The Sum of All Fears

Nightmare’s not about fear. Fear is rational, fear is understandable. Nightmare is about terror. Blind, stinking, rabbit-fleeing-from the wolves terror. Oh, sure, it starts out innocent enough. The guy a little too creepy to talk to, the little old lady you somehow feel compelled to give a wide berth. But then the little glitches start appearing. You’re working late on a construction job, and you see a human face in the path of your circular saw. Blink, and it’s gone.

You decide to clock out, but as you walk down the street you see someone you’d almost forgotten. Someone you’re afraid of in a way no amount of drugs or therapy could ever dig out.

You make it safely home, and fall into the arms of your wife, shaking. But she’s holding you too tight. And she smells wrong. It’s not her, is it?

And then you run out of the apartment, and the real terror begins.

<Click here for the playtest document.>

  10 comments for “The Sum of All Fears

  1. Peter Boddy
    February 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Ooh, nicely done!

  2. Dave
    February 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    So here are my thoughts:

    Level 1: Perfect works beautifully for the route you are trying to take.

    Level 2: “Boo! Go away!” it works Good Job here

    Level 3: This is where I start to have my concerns on the power as a whole, and it starts to look very similar to Ravnos from OWoD. There needs to be some more definition surrounding the size, scope and detail of the illusion. What are the effects of multiple uses on the target (to create a very elaborate scenario that becomes impossible to disbelieve).

    Level 4: This seems to mirror level 3, and it looks like it would be best fit taking levels 3 and 4 and making it into one power and finding something new to fill the roll of a level 3 discipline. Barring that, the concerns from level 3 apply. What are the size limits (if any)?

    Level 5: This is fundimentally a copy & paste from Horrid Reality (Ravnos, OWoD) and seems to be open for abuse and, countless hours hashing and rehashing it. I’m a firm believer that this type of effect was removed for a good cause and should stay removed. (Horrid Reality, You think your staked, being the largest of a great many concerns that come to mind. This also defaults to being a buffing power / effect, allowing psychotic rampages with out penalty.

    Overall I think you started in a great place but finished far from the mark. The effects of this power seem to fall more in line with being a combination of Malkavian and Ravnos (from the OWoD setting) and do not fill into to the “abject terror” that was intended. I can think of a few suggestions that may work within the confines of terror that you are looking for, in a much more “Nosferatu” design.

    In general I’m not a fan of any power, effect or item that leaves large amounts of vague technicalities as this one seams to. I’d recommend doing some additional work to make sure that its spelled out the desired focus and effect.

    Levels 1 & 2 Keep them, they are perfect :)

    Level 3;
    Cost: 1 Vitae
    Resistance: TBD
    Duration: 1 Scene

    Descriptor: the target of this power becomes enthralled with the very stuff of fear itself, perhaps they feel their flesh being eaten by maggots, or maybe something worse. Truly twisted Nosferatu Princes have been known to use this power on disloyal subjects, showing the domain that breaking the rule of law may cost them in more ways then just their life.

    Effect: Upon successful activation of this power the user of Nightmare may select one of the following effects:

    Targets receives a -1 penalty to their next action (remember the horror movies and trying to start a car?)
    Targets defense is reduced by 1 for the turn (ever walk into a spider web?)
    Targets initiative is reduced by 1 (its hard to focus, with the voices of so many ghosts…)
    The targets Presence is reduced by 1 (its hard to look cool when your clawing bugs off your skin)

    Level 4: Combine levels 3 & 4 as currently written into one effect and place it here. Additionally remove the line that reads: “No matter how convincing the Waking Nightmare can’t cause actual harm or inflict debilitating pain.” and change it to: No matter how convincing the Waking Nightmare cannot cause actual harm, although it can cause debilitating pain.”

    Reasoning: Pain is the universal fear, all creatures fear it as a matter of survival. Why would a Nosferatu ignore such an obvious tool?

    Level 5: Honestly I would say utilize the Level 5 Nightmare Power currently printed. Its exceptionally powerful when applied right. If your looking to ‘amp’ its strength add a stun effect for one turn, and / or cause mania for a number of weeks (similar to the current shatter the mind).

