<n>Backgrounds describe advantages of relationship, circumstance, and opportunity: material possessions, social networks, and the like. Backgrounds are external, not internal, Traits, and you should always rationalize how you came to possess them, as well as what they represent. Who are your contacts? Why do your allies support you? Where did you meet your retainers? What investments do you possess that yield your four dots in Resources? If you’ve put enough detail into your character concept, selecting appropriate Backgrounds should be easy.
Although it’s uncommon to make rolls involving Background Traits, your Storyteller might have you do so to see if you can obtain information, goods or favors. For example, you might have to roll Wits + Resources to keep your stock options healthy, or Manipulation + Contacts to wheedle that extra favor from your smuggler “associate.”
Certain Backgrounds may be “pooled” among characters in a coterie. See “Pooling Backgrounds” on p. XX, below, for more information on pooled Backgrounds.
<n>Allies are mortals who support and help you — family, friends, or even a mortal organization that owes you some loyalty. Although allies aid you willingly, without coaxing or coercion, they are not always available to offer assistance; they have their own concerns and can do only so much for the sake of your relationship. However, they might have some useful Background Traits of their own, and might provide you with indirect access to their contacts, influence, or resources.
Allies are typically persons of influence and power in your home city. They can be of almost any sort, pending your Storyteller’s permission. You may have friends in the precinct morgue, at a prominent blog, among the high society of local celebrities, or as site manager at a construction site. Your Allies might be a clan of nomads who move their mobile home camp around the city, or they might be a family of multiple generations of police. You may even have the mayor himself among your mobile phone contacts, depending on how many dots you spend on this Trait. Your Allies are generally trustworthy (though they probably don’t know that you’re a vampire, or even that vampires exist). However, nothing comes for free. If you wind up drawing favors from your friend in the Cosa Nostra, he’ll probably ask you to do him a favor in kind in the future. This often leads to the beginning of a story.…
Allies may be pooled among a coterie of characters.
• One ally of moderate influence and power
•• Two allies, both of moderate power
••• Three allies, one of whom is quite influential
•••• Four allies, one of whom is very influential
••••• Five allies, one of whom is extremely influential
<n>You know people all over the city. When you start making phone calls around your network, the amount of information you can dig up is impressive, to say the least. Contacts are largely people whom you can bribe, manipulate, or coerce into offering information, but you also have a few major Contacts — associates upon whom you can rely on to give you accurate information in their fields of expertise. You should describe each major contact in some detail before the game begins.
In addition to your major contacts, you also have a number of minor contacts spread throughout the city. Your major contact might be in the district attorney’s office, while your minor contacts might include beat cops, DMV clerks, club bouncers or members of an online social network. You need not detail these various “passing acquaintances” before play. Instead, to successfully get in touch with a minor contact, you should roll your Contacts rating (difficulty 7). You can reach one minor contact for each success. Of course, you still have to convince them to give you the information you need, assuming they can get it.
Contacts may be pooled within the characters’ coterie.
• One major contact
•• Two major contacts
••• Three major contacts
•••• Four major contacts
••••• Five major contacts
<n>Domain is physical territory (usually within the chronicle’s central city) to which your character controls access for the purpose of feeding. Some Kindred refer to their domain as hunting grounds, and most jealously guard their domains, even invoking the Tradition of the same name to protect their claims. As part of this Background, the character’s claim to the domain is recognized by the Prince, or some other Kindred authority in the city where it is located.
The Kindred who claims the domain can’t keep the living inhabitants from going about their business, nor does she exercise any direct influence over them, but she can keep watch herself and mind their comings and goings. She can also have Allies or Retainers specifically look for unfamiliar vampires and alert her when they find some.
Domain refers specifically to the geography (in most cases a neighborhood or street) and properties on it, as opposed to the people who may dwell there (which is the emphasis of Herd). Domain plays an important part in Kindred society — vampires who lack significant Domain seldom earn respect — but it isn’t an automatic entitlement to status among the Damned.
Each level of Domain reduces the difficulty of feeding checks by one for your character and those whom the character allows in. It also adds to your starting (not maximum) blood pool. If you use the domain security option, each dot of domain security raises the difficulty of feeding checks by one for uninvited vampires.
