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 could 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, depending on what your Storyteller will allow. You may have friends in the precinct morgue, at a prominent blog, among the high society of local celebrities, or at a construction site. Your Allies might be a clan of nomads who move their mobile home camp around the area, or they might be a family of generations of police officers. You may even count the mayor himself among your friends, 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
You maintain an alternate identity, complete with papers, birth certificates, or any other documentation you desire. Only a few may know your real name or identity. Your alternate persona may be highly involved in organized crime, a member of the opposite Sect, a con artist who uses alternate identities for her game, or you may simply gather information about the enemy. Indeed, some vampires may know you as one individual while others believe you to be someone else entirely.
• You are new at this identity game. Sometimes you slip and forget your other persona.
•• You are well grounded in your alternate identity. You are convincing enough to play the part of a doctor, lawyer, funeral salesman, drug-smuggler, or a capable spy.
••• You have a fair reputation as your alternate persona and get namerecognition in the area where you have infiltrated.
•••• Your alternate identity has respect and trust within your area of infiltration.
••••• You command respect in your area of infiltration, and you may even have accumulated a bit of influence. You have the trust (or at least the recognition) of many powerful individuals within your area.
Anarch Information Exchange
Anarchs have learned to coordinate their efforts, owing largely to the technological advantages of computers and social networking with which they are proficient. This has led to an unparalleled advance in the exchange of information within the Anarch Movement. (By contrast, Kindred information about mortal society typically comes from Contacts).
Characters with this Background may use this network to contact other Anarchs in order to learn information about specific vampires, local secrets, domain politics, or general rumors about the movements of other sects. The advantage of the Exchange is that it allows Anarchs to tap into information sources from a global reach. Each dot of this Background allows you to ask a single question once per game session. The Storyteller determines what amount and quality of information the Exchange can offer at a given time.
In some cases, the Kindred who make up the Information Exchange may not possess a given bit of information, or may not know it immediately. For example, the Exchange might know about the Prince of a domain, a number of rumors about her past, and even how to contact her, but it’s unlikely to have a detailed schematic of her haven.
Extremely rare tidbits of lore or information might be known by a member of the Exchange, but could be considered to be too valuable to simply share. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and brotherhood and reputation can take you only so far. Under such circumstances, Anarchs may attempt a Manipulation + Subterfuge roll to mediate a deal for desired information. Alternatively, the Storyteller may allow you to spend two of your per-session usages of this Background for such rare or sensitive information.
Types of information that can be found via the Anarch Information Exchange include:
• General information or rumors about a Kindred, such as contact information, general age, known clan and notable lineage, how long said Kindred has dwelled in a city, political affiliations, general reputation, and generation (or a general estimate, such as neonate, ancilla, or elder).
• Information about specific topics, such as basic and brief overviews on a subject relating to Kindred (What is Thaumaturgy? Who are the Setites? What happens when you diablerize? What does a black crescent moon mean?) or personal characteristics of certain Kindred (Why does Prince Vaclav hate the color yellow?).
• Significant status or events in sect politics (What’s happening with the Movement in a Naples? What is the Sabbat interest in Sâo Paulo? Who has the Prince of Chicago placed under blood hunt?)
Example: Flynn Bishop witnessed a strange Kindred named Nixx kill an Anarch by engulfing him in flames. Bishop has three dots of Anarch Information Exchange and her player decides she wants to see if Nixx has appeared on the Anarch Movement’s radar recently. She learns via the Anarch Information Exchange that recently there was trouble between the Tremere and the Anarchs that led to the death of two Tremere Neonates in Colorado. Seeking further information, Bishop’s player decides to ask about what invoking mystical fire might mean in terms of Disciplines that could be used against her. Bishop learns that it is a type of blood magic called the Lure of Flames and that some of the local Tremere might be willing to trade some of its secrets for those of another Discipline.
You have a reputation within the local community of Anarchs. Status among the Anarchs reflects memorable deeds and general popularity. Despite the intention of the Status Perfectus and other early Anarch manifestos, a hierarchy of who’s calling the shots has emerged in many Anarch domains, representing a maturing of the sect’s ideals (or a betrayal of them, depending on which Anarchs you’re speaking to).
You may have occasion to roll your Status in conjunction with a Social Trait; this reflects the positive effects of your prestige.
