Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Feeding Territories

or "Additional Feeding Rules"

In various Masquerade games I have played in, I have seen a number of times that a Clan has been granted feeding territory, yet it rarely pans out to any sort of mechanical bonus over those that are without. Thus, I have been pondering a system that has been in the works for a number of years, by which to have a simple and effective solution for changing the economy of feeding.

First, this isn't a replacement to the current MET feeding system, but instead an addition to the existing system.


The Domain

Each Domain begins with 10 Territory Points. The Prince determines which Clans have Feeding Territories, and should mark out on a physical (or electronic) map the territory for each Clan. Not only does this give a sense of where things occur, but they also determine which Primogen is responsible for each Territory. Generally, the Prince should hand out a Territory to each of the Camarilla Clans (Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere and Ventrue) and another Territory as the Rack. The Prince then divides the 10 points into the various Territories, giving each of them a Territory Rating.

Domains that have Princes that grant Territories to non-Camarilla Clans should be looked down upon, up to and including the awarding of Negative Status. Higher level Storytellers that are in control of powerful NPC's such as Justicars or members of the Inner Circle should strip status of Princes who would be so bold as to grant Territories to Independent Clans.

At any time, the Prince may redistribute the Territories. This is a valid method for the Prince to punish members of a Clan.


The Territories

Each Territory will have a number of locations that potentially increase the Territory Rating. The following are a list of locations that grant additional Territory Points, locations that the Prince and Primogen should keep an eye on when dividing up Territories. These locations are determined by the Storyteller staff, but things should be within reason, a large mall or airport should garner a bonus, while a dive bar or police station should not.

Once all the suitable locations have been pointed out and marked upon a map, no two Territories should have the same rating and no Territory should have a rating of more than 10.

Of course, each of these locations, once marked, are targets for other Clans. A Clan that has members which have drawn the ire of the Prince are always at risk of losing some of their choice feeding locations.


Dividing Blood

Now that all the Territories have a Rating, that is the amount of additional Blood Points that may be used by the occupants of the Territory during each game session. This creates a sense of resource management, as smaller Clans with higher Territory Ratings have more of an opportunity to have their members with full blood pools, while populous Clans may find it more difficult to keep all their members well fed.

The person in charge of handing out the additional Blood Points is the Primogen of the Clan, thus granting them additional power, and creating some tension within the ranks. The Storyteller should hand the Primogen these additional Blood Points to divide amongst their Clan (or hoard for their own use).


The Rack

The Rack is the location where all are able to feed, including those of the Independent Clans, and counts as a Territory for all purposes. The only difference is that the Storyteller is the only person that keeps track of the amount of Blood Points available in the Rack.


Overfeeding

A character may elect to "Overfeed", in the rare instance that their initial starting amount plus the amount they garner from their territory isn't quite enough. This is a risky endeavor, as the possibility of a Masquerade threat becomes very real.

A Static Social Test is thrown, against the number of Traits equal to the amount of Blood Points they are looking to acquire. Hunting and Subterfuge may be used as a Retest. Losing this challenge means the character not only failed to acquire the Blood they desired, but they also have become a "Threat" in which they were caught on camera, they were seen by a mortal that managed to flee, or they were caught by the Sheriff, etc. At which point, they need to take steps to cover up the "Threat" by the end of the game session, or it is left to the Storyteller to take further steps in starting a potential Masquerade Breach.


Stealing Blood

If a character finds that their native Territory has "run dry" and they do not wish to risk Overfeeding, they may attempt to Steal from another Clan by poaching their territory. This is obviously a risky maneuver, and threatens to bring the wrath of the victimized Clan upon the thief's head.

Stealing Blood begins with a Static Social Test, against a number of Traits equal to the amount of Blood Points that are to be stolen. Hunting and Stealth may be used as a Retest. A success means that the theft was successful, and the Blood Points should be removed from the target Clan's Territory Rating for the next session. Failing this challenge means that the thief not only was unsuccessful, but the information of their transgression is learned by a member of the target Clan (who then may seek to acquire Boons from the thief).

Such a transgressor against the territory that has been granted by the Prince not only should be at risk of losing Status, but their own Clan should be at risk of losing a portion of their Territory.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nosferatu: Twice Cursed

Such horrible, twisted things lurk in the darkness, slinking around in the depths and hidden places of the city. The Nosferatu are amongst them, and they bear not only the curse of vampirism, but also the curse of a horrid and grotesque appearance that reveals them for what they really are.

