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  • Questions about Boon System

    Hi there, people!

    I’ve been reading about the concept of boons and some issues came to mind instantly.

    Having someone to “track down who owes what to whom” wouldnt be problematic for vampires and their secret schemes? Wouldnt that let them exposed many times?

    I mean:

    If Kindred A owes something to Kindred B and the boon system is about other people knowing, be it harpies or the whole vampire community, so Kindred A feels compelled to pay the boon to keep the system running smoothly, it would be stupid if these people – harpies, community – didnt know the reason behind such debt. What if Kindred B helped A to kill another vampire or ruin another vampires reputation? Who keeps track of those SECRET boons?

    I dont think the system is like “oh yeah, he owes her something…we dont know what or why, but he better pays her off or he’ll suffer our scorn”. That sounds pretty stupid, but I dont know if I understand the system the right way.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    The Boon system is a matter of practicality rather than absolutes among the undead. In general, vampires are untrustworthy pieces of shit, particularly Elders but if everyone betrayed everyone else then they couldn't get anything done whatsoever. So, the boon system exists so you know you can trust SOMETHING in vampire society and repay debts as well as expect debts to be repaid for you.

    Does it work 100%? Probably not, probably no better than feudalism and its systems of oaths and fealty.

    Which worked like shit.

    However, I expect most vampires honor the system because of the following reasons:

    * You never know when you're going to need a favor from a Neonate, their friends, or their friends' friends sires.

    * You never know when today's Neonate is tomorrow's Elder.

    * Nosferatu, Malkavians, and Toreador know EVERYTHING so if you betray someone and don't kill them. They WILL find out. Also killing them just means you have a bigger problem.

    * Most Elders like to think they have some sense of honor.

    * Reputation is EVERYTHING among the undead.

    * While betraying a Neonate you owe a boon is a good idea, it means you have no honor to an Elder who might want to do business with you.

    * Repaying a debt isn't exactly a DIFFICULT thing for most Elders. This is like asking, "Why pay for anything versus just steal it?"

    At the end of the day, the Boon system works the same way the Traditions work.

    It's just easier for everyone to obey it and works better in the long run.

    Example 1#: The PCs save Beckett from a bunch of Society of Leopold Witch Hunters who have him staked. Beckett remembers this but the PCs never share it around the world. Beckett could just deny the incident ever happened but it would be suspicious even if it was their word versus his. Beckett, also, has a sense of honor so when the PCs ask Beckett's help fighting in a battle against the Chicago Sabbat Siege, Beckett agrees because it means that they know he can trust them and vice versa. It also means other Kindred know Beckett is a man of his word and can be trusted to deal fairly, increasing HIS status among the Kindred.

    Example 2#: The PCs recover a book for Sasha Vykos which is a Book of Tremere Thaumaturgy. Sascha Vykos could betray them when he gets the book and his Sect would approve (they're Camarilla NPCS and thus meat). However, by just paying them, that means they know HE can be trusted to honor his deals and if he offers them another mission then they'll be more likely to do it again.

    Example 3#: The PCs save Marcus Vitel's childe in a public and dramatic manner. Marcus Vitel is disgusted by the idea he owes a bunch of Neonates for his childe's life and orders them killed by sending his Hounds after them. The PCs survive but lose some of their number. They tell the local Toreador who spreads it far and wide that Marcus Vitel kills those who do him favors. As such, everyone refuses to do business with Marcus because he couldn't be trusted to just pony up some cash and points in Herd for his allies.

    Example 4#: Hesha owes the PCs a boon for helping him against some Sabbat goons. The PCs need his help hiding from the Prince and he hides them for a few days in one of his spare haven before they flee the city. When the Prince, FURIOUS, over this confronts Hesha, he can honestly answer, "I owed them a debt of honor I had to fulfill." That, in Kindred society, won't make him happy but will probably protect him from retaliation.
    Last edited by CTPhipps; 07-17-2016, 01:15 PM.

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    • #3
      @CTP while you're correct it was not really on topic.

      @OP

      I also regard "the harpyie keeps track of all the boons" kind of stupid. In my chronicle it's more a thing that if you don't pay your boon back and the public finds out the harpyies will destroy you and nobody will trust you for the next century, unless you can provide evidence that paying the debt would have had serious consequences against the safety of all vampires in the city etc. This can even bring princes down, because how can you have a leader who goes against sacred tradition. So there is still a possibility of not paying, but consequences can be dire without someone who would need to keep track of boons and debts.
      Last edited by Meldok; 07-17-2016, 07:28 PM.

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      • #4
        Boons are like money to Kindred, since actual money isn't that hard for vampires to get their hands on. What it really is is formal way of saying "My word is good". Someone with boons owed to and from a handful of vampires is saying that they're responsible and trustworthy, and they're not going to try and skip out of a deal because that would ruin their reputation (and when you might be living forever, your reputation is IMPORANT). Any Cam vamp that engages in the most cursory amount of politics is gonna have a cloud of trivial boons floating around them from doing minor favors for other vampires, which gives them enough legitimacy to be taken seriously by everyone else.

