Saturday, May 2, 2020

VtM: The Ascendancy Discipline

I'm taking a moment of random geekery to look at creating a new Discipline for Vampire: The Masquerade (Revised), which was essentially the third edition of the game. I'm not familiar with where the World of Darkness setting is currently, but I don't think the mechanics have changed much; this would probably work there. The concept here is to design a Discipline built around bringing the vampire closer to their fundamentally vampiric nature... which, for me requires looking at the existing disciplines and what they do -- and what that implies about the nature of the vampire in this setting. So...

Physical Disciplines:
-Celerity: supernatural speed in the form of extra actions
-Potence: Supernatural strength in the form of automatic successes
-Fortitude: supernatural damage resistance in the form of extra soak dice that work against aggravated damage

Disciplines that let you deal directly with the Beast:
-Animalism: communicate with animals, summon animals, suppress the Beast in something mortal, possess an animal, or project your beast/frenzy into a mortal.
-Necromancy: the Bone path can be used to pull a vampire's spirit from their body; this turns the vampire into a sort of ghost but does not destroy the body and the victim can eventually return (if the necromancer doesn't destroy it in the meantime).

Disciplines of physical transformation:
-Obtenebration: extend the darkness of your soul to make shadows tangible, transform your body into a mix of shadow and flesh with shadow tentacles, and assume a shadow form.
-Protean: see in the dark, grow claws, meld with the earth, become bat or wolf (or other animals), take the form of mist.
-Quietus: Silence 15' radius (why?), poisonous blood, drown your target in their own blood, acidic blood.
-Serpentis: Hypnotic gaze, extended vampire snake-tongue, turn your skin into scaly armor, turn into a giant snake, remove your heart and hide it somewhere else.
-Thaumaturgy: some of the rituals produce physical effects like secreting acid; Path of blood lets you concentrate your blood to improve your effective generation.
-Vicissitude: reshape flesh and bone, assume a monstrous form, turn your body into sentient, animated blood.

Vampire anatomy is deeply, deeply weird. The need for blood is (apparently) a physical need and appears absolutely non-negotiable, at least for the vampire Generations active today. (Rumor is, the hunger only gets worse for older and earlier generations...) Alone or through the use of physical Disciplines, blood can be used to increase a vampire's physical abilities. If that were all, it would suggest that the vampire is still a creature of the flesh -- preternatural flesh, but flesh nonetheless. But the need for an intact body is... highly negotiable. While physical damage can still kill a vampire (especially if it comes from a supernatural source), physical transformation (Protean's animal forms, Vicissitude's monstrous form) does not. Nor does voluntary physical dissolution (mist form, blood form, taking out your own heart for safekeeping elsewhere) or even a complete mystical transformation (shadow form).

So something keeps the vampire alive and aware and capable of controlling even a radically transformed body. It can't be the body itself; the vampire doesn't die even when their body is radically transformed. It can't be the vampire's spirit that holds everything together; the body doesn't die if the spirit is necromantically cast out. It can't be the Beast, because the Beast can be sent elsewhere using Animalism without the vampire dying. Perhaps it's nothing more or less than Caine's curse which makes the vampire's body work as it does, while the vampire's spirit and the Beast are essentially passengers carried along by the curse itself.

Other notes:
The Tzimisce clan and in particular the followers of the Path of Metamorphosis seek for a state of existence that is as much beyond vampirism as vampirism is beyond mortality. The Assamites, and in particular the followers of the Path of Blood, seek something similar through diablerie and attempts to become closer to the First Vampire. While this Discipline isn't wholly in line with either, it might very well be of interest to both. It might also be unique to a particular bloodline (in an earlier edition of the game, or if someone were attempting to create a new bloodline as Gehenna approaches)... and I have some ideas about that, too. For me, it would need to be attached to an entirely new character with a very specific background, but that's beyond the scope of tonight's geekery.

So, with all that background out of the way, I present:


Ascendancy is a discipline of transformation, one which aligns the vampire more closely with their vampiric nature and helps to take charge of it. In some ways similar to Protean and Vicissitude, it allows transformations both temporary and permanent.

* Master the Thirst
As their understanding and mastery of the Thirst grows, the vampire is able to derive more benefits from the blood of mortals. For each blood point taken from a mortal or animal, the vampire receives two blood points. In addition, difficulties for all frenzy checks induced by hunger are reduced by one.

** Blood Adept
Drinking the blood of another vampire allows you to borrow a single point in one or more of their clan disciplines for a single scene. At the Storyteller's discretion, blood taken from other supernatural creatures may provide comparable benefits. (e.g. Blood taken from a werewolf might provide a point of Potence or Fortitude, the blood of a psychic might allow minor telekinesis, etc.) Disciplines which require ritual training such as Thaumaturgy and Necromancy cannot be acquired in this way, even temporarily; neither can rituals. (However, their effects might be duplicated; minor telekinesis in the example above could be equivalent to a single point in Thaumaturgy's Movement of the Mind path.) Use of this ability during a game also allows the vampire to purchase and improve the chosen disciplines as if they were Clan disciplines using earned experience at the end of the chapter, if the blood involved came from another vampire.
System: The character consumes 1-3 Blood Points worth of blood from a vampire or other supernatural creature. These points are immediately expended; they do not add to the character's blood pool. The character then chooses one clan discipline (or equivalent) for each point consumed, and adds a single point in that discipline. If the character already possesses that discipline, then no points are gained and the blood point is added to their blood pool instead. Note that this ability should be exercised cautiously, as it is quite possible to become Blood Bound from drinking another vampire's blood for this purpose.

*** Harness The Beast
The Vampire has now become familiar with their Beast, and can exercise some influence over it. Difficulties for all frenzy checks are reduced by one (this stacks with Master The Thirst), and the character can now enter a state of controlled frenzy -- harnessing the beast to receive the benefits of frenzy (see page 228 in the guide, but they ignore penalties from injuries, are immune to Rotschreck, are much harder to Dominate, and can accomplish Feats without spending willpower) but without losing control. Characters who frenzy involuntarily can make a self-control check (difficulty eight) to direct their frenzy and retain some degree of control (e.g. choosing to flee instead of slaughter, or attack a particular target instead of the nearest victim or the source of the provocation).

**** Vampiric Visage
When this power is activated, the vampire shrugs off the last vestiges of their human appearance and displays their true vampiric nature. All physical traits increase by one as the vampire partially merges with their beast, but all social traits drop by one. The vampire sprouts claws on their hands and feet and their fangs increase in length, inflicting Strength +1 Aggravated damage. Vampires using this power can climb most surfaces at their standard movement rate, and cling to walls or ceilings (at the storyteller's discretion; an office building's false ceiling won't support a vampire's weight, for example). The vampire's appearance is distinctly inhuman, and being seen in this form violates the Masquerade. This ability costs two blood points to activate.

***** Angel of Darkness
At this point the vampire has gained an affinity for the curse itself. By spending two blood points and a willpower point, they can manifest shadowy wings and a dark halo. They can fly at twice their usual walking speed, or wrap the wings around themselves to reduce the difficulty of Stealth checks by two. The dark halo reduces the difficulty of any rolls made to resist Dominate or Presence (or similar powers) by two, and allows the vampire to make a Willpower roll in situations where they would ordinarily need to spend a willpower point to resist such abilities. Angel of Darkness can be invoked in conjunction with Vampiric Visage, or it can be used separately.


  1. This is actually pretty good, more or less in line with the game's existing mechanics and spirit, yet also innovative


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