• Known: You’ve started making a name for yourself. You might be a rising tough working for a gang or this week’s darling hacker, fighting for the cause behind a computer screen.
•• Respected: You’ve become known for being able to hold your own on the streets and in the backrooms where the real decisions are being made.
••• Influential: Anarchs listen to your opinion. You might have led a minor skirmish or exposed some shitbag Ivory Tower lick in a scheme to put more money in his pockets. Perhaps you’re the author of a well-received Anarch manifesto, or you call the shots for a respected crew. Whatever the case, there are few in the domain or across a Free State territory who don’t know about you.
•••• Powerful: You have a great deal of influence over your city. You might be a leader of a powerful known crew or one of the few Anarch elders.
••••• Luminary: You are the acknowledged leader of your Anarch domain, or well-placed among them. You might be the Baron (or a backer behind a figurehead Baron)
Your character has managed to amass a functional armory along with the ability to maintain all of the weapons within it. Each level of the Armory Background yields access to more potent weapons (along with proper ammunition) and the resources to properly maintain and clean them.
The scope of this Background varies a bit by region, as weapons-control laws differ. What an American can buy in a department store, for example, might be the sole domain of the military in Eastern Europe and available only via the black market in Brazil; players who wish to invest dots in Armory should consult with their Storytellers to determine how it will work in the chronicle’s locality.
The Storyteller may require you to invest a few points in another Background (such as certain types of Influence or legal or military Allies) to prevent the Armory’s confiscation by the authorities. An Armory can vanish in a fraction of the time it took to amass it, especially if it ends up on the news or video-sharing sites with footage of a VAMPIRE BLOOD GANG MASSACRE down by the warehouses.
Players may opt to pool Background points for a shared Armory.
• You have an excellent starter armory that includes many legal weapons commonly available on the street, as relevant to your regional culture.
•• You have access to enough legal weaponry to outfit a street gang of 10.
••• You could start your own small militia. In addition, you can outfit five individuals with weaponry that exists in a legal gray area for the region, which most civilians would have a difficult time obtaining.
•••• You have an armory appropriate to a SWAT team in a major city, including some military-grade hardware. You have enough gear to outfit a 10-man team with advanced weaponry, which is a cut above that provided by the lesser levels of this Background. Be careful where you use it, because without other appropriate Backgrounds, you may find yourself under official scrutiny for possessing illegal weaponry.
••••• Your armory is the envy of paramilitary forces around the world. You have the tools to clean and repair almost any personal weapon manufactured in the world. You have access to a significant quantity of weapons that are illegal in most countries, and enough of them to field your own platoon. If this Armory were discovered by authorities, your Anarch would be a pile of greasy ash.
Black Hand Membership
This Background is for Sabbat characters only.
You are a member of the feared Black Hand, the body of soldiers and assassins that serves the Sabbat fervently. Having this Background indicates that you are a full-fledged member of the organization, and you have all the responsibilities and benefits that accompany membership.
You may call upon members of the Black Hand to aid you, should you ever need it. Of course, this ability is a two-way street, and other Hand members may call upon you to aid them. Thus, you may find yourself assigned to perform assassinations, lend martial aid, or even further the political ends of the Hand as a diplomat or spy. You may also be required to attend crusades that take you away from your pack. All members of the Black Hand must heed the call of another Hand member, especially the superiors of the faction.
Being a member of the Black Hand is a prestigious matter, and other members of the Sabbat respect the organization. When dealing with other Sabbat, should you choose to reveal your affiliation with the Hand, you may add your rating in this Background to any Social dice pools, even after Status or other Abilities have been taken into account. Most Hand members, however, choose not to reveal their allegiance. The Black Hand is also remarkably adept at hunting down Sabbat who claim membership in the Sect but do not truly belong — liars, beware.
• You are a grunt; you may call upon one Black Hand member once per story.
•• You are known and respected in the Black Hand; you may call upon two Black Hand members once per story.
••• You are held in the Black Hand’s regard; you may call upon five Black Hand members once per story.
•••• You are a hero among members of the Black Hand; you may call upon seven Black Hand members twice per story (but you’d better have just cause — if it seems you’re becoming soft, you may lose points in this Background). You may also lead large numbers of Hand members into action should it ever become necessary.
