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[Game Design] Disciplines: How and Why?

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  • [Game Design] Disciplines: How and Why?

    Still kind of struggling to articulate this as a question about a line that's not very deep into my expertise,* so bear with me for a minute: Why are structured Disciplines the primary form of Kindred supernatural development, given what Requiem has established through implication and more direct statement about how vampirism works?

    I can understand it from a Doylist lens — pre-established chains of five dot-rated powers have been the Vampire model since Masquerade, and Requiem has been the first published monster gameline in both editions of ChroD so far — and Bloody Dots and other dev commentary make a solid case for retaining a graduated power structure for the same reasons Humanity is now the most analogous Integrity stat to its 1e equivalent, but even in preceding editions having an alternative power at some level in a Discipline chain was often an unusual circumstance (the one that immediately springs to mind is from Night Horrors).

    I can understand how Devotions figure in — developing more particular powers from the building blocks of more general ones for a lower Experience cost provides a ready outlet for older Kindred to put character-development resources toward besides Humanity maintenance and Social Merits, to the point that it's the first comparison I went to when looking at how Changeling 2e handles Goblin Contracts for Goblins Queens — but almost every Discipline except the "physical" ones has specific powers that every vampire with that level of expertise is assumed to know how to use, when so much of the Kindred condition is this sort of aggregated granular outcome of bloodlines and hunting grounds and you-are-what-you-eat.

    Differentiation from Mage notwithstanding, why is the basis for Requiem's power development not something that lends itself to developing things like blood sorcery, bloodline gifts, and so on at the core, such that specialization is an emergent property rather than a baseline that the game tells us isn't the bottom line? The Predatory Aura gives us some established basis to work from, as do the bonuses frenzy gives a vampire by tapping into the Beast, so why not have Disciplines be more like broad categories of vampiric power that can be improvised with some difficulty (e.g. a straight Blood Potency roll with modifiers making clan/bloodline Disciplines easier to pull off) and move specific powers into the realm of Devotions?

    Curious to know if anyone had any thoughts on this.

    * My focused reread of Vampire 1e is some ways down my reading list and I can't claim to have completely internalized all existing 2e content so far (and my library's likely to be in shambles for at least another several months), so I may have missed a fair bit, in which case I apologize.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

  • #2
    The way I see it - keeping in mind that it's pure head-canon - is that vampire powers mirror the base human traits as a way the blood molds itself to the human form it's bound to.

    If we take the assumption that the curse of vamprism stems from spiritual beings like the Strix, it isn't naturally "human" and requires adaptation that starts with the base form of a human, and expands from there.

    Blood Potency and the universal vampire powers are the "Attributes" in this. They're the blood adapting to the most basic parts of being human, and the basest parts of life (hence the Beast seeming like such an animalistic part of our nature).

    The common Disciplines are the "Skills." The blood curse requiring a certain amount of training to be leveraged to specific broad applications (and 2e moving to more internally consistent Disciplines instead of five dots loosely linked in theme).

    Bloodlines gifts, Devotions, blood sorcery, and so on mirror Specialties and Merits, as the blood is further adapted to specific purposes.

    So beyond a decent way to understand it in-character, it also ensures that all the powers in Vampire link back to the concept of vampirism being something stuffed into a human shape that didn't' start with humanity.

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    • #3
      I think a large thematic reason why the basic Disciplines are ladders is the point that the Clans' basic powers are entirely inherent abilities, which simply develop better or faster through training and use. Unlike Contracts, Gifts or Arcana, which are partially external advantages, requiring training or input of power from second parties, Disciplines are entirely internal and inherent to the various Kindred Curses. They just need to be unlocked.
      The same way how a human babe first learns to crawl and then to walk, a Nosferatu gains some rough control over their noisome aura (Dread Presence) before she learns how to turn it into a directed "attack" (Face of the Beast). You would not expect the little human to run before it crawls, regardless of its talents, right?
      Some humans get so far in mastering their own locomotion, they become olympic runners, some Nosferatu master their gift of terror to literally kill people with fright (Mortal Terror). Though, while all humans have the potential to refine their ability to move with their legs to such a degree, few actually do, same with many Haunts and Nightmare.

      In fact, in Requien for Rome it mentions how Julii (and I believe Daeva too) often do not think of their Disciplines as specific powers but simply refinements of their natural Clan abilities. A Julii's word is simply not questioned, a Daeva simply has "It"; and the more developed a vampire is, the stronger they bring their inherent nature to bear, but training and exercise can accelerate the process. Often times when we get Disciple use described in purely narrative terms, they seem to be used in a highly instinctual - sometimes even subconscious - fashion.

      Devotions then are the combinations of inherent "natural" abilities the vampire has, to achieve whole new things. Staying with the examples of humans using their physical abilities, a vampire developing a Devotion is an olympic high jumper, combing multiple inherent but trainable abilities for a whole new effect.

