Friday, June 30, 2017

Sabbat Pack Creation Rules

I'm starting a new Vampire Chronicle soon, in which the characters will be Sabbat. For a change, I want there to be an emphasis on the Pack as the central figure on the Chronicle, rather than the individual characters. Think of it something like Sons of Anarchy, where the Club was the center point of the relationships between all the characters, and it's fate and fortunes dominated their concern and attention.

As such, I've put together a rough "Pack Creation" rules set to allow my players to design and define the Pack as they see fit. These rules are inspired by the Covenant Creation rules from Ars Magica. I'm sharing this with two hopes. The first is that it will inspire other Storytellers and their troupes. The second is for feedback and ways to improve them.

First, there are four main types of Packs in the Sabbat.

1) Vespers (Evening/Twilight): mostly comprised of neonate Cainites, these Packs are the bulk of the Sabbat.  They are young, bold, brash, and eager for action. While they lack little in the way of power or influence, their potential is unlimited. If they survive. Most are “split off” from a Compline or Nocturn Pack, by members who seek to go their own way for whatever reason. Generally consist of 5-7 members, with 3 being the minimum for existence as an independent Pack. Most members often follow the same Path, or are on Humanity. Players would be the leaders of such a Pack, with the remainder filled out by weaker (but still competent) NPC’s.

2) Compline (Night): Vespers that survive and thrive become Complines. These are the pillars of the Sabbat, the powers that keep the Sect functioning. They have the most mortal influence and are one of, if not the, leaders of individual cities. They have at least 2 “generations” (often more) of members, and their leaders are often Ancilla, and are at least a century old. Some are even older. Generally two or three Paths conflict for the devotion of the members. Players would be the newest recruits, acting as operatives and trouble shooters working to secure the Pack.

3) Nocturn (Midnight): As Complines age and grow in size and power, they become Nocturn Packs. Led be Elders, they have immense power and status in the Sabbat, but often find their mortal ties fading. They are almost always conservative, and dominate the largest cities. Particularly powerful ones dominate entire Regions.  Generally, they have at least 3 “generations” of members, with the leadership being centuries old.  They are often greatly divided among the various Paths, and religious debates play a major role in their lives. Players would be the youngest members, attempting to keep the power of the Pack intact against a rapidly changing world.

4) Orthros (Dawn): The oldest of the Packs, only a handful still exist in the world. Their founders pre-date the Sabbat, and their loyalty to the Sect is seen as questionable, at best. They have seen the rise and fall of Empires, and have generally withdrawn from the world, seeing little that can rouse their passions. Their Methuselah members provide the raw power to make the Pack unchallengeable, but they are often weak and poor when it comes to making their will felt elsewhere.  They follow ancient and alien Roads, and can barely even pretend to be anything but what they are. Soon it’s members will face Torpor, leaving the youngest members (the characters) to strive to rejuvenate the Pack.

Next, each Pack has a list of traits associated with it--what the Pack has, what it can do, what others want from it, and what it offers its members. Not every Pack is the same, and so while there are a number of default traits, each can be tweaked based on what the players would like to see, what they want to struggle with, and what they wish to ignore.  Each trait is fairly broad, and it is up to the troupe as a whole to define what each actually represents and what it means in the Chronicle.

For example, one of the traits is "territory"--the physical area the Pack, for lack of a better word, "controls." If they end up with a "marginal" territory, they should think about what makes this territory so marginal. Particularly from a vampire's point of view. Maybe it's the decayed remnants of a near-abandoned Rust Belt city. Maybe its the suburbs of a burgeoning metropolis. Maybe it's just a small tourist town.  Whatever best fits the needs and interests of the troupe and the Chronicle

The other factor to think about is what the "deal" with this Pack. What does its members care about, where do their interest lie. What Themes and Conflicts are going to explored in the Chronicle, and how will the Pack reflect them? Here are some ideas, though the list is far from exhaustive.

  • Improvement -- the Cainites of the Pack seek to push and challenge themselves every night, in every possible manner. 
  • Belonging – the Cainites are Panders or other outcasts, who seek to prove themselves and earn a place of respect within the Sabbat
  • Mystery – something unknown or hidden is central to your Pack. Perhaps their original Pack has vanished, or they seek to understand bizarre and strange circumstances that plague an area.
  • Power – the Pack seeks power, for its own sake. This could be domination of mortals, rising among the Sabbat, or a naked hunger for diablerie.
  • Unorthodox – something is off about your Pack, separating it from the rest of the Sabbat. Maybe all its members are on Humanity, and high at that. Or they have close ties to the Fae, or the Restless Dead, or something else that is just weird. 
  • Evangelists – your Pack are strident devotees of your Path, and seek to prove it’s superiority by word and deed. 
  • Erosion – something is chipping away at your Packs strength and power. This could be a mysterious outside force, or just bickering and in-fighting from within. You must stop it if you wish to survive.
  • Freedom – seeking liberation from even the restraints of the Sabbat, the Pack seek to discover the limits of independence and freedom. 
  • Corruption – the Pack prospers, but at what cost? Somewhere in the past, a deal was made, and the Pack must now deal with its consequences. Or, the Pack are crusaders, ferreting out corruption (both demonic and mundane) from the Sabbat.

Next, there are the traits associated with the Pack.