Because of their state of being outcasts and haunts, they often learn of secrets that were not meant to be known, the whispers of torrid affairs and conspiracies reach their ears, and while sifting through garbage they come across documents and proof of things that others wish to keep buried. Nosferatu are renown information brokers, selling the things they have uncovered for a price. They delight in forcing the genteel and proper individuals seeking their assistance to wade through the muck and filth, and in making them uncomfortable.


Costuming
Nosferatu are by far the most interesting and intensive Clan to costume for.

Clothing for your costume is easily obtained, through a quick trip to your local thrift store. Buy some clothing that is mismatched and poorly fits, or something that looks like it was from the 70's. Next you'll want to tear it up a little, a few small holes here and there, maybe a burn mark or two. You can weather jeans by rubbing sandpaper over the knees, and cut the bottom hem off to give that ragged look. Get your hands on some dark clothes dye and some bleach, and you can permanently discolor the clothes.

Even though other places suggest application of fake blood and such, it is best to have the clothing permanently stained, so that you don't make a mess at the game site.

The makeup for Nosferatu can get interesting, but remember that it's something you're going to have to do before every game, so simple is always better. Interesting effects can be had with eyeliner pencil, concealer sticks, rubber cement, a bit of foundation and other easily obtained items. You don't need to be a makeup artist to have interesting effects.

Role Playing

Slinking around, and sticking to the fringes of conversations keep you wealthy in little tidbits of information you manage to pick up. It also plays up the "outcast" aspect and stigma that is attached to the Nosferatu.

When talking with someone, do things that make them uncomfortable. Steadily increase your volume as you speak to them, hiss your words, lick your lips while eyeballing their neck, scratch at a vermin infestation that your character picked up in the sewers, pick at fake scabs you made with wood glue or latex, get too close to them and invade their personal space... there are a wide variety of techniques you can use in order to creep someone out.

Always leave before the end of the night, and if you can arrange it with your clan mates, you should all disappear together within a ten minute time frame. Effectively done, nobody notices the Nosferatu have left, until they realize that every single one of them seem to have disappeared... and then they start getting nervous.

Act like you happen to know every dirty little secret and dark conspiracy going on. Don't act surprised when people tell you a secret, instead nod and say "Yes, we know." People also like to talk about themselves, practice a few inquisitive statements, and once you get the ball rolling, you can sit back, smile, and nod as they spill the beans.

One of the best investments a Nosferatu player can make is a small digital recording device. Slip it in the breast pocket of whatever cast-off shirt you happen to be wearing, and let it record all night long. Later you can edit out the irrelevant parts and keep the good bits. Additionally, you can leave the recorder hidden in one of the locations often used for private meetings and retrieve it later. This method also removes the problem of some people curtailing their conversations when they know that someone is eavesdropping.


City Positions
Nosferatu make excellent Sheriffs and Scourges, as their information network allows them to know who is coming into the city, and the combination of Obfuscate and Potence allows for a very effective combatant when they must take out the trash.

Disciplines

Animalism
Often overlooked, the various levels of Animalism are useful if you know how to utilize them. Feral Whispers can give you a little bit of spying power, or a temporary ally. Beckoning allows you to summon creatures to you, which is useful when you need to feed (you can effectively trade a Social Trait for a Blood Trait).

The ability to snap someone out of Frenzy, via Quell the Beast is highly useful, and can save your Clan mates from doing something detrimental while in the throes of Frenzy. Subsume the Spirit gives you a disguise that allows you to walk around unremarked as "just another animal", and even works against video recordings (while Obfuscate does not).


Obfuscate
Being able to travel about unseen is invaluable to a group of creatures so hideously deformed as the Nosferatu, as it not only protects the Masquerade, but it also makes it easier to slip in to guarded places without being noticed.

Additionally, Mask of 1000 Faces allows for all sorts of dirty tricks, especially when dealing with a target's Influences or Retainers.


Potence
Ever need to lift that sewer lid or heavy grating? Need to rip a door down? Want to make an impression why someone shouldn't fuck with you?

With Prowess, your bludgeoning fists or that twisted piece of metal do Lethal damage. Plus, once a night you can replenish your Strength related Physicals, allowing you to keep going long after weaker vampires have failed.



Influences
Street
All Nosferatu should have rudimentary sway with the homeless people and gangs, if nothing more than to use for information gathering. Of course, a homeless person going missing every now and then wouldn't be missed much...

Transportation
Nothing is more important to a Nosferatu than the ability to travel about quickly and unmolested.


Limitations
Your true appearance is your only real limitation, and once you find ways of dealing with it, through Mask of 1000 Faces or simply working through third party Retainers, you've largely overcome your main weakness.