You may designate one or more dots in Domain to increase the security of your character’s territory rather than its size. Each dot so assigned to security provides a +1 difficulty penalty to efforts to intrude into the domain by anyone your character hasn’t specifically allowed in and a -1 difficulty bonus to efforts by your character to identify and track intruders in the domain. A Domain of one dot’s size and two dots’ security, for instance, is small but quite resistant to intrusion, as opposed to a Domain rating of three dots’ size with no extraordinary security.
Domain (both size and security) can be used with pooled Background points.
• A single small building, such as a single-family home or a social establishment — enough for a basic haven.
•• A church, factory, warehouse, mid-rise, or other large structure — a location with ready but easily controllable access to the outside world.
••• A high-rise, city block, or an important intersection — a location or area that offers areas for concealment as well as controlled access.
•••• A sewer subsection, a network of service tunnels, the enclave of homes on a hill overlooking the city — a place with inherently protective features, such as an isolated mountain road, bridge-only access, or vigilant private security force.
••••• An entire neighborhood, an ethnic subdivision like “Chinatown” or “Little Italy,” or a whole suburb.
As noted previously, characters in a coterie can share their domain resources for better results. Six to eight dots secure all of a small town or a distinct city region as a domain. Ten to 15 dots secure an important but not geographically huge city sector, such as “the docks,” or “Highland Park.” A large city itself might be a hundred-plus Domain points, as with Atlanta, Dallas, Geneva, or Baghdad. A city such as New York, London, Paris, Rome, Sao Paolo, or Shanghai would require many hundreds of Domain points.
<n>You enjoy widespread recognition in mortal society, perhaps as an entertainer, writer, or athlete. People may enjoy just being seen with you. This gives you all manner of privileges when moving in mortal society, but can also attract an unwanted amount of attention now that you’re no longer alive. The greatest weapon fame has to offer is the ability to sway public opinion — as modern media constantly proves. Fame isn’t always tied to entertainment: A heinous criminal in a high-profile trial probably has a certain amount of fame, as does a lawmaker, and a scientist who has made a popularized discovery.
This Background is obviously a mixed blessing. You can certainly enjoy the privileges of your prestige — getting the best seats, being invited to events you’d otherwise miss, getting appointments with the elite — but you’re sometimes recognized when you’d rather not be. However, your enemies can’t just make you disappear without causing an undue stir, and you find it much easier to hunt in populated areas as people flock to you (reduce the difficulties of hunting rolls by one for each dot in Fame). Additionally, your Storyteller might permit you to reduce difficulties of certain Social rolls against particularly starstruck or impressionable people.
• You’re known to a select subculture of the city — local clubgoers, metrobloggers, or the Park Avenue set, for instance.
•• A majority of the populace recognizes your face; you’re a local celebrity such as a news anchor.
••• You have statewide renown; perhaps you’re a state senator or entertainment star of local interest.
•••• Nationally famous; everybody knows something about you.
••••• You’re recognized internationally.
<n>Plain and simple, this Background represents your generation — the purity of your blood, and your proximity to the First Vampire. A high Generation rating may represent a powerful sire or a decidedly dangerous taste for diablerie. If you don’t take any dots in this Trait, you begin play as a 13th-generation vampire. See p. XX for further information on generations and what part they play.
• 12th generation: 11 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
•• 11th generation: 12 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
••• 10th generation: 13 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
•••• Ninth generation: 14 blood pool, can spend 2 blood points per turn
••••• Eighth generation: 15 blood pool, can spend 3 blood points per turn
<n>You have built a group of mortals from whom you can feed without fear. A herd may take many forms, from circles of kinky clubgoers to actual cults built around you as a god-figure. In addition to providing nourishment, your herd might come in handy for minor tasks, though they are typically not very controllable, closely connected to you or even highly skilled (for more effective pawns, purchase Allies or Retainers). Your Herd rating adds dice to your rolls for hunting; see Chapter XX for further details.
Players may purchase pooled Herd with Background points.
• Three vessels
•• Seven vessels
••• 15 vessels
•••• 30 vessels
••••• 60 vessels
<n>You have pull in the mortal community, whether through wealth, prestige, political office, blackmail, or supernatural manipulation. Kindred with high Influence can sway, and in rare cases even control, the political and social processes of human society. Influence represents the sum of your opinion- or policy-swaying power in your community, particularly among the police and bureaucracy. Creative uses of this Background can yield similar results, as with using media Influence to motivate voters or corporate Influence to engineer safety regulations that suit one’s own ends. In some cases, cultivating Influence is a path to generating Resources (see below).
