Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“Seek not the blood of thine own elder
seek not the blood of thy sire’s sire
seek not the blood that made thee kin
for thou will feel the funeral pyre
when thou dost pay for thy immortal sin.”
—The Book of Nod
There is one thing that elder Kindred dread even more than fire or the light of the sun. This is the sin known as diablerife, or the Amaranth. Among Camarilla society, diablerie is the ultimate crime; those who practice it are subject to the harshest punishments imaginable. It is as loathed and feared as cannibalism is among mortal society. The vampires of the Sabbat, as well as the warriors of the Banu Haqim, are said to indulge in diablerie freely, which is yet another reason why the elders hate them so.
Quite simply, diablerie is the act of feeding on a vampire in the way that a vampire feeds on a mortal. In so doing, not only does the murderer consume the victim’s blood (and vampire blood is far, far sweeter than even the tastiest mortal’s), but the victim’s power as well. By stealing the life of a vampire closer to Caine, the vampire can permanently enrich their own vitae. In this manner can even the youngest vampire can gain the power of the elders, should they have the strength and daring to wrest it from them.
Elders know the crime as the amaranth; in olden nights, it is said, an amaranth flower was presented to the victim a week before they were to be hunted. Kindred legend tells many dark tales of murderous childer betraying and cannibalizing their own sires, and it is for this reason more than any other that elder Kindred harbor such distrust for the neonates among them. Indeed, the great Jyhad itself may well have its roots in this eternal and savage struggle for ultimate power.
To begin with, the would-be diablerist must generally immobilize their target. (Voluntary sacrifice to diablerie is rare, but not unknown in the twisted opera that is the Jyhad.) Heavy chains, a stake, torpor, or many partners holding the victim down have all worked in the past. Then, the diablerist must drink all of the victim’s blood, a feeding similar to most others except, given the viscosity of vitae, it usually requires an entire scene to accomplish fully. Partners may help consume the victim’s blood, but only one drinker can attempt to gain the victim’s power in full diablerie. a pack of neonates cannot swarm around an elder like hungry sharks, no matter how potent the victim’s blood.
After draining the target’s vitae, the would-be diablerist can commit the final blasphemy: the true diablerie. The vampire must continue to suck the dry corpse, for (according to legend) the very soul is withdrawn from the victim’s body and taken into the diablerist’s. The effort involved in diablerie is monumental, for the vampiric soul is a greedy thing and clings tenaciously to unlife, hoping to regenerate its body and rise once again. This takes the better part of a scene, during which time the diablerist takes Disadvantage on all dice rolls, for total concentration goes into the struggle to draw forth the victim’s essence. If the diablerie is interrupted, the victim must make a Resolve + Composure roll (DC 7). On a setback, the victim gains one Corruption and an insanity-related Flaw. The experience of having one’s soul nearly devoured is incredibly traumatic, and it is not unheard of for some near-victims of diablerie to still go mad and lose themselves to their Beasts.
Once the diablerie is complete, the victim’s essence is taken into the diablerist and the emptied body crumbles into ash. The diablerist is overwhelmed by euphoria and must make a Resolve + Composure roll (DC 4 + victim’s Blood Potency – diablerist’s Blood Potency; minimum DC 2) to avoid frenzying. The sensation is akin to orgasm, but so much more powerful.
The Rewards of Diablerie
• Generation: If the victim is of lower generation than the diablerist, add the victim’s generation to the diablerist’s and divide by two, rounding up. The result is the diablerist’s new generation. This is the most coveted reward of the amaranth, for the diablerist can shatter the “glass ceiling” imposed by their sire’s blood and bring themselves closer to the mythical power of Caine. The amaranth tempts all vampires, but it is most irresistible to weaker-blooded ones who cannot grow more powerful with the passing of years.
• Blood Potency: If the victim had higher Blood Potency than the diablerist, add the victim’s Blood Potency to the diablerist’s and divide by two, rounding up. The result is the diablerist’s new Blood Potency.
• Disciplines: The diablerist gains a number of Discipline dots equal to (victim’s Blood Potency). These new dots must be in Disciplines the victim knew, up to a maximum dot rating known by the victim. The diablerist still must receive instruction to learn dots in Blood Sorcery they don’t already know or have as an in-clan Discipline. The GM will usually let the player pick which Disciplines they gain, but may mandate or preclude some choices. If the diablerist can’t gain (victim’s Blood Potency) new Disciplines, they gain the remaining balance in Devotions, Attributes, or Skills the victim knew.
