These Traits describe advantages of birth (or rebirth), circumstance and opportunity: material possessions, social networks and the like. Backgrounds are external, not internal, Traits, and you should always rationalize how you came to possess them, as well as what they represent. Who are your contacts? Why do your allies support you? Where did you meet your retainers? How exactly do you make enough money to justify your four dots in Resources? If you've put enough detail into your character concept, selecting appropriate Backgrounds should be easy.
Although it's uncommon to make rolls involving Background Traits, your Storyteller might have you do so to see if you can obtain information, goods or favors. For example, you might have to roll Wits + Resources to keep your stock options healthy, or Manipulation + Contacts to wheedle that extra favor from your smuggler "associate."
Throughout your character's life, as described in her background, she will have acquired contacts, material belongings and personal strengths that aid her. She hasn't learned them and she can't train for them; they stem from happenstance, social ties and history. This broad category of Traits covers everything from the friends a character has made to her innate magical power. It's a catch-all category, and you assign points to your character's Backgrounds during character creation just as you do Attributes and Abilities. Your character's Backgrounds have direct ties to her history. Thus, they help you to flesh out your character. As you choose and assign point values to these Traits, the Backgrounds help to define the character's exact nature. With the help and approval of your Storyteller, you establish how these Backgrounds fit into your character's life.
Allies are humans who support and help you - family, friends or even a mortal organization that owes you some loyalty. Though allies aid you willingly, without coaxing or coercion, they are not always available to offer assistance; they have their own concerns and can do only so much in the name of friendship. However, they might have some useful Background Traits of their own, and might provide you with indirect access to their contacts, influence or resources. Allies are typically persons of influence and power in your home city. They can be of almost any sort, pending your Storyteller's permission; you may have friends in the precinct morgue, or perhaps even the mayor's ear, depending on how many dots you spend on this Trait. Your allies are generally trustworthy (although they probably don't know that you're a vampire, or even that vampires exist). However, nothing comes for free; if you wind up drawing favors from your friend in the Cosa Nostra, he'll probably ask you to do him a favor in kind in the future. This often leads to the beginning of a story.... Allies are generally Sleepers; more esoteric sorts of creatures fall under a different heading. Also, your allies may know that you are into some unusual things, but they are rarely in on the whole picture of mage society or even the facts of magic. Allies are more useful as warm bodies to give you a hand or a place to crash. An ally can give your character access to information she wouldn't normally have, access to products and services or even more direct aid. Your Storyteller may wish to create statistics for the ally and actually play the ally in the game as a character. Note that your allies have personalities and goals of their own, and from time to time they may cause problems, ask for favors in return or do things that further their own interests.
x No allies — you don't have any friends at all.
• One ally of moderate power.
• • Two allies or one more powerful ally.
• • • Three allies or a combination of more powerful allies.
• • • • Four allies or a combination of more powerful allies.
• • • • • Five allies or a combination of more powerful allies.
Mages walk the edge of what normal people consider reality. Because of their magical nature, they sometimes escape the notice of Sleepers. Their very existence is an anomaly, and some of them just evade notice. This effect manifests differently for different mages. Although the Arcane Background doesn't make mages invisible, it makes them less noteworthy. An Arcane mage seems nondescript and not particularly noticeable. Features just seem to slip away from memory, and the mage just never seems to get caught on film. Records disappear, people forget the mage's name or even assume that discussions are about someone different, and witnesses can't garner more than "That guy. Girl. Whatever." The mage doesn't trigger these effects actively; they just happen. The mage can, however, consciously dampen the effect and allow others to see her as she truly is.
You add your character's Arcane score to any Stealth rolls you make, and your opponents reduce their Perception or Investigation dice pools by a number of dice equal to your score in Arcane. Note that Arcane only helps when the mage is inconspicuous or absent; if the character is screaming, waving around a sword or otherwise drawing attention to herself, Arcane doesn't help. Of course, people might give conflicting descriptions later or be hard-pressed to remember her name. When your character is directly involved in combat, this Trait gives her no benefits. Note also that a character with specific, extremely unusual traits — like purple hair, a peg leg or huge size — will not be able to conceal those traits; they stand out too much in peoples' minds. Still, "that one-armed guy with... uh... hair... of some color" is a start.
x You're just as noticeable as anybody else.