Some rolls may require you to use Influence in place of an Ability, particularly when attempting to sway minor bureaucrats. It is, of course, always easier to institute sweeping changes on a local level than a worldwide scale (e.g., having an “abandoned” building demolished is relatively easy, while starting a war is a bit more difficult).
Influence can be used with pooled Background points.
• Moderately influential; a factor in city politics
•• Well-connected; a force in state politics
••• Position of influence; a factor in regional politics
•••• Broad personal power; a force in national politics
••••• Vastly influential; a factor in global politics
<n>This Trait represents a Kindred or group of Kindred who looks out for you, offering guidance or aid once in a while. A mentor may be powerful, but his power need not be direct. Depending on the number of dots in this Background, your mentor might be nothing more than a vampire with a remarkable information network, or might be a centuries-old creature with tremendous influence and supernatural power. He may offer advice, speak to the prince or archbishop on your behalf, steer other elders clear of you, or warn you when you’re walking into situations you don’t understand.
Most often your mentor is your sire, but it could well be any Cainite with a passing interest in your well-being. A high Mentor rating could even represent a group of like-minded vampires, such as the elders of the city’s Tremere chantry or a Black Hand cell.
Bear in mind that this Trait isn’t a “Get out of Jail Free” card. Your mentor won’t necessarily arrive like the cavalry whenever you’re endangered (and if she has does, you’re likely going to lose a dot or more in this Background after rousing her ire). What’s more, she might occasionally expect something in return for her patronage, which can lead to a number of interesting stories. A mentor typically remains aloof, giving you useful information or advice out of camaraderie, but will abandon you without a thought if you prove an unworthy or troublesome protégé.
• Mentor is an ancilla of little influence.
•• Mentor is respected; an elder, for instance.
••• Mentor is heavily influential, such as a member of the primogen.
•••• Mentor has a great deal of power over the city; a prince or archbishop, for example.
••••• Mentor is extraordinarily powerful, perhaps even a justicar or Inconnu.
<n>Resources are valuable goods whose disposition your character controls. These assets may be actual, liquid, money, but as this Background increases, they’re more likely to be investments, property, or earning capital of some sort — land, industrial assets, stocks and bonds, commercial inventories, criminal infrastructure, contraband, even taxes or tithes and so on. Remember that vampires don’t need to arrange for any food except blood and that their actual needs (as opposed to wants) for shelter and the like are very easily accommodated. Resources for vampires go mostly to pay for luxuries and for the associated expenses of developing and maintaining Status, Influence, and other Backgrounds. A character with no dots in Resources may have enough clothing and supplies to get by, or she may be destitute and dwelling in a refrigerator box under an overpass.
You receive a basic allowance each month based on your rating, so be certain to detail exactly where this money comes from, be it a job, trust fund, or dividends. (Storytellers, decide for your locality and any relevant time period what an appropriate amount of cash this monthly allowance is.) After all, a Kindred’s fortune may well run out over the course of the chronicle, depending on how well he maintains it. You can also sell your less liquid resources if you need the cash, but this can take weeks or even months, depending on what exactly you’re trying to sell. Art buyers don’t just pop out of the woodwork, after all.
Players may purchase Resources for their characters with pooled Background points.
• Sufficient. You can maintain a typical residence in the style of the labor class with stability, even if spending sprees come seldom.
•• Moderate. You can display yourself as a member in good standing of the middle class, with the occasional gift and indulgence seemly for a person of even higher station. You can maintain a servant or hire specific help for hire as necessary. A fraction of your resources are available in cash, readily portable property (like jewelry or furniture), and other valuables (such as a car or modest home) that let you maintain a standard of “living” at the one-dot level wherever you happen to be, for up to six months.
••• Comfortable. You are a prominent and established member of your community, with land and an owned dwelling, and the reputation that lets you draw on credit at very generous terms. You likely have more tied up in equity and property than you do in ready cash. You can maintain a one-dot quality of existence wherever you are without difficulty, for as long as you choose.
•••• Wealthy. You rarely touch cash, as most of your assets exist in tangible forms that are themselves more valuable and stable than paper money. You hold more wealth than many of your local peers (if they can be called such a thing). When earning your Resources doesn’t enjoy your usual degree of attention, you can maintain a three-dot existence for up to a year, and a two-dot existence indefinitely.