        They don't share details of why boons are exchanged, though sometimes they do just to show off to others. What you do do is tell the harpy because they're the social hubs of civilized vampire society. It's the simplest way to get out to anyone that you'd want to know you are trustworthy that you are trustworthy.


        When one is accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.

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        • #5
          I really liked the way boons where portrayed in the film John Wick where coins represented favors umong the criminal class. In transylvania chronicles Sasha offers the players a boon and gives them a token to symbolize the debt incurred. Sasha could have called out someone who refused to honor his token his token and I assume word would get out fast about someone refusing to honor tokens in John Wick.

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          • #6
            I really liked the way boons where portrayed in the film John Wick where coins represented favors umong the criminal class. In transylvania chronicles Sasha offers the players a boon and gives them a token to symbolize the debt incurred. Sasha could have called out someone who refused to honor his token his token and I assume word would get out fast about someone refusing to honor tokens in John Wick.

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            • #7
              I just want to touch on
              Originally posted by Argonot View Post
              I dont think the system is like “oh yeah, he owes her something…we dont know what or why, but he better pays her off or he’ll suffer our scorn”. That sounds pretty stupid, but I dont know if I understand the system the right way.
              real quick. Because it's not just "suffering the Harpies scorn," it can lead to complete and total ostracization. If the vampire doesn't follow the rules and conventions of Camarilla society, the Kindred is banished from that society. Other Kindred won't deal with someone who continually breaks a Boon, they won't respect that person, and while the oath-breaker is still tolerated and afforded the protections of the Camarilla, they're very aware that they are a second- (or third-, or fourth-...) class citizen.

              Now you might think, "Yeah, I can understand why a young vampire might not want to get thrown out into the cold on his ass, but why should Elders care?" Elders care because it's a game for them. "Let's see how many stupid neonates I can have under my thumb" is a hobby, like collecting stamps - stamps you can use to mess with that other Elder that dicked with you 400 years ago. "What about just flipping the Camarilla the finger and joining the Anarchs or the Sabbat?" Both have similar social systems, and much more ...violent... ways of redressing the problem.

              Cheers!


              If you don't use an Oxford comma, I feel bad for you, son,
              'Cuz I got ninety-nine problems, but clarity ain't one.

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              • #8
                I really liked the way boons where portrayed in the film John Wick where coins represented favors umong the criminal class. In transylvania chronicles Sasha offers the players a boon and gives them a token to symbolize the debt incurred. Sasha could have called out someone who refused to honor his token his token and I assume word would get out fast about someone refusing to honor tokens in John Wick.

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                • #9
                  In most of the games I've played in the reason for boons owed isn't known, and questions aren't generally asked. If people want to investigate the reason and discover some skulduggery that's a thing that happens, but boon transactions are so commonplace that running down every single one would be a full time job (though not a bad character concept). Especially since boons can be transferred. Participating in the prestation system requires a certain amount of buy-in. You pay your debts, others pay their debts to you, and you don't ask questions. Is this stupid? Depends on whether you need the system or not. Vampires outside the Camarilla are much more informal with their favor trading, and even within the Cam there are those who don't do prestation. Thing is though, sooner or later you'll wish you had.

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                  • #10
                    I think the key is understanding that the Harpies don't know about what everyone owes everyone. However, what they do know (and keep track of) is who is NOT paying up and who has failed to fulfill debts that WERE public. TidyGamer explained it well with the "cloud of trivial boons." Think of it like eBay. You don't buy from a seller that has 3 total transactions in his history and 1 negative review. You probably wouldn't buy from a seller with 100 transactions and 1 negative review if you had any other choices available. You also would avoid a seller with no transactions, or only 20, with no reviews at all....

                    Don't be the Kindred with no transaction history. You need a credit history. If you DON'T get a history, it means that you don't owe anyone else. This means that if you disappear, no one is going to care, because you mean nothing to them.

                    Choose wisely, but get into some public debt to some people fast. The people that you owe now have a vested interest in your continued unlife. Its kind of like Britain in World War 1. Just keep borrowing from the US, borrow everything they will give, because when you owe the bank $100, the bank owns you, but when you owe the bank $100,000,000.00, then you own the bank. The US couldn't let Germany win, because all the loans to Britain would not have been repaid.

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                    • #11
                      Also, boons are a potential connection to vampires outside your circle of acquaintances if you find you need to get in contact with them for one reason or another. You can speak with a harpy and find out who's connected to them and either offer them a trivial boon in exchange for an introduction or you can try to pull in a boon owed to you for an introduction. Either way you're showing the person you're trying to get in contact with that you take them and their time seriously. It's a different, more respectful place to start your interaction than just showing up and introducing yourself. It shows that you're willing to spend earned capital (and that you have capital to spend in the first place) or you are willing to go into debt (even if it's super minor debt) in order to speak with them.

