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  • Reworking Touchstones

    Branching off the Vienna thread, since this is definitely off-topic for that now…

    One of the big changes that Requiem 2e made, setting it apart from both Requiem 1e and V20, was redefining Humanity. Requiem 1e (and V20) Humanity measured how humane/moral a character is, while Requiem 2e Humanity measures how human they are. "Seeing a new culture that didn't exist when you were alive", for example, is a breaking point (potential Humanity drop) for a Requiem 2e elder, because it reinforces how much the world is changing around them; "theft" generally isn't, no matter how human you are, because stealing is a perfectly human thing to do. (You may or may not consider it moral, but it doesn't change your human-Beast ratio the way draining someone to death does.)

    Requiem touchstones, then are things that remind you what it means to be human. And they can be anything: living, breathing humans are the most obvious (since they remind you of humanity by their very existence), but animals, buildings, objects, locations, institutions, and so on can also remind you of your human days. Mechanically, they make it easier to retain your humanity as long as you keep them safe, can talk you down from frenzy, and can heal your willpower through meaningful interactions. On the flipside, losing a touchstone is bad, and depending on your rolls it can burn away even more of your Humanity or send you into torpor.

    As far as V5 Humanity, though…I'm not entirely certain what it's meant to represent. It seems to be some combination of morality and resistance to the Beast, where morality is somewhat more individual (defined by Convictions), and resistance to the Beast is based on the genre of the story (defined by Tenets). Touchstones reinforce the morality aspect, rather than the Beast-resistance or human-ness, by strengthening your Convictions. And they always have to specifically be living, unaltered humans.

    And…honestly, I'm not really sure why on these last few points. Why does your personal morality have to be defined by living, unaltered humans? I like the idea of touchstones in the Requiem sense, and I like how they reward characters for caring about things (because it's much more fun to build plots for characters who care about things than edgy loners with no attachments whatsoever). But in V5, I've generally just run with Requiem touchstone rules, because they make more sense to me.

    So, two questions. One, does anyone have a specific reason why they like the V5 touchstone rules as opposed to the Requiem ones? And two, what would you change about either system to make them fit better with the themes of Masquerade as opposed to the themes of Requiem?

  • #2
    I think one of the missed opportunities (so far) with V5 is not adapting the Touchstone concept to Paths/Roads to keep VtM's idea of vampires fighting off the Beast by following a code of conduct/ethics/morals rather than the only way to fend off the Beast being by being as human as possible.

    Touchstones actually have a lot of variations in the CofD games, as different games have different focuses for their equivalent to Humanity. Vampires can amass quite a few Touchstones in Requiem, while werewolves only get two. As well a werewolf's Touchstones are in opposition to each other to represent that Harmony is a balancing act. A werewolf's physical Touchstone helps keep them grounded to their human half, but also risks pushing them out of Harmony and imbalance towards the flesh. Likewise a werewolf's spiritual Touchstone goes in the opposite direction.

    If you wanted to keep the idea of VtM needing moral codes to fend off the Beast, but they can be extremely inhuman ones, then rather than defining Paths with a custom set of Sins (including Humanity) you define a Path by what Touchstones do for that way of thinking. I'd still dump the 1:1 Touchstone to Conviction concept, but this creates a more organic link of how Touchstones help you resist Stains based on what a Touchstone represents.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Draconis View Post
      And…honestly, I'm not really sure why on these last few points. Why does your personal morality have to be defined by living, unaltered humans? I like the idea of touchstones in the Requiem sense, and I like how they reward characters for caring about things (because it's much more fun to build plots for characters who care about things than edgy loners with no attachments whatsoever). But in V5, I've generally just run with Requiem touchstone rules, because they make more sense to me.
      In simple terms, because it represents the element of DRACULA and most other vampire fiction that has been largely absent from V:TM up until now, which is specifically the idea that vampires can and do become pathologically obsessed with certain mortals.

