Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
“But supposing that there be any reality in the fact of these apparitions of vampires, shall they be attributed to God, to angels, to the spirits of these ghosts, or to the devil? In this last case, will it be said that the devil will subtilize these bodies, and give them power to penetrate through the ground without disturbing, to glide through the cracks and joints of a door, to pass through a keyhole, to lengthen or shorten themselves, to reduce themselves to the nature of air, or water, to evaporate through the ground…”
Abbé Augustin Calmet, Treatise on Apparitions
A soon as a mortal receives the Embrace, they receive access to the powers colloquially known as Disciplines. Developed from the temperaments of victims consumed and refined to devastating potential, vampires bring these blood-borne gifts to bear against foes and prey.
Disciplines work like every other trait and have ratings from one dots to five. One dot indicates rudimentary proficiency with the Discipline, while five dots indicates mastery. There are ten different Disciplines, each one covering a broad range of iconic vampiric powers.
adoration, and terror.
and bodily alteration.
Clans and Disciplines
Every Kindred clan has an affinity for three Disciplines, known as their in-clan Disciplines. Vampires learn their in-clan Disciplines instinctively, much like how a mortal learns to walk and talk on their own. Vampires can still learn non-clan Disciplines, but it’s not instinctive: it’s a learned skill like shooting or martial arts that requires training from another vampire who already knows the Discipline. In-clan Disciplines are as follows for each clan:
• Assamite: Blood Sorcery (Dur-An-Ki), Celerity, Obfuscate
• Brujah: Celerity, Potence, Presence
• Caitiff: Pick any three, one of which must be Celerity, Fortitude, or Potence. Blood Sorcery requires GM permission.
• Gangrel: Animalism, Fortitude, Protean
• Hecata: Auspex, Blood Sorcery (Necromancy), Fortitude
• Lasombra: Blood Sorcery (Obtenebration), Dominate, Potence
• Malkavian: Auspex, Dominate, Obfuscate
• Nosferatu: Animalism, Obfuscate, Potence
• Ravnos: Animalism, Fortitude, Obfuscate
• Salubri: Auspex, Fortitude, Presence
• Setite: Obfuscate, Presence, Protean
• Toreador: Auspex, Celerity, Presence
• Tremere: Auspex, Blood Sorcery (Thaumaturgy), Dominate
• Tzimisce: Animalism, Auspex, Protean
• Ventrue: Dominate, Fortitude, Presence
Starting Disciplines: As stated on the Character Creation page, Kindred PCs begin play with three dots allocated between any Disciplines of their choice, two of which must be in-clan Disciplines. Blood Sorcery requires GM permission if it’s not in-clan for the character or taught by their covenant. PCs also start with a fourth Discipline dot chosen from the Disciplines granted by their Predator Type.
Ghoul PCs begin play with two Discipline dots, which may only be chosen from Disciplines that are in-clan or personally known by the ghoul’s domitor. Ghouls cannot have more dots in any single Discipline than their domitor’s Blood Potency.
Devotions: All Disciplines have individual powers known as Devotions. Devotions have dot ratings according to how powerful they order. For example, the Compel (•) Devotion for Dominate lets the vampire issue brief commands to victims, while the Chimerstry (••) Devotion for Obfuscate lets the vampire conjure an illusion that befuddles all of the victim’s senses. For every dot a character gains in a Discipline, they gain one free Devotion at the same dot rating. Characters can learn additional Devotions at the same dot rating.
Vampires desire power. Vampires also hoard power. Devotions are divided into three categories according to how easy they are to learn:
Common Devotions are familiar to virtually every practitioner of the Discipline, as well as many non-practitioners.
• In-Clan: Vampires for whom the Discipline is in-clan can learn its Common Devotions on their own. The GM can hand these out to PCs as awards based on their in-game actions and behavior, or the player can purchase them with XP.
• Non-Clan: Vampires for whom the Discipline is non-clan require a teacher, as detailed below.
• One exception to the above are Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence. All vampires can learn Common Devotions for these Disciplines without a teacher, even if they are non-clan. They simply cost more XP for vampires for whom the Discipline is non-clan.
Uncommon Devotions are not as widely known by Kindred society at large, but experienced occultists and practitioners of the Discipline are usually familiar with a number of its Uncommon Devotions.
Uncommon Devotions always require a teacher, whether they are in-clan or non-clan for the vampire. The GM may award Uncommon Devotions to PCs retroactively, but is likely to do so less often.
Rare Devotions are kept secret between small numbers of Kindred: some may be entirely unique to one vampire. Rare Disciplines can have outlandish effects that stretch the boundaries of the Discipline’s concept and are typically only shared among close allies and blood kin. Outsiders who wish to learn such Devotions will probably need more leverage than just one Debt. Even dedicated practitioners of a Discipline may only know hearsay and rumors about Rare Devotions.