• You blend in with the crowd.
• • You're easy to forget.
• • • You're difficult to follow.
• • • • There are scant photos, papers or records of you, and people can't even agree on what you look like.
• • • • • In other people's minds, you don't even exist.
All mages have an Awakened Avatar, and through that Avatar the mage alters reality. However, not all Avat ars are created equal. The strength of your character's Avatar affects her Quintessence score directly (see "Quintessence"). It also determines how much Quintessence your character can reabsorb at any one time. It is wise to put at least one dot in this Background. Mages with extremely weak Avatars cannot channel Quintessence at all, which can make many magical feats difficult or impossible. Whenever your character's Quintessence score drops below her score in this Trait, she can meditate at a Node, for at least one hour, in an attempt to rebuild her Quintessence levels. You roll a dice pool based on Meditation (Perception + Meditation; difficulty 7) for each hour spent at the Node, and the number of your successes determines how much Quintessence she regain s. No matter how many successes you roll, however, your character cannot reabsorb more Quintessence than the number of dots you placed in her Avatar Background. Her Avatar score serves as a ceiling to the Quintessence points she can soak in through meditat ion at a Node. For example, if she has an Avatar score of three, she cannot absorb more than three points of Quintessence per sitting, no matter how many successes youroll. The Avatar rating is also the limit to the amount of Quintessence that a mage may channel for an Effect. A mage cannot channel moreQuintessence than her Avatar rating, so mages with weak Avatars are limited to smaller Effects. Quintessence stored in the Avatar is "personal" and inviolable; it cannot be taken from the mage with Prime magic.Note that the role of the Avatar may vary with the Storyteller's slant on the game, and as such this Background may be changed to represent other powers....
x Your Avatar is barely capable of magic.
• May rebuild a pool of/ expend one Quintessence.
• • May rebuild a pool of/ expend two Quintessence.
• • • May rebuild a pool of/ expend three Quintessence.
• • • • May rebuild a pool of/ expend four Quintessence.
• • • • • May rebuild a pool of/ expend five Quintessence.
You know people all over the city. When you start making phone calls around your network, the amount of information you can dig up is almost terrifying. Contacts are largely people whom you can bribe, manipulate or coerce into offering information, but you also have a few maj or contacts - friends whom you can rely on to give you accurate information in their fields of expertise. You should describe each major contact in some detail before the game begins. In addition to your major contacts, you also have a number of minor contacts spread throughout the city; your major contact might be in the district attorney's office, while your minor contacts might include beat cops, DMV clerks, club bouncers or even hot-dog vendors. You need not detail these various "passing acquaintances" before play; instead, to successfully get in touch with a minor contact, you should roll your Contacts rating (difficulty 7). You can reach one minor contact for each success; of course, you still have to coerce them into telling you what you need to hear.
* One major contact
** Two major contacts
*** Three major contacts
**** Four major contacts
***** Five major contacts
Some mages — or even Sleepers! — stand out heroically, pulling the threads of the Tapestry around them as they charge blindly on to an undeniable destiny. The fate of such a mage is generally known, though in a vague way. A prophecy, a vision or even just a "sense of greatness" follows this sort of mage. Her fellow mages sense this fate, as does she. Although none of the characters will know the exact nature of her fate, you should work it out behind the scenes with your Storyteller, or have your Storyteller determine it for you secretly. This final fate should remain mysterious — an enigma — within the context of the story.
