Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Thoughts & Essays
“If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.”
This page contains the GM’s thoughts, commentary, advice to players, and figurative two cents on various metagame topics, as well as some in-game topics with a gamist bent.
Decanter System: Origins
Way back in 2015, when the game began, we used the Storytelling System for Requiem: The Requiem 2e. The GM found its ruleset preferable to Vampire: The Masquerade’s, which was by then built on the chassis of a 24-year-old game system. Even with V20’s update, it was really showing its age. The 2e Storytelling System was a sleek new thing only a year-ish old.
The Storytelling rules also weren’t a perfect fit for Blood & Bourbon: Masquerade and Requiem are different games that explore different settings and emphasize different themes. Their game mechanics reflect this in a thousand ways great and small. No problem, said the GM, and made a house rules wiki page. Over years of play, this page grew longer and longer, incorporating bigger and bigger rules changes. Eventually, B&B had produced a 2.5th edition of the Storytelling System in all but name.
At the same time, many of the warts inherent to the Storytelling rules were growing increasingly obvious as the system aged, B&B continued to evolve, and the game mechanics it used grew at odds with the GM’s personal tastes. Players, too, found it inconvenient to cross-reference game mechanics from a PDF with a continually expanding house rules page. Many new players also found the Storytelling Rules overly prolix and burdensome to learn, even after a number of house rules intended to simply them. It didn’t help, either, that the PDFs had poor organizational layout.
In 2018, Masquerade released a 5th edition. It had a lot of interesting ideas, but its mechanical complexity and feedback from several players who’d playtested it convinced me not to adopt it wholesale. It wasn’t the ideal fit for B&B’s needs, even if there were some ideas worth poaching.
In 2019, we finally broke with the past and built our own game system from the ground up. It was heavily derived from both the Storytelling and V5 rules, but ultimately its own thing. The rest is history.
2022 update: The Decanter system is now history. The game has since transitioned to a mostly freeform style of play and no longer uses the Decanter rules.
Ghouls: How Many do PCs Get?
This is a question that goes hand-in-hand with another question: how many ghouls are there in the setting? Vampire has given us vampire-to-human population ratios, with a moderate amount of explanation behind them, but there’s much less information about ghoul population demographics.
White Wolf’s Answer
The only official figure I’ve ever found in a White Wolf book is for City of the Damned: New Orleans, which says there are around three times as many ghouls in the city as there are vampires. That’s also for Requiem, where ghouling someone is costlier—it requires the domitor to spend a Willpower point.
Another (non-canon) “By Night” fan supplement I read, published around a decade earlier, said that its city has at least three times as many ghouls as vampires—and that this figure leaves out the ghouls kept sequestered from other Kindred by their domitors. Interesting how both sources arrived at that 3-to-1 figure, isn’t it?
Finally, we can look at game mechanics. The Retainer Background in 1e through V20 allows one to five Retainers, which sounds pretty in-keeping with a ghoul-to-vampire population average of three—some Kindred have more, some have less, and it balances out, but we round slightly up (because vampires having mortal minions is an iconic trope).
In short, though, there isn’t really an official answer.
The Narrative Answer
To look at this from a conceptual standpoint instead, how common should ghouls be? Should vampires have armies of faceless ghoul mooks they throw at their enemies, and should lots of mortal pawns be ghouls? Or should ghouls be much rarer, with many vampires having no ghouls at all, in order to play up interactions with ordinary humanity? Another Requiem book offers this:
“If a vampire’s blood dolls are her groupies, then her ghouls are her personal assistants and best friends. A blood doll may actively seek out a ghoul to get closer to the vampire, under the cover of trying to befriend the ghoul.”
I like this. The vampire has an outer circle of mortals and an inner circle of ghouls who associate with them. There are ordinary people in the vampire’s orbit to whom ghouls seem favored, knowledgeable, and possessed of some portion of their immortal master’s power and mystique.
While not every vampire maintains mortal pawns or blood dolls (or, for that matter, multiple ghouls), this setup fits many vampires—they still belong to mortal social circles, however peripherally. The vampire without any human connections and interactions is going to swiftly become a monster.
So how many ghouls does this come out to, numbers-wise? How many confidantes and best friends can a given person maintain? Science has some pretty specific numbers for us there.
