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  • Undead Menses and shapeshifting

    Let's assume there are at least a few male Acolytes that are eager to tap into the power of Undead Menses for its mystical benefits, but they are unable or unwilling to 'identify as females' and to bargain with their female coven-mates for getting some of their special blood (as a matter of fact, I'm not even sure if it would work for others). They get the mystical reasons about needing to align with the female archetype to tap this boon, but they aren't, and cannot make themselves to be, exactly transgender. At best, perhaps they think the Embrace and the shapeshifting powers it potentially unlocks make sex and gender issues fairly irrelevant for vampires (if you can turn into various kinds of predatory animals, to take a different human form, including the opposite-sex shape, seems no big deal in comparison).

    Would be gender-fluid in the above sense enough to get this Merit ? If not, would buying a power to physically take a female form (not just using Familiar Stranger to cast a female illusion of themselves) and using it enough of a mystical alignment with the feminine to tap this power (by buying the Merit, even if the character is only able to use it in female form) ? I think an argument could be made going this way would be enough of a mystical effort to honor and align with the feminine principle to tap this kind of power, even if the character's gender identity isn't (always or entirely) female, strictly speaking.

    If so, what kind of Devotion or Cruac rite would allow to shapeshift into a different human form, including changing sex ? I assume Protean 3 should be the basis of this Devotion, but I'm unsure if there ought to be other Discipline requirements. I suppose the duration of the change would be indefinite, by analogy with Beast's Skin. As it concerns the blood sorcery method, by looking at the BS guidelines, I suppose a rite to take a different human shape should be Cruac/Transmutation 3 or 4. As a matter of fact, there is a Cruac rite in CotC that allows to take the form (and some memories) of a feeding victim for the night and is rating 4, but it is 1st Edition and perhaps what is needed here does not have to be this powerful.
    Last edited by Irioth; 12-29-2016, 12:21 PM.

  • #2
    At the end of the day, your game, your rules. But for me, the answer would be emphatically no. The wording of Undead Mensea makes it quite clear that it is gender, not sex that matters for the purposes of qualifying for the Merit. If the character is a woman, she can take the Merit whether she has a penis or a vagina. If the character is a man, or agender, he or they cannot take the Merit, whether he or they have a penis or a vagina. No amount of shapeshifting is going to change your gender, because shapehifting changes your anatomy, and anatomy doesn't matter for the purposes of the Merit.

    EDIT: As for what powers could be used to change a character's sex, in 1st edition the Galloi Bloodline had a unique Devotion that could do it. Although there was a lot of... err... problematic aspects to it involving how well it allowed the character to "pass" as the sex it changed to and what kind of dice rolls you needed to make to pass a medical inspection and shit... I wrote up a 2e update to the Bloodline a while back, which you can find in the homebrew hub if you're interested. For what it's worth, David Hill said he loved it.
    Last edited by Charlaquin; 12-29-2016, 12:19 PM.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
      At the end of the day, your game, your rules. But for me, the answer would be emphatically no. The wording of Undead Mensea makes it quite clear that it is gender, not sex that matters for the purposes of qualifying for the Merit. If the character is a woman, she can take the Merit whether she has a penis or a vagina. If the character is a man, or agender, he or they cannot take the Merit, whether he or they have a penis or a vagina. No amount of shapeshifting is going to change your gender, because shapehifting changes your anatomy, and anatomy doesn't matter for the purposes of the Merit.
      I know, and I'm perfectly aware of the difference between sex and gender, but I'm trying to look beyond the letter of the rule to its spirit, and I would interpret the gender requirement as a mystical need to align with the feminine principle/archetype to tap its power. Since a character cannot change their gender at will (except perhaps by developing and using some kind of specialized self-suggestion mind-control power on themselves), I guessed developing and using a power to change their sex would be enough substitute mystical effort to tap this power. After all, a lot of what vampires are and do is about stealing/cheating/imitating their way into supernatural power.
      Last edited by Irioth; 12-29-2016, 12:33 PM.

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      • #4
        I'd say that changing your sex organ falls under the purview of Protean 2 or 4, without the need for a devotion. Tack on a willpower expenditure requirement to make any morfed changes (semi)permanent. Tack on a time frame requirement. That ought to be enough to show a character's willingness to align their identity with the feminine. Key is that the charcter should be sincere in their identification with the female gender. Perhaps after some time they'll decide to change back or to something else. This should be doable (again through willpower expenditure) and to allow it is well within the limits of any gender-fluidity friendly boundaries.