Unfortunately, you will always be on the lower rung of Kindred society... that's quite alright, because everything eventually floats to the surface.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Toreador: Of Rose and Thorns

Oh what beautiful monsters we are. Toreador are the Clan most focused on perception and presentation. If a Toreador is not being talked about, they might as well not even exist.

Everyone else exists to please and entertain you. You won't forget this fact, and neither should anyone else. Your tongue should become a surgeons scalpel, leaving quick, stinging cuts. Lesser Kindred fight with their fists and fangs, when you can destroy people with your words. Existence is about enjoying yourself, and exerting your influence to ensure that you are always one of the most important people. If people think you are important, they will bend over backwards to do what you want. Without you, they are nothing.

Costuming
Of course, a Toreador should always look fashionable. Look at the latest issue of Vogue or Glamour, find an outfit you think you can pull off, and wear something similar. If you have problems with makeup, there are thousands of online tutorials. Remember, appearance is everything amongst the Clan of Artists.

Don't worry if you're strapped for cash, you can always go to a thrift store and pick up something that can fool others. The guys have it easy, all they need is a pair of slacks, a clean undershirt, and wear a half-buttoned dress shirt over it. Girls can get away with a cute skirt and heels. Remember, it's never "out of style", it's simply "retro".

Always go with dark clothes, and just say "No" to stripes. Dark clothing is slimming, and contrasts well with your pale skin (if it's not pale, you should invest in some foundation and maybe a concealer stick). A good shade of lipstick is worth it's weight in gold, and the "smokey eye" goes the distance.

Want to be a little mysterious? Apply a temporary tattoo to a bit of flesh where it will be partly hidden under clothing. People will be too busy paying attention to it, and they'll ignore any other fashion mistakes.

Role Playing
"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?" - Jane Austen

Always make an entrance, and if you have an entrouge, make sure they either come in with you, or they flock to you when you arrive. Without your attendance, any event just isn't as noteworthy, for you turn gatherings from droll tea parties to celebrations which will be talked about. Be loud and boisterous as you enter, just to make sure everyone knows that you have arrived and things may begin.

Slowly make your way over to the host, and thank them for their efforts. Even if their party is crap, you can always be sarcastic.

Always leave early, because the people that stick around after a party is over are losers. Plan to leave the game at least a half-hour before it ends.

If someone interrupts you, make sure to give them a withering stare. If they still don't understand their faux pas, make some ridiculous excuse to remove yourself ("Excuse me, there's something interesting over there" always works). Put them on your list of people that need to be snubbed, and ignore them for a month.

Make sure people flock to you. Choose your location carefully, and make sure it's approachable. Place yourself just out of the way of the common traffic patterns, or within a few steps of the refreshment table. To seem really interesting, make up a few stories that involve your character, and practice telling them. Make sure you speak loud enough, and learn how to fake a laugh. Learn how to segue anything into one of your stories. Be careful though, and only tell one of your stories per game session, or else people grow bored with you. Don't worry if you can't come up with more than a handful, just retell the old ones.

Remember, Boons are your stock in trade, give them freely and accept them freely. Carry around a small book or notepad that lists everyone that owes you and everyone you owe. If someone is brash enough to kill you, they inherit all your debts, which is a surefire method to ensure that people don't attempt to kill your character out of hand. Smooth over ruffled feathers with a Trivial Boon if someone really gets bent out of shape by your words or insults.

Of course, if you find yourself a little bored, it's always fun to insinuate that someone is doing something scandalous, even when they aren't. Find someone who has less status than you, and spread the word that you "Heard a rumor" or that you suspect them of doing something. Often times, all it takes is a gentle nudge, and your target finds they are the target of an investigation, or that your insinuation takes on a life of it's own. If someone ever asks you about where you recieved your information, tell them that you don't exactly recall. Sometimes, your remarks will actually turn something over that the target is really involved in, and your statement will be ignored in the light of this new dirt.

The Art is in the Blood
Toreador are artists. If your character is a painter, don't worry too much about your inability to paint, you can buy a cheap canvas and paint, and randomly draw splotches and shapes. If someone questions your methods, say it is impressionist or neo-expressionist artwork, and begin talking about Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

If the character is more of a poet, feel free to steal some obscure works, only to recite them in the middle of gatherings. Don't claim that they are your own, so that other Toreador can smear you.

The most difficult types of artist to pull off are singers and musicians. Generally if you are unable to sing or play an instrument, it is best not to play a Toreador focused on those arts. You want people to remember your character's contributions and artistic ability, and you want them talking about you.

Remember, a tiny bit of research into art and artists goes a long way.