“The innermost layer of 1.5 is [the most intimate]; clearly that has to do with your romantic relationships.
The next layer of five is your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. They are the ones who will drop everything to support us when our world falls apart.
The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. They also provide the main circle for exchange of child care. We trust them enough to leave our children with them.
The next layer up, at 50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people.
And the 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Robin Dunbar, Oxford evolutionary psychologist
Obviously, this doesn’t directly translate to how many ghouls a vampire maintains, but it raises a good question. How close, in fact, is a vampire to their ghouls? I’d say they can range from intimates to close friends to good friends. This should be taken less to mean “vampires are friends with their ghouls and hang out together watching TV” than “vampires interact a lot with their ghouls and know them well, even if those relationships involve abuse and mistreatment.” Cruel domitors can have close relationships with their thralls, even if those aren’t healthy relationships.
I would say the 15 layer is the outer-most layer where ghouls tend to fall, unless they are “peripheral” ghouls who the vampire doesn’t interact with on a night-to-night basis—e.g., a deep-cover spy embedded among a rival’s assets, or a similarly disposable minion who the vampire doesn’t expect to keep around. The ghouls who a vampire interacts with on a regular basis are confidants within the 15-layer range. You basically have to trust your long-term ghouls to the same extent that a human parent would trust someone to babysit their kids.
So, this gives us 15 as the theoretical maximum number of long-term, trusted ghouls a vampire can maintain—and I say theoretical, because in addition to the logistics and social challenges of actually managing such a large stable of ghouls (which are considerable!), this would mean that literally everyone in the vampire’s closest social circles is a ghoul. The vampire does not have meaningful relationships with humans or other vampires—the closest they can ever be to the vampire is “casual friend.” Most vampires do not fit this profile.
The Actual Hard Numbers
So if 15 is the theoretical maximum number of permanent, reliable ghouls a vampire can keep, what’s a more realistic number? Well, let’s assume a “well-rounded” vampire who splits their closest relationships equally: one-third with mortals, one-third with vampires, one-third with ghouls… which leaves us with five ghouls, the maximum number that the Retainers Background in 1e through V20 can buy. Neat how that maps out with the existing game mechanics, isn’t it?
Not all vampires may split their closest relationships evenly between mortals, ghouls, and other vampires, of course. A neonate with strong mortal ties probably devotes half or more of their closest relationships to mortals. Elder vampires may not have any mortal relationships outside of a Touchstone or two (or zero). PCs, though, are probably safer to give an even one-third split. Or maybe a split that’s half vampires, one-fourth ghouls, and one-fourth mortals, because players tend to be most interested in interacting with vampire NPCs.
So, it can still vary a lot. The neonate with strong mortal ties might have 10 mortals, 4 vampires (say, three coterie-mates and a sire), and 1 ghoul. The jaded elder might have 7 vampires, 7 ghouls, and 1 mortal Touchstone. It’s all a question of which people you value enough to make your closest relationships, because all relationships ultimately come at the opportunity cost of other relationships. You can’t have a vibrant mortal social life with 10 really close mortal friends and also 10 trusted and reliable ghoul servants. It’s not even a question of how social or asocial somebody is, or whether a PC has Charisma 5 or Charisma 1: we just don’t have the time to foster more than 15 really meaningful relationships.
Some of the main factors that can influence how many ghouls a vampire keeps are:
• How much they actually need servants. Ambitious vampires with large domains engaged in frequent Kindred intrigues will benefit from lots of ghoul servants. A vampire who just wants to do their own thing and be left alone can likely get along fine with just one ghoul, or even none.
• Ability to manage ghouls. Like any relationship, maintaining a ghoul takes effort. Maintaining a large stable of ghouls takes proportionately more effort, as you now have a social unit which the vampire is the head of. The vampire needs to make executive decisions and manage intragroup conflicts. The whole of the group demands effort beyond the sum of the group.
More succinctly, ghouls can be jealous and needful creatures prone to personality conflicts. It’s not inevitable, but it is likely when they’re all blood bound to the same individual. How would you feel if you were utterly obsessed head-over-heels in love with someone, though you had something really special together… and knew they spent time with other people who felt the same way you did? Large stables of ghouls are predisposed towards palace intrigues and require a firm hand to keep in line. There is a reason older vampires choose to manage larger stables of ghouls through fear and abuse: it’s just plain easier, less time-consuming, and less grating on their patience than playing nice is (all before the other factors that predispose domitors to mistreat their slaves).