The knowledge that she will go on to do great things gives your character a stronger sense of purpose and, thus, it increases her ability to exert her will. She knows that she will not die an ignominious death and this knowledge gives her the courage to go on when times get rough. Once per story (not each game session), if your character faces an end that goes against her destiny, you may roll her Destiny score versus a difficulty number of 8. Each success you roll allows you to regain one spent Willpower point. You may use these points to help your character avoid a cheap death. Destiny steps in and helps your character when she needs it the most. However, your Storyteller may decide, at any time, that the danger your character faces meets the criteria other destiny and disallow you any special saving rolls. Your character's fate, in this case, has come calling and she must survive on her own or fulfill that destiny. A mage can fulfill his destiny, and at such a time, the Background goes away. The fulfillment of the destiny usually culminates in some large change for the character's life, though. Conversely, an otherwise mundane person may suddenly discover a powerful destiny. The course of fate is fickle indeed, and even mages cannot see the future with total certainty.
x You're just a tar-heel like everyone else.
• A minor destiny; roll one die.
• • An impressiv e destiny; roll two dice.
• • • A crucial destiny; roll three dice.
• • • • A world-changing destiny; roll four dice.
• • • • • An earth-shattering destiny; roll five dice.
With the Dream Background, your character has the ability to meditate and tap into the wealth of information carried within the universal mind. She must focus on a particular problem while meditating, and the amount of time it takes her to glean the information will vary based on its complexity. This process has its drawbacks. She may not get exactly what she wanted, but instead may find herself possessing an intuitive understanding that she didn't expect. The universal mind knows better than she does what will help her, but that doesn't mean she'll figure out why this particular bit of information applies to her dilemma. Furthermore, she only has access to the information until she sleeps again. Once she sleeps, the knowledge flies out of her mind and she loses access to it. Your Storyteller may ask you to roll Perception + Dream to see how well your character can focus and reach a meditative state.
Each character will have her own unique way of bringing forth the dream. It doesn't have to be sitting in a full lotus with incense burning. Some take long walks by the beach or vegetate to rock music. Whatever method your character uses, she must have no interruptions for the amount of time the Storyteller determines necessary. The information your character receives isn't concrete information, but rather an intuitive, guiding sense about something. She can't find a person's address this way, but she can sense that the person probably lives near the river, for example. Roll your character's Perception + Dream (difficulty 6) to determine to what extent the information she receives is helpful. Once per day, after your character has meditated successfully, you can substitute her Dream score for an Ability in a dice roll pertaining to the topic of her meditation. This applies whether she has the Ability or not. For example, if she's seeking some insight into her friend's emotions, you can roll Intelligence + Dream instead of Intelligence + Alertness, even if your character has no Alertness score. If she does have an Alertness score, you can still substitute, if you choose. However, you cannot add her Dream and Alertness scores. You roll either one or the other.
x The collective intuition of the cosmos is a mystery to you.
• You catch hazy bits of information.
• • You gain helpful insight.
• • • You can access worthwhile lore.
• • • • You glean a wealth of knowledge.
• • • • • You make amazing leaps with your insight.
You enjoy widespread recognition in mortal society, perhaps as an entertainer, writer or athlete. People may enjoy just being seen with you. This gives you all manner of privileges when moving in mortal society, but can also attract an unwanted amount of attention now that you're no longer alive. The greatest weapon fame has to offer is the ability to sway public opinion - as modern media constantly proves.
This Background is obviously a mixed blessing. You can certainly enjoy the privileges of your prestige - getting the best seats, being invited to events you'd otherwise miss, getting appointments with the elite - but you're also often recognized when you'd rather not be. However, your enemies can't just make you disappear without causing an undue stir, and you find it much easier to hunt in populated areas as people flock to you (reduce the difficulties of hunting rolls by one for each dot in Fame). Additionally, your Storyteller might permit you to reduce difficulties of Social rolls against particularly starstruck or impressionable people.
* You're known to a select subculture of the city - local clubgoers or the Park Avenue set, for instance.
** A majority of the populace recognizes your face; you're a local celebrity such as a news anchor.
*** You have statewide renown; perhaps you're a state senator or minor star of local interest.
**** Nationally famous; everybody knows something about you.
***** You're an internationally famous media icon.
Plain and simple, this Background represents your generation - the purity of your blood, and your proximity to the First Vampire. A high Generation rating may represent a powerful sire or a decidedly dangerous taste for diablerie. If you don't take any dots in this Trait, you begin play as a 13th-generation vampire. See p. 139 for further information on generations and what part they play.