••••• Extremely Wealthy. You are the model to which others strive to achieve, at least in the popular mind. Television shows, magazine spreads, and gossip websites speculate about your clothing, the appointments of your numerous homes and the luxury of your modes of transportation. You have vast and widely distributed assets, perhaps tied to the fates of nations, each with huge staffs and connections to every level of society through a region. You travel with a minimum of three-dot comforts, more with a little effort. Corporations and governments sometimes come to you to buy into stocks or bond programs.
<n>Not precisely Allies or Contacts, your retainers are servants, assistants or other people who are your loyal and steadfast companions. Many vampires' servants are ghouls (p. XX) — their supernatural powers and blood bond-enforced loyalty make them the servants of choice. Retainers may also be people whom you've repeatedly Dominated until they have no free will left, or followers so enthralled with your Presence that their loyalty borders on blind fanaticism. Some vampires, particularly those with the Animalism Discipline, use “hellhounds” or other animal ghouls as retainers.
You must maintain some control over your retainers, whether through a salary, the gift of your vitae, or the use of Disciplines. Retainers are never “blindly loyal no matter what” — if you treat them poorly without exercising strict control, they might well turn on you.
Retainers may be useful, but they should never be flawless. A physically powerful ghoul might be rebellious, inconveniently dull-witted, or lacking in practical skills. A loyal manservant might be physically weak or possess no real personal initiative or creativity. This Background isn’t an excuse to craft an unstoppable bodyguard or pet assassin — it’s a method to bring more fully developed characters into the chronicle, as well as to reflect the followers for which the Kindred are notorious. Retainers are more like Renfield than they are Lord Walsingham. (If the player and Storyteller agree, a player may create a more competent single Retainer by combining more points in this Background, putting more eggs in one basket, as the saying goes.)
Players can spend pooled Background points on Retainers.
• One retainer
•• Two retainers
••• Three retainers
•••• Four retainers
••••• Five retainers
<n>You have something of a reputation and standing (earned or unearned) within the local community of Kindred. Status among Camarilla society is as often derived from your sire’s status and the respect due your particular bloodline as it is by personal achievement. Among the Sabbat, status is more likely to stem from the reputation of your pack or the zeal of your outlook. Elders are known for having little respect for their juniors; this Background can mitigate that somewhat.
High status among the Camarilla does not transfer to Sabbat society (and will most likely make you a notorious target for your sect’s rivals), and vice versa. Similarly, anarchs and autarkis generally have zero Status, unless they have somehow garnered so much power and attention that they are considered forces to be reckoned with. You may have occasion to roll your Status in conjunction with a Social Trait; this reflects the positive effects of your prestige.
Note: Caitiff characters may not purchase Status during character creation. Caitiff are the lowest of the low, and any respect they achieve must be earned during the course of the chronicle.
• Known: a neonate
•• Respected: an ancilla
••• Influential: an elder
•••• Powerful: a member of the primogen (or bishop)
••••• Luminary: a prince (or archbishop)
<n>Some Backgrounds lend themselves to joint ownership. Specifically, the members of a coterie may choose to pool their individual stores of Allies, Contacts, Domain, Herd, Influence, Resources, and Retainers. Generation, Mentor and Status are necessarily individual matters.
<n>You and the other players choose one Background as the anchor that holds the shared assets together. For example, this Background might be Domain, with the physical place the characters claim as their haven and for hunting, which also acts as a meeting ground for the mortals they deal with, a repository for their wealth, and so on. Any of the poolable Backgrounds can serve in this role, however: Herd might be the key to sustenance and stability, the willing if ignorant population on whom the characters feed, a source of servants and so on.
No Background pool can have more dots assigned to it than the Anchor Background does. If it’s damaged by events during play or between sessions, other assets drift away from the characters’ control, and it takes effort to win them back.
Any character contributing to the pool may pull his stake out at any time. The dislocations guarantee some damage: The character gets back one dot less than he put in. Making the transition more peaceably requires spending half the time it would take to develop a new dot in the relevant Background (for each Background involved), as discussed on p. XX.
Example: The members of the Bloody Sunday coterie build their Background pool around Domain. The physical territory of a ruined church and its economically depressed environs give them the opportunity to interact with down-and-out members of their squalid neighborhood and a ragged group of mortals who fear the creepy squatters in the old church that they can bully into long-term servitude. They put a total of four dots into the Domain pool. Members of the coterie also spend three points on pooled Resources and three points on pooled Influence.