• Actual blood supply is less of an issue. It can definitely help, as a vampire with more blood can reward well-performing servants with “treats” (further motivating good performance), let their ghouls use Devotions more often, and risk their ghouls getting physically hurt more often. But the minimum amount of blood required to maintain a ghoul is one Rouse check per two weeks. Most vampires, even ones without large herds and/or domains, can potentially manage five ghouls if they’re “budget-conscious” and don’t spend vitae (or let their ghouls spend vitae) frivolously.
• So why doesn’t every ambitious neonate have 5+ ghouls? Lots of reasons, discussed at length on various fan sites, forums, and White Wolf books. I’m not going to bother retyping those in my own words, but here’s another factor I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere: it’s conventional wisdom that “elders don’t belong to coteries” and that coteries of once-close neonates drift apart as members get older. Neonates aren’t just closer to mortals than elders. They tend to have larger numbers of deep, meaningful relationships with other neonates too. Fewer mortal relationships, and more distant Kindred relationships, is the big reason elders tend to have larger stables of ghouls. They may very well just spend more time on their ghoul relationships.
Conversely, elders who’ve risen to positions of executive authority in Kindred society (e.g., Camarilla princes and justicars, Tremere regents, Sanctified bishops, etc.) may actually have fewer ghouls than your average primogen. Because those elders’ closest relationships are with their Kindred subordinates, who in turn can maintain ghouls of their own. By the numbers, would you rather put time into maintaining another ghoul, or cultivating the loyalty of a younger vampire who also has multiple ghouls of their own? As long as you’re reasonably confident of the younger vampire’s loyalty, they may be the better pick—you now have that many more agents at your disposal, albeit indirectly.
Interestingly, methuselahs fit this profile too. I can’t think of any depictions of methuselahs that show them with huge stables of ghouls—one methuselah from a “By Night” book only had two (described) ghouls, one of which was an animal. However, she had four Kindred elders who were under her personal control. This makes sense. Younger vampires make better, more independent tools than ghouls do, which is especially important at the high-level games methuselahs play.
What About PCs?
So with all the above said… how many ghouls do PCs get?
Well, as we discuss above, it ultimately comes down to what relationships the vampire values and sinks time into. But for the sake of synergy with previous editions, and because it’s a nice and even number, I’m prepared to say PCs can have up to five Retainers… and possibly more and possibly less, if their actions warrant it.
Ultimately, like it is for all vampires, it’s a question of how much time and effort a player puts into their PCs’ relationships with their ghouls. As said previously, this doesn’t have to mean being nice to them: many vampires maintain large stables of ghouls through fear and abuse. It is the ignored ghoul, one who does not fear or respect their domitor, who is the most likely to be a problematic servant. We’ve seen multiple ghouls rebel or take selfish actions as a consequence of poorly developed (though more often, simply undeveloped) relationships with their PC domitors. For more information about instilling obedience in ghouls, see the (currently unposted) Ghouls: Making the Perfect Servant article.
Exceeding the Limit
So if the real limit on how many ghouls a vampire can maintain is how much time and effort they put into the relationship… are there ways for vampires to get around that? Yes, there are. The following are some potential ways that PCs may be able to justify having larger numbers of ghouls.
Animal Ghouls: Maintaining an animal ghoul almost always requires less effort than a human ghoul. Animals have fewer needs, no higher goals or ambitions, and are unlikely to rebel against their domitors unless hideously mistreated.
The tradeoff, of course, is that they can do fewer things. The Animal Ken Skill can help train an animal ghoul, and the Animalism Discipline opens up many more possibilities. The Skill and the Discipline work even better in tandem. However, a dumb animal will never possess the same initiative or higher reasoning skills as a human ghoul. A dumb animal is also greatly limited in the powers they can develop, and can never learn Disciplines other than Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence. (No exceptions, ever.)
But another ghoul is another ghoul, whatever its limitations. More than one vampire with a large stable of human ghouls also keeps a vitae-toughened guard dog at their haven.
Vampires with Animal Ken and Animalism, for obvious reasons, are more likely to keep animal ghouls. There is a lot more they can do with them. A vampire who’s fed their vitae to a guard dog will have an unfailingly devoted protector, but complex commands like “swallow the phone in the plastic bag and spit it back out when I tell you” are beyond Fido without special training (Animal Ken) or the Animalism Discipline.
