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How can vampires get away with so much when auspex exists?

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  • How can vampires get away with so much when auspex exists?

    Even a 13th generation kindered can read minds, astral project, and even use spirits touch, as long as they specialize in auspex. How can anything stay hidden when some malkavian, tremere, or toreador can just astral project and enter their rivals haven and use telepathy to learn all their secrets.

    Plus its untraceable, no ones going to know that you read their mind.

    I'm surprised the clans with auspex haven't used dominate and presence to create an army of loyal followers from the safety of their haven.
    Last edited by Hello; 03-11-2022, 07:30 PM.



  • #2
    [Revised/V20] Well, the real Game Breakers from that perspective are Auspex 4 and Auspex 5. Auspex 4 requires a Willpower to use on another Vamp, and Auspex 5 requires one regardless. That's a pretty big barrier to using them willy nilly. Still, being able to rip your rival's secrets from their trusted Ghoul's head is pretty sick.

    The real question is, why haven't a coterie of Tremere with Auspex 5 and any appreciable level of Lure of Flames captured a couple Sabbat shovelheads, used Blood Walk to track their lineage back to Caine, then gone Astral and roasted them all with Spontaneous Vampire Combustion?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Hades View Post
      [Revised/V20] Well, the real Game Breakers from that perspective are Auspex 4 and Auspex 5. Auspex 4 requires a Willpower to use on another Vamp, and Auspex 5 requires one regardless. That's a pretty big barrier to using them willy nilly. Still, being able to rip your rival's secrets from their trusted Ghoul's head is pretty sick.

      The real question is, why haven't a coterie of Tremere with Auspex 5 and any appreciable level of Lure of Flames captured a couple Sabbat shovelheads, used Blood Walk to track their lineage back to Caine, then gone Astral and roasted them all with Spontaneous Vampire Combustion?

      If they did that, then they would have to change the tone of the game from one of politics, to vampire wizards summoning storms and shooting fireball at each other.


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      • #4
        These aren't automatic powers, they have difficulties attached to them, and frequently require multiple successes.

        As well, characters need a reason to do something. Looking for information you don't know to look for in the first place isn't really functional. You keep secrets by... keeping them secret. If an Auspex user has no idea about something you did, why are they going to try to go looking for information about it?

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        • #5
          There are certain limits when using Auspex that the ST needs to keep in mind.

          First, you often need to roll many successes in order to learn anything truly useful. Usually only having one or two successes won't tell you a whole lot.

          Second, the difficulty can be harder than expected. Spirit's Touch require that the items handled have real emotional connection to the person. The ST should make the DC high if it isn't. Or the difficulty is against the subject's Willpower. The ordinary schlubs of the world may not have much resistance, but anyone who has really valuable information likely has a high Willpower.

          Third, the high level powers often require Willpower expenditure. It's not something a resource you can regain easily. You need to limit your use. And using telepathy on other vampires and supernatural creatures always requires spending of Willpower.

          Fourth, the ST isn't supposed to come out and give the vampire direct information. Telepathy and Spirit's Touch reveals information in a series of visions that the vampire is suppose to put together and understand. For convenience or ease of the game, an ST can easily provide the final result directly to a PC (you realize that the visions mean...), but the ST is doing a favor to the player to expedite the game. What is really suppose to happen is that the vampire needs to interpret those random stream of consciousness pieces of information correctly. The ST has a lot of leeway in terms of what it is the telepathic vampire is picking up. There's no guarantee it'll ever be useful.

          Fifth, there's several things to remember about Astral Projection. It always requires Willpower, restricting its use. Furthermore, changes in destinations, prolonged scenes, etc. always require additional Willpower spends. A single night's attempt at projection can wipe out a lot of Willpower. The projector is not able to interact with the physical world as he is in some sort generic spirit plane. In other words, it can't actually be used to spy on people while the astral body is in the astral plane because you are not seeing the actual physical world. He needs to manifest as a ghostly form into the physical world first. And while the wording in all editions is not clear, I've always interpreted it that the astral projector can't attempt to use telepathy unless he is manifesting. The section on using telepathy or other Auspex is always found in the same paragraph after mentioning the need to manifest before interacting with the physical plane. And of course, once you manifest, the possibility of you being detected increases, especially if the person you are attempting to spy on also has Auspex or is somehow spiritually endowed. Lastly, the character is not alone in the "astral plane". As written, it's some generic combination of all the actual umbras in the game which can give the ST a lot of room for interacting with it. All kinds of mages, lupines, wraiths, spirits, and other bizarre entities could be encountered. While in practice I think most STs simply ignore this point (I've never seen an ST actually bother to have interaction), it should be happening. And not all of these encounters might be neutral or benevolent. They might be annoying or hostile. There's all sorts of possible NPC interactions in the astral plane (although again, this is something I see STs ignoring because the power seems to be rarely used and there's little ST guidance given on this subject.)