      * Dracula and Mina
      * Edward and Bella
      * Angel and Buffy (or Spike and Buffy)
      * Nick Knight and Natty
      * Alucard and Integra (and Father Anderson to an extent)
      * Julian Luna and Caitlin (yes, I did Kindred: The Embraced, I'm not sure if that's worse than Twilight)

      Like the Hellsing song "Shine" the lyrics:



      I never really feel quite right and I don't know why, all I know is something's wrong

      Every time I look at you, you seem so alive

      Tell me how you do it, walk me through it, I'll follow in every footstep


      Touchstones are a reminder that vampires are people who walk around humans and are NOT human, therefore they may need to observe (read: stalk) certain humans. They need people who remind them that humans need food, sex, love, attention, changing fashion trends, and other links that make you want to be human. They are reminders of the sunlight, what it is like to feel affection for another, and life without the Beast or Hunger.

      It's the idea that a vampire just by having a human being they have some connection to, even if it's only staying in the shadows and walking behind them with Obfuscate, that you are able to keep a piece of you from the Beast that would not normally be there.

      And it's a great opportunity to roleplay this as your chaarcter, if they DO involve themselves in their lives, will slowly ruin them.


      Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
        In simple terms, because it represents the element of DRACULA and most other vampire fiction that has been largely absent from V:TM up until now, which is specifically the idea that vampires can and do become pathologically obsessed with certain mortals.
        Problems with this include:

        1) This has always been possible in VtM, it's just never been forced on all characters until now.

        2) This is only part of a very select part of vampire fiction.

        3) And V5's execution of Touchstones has nothing to do with this. V5 Touchstones are people that embody a Conviction for your character. You can have completely healthy relationships with them, baring the ST fiat to the contrary.

        Touchstones are a reminder that vampires are people who walk around humans and are NOT human, therefore they may need to observe (read: stalk) certain humans.
        Again, this doesn't really come out in the mechanics of them in V5. Touchstones mitigate Stains for existing, you don't have to obsess or stalk them for this. Avoiding you losing Humanity doesn't make sense if they're there to remind vampires that they aren't human.

        As well, it doesn't address the implementation of Touchstones with Convictions.

        And it's a great opportunity to roleplay this as your chaarcter, if they DO involve themselves in their lives, will slowly ruin them.
        Where does V5 at all get to "slowly ruin them," as part of Touchstones?

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        • #5
          V5 touchstones are a big failed design , the edition talks about customizable humanity but the mechanic is highly restrictive.

          You can´t have non human touchstones , your ideals being restricted to humans representing them is a nonsense , not to mention that the overload of extra characters means that the mechanic is unplayable and leads to plot derailment.

          In the end people end ignoring it as discused in this post
          http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...i-dislike-them

          On the other hand let´s talk about an example of humanity as a well written mechanic in Requiem 2ED , there humanity was more interesting becuase it measured not only how inhuman you where but it also had very measurable effects becuase the severity of the clans curses and weakness like sunlight and other banes is defined by how low is your humanity or affect directly the mechanic so losing one point in humanity is something you care more without the drawback being too huge.

          In the touchstone departament Requiem did something wonderful that is allowing non human touchstones and not forcing the players to pick a fuck ton of them , morality was also separated from touchstones so you had a huge amount of freedom that allowed you to play however you wanted a nuclear thing in a TTRPG.

          Also Degenerating altought having now consecuences was more difficult , wich means that humanity is now playable something that doesn´t happen in masquerade and also the rolls make more sense , a minor sin like stealing has like 4/3 dices wich each of them representing a change to not degenerate and touchstones interacted with the mechanic adding dice so the more connected you are to humans the more dificult is for you to degenerate acting the mechanic like a merit and this makes tons of sense becuase the degeneration is gritty process that happens over time not in a sort span of action.

