Our House Rules
Here are all the House Rules we are planning to use for Chicago Reborn. If you want, you get a copy of the house rules (and the character creation rules) here. Or, you can just read them here. In any case, for the most part, we're trying to stick close to the rules presented in Laws of the Night: Revised, so what you're going to find here are essentially our changes, additions and some general clarifications. There shouldn’t be anything too strange or outrageous here, and most of the alternations, changes and addition make sense – but feel free to ask us any questions if things don’t seem to make sense to you, okay? We’ll try to answer any questions you might have to the best of our abilities, explaining why we’ve made the changes that we did.... It's broken up into sections for your convenience; while you don't need to read everything at once, we suggest you eventually read it all.
First, a quick word about Abilities in general, okay? In most cases, not having an Ability appropriate to the situation doesn't mean you're helpless. For instance, anybody can fire a gun, drive an automatic or throw a punch. They just might not be able to do it well. It's just that having an Ability means you can call for retests if you fail in an action. Say you tried to use a computer, but didn't have the Computer Ability. You don't automatically fail - it's just that you aren't going to be good at it, and you aren't going to be hacking into NORAD. If you tried to fire a gun without having the Firearms Ability, you could still do it - maybe even hit - but you aren't going to be making any trick shots.
For the most part, however, you don't need the Ability to attempt an action - you need the Ability to do it well and to get retests. There are exceptions to this, of course. "Educated" abilities like Linguistics, Academics and Science, for example, require some training to use. After all, if you don't know German, you aren't going to be able to suddenly start talking in it and understanding it. It's common sense, people.
New Abilities and Clarifications:
We have added two new Abilities for this game: Archery and Diplomacy.
Archery is just like Firearms in use. Possessing it allows you to use Mental Traits when using a bow and arrow. Simple, no?
Diplomacy, however, it a different kettle of fish. It is very similar to the Etiquette Ability in that it governs group interactions and dynamics. Click here for a brief discussion on why we made this Ability, if you care, but in the meantime, here, have a formal definition (like from the books):
There is an art and skill to negotiations, and let's face it, not everyone has it. But you know how to handle your affairs in such a way that you don't arouse suspicion or hostility; you've got tact and charm, and you know how to use it. Nothing can startle you; you keep your head when it comes time to employ conciliatory language and discretion, even if everything around you is stressful.
The Diplomacy Ability can be used with Social Tests to figure out what and what not to say, and who to say it to. You can discern who wants what, and what you can do to make it look like you can get it for them. If you happen to make a tactical blunder, you can expend a Diplomacy Ability immediately to negate the error - you knew better than to say that thing to that person.
As mentioned in the Character Creation section, we are handling Linguistics differently in this game. Instead of having each Linguistics Ability correspond to a single language (i.e., someone with Linguistics x5 knows only five languages), we are using an exponential scale for languages. After all, there are people in the real world who know more than five languages (like some UN translators), and they certainly aren't Kindred elders. See the chart below for details:
So, an American with Linguistics x5 could, in addition to knowing English, could theoretically know Afrikaans, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Latin, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Urdia and Yiddish. After all, there are currently over 100 major languages spoken in the modern world - why should you only be limited to speaking six of them at most?
Finally, there is some confusion about the Occult and Awareness Abilities, due to some poorly-worded text in Laws of the Night: Revised. Rather than get into the whole deal, let's just cut to the chase: You can use Awareness to sense if something is "wrong" (i.e., if a Discipline is being used, magic is in the area, etcetera), and you can use Occult to see exactly what is "wrong."
Abilities and Disciplines:
According to Laws of the Night: Revised, only specific Abilities can be used to retest Discipline use. We are sticking very closely to this, especially since all characters are being given more than ample amounts of starting Abilities. The following chart list what Ability can be used to retest what Discipline. Please keep this in mind when making your character.
As we mentioned in the Character Creation section, we are handling Lores very differently in for this game. Why are we doing this, you might ask? Well, it comes down to out-of-character knowledge. Let's face it, we've all read every book White Wolf has ever published. We all know everything about the Sabbat, the Camarilla and the Garou. We all know the secret history of the Inconnu, and we all know about how the Imbued Hunters are really somehow connected to Exalted. We all know about the Seelie, Unseelie, the Shadow Court, the White Howlers, the split in the Virtual Adepts, the death of the Black Hand (due to Wraiths dropping an Artifact atom bomb on Enoch, the ghost of the First City).... We could go on and on about what we, the players and GMs know. And, let's be honest - our characters really don't know as much as we the players do. But, we've all had that moment, in game, when our character "just knows" something crucial about the Garou, despite never having met one. We've all seen it - and hell, most of us have done it.
Well, the GMs in this game have decided to be very strict about this. To that end, we are proposing a simple thing - if your character doesn't have an appropriate Lore, your character doesn't know things. It's harsh, yes, but it works. So, for example, if your character doesn't have some Garou Lore, she knows nothing about Garou - she doesn't even know that werewolves call themselves Garou! If your character doesn't have Sabbat Lore, he doesn't know about the Vaulderie - he just has heard rumors that the Sabbat do some strange blood rituals. If you character doesn't have Clan Lore, she might not know too much about other Clans in the city.
Now, we know this is harsh. That's why we're giving you some free Lores to start the game with - you aren't totally ignorant of things. If you want, click here to get some ideas about Lores - what ones might exist, and what they might cover.
We also know that the learning curve of the average player is going to far exceed the "XP/Trait-earning" curve of the average character. After all, if your character is hanging around two people with high levels of Sabbat Lore, and they're talking shop, you might learn more from overhearing them than you could from buying Sabbat Lore with your experience points. We know this might happen, and it's okay. How will we deal with this? Well, if someone tells you things about a particular Lore (or you overhear a rather in-depth conversation), then your character is essentially being instructed in that knowledge. You can now purchase that Lore at a greatly reduced experience cost. If you don't buy the Lore, you don't remember what they talked about. Simple, no?
What you should realize, folks, is that these Lores and our limits on them are best used as role-playing notes. For example, if you don't have any Garou Lore, we're going to ask you to act like you really know nothing about werewolves, aside of what you've seen in the movies and heard about in old stories (i.e., they only change forms when the moon is full, silver bullets and wolfsbane are anathema to them, people bit or scratched by werewolves might become werewolves themselves, etcetera). Let's face it, it's much more fun to learn from your mistakes and adapt (i.e. role-play!) instead of sitting down with someone and saying "This is what I think I know - what's the truth?" In the end, we think it will make for a better story and will be much more rewarding than getting your knowledge out of the rulebooks.