        (Assuming that you've drained dry at least one woman during your unlife)
        Last edited by Howalt; 12-29-2016, 12:55 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Howalt View Post
          I'd say that changing your sex organ falls under the purview of Protean 2 or 4, without the need for a devotion. Tack on a willpower expenditure requirement to make any morfed changes (semi)permanent. Tack on a time frame requirement. That ought to be enough to show a character's willingness to align their identity with the feminine. Key is that the charcter should be sincere in their identification with the female gender. Perhaps after some time they'll decide to change back or to something else. This should be doable (again through willpower expenditure) and to allow it is well within the limits of any gender-fluidity friendly boundaries.

          (Assuming that you've drained dry at least one woman during your unlife)
          Well, I'm dubious if humans qualify as 'predatory or scavenging animal' for the purposes of Protean 2-4. I mean, they do in a scientific sense, but occult systems (within and without the WoD) usually draw a sharp boundary between Man and Beast (Mage Spheres being the only exception I can think of), as indicated by the separation between Animalism and Dominate/Majesty/Nightmare. Having said that, I'm totally in favor of a Protean-only Devotion being able to change one's bodily features, including changing one's sex, on a semi-permanent basis (perhaps rating 2 to make minor changes to facial and bodily features, 3 to make a radical alteration of humanoid form, including a complete sex change, and 4 to add features not usually found in humans). At most, an Obfuscate requirement (with Familiar Stranger) might be necessary to imitate a specific person, or an Auspex requirement (with Lay Open the Mind) to gain their memories.

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          • #6
            Alright, that's fair. It shouldn't be able to easily out-compete the Familiar Stranger.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Irioth View Post
              I know, and I'm perfectly aware of the difference between sex and gender, but I'm trying to look beyond the letter of the rule to its spirit, and I would interpret the gender requirement as a mystical need to align with the feminine principle/archetype to tap its power. Since a character cannot change their gender at will (except perhaps by developing and using some kind of specialized self-suggestion mind-control power on themselves), I guessed developing and using a power to change their sex would be enough substitute mystical effort to tap this power. After all, a lot of what vampires are and do is about stealing/cheating/imitating their way into supernatural power.
              I disagree with you on the spirit of the rule. I think the spirit of the rule is granting access to that "archetypal feminine energy" on the basis of actual gender instead of the basis of sex. That should mean that women are able to utilize that feminine power whether they are cis or trans, and men should not be able to utilize it whether they are cis or trans. Changing your anatomy, physiology, etc. won't change the fact that you are a man.

              Now gender is, for many people, a mutable thing, and it's entirely possible that a cis male character who physically changes sex (whether through medical means like Night Doctor Surgery or supernatural means like a Galloi's Transgrssion of Atis or your custom Protean Devotion) to find that their gender also shifts as a result of experiencing unlife in such a body, and then they might be able to qualify for Undead Menses. But if you aren't a woman, you don't get access to that mystical woman power, no matter what body parts you have.

              All that aside, however, let's examine the implications of your interpretation that allows cis male vampires to access Undead Menses if they change their sex. If this is possible, why can trans female vampires who don't transition still access it? Can trans male vampires access it if they don't transition? Do cis female vampires lose access to it if they change their sex?
              Last edited by Charlaquin; 12-29-2016, 01:29 PM.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Howalt View Post
                Alright, that's fair. It shouldn't be able to easily out-compete the Familiar Stranger.
                Nope. On one hand, it doesn't allow to imitate specific persons unless you combine Obfuscate in the Devotion. On the other hand, the disguise would be immune to Auspex and other forms of truesight, being a physical change instead of an illusionary glamour. For the sake of completeness, I may also point out that vampires with the Coil of Zirnitra would be able to tap this kind of power by buying Biokinesis and Doppleganger (did I mention how I love this Coil provides a whole new avenue of supernatural power for the mystically-inclined Dragons ?).

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                  I disagree with you on the spirit of the rule. I think the spirit of the rule is granting access to that "archetypal feminine energy" on the basis of actual gender instead of the basis of sex. That should mean that women are able to utilize that feminine power whether they are cis or trans, and men should not be able to utilize it whether they are cis or trans. Changing your anatomy, physiology, etc. won't change the fact that you are a man.