  3. Oliver
    February 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    You know, I’ve read some things in Vampire books where Nightmare was put among Majesty and Dominate as one of the mind altering powers, and that always struck me as weird. My reaction was pretty much “Nightmare doesn’t work like the other two Disciplines. You can’t actually alter someone’s behavior with it like you can with the others, just make them run away.” But this… THIS is a discipline that lets you mindfuck people. The illusion power, the belief power… I’m way more excited about getting all those powers than I EVER was about the old Nightmare (which is basically a succession of “you make him really afraid” powers). This makes me want to play a Nosferatu.

    And as a note to the previous poster: the “debilitating pain” line isn’t there to prevent you from inflicting ANY pain, it’s just there so you can’t one-shot someone by making him hurt so much he can’t move.

  4. Spoonfunk
    February 26, 2013 at 3:57 am

    I personally think that the entire illusion creation fits better with the nos than the OwoD Ravnos. Nightmare is about making those terrible thoughts and dreams that scare the crap out of you a reality. Giving them the ability to mess with your reality completely fits with the hidden boogyman aspect of the Nos that has made them iconic.

    However there are a couple things I would like to point out in the vein of constructive criticism.

    Before I begin it would be really helpful for in the final revision there to be several sidebars concerning this power. One on the generating illusions and beliefs that aren’t terrifying, disbelief, clash of wills, and the limitations or illusions.

    Level One- Actually I think this is really great conceptually I can’t get that the line out my head “your eating maggots micheal…”

    I would apply an additional mechanical penalty however. Too often players tend to take the attitude of “I am not scared of anything” or if they are scared they usually use that as a reason to aggress. -2 or -1 to all social and mental tests for the remander of the Night/scene to represent them bieng unsettled or unnerved. This cannot stack with with continual uses of dread presence.

    Level two- good balance I would add text to fightened that suggested which type of frenzy vampires should check for, as well as a reminder that they will have to spend a willpower each turn they wish to suppress it.

    Level 3: It took me two or three read throughs of this power to understand it. The effect applied though doesn’t have any mechnical effects only roleplaying ones… based off of that it is pretty wide open for a person to just ignore the effect. May I suggest either wording applied to the power or the frightened condition that is similar to that which is found in the World of Darkness Core Rules (current) concerning derangments like paranioa, Hysteria, phobia or fixation? That penalties applied to any of those derangments is pretty specific and seems to fall in line with the intended effect.

    Level 4: I would apply a -2 to everyones social and mental tests in the presence of the illusion. There should be more reinforcement of the fact that these illusions are territfying. Mostly however instead of strait test minus the highest composure in a group, it should be a strait test and anyone in the vicinity of the illusion with a composure (why not resolve?) equal or less than the successess is effected. The reason why I say this is because you don’t want to run into the old awe situation where people enter into a scene and therefore are effected or not effected by because of this power. It also means that those people in the group who didn’t purchase high composure a recieving the benifits of another characters xp (which isn’t fair to the player with high composure)

    Level 5: not knowiing how morality is going to work in vampire it am not sure about the first power….the second one is fine but it should be clarified what the illusion can and cannot do mechanically. Meaning that it can attack, grapple or use any manuever that may be found in the core rules or the character generating the illusion personally has puchased on his/her sheet. Further more the illusion cannot instill or mimic the effects of other supernatural powers such as illusions dominating the victim. The character also cannot produce an illusion that isn’t consistant with the mechanical effects that the illusion is inflicting on the victim. Meaning the creator cannot create an illusion of a building falling on the character crushing him to death when the illusion is only going to do somewhere between 1 and 5 bashing damage or the creator cannot create an illusion of the victim bieng sucked into space and burning up in the sun *I have actually had someone try this btw*
    Finnally I would reiterate that this is supposed to be terrifying. There is nothing terrifying about teletubby’s giving vampires the hug of death. it only serves to break the themes and mood of the genre and detracts from roleplay….
    Granted the it is the ST’s decision (and responsibility) to ensure the integrity of his game (as well as decide if that is the game that he wants to run) but it should be clarified if only to serve as a reminder of the intent so that storytellers don’t have to detract from roleplay with an in depth explanation/argument on what is supposed to be terrifying. This helps set a common ground for the horror that this power (more so than other powers) is suppose to invoke. ST’s can go from there as they need to

    • Oliver
      February 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      “(why not resolve?)”
      Composure protects your emotions (nightmare), resolve protects your thoughts (dominate).

