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(V20 Dark Ages) Advise on Humanity, Roads, The Beast and Horror

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  • (V20 Dark Ages) Advise on Humanity, Roads, The Beast and Horror

    Hello everybody,

    before I begin I want to play safe by putting a little disclaimer in front of my topic. It is my first post on this forum after all. So bare with me, please.

    This thread may be diving into the darker and more sinister Aspects of the WOD. I can guarantee that my opening post is safe to read but the same I can not say for the topics that will, maybe, come to discussion in the following. So please take part with caution if those topics may unnerve you. Nonetheless thank you for reading until now and take care whatever your decision might be.

    Now that this is out of the way hello again! For months I was a silent reader in these Forums as well as a player in some V20 Chronicles. But now I gathered a few of my friends who are completely new to the WOD for a Chronicle of V20 Dark Ages, as mentioned in the Thread Title. And now I am the Storyteller for the first time. While a little bit scared I am very excited for this. But now I am confronted with stuff I never really was before as a player. So after extensive use of the search function on the forum, where I already found very uselful advice I thought it would be good to ask the more experienced storytellers, players and everyone else who might be so nice to give me some advice on the following matter. So I created a forum account.

    Before I go into Detail about my Questions i though it might be useful to introduce my coterie first.

    All my vampires are fairly young. None of them have spend more than 2 to 5 years in unlife. Now they are nearly ready to be set free from their sires. To prove that they are worthy to become full members of cainite society they're tasked with creating a new Elysium and become it's keepers for a indeterminate amount of time. My intention is to keep it fairly open ended for the players to acquaint them to the setting, while having a overarching narrative, that I will introduce to them a little later down the line.

    The characters summarized in short are:

    A female Tzimisce Noble, disguises as male to pose as a suitable heir to her house, focuses on her skills in Animalism for her houses tradition of breeding dogs for the hunt

    A female Cappadocian Physician, after her brother succumbed to a terminal illness, she strives, maybe in vain, to find a cure for his "death" ( Yes, I am, and the player, are absolutetly aware, that this is almost a carbon copy of the character Lilliana Vess, from the MTG universe, but who am I to deny a player their character-concept if it does not absolutetly break the setting)

    A male Lasombra Priest, who uses his small congregation as a herd, while trying to stay compessionate and true to his values of christianity

    A male Lasombra Knight, an elderly (for the time period) and zealous Knight who took part in the second crusade. Very suspicious of all other vampires due to his religious dogma, but trying to keep it subtle.

    These are, in my opinion, all nice concepts to work with and I am very happy that my players campe up with them on their own.

    Now that we have introduction out of the way I want to ask on a topic, that I always found to be difficult to narrate, although they are my favorite aspect of the WOD, aside from the intricate lore. In short: Humanity and the Beast. While I got the impression, that there is a little divide on the matter of how to play this dichotomy, or to even play it at all, I ask everyone to keep it civil. Personally I enjoy a good balance.

    Now to my problems. During my time as a player in some V20 Chronicles I exclusively played Camarilla Games, so Paths of Enlightenmend are a very alien concept to me, as are the Roads that are introduced in V20 Dark Ages. I always imagined them as a different system of behaviour from the concept of "humanity", and the moment you set foot on them your forsake all claim to your humanity, while keeping the Beast at bay, which should translate into behavior very alien to humans or even Cainites/Kindred on the Path of Humanity. The same impression I get from the Roads in V20 Dark Ages, except for some paths on the Road of Heaven maybe.

    Because of the that I let all my players start on the Road of Humanity, to maybe find a mentor, later on, that could teach them on another Road if their characters are feeling troubled about their gradual loss of humanity, or possible lack of control. If that happens I want to portray it, narratively speaking, as a hard choice, not something that is just handwaved. Tragic if you will.

    So my first question ist:"How would you portray the gradual, slow lose of humanity and really make it clear, that every step down on the Road of Humanity is a colossal loss? Dou you maybe have some advice on narrative techniques?

    My second problem concerns theperpetratoritself, the Beast. Disclaimer: This part is definitely the more unnverving of my two questions. So I advice you again, to proceed with caution.