There are basically twelve changes and/or clarifications with regards to Disciplines. Unless otherwise noted here, Disciplines work as listed in Laws of the Night: Revised.
Change #1: There is what we are calling a "Generation Shift" when it comes to gaining Disciplines beyond Advanced. According to the Laws of the Night: Camarilla Guide (and the Sabbat Guide), a character can gain "Elder" level Disciplines at 8th Generation, "Master" level Disciplines at 7th Generation, "Ascendant" level Disciplines at 6th, and "Methuselah" level Disciplines at 5th Generation. In tabletop, characters can learn these powers starting at 7th Generation, not 8th. We are going with the tabletop version of Disciplines. Therefore, the Generation at which characters can learn Disciplines beyond Advanced moves down by one, accordingly. That means that you can learn Elder Disciplines at 7th Generation, Master Disciplines at 6th, and so on.
Change #2: The Dominate power of Possession still works on Kindred and other supernatural beings. For some reason, White Wolf decided that while all other Dominate powers work on all creatures (Mortals, Kindred, Ghouls, Werewolves, Mages, etcetera), Possession would only work on Mortals, stating that with supernatural beings, "their wills are too strong to be completely overcome." Well, we disagree with this decision.
Therefore, in our games, Kindred may still attempt to use Possession on other supernatural beings. Of course, they might not always win the Challenge, but they can try. A character possessing another being still needs to spend Mental Traits to use other Disciplines while in the other's body; see page 148 of Laws of the Night - Revised for more details.
Change #3: The Obfuscate power of Vanish from the Mind's Eye allows Kindred to talk to others while still remaining "invisible." However, in order to do so, a character must engage in a mass Mental Challenge against everyone who might possibly be in the room and hear them speak. Anyone who wins the mass Mental Challenge becomes aware of you and sees you normally. Now, in White Wolf's Mind's Eye Theatre Journal #6, Carl Bowen (the Mind's Eye Theatre Line Developer) suggests an alternative way to handle this challenge. Instead of winning a mass Mental Challenge in order to utter a single sentence, a character can expend a single Mental Trait to speak a full sentence and remain hidden. We like this change, and we are using it.
Therefore, if a character who is currently Obfuscated (and is using Vanish from the Mind's Eye or a higher-level power), wishes to speak a single simple sentence and remain hidden, they can expend a Mental Trait and not have to perform any challenges to remain hidden. A hidden character cannot remain invisible if they wish to speak more than a single sentence, and, as always, attempting to interact with the environment (running, attacking, exerting Presence powers, holding conversations, screaming, etc.) renders a person visible to all, regardless of how many Mental Traits they are willing to spend.
Change #4: The Obfuscate power of Mask of a Thousand Faces allows a Kindred to twist another person's perceptions, causing others to not see the Kindred's appearance. Normally, this power is used to make a person appear bland and unremarkable; however a character can expend a single Mental Trait to assume a specific set of features. As it is written in Laws of the Night: Revised, a character can only change their facial features; they cannot change the appearance of their clothes. We are changing this: by expending a single Mental Trait, a character with Mask of a Thousand Faces can alter their clothing. These alterations can be performed individually or together (i.e., a person could spend one Mental Trait to change their facial features or their clothing, or they could spend two Mental Traits to change both their face and outfit). So, to give an example, a character with Mask could change their outfit into a police uniform without creating a specific set of features, and appear as a "generic cop."
It should also be noted that you can use Mask of a Thousand Faces to masquerade as a person who has more Social Traits than your character by expending Blood Traits (at the time of generating the Mask) in order to match their Social Traits. If you do not expend these Blood Traits to match your intended target's total Social Traits, your appearance and mannerisms do not convey the other person's countenance properly. Using Mask of a Thousand Faces does not actually grant Social Traits for use in Challenges; it just merely causes you to look like someone of more social acumen. You still use your character's normal Social Traits when using Mask. Additionally, you character is still limited by their generational limits on Trait Maximums and Blood expenditure while doing this; you may not use Mask to appear to have more Social Traits than your generation would allow, and it can take several turns in order to reach that maximum.
Finally, it should be noted that, even if a character spends a Mental Trait to look like a particular person and spends Blood Traits to match that person's total Social Traits, the Storytellers might ask for an Static Mental Challenge to see if the impersonator successfully carries off the deception. Performance is the most applicable Ability for retests in this situation, but Expression and Subterfuge will be permissible as well.
Change #5: The Potence power of Might can sometimes be problematic when it's used. No two games seem to agree on what happens after Might is used - can Might retests be cancelled, like Ability Retests? Can someone use Might to call for a retest after their opponent uses Might? What, exactly can be done? Well, according to Laws of the Night - Revised, once Might is invoked, "it is the last test of the challenge; no further retests are allowed." (This is on page 166, in case you're curious and want to look it up yourself.) A strict interpretation of this would imply that using Might effectively ends a challenge - Might is invoked, a retest is done, and everyone has to abide by the results of that retest; there are no more retests. While we agree with this strict interpretation of Might, we are making one small change. Characters possessing the Potence power of Intensity can invoke it in order to cancel Might retests. If Intensity is used in this fashion, it cancels the Might retest and ends the challenge. This use of Intensity cannot be canceled. We hope this is clear.
Change #6: When using Puissance, the Advanced level of Potence and wielding a melee weapon, your weapon will automatically break, unless it is specially reinforced against your character's massive strength. If you possess Vigor, there is a chance your character's melee weapon might break when used - if you lose on a Simple Test after using the weapon, it shatters. (Reinforced weapons, again, are immune to this.) Additionally, if you possess Vigor (and higher levels of Potence), you can ignore any item's Negative Trait of Heavy.
Change #7: In the changeover from Second Edition to the Revised Edition of Laws of the Night, White Wolf decided to modify the Auspex power of Aura Perception to allow people using it to sense ghosts and astral forms (i.e., people using the Auspex power of Psychic Projection), if they suspect the presence of ghosts of Psychically Projecting people in the area. Well, once again, we disagree with this decision. Therefore, in our game, Aura Perception cannot be used to see if there are ghosts or people on the "Astral Plane" in an area. If you wish to see if there are ghosts in an area, use various forms of Necromancy or Thamaturgy, and if you wish to view the Astral Plane, travel there with Psychic Projection and look around.
