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Compact Endowments - Design Ideas and Examples

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  • Compact Endowments - Design Ideas and Examples

    I have been reading a lot of homebrew stuff, especially the works of LostLight. But one thing I've noticed in a lot (not all, but a lot) of the homebrew Hunter stuff is that the Compact Endowments are often supernatural in nature in a noticeable way. I still love a lot of what I've seen, and a lot of the effects I've seen are cool ideas, but that feels like it goes against the ethos of the Compact Endowments from Compacts and Conspiracies. Rather than just complain at those things, though, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at something that feels more in line. But, to avoid going off in the wrong direction, I decided to develop my own design guidelines for these effects.

    To me, a compact endowment should not be overtly supernatural. It may resemble a supernatural effect or hint at a supernatural nature (see The Prayer), or have a mechanical effect that could be achieved through a limited variation of a supernatural effect (the Network Zero “private feed” endowment is a mundane version of a limited scrying window, if you think about it, but through a mundane medium) and thus take some inspiration from a supernatural merit or ability, but it should never be obviously supernatural in nature. It also may play off of some ties to the supernatural (Bacchanal allows social bonuses to supernatural interactions; Unearthed Secrets gives you free “secrets” about what is usually a supernatural entity or phenomenon), but shouldn’t give the PC direct control over a supernatural effect or only be explainable as a magical or supernatural effect (the Prayer is a good example - it could represent inspiration from a higher power, bu it could just as easily be self-induced inspiration drawn from praying, much as meditation can have mundane benefits). Some merits from supernatural groups (especially Secrets of the Covenant Invictus Merits in 2E) may be appropriate to draw from, if they deal with mundane phenomena.

    I also see the idea that a dot of a Covenant Endowment is worth more than one but less two mundane merit dots. This seems a bit extreme, but keep in mind that they are fairly limited in terms of who can learn them – most players won’t be in more than one Compact at a time, and if you follow the sidebar in the 1E core book, those that are will have limited access to the other endowments. A two-for-one deal is equivalent to what you see from MCI (albeit on a smoother progression as opposed to how MCI gives more benefits the further you go), and Professional Training is fairly potent as well – but you can only have it once. And, in our canon examples from Compacts and Conspiracies, we see similar rates in some cases, especially when the benefits are static. It’s not exact, but consider Unearthed Secrets; it could easily be rewritten in 2E to be a dot of Occult-focused contacts per Endowment dot, as well as a set of free, limited-focus Clues – sort of similar to what you gain from Investigative Prodigy. Now, they don’t have to be two whole merits each mixed together (especially if one is particularly powerful), but the idea makes sense in my head as a possible baseline. At the very least, it should feel a little more potent than a general merit such as Allies or Contacts at the same level.

    However, that additional power should come at the cost of being specific. Unearthed Secrets only gets you hints or secrets about supernatural monsters and hunters, and even then it’s usually more specifically about weaknesses and powers and less about dark secrets of a mundane nature; their archives also don’t have much to give on dirty cops and slum lords and other mundane forms of corruption that don’t dip into the supernatural. In addition, the benefits can be only partial aspects of a merit (hence why I said "more than one and a half, less than two"). A focus on a given area of information is one way to limit something; limiting access to a particular aspect of a social merit is another. Bacchanal doesn't give you Status, but it does give you the option to pick a social group, monster group, or the Abbey itself, and gain a social bonus with them - one of the aspects of Status, without the full access Status in such a group would give.

    One other element is that more flexible Endowments can provide points that can be spent on benefits; you have examples that give a pool of points that can be used for certain benefits. The more flexible the spending, the fewer or more specific the benefits tend to be. Bacchanal gives a lot of options, but they have to be decided upon before the party; some affect the party itself (though this can be useful, such as getting to interact with a celebrity) while others last past the party for the story. However, this all has to be decided by the time the party happens, and though it doesn’t say so, there’s an implication that such parties can’t be thrown all the time (I’d likely limit it to once a story, since many of the benefits last for a story). Thus, you can throw it at the beginning of a story and get the benefits for a while, but lose out on knowing what will be useful, or you can wait and throw it afterwards to get benefits that are more tailor fitted but for a shorter time frame. Conversely, “Your Friends and Neighbors” (YFaN) only gives the dot rating in benefits as Merits, but they can change out each and every session. The same benefit can keep longer if needed, but you make that choice at the beginning of the session. It also doesn’t give you two options per point, like some others do, and you can’t divvy up the points between benefits (I do have some ideas for changing YFaN, some modifications to All-Seeing Eye for 2E, but the principal is still a sound one - more flexibility in when you can spend them, fewer options on what they can buy). The Prayer can be refreshed once an in-game day, but has a very small list of things to pick from.