      That Disciplines are "natural" abilities you grow into over your Requiem, like a kid learning to walk and then run, is very well modeled by the ladder system. This gives them the feel of being extensions of your nature, which highlights your inborn predatory aspect.
      Last edited by saibot; 10-28-2020, 07:04 PM.


      Politeness is the lubricant of social intercourse.

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      • #4
        Another possible implication could be that all the vampire s beasts are in fact fragments of the same "entity" (or place/lower depth), so even if each vampire is unique and different all the beasts have a common set of unlockable abilities, as the previous examples explains, that are in fact adaptation of the beast to its new human shell.
        Unique variations are possible, but are still an unlocking of a latent ability of the same "entity", so a rigid and structured power scale is always present

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Neos01 View Post
          Another possible implication could be that all the vampire s beasts are in fact fragments of the same "entity" (or place/lower depth), so even if each vampire is unique and different all the beasts have a common set of unlockable abilities, as the previous examples explains, that are in fact adaptation of the beast to its new human shell.
          Unique variations are possible, but are still an unlocking of a latent ability of the same "entity", so a rigid and structured power scale is always present

          I prefer to avoid the term entity, as it can mislead people into imagining some sort of all-father/mother kind of being guiding the kindred as a whole, when the one commonality to their "race" seems to be the utter lack of an external direction/guidance - though that shouldn't stop religious-minded kindred of the LS, CoC and other such groups of trying to claim the reality of such a being.

          I tend to see it as a matter of certain arcane/spiritual affinities at play - and the minds of blood magic spawned undead seeking companionship on each other's arms and filling out blank dots based on what commonalities/patterns they did find to their shared experiences.

          I like to stick to the idea of disciplines as exactly that - branches of knowledge, learning and practice. The basic math, animal handling, oratory and so on of the developing undead mind. That's makes them all so similiar a pattern across clans and spontaneously risen monsters.

          Though not equal, as shown by the fact some disciplines can't be learned by a vampire without an appropriate tutor, or a number of other peculiar things peppered here and there across clans, bloodlines, covenants, cults or individuals.

          Evolution of sorts is also possible, of what we have at least one quite telling cross-edition canon example in the form of the Jiangshi, that went from "vampire-esque non-kindred monster with dread powers instead of disciplines" in Wicked Dead to straight out "new clan" through the power of numbers made possible the fortuitous formation of a secret society of them in the right/wrong place.
          Last edited by Baaldam; 10-29-2020, 10:02 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Baaldam View Post


            I prefer to avoid the term entity, as it can mislead people into imagining some sort of all-father/mother kind of being guiding the kindred as a whole, when the one commonality to their "race" seems to be the utter lack of an external direction/guidance - though that shouldn't stop religious-minded kindred of the LS, CoC and other such groups of trying to claim the reality of such a being.

            I tend to see it as a matter of certain arcane/spiritual affinities at play - and the minds of blood magic spawned undead seeking companionship on each other's arms and filling out blank dots based on what commonalities/patterns they did find to their shared experiences.

            I like to stick to the idea of disciplines as exactly that - branches of knowledge, learning and practice. The basic math, animal handling, oratory and so on of the developing undead mind. That's makes them all so similiar a pattern across clans and spontaneously risen monsters.

            Though not equal, as shown by the fact some disciplines can't be learned by a vampire without an appropriate tutor, or a number of other peculiar things peppered here and there across clans, bloodlines, covenants, cults or individuals.

            Evolution of sorts is also possible, of what we have at least one quite telling cross-edition canon example in the form of the Jiangshi, that went from "vampire-esque non-kindred monster with dread powers instead of disciplines" in Wicked Dead to straight out "new clan" through the power of numbers made possible the fortuitous formation of a secret society of them in the right/wrong place.
            Oh, i agree, i used the term "entity" for a lack of better term but you can easily call it a force or realm.
            In fact i think that the only influence exerted by the beast on the kindred race is the frenzy/hunger
            Last edited by Neos01; 10-29-2020, 10:15 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Neos01 View Post

              Oh, i agree, i used the term "entity" for a lack of better term but you can easily call it a force or realm.
              In fact i think that the only influence exerted by the beast on the kindred race is the frenzy/hunger
              I like to interchangeably use influence, affinity or numina for that - yes, blatantly stealing from Book of Spirits, no denying.

              It passes the overall idea of a power as such, but at the same leaves it open in that there's a huge variety of quite different, related or wholy unrelated types of beings, choirs, places or things that may possess such common elements or others.

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              • #8
                The way I think of it, Disciplines are an expression of the Beast's ability to hunt. It's something you get better at over time, and have to train and refine: that's why you get to add your rating to the dice pool, and why having more dots increases the efficacy of some powers. You're a superior predator. Yes, Blood Potency comes into that too, but that's more a measurement to compare with other vampires. Disciplines are how you determine your superiority over mortals, and having a tiered progression makes a lot of sense for that, as opposed to a more buffet style power system (for example). I like to say vampires do politics because fighting each other is so all-or-nothing, and one of the reasons for that is because Disciplines aren't really for dealing with each other.

