A Primer on Vampire: The Requiem

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A Primer on Vampire: The Requiem

Post by Chris Shaffer on Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:26 am

Welcome to the World of Darkness.

It's a lot like the world we know. The bands are mostly the same, the movies are mostly the same; but the politicians are somehow even more corrupt, crime is a bit worse, and there are a lot of cults out there. Some of you are likely to be familiar with this already, but I'm trying to be thorough.

Vampire: The Requiem is a game about the struggle against the beast within, where a person's darker nature can drive them to kill and feed and manipulate the people around them in terrifying ways. Player characters are humans who've been made into monsters and find a nice comfortable spot in which they could spend eternity.

Not that it's ever that simple, when each vampire has an actual supernatural Beast inside them driving them to succumb to unnatural (or all-too-natural) urges.

Regardless, those who are brought into the world of the vampires generally find themselves made as one of five clans, each with different powers (called Disciplines) and weaknesses:

  • The Daeva, vampires who feed off the passion, desire, and emotion of humans as much as the blood. They are known for enhanced speed and strength but particularly the power of Majesty, which lets them command the hearts and passions of others. Their curse is to become obsessed with their mortal vessels.
  • The Gangrel, vampires in whom the Beast is an almost physical force reshaping the vampire into a dangerous animal on two legs. They command beasts and turn aside many forms of injury but they master their physical form with the power of Protean, taking on the form and powers of many of the Earth's creatures. But as their body turns bestial, so too do they fall to dangerous and violent instinct.
  • The Mekhet, creatures of darkness whose need for secrets taints them with mystical insight. They can hide in plain sight and move like the wind but what makes them dangerous is the Auspex that lets them know everything about the world around them. However, they succumb to the stranger weaknesses of the Kindred much more easily.
  • The Nosferatu, undead terrors in the night capable of wielding fear like a scalpel or a flamethrower. They have the strength of true monsters and the ability to walk unseen but are properly known for the power of Nightmare which lets them haunt the very souls of their victims. But their ability to embody fear and disgust also pushes away most mortals.
  • The Ventrue, lords over both Damned and mortal alike, masters of all they survey. They command the land and stand up to physical danger but they can Dominate the weaker-willed with their powerful gaze. But as their darker side takes over they have a harder and harder time connecting to mundane humanity on a level deeper than that of a chess piece.

Beyond those five clans there are potentially countless bloodlines and mutations of vampirism, including terrifying diseases and plagues. And then there are rumors and legends about all manner of weirdness that most would call 'vampires,' albeit very different ones.

The Kindred, as they call themselves, organize themselves in many different governments and systems and fiefdoms and city-states all throughout the World of Darkness. The makeup varies from country to country and culture to culture but a great deal of the world's vampires are divided up into five covenants.

This game in particular focuses on the machinations of the Invictus, who put themselves on the front line of the Masquerade that keeps vampires hidden from humanity. They take and wield the temporal power of the mortal world, using vampiric might to control institutions from the shadows to keep the world of the Kindred safe. They draw upon connections and power and traditions dating back to the days of Rome and its vampiric counterpart (or parasite) known as the Camarilla. And within the society of the Kindred the Invictus sometimes do what they must to keep the rest of their kind safe whether they like it or not, strengthing their ties with powerful Oaths to keep the masters powerful and their followers useful.

But the Invictus are not alone in this fight.

The Invictus, in this mission, are also bringing along the Lancea et Sanctum, religious vampires looking to make sure that God still has a place in the world of the Kindred. They test the world of the living the same way God tested Job and try to keep their fellow Kindred on the proper path. Their founder was Longinus, the soldier who pierced Jesus' side and found himself cursed by God for this blasphemy. With his Testament guiding them and the magics of Theban Sorcery gifted to him by an angel, the Sanctified preserve the history and traditions of the Kindred.