  • Territory:  The actual, physical area that the Pack claims. This is a both an element of prestige (controlling downtown is more impressive than some residential area), and the difficulties for hunting. Simply put, better territory makes hunting easier. Stats wise, the hunting difficulty is listed twice. The first difficulty is for any vampire to hunt there, the second is for your Pack. Since it's your turf and you know its bars and alleys well, the second is generally two less than the first.  For example, hunting in a truly marginal area where there are hardly any mortals at night, and even fewer outside, would be a 10. The Pack's knowledge of the area, and the best places to find SOMEONE would give them an 8. Meanwhile, the popular club area where mortals are eager to meet someone and try new things, not to mention stagger foolishly down dark alleys, would have a base of 6 (with a 4 for the Pack).
  • Size: How large is the Pack, and how powerful are it's most powerful members? All other characters in the Pack will be NPC's, and the majority will be "neonate" level. As these are NPC's, they'll be slightly less powerful than a starting character (basically, fewer dots to play with, and no freebies).Of course, if the Pack has Ancilla, Elder, or even Methuselah members, well, they'll be correspondingly more powerful. 
  • Defenses: Turf is nothing if you can't control it. The Defenses are a collection of servants, allies, and mortal dupes who keep an eye out for anything unusual. While they may not be able to stop a Camarilla infiltrator, rival Sabbat, desperate anarchs, or other truly weird things from entering your territory, good defenses can be made aware of the strangers presence and let the Pack know what it going on.
  • Communal Haven: Most Packs live together, in a "temple." Some are nothing more than the unfinished basement under an abandoned house. Others are elaborate and multistory affairs, effectively a combination of military bunker and underground palace.
  • Internal Politics: Despite the use of the vaulderie (communal Blood Bond), even the Sabbat rarely get along. Debates about who should be in charge, what the Pack should do, and what they believe can drive a Pack apart or at least ground it down in incessant debate and arguments. Generally, this is defined by the number of Paths (Sabbat spiritual believes) the Pack follows, but even the most religiously unified can still fall apart.
  • Retainers: Mortals and ghouls willing and able to impose the Pack's will. Or at least serve as convenient canon fodder.
  • Knowledge: What does the Pack know about the larger world, and the secrets it contains. Generally represented by a library of forgotten diaries and "lost" texts, but can also be an oral tradition from elder members. It also indicates how much influence the Pack has over mortal knowledge and its institutions, which allows the Pack to improve their own abilities and skills. Want to increase your melee? Better to have connections with a local university whose fencing team is taught by a former Olympian than trying to make do with a YouTube video.
  • Herd: Mortals that Pack members can feed from freely. Exactly what they are varies--some are slaves imprisoned in the Temple, others are brothels "owned" by the Pack, or deranged "blood cults." They make feeding easy, but are rarely endorsed by the Sabbat leadership.
  • Equipment: What "stuff" the Pack has, and what the characters can use. Everything from weapons, to clothes, to vehicles are covered by this. Vespers are lucky to have a couple of light revolvers, a shotgun, and a 10 year old van the whole Pack can ride in. Compline run with assault weapons, sniper rifles, and the latest cars. Orthos don't even bother.
  • Resources: How much money the Pack has, and how much each member can spend freely. Money really isn't that valued by the Sabbat, other than the gear it allows them to buy. But sometimes you need something the Pack doesn't have, and sometimes money talks better than a gun. Or even Dominate.
  • Contacts: People (mortals) outside your immediate control you have some form of relationship with. Doddering scholars, desperate gun runners, corrupt cops--any of these can be a key source of information about the wider world.
  • Status: How well respected is the Pack among the Sabbat. Each Pack has a basic status, which determines how it's members are treated, which gives a typical member it's rating. The leaders of the Pack are treated slightly better. For example, a standard Vespers Pack has a Status of 1, which is how most members are treated. The Ductus and the Priest are treated slightly better, as if they had a 2. An average Compline begins at a 2, with it's leaders being treated as a 3. 

In addition to general roleplaying, there's also a mechanical effect. In an opposed social roll, the DIFFERENCE between the Status of the two vampires reduces the difficulty for the higher status one. Example: Steve is part of a Vespers, with a Status 1. He's trying to fast talk his past the Priest of a Compline Pack (status 3.) Steve rolls Manipulations + Subterfuge at a difficulty of 6, with the Priest rolling his Perception + Subterfuge at a difficulty of (6-(3-1)=) 4. 

  • Relationships: No Pack is truly alone, all have some kind of ties to the wider world. The most obvious is the "parent Pack"--whatever group the Pack was part of prior to their creation. Others are allies they can call on if needed, and will call on the Pack as well. Others are enemies that seek to discredit or even destroy the Pack. Not all of these relationships are Sabbat, though. Perhaps the Pack has a deal with a particularly violent group of werewolves, but are hated by a group of Setites.  While listed as Pack types (Vespers, Complines, etc.), these are just general power levels. Perhaps instead of a rival Nocturn, your enemy is a Prince of a powerful Camarilla City, or a Mage Chantry, or something else all together.
  • Obligations: The Sabbat demands much from it's members. Those of low rank are expected to provide vast numbers of mortal vessels for major celebrations, or provide boring and monotonous "security" for key parts of the city. Those with greater prestige are expected to secure the "Silence" and keep the mortals in the dark, no matter what vulgarities their fellow Sabbat commit. Even the most dominant ones are expected to stand up as leaders, and deal with herding the various Packs to something like a common goal. All must contribute, as either leaders or followers.

Except the Orthos. The Orthos don't give a shit. 

So, that's the basic Pack break down. In a follow up post (HERE), I'll list the  overview of what the "basic" stats are for the Pack's in question. Each has a default for each of the traits above, but with "PRO" and "CON" to adjust as needed.  The troupe can pick a PRO or a CON (or none) for each category, so long as everything is balanced out at the end. Maybe they decide to go Vespers, but want a better territory. They can balance out that PRO by taking a CON in relationships and have more enemies to start off with. Or, if they go Orthos, maybe they want the Pack to actually talk to each other once in a while (PRO for Internal Politics), and off set that with a truly non-euclidean Haven.

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