<i>Then things go awry. A Sabbat incursion leads to the arrival of a trouble-shooting archon, and in the city’s paranoia, another coterie mistakes Bloody Sunday for a Sabbat pack and sets the church on fire. The Domain rating drops from 4 to 2. Nobody comes to a burned-down church to score, so the coterie’s drug-related Resources also drops to 2. With the church slated for demolition (after a particularly harrowing encounter, the coterie barely avoided the fire marshal discovering that they made their haven there), the coterie’s pooled Influence also falls from 3 to 2 as they fight the zoning and demolition permits through proxies.
Sustained effort by Bloody Sunday can repair the damage. Many options are available, from having the church declared a local historical site and thus exempt from demolition “pending repairs” — to taking a tricky political path and trying to achieve satisfaction from the mistaken coterie (or overzealous archon…). As the Anchor Background score rises again, so do the scores of those anchored to it, as a result of storytelling directed toward the goals of improving lost Backgrounds.
<n>Under normal circumstances, a coterie can’t change its Anchor Background, nor can it acquire a new Anchor Background. While it may choose to abandon a certain Background asset over the course of a chronicle (and thus free itself of the limitations of the pooled Backgrounds in question), the fact that Backgrounds change value only as a result of the story’s events means that the coterie must acquire new Backgrounds in that manner, rather than by the normal advancement system.
In the end, most vampires end up following personal goals over the course of their unlives. Pooled Backgrounds are a great way for young Kindred to gain an initial advantage as neonates in the World of Darkness, but they quickly become outdated or even liabilities as the Kindred formerly attached to them pursue their own, private agendas.
<3>Using Pooled Backgrounds
<n>Pooled Backgrounds are shared resources, essentially the coterie’s communal property. Anyone who contributes to the pool (no matter how much he contributes) has equal access to it. Even if the character donates to only one of the pool’s associated Backgrounds, he still has equal access to it. Not everyone can use the pool simultaneously, though. A Herd pool of seven dots can grant access only to the same, finite number of vessels. Just how those points are split up depends on the circumstances and agreements between the characters.
Example: Four players decide that their characters are forming a Background pool. Their anchor is Resources (the thriving blood doll trade among jaded elders), and they wish to get dots in Contacts (from the elders themselves), Domain (recognition of sovereign hunting grounds from the elders for whom they’re providing fresh vessels) and Retainers (a few lackeys who can move about by day). Jeff contributes three dots of Resources; Michelle contributes another two dots of Resources and two of Domain; Joe contributes another two dots of Retainers, two to Contacts, and one to Domain. Finally, Eddy — who is short on dots — contributes only one dot of Retainers. This makes the pool Resources 5, Contacts 2, Domain 3, Retainers 3. All the players can have their characters tap this pool equally, even Eddy, who contributed only a single dot.
At the Storyteller’s discretion, players can agree to place individual access limits on shared Backgrounds, to reflect any agreements their characters have made with one another. Sometimes being the Kindred who contributed Fewer Backgrounds than the others comes with its own considerations.
<n>By pooling points, a coterie can get Backgrounds that surpass the normal five-dot limit. This arrangement is normal, and it reflects the advantages of cooperation. A group can secure a larger domain or maintain a larger network of allies and contacts than a single vampire can. There is no absolute upper limit on the level to which a pooled Background can rise, but things can get downright ludicrous if you aren’t careful. It’s usually best for the Storyteller to impose a 10-dot limit on the Anchor Background (and thus on all others).
As well, the Storyteller should take into consideration the scaling of Backgrounds, increasing their reliability rather than their quantitative value as the scores escalate among the coterie. For example, if an average player group of four player each contributes a single dot or two to a shared Resources pool of 6, the effect shouldn’t be that they’re collectively the world’s secret Kindred billionaires, but rather that they’re of more modest means, and that those means are more difficult to wrest from them by other jealous vampires. This is a question of balancing player expectations with elements of the story, so be sure to set some guidelines for what the shared Backgrounds actually represent before the chronicle begins.