While neither interested in political power or theology, the Ordo Dracul have been a boon to the Kindred of Charleston and bring their knowledge and sciences to Morgantown with them. When Vlad Dracula was struck down in battle and raised up by God as a vampire, he immediately turned his ambition to finding a way of escaping the curse. He founded an order of occultists and scientists who've studied everything there is to know about the Kindred condition. The result of that work has been the Coils of the Dragon, practices and alchemical rituals that grant vampires the ability to harness and strengthen their advantages while leashing and restricting the power of their banes. The Ordo Dracul seek out 'Dragon's Nests,' places of occult power within a city where they perform experiments and study the mysteries of the World of Darkness.

And of course, our protagonists are in Morgantown because of the recent incursion of the Carthian Movement. The Carthians reject stable tradition and cling to radical political beliefs. They inflict change for the sake of change, reaching out and grabbing every new mortal political instutition that comes along. And when they take power in a city, the legends tell of the power of Carthian Law that allows them to make the power of vampirism do their bidding.

Elsewhere, lurking in the shadows around the edge of established territories, the Circle of the Crone practice bloody pagan ritual to a variety of deities. They spring up in hundreds of cults despite the best efforts of the Lancea et Sanctum, fighting and surviving and giving themselves over to the darkest powers of the night. Their own blood sorcery, the art of Cruac, draws from the ancient terrors in the shadows to curse or slay the enemies of the Mother's Army.

And then, of course, there are those who go it alone, rejecting covenant membership and claiming the truest of freedoms. Or at least what freedom their strength and cleverness can give them. And that's assuming they aren't secretly working for one of a number of cults or lost covenants believed dead and buried.

The Realities of the Requiem

So here we come to the vampiric rules.
(Note that I'm using a newer edition of the game, so some of these rules may not be what some players remember.)

Vampires need blood to live. Young vampires can sustain themselves on almost anything, but as a vampire rises in potency and age they slowly lose the ability to feed on animals (often around a century undead, but some vampires 'mature' faster than others). Once a vampire becomes old and powerful enough (usually somewhere around 300 years), even human blood has trouble sustaining them and they have to resort to feeding on vampires or (rarely) other supernatural creatures.

Sunlight burns, though some young or weak vampires (or those who've learned the right tricks) can resist it for just a little while as the taint of vampirism isn't as strong in them. Long enough to get back to their haven, one hopes.

Fire can burn even worse than sunlight and stakes paralyze when driven through the heart. Aside from that, the vast majority of mortal weapons -- whether gun, blade, or crowbar -- are about as effective as a hard slap across the face. And depending on which vampiric Disciplines the character has mastered, it might even be less than that.

Vampires have to resist the predations of the Beast, the darkest part of their monstrous nature that drives them to rages or forces them to flee from threats. It slowly drives them in a spiral to utter monsterdom, though they can keep it at bay with Touchstones that remind them of their humanity.

Vampires show up in mirrors or cameras just fine, though they have a knack for 'accidentally' looking away or having the light catch the lens wrong if they don't want to be seen.

Vampires' bodies don't properly function. They don't eat, they don't drink anything but blood, their bodies sit at room temperature, and they're normally incapable of sex. But by spending a bit of effort to stir the blood within a vampire's body, the vampire can feign the traits of the living for a little while, passing for human even under most medical exams.

Turning a mortal into a vampire -- Embracing -- is more involved than just biting them. Generally, one must feed from the mortal, drinking them until they're empty, and then feed the mortal the vampire's own blood and a new vampire raises as one of their clan. On occasion, though, someone who dies after being bitten or has vampiric vitae in their system occasionally rises up as what's called a revenant. These weak-blooded bastards bear no sign of any but the weakest of vampiric traits but it's said that a vampire can elevate a revenant into a full vampire.

But weakness for holy symbols? Garlic? Unable to enter homes uninvited? It's not common or consistent, but it happens. Those vampires who have particularly succumbed to their monstrous nature and denied their humanity become a little stranger as the years pass. The sorts of tricks often ascribed to fairy tales become true as a vampire becomes more comfortable with its Beast.

The Traditions

While there are vampires who dare to resist or argue against them, there are three basic traditions upon which vampiric society is balanced, laws that even the greatest of monsters hesitates to break:

The First Tradition: Masquerade -- Do not reveal your true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so forfeits you your claim to the Blood.

