren’t the people to tell to fuck off. The rule above about picking your battles absolutely applies even here. That also doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect pushing back to carry its own problems depending on the nature of the people you’re dealing with. But it does mean that one surefire way for things to never get better is to just hope that someone will eventually stop. Much like the schoolyard bully, if you let a given Kindred take your lunch money and do nothing about it, he’s going to assume he can keep taking your lunch money unless you give him a reason to stop. Sometimes that means punching him the nose. Sometimes it means getting a friend to crack him over the back of the head with a tire iron. Sometimes it’s just making a significant change in your habits. Regardless, understand the dynamic at play. People who let others push their personal boundaries invite further pushing.
Both as a character and as a player, pro-activity is almost always a positive. Not only are you driving the story forward instead of waiting on the GM to come along and throw a scene up for you at all times, not only are you clearly outlining what you want and often setting a stage on your terms, you’re also creating an interesting and dynamic character that’s fun to read and play around. Characters that have their own internal drives, goals, and motivations are simply more interesting for everyone at the table, including the GM, that those that are purely affected by outside powers, so strive to create, whenever possible, characters that are proactive. Characters should always have goals and desires. That doesn’t mean you can’t play a PC that sits at home all night and plays X-Box, but what does that character add to the story? Why is that the option you’re going with? Why are they a central part in this story? Why are they worth following? Proactive characters by their nature are not only more fun for players and GMs, they’re also more dynamic in the setting and lend themselves to generating entirely new stories. That dynamic nature in turn makes them more interesting to NPCs in the setting as well, and the whole thing snowballs into a more enjoyable experience.
Know Where Your PC is Going
You may think this is obvious, and perhaps it is to you, but it’s being said here because I think it’s important, and I think some people approach it the wrong way. As a player pitching a mortal in Blood and Bourbon you don’t have complete creative control of where your story is going to go. Maybe you get a different Embrace than you expected. Maybe your relationship with your sire isn’t what you thought. Maybe you end up with a really negative relationship with a faction you expected to hit it off with. That’s fine. You don’t have to have (and shouldn’t have) a road map detailing every stop along the way of your trip from mortal to established Kindred. What you should have is a starting point (where your PC begins), a destination, and a job when you get there. Just like you wouldn’t get in the car and start driving somewhere, your PC shouldn’t just appear in the game world and hope to arrive somewhere. To extend that analogy, if you’re starting in California it makes it a lot harder to move your character in a coherent direction and progress their story meaningfully if you end up driving around in circles. You don’t have to know that you want to end up living at 1213 Baxter Street in New York, New York, but you should know that you’d like your PC to end up in an urban environment in the Northeast, and while you can’t exactly have a job lined up, you should at least have a field. If you’re playing a bit hulking brute of a character with many physical skills that you’d like to explore the Anarchs with as an enforcer or tough, it gives you a much more solid direction to go with than “Bob is a gym rat who’s going to become a vampire”. It’s also a lot less constrained than “I want Bob to get Embraced by Coco Duquette and become her lead enforcer”, which really ties a GM’s hands as far as where your story is going to go or (more likely) sets you up for failure and disappointment.
Starting point. Ending region. Job field. You’d be amazed at how often people are missing one of the latter two.