• Other Traits: Diablerie provides justification for characters to spend XP on Attributes, Skills, and Merits possessed by the victim that would normally require significant intervals of time to learn. The diablerist ignores normal learning periods and simply absorbs the victim’s memories and experiences directly into themselves. It’s not unheard of for diablerie to even cause physical changes in the diablerist (justifying increased Physical Attributes and certain Merits). This window lasts for one night per victim’s Blood Potency.
• Elder Diablerie: The diablerie of especially strong-blooded vampires by weaker-blooded vampires may have more potent rewards (and drawbacks) than those listed above. Such things are poorly understand by most Kindred, and exact mechanics will remain opaque to PCs outside of play.
The Perils of Diablerie
Committing diablerie seems like the perfect crime to many power-hungry neonates. There is no body left when the deed is done, as vampiric corpses immediately disintegrate into clumps of ash. Without solid evidence, it’s difficult for even the most despotic prince to make an outright accusation of murder. But those who commit the atrocity soon learn that diablerists wear the evidence of their crime on their very souls.
• Addiction: Amaranth is sweet beyond all other pleasures—so sweet that perpetrators can easily become addicted to the sensation. The diablerist must make a Resolve + Composure roll (DC = victim’s Blood Potency – diablerist’s Blood Potency before the diablerie + 4) to avoid gaining the Addicted (diablerie) Flaw. All Kindred fear these vampires, known as “rogues”, for their addiction to the pleasures of amaranth makes them a threat to everyone. Even vampires too weak to provide additional power are devoured for the simple pleasure of the act.
• Corruption: Diablerie is worse than murder: the amaranth allegedly absorbs the victim’s soul, destroying any chance of the victim finding peace in the afterlife. Even if the perpetrator does not believe in such things, the victim suffers unspeakable agony in the moments before their final death. Diablerie is Dark Deed at Corruption 6: few atrocities are more terrible than the amaranth. Aiding the act is a Corruption 5 Dark Deed. Even non-involved witnesses must roll to resist incurring Stains for a Corruption 4 Dark Deed.
• Social Stigma: Such is the horror of diablerie that, according to many elders, even a blood hunt is no grounds for its practice. Hunters may drink a victim’s blood, even to the last drop, but may not continue the process of diablerie once the victim is drained. Indeed, by decree of the Inner Circle, only a sire is permitted to diablerize their childe, and then only during a blood hunt. In practice, many younger Kindred take the opportunity of blood hunt’s chaos for kinslaying, and princes often look the other way if the criminal was heinous enough. A few particularly cruel or traditionalist princes actually consider it the right of hunters to devour the criminal’s soul, under the rationale that a blood hunt negates a vampire’s very existence and no longer makes them Kindred.
• Stained Aura: Vampires with the Auspex Discipline can detect a diablerist by using Read Thoughts and certain other Devotions. The stolen energies of the victim mingle with the energies of the diablerist, leaving thick black marks running across the diablerist’s psychic aura. These marks stand as clearly as motor oil on a crystal-clear pond, covering the softer colors of the victim’s own aura and betraying the crime beyond question. These marks remain in evidence for a number of nights equal to the victim’s Blood Potency—the same duration, in fact, that it takes for the diablerist to fully absorb the victim’s soul into their own (in game terms, to still spend XP on traits known by the victim).
Not all vampires know of diablerie or the stains it leaves behind. Many younger Kindred might simply question the odd discoloration on the vampire’s aura. Most elder vampires understand what the stains mean, though, and could well call for the diablerist’s immediate punishment or use the information as blackmail at a later date. For this reason, many diablerists go into seclusion and attempt to limit their contact with other Kindred until the stains on their aura can fade. Practitioners of thaumaturgy, however, are rumored to have rituals that can detect the diablerist’s sin long after the crime was committed. For that reason, and for many others, practitioners of the amaranth fear the Tremere. Other powers can also potentially detect diablerie with the same ease or difficulty they might detect other dark secrets.
Diablerie does not have to be limited to one diablerist. A pack of neonates can swarm an elder like hungry sharks and rip the victim’s soul to pieces between themselves. This process is thought to be even more painful and traumatic for the victim, but there aren’t many survivors who can attest.
If multiple vampires participate in a diablerie, they all gain the benefits and drawbacks as normal. For every diablerist beyond the first, treat the victim’s generation as one higher and their Blood Potency as one dot lower (this also means the diablerists each gain fewer Disciplines). If there are enough diablerists to treat the victim’s Blood Potency as 0, the GM may call for Strength + Brawl or Resolve + Blood Potency rolls to determine which diablerists consume the victim’s soul and which ones get left out. The GM can also call for these rolls if some or all diablerists don’t want to share with others.