Frenzy and Rötschreck
Trapped within the false civility of the Camarilla and the forced camaraderie of the Sabbat, there is a hidden truth: Vampires are monsters, possessed of an inner Beast. Though, like humans, they have the capability to overrule their baser instincts, sometimes they fail. When this occurs, the Hunger and the Beast become uncontrollable, and no one is safe from their excesses. Older vampires refer to the ensuing savage fits as “succumbing to the Beast Within.” Younger Kindred refer to these outbursts simply as frenzies.
The Nature of the Beast
During a frenzy, a character literally — and usually unwillingly — gives into the darkest instincts of the vampiric nature. The character is consumed with rage or hunger, unable — or unwilling — to consider the effects of any action. Friends, foes, lovers, ethics: None of these things matter to a vampire in frenzy. If a vampire in frenzy is hungry, he will feed from whoever is closest without regard for the vessel’s well-being. If the vampire is angry, he will do everything in his power to destroy the cause of his anger. A vampire struck by fear will commit any atrocity to remove himself from the source of his terror, regardless of the consequences. The character completely surrenders to the basest aspects of his Nature, shunting aside the Demeanor most commonly presented to those around him. He is, in short, the Beast.
In the Camarilla, succumbing to frenzy is seen as weakness, a humiliating loss of control. Vampires who frenzy often, and especially in public, run the risk of social rejection or worse. Though many among the Camarilla Kindred are monsters through and through, the laws of the Masquerade and simple civility require that the Beast be kept in check; those who cannot do so are not vampires, but animals, and should be put down for the good of all. Among the Sabbat, frenzy is seen as a natural urge, like mortals’ needs for food and sex.
Sabbat vampires deride the Camarilla’s attitude toward frenzy as that of weak-willed fools who cannot accept their true predatory nature. Accordingly, Sabbat typically seek not to prevent frenzy, but to control it and use it to their advantage.
A frenzy can be induced by many things, but great rage or hunger are the most common provocations. It is dangerous to deny or humiliate the undead. For this reason, vampires of the Camarilla commonly veil slights and threats in webs of double-talk and subtlety, lest they suddenly trigger an outburst in Elysium or conclave. Ultimately, the Storyteller can call for a vampire to make a frenzy roll at any time, whenever he feels the character might have cause to lose control.
A vampire in frenzy gains several temporary benefits from the state. Vampires in frenzy completely ignore all dice pool penalties inflicted by injury, until the frenzy ends. Once the frenzy is finished, the pain comes back and the crippling effects of the wounds take hold again.
All difficulties to Dominate or otherwise mentally control a frenzied character are increased by two, and all difficulties to resist the effects of such mental control are reduced by two. The character never needs Willpower rolls to accomplish a feat, because the rage fueling the vampire’s actions is both a catalyst to heightened state of mind and a barrier against unwanted intrusions. Lastly, characters in frenzy are immune to the detrimental effects of Rötschreck.
The rules for handling a frenzy are deliberately vague, and the Storyteller is encouraged to make whatever changes she deems necessary to accommodate her chronicle. In some cases, Kindred can manage to overcome the urge to frenzy. A vampire on the verge of frenzy must make a Self-Control roll against a variable difficulty.
(Vampires with the Instincts Virtue always frenzy). The difficulty is often 6 to 8, but if trying to overcome the urge to commit a blatantly evil act, the vampire’s player can roll against a difficulty of (9 minus Conscience) instead. The character must score five successes to completely overcome the desires for violence, but even one success halts the frenzy temporarily.
For each success below five, the character can resist the urge to frenzy for one turn. After this duration expires, the character may try again to gain extra successes and thus continue to resist the frenzy. Once five successes are acquired, over a longer or shorter period, the vampire resists the Beast’s urges.
Failure means the character goes into an emotional rampage, doing exactly what she wants to do with no worries of later repercussions. Botching the Self-Control roll means the character remains in a frenzy until the Storyteller decides otherwise, and (at the Storyteller’s discretion) she may gain a derangement related to the frenzy.