                  Now gender is, for many people, a mutable thing, and it's entirely possible that a cis male character who physically changes sex (whether through medical means like Night Doctor Surgery or supernatural means like a Galloi's Transgrssion of Atis or your custom Protean Devotion) to find that their gender also shifts as a result of experiencing unlife in such a body, and then they might be able to qualify for Undead Menses. But if you aren't a woman, you don't get access to that mystical woman power, no matter what body parts you have.
                  Well, to be honest my main problem with this rule is the fact I'm frustrated/uncomfortable with the character background requirement for a strict female gender identity. I'd like to push the boundaries a bit, at least in the sense of making the Merit potentially accessible to genderfluid shapeshifters. Having said that, if we assume a character does change their sex through one of the means we mentioned, becomes a serial shapeshifter, lives part of their unlife as female, and this way makes unlife experiences that let them develop a genderfluid identity over time that includes, cultivates, and appreciates a female part (but does not necessarily reject, neglect, or is uncomfortable with the male part), I'd be satisfied.
                  Last edited by Irioth; 12-29-2016, 03:05 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Irioth View Post
                    Well, to be honest my main problem with this rule is the fact I'm frustrated/uncomfortable with the character background requirement for a strict female gender identity. I'd like to push the boundaries a bit, at least in the sense of making the Merit potentially accessible to genderfluid shapeshifters.
                    Ah, now that's a horse of a different color. If your question is how Undead Menses interacts with genders outside the binary, that's something I think there's a lot more room for discussion over (and in fact if I recall correctly, sparking such discussion was the primary reason David chose to base it on gender rather than sex).

                    Originally posted by Irioth View Post
                    Having said that. if we assume a character does change their sex through one of the means we discussed, becomes a serial shapeshifter, lives part of their unlife as female, and this way makes unlife experiences that let them develop a genderfluid identity over time that includes and appreciates a female part (but does not necessarily reject or neglect the male part), I'd be satisfied.
                    Totally. There's a lot of room for interpretation here, but personally, I would say characters of nonbinary gender would be able to access Undead Menses in my games, though perhaps not all the time.

                    For example, for characters who have a consistent gender that lies somewhere on the spectrum between "strictly male" and "strictly female" (which I believe is the case with basically everyone who's gender doesn't fluctuate), I would allow them to purchase and utilize Undead Menses if their gender leaned more towards the feminine side than the masculine side. And note, that's their gender as they experience it, not their gender expression, sex, or sexual or romantic orientation. For agender characters, I would not allow them to take it. For characters who have multiple genders (such as bigender characters), I would allow them to purchase the Merit and utilize it while in any of their genders that are generally more feminine than masculine (which is something the player would decide). I might even give them a Beat when being in a more masculine gender creates a setback due to not being able to utilize Undead Menses when they needed it. Genderfluid characters would be a bit tougher to rule on, but I would probably handle it pretty much the same way as multi-gender characters; you can buy the Merit, but you can only use it when you are currently leaning feminine, and might grant the player a Beat if you can't use it when you need it due to being in a more masculine-leaning stare. As always, it's up to the player whether their character's gender is over the femininity tipping point or not at any given time.

                    In all of the above cases, shapeshifting or any other means of changing sex wouldn't come into consideration at all. Undead Menses doesn't care what your body is like, only what your identity is.


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                    • #11
                      In all of the above cases, shapeshifting or any other means of changing sex wouldn't come into consideration at all. Undead Menses doesn't care what your body is like, only what your identity is.
                      It might figure into performing the female gender requirement, though.

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                      • #12
                        The official rule is not as hard line worded as you're making it out to be. You don't have to have a "strict female gender identity," you just need to, "identify as female."

                        Even if we're viewing this in terms of modern gender identity, there's the whole spectrum of gender fluid individuals who only need to be in a female headspace to use the Merit, but don't have to identify as female the whole of their existence. You don't need to house rule or change anything to allow gender fluid individuals to access this Merit; it's supposed to be open to them.