    These aren’t exact and hard rules, mind, but they are guidelines to keep in mind for me, and feel like a good place to start while working on these (and making a few unofficial updates to previous material to account for 2E and overall balance).

    Given that, let’s look at a Compact and develop a mundane Endowment for them. The supplements I know best are Witch Finder and Slashers; of the various options from those, one sticks out me as being a good starting point: the Keepers of the Source.

    So the big things about the Keepers are that they want to protect the environment from those who would violate it for power - specifically magically, but I'm sure a mummy's cult digging for a lost artifact may draw their attention too. They are more mystically inclined than many compacts; they have a benefit that gives them a supernatural merit (not unheard of among Compacts, but not that common either). So, they may have some mystical information somewhere as well. But libraries and occult contacts are the purview of the Loyalists of Thule. The environmentalist angle is what sets the Keepers apart from other groups - that, and the fact that they have an option for a specialty in protesting. Given their ties to environmental groups, they also may have some supporters who aren’t monster hunters but can help with legal issues or organize protests. And they may need traps for their ambushes.

    Given this variety, and their nature as needing to adapt to strange circumstances, it seems likely that they should have something akin to YFaN or Bacchanal, over Unearthed Secrets – flexible spending or assignment of benefits rather than something fairly static. I think Bacchanal makes more sense as a model overall, so I’m going to go with that as a model.

    Protest Rally (Rated 1-5)
    Once per story, you may organize a rally related to an environmental cause in your area. No roll is required; your time in the Keepers has given you enough clout and skill to get something going on an infrequent basis. When the protest happens, it attracts roughly 20 people per dot in the Endowment. In addition, you receive two points to spend on various benefits; these points must be spent by the time the protest has started, reflecting benefits garnered from the protest. A hunter may assign up to their rating in Protest Rally in a given category towards a specific target, unless otherwise specified; for example, a character with three dots can only assign 3 into Political Sway towards Democratic politicians, but they also can assign three points in Political Sway towards a specific interest group.
    • Political Sway: Protests garner attention, even when those in power claim and wish otherwise. A sufficiently large protest can provide some impact with the government or other political groups who take notice. The hunter throwing the protest may assign points from Protest Rally to gain a social bonus when dealing with a particular group during the story. The group must be defined when the points are spent, and should reflect a mundane political force or group that may be receptive to (or intimidated or impressed by) the protest.
    • Increase Scrutiny: The masses may not be aware that witches and wolves are ripping Mother Earth’s lifeblood out of her, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put pressure on a target. Points assigned to this benefit allow the Hunter to block a targeted individual’s access to certain merits, as the protest leads her friends to avoid her and keeps her from getting access to property without being noticed. This functions similarly to the benefit gained from the Allies merit, with points in this acting as the dot rating for comparison purposes. Unlike with Allies, no roll is made, even if the target has more dots than points assigned; instead, it reduces the targeted Merit by the value of the points assigned, rather than completely blocking access.
      • This “block” goes down by one each chapter, which may persist past the end of the story. This benefit can target mundane Allies, mundane Contacts, mundane Status, Safe Place, and Place of Power Merits (i.e. Hallow, Locus, and Wyrm Nest); the ST may allow other viable targets in specific cases. If the place of power is in a Safe Place, it can still be targeted, representing that the increased attention called to their actions cause enough social aftershocks that they can’t get the time or focus needed to draw upon the power properly – the phone rings as they try to perform their oblations, alarms go off when protestors trespass and distract them from aligning to the Wyrm’s Nest, or perhaps the resonance is just thrown off by the protests and it takes them time to fix the problem. They still have the Should the points assigned exceed the dots in a targeted Merit, the ST should assign them to another appropriate target to represent bleed over.Should the target not have the targeted Merit, the ST should still assign the points to other merits; however, she should let the Hunter know that the protest didn’t hit as hard as they wanted, and decrease the effect as if one less point was spent.
    • Trap Building: Peaceful protests are great distractions, and can buy you time and opportunity to set up something special for later. Points assigned to this benefit grant you allow you to turn an area into a pseudo-Safe Place until the end of the story – it has traps set up per the Merit, and provides an initiative bonus to the hunter. The hunter may designate a number of individuals equal to her ratings in Protest Rally; they are treated as if they have bought dots in this Safe Place for the initiative benefit and don’t risk setting off the traps. The player may choose to activate or deactivate the benefits with a minute’s work per trap – for instance, this can be used to set up traps in an alleyway that don’t threaten the homeless people who normally sleep there, but a few minutes of work can shift the cans around to make the traps active. Note that the location needs to be generally accessible to the hunter; they cannot establish one in the vampire’s secured haven. The location has a number of active traps up to the point value assigned or the Hunter’s rating in Protest rally, whichever is lower; the first one goes off upon entry by a non-protected individual, and anyone protected by the Hunter’s designation may use an Instant action to spring a trap. A given individual may hold their action until another character’s action and use the trap to interrupt them.
    • Legal Aid: Sometimes, things go wrong. However, people who organize protests tend to attract lawyers of an idealistic bent who are willing to help out. Points assigned to this can be used to obtain a Retainer who acts as an attorney for the character, as well as legal-focused Staff. The Staff automatically has a focus on Politics, with Academics and Persuasion being the other two options. Only three points can be assigned to either merit, and a character can only have one Retainer and one instance of Staffthrough this merit at a time.
    Drawback: This merit must be tied to a specific identity that has Status in the Keepers of the Source. If the character has an Alternative Identity, they can tie this merit to that identity, but they cannot access it when wearing another ID.