••••• You are part of Black Hand legend; you may call upon 12 Black Hand members twice per story (but see the preceding caution). You may also lead large numbers of Hand members into action should it ever become necessary. The Seraphim may even seek your counsel on matters of import.
Lector Priests must have desecrated the corpse of someone buried according to traditional ancient Egyptian practice. These corpses are kept as offerings to Set and are the means by which these sorcerers channel his power into the world. As such, they are usually placed in shrines dedicated to Set and adorned with his iconography. Within this Blasphemous Shrine, the Lector Priest can perform powerful Akhu rituals, amplified by the proximity to the source of their power. The more dots in the background, the greater the connection the desecrated corpse has to Set.
As an optional rule, a Storyteller may insist that a Lector Priest has to have at least one dot of Blasphemous Shrine to represent the desecrated corpse offering to Set, without which they cannot cast Akhu.
• 1 bonus die to Akhu rituals when in the shrine
••2 bonus die to Akhu rituals when in the shrine
•••3 bonus die to Akhu rituals when in the shrine
••••4 bonus die to Akhu rituals when in the shrine
•••••5 bonus die to Akhu rituals when in the shrine
Elders are often too selfish to consider the benefits of “cohabitation”; centuries of betrayal naturally generate a certain suspicious nature as it pertains to other vampires. Anarch packs that have learned the value of mutual cooperation and enlightened self-interest, however, sometimes establish Communal Havens for mutual security and comfort.
A Communal Haven is a secure location controlled and owned by the coterie. This is a place an Anarch who invests Background dots in it can lie low, train, and plan her next move. A Communal Haven could be as simple as an unfurnished apartment, as flashy as a mafioso’s penthouse, or as complex as a military base. Of course, social conventions for the shared space might be complex or simple, depending on the personalities of the Kindred involved.
Vampires sharing a Communal Haven can easily come into conflict unless some custom exists. Is it cool for Licks sharing the Communal Haven to offer it as crash space for others? Is it okay to bring blood dolls there? If something goes wrong, who’s in charge of disposing of the bodies or cleaning up the mess? Who takes care of keeping the location secret in the event that someone opens her goddamn mouth?
Note that this Background is different from the Domain and Resources Backgrounds. Typically, Domain is “turf,” while this is an actual Haven (which may well stand on contested domain...).
Players who elect to purchase this Background must divide their points among three different categories, described below.
Luxury is a measure of the quality of appointments inside the haven. The level of Luxury ranges from spare to opulent, corresponding closely to a Resources Background of equal value.
• What passes for furniture probably fell off the back of a truck or was liberated from a dumpster.
•• The place has been decorated and outfitted modestly. It has the basics expected of modern First World lifestyles (where appropriate).
••• The haven offers relative comfort, with a host of amenities.
•••• The haven is a luxurious oasis in the midst of the Jyhad, unique in both design and appearance.
••••• Only the extremely wealthy or celebrities usually enjoy the opulence of a place like this.
Size represents the amount of living space in the Communal. While the following breakdown gives suggested sizes and room counts, players are encouraged to be creative if they so wish — imagine an open warehouse layout of no true “rooms,” or a network of “under repair”blacked-out skywalks that have access points to various locations downtown.
• A small apartment or underground chamber: 1 to 2 rooms.
•• A large apartment or small family home; 3 to 4 rooms.
••• A warehouse, church, or large home; 5 to 8 rooms, or a large enclosure.
•••• A mansion or network of tunnels; 9-15 rooms or chambers.
••••• A sprawling estate or vast network of subway tunnels; 20+ rooms.
Security represents how tough it is to breach the haven. Each dot of Security either adds one to the difficulty of any roll made to penetrate the haven or adds one to the number of successes required to gain access. (Players and Storytellers should agree on this function before the story begins.)
• Cheap locks on the doors, but not much else.
•• You’ve reinforced every door and barred the windows, or you may have a dog that barks to warn you when someone comes too close to the haven. The place is relatively secure from commonplace threats.
••• The haven is secure but not impenetrable, relying on a modern set of locks, physical protection such as bars over the windows, electronic security measures such as alarm systems, and standard electronic monitoring such as security cameras. It may be remote or accessed only by protected routes, such as a high-rise with a security guard who watches the elevator.
