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The Gifts and Bane of The Januarius

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  • The Gifts and Bane of The Januarius

    I am currently developing a bloodline for a player to take. They are new to the game, and currently playing through the nights following their embrace. Their sire is still a ‘childe’ and they are both hiding out at the grandsire’s estate.

    My ST style, especially with ‘testing the waters’ games such as this, is to seed fast and often. Worry about tying it all up later; just make it seem big and mysterious. Basically, ST like you are Steven Moffat with access to the Dr. Who IP.

    As the player took Auspex as one of their starting three disciplines, I handwaved it mentally as ‘will be explained by bloodline.’ Then they took the Bloodhood and Blood Sympathy merits. So I’m thinking that this lineage of Ventrue have some mystic-perceptive mojo. Good strong seed.

    Well, I was in luck when it came to cultivating said seed.

    I had used a random name generator, changing cultural links as the ages passed by, to build out the direct lineage. As it happens, I settled into a pattern wherein the lineage was named (and used as a formal surname) Januarius. It sounded like January, so I looked for symbolic connections and it seems the Roman-only god Janus had dibs on the month. Janus is the god of ‘beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings.’ Oh yes. A bloodline that can open portals or see the future is a bloodline begging to be associated with the Auspex discipline. So I stamped it and relayed some history next time it came up.

    Now the bill has come due: I have to make the gift and bane.


    I need some ideas for what the gift and bane can be. The gift moreso, as the bane I’m about to suggest seems solid enough.

    Currently, I am thinking that the bane is ‘invitation to enter.’ It works with Janus being associated with doors. That thematic alignment is carrying it though. Open to counter-points.

    For the gift, I have yet to design mechanics. However, the end goal is to allow the use of blood smearing to open portals. Iris, Verge gateways, and such. I like it but it will drive the story in a certain direction and if there is no interest, it is a wasted opportunity.

    And just for completeness: a bloodline gets four in-clan disciplines, a gift, and a bane. I’m not missing anything, yeah?

  • #2
    First: very interesting! Second: perhaps the smeared blood doesn't just open portals, but also can permit seeing through them.

    So you could see through to the other side, and what about the eyelids as the window to the soul? Or seeing what they saw. Or will see?


    • #3
      Connecting the eyes to gathering information bleeds the Dominate and the Auspex together, which I like. I definitely will create some devotions the older members have.

      Seeing over to the other side is a good idea, especially as the base form of the gift. (Base form? Can gifts level up or would I have to call it a discipline and lose Auspex at that point.)


      • #4
        There are a considerable number of options at this point for how bloodlines handle gifts: it could be as a discipline (related, tiered effect progression in a theme), as a supernatural merit style (tiered but cheaper with smaller effects), bundle of supernatural merits (not tiered), exclusive devotion access (not tiered but more potent than merits), or as a specific gift of greater power. Often that last option comes with devotions as well.

        Any of these could work depending on what your intent and concept is.


        • #5
          There's unfortunately not much to work with in terms of 2e examples. But the ones we have seen:
          • The Morbus are a straight-up conversion from 1e with nothing changed except the mechanics of their powers. They add a fourth discipline which is unique and can never be shared.
          • The Neglatu are less a lineage and more a type of vampire. They gain a passive benefit that almost reminds me of a Coil tier (it alters the weaknesses of vampirism) but no fourth discipline.
          • The Khaibit gain a fourth discipline (Vigor) and a series of devotions based off their discipline spread, which can be taught to others but usually aren't.
          • The Kerberos gain a fourth discipline (Majesty) and a set of special almost-fighting-style-esque techniques that can be learned as merits.
          From this, I'd leave the Morbus out (they were very early in the run before 2e had completely figured itself out), and say: either they get a unique benefit from the moment of taking the Bloodline, or they get a fourth discipline and a benefit they can spend xp on. One thing a lot of homebrewers have done is a sort of compromise: they get a fourth discipline and a benefit equivalent to a one- or two-dot merit for free.


          • #6
            So, an interesting connection between Janus and the Strix is in the story of Cranae; two goddesses, Carna/Cardea whom Ovid conflated. EDIT: The following is tangential to the January/beginnings theme, but I think it works for a group of vampires who are related to Janus.

            Info Dump:

            Cardea is associated with door hinges, the north-south street within a town (an organizing principle. Origin of cardinal directions), and has to do with marking out sacred spaces.

            Carna is associated with meat (origin of carnivore), and has something to do with protecting one from the Strix. Apparently we don't know much about her, but (from the wiki page) "she was considered a chthonic divinity by Wissowa, a lunar goddess by Pettazzoni, a bean-goddess by Latte, and a patroness of digestion by Dumézil" And I feel like those are all good directions for a vampiric story.