                      That's super handy in a society of predators that don't extend trust lightly.


                      When one is accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.

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                      • #12
                        Guys: this has been extremely useful. Thanks a lot for your time and insight.

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                        • #13
                          Yes I also appreciate all the answers here. It's made me understand prestation much better. I feel more confident that I'll be able to portray kindred politics better in my upcoming game.

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                          • #14
                            Another point about boons is that they foster semi-goodwill between kindred before they meet. Take for instance, if someone who has nothing to do with you and your enemies overhears your enemies plotting against you. Without some kind of pay off, they probably wouldn't have said anything, but they can drop you a warning in exchange for a trivial or minor boon. You thank them, record the boon with the harpy without telling the domain what caused the boon to form and then you counter your enemy's plans with the forewarning. Eventually the person who gave you the warning calls in their debt and you pay it off, everyone is satisfied and now they're gonna be keeping an eye out for a chance to do it again because they got something useful out of comparatively little cost. And even though you kept the details quiet, you can assume the Nosferatu know. So if someone wants fairly cheap info on you and how to get into your good graces, the Nosferatu can tell them that you pay boons for information on threats. Then you've got multiple people out there looking for info that you might find useful in the hopes they can trade it to you for a boon.

                            The great strength of a Cam Domain is that the vampires are generally very well entrenched collectively, very little is out of reach for the citizens of the domain. It just costs Boons to make it happen. Toreador wants good reviews on that play she's been funding (or bad reviews for a rival)? Somewhere there's a Ventrue who has the necessary Media influence. The fancy restaurant you launder your money through is loosing customers due to another new business opening? A Malkavian has the Medical influence to shut it down over a health code violation. Thugs mugged someone in your territory? A Brujah can get their names and addresses through Street influence. You accidentally killed someone you were feeding on? Nosferatu can get access to the records on his dependents and family so you can be sure they're taken care of. Boons are the oil in the machinery that makes the night to night existence of Kindred run smoothly.


                            When one is accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              So is it better to owe boons to others and have others hold boons on you for years at a time, letting them sit tight as a way of maintaining a stake in the prestation economy? Or are you better off acquiring and discharging boons with quick turnover in order to establish an easily discerned pattern of trustworthiness? In other words, which matters more: the absolute value of a vampire's boons at any given time, or the total market volume of transactions?

                              I get that if a vampire owes a great number of boons the community has a reason to keep him around, he is, in a sense a walking bank account, but are there diminishing returns on very high boon wealth? Can a vampire hold so many life boons against so many other vampires in the community that, really, the whole domain would be better off if he just quietly disappeared one night? Could being too boon rich be dangerous?

                              I ran a chronicle set in New York where all the PCs were Setites, and the Ventrue Prince established a sort of central bank for boons. If Vampire A wanted a favor from Vampire B, it had to be brokered through the Prince, or more precisely a Board of Harpies (composed not of gossiping socialites, but economists, lawyers and commodities brokers) in the employ of the Prince. Vampire A would ask the board to ask Vampire B to perform the task. A owed the boon to the Board, and B was owed a boon by the board.

                              The board existed because no one was willing to enter into a personal debt relationship given the appalling turnover rate among Manhattan's Camarilla population, and because with the huge vampiric population involved, it was impractical to run an economy without some central authority tracking it all.

                              It also was an important security measure to prevent unwitting betrayal of the Camarilla to the Sabbat, who surrounded them completely. Anyone not officially a supporter of the Camarilla, or who managed to make their havens outside Manhattan proper, or who were new to the city (either by embrace or relocation) required the personal approval of the Prince before they could enter into any debt relationships with the Board. Debts between Camarilla and Sabbat were strictly forbidden, in theory. In practice, trustworthy Sabbat elders could do business with Camarilla vampires through neutral clan go-betweens, like the PCs, which allowed for the occasional trading of territory or POW's. But, the rule meant that debts were forfeit if a Camarilla or Independent vampire was ruled to have aided the Sabbat substantatively.

                              All new residents in Manhattan were required to forfeit all personal debts owed, whether incoming or outgoing, to the Board on arrival. No new individual debts were allowed to be incurred. This gave the Board a vast library of personal debts around the globe with which to finance the war effort. Some vampires came to the city just to escape particularly abusive creditors, which sometimes led to a negative "balance of trade" the Board would quickly pay off. The prince funded the Board with embracing rights. This kept a constant flow of would-be sires flocking to the city for embracing rights that came easily, but expensively. Once they embraced some beloved mortal, both sire and childe found themselves in a state of debt peonage, most efficiently paid off by military service.

                              This system also made my bookkeeping as ST soooo much easier than the usual web of debts in a VtM game. A cloud of trivial boons sounds like a small thing, but those trivial boons add up. Tracking them for dozens of NPCs is a daunting task. Really, every character just had a positive or negative balance of debts in regard to the Board and that was it. I created a new Background to represent this. Easy peasy.

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