    I have some other ideas. I also want to play with the idea of the Conspiracies brought down to Tier 2, and what their Compact Endowments might look like. I am not the best at balancing mechanics, but I feel that this is an interesting design space to work in. Any thoughts or other examples? Any canon Compacts you want to see get this treatment?

  • #2
    I really, really like this! I'm all for Compact Endowments and would love to see more for other groups.

    Suggestions, if any of these catch your fancy: Ahl al-Jabal, the Maiden's Blood Sisterhood, and the Talbot Group/Yuri's Group.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Draconis View Post
      I really, really like this! I'm all for Compact Endowments and would love to see more for other groups.

      Suggestions, if any of these catch your fancy: Ahl al-Jabal, the Maiden's Blood Sisterhood, and the Talbot Group/Yuri's Group.

      Work (and running a LARP) has kept me from coming up with ideas, but I appreciate both the support and the suggestions!

      Let me reread those and see what I can come up with. I have a couple ideas for Yuri's Group, but I am not sure what would fit well together (the Support Network Merit seems like it would make sense there, but may be too on the nose). Maiden's Blood also has a few ideas...

      Given that it's a sorority with chapters, it stands to reason a merit that emphasizes this interconnection makes sense. You may not be able to secure a loan from a sister in a distant city, but if you happen to be visiting the area looking for the origins of the vampire who is terrorizing your home town, in case that unveils a vital clue, you can probably count on at least a few pointers about where the best juice bar is or where to do some research. That hints at something like Travel Agent. I was thinking of scrapping the bit about protecting the transit, since the Sisterhood doesn't have the kind of pull to secure the roadways (VASCU or TFV might, if I ever do "Compact Endowments" for Conspiracies... which is an idea I am also considering); however, safe calls and check ins and Yelp-like reviews on a website could help with that, giving you enough of a paper trail to make anyone who is watching you realize that you will be missed in transit, and helping you avoid the worst areas. On the other hand, we could easily scrap the "Social Equipment" bonus and trade it out with something else. And to make it a bit more useful for those who stay stationary, I have a couple tweaks to the material benefits. Let's call it...