•••• Your haven is protected by all of the security features for the previous level and then some. On par with restricted governmental buildings or even prisons, your haven has reinforced walls, sectionalized access throttles, and perhaps even several panic rooms or hidden chambers. You have invested a considerable about of time and effort to keep people out of your base.
••••• Your base is protected by all of the security features offered by the previous levels. Additionally, it is protected by one or more unique features, such as being far off the beaten path, incorporating a geographical boundary like being built on an island, and/or possible occult protections, like being visible only to Kindred. (Players and Storytellers should come to an agreement on the nature of such one-of-a-kind protections.)
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. Rather than friends you can rely on to help you, like Allies, Contacts are largely people whom you can bribe, manipulate, or coerce into offering information. You also have a few major Contacts — associates who can 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 don’t need to 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
You are the leader or otherwise have control over a cult of your own. Due to their broad membership, Cults as a Background act as a combination of Allies, Contacts, Herd, and Influence, but when called upon are effectively one dot lower in each of those categories (a rating of 1 is effectively 0) and require twice the effort to build or accumulate.
Lastly, members of the Sect have a minimum one dot in True Black Hand Membership, which is mechanically identical to standard Black Hand Membership, though indicative of belonging to the Tal’Mahe’Ra and not Sabbat-specific. The following Backgrounds are restricted or altered for Tal’Mahe’Ra character creation.
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.
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.
Each level of Domain reduces the difficulty of hunting 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 hunting checks by one for uninvited vampires.
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.
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 do 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 star-struck or impressionable people.
• You’re known to a select subculture — local club-goers, industry bloggers, or the Park Avenue set, for instance.
•• Random people start to recognize your face; you’re a minor celebrity such as a small-time criminal or a local news anchor.
••• You have greater renown; perhapsyou’re a senator or an entertainer who regularly gets hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits.
•••• A full-blown celebrity; your name is often recognized by the average person on the street.
••••• You’re a household word. People name their children after you.
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 Thirteenth Generation vampire.
• Twelfth Generation: 11 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
•• Eleventh Generation: 12 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
••• Tenth 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
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 particularly skilled (for more effective pawns, purchase Allies or Retainers). Your Herd rating adds dice to your rolls for hunting.
Players may purchase pooled Herd with Background points.
• Three vessels
•• Seven vessels
••• 15 vessels
•••• 30 vessels
••••• 60 vessels
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. 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’s 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
Memento de Morte
This Background is for Giovanni characters only.
Death leaves its mark on the world around it. Cold spots, places where the light seems too pale, the colors washed out and faded. Sometimes, something seeps into the items surrounding a death in such a way that it taints them forever. The fainting couch in a Victorian serial killer’s parlor, or the portrait that hung on the wall of his abattoir, for example. The blackened wood floorboards at uncle Vittorio’s estate, reclaimed from a plague ship lit aflame to cleanse its still-living passengers. Books wrapped in the flesh of the monk who inscribed them, carved from his till living body, and bound by him in his last moments of life. But the most common mementos of death are murder weapons. The scalpels of serial killers and the sabers of war criminals. Bludgeons and .38 Bulldogs, nooses and punchbowls. The more death that has drenched the item, the more power it absorbs.
This Background gives you one or more of these mementos of death, allowing you to benefit from the ambient energies when using Necromancy. You must have the relic (or relics) with you to receive the bonus. Many necromancers have a special sanctum set aside for their ritual work for this reason.
• You have one minor relic. +1 bonus die to Necromancy rolls.
•• You have a relic of middling power or two minor ones. +2 bonus dice to Necromancy rolls.
••• You have a few reasonably powerful relics. +3 bonus dice to Necromancy rolls.
•••• You have a very powerful relic, or a couple of less powerful items. +4 bonus dice to Necromancy rolls.
••••• You have an incredibly powerful relic, or a couple of powerful items. +5 bonus dice to Necromancy rolls.
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 an interest in your wellbeing. 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 he does, you’re likely 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, or a Ductus or Pack Priest.
•• Mentor is respected: an elder or highly-decorated veteran, for instance.
••• Mentor is heavily influential, such as a member of the Primogen or a Bishop.
•••• 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 Cardinal.
Vampires who possess at least three dots in Obtenebration and one Abyss Mysticism ritual can construct an Oubliette within a subterranean structure. The darkness within the Oubliette drains Intelligence from mortals immersed within it, at a rate of one dot per night. This Intelligence is not recoverable. Nightmarish visions constantly beset vampires within the Oubliette, often leading to the swift arrival of Derangements.
