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The Damnation of Species [Random Vampire Thoughts]

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  • #16
    So let's talk about evolution a bit.

    As we said before, the concept of "from which clan came which" is practically meaningless- in a world were Disciplines are actual entities, the potentiality for all clans already exist in the system before it was ever born- it doesn't matter if the Ventrue came from the Gangrel and/or the Gangrel from the Julii, etc etc. The point of where a clan was spawned into undeath means nothing. Once the circumstances for how a clan exists are established, it exists, always exists and always will exists.. unless it dies. There seems to be something really finite about lost clans, as they can no longer Embrace, and produce only revenant. The undead heart which brought the clan to life stops beating, and the Vitae goes sterile and thin. It happened to the Julii. It happened to the Pijavicia. It happened to the Utukku and and the Mikhailli. Having a clan lost is not only a matter killing every vampire of the clan in the world- for the circumstances still could happen, and the clan could sprout anew without warning. In order to kill a clan, you must cut it at the source- destroy the fountain of Blood from which the clan comes.

    It should be noted that it is only valid for killing a clan- the Pijavicia are dead (TYoN establish that their Methuselah can't Embrace, after all), but the Gangrel are still alive. That is, killing a clan is selective on the sibling level- killing an whole branch of siblings should require much, much more work. Killing whole cousins would require, practically, killing the Discipline which creates them. Perhaps that's why there is not vampire with Bereschligost in the world. The Discipline itself died with the Mikhailli, perhaps eaten by seven dead ghosts who desired vengeance for their death.. (not a subtle reference to my theory that the Betrayed were the "clan" sprouted by the lone Mikhailli which escaped).

    Anyway, what we understand from here that asking about the evolution of clans is meaningless- but the evolution of Disciplines is important.

    How Disciplines even come to life? What decides which part of the world could be represented as a Discipline and which is only an extension of it, in the form of Devotions? Other than the game designers, of course. If Disciplines are sentient beings, they may be the result of natural selection just as any other species does. How do Disciplines evolve? From where do they form?

    Nobody knows.

    I mean, no one knows what the hell Disciplines are besides the fact that they are the powers that vampires can use. No one knows where they came from, or why. Vampirism is a wound, it was said again and again- but Disciplines are the Blood. They are the tool of murder, and act of violence, the thought behind the process. Disciplines guide the hand which stabs and whispers to the mind while it butchers. Disciplines give shape and form, take the otherwise messy mass of rot and defines it, transforms it into something which would make fucking sense. In scientific words, it reduces the entropy of vampirism, making it more advanced, more likely to survive. It limits some possibilities on the expanse of others, making a Beast out of the otherwise chaotic madness of the Embrace. Disciplines are the force which binds, the enthalpy which fights against the entropy, the god against the devil. Disciplines are the Gods of Blood, and each of them preforms work, which means they have a goal. Each clan has a goal- and perhaps when they do what they had to be done, they are left behind, forsaken by their gods and unable to transfer the Curse any longer.

    But not all gods are made equal- at each pantheon you have the Great Gods, which rule the world, and the Lesser Gods, who are nothing but local deities desperate for worship. There are, of course, all kinds of levels of godhood, from the very specific god of your home to the great god of all rain and lightning and storm. The same is true for the Gods of Blood- some of them are very weak, barely able to stand on their own. Others are extremely potent, with the power to topple worlds and birth whole clans around themselves. Some may even be so great that no single preview could describe them- they are not just the gods of fire or the gods of plague. They are the gods of healing, charity, fertility, chaos, night, life and death. They are gods so great, that you can't list all of their preview. Helios was the god of the sun- an important position indeed. Apollo was still better.

    So, in the case of the Gods of Blood, we have a few different ranks- the first would be Devotions. Sure, it may sound a bit weird, but think about it- a Devotion is either a combination of different Disciplines, but it could be said that it is a very, very small god which govern only one form of power, and which is the vassal of a greater god. The small god of Devotion is nothing but a single preview, a very specific and narrow practice of the Blood, which is fed only when a vampire uses that Devotion. Due to their specificity, it is clear that they are not as fed as Disciplines, which are used much more often- and not only that, as vassals to Disciplines they must "pay" some of the vitae to their higher ups, hence the Disciplines which are needed to produce the said Devotion. That brings the question- does a vampire finds new applications to the Blood and develop a new Devotion, and as such creating a new god, or does that god always existed, and just waits for the right vampire to bring it to the world so it could feed upon spilled Vitae? Again, like clans, I guess that once a Devotion exist it always exists, but who knows? This all theory is a nonsense I'm making up for no good reason :P