          And lastly let´s talk about banes , imagine that you don´t want to play by the rules , well requiem game designers know that people usually ignore humanity so they allowed the players to ignore parts of the mechanic for a price , picking an extra supernatural weakness in exchange of an act no longer making them degenerate but on the other hand they also loss another dice in future degeneration rolls , this is uber interesting becuase it creates tons of plot twist and plot hooks that can make X uber powerful elder defeatable wich cleverness if you take some prep time to discover his banes and use them against him , maybe he suffers agravated from silver and a group of ghouls armed with it can end his unlife or maybe he is weakened by religious symbols and his dice pool is limited by his humanity against those who wear them.

          That modular nature that allows you to play however you want is how you make a game instead of just forcing your prefered gamestyle upon your players to protect them from having fun becuase that is what V5 is designed to do and it only makes me yawn in apathy


          Hunger pool

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          • #6
            I find that one sentence is usually enough to define a Touchstone as you don't need to figure out their Celerity score.

            "Dave Johnson - my old army buddy."

            "Wendy Parker - A waitress who reminds me of my dead wife."

            "Linda Cho - The daughter of two victims."


            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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            • #7
              The problem is... what makes those Touchstones instead of NPCs your character knows?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                The problem is... what makes those Touchstones instead of NPCs your character knows?
                The only thing about them is that the ST knows they're important to your character.

                The books beat over how toxic and unhealthy vampire relationships are.

                So it'll end badly.

                But it is important to the PC in some way that affects their humanity.


                Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                  The only thing about them is that the ST knows they're important to your character.
                  That's not how Touchstones work. They're not just people important to your character. They're what connects your character to their Convictions.

                  The books beat over how toxic and unhealthy vampire relationships are.
                  And then does absolutely nothing to actually make that happen in game. No rule in the book enforces this. V5 loves to say this is the case, but, yet again, the only thing that can enforce it is ST fiat.

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                  • #10
                    V5 wanted to make humans important, and there's nothing wrong with that. More so, I don't think anyone really criticized having important people help to contain the Beast.

                    The problem of V5 Touchstones that always, *always*, comes up it's the intermediary: Convictions.

                    It's odd to have your personal moral code to depend on (unhealthy?) relationships.

                    Hence I would propose to decouple Touchstones and Convictions. This will require to give Touchstones another way to relate to Humanity in a positive way (the negative way isn't entirely lost because you don't need Convictions to gain Taints. Which, btw, shows how weak it's the connection between these mechanics in the first place)
                    To represent Paths I think that these things need to be taken in count:

                    *Many Paths are *inhuman* and revel on it. The *effects* of high humanity in V5 are very human (things like eating and having sex). So, Paths (at least some of them) would need to be worked in a way that those "bonuses" don't ruin the experience. Either they allow to live while clinging to a very low humanity or they change what you get at high Humanity levels

                    *Inhuman Touchstones make a lot of sense for a lot of Paths.

                    *Paths are inherently varied. Two Paths can have contradictory ethics. Hence you *can't* represent Paths if you have to adhere to a universal chronicle moral as per the Tenets (even if you have inhuman Tenets, these are bound to be easier to follow by some Paths than by others). The Path System (whatever shape it takes) needs to be strong enough to "make up" for the fact that you're going to break Tenets a lot
                    Last edited by Aleph; 09-02-2019, 09:49 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                      That's not how Touchstones work. They're not just people important to your character. They're what connects your character to their Convictions.
                      That's a bit overstating things as while true, any relationship can reinforce your conviction.


                      Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                        In simple terms, because it represents the element of DRACULA

                        We get it, you want to play Dracula (presumably sanitised of all the "evil eastern europeans coming to rape our virtuous English womanfolk" subtext), which is apparently Holy Writ of vampire folklore, never to be deviated from.

                        So what about those of us who don't want to play Dracula? What about those of us who want to play, just to stay with the same source material, Count Orlok? Or those of us who want to play "detached 50+ years of unlife vampire".