The Second Tradition: Progeny -- Sire another at the peril of both yourself and your progeny. If you create a childe, the weight is your own to bear.

The Third Tradition: Amaranth -- You are forbidden from devouring the heartsblood of your Kindred. If you violate this commandment, the Beast calls to your own Blood.

A Brief Lexicon

Aside from the setting as described here, there are a few terms that are likely to come up on a regular basis. A full lexicon is available in the books but here are a few terms that will be used on the site.

Terms related to vampiric society:
(not every city uses these, but player characters will be coming from a city that does)
Domain -- A vampiric territory under a single governing authority. Usually a city-state but the largest ones can spread across multiple cities.

Prince -- The traditional term for the ruler of a given domain of vampires. Most such domains are run as feudal states. Different domains use different terms, and not every domain has a prince or runs under that system (Carthians, for instance, often draw upon elected councils or sometimes even put everything to a vote). Most Invictus domains use 'prince' or something similarly royal.

Regent -- Someone who rules a smaller patch of territory on the authority of the local prince.

Seneschal -- A prince's second-in-command, in charge when the prince is absent and often tasked with arranging meetings of the Kindred and establishing safe places called Elysiums.

Primogen -- Advisor to the prince. Different princes choose advisors in different ways.

Sheriff -- Head of domain security. Often has deputized vampires called 'hounds' who help catch lawbreakers.

Bishop -- Head of the local Lancea et Sanctum.

Kogaion -- Head of the local Ordo Dracul, often the keeper of maps for all of a domain's Dragon's Nests.

Elysium -- A place, often a business under a vampire's control, designated as a safe spot for vampires to gather.

The Rack -- Colloquial term for a best spots in town for vampires to feed. Usually a club district. Not always, but often, the vampires of a domain agree that no single vampire has the right to control the Rack and all vampires have permission to feed there.

Cacophony -- A collection of codes and ciphers and secret languages used to send messages through or about the vampiric underground. It stretches from graffiti marking feeding grounds to blogs written in elaborate doublespeak to underground comic books meant to give advice to new Kindred. Those who spend the most time and effort contributing to the Cacophony master the art of stretching the Masquerade as far as it can go without breaking.

Terms related to the blood and vampire-kind:
Vitae -- The blood within a vampire, mystically tainted by the vampire's nature. Vampires drink blood, their bodies convert it into vitae, and they spend it to perform supernatural feats. It's also very addictive to things that aren't vampires.

Ghoul -- A human who's been fed the blood of a vampire infused with the vampire's will. Ghouls bear a small measure of vampiric power, are often loyal to their new regnant, and are capable of serving the vampire in matters that the vampire can't deal with personally. They're like junkies, and you're the only dealer they ever want to buy from.

Embrace -- The process of turning a human into a vampire. The vampire who initiates the change is called a 'sire,' while the new vampire is called a 'childe.'

Vinculum -- A formal name for what's commonly known as a 'blood bond,' the artificial love and loyalty that comes with being exposed to a vampire's vitae. Even other vampires are subject to the Vinculum.

Diablerie -- Also known as 'Amaranth,' diablerie is the forbidden ritual of drinking a vampire's blood and soul and claiming a measure of their power. It's a form of vampiric cannibalism reportedly extremely addictive and guaranteed to turn a vampire into a ravening monster.

Draugr -- The aforementioned ravening monster. A vampire who's lost all of their humanity and has become nothing more than a clever animal feeding and surviving with almost no ability to pass for human.

Torpor -- A death-like sleep that a vampire can fall into if severely hurt or starved for too long. Some vampires voluntarily fall to torpor to escape the world and help weather the burdens of age.

The Strix -- Legendary, mythical, and reportedly powerful owl-shaped spirits said to possess vampires and corpses alike. For reasons unknown, they harbor some ancient racial hate against the Kindred. As the legends have it, they're responsible for the fall of the ancient Roman vampire court known as the Camarilla and possibly even Rome itself. Their presence and passage is marked by familiar figures acting strangely with shining yellow eyes and shadowy owl-shapes darting through the mist. Assuming they're real, that is.
Chris Shaffer

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