    First of all I do not give myself the illusion, that I could genuinelyspookanyone of my friends. All of them were Storytellers in other systems, that can be very dark in their own right. We had a long talk, before the whole V20 Dark Ages Thing and I warned them, that the WOD can portray the worst of human and inhuman depravity that there is. We agreed that anything goes but decided together that we would stay away from the explicit decriptions of things that are very hard to stomach, to us, like excessive and graphic violence against children or any form of sexual violence.

    In many regards the Beast is the worst part of the curse of Cain and I really want to make that clear in my Chronicle. Is it the sweet seducer? The constant scraching in the back of your heard? Or the roaring, bloodthirsty Tyrant that compells you to the most inhumane deeds in the name of its dark and unholy thirst?

    I say it is, to some extend, all of the above mentioned and more.

    But how to portray that as more than just a failed dice check to the player, that might get their Charakters killed or in trouble with human and cainite law enforcement?

    So my second and last question is: "How to make the Beast properly unnerving and, dare I say it, somewhat scary? Are there narrative techniques or examples you use to make your players not take the beast lightly?"

    If you really made it to this point I want to sincerelly thank your for spending your time on this post and I want to thank everyone in advance for any advice I might get in this thread.

    Hopefully we can have some nice dialouge in the ensuing conversation.

  • #2
    My two cents:

    Emphasize how GOOD the beast feels. Because it does. It feels so nice to just let go, give in to instinct, and stop caring. Giving the beast the wheel, for better and worse, should feel good. Easy. It is after all, quite literally, the path of least resistance.

    Why is this unnerving? Because the characters won't LIKE liking it. Much like the Humanity-saint who hates feeding on humans, they can't help loving this thing they hate. It is their drug they know is ruining them, but the high when you're in it is just. So. Good.

    Furthermore, I believe Carthage should be destroyed.


    • #3
      To reuse a previous description of the Beast and Humanity, I will say this:

      The Beast is, for all intents and purposes, a mindless animal. The only thing it cares about is its own continued survival, and the freedom to indulge it's every sadistic urge without rhyme or reason.

      The key to fighting the Beast is to retain something that resembles sapient awareness. For most vampires, this is the Path of Humanity, as they strive to emulate humans in order to keep the Beast's impulses at bay. However, the Path of Humanity is unsustainable for a creature who is fundamentally not human, and so the Paths of Enlightenment, as well as the Roads exist for vampires who find that they are facing a losing battle.

      Paths and Roads involve the vampire adopting a different set of morality, ethics and philosophy that works in tandem with their monstrous nature, instead of against it. Yes, they accept the fact that they are monsters, but they exercise a level of self control that prevents them from completely succumbing to the Beast within. When somebody on a Path / Road conducts an evil act, they try to do so with some kind of purpose behind it.

      Committing evil for no reason other than entertainment is something that the Beast would encourage. And so the kindred ascribe themselves to a higher purpose than base debauchery.


      As for gameplay mechanics, the rule books point out that the lower your humanity drops, the more serious the crime you need in order to decrease it further. Even among the elder vampires, most reach a stabilization point around 4 to 5 Humanity. The only ones who are in danger of reaching 0 and falling into Wassail are the "grimdark edge lords" who are actively trying to be as sick and twisted as possible. It's basically a way for the ST to kick the character from the game, so they can stop making everyone at the table feel uncomfortable.
      Last edited by Nyrufa; 06-14-2019, 05:06 PM.


      • #4
        First of all thank you very much for your insight.

        I actually never thought about it, that it might feel good to give in to the beast. I always thought it would be more than uncomfortable, because you give control of your body to an unpredictable entity. But I guess it is describable as some kind of drug-induced rush or delirium?

        Furthermore thank you for you description of Paths and Roads, Nyrufa. I guess I will have to see how this plays out in our Chronicle as for the System of Humanity I always wondered how so many Kindred can susatain their humanity for a long time, given how cutthroat Kindred society is and how much it forces the characters to act against their convictions just to survive the night. Unless you become a total shut-in and stay low, maybe.