Before players ask about keeping badass-er animals as “extras,” like wolves and bears and alligators: dogs have been reared for untold thousands of years to serve humanity. Domesticated animals and “lesser” animals, like cats or rats, are much easier to maintain than apex predators. The latter animals are more ferocious in battle (not to mention serve as status symbols), but they require commensurate work. Ask any exotic animal trainer and they will tell you that training any wild animal with the temperament and ability to kill humans is an enormous commitment.
• Peripheral Ghouls: Some ghouls simply have distant relationships with their domitors: they don’t fall into the 15-large layer of closest relationships. However, that doesn’t mean any PC who wants a stable of ten ghouls can simply buy that many Retainers and justify it with “I’m not close to them.” As discussed earlier, a ghoul who isn’t part of their domitor’s closer social circles is by definition not trusted by them. They are not someone you would entrust with tasks of comparable significance to babysitting one’s kids.
“Peripheral ghouls,” then, are ghouls who simply aren’t trusted with those sorts of tasks. Their domitors don’t rely on them for night-to-night tasks like procuring vessels, managing a business, or providing personal protection. Their domitors utilize them in more distant capacities. One example of this might be a ghouled middle manager ensconced in a company owned by a rival vampire. The vampire sees the ghoul every few weeks to talk about their job (the blood bond loosens their tongue), discretely feeds them blood, and that’s that. When the time is right, the vampire plans to make a move against their rival, using the ghoul as their catspaw. The ghoul might not even realize they’re a ghoul if the vampire is subtle.
Another example of a “peripheral ghoul” is Caroline’s [log spoiler redacted]. Caroline’s fed her vitae, but doesn’t actually use her for anything, hasn’t taught her anything about Kindred or ghoul society, and hasn’t brought her into Caroline’s stable of ghouls. Since she doesn’t actually do anything for her domitor, she requires no effort to maintain a relationship with (or at least, no relationship as a ghoul).
Not every vampire chooses to make a useful mortal into a peripheral ghoul, of course. Vitae addiction, the blood bond’s instilled fixation, potential detectability by other vampires, and even suspended aging can be liabilities as well as assets.
• The Boggs Clan: This is exceptional enough to get its own section.
Cletus Lee Boggs maintains many ghouls above the “five or so” baseline through a simple reason: being ghouls doesn’t actually matter to his ghouls. The Boggs are a backwoods clan of cannibal sociopaths defined by extreme family loyalty, distrust of outsiders, shared depravities, and fearful reverence of their patriarch. If all of the Boggs ghouls were turned back into mortals, their relationships with Cletus wouldn’t meaningfully change. Ghouling, for Cletus, is simply a way to preserve useful Boggs who’d otherwise die of old age, while lending them a smidgeon of vampiric power… and to provide another lever of control via the blood bond and vitae addiction. But this isn’t his primary lever of control. The Boggs are his descendants before they are his ghouls.
Sam has also earned his PC’s large ghoul stable through the work he’s put into the Boggs clan, both through prolific OOC wiki pages and meaningful IG interactions. The Boggs aren’t without flaws either: they are incestuous backwoods cannibal rednecks. While their extreme loyalty and insularity is a great asset to Cletus, there are many social situations where the clan is a liability, and many doors in mortal society that remain closed to them. That also isn’t without upsides: the fact they are so depraved means they will accept actions from Cletus (like, “casual mass murder and cannibalism”), and commit many of those same actions, that would be unthinkable to almost any other group of humans. The Masquerade is much looser around them.
These factors, then, are what allow Cletus to so freely spread his vitae among the Boggs clan. I doubt we’ll see another PC whose character concept justifies so many ghouls.
The Occult Skill
Players have various had questions about how the Occult Skill works or been surprised by how the GM adjudicated it. This aims to clarify some aspects of the Skill.
First, Occult concerns two topics: real-world occult knowledge, and knowledge secret to the World of Darkness. They aren’t the same thing.
For example, lots of people you meet off the street can tell you about the biblical Cain. But only a character inducted into the secret world of the Kindred could tell you that vampires revere Caine (with an ‘e’ at the end) as the father of their accursed race. Occult dots do not automatically confer that knowledge. On their own, Occult dots simply confer greater knowledge about Cain (no ‘e’) as he is known by mortals.