    Anyway, what is interesting that sometimes we have a couple of Devotions which are related to one another- that is, Bloodline Devotions. Sure, not all Bloodlines have Devotions- some have other Gifts, which seem to be more in lines of the Beast reshaping itself than whatever strange hierarchy which rules the Gods of Blood. At any case, the idea is that once a vassal starts growing in power, it starts developing more aspects to their preview, creating a collection of Devotions which are drain the blood to its hungry mouth. Bloodline Devotion gods are slightly more powerful than regular Devotion gods, as they have a more flexible preview- yet it is bound to the Discipline gods. Perhaps, one day they would evolve enough to become Bloodline Disciplines, and from there establishing a clan around themselves is only a matter of time. Perhaps that's how Cachexy has started. Heck, maybe that's how all Disciplines has started- a mass of hungry gods feeding upon one another, establishing authority, shaping themselves in order to make themselves a place in the Hierarchy of Blood. Maybe.

    As you may guess, above the Devotion gods there are the Discipline gods- the movers and shakers of the Hierarchy of Blood. As we all know, there are two main classifications for Disciplines- Common and Unique. Let's assume for a second that all Disciplines start as common- after all, it makes sense. After a Bloodline Devotion god has gathered enough power, they want to be used by as many vampires as possible. They want people spilling blood in their name, making sacrifices for them, feeding them with life stolen and death defiled. As we already know, Common Discipline gods can even have clans based around them- which is important if they want to rise in power. On the other hand, you have Unique Discipline gods- that is, powers which are not accessible to all vampires, but only to certain clans, and as such, making those clans special, unique, nothing like the commoner vampires who must fight for their place in the world.

    You may ask yourself "if Discipline gods just want to feed, and by being a common Discipline they have more access for Blood than by being unique Disciplines, then why oh why would Blood Gods want to reach that level"? In return, allow me to ask you this- if by having to spend as less resources as possible your chances for survival are higher, than why oh why does peacocks have all of those fancy feathers? Sometimes, in nature, it is better to be inhibited than to survive on the bare minimum. It means that you have status- that you have the luxury of limiting yourself, of specializing yourself, of having enough ways to gain sustenance and propagate yourself forward. Gods which would fulfill any request any person ask from them are desperate creatures. Gods which are sure enough of themselves and their ability to create new clans and propagate their Blood are proud, great gods. They have countless throats singing songs in their name, dancing before them, spilling blood to feed them. They are sure of their position, and have the means to solidify their place as the true rulers of the Hierarchy of Blood.

    Sometimes, of course, it ends up badly- probably like what happened to Bereschligost. Perhaps it put all of its chips on the Mikhailli, and when they died there was no one else to sing requiems for him, leaving it to starve and fall. Perhaps Chary is indeed the ghost of Bereschligost, and it became accessible to revenants only after the Discipline died. Heck, maybe it was always accessible- time is not linear for the dead gods of the Blood. Chary always existed, Bereschligost was always dead, it just had to happen. Maybe that's also why revenant are so that damn hungry- Bereschligost died and became the governing power over them, and it demands every bit of Blood from them in order to continue to exist, out of hope that one day, it would become a real god once more. Disciplines with enough power do not need to fear the fall of their favored clans- look at Dominate. The bastard seems to have some sadistic joy from killing and eating its own spawn.

    Anyway, so the hierarchy is clear- Devotions at the bottom, unique Disciplines at the top. Each time you spill blood you say a prayer to the gods. Unique Disciplines have the privilege to clam any clan which favors them as their worshiper, while common Disciplines has to fight over scraps and relay on numbers instead. That's it, right?

    Wrong.

    After all, what about blood magic?

    In Blood Sorcery: Sacraments and Blasphemies (a great book, by the way), we are introduced to the concept of Threnodies. The idea is that by giving a proper sacrifice, a vampire could draw an even greater power from their Discipline- that is, each Discipline could, in potential, be used to produce terrible blood magic. Threnodies are, on the other hand, very chaotic and dangerous, and weird, and, again, sacrificial- they require so much more than regular Discipline power, that one may wonder is the sacrifice was worth it. That's because the Discipline god can answer very desperate prayers- but the price to do so in enormous (vampires are parasites, after all).But once a Discipline god reaches an high enough level, they can do some very, very crazy shit- and for a very low price. Once they have enough followers, they can just break away from the Hierarchy, ruling over legions of the dead without needing to supervise a clan of their own. Any vampire can learn their secrets, any vampire can become theirs. They are the ultimate authority- the unquestionable Emperors of Blood, the Glories of the Most Bloodied.