The player of any vampire immersed in an Oubliette must roll against the character’s current Willpower each night; the character may not recover any temporary Willpower points while within the dark. Failure reduces the current Willpower by two points, inducing a Derangement in the vampire once the rating reaches zero. Willpower then resets, and the procedure begins again until the vampire’s extracted or discovers an exit. Vampires who enter the Oubliette willingly, and those on the Road of the Abyss or Road of Sin, lose one Willpower point per night.
The darkness within the Oubliette is unnatural and therefore impossible to see through unless the vampire possesses the Darksight Merit. Entities summoned with Obtenebration or Abyss Mysticism within the Oubliette remain permanently, and cannot be dismissed unless they, or their summoners, are destroyed.
Any Cainite who braves and survives 20 consecutive nights within the Oubliette and doesn’t succumb to torpor has the cost of learning Abyss Mysticism rituals reduced by one experience point for the remainder of the year.
The greater the Oubliette Background rating, the greater the volume of the underground structure that is filled with foul darkness. Points in Oubliette are bought at character creation, or earned through roleplay.
• Coffin or cupboard-sized chamber
•• Single-room chamber
••• Dungeon containing up to five rooms
•••• Multi-level structure, containing up to 15 rooms
••••• Labyrinthine complex, containing multiple structures
See Creatures for some of the entities that might inhabit such a place.
Resources are valuable goods whose disposition your character controls. These assets may be actual cash, 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. Remember that vampires don’t need to arrange for any food except blood and their actual needs (as opposed to wants) for shelter are very easily accommodated. Resources for vampires go mostly to pay for luxuries and 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 squatting 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 working 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 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 you have a 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.
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 — 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 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. Generally, retainers are more like Renfield than Anita Blake. (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
This Background is for Sabbat characters only.
You know the ritae and rituals of the Sabbat, and you can enact many of them. This Background is vital to being a Pack Priest — without this Background, ritae will not function. This Background is actually a supernatural investment, drawing on the magic of the eldest Tzimisce sorcerers. Sabbat vampires who are not their pack‘s priests should have an outstanding reason for acquiring this Background, as Pack Priests are loath to share their secrets with more secular members of the Sect. Some example rituals include the Vaulderie and others.
• You know a few of the auctoritas ritae (your choice).
•• You know some of the auctoritas ritae (your choice) and a few ignoblis ritae (your choice).
••• You know all of the auctoritas ritae and some ignoblis ritae (your choice). Also, you may create your own ignoblis ritae, given enough time (consult your Storyteller for
development time and game effects).
•••• You know all the auctoritas ritae and many ignoblis ritae (your choice). You may create your own ignoblis ritae, given enough time (consult your Storyteller for development time and game effects). You are also familiar with the functions of numerous regional and pack-specific ignoblis ritae, even if you cannot perform them.
••••• You know all the auctoritas ritae and dozens of ignoblis ritae (your choice). You may create your own ignoblis ritae, given enough time (consult your Storyteller for development time and game effects). You are also familiar with the functions of almost all regional and pack-specific ignoblis ritae, even if you cannot perform them; if it’s been written down or passed around in lore, you’ve heard of it.
This Background is for Giovanni characters only.
This trait represents a hold you have over a ghost, or several ghosts. Usually this hold is in the form of catene, or fetters — either something that the ghost valued highly in life, or possibly a random object or place to which the spirito has been attached via a necromantic ritual. Regardless, you have a hold over the spirit and can bully it by threatening its fetter. Alternatively, you might have information about the spirit’s goals and can control it by aiding or impeding it.
All Spirit Slaves are assumed to have statistics similar to a recently deceased ghost. However, higher levels of this Background might reflect more powerful spirits at the Storyteller’s discretion.
• You have a hold on one weak spirito.
•• You have influence over two minor ghosts, or one of greater power.
••• You’re the boss of three lesser ghosts, or fewer who can do more.
•••• Four ghosts are under your sway, or fewer who are stronger.
••••• You have mastered five weak ghosts, or fewer who are more talented.