        To be honest, my set of questions was partly inspired by one of my players telling me, that he is very fond of the Concept of "Amaranth/Diablerie" and this had me a bit worried. It is of course very tempting, when the opportunity arises but it is of course on of the fastest ways to succumbing to the beast. While of course "officially" outlawed there is of course always the opportunity. Of course I won't prohibit it, but I wanted to at least make my players aware of the price they pay, apart from them being preety much toast, depending on who finds out.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Spacedigger View Post

          Furthermore thank you for you description of Paths and Roads, Nyrufa. I guess I will have to see how this plays out in our Chronicle as for the System of Humanity I always wondered how so many Kindred can susatain their humanity for a long time, given how cutthroat Kindred society is and how much it forces the characters to act against their convictions just to survive the night. Unless you become a total shut-in and stay low, maybe.
          Yeah, even the rule books themselves make a point that the loss of humanity is inevitable for all but the most pious, saint-like kindred in the world. If you retain a high level of humanity after a century or two, then you're probably trying to obtain Golconda.

          For everybody else, however, the Path of Humanity is something for vampires who are still young and naive enough to remember what being human felt like. But as they get older, and experience more and more of existence as a kindred, it takes a toll on their mind and soul. They start to degenerate, and eventually the Path of Humanity becomes a lost cause. They need a new perspective, if they wish to retain their sanity, and that is when they begin looking into the idea of alternate Paths / Roads.
          Last edited by Nyrufa; 06-06-2019, 08:59 AM.


          • #6
            I find it useful to keep in mind that the Beast is the "natural state" of a vampire. Another way to put it is, vampire can either be morally good or physically content, but never both. It's easy to let the beast take control and easy to justify it at first, after all the beast isn't really you... right? Therein lies the most horrifying thing about the beast, because it is you. As their humanity starts to lower, have the beast start making sense. "You were just defending yourself, it's fine", "They deserved it", "The ends justify the means", "It's kill or be killed.", "The world is hard, but I'll keep you safe... oh so safe. Just let me do it for you. I want to help.". These are all things the beast says, if you choose to give it a voice, and certainly things that it puts in the character's mind. Then once they have gone down that road, let them look back and see how far they have fallen.

            It's also useful to give the beast an actual mechanical advantage, nothing too much but just to tell the players "Hey, it'd be really useful to have a frenzy right now. All those soldiers in armor are practically hotdogs in tinfoil to the beast.". I usually do this by allowing a character in frenzy to have unlimited access to their disciplines and an additional die to physical stats. If you put them in difficult situations it's only a matter of time before they start to consider if the beast may be useful.

            When it comes to the roads emphasize that these are not "good", that they are just a way of holding off or placating the beast and that none of them are worth it. All of them are a losing battle.

            The road of heaven means that you have decided to follow the will of God (or what you think is the will of God) in hopes that it keeps the beast away. People can do horrible things in the name of their God. In the dark ages the notion of religious tolerance was not as it is today and vampires on the road of heaven are either self hating and penetrant to the point of self destruction or zealous to the point of being terrifying. They are unyielding and their philosophy compels them to not be, otherwise the beast might slip it's leash. When it does, you may even wonder if the horrible things you did in the name of God were worth it if it didn't save you or if your sin is too great, and then the road starts to fail.

            The road of kings means you are beholden to your oath, and boy oh boy is that a bad idea in a world of vampires. You swear an oath of loyalty to your prince? Have the prince tell you to do something bad or dangerous. You must follow it, or you'll fall down the path. If you fall down the path that means there is less and less room between you and the beast, but if you commit the horrible act you agreed to commit the beast may still be happy with you. Wouldn't it be easier to cut the middle man and just... let the beast be your boss?

            The road of the beast means you have decided to give the beast some of what it asks for, but it will always want more. It will always try to take you further, to isolate you from the world like an abuser until you're just the monster in the woods. People start to tell stories about you, the monster in the woods the horror that eats innocent people. The worst part is, some nights you don't know if those stories are true or not, days are missing from your memory and the beast purrs in your chest anytime someone mentions them.

            The road of sin means you are beholden to your darker desires. This is very similar to the road of the beast, but more "civilized" in the sense that it allows for city life. But the idea is the same. You are a monster prone to dark passions, compelled to passions, it's the only way to keep the beast down, but is it worth it? Haven't you sacrificed so much to the beast already? Why bother with the charade of being something other than a monster?