City Positions
Being that they are the advocators of fashion and etiquette, the Toreador should always look to be amongst the Harpies. Of course, a good Seneschal to the Prince can keep them well informed and impressionable.

Disciplines

Auspex
The ability to discern slight imperfections in a work, or eavesdrop on someone to see if they are talking about you makes Heightened Senses very useful. Aura Perception can give you insight to a person's true intentions (and you can always blackmail them with boons to keep quiet on their lies). Spirit's Touch is useful for investigative work, if someone comes to you and pays well enough for your assistance.

Being able to read someone's mind and find out their dirty secrets via Telepathy is always useful. Of course, they should always pay you to keep quiet. And lastly Psychic Projection helps you find out who is talking about you when you're not around.

Celerity
The best use for Celerity is escaping a situation in which you've enraged the peasants, and they can't think of any avenue other than violence.

Presence
The one Discipline all Toreador should focus on, Presence is often worth more than any other power of the blood. Awe immediately grants you a second chance at succeeding at any Social challenge, at the low cost of a single Social Trait. Dread Gaze gives you yet another ability to disrupt any attack by someone who seems to be unable to handle criticism.

Entrancement gives you the immediate attention of a subject. Do you want someone to fawn over you, listen to your every word and be unable to break away? This power is perfect for that application.

The use of Summon on people just before you arrive at an event ensures that you have a massive welcoming party, and your arrival overshadows anything else going on at the gathering at that time.

If you want an immediate audience, use Majesty in the middle of a gathering, and then begin speaking once all the challenges have calmed down. This is an excellent way for a poet to begin their work.

Influences
High Society
The main use of this Influence is to be seen and to be thought of as important. If your name is on the lips of local celebrities, and you find yourself on the list of the hottest clubs, people will desire you, and will do anything for your attention.

Media
If a new club or event isn't advertised, it might as well be dead. In addition, keeping glorious failures of other vampires out of the news is a surefire way to make sure that someone owes you.

Limitations
The only limitations you have are what you place upon yourself. Of course, only gauche Toreador find themselves engaged in actual physical violence, you have other people to fight for you.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ventrue: Power and Stability

The aristocracy of the night, Lords of the Ivory Tower, looking down upon the cities they rule from their boardroom balconies, the Ventrue hold it as their duty to lead. A Ventrue uses all power available to them to ensure that they retain such lofty positions, and woe be to those that draw their ire.

The Ventrue are stoic and resourceful, able to withstand the assault of time, weathering the tides that would destroy lesser Kindred. Their minions are legion, and many are unaware of how their strings are being pulled by unseen masters.

Costuming
Dress for success. A nice suit is always a must, although if you don't have one, or cannot afford one, drop by your local thrift store. If that isn't a possibility, a nice pair of dark pants or slacks and a dress shirt are passable.

Colors should be used sparingly. The majority of your costume should be monochromatic, with a single splash of color. Shirts should be dark primary colors if not black or white, a strong blue or crimson preferred. If you choose to wear a tie, use it as your color statement, although stark white is also a bold statement.

Jewelry and accoutrements should be tasteful. Leave the giant medallions and occult symbols to the Tremere. A simple pin on your lapel speaks volumes more than a half dozen gold chains.

You want to look like someone that deserves respect, you don't want to look like a gamer scrub that is dismissed out of turn.

Role Playing
Speak clearly, loud and directly. Make strong, affirmative statements, and don't speak just for the sake of filling the silence. Look people directly in the eyes (it also helps you Dominate them).

Always offer a firm handshake, with your palm facing downward, as it is a sign of dominance. Clasp their hand with your other hand, as a sign of trust. Such simple gestures automatically put people in a position to follow you.

If you act like you know what you're doing, people will follow you. If someone brings up the potential for failure, dismiss it, but take it into private consideration and plan for it.

Never allow a slight to linger, as you allow people to believe that the Ventrue will tolerate such. Make sure that insults meet with immediate retribution. If someone stands in your way, destroy them.

City Positions
There should always be a Ventrue in charge, and if not, a stable Ventrue Seneschal that effectively holds the Prince's leash is just as effective. If you should end up in a city where the Ventrue are not in charge, it is your duty to rectify the situation.

Ventrue also make very good Keepers of Elysium. Their sense of decorum and tradition allows them to correctly organize entertainment for the evening. Even better, their powers of Dominate and Presence often allows them to stop a fight before it really begins.

Disciplines

Dominate
The ability to force your will upon others is the pinnacle power of the Ventrue, and being able to back it up with a Discipline only makes it more potent. Setting up programmed instructions with Mesmerism makes others putty in your hands. Completely rewriting events with Forgetful Mind allows you to get away with heinous machinations (especially if you hide a Mesmerism in there). Lastly, Possession is paramount in being able to ignore assassination attempts, or personally getting your hands dirty without leaving a trace of your involvement.