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 within 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, 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 that 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/Pack Priest
•• Respected: an ancilla/respected Ductus
••• Influential: an elder/Templar
•••• Powerful: a member of the Primogen/a Bishop
••••• Luminary: a Prince/Archbishop
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.
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 this coterie’s key to sustenance and stability.
No Background pool can have more dots assigned to it than the Anchor Background does at any time. If the Background is 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.
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 downand- out members of their squalid neighborhood and a ragged group of mortals who fear the creepy squatters in the old church. 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. 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 rating rises again, so do the ratings of those anchored to it, as a result of storytelling directed toward the goals of improving lost Backgrounds.
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 through freebie or experience points.
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.
Using Pooled Backgrounds
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, Kelley — 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 Kelley, 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.
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).
The Storyteller should also take into consideration the scaling of Backgrounds, increasing their reliability rather than their quantitative value as the ratings escalate among the coterie. For example, if an average player group of four players 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.
Ghoul & Revenant Backgrounds
You may choose many of the same Backgrounds as a vampire might for your ghoul, but there are some marked exceptions. Your ghoul cannot have a Generation, for example, and has no need of Herd. Additionally, the Mentor Background does not make sense for younger ghouls or revenants to have, as it wouldn’t make sense for those characters. Finally, all ghouls, regardless of age or domitor, cannot hold Status, even though they might earn a vampire’s marginal respect over time.
Like Disciplines, the thing to keep in mind when selecting a Background is that it should make sense for your ghoul or revenant to have. In most cases, for example, your domitor would probably not allow you to have Retainers, but as an independent ghoul you might need them to survive. If you’re not sure what Backgrounds are appropriate, check with your Storyteller to review your options.
In addition to the Backgrounds found in V20 beginning on page 111, these new Backgrounds are offered as options for ghouls and revenants.
You are already Bound to a vampire and have been her ghoul for a time. While the influence of the blood bond makes it challenging for you to tell the difference between love, loyalty, and feigned interest, you suspect your master is concerned about your continued well-being and safety.
This Background introduces tiers that reflect the power of your domitor, which influences the resources you have access to and the number of Disciplines your ghoul might learn. The more ancient and powerful your master is, the less likely he is to care about your welfare. Conversely, higher Generation vampires might take better care of you, because they are more tied to their humanity than an elder vampire. Thus, the more dots you take in the Domitor Background, the more powerful you can become, but the less cared for you’ll be. Due to the effects of the blood bond, however, you might not realize how your master feels about you — until it is too late.
Used by: Camarilla ghouls. Independent ghouls, some Sabbat ghouls, and most revenants would not benefit as much from Domitor Background.
• Your domitor is Eleventh Generation or higher, and considers you a valued confidant.
•• Your master is Ninth or Tenth Generation, and has a passing fondness for you.
••• Your domitor is Eighth Generation, and will sometimes let you get a word in edgewise.
•••• Your domitor is Seventh Generation, and expects you to do your job — nothing more.
••••• Your master is Sixth Generation, and remarkably has not yet grown sick of the sight of your face.
Some ghouls walk a tightrope between maintaining a tenuous connection to the world of mortals and serving their domitor to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Not all ghouls are able to handle the effort required, and those who do find their charade exhausting and more complicated than they initially expected. Very few ghouls can maintain both positions perfectly, and usually it is the role of the ghoul’s former self that suffers the most.
Typically, Camarilla domitors wish for their ghouls to maintain a Double Life, because it helps ensure that the Masquerade is protected. Ghouls who retain strong ties to their former selves could be spies or sleeper agents, provided they are aware of what they have become. In order for the Double Life to be useful to your ghoul, you should have the awareness required to flip between your job as a mortal and your designated position as a ghoul for your domitor.
This Background pairs well with Alternate Identity. They are different due to the fact that Double Life requires less subterfuge. Your job interferes with your life more than other folks, though doctors, police officers, and other on-call professionals would certainly sympathize with your situation. Complications might arise when other Kindred domitors or ghouls learn of the people involved in your character’s life, because they could use these innocents as pawns or hostages. After all, any personal connections your ghoul has is a potential weakness that can be exploited and used against you or your master.
The advantages to having a Double Life will vary depending upon your character’s concept. Your family, friends, co-workers, and existing contacts might be a powerful, positive force in your ghoul’s life, but they might also ask questions you struggle to answer. By choosing this Background, you gain the benefits and drawbacks from being allowed to maintain your life as it was before you became a ghoul, at your Storyteller’s discretion. Unlike other ghouls, you’ll need to further flesh out who your character was prior to becoming a ghoul if you take this Background.