          In short, a vampire can't astral project into a rival vampire's haven and simply learn all their secrets using telepathy. That vampire is going to spend multiple Willpower points to even attempt to do it, manifest nearby them, and hope they get enough successes to collect enough stream of consciousness thoughts (what if the vampire is just thinking about how a burger might taste just then?) that it leads to something possibly useful. But probably not - because it's just a random attempt at mind reading at a random point in the night without anything that would cause the vampire to think of actually important secret stuff right then.

          Obviously Auspex should provide real benefits to the characters who have it. But it's not meant to be something that provides all the answers or without drawbacks. It is exhausting on Willpower and usually provides only fleeting information which must be interpreted correctly. In terms of the setting, it's just another way to provide some additional clues. Very useful, but it doesn't provide omniscience. In terms of an ST providing information to PCs, the ST needs to make sure it isn't abused. If it is used sparingly, the ST should err on making it useful to the PC. If the PC seems to be abusing the power, the ST should actually run it as its written and make the player put in a lot more effort figuring things out.

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          • #6
            I think this depiction of astral projection is both wonderfully atmospheric and demonstrates some of the pitfalls of using the power.

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            • #7
              Doctor Sleep is probably a bit more Mage than VtM when it comes to astral projection pitfalls. Keeping to King adaptations, the memory warehouse in Dreamcatcher is also a good example of things, but a bit more one sided as Mr. Gray vs. Jonesy is a lot closer to how little you can "counter-attack" Auspex. But Dreamcatcher does touch on just how much stuff is rattling around in most people's heads,and how memories can be subjective and change overtime. How someone remembers something isn't always exactly how it happened. Jonesy knows he's fighting a losing battle against Mr. Gray, but it's a stall for time in hopes that Mr. Gray can't find the secrets he's looking for as there's a clock ticking in the plot.

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              • #8
                Auspex is broken from another perspective: learning
                The ability to read the mind of mortals allow the vampire to learn directly in their mind how work a car like they was watching a youtube video with all the experience of the target.

                More: by reading in the mind of a Vampire he could learn to use new Disciplines, a Tremere could learn the Vicissitude secrets by reading the mind of a Tzimisce prisoner before killing him to avoid blood bond.

                Of course it would require many success but not all vampires have 8 Willpower or more, and they could break the will of a prisoner through torture, poisons or drugs to reduce it's resistance

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cain Loup-Noir View Post
                  Auspex is broken from another perspective: learning
                  The ability to read the mind of mortals allow the vampire to learn directly in their mind how work a car like they was watching a youtube video with all the experience of the target.

                  More: by reading in the mind of a Vampire he could learn to use new Disciplines, a Tremere could learn the Vicissitude secrets by reading the mind of a Tzimisce prisoner before killing him to avoid blood bond.

                  Of course it would require many success but not all vampires have 8 Willpower or more, and they could break the will of a prisoner through torture, poisons or drugs to reduce it's resistance

                  I always thought that this could be possible, and made me question why vampires didn't just capture one tremere and learn, all the secrets they knew on blood sorcery.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cain Loup-Noir View Post
                    Auspex is broken from another perspective: learning
                    The ability to read the mind of mortals allow the vampire to learn directly in their mind how work a car like they was watching a youtube video with all the experience of the target.

                    More: by reading in the mind of a Vampire he could learn to use new Disciplines, a Tremere could learn the Vicissitude secrets by reading the mind of a Tzimisce prisoner before killing him to avoid blood bond.

                    Of course it would require many success but not all vampires have 8 Willpower or more, and they could break the will of a prisoner through torture, poisons or drugs to reduce it's resistance

                    This kind of breaks the game completely.

                    If you think about it, ALL knowledge skills are things that anyone with some kind of memory reading(be it Auspex, gifts or the mind sphere) can learn instantly.

                    Heck, reading a few books or a youtube How-To tutorial can get someone the equivalent of 2 dots(I.E. a functional understanding) in any knowledges. That's literally how it works IRL. That's before you get into things like the years of public schooling, the impact of the internet on rapid learning, and other things of that nature.

                    WOD is just kind of bad at simulating what people should realistically know because that's kind of necessary for the game to remain challenging. If the WOD splats actually had to content against IRL people rather than the dumbed-down versions they're used to, they'd get exposed and then promptly curb-stomped to extinction in a decade.

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                    • #11
                      Using Auspex to learn seems a stretch at best, and inefficient even if you allow it. Each success gets you one piece of information. You'd have to net hundreds of successes to justify Drive 1 or 2. Even more so because you get the information in dream logic, not YouTube videos.

                      Even if you can learn something about Disciplines, in at least V20 you have to drink blood from your teacher to learn the first dot. You can't just Auspex-steal Disciplines like that. There's also the addition WP cost, and the additional success cost as more secretive information requires more successes to get (and you're still getting one bit of information at a time).