Clarification #1: Speaking of Aura Perception, we want to point out that it has been abused in games that we're run in the past. Specifically, the "truth-sensing" aspect of this power is what's been abused. Rather than restrict this power, we're going to explain a few things about it. First of all, the use of Aura Perception is obvious - you must "stare at the subject with intense concentration" (Laws of the Night: Revised, page 137). Secondly, if you do win the challenge (and remember, the subject cannot relent or retest, as this is a static challenge), you can only ask a limited number of questions. Specifically, you can only inquire into the subject's current emotional state, if they are under the affects of any sort of magic (including Possession), if the subject has committed Diablerie within the past six months, what sort of creature (i.e., human, ghoul, werewolf, etcetera) the subject is, or if the last thing the character said was a lie (this is all on page 138 of Laws of the Night: Revised, by the way).
Now, let's be blunt: there are many ways to abuse "was the last thing you said a lie?" Remember, however, that truth is subjective - if the character believes he spoke the truth, even if the players all know differently, the character told the truth. Also, realize that this only applies to the last statement a character spoke - not the totality of their comments (e.g., if a character finishes a long speech with "And that's the whole truth," and someone uses Aura Perception, they will only discover if the phrase "and that's the whole truth" is true or not - they will not discover exactly what was true, and what was lie, but they could go back and now question the speaker in more detail). Rather than going on and on about ways to render Aura Perception's truth-detection useless (or ways to ensure it's perfect functioning), let's just sum it up this way: we are allowing players to use Aura Perception to determine the validity of statements, but realize that there are many ways to "get around" this, so it's almost worthless; don't rely on it. If you still have questions about this, talk to the storytellers, okay? (Of course, you can always use the Empathy Ability to see if people are telling the truth as well; this is subject to the same notes as above, however....)
Change #8: Speaking of Diablerie and how long it stays in your Aura, we just wanted to point out some minor changes we made to the whole Diablerie process. Specifically, it stays in your Aura for six months (not three as mentioned in Laws of the Night: Revised), but it can be detected by Thamaturgy no matter how long ago it was committed. Additionally, instead of automatically losing a Morality Trait for committing Diablerie, someone who performs this act must now make a Conscience/Conviction check (with a difficulty of four Traits) to see if they lose a Morality Trait. This affects all characters, whether they are using Humanity of a Path of Enlightenment (except for the Path of Caine, since it is the only path that condones Diablerie as a method of existence).
Clarification #2: Since we're still talking about Auspex, we just wanted to clarify that a person can use Auspex to see people who are hiding with Obfuscate or to pierce the illusions created by Chimerstry. For each "power class" difference between the Kindred using Auspex and the Kindred using Obfuscate or Chimerstry, there is a one-for-one Trait modifier to the appropriate challenge. So, if a Kindred with Advanced Auspex is searching for a Kindred with Basic Obfuscate, the searching Kindred gains two additional traits (there are two power class differences between Basic and Advanced, so there are two bonus traits) for purposes of ties resolution and overbidding. When using Auspex or Obfuscate, we ask that you hold up fingers to indicate your power class level (One for Basic, Two for Intermediate, Three for Advanced, Four for Elder, and so on) so that others can calculate the difference in power levels between you and them, and therefore can calculate the trait bonuses accordingly.
Clarification #3: The Presence power of Summon has been abused in games that we've run in the past. Therefore, we want to clearly define who can be "summoned." When using Summon, please remember that your character can only Summon someone that your character knows. At bare minimum, this is defined as "someone that you have had the chance to talk to for a few minutes, or someone who has been the target of your Presence powers before" (Laws of the Night: Revised, page 168). If you attempt to Summon a false identity (for instance, an identity that was created with Mask of a Thousand Faces), you will still Summon the appropriate individual (although you might not realize it, as they do not need to come to you as that identity). If this false identity has been used by more than one person, you will bring the closest user of that identity (i.e., the first person the GMs can find who used that face) to you. Further Summons will bring the others who have used that identity.
Realize that a Summons compulsion lasts until the victim arrives at the location they were Summoned from and makes him or herself known to the Summoner (so, presumably, the victim must be physically present, not Obfuscated, and must alert the Summoner to their presence), or until daybreak. Also, a person who has been Summoned will take steps to get to the Summoner in a reasonable amount of time, and try to avoid complications (such as locked doors or overprotective allies) that might hinder them. Finally, if the only way to reach the Summoner would potentially kill the victim (such as walking through a wall of flame or an explosion), the Summons compulsion will dissipate. However, if there is no immediate threat to the victim of the Summons, the victim will go, even if they can assume that the location they are going to is dangerous. They can, additionally, bring allies with them along the journey, but will avoid those allies if they attempt to prevent the journey.
Clarification #4: Certain Discipline powers (Rapidity and Vigor, for instance) allow people to use an additional hand signal known as "The Bomb" in specific challenges. If you can use the Bomb, you must inform your opponent during the challenge, before the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors used to resolve the challenge. If you do not inform your opponent that you can use the Bomb, you cannot use it during that particular challenge challenge - although, if your opponent is willing, you can always ask for a "do over," but don’t always expect it.
Almost every single LARP in existence handles Status differently. Some games ignore it utterly, relying on role-playing instead, while other games run Status verbatim from Laws of the Night: Revised. In Chicago Reborn, we're going to stick closely to the rules presented in the book (on pages 216 through 220), including the whole "Permanent/Temporary" Status thing, but we are making a few small changes. Most notably, we're adding a new Status Trait to indicate that a character is a formal member of the Camarilla.
See, according to Laws of the Night: Revised, Kindred who have been "officially 'accepted' by the Prince" gain the Status Trait of Acknowledged. This means that they are allowed to reside within the Prince's city, provided they follow the Prince's rules. There has been some confusion in the past as to whether or not Acknowledged also meant that a Kindred was an official member of the Camarilla. Part of this confusion stems from Laws of the Night itself; in earlier editions Acknowledged meant that a Kindred was a formal member of the Camarilla, and there was no specific Status Trait that indicated that they were allowed to reside in a city.