Another difference between “real” occult knowledge and “secret” occult knowledge is how faeries are vulnerable to cold-forged iron. Someone with no Occult dots might not be aware of this fact. Someone with Occult dots could tell you about the folklore behind faeries being harmed by cold iron. But only someone with firsthand exposure to real faeries (the ones depicted in Changeling: The Lost) could tell you the different effects that cold iron has upon the different types of fae in the World of Darkness.
So essentially, there are two grades of occult knowledge: public knowledge and secret knowledge. Public knowledge is folklore and legends you can look up in the real world. Secret knowledge is the real deal, and concerns supernatural topics as they’re detailed in White Wolf books.
Supernatural characters don’t possess “secret knowledge” about everything in the World of Darkness. In fact, by default, they usually only possess “secret knowledge” about whatever race they belong to. Most vampire characters, for example, only have “secret knowledge” about faeries if they’ve had firsthand experience with real fae. Otherwise, they know largely what mortals know. Knowledge always carries a price in the World of Darkness: for a vampire to know as much as they do about vampires, after all, they had to die and become one…
A few other truisms so far as Occult:
• Occult will provide better information with better context. As one example, a telltale sign of Strix possession is the victim’s eyes having a yellow tint. If the victim is wearing thick sunglasses or a blindfold, then a player can’t roll yet Occult. They need to see the yellow eyes.
Context is hugely important with Occult, even more so than it is with other Mental Skills. Since occult information is inherently scarce, every handhold counts that much more.
What this means for PCs is that the more context they have, the lower the DC to know information will be (or a roll may be possible where none was previously allowed). A PC who sees a screaming phantasmal face in a mirror, as another example, has some context. If they closely examine the mirror, smash it and look over the shards, ask nearby people if they saw/heard anything, or make a Declaration to have had their phone’s audio recording on (potentially capturing the scream), they have more context. Even if the GM tells the player, “You see nothing funny in any of the shards, no one else says they saw or heard a screaming face, and there’s only silence recorded on your phone,” that’s still further context which assists the Occult roll. Maybe whatever made the screaming face was a hallucination or purely mental projection that only targeted the PC—which would be a harder conclusion to reach if the PC hadn’t done follow-up work and determined that the screaming face left no apparent physical presence.
• Occult rolls can provide more or less information based on a character’s background. When one PC first bought a dot in Occult, she required additional successes to know about pretty much any supernatural topic beyond real-world occult practices. She had pretty much nil in the way of resources or exposure beyond a ghoul who already knew a little about the occult. When the PC made Occult rolls, the GM would frequently ask her player, “Where could Caroline have conceivably learned this?” She just did not have enough supernatural exposure to take advantage of the Skill. (She later gained said supernatural exposure.)
This truism extends to other characters too. A Tremere character will face lower DCs to recall information about Awakened mages than a Gangrel character, because the former’s clan has history with mages. Gangrel characters, in turn, typically face lower DCs to know information about werewolves, because their clan has had more contact with werewolves than the Tremere. Likewise, a Circle of the Crone PC in New Orleans will probably be able to know much more about the loa than Invictus PCs, even rolling the same dice pool, due to adjusted DCs. Knowledge is hugely dependent on a character’s background and can provide them with objectively more (or less) information.
• Occult often provides more clues to solve mysteries, but doesn’t directly give mysteries away. If a PC runs into a strange and mysterious phenomenon, characters will usually not be able to “roll Occult to know what this is.” Take the screaming face example, which could be a lot of things. An Occult roll isn’t going to tell the player, “It’s a Malkavian using a hallucination-causing Devotion on you,” without some serious investigation and established context, because there are just too many things that a screaming face by itself could be. Players can testify that’s a frequent response of the GM’s to broader Occult questions. “There’s a lot of things this could be.” That’s very deliberate. The World of Darkness thrives off an atmosphere of dread, mystery, and half-visible terrors lurking in the shadows. The GM’s general inclination is to foster paranoia and uncertainty among PCs. Cutting through those shadows to truth takes effort, and usually more effort than just chucking a fistful of dice to see if a PC already knew the truth.