      And a sneak peek at the new morality rules for those who missed it:

    • Eric
      May 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Level 3: [...] The effect applied though doesn’t have any mechnical effects only roleplaying ones… based off of that it is pretty wide open for a person to just ignore the effect.

      I, too, am concerned about this. Like it or not, not everyone who plays RPGs is a great role-player. Some simply aren’t very good at acting. Others are only interested in tactics, strategy, or puzzle-solving. So when powers like levels 1, 3, or 4 of this version of Nightmare are used on the characters of players like that, the effects can seem shallow, flat, and lacking “bite,” and the player who paid for and used the power could feel ripped off.

      One of the nice things that many RPGs released in the past decade or so do (WoD included) is couple roleplaying effects with mechanical ones. (Examples: original VtR’s Dread, Nightmare ** and many of GMC’s Conditions.) Doing this helps ensure that even players like those described above still feel the power’s effects, and the user feels like he’s gotten his XP’s worth.

      If the above-mentioned powers got mechanical effects to go along with their role-playing notes, I’d be a lot happier with them.

      I would also like a strongly-worded paragraph reminding players that the hallucinations generated by Nightmare powers should portray scary images, sounds, etc. (a la Freddy Krueger or the Scarecrow), and not whatever silly whim the player has at the moment.

      “Nightmare gives a character great latitude to decide what sights, sounds, or other sensations appear to its victims. Players and Storytellers should take great care to remember, however, that these sensations should engender feelings of anxiety, fright, or terror in its victims. Storytellers are therefore encouraged to reject any proposed sensations that do not reflect an appropriate mood.

      And finally: Dread Presence (Level 1) needs a cost (or at least a roll) to discourage players from goofing off and spamming it left and right once they realize that it’s free.

  5. Peter Boddy
    February 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Are there other sections uploaded somewhere?

  6. Dustin Pendergraft
    February 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    An interesting start, but (IMHO) far from finished. Here are my quibbles, followed by some suggested fixes (if I may be so bold):
    * Dread Presence as it currently stands is essentially a “fluff” power, heavily reliant on both ST and PC interpretation for implementation. The issue with powers such as this is that they will be rapidly overlooked and under-used in favor of abilities that provide clearer-cut mechanical bonuses/penalties. This is because it’s much easier to understand “-1 to Composure Pools” than “your character feels uneasy…ish… esque… you know, bad.” I’m not advocating mechanics over thematics–far from it, actually–but my experiences have taught me that the best mechanics are the ones that illustrate and promote intended themes, moods, and game play through mathematical “carrot-and-stick” applications. The other reason to quantify effect in powers such as this is because ambiguity leads to arbitration, which accomplishes the exact opposite of what a good set of rules should do, which is to rapidly resolve logistics so that everyone can get back to collectively telling the story.
    * I like the Fear status condition; in fact, I think this should be transplanted from the Nightmare vampire Discipline to the core WoD rules. The current iteration of Delusional, however, I like less. Mitigating the price of Morality violation is a bad idea; frankly, and with all due respect to McFarland and co., I’m not a fan of the proposed new Morality system, but that’s a separate topic. Simplifying Delusional so that it basically “flags” a character as currently believing in and interacting with a suite of false stimuli is probably good enough. The implementation of this status condition, I feel, should be sparse in regards to something like Nightmare. True terror comes from suggestion, from what you DON’T see; from what you suspect is out to get you, but can’t accurately spot. A nightmare effect that generates full-blown hallucinations ought to render the victim such a mangled, gibbering, or outright comatose mess that he or she is in no shape to “sin”.
    *One issue that I’ve seen with power-set design–from the home-brew troupe user-end and professional developer quarters alike–is the inevitable divergence of story theme from game mechanics; basically, the introduction of, say, vampire powers that stray from the core elements of what vampirism represents. This usually happens when the “through-line” of a concept is either weak at initial design, or diffused through over-revision of the original ideas. This in turn results in a “grab-bag” of powers that are loosely associated with each other, instead of a tight, slick progression of what you’d expect an increase in aptitude with a particular tool would logically provide. The reason this is such an issue is because the end result is usually a power set with one or two over-used chase abilities bloated by stop-gap game duff. Thinking as a developer for Requiem, my first questions for ANY vampiric Discipline set would always be “how does this power set–in the incremental increase of scope of each power, and in the overall progression and synergy between the powers provided by the Discipline–provide a vampire the means to be a more effective predator? How effectively do the mechanics of this Discipline represent the themes of isolation, degradation, predation, addiction, and corruption inherent to the Kindred Condition?” Right now, I’d say the through-line for Nightmare could use a bit more work.