The only drawback to the Discipline is the limitation of being unable to use it against lower Generation vampires.

Fortitude
Owing to the reputation that makes Ventrue seem like unassailable fortresses unto themselves, the entire Discipline allows you to withstand damage that would leave lesser vampires running or reduced to ashes. Endurance allows you to ignore most wound penalties with the exception of the minor penalty from being Bruised. Mettle gives you an additional Health level. Resilience and Resistance allows you to test damage down to nothing. Aegis, while it may be life saving, strips 3 xp from your sheet every time you use it.

Presence
When simple reasoning and Dominate doesn't seem to be working, sometimes you need to resort to Presence.

Awe grants a Retest to every Social challenge, at the cost of a single Social Trait. Combined with the appropriate Ability, this effectively gives you at least four chances to win every Social challenge (initial throw + Ability Retest + Awe Retest + Willpower Retest), thus giving you a heightened probability of winning at least one of those challenges.

Dread Gaze immediately removes one aggressor in a fight. If you only have a single attacker, you can end a fight with a single Social Challenge (which you have four chances to win). Entrancement gains you a loyal follower for a scene (or hour), which can also immediately grant you an ally in a fight.

All Ventrue with the power should use Summon often, to bring others to you, asserting your dominance over lesser Clans. This also cuts down on the perception that the power is only used for ambushes, so that when you finally need to use it for that purpose, it isn't as obvious.

Majesty immediately revokes an ambush, or can quell a rowdy crowd of Kindred. Those that would seek to overcome your desires must spend a Willpower and only get a single challenge to attempt to break it, and you have three Retests to ensure that they fail.

Influences
Ventrue are masters of the Downtime game, and if you ignore such, you're missing out on much of the power that the Ventrue are capable of wielding. Destroy rivals, and have lesser individuals offer prestation for you to cease.

Combined with your Resources Background, the Finance Influence is a method to guarantee your capabilities, as money always equals power. A wise Ventrue has considerable stock in this Influence, and uses it to set up a number of shell corporations to move wealth around and get a foothold in other Influences.

While it may seem interesting, High Society is best used to impress and influence other Clans, such as the Toreador.

The Legal Influence is also a good choice for Ventrue, as it gives them considerable power to support their other Influences, for instance it can be used to keep legal matters involving their shell corporations tied up long enough for the corporations to dissolve and resources allocated elsewhere, or effectively the negate Police Influence after the fact.

Manipulation of Politics is almost second nature to most Ventrue, use it to modify city projects and put pressure on other institutions. For example, if someone uses Police Influence to begin an investigation into your holdings, political pressure from the City Government can easily disrupt the process, or string it out indefinitely as the Police Chief reassigns department resources.

While not being an "inherent" Influence, the things that can be accomplished with the organized crime of the Underworld Influence allows the Ventrue to overcome the rebellious Brujah, often on their own turf.

Limitations
You have none, act like it. The scepter of command is your to wield.


Brujah: The Sound and the Fury

A Clan so widely varied, yet so easily defined, the Brujah are often seen as rabble and thugs, thinking with their fists and resorting to violence as the first resort. Because of such, some people either shun them or tiptoe around them. These reactions are quite alright, because you can use them to your advantage. Sometimes the threat of violence is far more effective than the actual application of such.

Of course, not every Brujah needs to be a hard hitting thug. The Clan does play up an interesting mix of personas, and there is a place for the socialite. Many Brujah like to consider themselves individuals and free thinkers, and solving a problem without resorting to the obvious is often worth merit. At the other end of the spectrum are the violent rebellious individuals who want nothing more than to live their unlives to the soundtrack of a Sex Pistols album. That's the joy of the Clan, in that there are so many ways you can play an individual.

Costuming
The stereotypical outfit for Brujah is jeans and a leather jacket, and if you are wanting to wear your Clan on your sleeve, most certainly that route works well. It also connects you to other rabble, and will often have Gangrel and Caitiff hanging around you, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're going the leather jacket route, put some individuality into it, pick up some buttons, spikes, chains, or some sort of flourish to make your jacket easily distinguished.

Alternatively, some people are put off by well dressed Brujah, and are at odds with a Brujah that shows up to gatherings wearing a suit. Some elder Brujah wear formal clothing, as a method of distinguishing their age, however, it is often a sign to younger members of the Clan that someone is a "sellout" the moment they throw on a suit jacket and slacks.