In this game, we are creating the Status Trait of Accepted. A character possessing the Status Trait of Accepted has been formally recognized as a member of the Camarilla. Presumably, they have been released by their Sire, and have met with the approval of a Prince (or Seneschal or possibly an higher position, such as Archon or Justicar or even one of the seven Councilors of the Camarilla). Usually, only Princes can grant the Status Trait of Accepted, although there have been situations in which members of the Camarilla higher than Princes (such as the aforementioned Archons or Justicars) have Accepted Kindred into the Camarilla. It is assumed that all characters in the game (with the exception of Caitiff or non-traditional Clans) start off with this Status Trait. Caitiff (or non-standard Clan members) can purchase this Status Trait as a Background; of course, they are not required to do so, but we recommend it - being a member of the Camarilla, while in a Camarilla-controlled city, does have a tendency to make your character's life easier in the long run.
This can create some very interesting situations. A Prince could, for instance, Acknowledge someone who is not an Accepted member of the Camarilla. For example, suppose a pair of Giovanni wish to reside within a city. The Prince of that City could grant those Giovanni the Status Trait of Acknowledged, which would allow them to reside in the city, subject to the Prince's limits. However, since those Giovanni were not Accepted, they are not members of the Camarilla, and cannot claim Justice under the Rules of the Camarilla. (Of course, this also means that these Giovanni are not bound by the Laws of the Camarilla - they are only bound by the Prince's laws.) Similarly, a person's childe could be Acknowledged, but not Accepted as a full member of the Camarilla. Conversely, someone could be an Accepted member of the Camarilla, but not be Acknowledged in a particular city. In that case, if an Unacknowledged but Accepted Kindred is found in the city by the Sheriff (or Scourge, or Primogen, or so on), they are usually dragged to the Prince immediately so that people can find out "what the hell is going on."
Additionally, we are changing some of the rules which concern just who exactly can grant and remove Status. Only certain people can grant or remove Status during the course of a game; we are not allowing people of "High Status" to grant and remove Status, we are only allowing specific offices within a city to manipulate Status. (However, people of "High Status" usually end up being in these offices, or they can always petition those offices to grant or remove Status....)
The Prince: The Prince can grant or remove a Permanent Status Trait from someone at the cost of one Temporary Status Trait. They can grant or remove up to three Status Traits in a single session this way; if they wish to grant or remove more, the fourth and subsequent Status Traits cost Permanent Status, not Temporary. A Prince can also grant and remove the Status Traits of Accepted and Acknowledged at no cost.
The Seneschal: The Seneschal has all the Status-manipulation powers of the Prince, but only in the Prince's absence. Additionally, a Prince may increase or diminish the Seneschal's powers at their own whim.
The Primogen: The Primogen of a Clan may grant or remove Status to members of their clans at the cost of one Temporary Status Trait per Permanent Status Trait granted or removed. Additionally, if all the Primogen band together to do so, they may remove Status from the Prince (or Seneschal) by expending a group total of Permanent Status Traits equal to the Prince's (or Seneschal's) total Permanent Status.
The Whips: The Whips of a Clan have all the Status-manipulating powers of the Primogen, provided the Primogen does not limit or revoke their powers (similar to the Prince/Seneschal situation).
The Greater Harpy: The main (or Greater) Harpy of a City may remove one Status Trait from any Kindred who has caused a scandal or backed out of a boon. There is no cost to remove Status in this case, but evidence must be provided. Additionally, the Harpy can grant Status, at the cost of one Temporary Status Trait per Permanent Status Trait granted. The "Greater" Harpy can also sponsor Lesser Harpies, who can remove Temporary Status Traits from scandalous Kindred.
The Keeper of Elysium: The Keeper of Elysium can remove one Status Trait from any Kindred who breaks the Masquerade. If the Keeper does not witness the breach themselves, sufficient evidence must be brought forth. Additionally, the Keeper can grant Status to any Kindred who does an exceptional job of keeping the Masquerade, at the cost of one Temporary Status Trait per Permanent Status Trait granted.
The Scourge and The Sheriff: Both the Sheriff and the Scourge may remove one Status Trait, at no cost, from any Kindred who interferes with their duties. Neither office can grant Status. Additionally, the Deputies of the Sheriff or Scourge can remove Temporary Status at no cost.
When granting or removing Status, the character manipulating Status must make a public announcement (either during a game session or on the email list (or, ideally, both just for redundancy's sake)) explaining exactly why they are granting or removing Status. The reason behind the Status change must be clearly stated (e.g., the Prince is formally Accepting a new childer, or the Keeper is granting Trustworthy to someone who has repeatedly assisted them in maintaining the Masquerade), and can even be debated, if allowed. All Status in the game (including Status bought during character creation) must be accounted for - a character should know who granted them what Status and why, even if not everyone in the game does.
Why all this fuss? Because, believe it or not, Status is a very important thing, and can be used to manipulate other people among other things. Check out pages 217 and 218 in Laws of the Night: Revised for a very brief rundown on what exactly you can do with Status.
As mentioned in our Character Generation rules, we are allowing players to take any of the Merits and Flaws listed in Laws of the Night: Revised (and the Camarilla and Sabbat guides). However, this does not mean that you can take particular flaws (like Cold Breeze, Glowing Eyes and Haunted) and expect them to have little impact on your character.
Let's face it - there are certain flaws (such as the aforementioned Cold Breeze or something like Smell of the Grave) that have game-world impact that is hard to reflect in the real world. How do you indicate to someone that your eyes are glowing (short of using special contacts)? How do you let everyone around you know that your mere presence causes them to get cold? Likewise, possessing certain Merits (such as True Faith) makes other people uncomfortable.
So, in order to stress the impact this has, we are probably going to make characters with certain Merits and Flaws wear a large sign, or a very obvious and horrendous-looking ribbon (like this one) to make everyone else realize that something just isn't right with your character. So, other people can either read the sign (which might say something like "I have the 'Smell of the Grave' Flaw, which means I constantly stink like pungent, loamy wet earth!") or see the ribbon and ask (out of character, of course) something like "What the hell is wrong with you?" (You can learn about how another game Eric ran used ribbons here).
Also, it should be pointed out that you should use common sense when selecting Merits and Flaws. The Storytellers reserve the right to reject characters on the basis of the Merits and Flaws. After all, not everyone in the game can have Iron Will, Unbondable, Magic Resistance, Nine Lives or True Faith starting off. Think of it this way - there are limited amounts of certain Merits and Flaws - so not everyone can have them if we hope to have any sense of game balance.