                In contrast, Blood Sorcery is very deliberate and external, something you study under the tutelage of a covenant. Only a handful of bloodlines (and only bloodlines) have an inherent affinity for blood magic, and even then, that was a deliberate choice. Even Devotions are something you have to intellectualize, to some degree. Disciplines are pure id (I think every write up in 2E refers to the Beast in some way).

                From a more meta point of view, while vampires/clans have similar powers, those effects aren't as cut and dry as the game presents. The mechanics are a way of codifying a phenomenon in the game world, and I don't think they always work quite the same way for every vampire. As Rose has said, they don't refer to each sub-power by the individual names listed in the chain. Those are for us, and in a way, so is the book's "interpretation" of Disciplines.
                Last edited by Yossarian; 10-29-2020, 04:45 PM.



                Social justice vampire/freelancer | He/Him

                Actual Play: Vampire: The Requiem – Bloodlines
                Masquiem: Curses of Caine in Requiem 2nd
                Storytellers Vault: Author Page

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Yossarian View Post
                  From a more meta point of view, while vampires/clans have similar powers, those effects aren't as cut and dry as the game presents. The mechanics are a way of codifying a phenomenon in the game world, and I don't think they always work quite the same way for every vampire. As Rose has said, they don't refer to each sub-power by the individual names listed in the chain. Those are for us, and in a way, so is the book's "interpretation" of Disciplines.
                  I always liked the idea of Gangrel Animalism and Ventrue Animalism appearing very differently to an observer in the actual narrative. While in that case it may be fairly obvious, I wonder what could be done to differentiate Mekhet and Nosferatu Obfuscate.

                  In fact, it could be a neat idea to have some individual powers replaced based on Clan.


                  Politeness is the lubricant of social intercourse.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Yossarian View Post
                    The way I think of it, Disciplines are an expression of the Beast's ability to hunt. It's something you get better at over time, and have to train and refine: that's why you get to add your rating to the dice pool, and why having more dots increases the efficacy of some powers. You're a superior predator. Yes, Blood Potency comes into that too, but that's more a measurement to compare with other vampires. Disciplines are how you determine your superiority over mortals, and having a tiered progression makes a lot of sense for that, as opposed to a more buffet style power system (for example). I like to say vampires do politics because fighting each other is so all-or-nothing, and one of the reasons for that is because Disciplines aren't really for dealing with each other.
                    This puts a curious spin on the idea of Elysium....


                    Originally posted by Yossarian View Post
                    In contrast, Blood Sorcery is very deliberate and external, something you study under the tutelage of a covenant. Only a handful of bloodlines (and only bloodlines) have an inherent affinity for blood magic, and even then, that was a deliberate choice. Even Devotions are something you have to intellectualize, to some degree. Disciplines are pure id (I think every write up in 2E refers to the Beast in some way).
                    Let's not forget Threnodies (also from Blood Sorcery), that can take the "deliberate x ID" debate in some quite weird places.


                    Originally posted by Yossarian View Post
                    From a more meta point of view, while vampires/clans have similar powers, those effects aren't as cut and dry as the game presents. The mechanics are a way of codifying a phenomenon in the game world, and I don't think they always work quite the same way for every vampire. As Rose has said, they don't refer to each sub-power by the individual names listed in the chain. Those are for us, and in a way, so is the book's "interpretation" of Disciplines.
                    Originally posted by saibot View Post

                    I always liked the idea of Gangrel Animalism and Ventrue Animalism appearing very differently to an observer in the actual narrative. While in that case it may be fairly obvious, I wonder what could be done to differentiate Mekhet and Nosferatu Obfuscate.

                    In fact, it could be a neat idea to have some individual powers replaced based on Clan.
                    Shadows of Mexico gives a very interesting early example of disciplines breaking their own mold with some regional variations on base powers connected with kindred of native background, if memory tricks me not. Even though that particular direction did not see much development in later books, such peculiar differences by regional/cultural group might certainly be possible in many other parts of the world, i guess.
                    Last edited by Baaldam; 10-29-2020, 05:46 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by saibot View Post

                      I always liked the idea of Gangrel Animalism and Ventrue Animalism appearing very differently to an observer in the actual narrative. While in that case it may be fairly obvious, I wonder what could be done to differentiate Mekhet and Nosferatu Obfuscate.

                      In fact, it could be a neat idea to have some individual powers replaced based on Clan.
                      Just as a Mekhet's Obfuscate is a very different beast than that of a Nosferatu. A Mekhet slips into the shadows without you noticing, while a Nosferatu is a like a reverse jumpscare: He's GONE!



                      Social justice vampire/freelancer | He/Him

                      Actual Play: Vampire: The Requiem – Bloodlines
                      Masquiem: Curses of Caine in Requiem 2nd
                      Storytellers Vault: Author Page

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