Cheap clothing that looks "lived in" is readily available at any local thrift shop. To give jeans an appearance that they've been worn for a long time and endured the hard life on the road, you can simply take sandpaper to the knee area and to the hems. Add a little dark paint to simulate road grime or old dried blood, and you get the appropriate appearance.

Role Playing
As Brujah tend to be very straightforward and "in your face", often guided by their emotions, feel free to take the first plan you come up with and simply go with it, regardless of it being a bad idea. Action is better than stagnation. Sure, you may end up failing, but you were actually going out and doing things while the cronies that hang around Elysium were still trying to get their heads out of their asses and figure things out. Be proactive.

Be loud. Speak from your stomach. People react to loud noises, some people will flinch back from your noise and intensity, and they will give in to your demands. Practice the difference between speaking loud and shouting, as it takes skill to make your voice carry, but any idiot can shout unintelligible phrases. If you can make yourself loud enough to be understood across a large room, you're doing it correctly.

Don't hesitate to suggest that you're willing to use violence to accomplish what you want. As the Brujah have two of the three physical disciplines inherent to them, and are known for violence, there's no harm in playing off the stereotype. While violence may not sway some Elder characters, younger characters are much more willing to give ground than to risk being beaten into torpor.

Wear your Negative Status like a badge, because you're sure to offend someone's sensibilities. A Harpy or Prince is sure to give you a label such as "Brash" or "Malcontent". Polish it and let everyone know about it, hold it high above your normal status traits, because it is what really defines you as an individual. Plus, it pisses off the people who thought it would be a social snub, but instead you've made it a point of pride.

City Positions
Brujah often end up as the Scourge and/or Sheriff in the city, simply due to their martial capabilities. If these positions are already taken, offering your services as a deputy isn't a bad idea. Sure, some people may claim that you've "sold out", but you're actually just looking out for yourself and your fellow Brujah. After all, if you're the one helping to deliver the beat down on someone that made the Prince's shit list, you can make sure that they don't end up as a pile of ashes due to some "accident".

Disciplines

Celerity
Most of the advantages of Celerity that you want to focus on is the extra actions that are granted. In combination with Potence, it increases the amount of damage you can dish out every round. Celerity is also effective in avoiding a fight, allowing you to outrun your enemies.

Potence
The advantages of Potence are many, but are almost entirely regulated to combat. Certainly crushing a table in a demonstration of your physical power can certainly intimidate people, and a locked door is rarely a barrier to a Kindred with a significant amount of Potence.

When building your character's Physical Traits, it's effective to have the majority of them be Strength related, so that you can replenish them with a use of Prowess. You should also focus entirely upon Brawl style combat, as you are doing Lethal damage, and don't have to worry about a Negative Trait that comes with all weapons. During combat, you always want to use these same Strength related traits to utilize the Retest from Might and be capable of throwing the Bomb symbol from Vigor. Eventually you will be able to use the Trait of Potent from Intensity, allowing you to use all of the aforementioned without actually risking a Trait.

Presence
Some Brujah completely ignore Presence, as they believe it isn't as effective as loading up on the Physical Disciplines of Potence and Celerity. While this may be partly true, Presence has a great deal more utility than the other two, and can often either end a fight or prevent it from happening in the first place.

Awe is perhaps one of the most useful powers for you, as for the low cost of a single Social Trait, you gain the ability to retest any Social Challenge. Not only is it effective in that regards, but it is also the one Discipline power you should try and trade to members of other Clans. Because it enhances a number of other powers inherent to other Clans (see the post Basic Disciplines), a number of other Clans will be looking to trade for it. Use this opportunity to cash in and pick up a few other Disciplines that compliment what your character already has, or give them a surprising edge that no one expects.

Dread Gaze can effectively end a fight if things seem to be going against you, and with Awe you have a better chance of it working. Entrancement can end a fight before it really starts, get someone to agree with your point of view, or even get them trusting you enough to follow you into an ambush.

While it's an obvious choice for bringing someone to an ambush (a.k.a. The Boot Party), it's overuse of such ensures that people will be looking for ways to avoid or nullify your Summon. Therefore, use the power without impunity. Want to talk to Bob, Summon his ass. Heard that Jane has a cute ass, Summon her and check it out for yourself. Once you've gotten everyone used to the fact that you use the power all the time, they won't question when you finally use it to drag someone into a fight.

Lastly, Majesty is the deal breaker. Find yourself in the midst of a well orchestrated ambush? Use Majesty and walk out of it like a pimp. Your fellow Brujah getting a little too rowdy and about to do something really stupid? Majesty them all and quiet them down long enough so you can talk sense into them.