<n>The Virtue Traits define a character’s outlook on unlife — they shape a character’s ethical code and describe his commitment to his chosen morality. Virtues exist to help give a character a sense of being, not to force players to portray their characters in a given way. However, Kindred are passionate creatures, and sometimes an act or situation may force a character to consider exactly how she should react to a given stimulus. Virtues come into play when a character faces an impending frenzy, does something ethically questionable (according to the character’s morality), or confronts something that terrifies or disturbs her.
A vampire’s Virtues are determined by his Path, the particular code of ethics he follows. Most Camarilla Kindred maintain their mortal values and follow the Path of Humanity (referred to simply as “Humanity”), but other vampires often subscribe to radically different philosophies. Humanity, Paths, and the alternate Virtues are discussed in Chapter XX.
At character creation, a character’s Humanity is equal to his Conscience + Self-Control Virtues.
<n>Conscience is a Trait that allows characters to evaluate their conduct with relation to what is “right” and “wrong.” A character’s moral judgment with Conscience stems from her attitude and outlook. Conscience is what prevents a vampire from succumbing to the Beast, by defining the Beast’s urges as unacceptable.
Conscience factors into the difficulty of many rolls to avoid committing a transgression. Additionally, Conscience determines whether or not a character loses Humanity by committing acts that do not uphold her moral code (see “Degeneration,” p. XX). A character with a high Conscience score feels remorse for transgressions, while a character with a lower Conscience may be more callous or ethically lax.
Some vampires replace the Conscience Virtue with the Virtue of Conviction (p. XX); unless your Storyteller tells you it’s desirable to do this, assume Conscience is used.
<n>Self-Control defines a character’s discipline and mastery over the Beast. Characters with high Self-Control rarely succumb to emotional urges, and are thus able to restrain their darker sides more readily than characters with low Self-Control.
Self-Control comes into play when a character faces her Beast in the form of frenzy (p. XX). Self-Control allows the character to resist the frenzy. Note: A character may never roll more dice to resist or control a frenzy than she has blood pool — it’s hard to deny the Beast when one’s mind clouds with hunger.
As with Conscience, Self-Control can be replaced, in this case by the Virtue of Instinct (p. XX). Again, unless the Storyteller specifically says it’s all right to do so, assume Self-Control is used.
••••• Total self-mastery
<n>All characters have a Courage Trait, regardless of the Path they follow. Courage is the quality that allows characters to stand in the face of fear or daunting adversity. It is bravery, mettle, and stoicism combined. A character with high Courage meets her fears head-on, while a character of lesser Courage may flee in terror.
Kindred use the Courage Virtue when faced with circumstances they endemically dread: fire, sunlight, True Faith. See the section on Rötschreck (p. XX) for mechanical systems dealing with character fear.
<n>Willpower measures a character’s inner drive and competence at overcoming unfavorable odds. Unlike other Traits, Willpower has both a permanent “rating” and a temporary “pool.” The rating is rolled or tested, while the pool is “spent.” When a player spends a point of a character’s Willpower, she should cross off the point from the Willpower pool (the squares), not the Willpower rating (the circles). The rating stays constant — if a character needs to roll Willpower for some reason, she bases the roll on the permanent rating. The pool is used up during the story.
A character’s Willpower pool will likely fluctuate a great deal during the course of a story or chronicle. It decreases by one point every time a player uses a Willpower point to enable his character to do something extraordinary, like maintain self-control or gain an automatic success. Eventually, the character will have no Willpower left, and will no longer be able to exert the effort he once could. A character with no Willpower pool is exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually, and will have great difficulty doing anything, as he can no longer muster the mettle to undertake an action or cause. Willpower points can be regained during the course of a story (see below), though players are advised to be careful and frugal with their characters’ Willpower pools.
Like Humanity, the Willpower Trait is measured on a 1-10 scale rather than a 1-5 scale. At character creation, a character’s Willpower is equal to his Courage Virtue.
More information on Willpower is available in Chapter X, under “Spending Willpower” on p. XX.
<n>A character’s blood pool measures how much vitae the vampire has in his system. The blood pool comprises a number of individual blood points. Each blood point corresponds roughly to one-tenth of the blood in an average adult mortal.
The maximum number of blood points a vampire may ingest is dictated by his generation, as is the number of blood points he may spend in a single turn. A vampire with zero blood points in his system is ravenously hungry and likely in the throes of frenzy.
More information on Blood Pool is available in Chapter X, under “Using Blood Pool” on p. XX.