                      The Ability ratings are a bit screwed up, but mostly because they weren't that screwed up in '91, but things have changed in 31 years.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hello View Post
                        Even a 13th generation kindered can read minds, astral project, and even use spirits touch, as long as they specialize in auspex. How can anything stay hidden when some malkavian, tremere, or toreador can just astral project and enter their rivals haven and use telepathy to learn all their secrets.

                        Plus its untraceable, no ones going to know that you read their mind.

                        I'm surprised the clans with auspex haven't used dominate and presence to create an army of loyal followers from the safety of their haven.
                        There are several factors why this doesn't really play out the way it should seem to.

                        1. Vampiric Population
                        By canon there are not a lot of vampires in any given city at any given time, except for plot point extreme scenarios. If there are half a dozen vampires in a city and one scans another to find out their personal fetishes or embarrassing memories, it really won't matter to the other four vampires.

                        2. Inconsistent Focus
                        The clans/bloodlines who have auspex as a default tend to have very different goals and structures. The Malks are crazy and disunited, the Toreadors tend to be more focused on their spheres of interest than greater goals, the Tzimisce are generally educated & strategic but are bogged down by being tied to their homelands in concept as much as in mechanics, and finally the Tremere would be the only example of a clan that has a united power structure and strong leadership that could make use of Auspex recon except the writers can't seem to stop messing the clan. If anything Auspex is a good reason why the Tremere survived as long as they did.

                        3. People aren't Creative
                        Despite the vast number of mechanics in V:tM that would allow a vampire to fight and destroy their foes at a distance, without the need for personal combat, most STs construct storylines that requires in person drama and many players have a desire for characters doing things they wouldn't dream of doing IRL, so they make combat characters. So doing things like using auspex recon to completely take apart an enemy organization really don't get used often. This gets very problematic when you have a mismatch between ST and Players, if one thinks this way and the other do not, the game will quickly implode.

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                        • #13
                          Most princes aren't secure enough that they can execute other vampires on the flimsy pretense of "I read his mind, he's guilty" especially as most other vampires are young and can't read minds.


                          Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
                          There's more coming soon. Pay what ya want.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                            Each success gets you one piece of information. You'd have to net hundreds of successes to justify Drive 1 or 2. Even more so because you get the information in dream logic, not YouTube videos.
                            It depends of how big is the information. To learn how to drive, one sucess learn to use the car's pedals, another one to use the gearshift, a few more to learn traffics laws (the ST will fix the amount, let's say 30) and after getting all the success the PC spend his experience to buy the first dot of driving.
                            The final word is to the ST and if he's ok how the PC will do it: using dominate to force a higher generation to teach you his secrets and using Auspex to speed up the learning is pretty easy on a Vampire with low Willpower (or drugged with poisoned blood to reduce his resistance). At the contrary if the PC try to steal his knowledge during a lambda conversation on a low generation Tremere with high willpower, the he has absolutly no chance of learning any important information.

                            As always it all depends on the ST and the interpretation of the player, learning Thaumaturgy that way could be the objective of an entire scenario or at least many session of game to find a good target, approch him, take him down and only then trying to steal his knowledge

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cain Loup-Noir View Post
                              It depends of how big is the information.
                              No it doesn't. The book says one piece of information per success. More complicated or "big" information costs more successes. This is also important considering how Auspex treats the mind as "layered" and deeper layers cost more successes. Trying to learn to drive from someone not actively thinking about driving costs you even more successes.

                              When, exactly, does this get easier than just using Dominate or Presence to get a mortal to teach you to drive the normal way, but at night?

                              To learn how to drive, one sucess learn to use the car's pedals, another one to use the gearshift, a few more to learn traffics laws (the ST will fix the amount, let's say 30) and after getting all the success the PC spend his experience to buy the first dot of driving.
                              Right. So netting 30 successes (which I think is low for how the book phrases things) just to learn Drive 1 (and still spending the normal XP on it!) using the 4th dot in a Discipline. Why bother?

                              using dominate to force a higher generation to teach you his secrets and using Auspex to speed up the learning is pretty easy on a Vampire with low Willpower (or drugged with poisoned blood to reduce his resistance).
                              I'm pretty sure that Auspex is irrelevant compared to the Dominate and blood-drugging going on in this scenario. If you're already using Dominate to compel a vampire to teach you a Discipline, what do you need Auspex for? Maybe Auspex 1 to make sure your commands are working and they're not trying to play along and trick you, but what does Telepathy add to any of this?

                              If people are worried that Auspex is too strong, using "ST interpretation," taken to wild extremes of what the Discipline is stated to be capable of seems strange to me. And no amount of Auspex is going to get past having to get one step blood bound to your "teacher" for a Discipline.

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