Used by: The majority of new, Camarilla ghouls tend to have a tenuous tie to their former lives. This Background ensures that their connection to their former selves, along with their relationships, remains intact. Most independent ghouls, Sabbat ghouls, and revenants would not use this Background. Should you decide to select this Background for your character, talk to your Storyteller about your character concept. You’ll want to address how you envision your ghoul or revenant will be able to maintain a Double Life, and how you feel your role will benefit your character.
The dots in Double Life reflect how closely-tied you are to your life before you became a ghoul. They do not, however, represent how much other people know about your new role or your connection to vampires.
• Keeping up Appearances: You keep in contact with people you once knew, but you keep yourself distanced from them unless you need to ask someone you know for a favor. You might need to keep up appearances because your master ordered you to, or you might have done so naturally to help keep you sane.
•• Maintaining Friendships: You are part of a group of friends who meets every so often for dinner, coffee, or a movie. You might get together once a month to celebrate a birthday, or you might throw a big dinner party for them to show them how great your new “job” is. While you might not ask them for a favor related to your job, you know you can call on them in an emergency situation.
••• Keeping a Lover: You are in love with another person, and your master has allowed you to maintain this relationship in exchange for your service. You would do anything for each other, and your master knows it, too.
•••• Staying Close to Your Family: Your master has granted you permission to remain a member of your family, and has helped you devise a cover so your activities are not suspicious. In exchange for your service, you may maintain your connection to your family, but you may not be allowed to live with them. While some domitors might use your family as leverage to get them to do their bidding, others want you to feign a sense of normalcy.
••••• Possessing a Mortal Life: Though you’ve become a ghoul, your master has decreed that you may keep your job, your relationships, and your apartment. From an observer’s perspective, you may seem smitten with a new love interest or stressed about your new high-powered job.
The Family Elder Background refers to your revenant’s role as a leader in your family. Becoming a Family Elder not only affords you added respect and perks, it may also signal additional responsibilities your revenant is assumed to have. Your reputation, however, is often limited to your family. Outsiders may not know or care that you are a Family Elder, while your immediate family treats you differently than your relatives.
Revenant Family Elders are trusted individuals who tend to make decisions on behalf of the family. A Family Elder might broker a deal with a Clan, ranking members of a Sect, or other revenant families. Elders might assign one or more family members to a given task, and may receive gifts, boons, or favors to distribute them as they see fit. Elders might often be directly responsible for, or consulted frequently, on matters pertaining to the education and guidance of younger family members.
The requirements of being a Family Elder are not standardized. A Family Elder has the power to address and nurture their charges as they see fit, and often do in accordance with their hopes and dreams for the future of their family. Because of their rank, however, they are often drawn into political matters and deadly rivalries involving other revenant families or Clans. While only the family’s Matriarch or Patriarch may make final decisions, other Family Elders may offer their opinions for consideration.
Due to the size of most revenant families, each is likely to have multiple Family Elders which are often tied to a specific location, such as an estate, or based on the number of charges involved in multiple locations. For example, a revenant family might have so many children running about, that it’s impossible to have “a” Big Sister or Brother, so multiple revenants in that role share the burden of responsibility. In most cases, however, the requirements of what a Family Elder does, and how those actions are carried out, will be specific to the needs of a particular revenant family. After all, what is best for the Bratovich family, is not necessarily the same as what’s best for the Grimaldi clan.
Just as the term “Uncle” is used as a title of respect for friends of a mortal family, the titles in the Family Elder Background do not necessarily imply a direct blood tie or connection to those in the revenant’s care. Given the fact that many revenant families are close-knit and tend to dissuade outsiders from interfering in their business, however, it is likely that the revenant would be a blood relative of their charges.
Used by: Revenants
• Big Sister/Brother: You keep your younger brothers and sisters in line, and pass along orders from higher-ups. You are the most likely candidate to be sent on errands or missions for the family.
•• Aunt/Uncle: You supervise the Brothers and Sisters, and check in with them from time to time. If your family is attacking or defending itself, or is ordered to carry out a mission, you will be asked to lead your charges.