This really isn't much of a change to the rules, so much as it is a clarification of what's going on. There are many different ways to handle Influences in a LARP. For instance, the Camarilla Fan Club had it's own systems for Influence and the Storytellers know of several other LARPs that have their own rules for influences. After having read over many rules for Influences, the Storytellers have decided to keep things "relatively" simple.
How We Are Running Influences:
We are essentially using Influence as it is written in Laws of the Night: Revised and Laws of the Night: Camarilla Guide. There are fifteen common areas of Influence (such as Church, Street, Underworld, etcetera), and there are a wide variety of "limited" Influences (usually things that are combinations or permutations of other Influences). Some examples of "limited" Influences might be things like "Temple Influence" (like Church Influence, but for Jews instead), "EMT Influence" (a combination of Health and Transportation), "Neighborhood Influence" (a variety of Influences mixed together, but only in a specific geographic location) or even "Goth Influence" (control over a specific cultural subgroup). Players are encouraged to come up with their own "limited" influences, although the Storytellers still have the final say on what can and cannot be a "limited" influence. Common areas of Influence are rated from x1 to x10, while the "limited" Influences are rated from x1 to x5. In any case, a character can only have a limited amount of Influence. In game terms, a character cannot manage more Influences than the sum of their permanent Physical, Social and Mental Traits combined. This limit counts against the total amount of Influence a character has. There are some clarifications and other things you need to be aware of when dealing with Influence in this game, however.
Due to the current circumstances in Chicago (i.e., the invasion by the Sabbat and recent re-taking of the city by the Camarilla), we are not allowing characters to start off with any Influences higher than x3 (this does include Influences granted by Clan Backgrounds). Let's face it - even if your character had been in Chicago for a long time, the recent city-wide shakedowns and changes in leadership have affected everyone, and any prior existing Influence can be considered significantly altered (especially such Influences as Police, Political, Street and Underworld).
Influences are, for the most part, a limited and finite resource - especially at the higher levels. Essentially, it's all "first come, first serve." At lower levels, however, Influences can be considered virtually limitless - after all, given that something like High Society x1 can allow a character to "know what is trendy," it makes little sense to limit that. However, High Society x5 allows a character to "ruin a new club, gallery, festival or other posh gathering," so it makes sense that not everyone can do that. So, in theory, while lots of people in the city might have low levels of an Influence, only one person will ultimately be able to "control" that specific Influence. (However, we will allow "Influence Specialization," in which a character might control all of a particular sub-group of a particular Influence without controlling the entire Influence (i.e., someone controlling a particular newspaper, but not controlling all Media). This can be quite interesting, and cause many wonderful role-playing opportunities during the course of the game....)
Finally, increasing Influence is done through role-playing. The Storytellers will sit down with a player (or exchange lots of emails) and talk about exactly what a character is doing to increase their Influences (e.g., who are they bribing, are they using Disciplines, are they investigating who has higher levels of this Influence first, are they trying to cover their tracks, so on and so forth). The Storytellers might consult with characters who have higher levels of the Influence in question (after all, the Toreador who controls the High Society scene might notice it when a "lesser person" tries to take over "their realm"), and will essentially inform the player how things go. The Storytellers might also ask a player to spend a small amount of XP to "finalize" the Influence increase (just for game balance's sake). (For example, a character might talk with a storyteller about how they are going to increase their Finance Influence from x4 to x5, using blackmail, creating ghouls and other methods. The Storytellers check things out and finally approve the increase, but then ask the player to spend 2 XP to represent the efforts undertaken.) Gaining the first level of an Influence, however, will probably be much simpler, as low-level Influences are, as stated above, virtually unlimited.
Using Influences, Allies and Contacts to Gain Information:
In this game, Influences are used to give players information about what’s happening in the city. Characters get rumors and information based on what Influence they possess; this is included on their character sheets for each session. Although, technically, no two people should hear exactly the same thing, we are simplifying things a little bit, and assigning a specific bit of information to each Influence level. So, while two characters with Street x2 hear the same information, they would each be told something slightly different (but it could be boiled down to the same thing), and they would hear it from different sources.
In any case, regardless of how people learn about some rumors, they are inevitably going to want to find out more information about these rumors, perhaps above and beyond what they already know through their Influences. This is where cooperation with other characters and other backgrounds (Allies and Contacts) come into play.
If two or more characters have a mutual Influence, they may work together to gain more information in that area of influence. Specifically, characters can work together to get information of a level one higher than the highest rating in that Influence possessed by the group. So, for example, if Langley the Nosferatu (who has Media x3) and Ian the Malkavian (who has Media x5) work together, they can learn rumors and information as if they had Media x6.
As mentioned on page 94 of Laws of the Night: Revised, a character’s rating in Contacts allows them to discern rumors and information as if they had Influences. You can gain information equal to the number of contacts you use. For instance, if your character uses Contacts x2 on Legal, your character gains rumors and information as if they had Legal x2. If you have multiple levels of the Contacts background, you may use distribute your contacts between multiple Influences instead of focusing on one specific Influence. Additionally, you can use contacts to gain more information about an Influence your character already has, above and beyond your normal limits. So, for example, if Langley the Nosferatu (who had Media x3) also had Contacts x5, he could, potentially gain information as if he had Media x8, or he could use his contacts to gain information in other areas of influence (such as High Society x2, Politics x2 and Legal x1, in addition to his normal Media x3 information). Contacts can be switched from place to place each game session, getting information in different areas on demand.
Allies can be used to deal with Influences as well. Allies can have either a single level of an Ability or Influence for each background Trait you invest in them; this must be determined at character creation (i.e., an ally invested with Allies x3 could essentially have an Influence up to x3, just like a character). By contacting their allies, a character can gain information from them about the Influences they hold, and ask them to use those Influences on the character’s behalf. This isn’t automatic - a character’s allies will usually be more than willing to expend their Influences on the character’s behalf, but not always. In any case, allies usually ask for aid if a character calls on them too often. So, for example, at character creation, Ian the Malkavian decided to create a single ally who had Police x4 (i.e., he took Allies x4 and told the Storytellers that it was a single ally who was a cop). During a game session, Ian contacts his ally and tries to find out what’s going on with the police. Ian’s ally tells him the rumors for Police x1-x4, and then Ian asks his ally to use their influence (which is essentially Police x4) to get an investigation started for him.