                        Do we wait for another supplement? Do we go back to V20? Do we grit our teeth, find an accomodating ST, and rip off V:R2 or Wraith (Touchstones remind me of Fetters), and go against the grain of how the game is supposed to be played (as per authorial intent, fluff, and mechanics)?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Herbert_West View Post
                          We get it, you want to play Dracula (presumably sanitised of all the "evil eastern europeans coming to rape our virtuous English womanfolk" subtext), which is apparently Holy Writ of vampire folklore, never to be deviated from.

                          So what about those of us who don't want to play Dracula? What about those of us who want to play, just to stay with the same source material, Count Orlok? Or those of us who want to play "detached 50+ years of unlife vampire".

                          Do we wait for another supplement? Do we go back to V20? Do we grit our teeth, find an accomodating ST, and rip off V:R2 or Wraith (Touchstones remind me of Fetters), and go against the grain of how the game is supposed to be played (as per authorial intent, fluff, and mechanics)?
                          Orlock is MORE obsessed with Mina in that, presumably because she's more human than him.

                          But the thing about Touchstones is if you don't want one, don't make one.

                          And before you argue, BUT THE RULES SAY I HAVE TO.

                          I point out the rules are also about saying humanity is important but I've had many players take CIA assassins, mob hitmen, and even a Malkavian serial killer.

                          Your concept should determine it but that just means that this is there as a benefit to those who do want to play the classically tortured vampire who wants to be close to human but can never be,



                          Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                            Hence I would propose to decouple Touchstones and Convictions. This will require to give Touchstones another way to relate to Humanity in a positive way (the negative way isn't entirely lost because you don't need Convictions to gain Taints. Which, btw, shows how weak it's the connection between these mechanics in the first place)
                            Agreed. I do like the way Requiem does it, where Touchstones are attached to your Humanity track and help with your breaking points, but don't directly define your code of ethics.

                            For some characters it makes a lot of sense to tie Convictions to living humans, but given the way that V5 humanity works (it's not about being human but about being moral) it seems weird to derive all morality from contact with humans.

                            Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                            To represent Paths I think that these things need to be taken in count:

                            *Many Paths are *inhuman* and revel on it. The *effects* of high humanity in V5 are very human (things like eating and having sex). So, Paths (at least some of them) would need to be worked in a way that those "bonuses" don't ruin the experience. Either they allow to live while clinging to a very low humanity or they change what you get at high Humanity levels

                            *Inhuman Touchstones make a lot of sense for a lot of Paths.

                            *Paths are inherently varied. Two Paths can have contradictory ethics. Hence you *can't* represent Paths if you have to adhere to a universal chronicle moral as per the Tenets (even if you have inhuman Tenets, these are bound to be easier to follow by some Paths than by others). The Path System (whatever shape it takes) needs to be strong enough to "make up" for the fact that you're going to break Tenets a lot
                            And we're back to the Paths system. I'll be honest…I've always hated Paths, because when I see them in play, they've usually been an excuse to be a murderhobo (see the "Path of Whatever I Was Going To Do Anyway"). To me, the Beast is kind of central to the themes of Vampire, so saying "yeah I never have to worry about that because I only lose humanity for not eating people's souls!" flies in the face of that.

                            Personally, I would fix this part the same way Requiem did:
                            • Humanity is about being human, not about being moral/ethical. A street thief who breaks the law every night can be more human than a Golconda-seeking recluse who avoids any contact with people.
                            • People who don't want to be human can stabilize at a lower Humanity level without much difficulty: they have a harder time e.g. interacting socially with humans, but if you don't want to be human, why do you care?
                            • Some of the drawbacks of low Humanity can be assuaged by inhuman means. I don't love how Requiem did this (the Banes system), but some way to take on additional vampiric weaknesses (representing the Beast taking over more thoroughly) in exchange for ignoring some low-Humanity drawbacks seems thematically useful.

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                            • #15
                              Honestly, the thing is the Paths ARE about being a murderhobo.

                              If you weren't a murderhobo, you wouldn't need a Path.


                              Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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