••• Mother/Father: You are an advisor who passes along advice and guidance to younger family members, and help shape your charges’ futures. You are empowered to intervene in matters pertaining to the health and strength of your family, and while you are aware of missions and errands you do not directly intervene unless there are problems.
•••• Grandmother/Grandfather: You stick close to the family estate, and you are charged with overseeing the other Family Elders to report to your Matriarch or Patriarch. While you might leave the grounds, your responsibility is to keep things running smoothly on the family compound. This might include dealing with visitors and intruders, but it also may involve smoothing other small disagreements, managing resources, or currying favor from potential allies.
••••• Matriarch/Patriarch: You are the head of your estate, and the primarily representative of your revenant family. You decide what orders to give, who to give them to, and when they make sense to be carried out. You immerse yourself in politics and strategic maneuvers for the benefit of your revenant family, and are well-versed in knowing the identity of your rivals, allies, and enemies. As the ultimate arbiter, you are also recognized by your family’s Clan sponsor as the only spokesperson and legitimate authority.
A Majordomo is a special role designed for a ghoul who typically serves his domitor as the chief steward of her estates and affairs. The Majordomo will do his master’s bidding by doling out assignments and orders ranging from hiring outside services to keeping other ghouls in line. Even among Camarilla domitors, the Majordomo is a rare type of ghoul, because he’s earned enough trust or respect to be able to conduct her affairs by having Retainers of his own. Ghouls with the Majordomo Background often hire, screen, and maintain these Retainers, so that they never meet their masters and remain unaware of who it is they’re working for.
The Majordomo will have his master’s ear, and may recommend rewards, punishments, and tasks that need to be done. While the master will choose to act as she sees fit, the position of this ghoul means that she’s not as paranoid about her servant as she might otherwise be. Instead, she might even rely on the Majordomo for news and rumors, expecting to hear tidbits that might be of use to her.
In any household that contains a Majordomo, it is made clear to other ghouls that this servant, favored and trusted above all others, speaks for his domitor when she is not present. As long as instructions are carried out and orders are followed, few masters care about the details. It is the Majordomo’s role to manage the people required to maintain his master’s domicile, as well as oversee any tasks necessitated by the upkeep of his master’s estate.
The benefits of taking a Majordomo Background are due to the fact that such a ghoul offers a domitor the freedom to allow her servant to do as he wishes. Thus, if the Majordomo arranges for a specific person to be hired or fired, his master can reasonably claim to know nothing about how her ghoul conducts his affairs. Because of a Majordomo’s greater responsibility, these ghouls are also given greater latitude than any other servants. This translates to a different type of relationship between master and servant than most other ghouls experience.
Though the Majordomo is a lofty position in any domitor’s household, if that ghoul’s loyalty is in question, this ghoul is not immune to punishment or harsh treatment. Because of their connections, a domitor will probably not remove or replace this ghoul without significant forethought and prior arrangements to insure a seamless transition from one to the other. However, the Majordomo is not immune to his master’s desires and wishes, for despite all of the freedom he’s given, he’s still in the service to a vampire and addicted to the Blood.
A Majordomo is a Background that benefits both the ghoul and the domitor, because the burden of maintaining a complex household falls on the Majordomo’s shoulders. Thus, your ghoul will be caught up in the night-to-night requirements of your vampire in a more authoritative way than other ghouls. The use of such a ghoul greatly depends upon the personality, Clan or bloodline, and Sect of your domitor.
Used by: A Majordomo is far more common among Camarilla domitors and ghouls than they are in the Sabbat. Among Cainites, a Majordomo may not be as valued or treated as well, but will be held responsible for any missteps. The role of a Majordomo is unheard of among revenant families, unless that revenant has voluntary resigned herself to a life of serving her family. For independent ghouls, becoming a Majordomo is an impossible feat, for no vampire would trust a ghoul that could not be subjected to the blood bond.
The Majordomo Background is a variant of the Retainers Background found above. Dots in Majordomo reflect the power and influence you have in your master’s household over other servants.
After selecting this Background, work with your Storyteller to identify which characters you may command on behalf of your master and what their role is. A servant may either be a ghoul or a mortal, and the term does not reflect that character’s specialty or profession.
• One Servant
•• Two Servants
••• Three Servants
•••• Four Servants
••••• Five Servants