    Here is my suggested power-set list for Nightmare, presented for your perusal, pondering, discussion, dissection, and (perhaps) disposal:

    Dark Murmurings (*)
    COST: None
    TEST POOL: Manipulation + Empathy + Nightmare
    ACTION: Instant,
    RESISTANCE: Composure + Blood Potency; Contested and Reflexive
    DURATION: One Scene
    EFFECT: -1 to opposing Tests involving Wits or Composure made by everyone in the immediate vicinity
    The first thing any Nightmare-user learns is that fear is universal and omnipresent; by dialing up the ambient apprehension and misgivings of her prey, a vampire can use the over-saturation of alarm to impair the awareness of her intended victims.
    Use of this power does not break Obfuscate effects. The effect of this power prematurely ends on victims who suffer injury (i.e. loss of Health) through direct melee or ranged physical attack.
    With the expenditure of a Willpower point, the user of Dark Murmurings may exclude a number of individuals from the effects of this power equal to her trait rating in Nightmare.
    Applications of this power by multiple users do not “stack”; only the most successful application applies, although multiple users WILL affect each other. This power may only be activated once per scene by each user; a character may not attempt to “re-apply” Dark Murmurings in order to gain a higher number of successes in a scene.
    NOTES: The idea behind this power is that it provides a small advantage to the vampire over her potential prey by softening up the herd for further applications of Nightmare or other Disciplines. The benefit is universal, but low-magnitude, and not too hard to negate by other Kindred (or Supernatural) characters through either Resistance, or through aggressive circumstances. The intent is for this power to act as a “Set” to a follow-up Nightmare “Spike”. Thematically, this power provides a Nightmare-using character the means to set up potentially weaker “marks” for isolation from the rest of the herd for easier predation (heh-heh).

    Harrowing Glare (**)
    COST: 1 Willpower point; requires Eye Contact
    TEST POOL: Presence + Intimidation + Nightmare
    ACTION: Instant
    RESISTANCE: Composure + Blood Potency; Contested and Reflexive
    DURATION: One Scene
    EFFECT: inflicts the Frightened condition on a single target.
    Once a vampire understands the basics of amplifying the underlying unease possessed by cognitive creatures, the next step is to focus the fear carried in an individual’s heart to a point sharp enough to break the very bedrock of their bravery.
    The source of this condition is, by default, the user of Harrowing Glare; however, the vampire may instead elect to play on an inherent phobia of the victim–if known–by speaking out loud what truly terrifies their intended target. In this case, the victim must be able to hear as well as see the vampire. If the trigger for a target’s inherent fear is already present (such as a hydrophobic near a swimming pool), then the user of Harrowing Glare gains a +1 to her test pool to activate this power.
    NOTES: Nothing super-special here; this is the single-target “get lost” power iconic to Nightmare. Once again, this power has a simple effect with a variety of applications; combined with Abandoned Hope (see below), it provides Nightmare-using vampire characters either the means to corral quarry to a “proper” killing ground, or a quick-and-dirty defense against rival aggression.