Influences
As all Brujah begin with a single level of Street Influence for free, you should focus there. If there are enough Brujah in a Domain with decent levels of the Street Influence, they can effectively control the Influence and keep others from gaining a foothold. Street is also effective at assisting you with various criminal enterprise, and getting your hands on illegal or unregistered weapons. 

Additionally, Street gets you in touch with the prostitutes and homeless people, and when you're in a real pinch, nobody notices if one of them goes missing. 

Limitations
Always remember the Brujah's greatest weakness, in that you are much more prone to Frenzy, as your enemies certainly will not. All it takes is beating down the wrong person, or hulking out in front of mortals, and the Prince sets everyone against you in a Bloodhunt. 

 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stop Thinking Like a Human

...or "You Are Not Playing Yourself With Supernatural Powers"

Most players are still stuck in a mindset of being human. Whereas many neonate vampires would also be of the same mindset, anyone playing a PC that is more than a lifetime old would quickly become accustomed to a completely different way of thinking.

If you're still thinking like a human when you're playing Masquerade, you're only putting yourself at a disadvantage. There are those people that have immersed themselves in character, and they view weaker people as prey.

First off, separate yourself from your character. It's perhaps the most difficult task to master, but you're playing with friends, and it's all just a game. You may have the inclination to be nice to them In Character, and do things for them because you're friends Out of Character. Resist those temptations, as not only does it cheapen the venue, but it also makes your character look weak.

You are playing a predator, a creature that hunts prey. Your character is in a society of other predators, creatures that are competing for food, and each one is dangerous, and seeks nothing more than to take what you have, or to eat you. Even if they don't willingly admit to such, all vampires have that little whisper in the back of their mind, that they can eat you and take your power.

Any time someone asks your character for a favor, ask yourself what you can gain from it. If they don't offer tangible recompense, and they don't offer boons, there's little reason to assist. Why would a vampire risk their unlives without any gain?

If such predators are so dangerous, why do they gather together? Simple, they have egos. They have an innate desire to one-up one another, and to size up the competition. They seek to socially maneuver to positions of power over lesser predators. Vampires are the pinnacle of selfishness, and never act with altruistic intentions. Never let other players sway you with phrases like "for the betterment of Kindred society", they are simply playing at your emotions and hoping that you give in and give up what power you have, so that lesser predators don't have to try as hard.

Vampire: the Masquerade is about being an antagonist in a sea of antagonists. Each vampire has their own motivations, and while they may coincide with the motivations of others for a time, conflict always happens, and should happen. It is conflict that drives stories.

Power Games

...or "How to Gain and Maintain Respect"

"You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself."  -Don Draper, 'Mad Men'

All too often I hear people complaining that their characters that are high Status, or who are in positions that should command respect, simply aren't given the respect they should be afforded. As respect is earned, and not given freely, the only person responsible for a character not having respect is the person who is playing them. All too often the person that wishes for respect is the same person that shows up to game wearing the same clothes they sit around the house in, doesn't understand the rules or setting, and is busy talking Out-of-Character (OOC) most of the game. The characters of such players don't garner respect, nor do people have any particular fear of eliminating their characters, as they are seen as little more than an inconvenience.

This post contains a number of ways to sharpen your character, making them an individual to be looked up to, admired, and as a valuable individual in a chronicle. This information is merely a small fraction of tips and methods for attaining respect, culminated from a number of sources, including famous authors, speech-writers, and psychologists.

Only you can make your character important and respected, through their active portrayal. No amount of background, or well-written material can be used as a replacement for how your character is viewed when you enter a live action game.

Dressing the Part
"Clothes make the man." - Mark Twain
There is a world of difference between the stoic character wearing a suit and tie and the gamer wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals; the first commands respect, while the second means that he isn't fully committed and would rather be lounging. Cheeto stains and a neckbeard do not command respect from people, nor does informing everyone that your PC happens to be wearing an impeccably tailored suit, while you are wearing khaki shorts and Crocs.

Similarly, a thug in armor, while may look interesting, doesn't quite command the respect of someone wearing utilitarian clothing. The armor makes you look like you're in a costume, while a motorcycle jacket and boots makes you look prepared for action. There's a line between what looks cool at a boffer larp, and what works well for a grim modern-day setting.

If you're unsure of what to wear for a character, leaf through a fashion magazine at a local convenience store, get an idea of what your character would wear. Understandably, gamers are often on a budget, however, the amount of thrift stores in existence means that you don't have to spend a fortune on a costume that accurately reflects the character. Your character might wear Armani or something from McQueen's Spring collection, however, you don't need to spend a fortune to look good enough to gain respect.