            According to Ovid, Cranae was a beautiful huntress nymph whom people assumed to be related to Phoebus (potential to connect to the Sons of Phoebus, whose origin is confirmed to be Strixy). Janus rapes her and pays her off by making her the goddess of hinges, and gives her the hawthorn as a sacred thing.

            For Origins:

            Since the bloodline is supposed to come from Rome, maybe you're dealing with a Julii bloodline.

            I could see the movement from Cardea to Carna as a story about becoming a vampire. Some sort of priestess becomes a nocturnal predator who lives underground. Maybe for her fall she is punished with being excluded from home and civilization. Or maybe she renounced the home and civilization....

            But the order of the Ovid story suggests that the movement was from Carna to Cardea -- from wild/untamed to ordered/domestic. Maybe a Strix, similar to the Baron, gained a conscience? Or maybe a Larvae or Revenant was uplifted. Maybe as a result of their time subdued by the beast, they have gained insight.

            For Gifts:

            Some implementations of the hinge theme are turning points, the boundary between domesticity/civilization and the wild, meat is conceptually between corpse and food. Using this as the basis for the bloodline gift, you can maybe become increasingly abstract.

            If you implement it as Devotions, I would base it on the Khaibit. Maybe use Animalism, Auspex, Dominate. Lvl 1 you can lock and unlock passages/locks/doorways, Lvl 3 where you can perceive portents and omens (probably base it on Spirit's Touch), to Lvl 5 where you get something similar to Web of Destiny.

            Or implement it as Merits like the Kerberos, and order the gift in terms of themes. One track or style for Opening/Blocking, a Portents/Omens Track, a Scrying Track.
            Last edited by DubiousRuffian; 05-29-2019, 03:16 PM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Draconis View Post
              From this, I'd leave the Morbus out (they were very early in the run before 2e had completely figured itself out),
              Not only is Morbus the latest bloodline written for 2e, it's also the only one that was properly published and not just posted on the website in a prototype stage.

              Bloodline: The Stygians
              Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
              Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)


              • #8
                That said, I believe the stated design philosophy for 2e bloodlines is to shape a Bloodline Gift after what works best for that specific Bloodline. Morbus still has Cachexy because it's a natural progression of powers that fits the Morbus concept. Khaibit have a series of Devotions that have no internal progression (other than Udjat coming first) because neither power is building off of another power. Kerberos has a Style Merit likely because messing around with Predatory Aura/Lashing Out like that doesn't fit either the Discipline or Devotion formats.

                The drawbacks of all of these are that Kerberoi gain their main advantage for free and can max out their potential for 5 XP (though they can also spread it out for a maximum of 15 XP), the Khaibit gain their first advantage for free and the rest for 8 XP though gated behind low prerequisites, and Morbus not gaining anything other than their massive drawback upon induction and it costs 15 XP before they've reached top potential, the first three of which going towards managing their curse rather than being an advantage in its own right. In addition, their Bloodline Gift takes up the fourth Discipline slot, unlike both Khaibit and Kerberos who get their Gifts in addition to a fourth in-Clan Discipline. Truly a cursed bloodline (even if they don't necessarily believe it themselves).

                Not all Bloodlines are created equal, would be the lesson to draw from this, I suppose. I generally prefer the Devotion route unless clear progression in a Discipline would make more sense, but you don't have to follow the Khaibit and have five Devotions, four of which requiring 2 dots in one of the in-Clan, and each costing 2 XP. I followed that format slavishly for one homebrew bloodline and was utterly disappointed by the end result. If it makes more sense to have fewer Devotions, higher and/or mixed prerequisites, and different XP costs, go for it.
                The one thing I would definitely take from Kerberos and Khaibit regardless of route is to always grant some advantage for free. If you develop a Discipline, either grant an additional advantage that is granted upon induction, or grant the first dot of that Discipline for free. It'd kinda suck having a whole new curse and gain nothing for it until you've gathered enough XP. It especially sucks for Morbus who, as I mentioned, gets help managing their curse with the first dot, meaning their first actual advantage would require 6 XP without houseruling the first dot to be free.

                Bloodline: The Stygians
                Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DubiousRuffian View Post
                  That is super interesting. I love how many gods and spirits the ancient world seemed to have knocking about.

                  I will mull over it but given the name is locked in already, I'm thinking that the Januarius will have a gift that permits the opening of passages and that the Carna bloodline is either a cadet branch with their own philosophy or an aggrieved bloodline that seeks revenge for the 'rape by Janus'. Said rape is either metaphor, allusion, or true; don't know yet. However, what is key is having antagonists ready to go if the bloodline gift really start featuring heavily.

                  Thanks for the contribution and reading material.


                  • #10
                    Some scholars have also drawn connections between Carna and Diana/Artemis; she seems to have been a native Italic deity who got reinterpreted once other religions showed up (which is one reason nobody can agree on her name).