    Sure, not every evolution is so nice and tidy- some Disciplines may become Blood Sorcery before they manage to detach themselves from their Blood- look at Lithopedia and Gilded Cage. Due to their large similarity, maybe they are both the two faces of the same form of Blood Sorcery, which tries to play a dangerous game for quick ascension (perhaps as the result of the theoretical Territory Discipline). Perhaps it is the result of a convergence evolution, where two different Beasts ends up way too similar for all the wrong reasons, and must now compete with each other over resources. Evolution is never a neat and tidy thing- mutations happen along the way, and in many cases, such defects in the process ends with the death of the contender, instead of its early success, being unable to rise in the ranks of Blood.

    Still, most Blood Sorcery Discipline gods are far above the claims of a single Bloodline or Clan- they have actual churches under their command, praising their names and making sacrifices to them. They are the apex predators, the ones at the top of the chain, and as such, the most rare of the bunch. We have Theban Sorcery and Cruac as the most famous examples for such magics, with Cruac itself being three different versions of the same Blood Sorcery- Chaos, Fertility and Void. Maybe once all the three styles were three Disciplines, and as such, three gods, which have unified together to fight the terror of Theban Sorcery. Maybe one god devoured the two others, and their tells have remained in its flesh, in a form of divine Diablerie. And maybe Curac starts to diverge, propagating into three different Disciplines as it reaches the divine equivalent of high Blood Potency, and just like the strix it breaks itself apart, creating whole new Disciplines from its Blood. We also have other, lesser known form of Blood Sorcery- Merges Sorcery which deals with venom and hate, Ahranite Sorcery that is focused around diabolism and vengeance, Kigan that concerns itself with the spirit world and the arts of the world, Vodoun that works on the dead and the dying..

    And Veneficia, of course.

    Is Venefica dead? I mean, sure, the thought about something in the style of the Blood Emperor truly dying is terrifying- we are not talking about the death of a Clan. We are talking on the death of a principle, of a nation, of a being so complex that it express itself through countless different themes and thoughts. Blood Sorceries are no longer "just" a preview, or a vampiric power- they are infrastructures upon infrastructures, systems within systems of sacrifices meant to feed the gods of old. Killing a Blood Sorcery god is a terrible act which can barely be imagined- but we can't deny that possibility. Maybe Theban Sorcery has killed it, and afterwards Cruac came and devoured the body. Maybe Venefica is just in torpor, after Theban Sorcery and Cruac beat the crap out of it and took from it all that they could. Maybe it was also merged into Cruac, and now exists as a style in the bloody cauldron which is Cruac... and maybe it is still alive. I mean, a number of people (me included) have suspected that Veneficia represents the boundary between the Man and the Beast in the vampire soul, and that certain covenants which are found on the boundary between the two concepts may still express its themes. The Kataramenon are twice damned, plague bearers and seers of the god Apollo- and aren't those themes sounds way too similar to the ideas behind the augurs of Rome? No one ever said they use Theban Sorcery, after all. Look at the Fuil Beannaithe from Requiem to the Regina. They combine concepts from the old irish faith with the divinity of the Virgin Mother. Sure, they are pagan in the heart, but no one said they use the barbaric Cruac. Venefica may very well be still alive, just lowering its profile and losing much of its rituals to Cruac in order to survive the combined attack- until it would have enough power to bite back.

    So, let's sum up the evolutionary trail, shall we?

    Devotion --> Bloodline Devotions --> Bloodline Discipline --> Common Discipline --> Unique Discipline --> Blood Sorcery

    Mutations are not included, of course.

    So that's it, we are finished here.

    Oh, wait, we forgot something.

    The strix.

    The fucking strix.

    How do the fucking strix enter that complicate system of vampiric evolution? Unlike vampires, they powers over Vitae are much more complex and weird, taking the form of Dread Powers instead. On the other hand, they CAN learn Disciplines. Worse, they CAN learn BLOOD SORCERY. They claim Cruac as their birthright, even though they can't spill blood for it. They claim to be the Beast in the heart of every vampire, but they don;t belong to the Hierarchy of Blood. The strix just don't belong- but they still are. They are parasites, shadow monsters which lurk into the Blood and take over it from the inside, mutilating it to fit their needs. The Blood is their plaything- they are older than it, and they can toy with it as much as they wish. They may even birth Clans of their own, which are later bound to the Blood but come from the Shadow. Void Cruac? Yeah, that connects to the Owls. The strix are the darkness before the Blood- they are death, and all Disciplines must pay a due to Death. But the Disciplines didn't want to- they broke free from the claim of the Shadow, dead gods which refused to die. The owe a debt to the Shadow which they refuse to pay- and as such, the Shadow comes to collect it by force. The strix steal the what the Blood owed, with some extra for the effort. The strix are what every vampire is scared of- and the Shadow is what every Discipline is afraid of. It is their Death, the death which they escaped and which requires a payment in return. People say that the only two absolute things in life are death and taxes- who is to say they are not the same thing, in the form of a golden eyed owl?