Allies cannot be used to gain more information above and beyond a character’s Influence level; a person with Police x3 and a police Ally x4 cannot essentially gain information as if they had Police x7. Additionally, Contacts and Allies cannot be combined - a character cannot use their contacts to supplement the information that their allies learn.
If you tell the Storytellers that your character will be using their Contacts or Allies between game sessions, the rumors and information thereby gained will show up on your character sheet at the next session. Technically, using Contacts and Allies ties them up until the end of the game session after their use, so unless you specifically keep some of them "open" (or don’t use them between game sessions), you will not be able to access your Contacts or Allies during a session.
While the storytellers aren't expecting a lot of combat in this game, we understand it happens, and it can sometimes get confusing. Almost every game has it's own rules for what can and can't be done in combat. Face it - combat can get complicated. Everyone's trying to do what something special, and confusion can very easily become the order of the day. So, in order to give a bit of structure to the chaos, the Storytellers have created a little something we're calling "Turn Time." When a Storyteller invokes Turn Time, it means is that everyone involved in the situation slips out of "normal" time and into a turn-based time-scale. A turn, by the way, is approximately six to ten seconds long.
During a turn, your characters can do a few things. Your characters can take three steps (towards or away from the situation), spend Blood Traits (up to the per-turn maximum determined by your Generation), activate or use Disciplines, attack or challenge a single target and, of course, talk normally. So, when a GM asks you what you are doing during that particular turn, remember what you can and can't do. You cannot change you declared action.
Initiative is determined by the number of Traits a character has; those characters with more Traits go before characters with less traits. So, a character with Nine Physical Traits would be able to punch someone with Six Mental Traits before that person could Dominate them. Be aware that certain Disciplines are described in Laws of the Night - Revised as going at the "end" of a turn. That means that the use of that power goes last, no matter what, regardless of the number of Traits you have. Other Disciplines state that you can speed them up by using Celerity, which might change when they activate; check Laws of the Night - Revised for more details.
Now, certain Merits, Flaws and Disciplines will modify what you can and cannot do during a turn. Certain Flaws, such as Short or Lame will limit the number of steps you can take. Celerity, on the other hand, increases your "movement allowance" radically, depending on your level of Celerity. See pages 140-141 of Laws of the Night - Revised for more on how Celerity affects travel time.
Additionally, people with Celerity can gain extra actions during a turn. For fairness sake, all characters will Celerity active will gain their extra actions at the end of the normal turn, but before the next normal turn begins. Celerity actions will all go at once, but only at that level of Celerity. So, for instance, at the start of a turn, everyone will be able to go. People with Alacrity (the first level of Celerity), will be able to use Alacrity to act before certain people, thus preempting their actions regardless of Initiative (hey, it's what Alacrity does!). Then, after everyone has gone (and people have used Alacrity if needed), everyone with Swiftness will be able to perform an additional action. After everyone with Swiftness acts, people with Legerity can perform an additional action. After everyone with Legerity performs their additional action, a new turn starts, and everyone can take an action, and the cycle continues.
Eventually, the Storytellers will declare an end to Turn Time (usually, when the scene is over), and normal time begins again.
Oh, and speaking of Celerity, we'd like to take a moment or two to discuss using firearms with Celerity. Essentially, we are allowing characters to use Celerity to fire certain guns at faster-than-normal speeds. Specifically, you can use Celerity with revolvers, pump-action guns and semi-automatic guns (i.e., ones that chamber and fire every time you pull the trigger). You cannot use Celerity with fully automatic weapons, nor can you use the Spray weapon ability with Celerity. Additionally, every time you use a gun with Celerity you run the risk of damaging it (e.g., the gun jams, the bullet misfires, there is a "hang-fire", the firing pin breaks, etcetera). Essentially, after firing a gun at Celerity speeds, you must win or tie a Simple Test; if you lose, the gun is damaged and unusable (but you can fix it later using the Repair Ability.
These are just random things that should be pointed out, but like the title says; they don't really fit into any of the above sections....
According to White Wolf, characters get back all Willpower, Traits and Abilities spent or burned or otherwise used at the "start of the next session" in an ongoing chronicle. While this is normally fine, there are times when exact "refresh rates" (for lack of a better phrase) are needed, possibly due to very detailed downtime actions or the timing between events at sessions. Most of the time, the exact rate at which people regain spent Willpower, Traits and Abilities will not matter – but in case it does become an issue (e.g., during a downtime event which causes combat over more than one day, perhaps), it is assumed that people regain two Abilities (of the player's choice) and one Physical/Mental/Social Trait (one in each category) a day. Spent Willpower is regained at the rate of one Trait per week – although, if the GMs feel that the player has been roleplaying their character's Nature exceptionally well, they might grant more than one Willpower Trait during the week, but this is strictly at the GM's discretion. Again, most of the time, this will not be an issue; this ruling is only in place in order to cover situations in which regaining Traits rapidly is an issue.
Humanity Ratings and Interactions With Mortals:
Please remember that all characters with low Humanity gain a Trait penalty in resolving all Social Challenges with Kine (except for challenges involving intimidation). This penalty does not apply to Ghouls; it only applies to normal humans. Specifically, characters with a Humanity Rating of One have a Three-Trait penalty, characters with a Humanity of Two have a Two-Trait penalty, and characters with a Humanity of Three have a One-Trait penalty. Characters with a Humanity of Four or Five have no such penalty. Additionally, characters that do not have Humanity at all (i.e., follow a Path of Enlightenment) suffer the Three-Trait penalty automatically.
Damage and Wound Penalties:
Just a reminder, bullets do Lethal Damage for the most part. Incendiary rounds, for instance, do Aggravated Damage. Therefore, gunfire damage is not halved like Bashing damage. Also, remember that the first level of Fortitude (Endurance) allows you to ignore only Wounded and Incapacitated wound penalties. You still suffer from Bruised penalties and are considered one Trait down for all Challenges until healed. Check out pages 198 and 199 in Laws of the Night: Revised to see what the standard wound penalties are. Also, please remember that, in order to heal Aggravated Damage, a character must (in addition to other things) rest for a full day, taking no significant action during their period of rest – as a result, without certain levels of Fortitude, a character will not be able to heal Aggravated Damage shortly after it is dealt.