* 12th generation: 11 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
** 11th generation: 12 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
*** 10th generation: 13 blood pool, can spend 1 blood point per turn
**** Ninth generation: 14 blood pool, can spend 2 blood points per turn
***** Eighth generation: 15 blood pool, can spend 3 blood points per turn
You have built a group of mortals from whom you can feed without fear. A herd may take many forms, from circles of kinky clubgoers to actual cults built around you as a god-figure. In addition to providing nourishment, your herd might come in handy for minor tasks, although they are typically not very controllable, closely connected to you or even highly skilled (for more effective pawns, purchase Allies or Retainers). Your Herd rating adds dice to your rolls for hunting; see Chapter Six for further details.
* Three vessels
** Seven vessels
*** 15 vessels
**** 30 vessels
***** 60 vessels
You have pull in the mortal community, whether through wealth, prestige, political office, blackmail or supernatural manipulation. Kindred with high Influence can sway, and in rare cases even control, the political and social processes of human society. Influence represents the sum of your political power in your community, particularly among the police and bureaucracy.
Some rolls may require you to use Influence in place of an Ability, particularly when attempting to sway minor bureaucrats. It is, of course, always easier to institute sweeping changes on a local level than a worldwide scale (e.g., having an "abandoned" building demolished is relatively easy, while starting a war is a bit more difficult).
* Moderately influential; a factor in city politics
** Well-connected; a force in state politics
*** Position of influence; a factor in regional politics
**** Broad personal power; a force in national politics
***** Vastly influential; a factor in global politics
With this Trait, your character has access to a great wealth of information. This "library" may take the form of books, old scrolls, computer databases or even of friends who have it all in their heads and who are happy to share it with you. Most importantly, your character can access this information whenever she wants and study it at will. The knowledge contained in your character's library can include both mundane and occult elements. Although it may not always prove entirely reliable, more often than not your character can take her time, cross-reference and check her information. Best of all, such a library is often a wealth of information that your particular mage considers important, so it has useful knowledge about magic, the supernatural and other obscure topics that wouldn't be found in a more mundane collection. Libraries are especially useful in unearthing new lore, Sphere knowledge or specialized information. Use a Mental Attribute + Library roll to look up information regarding an arcane or obscure topic. Success helps your character in such an endeavor, possibly justifying the expenditure of experience on such Traits.
Depending on the nature of the "library," your character may choose to keep it somewhere that everyone in her cabal can use it. In such a case, all players involved can pool their Library scores and benefit from the increased wealth of information (pending Storyteller approval). However, they may run into duplication of information. Thus, a pooled library is only as effective as the best Library rating in the group, plus one for each additional Library thrown in.
x You have no particular information resources.
• You've got some New-Age paperbacks.
• • Your library is 90% pulp and 10% substance.
• • • You have numerous useful texts.
• • • • You have an enviable collection, both occult and mundane.
• • • • • You can access lore, lost secrets, common wisdom and obscure facts.
This Trait represents an elder - or possibly even more than one - who looks out for you, offering guidance or aid once in awhile. A mentor may be powerful, but his power need not be direct. Depending on the number of dots in this Background, your mentor might be nothing more than a vampire with a remarkable information network, or might be a centuries-old creature with tremendous influence and supernatural power. He may offer advice, speak to the prince (or archbishop) on your behalf, steer other elders clear of you or warn you when you're walking into situations you don't understand. Most often your mentor is your sire, but it could well be any Cainite with a passing interest in your well-being. A high Mentor rating could even represent a group of like-minded vampires, such as the elders of the city's Tremere chantry. Bear in mind that this Trait isn't a "Get out of Jail Free" card; your mentor won't arrive like the cavalry whenever you're endangered. What's more, she might occasionally expect something in return for her patronage (which can lead to a number of interesting stories). A mentor typically remains aloof, giving you useful information or advice out of camaraderie, but will abandon you without a thought if you prove an unworthy or troublesome "apprentice."
• Unimportant or distant mentor.
• • Helpful, but eccentric, mentor.
• • • Good and notable mentor.
• • • • Wise and respected mentor.