Regardless of the Fourth Wall, appearance is something that weighs heavily in people's minds, regardless of whether they admit it or not. Showing to a game looking good makes a good impression, and commands respect and attention. Who can respect someone that doesn't appear to have self-respect?

Acting the Part
"Talk low, talk slow, and don't talk too much."  - John Wayne
Your words should be clear, well enunciated and spoken slow enough for people to hear. Speak from the stomach, making sure that you are well heard and received. Humans are like all other animals, and react to loud noises.

When you speak, use absolutes, don't give people the ability to misinterpret what you state. Even though gamers are generally better educated individuals, small words are easier to comprehend, and less likely to be misinterpreted. When you do use a big word, restate your previous sentence with smaller words to ensure there is no miscommunication. Don't waffle about on topics. Make sure your views and desires are effectively conveyed and don't change your mind in mid-speech. Don't use words that convey that your mind is still processing, such as "uh" and "um", and only speak when you have something to state, not simply to fill the silent parts in a conversation.

Give pause and breathe in between sentences. This not only makes people hang on your words, but also gives them a short time to digest and process what you just said. Don't give too much of a pause, as people will think that your statement is done, and will begin their response.

Body language is also a large part in commanding respect. Proper posture with shoulders back and head high garners more respect than someone with hunched shoulders and stares at the floor when speaking. Practice your body language in a mirror, and see what works for you and what appears silly when viewed by others. Body language is as important punctuation about your statements as the content of your words. Avoid making silly gestures. These only serve to make people familiar and comfortable in your presence while you are in-character, which means they take you less seriously.

Read a book or two about speeches and body language. Watch speeches from such historic and charismatic leaders as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Adolf Hitler. Massive numbers of papers have been written about the effectiveness of their public speaking.

Knowledge is Power
Never volunteer information if you can avoid it. Many people are all too willing to converse about various aspects of their own personal agendas, which gives everyone insight to what they are doing, and how to thwart them. Don't give anyone pertinent information to your schemes or manipulations unless absolutely necessary.

One method to prevent from divulging such information is to write a small list of a half-dozen subjects that are conversation filler. Talk about local news articles and current events that you are uninvolved in, but seem interesting. Instead of giving a declarative statement, ask questions in a manner that almost makes you appear to have a stance on a subject, and let your conversation partner(s) debate and attempt to inform you. Let people talk about themselves, everyone is a narcissist at heart, and willing to give you ammo for you to use later.

Never appear surprised at a piece of information given. Quirk an eyebrow, give a sly grin, or say something along the lines of how such information is interesting. Doing so makes people believe that you know more than you actually do.

Be on Top of the Game
Learn the rules. You don't need to be a rules lawyer, but knowing and understanding the rules and how they relate to your character goes quite a distance. You're much more likely to garner respect when you are able to quickly locate things on your character sheet, or show your capability in using the abilities inherent to your character.

One method to assist in this aspect is the creation of a "supplementary sheet", an additional sheet attached to your character that has a list of the pools that you are likely to use, as well as a summary of your Disciplines and Merits and what they do. Writing the sheet also gives you insight into your character's strengths and what they should improve upon.

Always appear to have something going on behind the scenes, something that makes you busy, even if you don't. This makes people respect you, as they fear the unknown, and they want to get close to you to find out what nefarious plot you have brewing.

Make them Wait
When in a position of importance, you can take your time. However, there is a downside to taking too long to arrive at a gathering, in that if people wait too long, they may begin to move forward without you.

Showing up to a game an hour late, as long as you arrive fully prepared not only implies that you had more important business elsewhere, but also stymies the rare assassination attempt from a party of assailants (also termed as a 'boot squad'). If the assailants are forced to wait for an hour or two before getting their plans in motion, several of their key members may decide to abdicate their plans to go get involved in something else, thus possibly causing them to be less than effective in their attempt.

Arriving late to a personal request for your presence is a double edged sword. If you have judged incorrectly about the temperament and importance of the person requesting your presence, you run the risk of their punishment. However, if used on a person that is incapable or unwilling of bringing their ire down upon you , you have removed some of their power.

Can the OOC Chatter
Nothing makes you lose character quicker than OOC chatter, even your body posture will change, showing that you're less of a threat, and thus erode the foundation of respect that you've managed to construct. You can relax and act friendly during afters, or social events, and reiterate to people that you are not your character.

The less people that break down into OOC chatter and conversation means the more people actively pushing the game along. Avoid the temptation, and maintain character, because once character is broken, you have to overcome inertia to jump back in.