Rare Devotions always require a teacher, unless they are ones the PC has personally developed. The GM may also hand out personally developed Rare Devotions as awards.
Amalgams: Some Devotions require proficiency in more than one Discipline. Characters must also possess the listed number of dots in the other Discipline to take these Devotions.
Ghoul Devotions: Any Devotion that uses “the ghoul” rather than “the vampire” as the example character in its text cannot be learned by vampire characters. Embraced ghouls lose any such Devotions upon their Embrace.
Learning From Teachers
To learn a Discipline or Devotion from a teacher, the vampire must drink a Rouse check’s worth of the teacher’s vitae and spend some time being tutored in the Devotion’s use. Most teachers who don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the vampire (e.g., a sire or coterie-mate) will charge a Debt in return. PCs who buy such Devotions with XP owe a Debt to an NPC vampire if they don’t have an Ally, Mentor, coterie-mate, etc. who would have taught them the Devotion.
• Retroactive Purchases: PCs can buy Devotions retroactively with XP. They can also spend another (Devotion’s dot rating) XP to declare the teacher’s Debt has already been repaid. This costs (double Devotion’s dot rating) XP for non-clan Common Devotions and (triple Devotion’s dot rating) for non-clan Uncommon Devotions.
• PC Teachers: At the GM’s discretion, PCs may teach other Devotions (for free) at narratively cool moments or when it accompanies an equivalent exchange of services. For example, if another PC earns a Debt from your PC, you might pay it back by sharing a Devotion you know.
Learning Unique Devotions
Your PC may develop their own custom Devotions. In fact, most of the game’s vampire PCs (played under the Decanter rules) have had a unique trick or two in their larger bag. Developing a custom Devotion involves the following steps:
First, pitch it to the GM. He’ll iron out the mechanics and ensure balance with other Devotions of the same dot rating.
Second, pick up the Devotion with your PC. You can buy the Devotion retroactively via XP purchase, or you can learn it for free in-game (either via flashback or in the present) via a two-step process that involves research and an ordeal: some kind of challenge to overcome and/or sacrifice to make that’s unique to the nature of the Devotion. For example, a Devotion that grants the vampire command over a swarm of insects nesting in their body might involve an ordeal where the vampire allows the swarm to devour part of their flesh (and must resist the urge to frenzy).
As a general rule, neonates know fewer Disciplines than elders and ancillae. To reflect this, neonate PCs will eventually hit a glass ceiling on how many Disciplines they can learn. The GM doesn’t have a universal cap in mind: it varies by character background and concept. PCs with earlier Embrace dates, higher Corruption, and higher Blood Potency are likely to be allowed more Discipline dots.
Ghouls and Disciplines
Ghouls are not vampires. They learn the gifts of Caine more slowly and with greater difficulty. Their maximum potential in any Discipline is capped by the strength of their domitor’s vitae.
Ghoul characters, PC or NPC, cannot learn more dots in a Discipline than their domitor’s Blood Potency (and cannot learn 6+ dot Disciplines at all). Ghouls who change domitors retain whatever Disciplines they’ve previously learned, even if their new domitor has lower Blood Potency than their prior domitor(s). “Hand-me-down” ghouls from Kindred elders can thus be highly valued commodities.
Setback: This is part of the core Roll Results game mechanic, but is worth reiterating here. In fiction, it’s pretty rare that vampires actually fail outright to exercise their powers over mortals. When a vampire commands their victim, “Look deep into my eyes and follow my commands,” only mortals with truly exceptional strength of will are likely to resist.
Setbacks against ordinary mortals, then, are typically more likely to result in Hunger increases or other dramatic complications. For example, “failing” a roll to Dominate a mundane night watchman might still result in him succumbing to the vampire’s influence, but at the cost of any one of the following:
• The vampire’s Hunger increases by (DC – rolled successes).
• The watchman’s partner rounds the corner and sees the vampire up to something suspicious.
• The watchman partly fucks up whatever command the vampire gives him.
• The watchman’s sanity becomes unhinged.
• The watchman remembers what happened afterwards.
Clashes of Wills
Sometimes, two Disciplines clearly oppose one another. For example, when two vampires attempt to Dominate the same mortal, or a vampire with Auspex comes across a hiding vampire with Obfuscate, there is a Clash of Wills. The PC rolls their (dots in the relevant Discipline) + Blood Potency against a DC of 1 + (1/2 NPC’s dots in the relevant Discipline + Blood Potency). On a success, the PC’s Discipline wins out: they Dominate the mortal, notice the Obfuscated vampire, and so on.