• • • • • Powerful or influential mentor.
One of the most hotly contested prizes in the war between mages is the possession of Nodes. A character with a Node has access to a place of power where she can replenish her Quintessence and gather Tass. Your Node can be located anywhere — in a cellar, a grove, a high-rise, a glade, a crystal cave or an old church — but mages protect them like the treasures they are. Quintessence thieves may attempt to overthrow the current custodians of a Node and take the location for themselves. Your character may have to fight to keep her Node.
You and your fellow players can pool your characters' Node scores to increase the value of one particular Node rather than having several small ones scattered around the area. The Node's rating determines how much Tass the place produces and how much "free" Quintessence a character can absorb from it per week. Your character can stockpile Tass, but t he magical energy may lose its potency after a short time if not used. The form this Tass takes reflects the nature of the Node. If the Node is in a cemetery, the Tass may take the form of grave moss that your character will have to boil down to remove the Tass. Or, if the Node sits in a cave by the ocean, the Tass may take the form of salt-like deposits that your character will have to gather up and sift out to separate sand and silt.
The Quintessence available from a Node counts for all uses of absorption. Thus, characters who meditate to refresh their Awtar rating must draw on the Node and deplete it, and the Node may temporarily run out of power. The exact amount of power that a Node holds is up to the Storyteller. For a game with scarce magic, a Node might only supply one point of Quintessence per week per dot, while a more generous Storyteller might give ten points per week per dot. The higher the rating of the Node, the more energy it holds and the weaker the Gauntlet in its location.
x No access to a Node: Like most mages, you only have what power you can scrape up.
• A minor Node, barely worthy of mention.
• • A small Node, holding a useful trickle of energy.
• • • A significant Node, able to power several mages.
• • • • A major Node, hotly contested.
• • • • • A powerful Node, one of the few sites of magic left.
This Trait describes your personal financial resources, or your access to such. A high Resources rating doesn't necessarily reflect your liquid assets; this Background describes your standard of "living," your possessions and your buying power. No dots in Resources is just that: You have no permanent haven and no possessions save a few clothes and possibly a weapon or pocketful of coins.
You receive a basic allowance each month based on your rating; be certain to detail exactly where this money comes from, be it a job, trust fund or dividends. After all, your fortune may well run out over the course of the chronicle, depending on how well you maintain it. You can also sell your less liquid resources if you need the cash, but this can take weeks or even months, depending on what exactly you're trying to sell. Art buyers don't just pop out of the woodwork, after all.
* Small savings: a small apartment and maybe a motorcycle. If liquidated, you would have about $1,000 in cash. Allowance of $500 a month.
** Middle class: an apartment or condominium. If liquidated, you would have at least $8,000 in cash. Allowance of $1200 a month.
*** Large savings: a homeowner or someone with some equity. If liquidated, you would have at least $50,000 in cash. Allowance of $3000 a month.
**** Well-off: a member of the upper class. You own a very large house, or perhaps a dilapidated mansion. If liquidated, you would have at least $500,000 in cash. Allowance of $9000 a month.
***** Ridiculously affluent: a multimillionaire. Your haven is limited by little save your imagination. If liquidated, you would have at least $5,000,000 in cash. Allowance of $30,000 a month.
Not precisely allies or contacts, your retainers are servants, assistants or other people who are your loyal arid steadfast companions. Many vampires' servants are ghouls (p. 275) - their supernatural powers and blood bond-enforced loyalty make them the servants of choice. Retainers may also be people whom you've repeatedly Dominated until they have no free will left, or followers so enthralled with your Presence that their loyalty borders on blind fanaticism. Some vampires, particularly those with the Animalism Discipline, use "hellhounds" (ghouled dogs) or other animal ghouls as retainers.
You must maintain some control over your retainers, whether through a salary, the gift of your vitae or the use of Disciplines. Retainers are never "blindly loyal no matter what" - if you treat them too poorly without exercising strict control, they might well turn on you.