Quick Notes on Feeding, Herds and Kine
The average person has ten Blood Traits and nine Health Levels (Healthy, Healthy, Bruised, Bruised, Bruised, Wounded, Wounded, Incapacitated, Dead). This poses a problem for the average Kindred when they feed since each Blood Trait you take from a person causes a level of Lethal Damage.
What does all this mean to your average hungry Kindred? It means that you can take up to four Blood Traits from a single vessel without hurting them badly enough to need hospitalization. Once you take a fifth Blood Trait, the vessel moves into the Wounded Health Levels, and requires medical attention to heal normally. (They can heal down from Bruised naturally; it just takes time.)
A Kindred can drain up to seven Blood Traits from a single Kine, but they will need medical attention to heal or they will die eventually from blood loss. Additionally, you can drain eight Blood Traits from a single vessel, but then the mortal is dying, and will die in around ten minutes. By the way, dropping off a person with this much blood loss (seven or eight Traits) at a hospital will probably cause the admitting doctors to ask lots of questions and poke around; you might need to cover up the blood loss somehow.
Now, in a pinch, you can drain nine Blood Traits, but this will automatically kill the vessel and leave you with a near-bloodless corpse. If a Kindred really wants to, they can work to get that final and tenth Blood Trait out, but it will leave the vessel a withered, completely bloodless corpse which will undoubtedly cause the Medical Examiner some concern.
If a Kindred has the Herd Background, they can safely acquire Blood Traits equal to their Herd rating without any problems at all; in theory you could take your full Herd rating a day and not cause any medical problems amidst your herd of mortals. After all, the Herd rating doesn't limit the number of people in your herd; it just limits the amount of Blood Traits you can safely acquire without any fuss or hunting.
The Malkavian Madness Network:
As one of their Clan Advantages, Malkavians have a mystical link to others of their Clan that they can use to recognize other Malkavians and pass along information from time to time. This link is called by many names; the most common are "The Tapestry," "The Cobwebs" and "The Malkavian Madness Network." There are no real rules provided for LARPs on how to use this mystical link, so we have created some.
For purposes of our game, the Tapestry functions like a primitive radio network. Each Malkavian is essentially a receiver for the Network, but only some Malkavians can broadcast. Information received from the Tapestry are not coherent, logical thoughts - this is not Telepathy or some other form of true mind-to-mind communication, after all. Instead, Malkavians receive what are essentially holistically integrated gestalt clusters of information that have been altered and changed by the Network itself. The Malkavian needs to deconstruct these "thought-clusters" in order to fully understand them as discrete data instead of psychic babble. This deconstruction is semi-automatic; no challenge is needed, but the information might not always be completely understood. (It is essentially the Storyteller's judgment call on how well the message is understood.)
While all Malkavians can receive these thought-clusters, only Malkavians possessing a specific Ability, Malkavian Time (which is described in the Malkavian Clanbook, along with a few more details about the Cobweb), can transmit on the Network. Essentially, without Malkavian Time, a Malkavian cannot modulate their thoughts and broadcast them; they can only receive. It should be pointed out that there is technically no range or time limit on the Network - a broadcast from a powerful Malkavian could reach around the world and it could echo and be heard for years.
To broadcast a message on the Tapestry, a character must possess at least one level of Malkavian Time and win a Static Mental Challenge. Only the Ability of Malkavian Time can be used for retests on this Challenge. If the character wins, their message is sent across the Network to be picked up and possibly understood by all Malkavians. It is not possible to broadcast a thought-cluster to just one specific Malkavian; the Network just doesn't work that way.
Finally, Malkavians can use the Network to see if someone else is a Malkavian. In order to do so, a Malkavian must converse with suspected Malkavian for a period of time (maybe five to ten minutes), and then perform a Simple Test with a Storyteller. If they win the Simple Test, the Malkavian learns correctly whether or not the subject is a Malkavian. Losing the test means that the Malkavian gets incorrect information (e.g., a non-Malkavian "registers" as Malkavian, or vice-versa), and tie means that the Malkavian does not get any information at all (e.g., "reply hazy; try again later").
Gaining Experience Points:
All player characters get two XP for attending a session (i.e., signing in, and being at the game for some time), and all NPCs will get one XP per session. Additional XP will be rewarded for role-playing; XP will be rewarded for both "good role-playing" and "exceptional role-playing." Additionally, we will give XP for good costuming. However, since costuming is appreciated and not required, we're going to be limiting the "costume XP" we give out (maybe only giving it once per character), so that those people who cannot come in costume (or do not want to come in costume) aren't unduly penalized for not dressing up. (We want to encourage dressing up, but don't want to force it, you know?) Finally, players that submit a summary after the session might get an additional XP for it, especially if we use their summary on the website in the History sections.
Communal Haven Rules:
During the course of events, a group of characters might decide to live together in a single structure (two common examples would be Tremere living in a Chantry or a group of Nosferatu living in a selected section of the sewers) and effectively create a single Haven for them all to live in. In this case, a special set of Haven rules, the Communal Haven Rules, will be used to determine the ultimate Haven rating of this common living area. In short, each trait spent on "Communal Haven" will essentially give everyone inside of that living area a Haven rating equal to the Communal Haven rating (e.g., if three people each spend a point to create a Communal Haven, the Communal Haven is essentially a Haven x3 for everyone who lives inside of it, even if those include people who did not spent traits on creating the Communal Haven).
If the Communal Haven is large enough, the people who live inside of it have the option of creating private, "sub-havens" within the Communal Haven; these are effectively smaller bolt-holes or private rooms that only one person knows about or has access to (e.g., a Tremere's private rooms within the Chantry perhaps). A sub-haven is treated as a Haven having a rating of just one above the Communal Haven's rating (e.g., in the example above, a sub-haven created inside the Communal Haven x3 would have a Haven rating of x4). Sub-havens cannot be combined to give select groups of people within the Communal Haven better havens, incidentally.
Ghouls in the Game:
Several players in the game have ghouls, and have asked the Storytellers about getting their ghouls to do funky things for them, such as having them learn neat Disciplines, and basically be more than just background flunkies there to serve the whims of the Kindred who is their Regnant, which is perfectly acceptable. Accordingly, we have made a small set of rules for creating ghouls; these rules are essentially a combination of elements from various White Wolf sourcebooks, mostly Liber des Goules and Laws of the Hunt, along with elements from these House Rules.