    Crescendo of Dread (***)
    COST: 1 Vitae
    TEST POOL: Manipulation + Intimidation + Nightmare
    ACTION: Extended; requires concentration
    RESISTANCE: Composure + Blood Potency; Contested
    DURATION: Concentration, up to one Scene
    EFFECT: one target suffers a -1 to all Physical test pools for as long as the user of this power maintains concentration. Additionally, the victim suffers a -1 to their Acting Speed and Initiative. This reduction in Acting Speed also affects the victim’s Running Speed.
    Accomplished practitioners of Nightmare are vampires who discover how to make the intangible stuff of terror manifest in her prey’s perceived reality and physiology. Knees buckle, muscles spasm, eyes dart, hands shake uncontrollably as shadows seem to jump out at a victim from peripheral vision; as his body stiffens in rigid horror, as the air seems to weigh on his lungs like leaden powder, and as his very world threatens to crumble and crush him on impact.
    As with Dark Murmurings, multiple applications of this power do not “stack” on a victim; only the most successful instance of this power applies. If, during the course of contested resistance the victim meets or exceeds the successes gained by the user of Crescendo of Dread, or if the user of this power breaks concentration, then the effects of this power cease.
    No character may be subjected to Crescendo of Dread more than once per Scene. This power is limited by line-of-sight rules; if line-of-sight is broken between the vampire and her victim, the effects of this power end.
    NOTES: This is likely a controversial application of Nightmare; once again, it’s a single-target suppression bomb packing a fair bit of utility and a back-end virtual Defense boost. The idea here is to illustrate the psychosomatic link between mind and body, and how Nightmare-users exploit that through manipulating terror in order to subdue their next meal. The inclusion of the concentration-duration prerequisite is here to prevent too much combat abuse, and instead encourage player characters to use this power more as a snare against escaping prey, or as deterrent to incoming competition.

    Abandoned Hope (****)
    COST: 2 Vitae
    TEST POOL: Presence + Subterfuge + Nightmare
    ACTION: Instant
    RESISTANCE: Composure + Blood Potency, Contested and Reflexive
    DURATION: Until sunrise
    EFFECT: all characters in the immediate and nearby areas afflicted with the Frightened condition or under the effects of Fear Frenzy must move towards the False Respite established by the application of this power (see below) unless they succeed in their contested Resistance roll; if a victim does successfully resist this power, then that victim is exempt from the effects of this power for the rest of the night.
    Kindred who develop an advanced aptitude in using Nightmare are able to work not only with the presence of fear, but also the absence of it–much like an accomplished artist learns to work not just with elements placed in a composition, but also with the negative space between design elements. The vampire does this by spending a portion of her Vitae reserves and reaching out with her damned soul to “push” fear away from a particular area, such as a door to an old storm cellar, a flight of stairs leading to the second floor of a dilapidated mansion, or a path leading down to a secluded spot beneath a bridge. This area then becomes designated as a False Respite; a place of the vampire’s own choosing where she harries her designated vessel towards for consumption.
    There are limits to this ability. Users of Abandoned Hope who attempt to designate an area as a False Respite that is hostile or outright antithetical to safety suffer between -2 to -5 to the activation of this power. The effects of an established False Respite radiate out to an area approximately one city block in square footage; Frightened characters outside of this range need not move towards the False Respite established by Abandoned Hope (though if, in the course of his escape, a Frightened character moves within range of a False Respite, he must immediately test to resist the effect). If the False Respite is situated within, contains, or is composed of seriously life-threatening hazards, then those suffering the effects of Abandoned Hope need not enter the False Respite, and are instead only obligated to get as close as possible. If a victim of Abandoned Hope DOES choose to brave the dangers presented by a False Respite, then he gains one Beat.
    In the case of multiple False Respites established by multiple applications of Abandoned Hope, only the most successful use of this power applies.
    Kindred may not use Abandoned Hope to establish a False Respite within one city block of their own Haven.
    Wise Nightmare users understand that this power is not a “smart-bomb”; nothing stops a whole horde of Frightened characters from stampeding towards a False Respite, and few things are more dangerous than a group of scared Kine (or other, nastier things) who feel that life is on the line…
    NOTES: Yep; kill-box power, and unabashedly so. The reasons for inclusion are that it’s a logical thematic and game-mechanics progression from what I’ve previously established for Nightmare, it’s a high-magnitude, low effect power appropriate for something at four dots, and that it presents significant risks to the user that can bite them from behind if used without discretion. The idea here is that this power represents how Nightmare is used by a lone hunter or coterie in hunting–particularly in regards to the Nosferatu. Players and STs alike ought to keep in mind that a group of individuals rushing to a location is likely to attract attention, particularly if they seem motivated by fear. This IS an example of a power requires a solid, open dialogue between Storytellers and Players; STs should, as always, feel free to say “no” if this power hinders rather than helps along good Chronicle progression.