                        As well, plenty of vampires are much older, and Cruac users are going to be much more likely to hold to spiritual beliefs that incorporate ritual femininity into their practice. Using various ritual practices to become "female" to access feminine linked mystic insight/power fulfills "identify as female," in a temporary sense just as much as coming at it from a modern perspective of gender does.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                          For example, for characters who have a consistent gender that lies somewhere on the spectrum between "strictly male" and "strictly female" (which I believe is the case with basically everyone who's gender doesn't fluctuate), I would allow them to purchase and utilize Undead Menses if their gender leaned more towards the feminine side than the masculine side. And note, that's their gender as they experience it, not their gender expression, sex, or sexual or romantic orientation. For agender characters, I would not allow them to take it. For characters who have multiple genders (such as bigender characters), I would allow them to purchase the Merit and utilize it while in any of their genders that are generally more feminine than masculine (which is something the player would decide). I might even give them a Beat when being in a more masculine gender creates a setback due to not being able to utilize Undead Menses when they needed it. Genderfluid characters would be a bit tougher to rule on, but I would probably handle it pretty much the same way as multi-gender characters; you can buy the Merit, but you can only use it when you are currently leaning feminine, and might grant the player a Beat if you can't use it when you need it due to being in a more masculine-leaning stare. As always, it's up to the player whether their character's gender is over the femininity tipping point or not at any given time.
                          It seems a sensible and reasonable approach.

                          In all of the above cases, shapeshifting or any other means of changing sex wouldn't come into consideration at all. Undead Menses doesn't care what your body is like, only what your identity is.
                          True, but well, it comes into consideration for me. Gender-malleable shapeshifting where sex and identity/orientation changes and experimentation effortlessly and reversibly occur and closely align to each other belongs into my personal sci-fi/fantasy transhumanist utopia and power fantasy, so it is something I can easily identify and sympathize with. Serious disalignment between these axes is something I find much more alien, uncomfortable, and extraneous to my frame of experience (and for that matter serious 'confusion' of genitalia and secondary sex characteristics and the drag aesthetics ring all my squick alarms if I'm forced to contemplate them, no offense intended). For this reason, I rather prefer to deal with this kind of character from the shapeshifting angle. For similar reasons, I also prefer if a character with this Merit only produces menstrual blood from appropriately female organs if genitalia still come into play, the alternative seems... gross.
                          Last edited by Irioth; 12-29-2016, 04:28 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                            As well, plenty of vampires are much older, and Cruac users are going to be much more likely to hold to spiritual beliefs that incorporate ritual femininity into their practice. Using various ritual practices to become "female" to access feminine linked mystic insight/power fulfills "identify as female," in a temporary sense just as much as coming at it from a modern perspective of gender does.
                            This is another sensible way to approach the issue I can easily fit within my own frame of reference and comfort (even if I'd then prefer character w/o female genitalia to be able and produce the 'special' blood the usual, vein-cutting way). It also seems to fit rather well into the Crone kind of mysticism.
                            Last edited by Irioth; 12-29-2016, 04:29 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Irioth View Post
                              True, but well, personally speaking, it comes into consideration for me. Gender-malleable shapeshifting where sex and identity/orientation changes and experimentation closely, effortlessly, and reversibly occur and align to each other belongs into my personal sci-fi/fantasy transhumanist utopia and power fantasy, so it is something I can easily identify and sympathize with.
                              That's fine, I'm not saying such characters can't utilize shapeshifting to modify their anatomy however they see fit. It's just that if a character, binary or otherwise, has a generally feminine gender, they can utilize Undead Menses regardless of their anatomy. Penis, vagina, both, neither, heck you could even use it in an animal form if you wanted to. That doesn't stop you from only using it while in a human form and with a vagina if that's how you want to do it. But that's not the only way to do it, it's just one option among many.

                              Originally posted by Irioth View Post
                              Serious disalignment between these two axes or a different kind of change is something I find much more alien, uncomfortable, and extraneous to my frame of experience (and for that matter serious 'confusion' of genitalia and secondary sex characteristics and the drag aesthetics ring my squick alarms, no offense intended).
                              So we're perfectly clear, you have just directly stated to me that my existence (as a genderfluid person who generally identifies as more feminine than masculine but has distinctly """male""" sex characteristics, including a rather full beard at this point in time) squicks you out. Your lack of intent to offend doesn't make it any less transphobic, or any less harmful.

                              Originally posted by Irioth View Post
                              For this reason, I rather uch prefer to deal with this kind of character from the shapeshifting angle. For similar reasons, I also prefer if a character with this Merit only produces menstrual blood from appropriately female organs if genitalia still come into play, the alternative seems... gross.
                              We're talking coagulated blood coming out of dead genital oriphices. It's gonna be gross no matter what. Body horror is par for the course in CofD. The fact that you find it more gross when it's a penis that it's coming out of doesn't elicit any sympathy from me, a woman who has a penis.


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