<n>The Health Trait measures a character’s physical condition, from perfect health to Final Death. As characters are wounded or otherwise impaired, they lose health levels, then regain them as they heal. A character’s Health Trait consists of seven different “health levels,” and each level applies a different dice pool penalty to any actions taken by the person in question. A character who is Hurt subtracts one die from her action dice pools, while a Crippled character subtracts five dice from her action dice pools. If health level penalties leave a character with no dice in a given dice pool, the character cannot take that action. However, a point of Willpower can be spent to ignore wound penalties for one turn (see p. XX).
A character at the Incapacitated health level is utterly immobilized and can take no action of any kind except healing himself with blood points (if the character is a vampire or ghoul) or swallowing blood that is offered to him. A mortal who reaches this stage is a breath away from death; if she takes any more damage, she dies. If a Kindred suffers an aggravated wound (see p. XX) after being Incapacitated, he dies the Final Death. A vampire at the Incapacitated health level with no more blood in his body immediately sinks into torpor.
Note: Dice pool penalties from health level loss apply only to actions. They do not apply to purely reflexive dice pools, such as soak dice, most Virtue checks, or Willpower rolls to abort to another action. If a character is Wounded and suffers more nonaggravated damage, he may still soak with his full Stamina (+ Fortitude, if he has it). The health level penalties do apply to damage rolls for Strength-based attacks, but not for mechanical weapons like firearms. Ultimately, this rule must be adjudicated by the Storyteller and common sense.
[BEGIN BOX TEXT]
<s>Health Level Dice Pool Penalty Movement Penalty
Bruised Character is only bruised a bit and suffers no dice pool penalties due to damage.
Hurt -1 Character is superficially hurt and suffers no movement hindrance.
Injured -1 Character suffers minor injuries and movement is mildly inhibited (halve maximum running speed).
Wounded -2 Character suffers significant damage and may not run (though he may still walk). At this level, a character may not move, then attack; he always loses dice when moving and attacking in the same turn.
Mauled -2 Character is badly injured and may only hobble about (three yards/turn).
Crippled -5 Character is catastrophically injured and may only crawl (one yard/turn).
Incapacitated Character is incapable of movement and is likely unconscious. Incapacitated vampires with no blood in their bodies enter torpor.
[END BOX TEXT]
<n>During the course of a chronicle, characters — much like players over the course of their lives — learn from their mistakes and grow. Change is inevitable, even for the eternal undead. Over years and centuries, vampires hone their Disciplines, learn (and forget) the ins and outs of cultures and languages, and refine their skills at Jyhad.
A great deal of what characters learn is beyond the scope of any game system to reflect. In many cases the more mundane aspects of growing older — and, one would hope, wiser — are reflected in the players’ increased confidence and perspicacity. Learning to lock your car when you leave it in a public parking place is simply common sense, not really a skill that can be purchased. Emotional transformations are roleplayed, not bought.
Sometimes, though, characters improve themselves in skills magical or mundane. A system of rewards, called experience points, is used to reflect these more quantitative changes. Experience points reflect the Traits that a vampire hones as time passes.
At the end of each story, the Storyteller awards experience points to each character. The players then write down how many experience points the character has earned. Between stories, players may spend their characters’ experience points to purchase or increase Traits.
Experience points can be used to improve Attributes, to acquire new Abilities, or enhance ones the character already has, to raise existing Disciplines or purchase new ones, or to increase Virtues. Backgrounds may not be purchased through experience points, though they may be acquired through roleplaying if, for example, the character makes a new friend, acquires a windfall, or commits foul diablerie. The costs for all of these different changes vary greatly, as shown on the chart on p. XX.
The Storyteller is the final arbiter of how many experience points each character receives, as well as which Traits may be raised. Accordingly, the Storyteller should oversee where experience points are spent. Players may wish to put points into areas that don’t honestly reflect what the character has learned during the story or chronicle, in which case the Storyteller can veto their actions. For example, if a character did not use his Dominate Discipline at all during a story, he could not have improved it, and thus the Storyteller should not allow him to increase the number of dots in that Discipline. The same stands for improving Virtues: A character who just killed three children and diablerized her sire has no logical grounds for increasing her Humanity rating. Note that a character does not have to use his Traits successfully to be eligible for an increase. We often learn more from failure than from success, and the undead are no different.