    Absolute Terror (*****)
    COST: 1 Willpower and 1 Vitae to initiate; 1 Willpower per additional round this power is maintained
    TEST POOL: Presence + Intimidation + Nightmare
    ACTION: Extended Instant
    RESISTANCE: Composure, Automated
    DURATION: Maintained Concentration
    EFFECT: Target loses their next action. Instead, they must make a roll composed of their Strength. Each success on this draw inflicts on the victim of Absolute Terror one point of Bashing damage. On each of the victim’s turns that he suffers the effects of Absolute Terror, he may spend one Willpower and make a reflexive Resolve + Composure roll; if the victim meets or exceeds the success achieved by the user of Absolute Terror on her last test to maintain this power, then the effects of this power end, the victim becomes Shaken for the remainder of the night, but may otherwise resume normal activity.
    Nightmare imparts upon those who master it a simple truth; it is the nature of terror to utterly consume itself and those who harbor it. By locking eyes with her prey, the vampire unlocks the Pandora’s box of primordial horror possessed by every thinking, feeling thing. In a blood-curdling display, the victim then ravages himself in an attempt to escape his own inner demons; he pulls out his hair, tears at his flesh, bashes his body and skull into nearby structures, rips muscles and ligaments in involuntary paroxysm, and hemorrhages his lung tissue in an endless, shrieking ode to fear. The fright presented by this power is so deep-seated, so powerful, and so universal that even Kindred and other supernaturals succumb to its self-destructive effects. Because of how close to the soul this power hits, it even circumvents the normal rules for Fear Frenzy or other similar loss of control; the victim is stuck self-mutilating for as long as the power is maintained, they collapse from his injuries (for Mortals this means falling unconscious from Bashing damage; for Kindred, this means dropping in to Torpor from Bashing exacerbated to Lethal) or until he manages to exert enough will to free himself from Absolute Terror.
    This power requires both line-of-sight and eye contact to initiate; this power requires both concentration and line-of-sight to maintain. Victims of Absolute Terror cannot use tools, weapons, or supernatural powers to harm themselves–they’re frankly too terrified for that.
    Nightmare users do well to understand that, although this power is an act of vampiric will, it is NOT subtle, quiet, or kind. Those who witness this power in action pay attention, and those who’ve suffered its effects and survive do not forget the fact, or forgive their tormentor…
    NOTES: I kept the basic elements previously provided by the original Mortal Fear, and added a thematic NOS (har) injection, by making the damage component of the power applicable to Kindred. The mechanics are meant to present the most gruesome and disturbing facts of trauma evident; that it is the inherent nature of trauma to self perpetuate in those who carry it through further self-destruction. Basically, the idea is “paperclipped” from the character Roland Deschain’s musing on 19 in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger: “[I]f you give a mind a hand and a knife to hold, it will eat itself…”

    I’ve likely grossly overstepped my bounds in this post; the intent here isn’t to demand specific mechanics implementation, but instead to spark further discussion on the topic of Nightmare, and by extension, vampires in Requiem. I look forward to seeing what Rose and the crew come up with in further development.

    • Eric
      May 8, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Those are really good ideas. Depending on how the official version of Nightmare ends up, I may have to crib some of it.

  7. tau neutrino
    February 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    The level 4 power, Waking Nightmare, is supposed to be a contested roll, but it only subtracts Composure.

    Preventing a target from enhancing attack rolls with willpower seems a bit much for a level one power, esp. with no resistance listed. Shouldn’t there be a penalty for non-intimidation rolls?

    So a vampire can induce, using Mania (lvl 5), a Delusion where a character can attack and kill someone without breaking points as long as it goes along with the Delusion. However, defending yourself against an actual serial killer still is a breaking point? Could a vampire create a Delusion that matches reality to let a mortal ally defend himself?

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