During the course of a chronicle, characters — much like players over the course of their lives — learn from their mistakes and grow. Change is inevitable, even for the eternal undead. Over years and centuries, vampires hone their Disciplines, learn (and forget) the ins and outs of cultures and languages, and refine their skills at the Jyhad.
A great deal of what characters learn is beyond the scope of any game system to reflect. In many cases the more mundane aspects of growing older — and, one would hope, wiser — are reflected in the players’ increased confidence and perspicacity. Learning to lock your car when you leave it in a public parking place is simply common sense, not really a skill that can be purchased. Emotional transformations are roleplayed, not bought.
Sometimes, though, characters improve themselves in skills magical or mundane. A system of rewards, called experience points, is used to reflect these more quantitative changes. Experience points reflect the Traits that a vampire hones as time passes.
At the end of each story, the Storyteller awards experience points to each character. The players then write down how many experience points the character has earned. Between stories, players may spend their characters’ experience points to purchase or increase Traits.
Experience points can be used to improve Attributes, to acquire new Abilities or enhance ones the character already has, to raise existing Disciplines or purchase new ones, or to increase Virtues. Backgrounds may not be purchased through experience points, though they may be acquired through roleplaying if, for example, the character makes a new friend, acquires a windfall, or commits diablerie. The costs for all of these different changes vary greatly, as shown on the chart below.
The Storyteller is the final arbiter of how many experience points each character receives, as well as which Traits may be raised. Accordingly, the Storyteller should oversee where experience points are spent. Players may wish to put points into areas that don’t honestly reflect what the character has learned during the story or chronicle, in which case the Storyteller can veto their actions. For example, if a character did not use his Dominate Discipline at all during a story, he could not have improved it, and thus the Storyteller should not allow him to increase the number of dots in that Discipline. The same stands for improving Virtues:
A character who just killed three children and diablerized her sire has no logical grounds for increasing her Humanity rating. Note that a character does not have to use his Traits successfully to be eligible for an increase. We often learn more from failure than from success, and the undead are no different.
As Storyteller, try to be fair about experience-point expenditure, and never take things to the point at which the player feels he has no control over the character any longer. Ask the players what they feel their characters learned before awarding any points, and use that as part of the basis for giving them experience points. These limitations are put forth to add a level of reality to the game. If the changes in the character are completely random, the impact is lost. Weave the changes into the course of events, and make the changes reflect what has occurred.
Virtues increased by experience have no impact on the character’s Humanity, Path, or Willpower. Once the character-creation process is finished, that’s the end of the matter. For example, a character who, during a story, manages to act in spite of his fear of fire is eligible for a Courage increase, but increasing Courage does not automatically increase Willpower.
No Trait may be increased by more than one point during the course of a story. Vast changes in Traits take time, and the game should reflect that limitation.
Increasing existing Traits can be done fairly readily, so long as the character uses or practices the Trait in question. Learning new Traits, however, is a little more difficult. Even a vampire can’t simply pick up a functioning legal knowledge or learn to fight if he doesn’t know even the basics (to say nothing of learning a new Discipline). Thus, learning an entirely new Ability or Discipline requires some tutoring and study, in addition to the required experience-point expenditure.
This study can be simple (a night-school course to learn the basics of Computer) or brutally difficult (months or even years of mind-bending rituals, formulas, and blood manipulation to learn the first dot in Thaumaturgy), but it must always be accomplished.
Having the Mentor Background helps, but even a mentor can teach only what she herself knows.
Storytellers: Do not allow players to neglect this requirement! Particularly for more esoteric arts such as Disciplines, pursuit of new knowledge — and payment for same — can lead to all manner of incredible stories.
Awarding Experience Points
Awarding experience points is a double-edged sword. As a Storyteller, you can hurt your chronicle by giving away too many as well as too few. If you give more to some players than you do to others, you might seem as if you’re playing favorites, and you also risk unbalancing the game. However, the characters who do the most, who take the risks and learn from their mistakes instead of simply sitting on the sidelines, deserve the experience points to reflect the changes they’re going through. The rules below should help you avoid most problems, but you should feel free to experiment and fine-tune them to fit your needs.
End of Each Chapter
At the end of each game session, or chapter, you should award the characters between one and five experience points. One point is awarded automatically, simply because the character experienced the chapter’s events. Despite ourselves, we tend to learn from the follies of others as we do from our own.
One Point — Automatic: Each player gets one point at the end of each chapter.
One Point — Learning Curve: Ask the player what his character learned in the course of the night’s events. If you agree with the answer, give the player one experience point.
One Point — Roleplaying: The player carried out the role of her character well, not only entertainingly but appropriately. The player performed as the character should in the circumstances. Truly inspired roleplaying might merit two experience points.
One Point — Heroism: On rare occasions even vampires can truly behave as heroes, risking all to let friends or even strangers escape from disaster or death.
If a character acts heroically and manages to survive, he should be rewarded. Some players might try to take advantage of this idea. Don’t let them. Stupidity and suicidal behavior should not be mistaken for heroism.
The End of the Story
You might decide to give extra experience points at the end of a story, if the players have done their part and the characters have faced down substantial trials. Only a few points should be given this way, as they are effectively “bonus points” for a job well done.
One Point — Success: The characters achieved all or part of the goals they set out to accomplish. Even minor victories can be rewarded if they pushed the game forward.
One Point — Danger: The characters survived against harsh odds and grave dangers.
One Point — Wisdom: The player, and thus the character, came up with a brilliant plan or even a spontaneous strategy that enabled the coterie to survive when it would likely have failed otherwise.
More points can be awarded if you decide they should be, or if you want the characters to advance more quickly than they currently are.
|New Path (Necromancy or Thaumaturgy)||7|
|Attribute||current rating x 4|
|Ability||current rating x 2|
|Clan Discipline||current rating x 5*|
|Other Discipline||current rating x 7*|
|Secondary Path (Necromancy or Thaumaturgy)||current rating x 4|
|Virtue||current rating x 2**|
|Humanity or Path of Enlightenment||current rating x 2|
* Caitiff have no Clan-based Disciplines, just as they have no Clan. For them, the cost of raising all Disciplines is the current rating x 6. This is both the curse and the blessing of being Clanless.
** Increasing a Virtue through experience does not increase Traits based on that Virtue (Humanity, Path, Willpower).