      Chapterhouse (*-*****)

      The connection between sisters and auxilleries in Pi Kappa Alpha is different than in other sororities, but there are some things that remain the same. Someone who knows the secret handshake can at least expect a couch to crash on or some help with small favors (already represented by the Allies provided by the Status). However, those who travel around a bit more outside their home campus find that the friendship can go even further, whether on the road, in another city, or even right at home.
      Your connections provide a small amount of protection on the road, as you have people to check in with along the way even when stopping somewhere that there isn't a Sisterhood presence. When travelling between cities along major highways or through other forms of commercial travel, any attempt to interrupt, intercept, or otherwise intentionally disrupt your travel through mundane means must roll more successes than you have dots in Chapterhouse. This doesn't stop bad turns of weather or bad luck with the hydraulics of your vehicle, but it does keep ghouls from kidnapping you in your sleep at the motels or people from slashing your tires or brakelines, as they see the signs that you are going to be missed by someone, and someone is going to know where you are and how to get there. This doesn't stop trails, however, and doesn't work if you're taking only backroads (which could compromise Anonymity since you do have to travel on well-documented and well-watched roads).
      Upon arriving at a destination with at least one other member of the Sisterhood present (other than your home base), you also can count Chapterhouse as half its points (round up) in certain Social merits. These may be used for appropriate Contacts, Allies, or dots in Safe Place in the destination city. You must assign the points upon arrival, and they remain assigned that way until the end of the story or when you leave the destination, whichever comes later. Mark these as half-dots; if lost, they are not reassigned until the end of the story (though they should only be lost due to PC actions, such as having your Allies raid a Methuselah's Lair; they should not be specifically targeted if no attention has been drawn to them).
      Finally, even when you return home (or call a new place home), you can find some benefits from these connections. This merit provides its dots (rounded up) as a Library whenever you are home or not in a location with any native Sisters. The Sisterhood maintains a forum and Discord-like chat online that provides certain information to those who are in need. You may assign the dots as you see fit once per chapter (up to three in a particular skill), representing the forum's changing topics and the difficulty of finding posts that have gone cold; one week they may be discussing nothing but Occult theory (prompting all the dots to go to Occult), while another week they are discussing how to best fashion stakes and how poetry can help lure out the pale pretty-boy sort of vampire (providing dots to Crafts and Expression rolls instead). If you have at least four dots in this Merit and three dots of Maiden's Blood Sisterhood status, you may alternatively place one of the dots into an Advanced Library regarding Vampires, Witches, Ghosts, Spirits, or another supernatural creature or phenomenon allowed by the ST at that time; you know the forums better and have been around long enough to piece together the clues a bit better than a novice user. This benefit isn't normally available when you are in a city with another member; the presence of the other member tends to lead to conversation and collaboration that makes it harder to concentrate on the flow of the chats; you can still use it to acquire a dot of Library, however, as some messages do tend to trend enough to keep up with the basics.


      So there we go. A twist on Travel Agent, but with something for homebodies as well. It's a more static benefit than Protest Rally, but also provides a bit more overall. Not sure about the balance of power, but it seems comparable to Travel Agent, save that it has some more utility when you aren't on the road (Travel Agent can be less useful if you're in a sandbox with high walls).

      Ahl al-Jabal is another one.... Let me dwell on them and see what I can come up with...


      • #4
        Question where is Travel Agent from?


        • #5
          Originally posted by Pierrew View Post
          Question where is Travel Agent from?
          Ah, sorry. Forgot to cite my sources

          Travel Agent is a merit from Secrets of the Covenants. Specifically it is an Invictus merit, representing the interconnections of the Covenant and how they tend to provide token favors and protection to members. Mechanically it works much the same - you set a minimum threshold of successes to interfere with travel, you can use half the dots as allies and/or contacts in new cities, and the part I traded out was that when you arrive you can specify a "receiver" (which could be a person or group) and come in with a piece of social equipment in the form of a gift or rumor that would improve efforts to sway or impress (or terrify) them. Of note, the Gallows Post Covenant from Dark Eras had a similar effect called "Envoy."

          However, as the book mentions, many of the merits that don't run off of specific Vampire powers (and even some that do, with tweaking) can be adapted outside the structure of the Western Covenants, or even beyond vampires in general, (would not at all be surprised for a similar merit to be generally available to all Kindred in Japan, with how broad the Zaibatsu are. Ume get it at a minimum imo since they can rely on the shrines to keep them safe). Since it isn't built on things like Cruac or vital ans represents social ties, it seemed to fit.

          Also, of you wanted to up the power and mysticism just a bit, there is an option in the protection on the road but to just say ANY attempt to interfere with your travel (not just mundane) must exceed the dots in successes. That is the wording on the original merit, and would imply that maybe the Pleiades do have a witch on the council providing some organizational support via magic. Then again, maybe members are just lucky that way.


          • #6
            Anyone willing and able to ponder a Compact Endowment for The Reckoning and Yuri's Group?