That’s not to say Occult can’t give concrete information. It can and has. When an employee on Jon’s plane spontaneously transformed into a monster, he rolled Occult and got a fairly direct answer that it was Strix possession—but the Strix’s presence and actions, together with those of two further Owls Jon encountered after getting off his next flight, raised a lot of questions he’s still pondering. The mystery, in other words, isn’t that Strix are involved, but what they are up to.
• The more specific your question, the more specific your answer. If you ask, “What are the weaknesses of Strix?” and roll 5S (and your PC is a vampire, vampire-focused hunter, or other character who has “secret knowledge” about the Strix), you will get fairly hard and specific information. Ask about how a Strix’s vulnerability to sunlight functions, your 5S will tell you even more than if it’s used to give a general overview about Strix weaknesses. Ask, “What is this?” and you stand decent odds of getting a long list of possibilities or a “Magic 8-ball says reply hazy, ask again” answer.
Flubbed your roll to recognize a supernatural occurrence in front of you? Hit the books and see what they say. Research often provides more information than “off the top of my head” rolls. Just like in real life, you might flub your Academics roll to know what Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is, but looking that information up in an encyclopedia (Wikipedia or otherwise) can still get your answer.
Lincoln’s birthday is so commonly known a piece of information that it doesn’t take a roll to research. You can just search “Abraham Lincoln” on Wikipedia and read his birthday. But say you want an obscure piece of information, like the birthday of Lincoln’s maternal great-aunt. All but the greatest history experts probably can’t tell you that information off the top of their heads. Hitting the books is still helpful—in fact, that’s probably the only way you’re going to uncover that information, unless you happen to be one of those “all but greatest” historic experts. You will probably have to spend a while sifting through scholarly and academic databases. This is where high-Academics characters are still at an advantage over low-Academics ones, because they know about resources to consult beyond simply Google. Dots in a Mental Skill don’t only encompass direct knowledge of a topic, but also knowledge of sources and where the character can go to find out information they don’t know off-hand.
• Occult Libraries: Occult functions in exactly the same way. Occult “databases” are by their very nature more hodgepodge, eclectic, and obscure than Academics and Science databases. They are also far more likely to exist in the form of physical books than online-published journals and research papers. There is no peer-reviewed field of “occult studies,” after all.
Occult libraries are much more likely to contain information about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as it’s known among mortals than the Order of Hermes as it’s known among Awakened mages. Some books will contain slivers of the truth interspersed among lies, fabrications, and misconceptions. Some will contain ciphers and riddles to hide the truth from unwanted eyes. Some will contain nothing but truth but be incomprehensible to an “uninitiated” reader. The more genuine supernatural knowledge a book contains (“secret knowledge” as discussed earlier), and the more easily it can be accessed, the more perilous such an item is to its writer and possessor. Many forces in the World of Darkness have an active interest in suppressing the truth. Still, scholars in supernatural lore cannot avoid putting such subjects to the pen. It is simply impossible to be an effective scholar without transcribing one’s findings.
The GM once pointed out in conversation with a player that occult books aren’t necessarily “books that bestow their users with supernatural powers.” Those books are pretty rare even in the World of Darkness. Completely mundane books containing information about supernatural topics are an essential resource for any serious occultist, just like as any serious history expert will have their own collection of history books. Mechanically, there is every reason for characters to keep (or simply use) libraries. It literally gives them more dice rolls to find out information.
• Library Access: The one prerequisite to make research rolls is access to a library or database of some kind. You can only make “off the top of my head” rolls if you don’t have one, since research implicitly means the character is seeking information from other sources. Backgrounds determine the breadth and quality of what sources a character has access to. A character with Academics 5 may be a walking Wikipedia, but if they also have Status (Harvard University) 5, that gives them access to a massive trove of scholastic information beyond what’s already in their head. Someone with no Backgrounds only has Google, Wikipedia, and the public library.
Occult topics concerning true supernatural lore have no public access equivalent. A mortal researcher might be able to dig up foklore concerning potential vampiric weaknesses in the public library, but a vampire character who wants to research the history of a Toreador bloodline active in the 14th century Courts of Love simply can’t do that without access to a specialized trove of knowledge (i.e., a Background). This is typically through Library or Status among a group of Kindred that has their own collection of books. It can also simply be in-the-know Kindred the character interviews—much of Cainite history is passed down orally rather than by writing.