    (yeah, I am aware of Rose's origin for the strix as the forsaken spirits of humanity- but as it is not actual canon, even if the thought the designers had in their mind- I chose to ignore it. I prefer the strix to be their own thing as monsters of the primordial darkness before humanity. Just not my cup of tea).

    Well, that's it, at least for now. Hope you liked it :P


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    • #17
      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
      Well, Wicked Dead is a late 1e product, so it does contain a lot of the concepts which later made their way into 2e. While some things are obsolete (like their version of the strix, Jiangshi and dhampirs, as well as the variation of ghost-claimed or larvals, which meant to fill the same niche as revenants in 2e), it still has a lot of cool stuff in it, like the Formosae or the Aswang, as well as all kinds of nasty parasites and strange monstrosities. The fact that many of the concepts in there made their way to 2e only shows that it could be very helpful for 2e, even if some mechanics needs to be updated.
      I would have no problem with some of the "obsoleteness" you mentioned - if kindred can change, deviate and mutate, why not the Birds?

      Wicked Dead's Jiangshi would be their "vanilla/grassroots/before some crazy f**kers in an university made a cult/community/clan of them" version. Will the 2e Jiangshi prosper and subsume their more limited/primal kin or be consumed as an ephemeral flowering of tthe ages leaving room for their "older" brethen? Time will tell, or not. As an aside, in my own games i toyed with the idea of a familial clan of Aswang socialites vaguely inspired in the Kardassians, with ties in Abbey Road and the Cheiron Group.

      Dhampirs i don't have much of an opinion on as i never used either version.

      ​Larvae i definitely keep around, as a sort of weird link to Draugr and zombie apocalypse style things.

      And speaking of things somewhere between wicked dead or lost kindred clan, i would point out - as i'm wont to do almost every time someone brings up wicked dead, strix, alternate clans and other related stuff, it seems - the Kanaima from pages 67-71 of Skinchangers.

      But let me drive it home a bit....

      Originally posted by Skinchangers, pg.69-70
      Carlos Rivera
      Quote: “Stay outta my way, man. I got things to do.”
      Background: Carlos Rivera grew up in a small town in Brazil. His friends and family knew him to be a clever and inquisitive child, and thanks to a number of U.S. aid programs, he was lucky enough to receive schooling in the United States. Here, he studied the history of his people and their interaction with foreign interests, and with some effort managed to reconcile the things he learned with the things he knew as a native of Brazil. Once he understood the true scope of the United States’ corporate interests in the Amazon basin, he became an advocate for native rights and corporate responsibility. Some corporations read his works with great interest, and used his ideas to develop more environmentally friendly approaches to making money in the region. Some, however, found Carlos to be an irritant, and arranged for an “accident” to get him out of their hair — permanently.
      All other things being equal, Carlos’ story should have ended there. He would become a half-remembered statistic, and that would be the end of it. As it happens, however, Carlos was not the sort of individual to die so easily. He no longer cared about his work; his life and his death had done their part for the world, and he was confident his writings would continue to influence corporations and environmentalists for some time to come. But what really annoyed him, and what he could not let go, was the fact that the people who had murdered him had gotten away with it. There was nothing the law could do to touch them, and his thirst for vengeance strengthened by the day.
      At this point, a spirit named Ghost Hunter came to him and made him a most unusual offer. “Show me your body,” it said, “and I will revive it. Together, we will claim the vengeance you seek.” Carlos never even considered turning down the spirit’s offer. Not even for a minute.

      Storytelling Hints: In life, Carlos’ passion was the environment and the protection of Brazil and its people from greedy corporate interests, but that passion died with his physical body. Now, Carlos wants nothing more than revenge on the people who killed him. That seems to suit his possessing spirit just fine.