To be honest, 90% of the time, these things won't matter, as most of the time, ghouls are basically folks who stay in the background and never really impact the immediate game world, so they don't need clearly defined stats or abilities. They're just there, and they help players out, basically serving as Retainers or Allies or whatever. But, for those players who to have their ghouls take a more vigorous role in the game world, and actively want them to be present or doing things for you that are beyond the scope of normal "Retainer-style" functions, they have the option of actually creating your ghoul's character sheets and submitting them to us for approval, just like any other character.
Similar to regular characters, there are three age brackets for ghouls: under 50 years old, 50 - 150 years old, and 151 - 300 years old. Use the following stats to make your ghouls, if you choose to:
You should also be aware that we are not using the "Humanity Trait" system described in Liber des Goules and Laws of the Hunt, which assigns Ghouls various Humanity Traits (like Brave, Chivalrous, Moral, Truthful and so on) and allows them to spend those Traits for extra re-tests and the like. Instead, Ghouls (and, in theory, all mortals, be they Ghouls, Mages, Kinfolk and so on) use the Virtue and Morality system that Kindred use, and it is assumed that, excepting extreme circumstances, all mortals are on the Mortality Path of Humanity. As with Kindred, Ghouls determine their Virtues by dividing points between Conscience, Self-Control and Courage (each Virtue has a free trait and you distribute seven more between them; no Virtue can be higher than five, ever). A Ghoul's Willpower is equal to their Courage, and Humanity is determined by adding up the character's Self-Control and Conscience (and then dividing by two and rounding up). While it is unlikely that a ghoul's Self-Control and Conscience will have much impact in game (as ghouls usually do not have the dreaded Beast within them that Kindred do), these traits will be important if the ghoul is Embraced.
Ghouls can generate more Freebie Traits by taking Negative Traits on a one-for-one basis; additionally, ghouls can get two Freebie Traits by having a suitable Derangement (many of the Kindred Derangements, such as Immortal Terror or Sanguinary Animism, are not suitable for Ghouls). Ghouls cannot sacrifice Humanity for Freebie Traits, but they can acquire Merits and Flaws like normal character (again, some Flaws or Merits are not allowed for ghouls, as they apply only to Kindred). Ghouls cannot take certain Backgrounds (such as Generation or Herd), as they are not applicable to non-Kindred.
All ghouls can learn Disciplines, and the exact level of a Discipline that a ghoul can learn is tied into the Generation of the Kindred controlling a ghoul (also known as a Regnant). If you are Seventh Generation or lower, your ghouls can learn Advanced Disciplines; if you are between Eight and Tenth Generation, your ghouls can learn Intermediate Disciplines and if you are Eleventh Generation or higher, your ghouls can only learn Basic Disciplines. No ghoul can ever learn Elder or higher-level Disciplines, nor can they learn Combination Disciplines.
Unfortunately, regardless of the Generation of the Regnant, a ghoul can only learn Celerity, Fortitude or Potence when they are made a ghoul. In order to learn other Disciplines aside of these three, a ghoul must have a specific Merit, known as "Learn Other Disciplines." This is a three-point Merit, and no ghoul under 50 can start with it - it must be bought during the course of the game (for 6 XP, since Merits cost double when bought with XP). Ghouls over the age of 50 can start with this Merit. Even with this Merit, there are some Disciplines that ghouls can never learn: Protean and Thamaturgy are the best-known examples of this, but there are other Disciplines that a ghoul cannot learn (although it is not widely known what these are and will have to be learned through trial and error). In all cases, a ghoul must have a Mentor to teach them Disciplines; this is usually their Regnant. In all cases, it costs a ghoul 6 XP to learn Basic Disciplines, 9 XP to learn Intermediate Disciplines, and 12 XP to learn Advanced Disciplines. Ghouls cannot teach other people Disciplines, incidentally.
The ghoul's Regnant usually decides how the ghoul spends their XP. If someone is playing a ghoul (i.e., a player convinces a friend of theirs to play their ghoul), then the ghoul is a PC, gains XP as normal, but the player of the ghoul decides how to spend the XP. If a Kindred has made a ghoul during the course of the game, they can easily figure out the ghoul's XP and apply it to the ghoul accordingly. If the ghoul was made before the course of the game, the player should talk to the Storytellers to figure out how much, if any, XP the ghoul has banked. As always, all characters must be submitted to the Storytellers for approval.
In order to essentially keep the storytellers (relatively) sane and prevent the dreaded condition known as "game bloat," we are basically putting a cap on the number of players that can be in the LARP. Effectively, there will be no more than sixty active players at any one time in the game. If and when that day comes when there are sixty players actively involved in the game, the game will effectively be closed to new players and they will only be allowed in if and when active players leave.
How do we determine if a player is active or not? We look at their attendance, oddly enough. Now, while it is hoped that every player can attend every session of the LARP, we understand that real life always takes precedence over a game, and well, sometimes, things happen and you just can't make a game. If you know you will not be able to attend a session in advance (due to work or holidays or whatever), please let the storytellers know, and we'll do what we can to come up with good, in-character reasons for why your character couldn't be at the game and try to shift plot-specific elements for that particular session away from your character so as not to hamper other player's enjoyment of the session. Similarly, if something came up at the last minute and you couldn't make a game, but still want to know what sort of rumors and things your character heard and would have known about, contact the storytellers and we'll let you know as soon as possible.
As long as players and the storytellers remain in contact and we know what's going on with you (and can let other players know as well if/when they attempt to get in contact with your character), everything is fine and dandy, and there won't be problems of any sort. If an extended period of time (defined as three sessions, which is basically three months) goes by without hearing from a player, it will be assumed that they are inactive, and their character will be taken out of play. For all intents and purposes, it will be assumed that the inactive character left town and refuses to communicate with other characters still in Chicago. If a player wishes to return to the LARP after they have gone inactive, merely contact the storytellers and let us know you're coming back; provided we have not hit our sixty-active-character limit, your character will be reactivated and we'll figure out just what the heck your character has been up to during the time that they were missing from active play.
So, as long as you attend one game every three months or keep in touch with the Storytellers and let us know you can't make games for an extended period of time, you're still in play. If we don't hear for you for three months, or you can't make the games, you're out of play but can rejoin provided we don’t have too many players at the moment. Simple, eh?
Hmm.... I think that's it. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Storytellers, okay? See you at the game!