Retainers may be useful, but they should never be flawless, A physically powerful ghoul might be rebellious, inconveniently dull-witted or lacking in practical skills. A loyal manservant might be physically weak or possess no real personal initiative or creativity. This Background isn't an excuse to craft an unstoppable bodyguard or pet assassin - it's a method to bring more fully developed characters into the chronicle, as well as to reflect the Renfieldesque followers for which the Kindred are notorious. Don't abuse it.
* One retainer
** Two retainers
*** Three retainers
**** Four retainers
***** Five retainers
You have something of a reputation and standing (earned or unearned) within the local community of Kindred. Status among Camarilla society is often derived from your sire's status and the respect due your particular bloodline; among the Sabbat, status is more likely to stem from the reputation of your pack. Elders are known for having little respect for their juniors; this Background can mitigate that somewhat.
High status among the Camarilla does not transfer to Sabbat society (and will most likely make you a notorious target for your sect's rivals), and vice versa. Similarly, anarchs can be considered to have zero Status, unless they have somehow garnered so much power and attention that they must be taken seriously. You may have occasion to roll your Status in conjunction with a Social Trait; this reflects the positive effects of your prestige.
Note: Caitiff characters may not purchase Status during character creation. Caitiff are the lowest of the low, and any respect they achieve must be earned during the course of the chronicle.
* Known: a neonate
** Respected: an ancilla
*** Influential: an elder
**** Powerful: a member of the primogen (or bishop)
***** Luminary: a prince (or archbishop)
Wonders are objects like Talismans and Technocratic Devices that have power and that produce magical Effects (usually when wielded by an Awakened being, such as a mage). Although they are rare, a few lucky mages have objects that carry their own power; legend holds that Masters can even manufacture their own. For the most part, only an Awakened being can use a Wonder, although your Storyteller may make exceptions to this rule. Your Storyteller may also limit the number and/ or power of the Wonders that she will allow into the game. Any item can be a Wonder if it has somehow been imbued with magic. Tree branches, mechanical devices, jewelry, wands, bones, and stones can all suffice as magical items.
When triggered, Wonders produce magical Effects just like mages do. Each Wonder has a special purpose. A Wonder's Effect comes from one of the magical Spheres, and you determine with your Storyteller exactly what occurs each time that your character triggers the item. Sometimes, it may misfire or the Effect may not turn out exactly as your character intended, but for the most part, your character has an idea of what to expect. When creating a Wonder, you also determine what exactly each of its Effects does. You base these effects on the magical Spheres. You may choose the Sphere that represents the Effect, but the Effect is limited to a Sphere level equal to the level of the Wonder. Note that the level in this Background docs not correspond directly to the level of the Wonder possessed. A Wonder is rated by the power of its Spheres, but the level of this Background simply indicates a general categorization of the Wonder's powers. A Wonder may have an Arete rating that allows the holder to use the Wonder's score when rolling for its Effects, and it may store its own Quintessence. (Some Wonders, called Periapts, are little more than Quintessence batteries.) Others simply have one magical Effect that's always on, or that works automatically when called.
Spirit Wonders, called fetishes, may work differently in story terms, but you purchase them the same way. These objects contain spirits who have, either by force or by choice, entered into the items and who perform a service. Some of these spirits have strong personalities, and they may cause the wielder some frustration and trouble, depending on how the mage treats the spirit. When your character uses up all the Quintessence in a fetish, the spirit departs. Your character cannot refuel a fetish, though your mage might undertake a quest or deal with a spirit to try to keep a fetish empowered. Many mages use Wonders as foci. Although doing so may not make the magic coincidental, it usually helps the mage to focus. Any Paradox triggered by a Wonder's Effect goes directly to the item itself, possibly destroying it. As always, the Storyteller has final say on the potencies and potentials of any Wonder.
x You haven't run across any magical items.
• A Wonder with a trivial Effect, or a small stash of Quintessence.
• • A Wonder with a useful Effect, or a reasonable battery of Quintessence.
• • • A Wonder with a reasonably handy Effect, or a large supply of Quintessence.
• • • • A Wonder with a very useful or commonly used Effect, or a generous helping of Quintessence.
• • • • • A Wonder with an associated potent Effect, or a legendary power source.
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