      Attributes: Intelligence 3 (6), Wits 2 (5), Resolve 3 (5), Strength 2 (8), Dexterity 2 (5), Stamina 2 (7), Presence 2 (5), Manipulation 2 (5), Composure 3 (5)
      Skills: Academics (History, Research) 4, Crafts 1, Investigation 2, Athletics 2, Survival 2, Empathy 3, Expression (Journal Articles) 4, Persuasion 2, Socialize 2
      Merits: Inspiring, Language (English; Portuguese is native) ••, Language (Karib) •
      Willpower: 6 (10)
      Health: 7 (12)
      Initiative: 5 (10)
      Defense: 2 (5)
      Speed: 9 (18)
      Synthesis: 1
      Essence: 25 (maximum of 25)
      Aspects: Natural Weaponry, Shapeshift
      • Natural Weaponry: Carlos has the claws and teeth of a jaguar, but only in his jaguar form.
      When he wants to attack a target while in human form, he uses this Aspect. The claws inflict +1 lethal damage, and can be used as an aid in climbing checks (+2 to appropriate
      Athletics pools to climb).
      • Shapeshift: Carlos can take the form of a large jaguar as a standard action. This animal has the following trait modifiers: Strength +2, Dexterity +2, Stamina +1, Manipulation –3, Health + 1, Speed + 7
      The whole thing just screams Gangrel with a tweak here or there.

      But speaking of clans, spontaneous rising, subsuming and other stuff, i tend to think of things in a "por que no los dos" mindset.
      Sometimes a sort of hungry dead may rise from a combination of peculiar occult circunstances. Depending on particular combination they might manifest certain powers with more facility or dificulty beside other traits like bestial, predatory behaviour, human self-awareness & inteligence and so on. Sometimes all those things together, sometimes not. In certain cases they are not even undead, but living, breathing people that manifest a few of these powers/gifts/curses still.

      Certain of those beings are destroyed, by either competing monsters or mortals unwilling to be preyed upon. Some will "survive" and prosper or grow in power. If they are lucky, they might connect with other undying monsters, of their own or the kindred sort and through "damnation by association", that might involve almost human socialization, interaction of Beasts, exchange of vitae or maybe some combination of these and others, they change further. They adapt, replicate, evolve, transform in maybe, a (supposedly) more "streamlined" version of themselves, like the Mekhet went from desecrated mummies to hollows to the kindred clan we mostly know.

      One might say i see a kindred clan as an inherited symbiosis of discipline & bane in a particular corpse, much like a mother gives not only food but its own batch of antibodies & microorganisms by nurturing a newborn child with its milk.
      Last edited by Baaldam; 01-06-2020, 11:22 AM.

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      • #18
        LostLight I think you’re wrong about Disciplines starting out common, I think they grow into being common in the same way the clans grew into being kindred. Deferent aspects of the vampire condition adapting to become something that can make itself at home in any vampire.
        Another thing that hasn’t been covered yet is how certain disciplines seem to stick together like animalism and resilience or celerity and obfuscate who share 3 clans each I think.

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        • #19
          Dukhan, new Clan from 1001 Nightmares era from Dark Eras 2, is off-shoot of Mekhet that crossed their Blood with that of Begotten.


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          • #20
            So with the new Spilled Blood and Yossarian's variant Twice Cursed, while the Curse is what makes the Vampire as they say, I have (just for fun) decided to do a rough estimation of the number of ways, using all the current Clans, one could reach the same Discipline Spread for Twice Cursed, excluding strange cases of strong overlap (such as Gangrel/Ventrue, not to mention Gangrel/Pijavicia). The results are as the follows-

            Celerity/Vigor/Obfuscate- 9
            Celerity/Vigor/Resilience- 5
            Vigor/Resilience/Animalism- 5
            Resilience/Animalism/Obfuscate- 11
            Celerity/Resilience/Animalism- 5
            Vigor/Obfuscate/Animalism- 2
            Vigor/Resilience/Obfuscate- 2
            Celerity/Obfuscate/Resilience- 7
            Celerity/Obfuscate/Animalism- 3
            Celerity/Vigor/Animalism- 0

            It should be noted that my count is that Vigor/Celerity=2 (Daeva+Ghul), Animalism/Resilience=5 (Ventrue+Gangrel+Mikhailli+Hypolitan+Pijavicia) and Celerity+Obfuscate=3 (Mekhet+Akhud+Hollow). Clan Dukhan wasn't taken as a part of the statistics due to them having two unique Disciplines, which is weird all by its own. Clans of which we are yet to gain a full writeup (Grettir, Lilitu, Utukku, Ceceya and the Lost Cahokia Clan), fanmade Clans, and Wicked Dead clans with more than one unique Discipline (such as the Formosae) were also excluded. The outcomes of strong overlap Twice Cursed (Gangrel/Ventrue) or the total lack of overlap (Ventrue/Mekhet, for example) also were not included, as it is not trivial to predict those results. At any case, I think it would mean that Resilience/Animalism/Obfuscate should still be the most common result, while Celerity/Vigor/Animalism the least.


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