As Storyteller, try to be fair about experience-point expenditure, and never take things to the point at which the player feels he has no control over the character any longer. Ask the players what they feel their characters learned before awarding any points, and use that as part of the basis for giving them experience points. These limitations are put forth to add a level of reality to the game. If the changes in the character are completely random, the impact is lost. Weave the changes into the course of events; make the changes reflect what has occurred. That’s what roleplaying is all about.
Virtues increased by experience have no impact on the character’s Humanity or Willpower. Once the character-creation process is finished, that’s the end of the matter. For example, a character who, during a story, manages to act in spite of his fear of fire is eligible for a Courage increase, but increasing Courage does not automatically increase Willpower in this case.
No Trait may be increased by more than one point during the course of a story. Vast changes in Traits take time, and the game should reflect that limitation.
<n>Increasing existing Traits can be done fairly readily, so long as the character uses or practices the Trait in question. Learning new Traits, however, is a little more difficult. Even a vampire can’t simply pick up a functioning legal knowledge or learn to fight if he doesn’t know even the basics (to say nothing of learning a new Discipline!). Thus, learning an entirely new Ability or Discipline requires some tutoring and study, in addition to the required experience-point expenditure. This study can be simple (a night-school course to learn Computer 1) or brutally difficult (months or even years of mind-bending rituals, formulas, and blood manipulation to learn the first dot in Thaumaturgy), but it must always be accomplished. Having the Mentor Background helps, but even a mentor can teach only what she herself knows.
Storytellers: Do not allow players to neglect this requirement! Particularly for more esoteric arts such as Disciplines, pursuit of new knowledge — and payment for same — can lead to all manner of incredible stories.
<3>Awarding Experience Points
<n>Storytellers: Awarding experience points is a double-edged sword. You can hurt your chronicle by giving away too many, and you can cause just as much of a problem by giving away too few. If you give more to some players than you do to others, you might seem as if you’re playing favorites, and you also risk unbalancing the game. However, the characters who do the most, who take the risks and learn from their mistakes instead of simply sitting on the sidelines, deserve the experience points to reflect the changes they’re going through. The rules below should help you avoid most problems, but you should feel free to experiment and fine-tune them to fit your needs.
<3>End of Each Chapter
<n> At the end of each game session, or chapter, you should award the characters between one and five experience points. One point is awarded automatically, simply because the character experienced the chapter’s events. Despite ourselves, we tend to learn from the follies of others as well as we do from our own.
One Point — Automatic: Each player gets one point at the end of each chapter.
One Point — Learning Curve: Ask the player what his character learned in the course of the night’s events. If you agree with the answer, give the player one experience point.
One Point — Roleplaying: The player carried out the role of her character well, not only entertainingly but appropriately. The player performed as the character should in the circumstances. Truly inspired roleplaying might merit two experience points.
One Point — Heroism: On rare occasions even vampires can truly behave as heroes, risking all to let friends or even strangers escape from certain death. If a character acts heroically and manages to survive, he should be rewarded. Some player might try to take advantage of this idea. Don’t let them. Stupidity and suicidal behavior should not be mistaken for heroism.
<3>The End of the Story
<n>You might decide to give extra experience points at the end of a story, if the players have done their part and the characters have faced down substantial trials. Only a few points should be given this way, as they are effectively “bonus points” for a job well done.
One Point — Success: The characters achieved all or part of the goals they set out to accomplish. Even minor victories can be rewarded if they pushed the game forward.
One Point — Danger: The characters survived against harsh odds and grave dangers.
One Point — Wisdom: The player, and thus the character, came up with a brilliant plan or even a spontaneous strategy that enabled the coterie to survive when it would likely have failed otherwise.
More points can be awarded if you decide they should be, or if you want the characters to advance more quickly than they currently are.
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<n>New Ability 3
New Path (Necromancy or Thaumaturgy) 7
New Discipline 10
Attribute new rating x 4
Ability new rating x 2
Clan Discipline new rating x 5*
Other Discipline new rating x 7*
Secondary Path (Necromancy or Thaumaturgy) new rating x 4
Virtue new rating x 2**
Humanity or Path of Enlightenment new rating x 2
Willpower new rating
* Caitiff have no clan-based Disciplines, just as they have no clan. For them, the cost of raising Disciplines is the current rating x 6 for all Disciplines. This is both a curse and a blessing of being Clanless.
** Increasing a Virtue through experience does not increase Traits based on that Virtue (Humanity, Willpower).
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