Clashes of Wills also apply against the supernatural powers of other night-folk. For example, if a PC vampire tries to Dominate a mortal under the influence of an NPC mage’s Mind Sphere, the PC would roll against a DC of 1 + (1/2 NPC’s Mind + Arete).
“Night-folk” is a catch-all term for supernatural creatures: “common” supernatural races such as vampires, werewolves, mages, etc. and their associated hangers-on (ghouls, kinfolk, etc.), ephemeral entities such as spirits and demons, less common races that aren’t played by PCs, and other supernatural beings that aren’t so easily classified. “Night-folk” is an in-universe term.
“Supernatural Tolerance” is whatever game trait measures a night-folk’s innate supernatural power. It’s Blood Potency for vampires, Rank for werewolves, Arete for mages, Psyche for wraiths, etc. Night-folk without a species-specific trait simply have Potency.
“True night-folk” are night-folk who always have Supernatural Tolerance scores of 1 or higher (vampires, werewolves, mages, etc.). “Lesser night-folk” are ghouls, thin-bloods, kinfolk, and other innately weaker supernatural creatures with Supernatural Tolerance scores of 0. Hunters are considered to be lesser night-folk.
When another character (PC or NPC) uses Disciplines on your PC, reverse the traits you’d roll for its DC and dice pool.
For example, Confidant uses a dice pool of (Charisma or Manipulation) + (a Social Skill) + Presence against a DC equal to (1/2 NPC’s [Resolve + Composure + Supernatural Tolerance]) + 1. When an NPC tries to use that Devotion on your PC, you’d instead roll Resolve + Composure + Blood Potency against a DC equal to (1/2 NPC’s [Charisma + applicable Social Skill + Presence]) + 1.
Using People’s Blood
There are numerous Devotions and story effects built around having someone else’s blood in your system. One iconic example is how in the Lasombra clan novel, the villain’s haven is protected by an Abyssal guardian with orders to kill anyone who isn’t of its master’s blood. The Assamite deuteragonist bangs the Lasombra’s childe a few hours earlier, so the guardian lets her pass because she has some of its master’s blood in her system. There are likewise a ton of Devotions keyed off of “has the vampire’s blood in their system.” The blood is obviously power. So how long does that power last?
The answer is either (other vampire’s Blood Potency + 1 hours) OR until the vampire slakes more total Hunger than (other person’s Blood Potency + 1), whichever comes first. At that point, the blood is too diluted amidst the vampire’s to be of use.
If the vampire uses the “admixed” blood sample as part of a power that requires a blood sample, any dice rolls take Disadvantage, or Major Disadvantage if the vampire’s Blood Potency is 2+ higher. For example, if the Assamite went to a blood sorcerer and had them cast a spell on the Lasombra’s childe with the blood in her system, the roll would take Disadvantage, or Major Disadvantage if the Assamite’s Blood Potency was 2+ higher than the Lasombra’s childe. If she had the blood sorcerer cast a spell on the Lasombra himself, the roll would take Major Disadvantage, and no roll would be possible if the Assamite’s Bood Potency was 2+ higher than the Lasombra’s childe.
For any players who are wondering: yes, these exist.
Many of the elder Disciplines released over the years aren’t very good ones and work just fine as 1-5 Devotions. What distinguishes 6+ dot Devotions from normal Devotions, to the GM, are two things: scale and breaking the rules.
Scale is exactly what it sounds like. Michael’s iconic Devotion, A Perfect World, was essentially Green Eyes (and perhaps Entrancement) on a massive scale. It affected the entire mortal and Kindred populace of Constantinople and lasted forever, even while he was in torpor.
Breaking the rules, meanwhile, lets the Devotion do things that the Discipline isn’t “supposed” to do. For example, Dominate doesn’t let the vampire give suicidal orders to victims. An elder Dominate Devotion could allow that. Higher-level 1-5 Devotions can “break rules” too, but they have a cost, take a dice roll, or take some extra degree of effort. The Protean 5 Devotion Death’s Crawl, for example, lets a vampire move while in torpor, but costs 2 Rouse checks and lasts a scene. An elder Protean Devotion might cost nothing and always be in effect.
Commonality: There is no such thing as a Common elder Devotion. Each of these awesome powers is either independently and laboriously developed by an individual elder, or taught by one elder to another—rare, given the distrust inherent to such long-lived Kindred and their inclination to hoard power. Many elders have independently developed a number of the same Devotions, however, which are classified as Uncommon.
Game Mechanics: Over the course of the chronicle, PCs may cross paths with Cainites who have mastered elder Disciplines. They themselves, however, are unlikely to reach the levels of Blood Potency necessary to develop such powers. Until such time, their exact mechanics will remain in the shadows.