The following list shows common stimuli that can incite a frenzy, and the typical difficulty for a character to resist. If the frenzy has the potential to cause the vampire to commit an atrocity (killing a child or other innocent, for example), the Storyteller can rule that the difficulty is (9 minus Conscience or Conviction) instead.
|Smell of blood (when hungry)||3 (or higher in extreme cases)|
|Sight of blood (when hungry)||4 (or higher in extreme cases)|
|Taste of blood (when hungry)||6 (or higher in extreme cases)|
|Loved one in danger||7|
|Outright public humiliation||8|
Note: The Storyteller has final say in what can or cannot provoke a frenzy. In some cases the Storyteller might completely ignore what the players feel should send their characters into a rage, and instead have some minor event cause a frenzy. This is commonly done in situations where the Storyteller feels a frenzy can make a point about a character’s personality, or enhance the events of a story.
Characters in a frenzy are not themselves — or, more accurately, reveal more of themselves than they normally would. They will do anything to sate their hunger or destroy the source of the frenzy, even attacking other players’ characters. Characters in a frenzy generally attack their enemies first, but if no enemies are present, friends are perfectly acceptable fodder for their baser instincts. Even lovers and family can fall victim to vampires in frenzy. The character might feel remorse and hideous guilt later, but while the frenzy occurs, nothing matters save the immediate gratification of the character’s desires. This can lead to subsequent degeneration checks (p. 309). Therefore, repeated frenzies can prove very detrimental to a vampire’s Humanity or Path.
Some players might feel hesitant about roleplaying a frenzy, but such is the nature of the vampire. Players are encouraged to portray the frenzy effectively. A player whose character is in the midst of frenzy may choose to spend a Willpower point. This enables him to control one action of his character for one turn. In this manner, a vampire may give her victim-to-be a chance to run, or an offending mortal the chance to stammer out an apology. This moment of self-control lasts for only a turn, possibly two; it does not stop the frenzy, but only allows the character to control it slightly. As Storyteller, if a frenzied character takes an action you deem inappropriate, you may allow the action, but rule that the character has just spent a Willpower point to take the action.
The Storyteller decides how long any frenzy lasts, but one scene typically suffices. If a character is knocked unconscious or trapped alone for an extended period, the odds are good she will eventually regain control of herself.
Rötschreck: The Red Fear
Though there are few things that can kill a vampire — and though many among the Damned claim to loathe their immortality — certain sources of injury frighten all vampires. Sunlight and fire can bring about a terrified flight-or-fight mentality. While under the spell of this Rötschreck, a vampire flees in blind panic from the source of her fear, frantically lashing out at anything in her way regardless of any personal attachments or affiliations. Rötschreck is in most ways similar to any other frenzy; just as the Beast sometimes seizes control in times of anger, so it does in times of great fear.
Relatively innocuous stimuli, or stimuli directly under the character’s control, are unlikely to induce Rötschreck. For example, a character who sees a lit cigarette in a nightclub, or a screened-in fireplace in an ally’s home, might grow uneasy, but is unlikely to succumb to the Red Fear. If that same cigarette is pointed threateningly at the vampire, though, or the fireplace suddenly flares up…
A vampire seeking to avoid Rötschreck requires a Courage roll. As with frenzy, five successes must be accumulated to ignore the Beast completely, though fewer successes enable the vampire to overcome her fear for a greater or lesser period of time. Failure means the vampire flees madly from the danger, making a beeline for safety and tearing apart anything or anyone that gets in her way. Any attempt to restrain a vampire suffering from Rötschreck results in an immediate attack, just as if the character were in frenzy. One Willpower point may be spent to maintain control for one turn.
A character who is the victim of a botched Courage roll immediately frenzies and remains in a frenzy until the Storyteller decides otherwise.
|Lighting a cigarette||3|
|Sight of a torch||5|
|Trapped in burning building||9|