Carthian Merits and Law: The Voice of the People [Vampire: The Requiem]

LogoCovenantCarthianMovementThere’s a difference between vampire revolutionaries who see humans as the proletariat, and vampire revolutionaries who see humans as the means of production.

–Greg Stolze

Since we got into the grisly magic of the Circle of the Crone last time, I thought this time we’d talk a little about politics. Of course, the Carthians would argue that everything is politics, and maybe they’re right.

Here’s the playtest draft of the Carthian mechanics from Secrets of the Covenants. As usual, please link to this post rather than copying and pasting, as I often make live updates as we receive feedback.

<Click here for Merits and Law>

34 thoughts on “Carthian Merits and Law: The Voice of the People [Vampire: The Requiem]”

  1. These are great. I’ll see if my Carthian player wants to try some of them out. I’m curious what kind of background material is going to presented for Carthian Law; it’s such a cool element of the setting, and there’s a lot of meat to the concept alone.

  2. Fucking Thief seems underpriced to me. Getting another covenant’s advantage, even a single dot, is a big deal. At the very least, it should be noted as an official ‘drawback’ that if any of that covenant ever find out about it, their life is going to become very complicated.

  3. I think Devotion Experimenter is too powerful. A 2 dot Merit that lets you learn Devotions by a reduced cost, gives you the 9-again quality on activation rolls and even gives you a Beat when you teach a Devotion to someone else seens to much for me, specially being only 2 dots.

    • Just to get it out of the way: 9-again is over rated.

      On a more relevant note, the actual “cost” of the merit depends on whether the player intended to take Science as a skill. In my experience, it’s one of the less common ones to come up in play unless the player goes out of their way to use it. So really, the merit costs 2-6xp depending on whether Science 2 is useful to the character.

      It pays for itself eventually, but how long it takes depends on how many devotions the player learns and teaches. In an average coterie, the members are probably diverse enough both in discipline selection and in political temperament that it is unlikely that the Devotion Experimenter will be teaching every devotion they know to every vampire willing to listen.

      • Devotion Experimenter messes with xp costs. One thing I like about the current system is that just about everything has a fixed xp cost (dang you scales!) or is granted “free”.
        By all means grant an additional beat when learning or teaching devotions. Even grant a free devotion if necessary. But please don’t screw up my ability to quickly add up a sheet.
        Perhaps every devotion could have a Devotion Experimenter merit? Buy it, it makes it easier to learn the devotion, maybe acts something like a touchstone interaction, makes the devotion more powerful and makes it easier to teach. In this case you could even make the merit cheaper.

  4. Fucking Thief needs a clause regarding what might happen to people who find out. Also, does this mean that if a Carthian takes secondary Status in, say, the ordo Dracul, for example, they SHOULDN’T be able to learn Mysteries? (Please say yes.)

    Devotion Experimenter is absolutely underpriced, IMO; maybe at 4 dots, but definitely not at 2. The price discount is too high. Maybe if it granted a Beat for learning a new Devotion.

    Lastly, some of these seem like there’s no reason why they couldn’t apply to other Covenants (and indeed, as general Merits). Toss That Shit Right Back, Mobilize Outrage, and Smooth Criminal all seem to only be Carthian by dint of flavor text, but widely applicable to other people. Is there any actual reason why non-Carthians couldn’t have this sort of ability? I mean, hell, Smooth Criminal seems almost Invictus-ish, and TTSRB is handy for any character who’s often in a fight.

    • The chapter starts out with a note that, while Merits are grouped by covenant, they can be taken by members of other covenants as appropriate to a character concept. Further, none of Toss That Shit Right Back, Mobilize Outrage, or Smooth Criminal have a Carthian Status requirement.

      • At the beginning, it says “Unless otherwise noted, they have an additional prerequisite of Status (Carthian Movement) • or higher.”

  5. I really dislike Army of One, it practically makes others SPAWN around the corner, as they come in faster than 15 seconds. Why not have them at 15 minutes – Successes? (overspeeding and flying to be there), at least you got to prepare that way or something.

    Casual user has the same set of problems as the equivalent of Circle of The Crone. Almost everyone is better off buying a single dot of status.

    All in all, the merits are really really really strong. Can’t wait to see what Invictus have to counter these and work against these.

  6. I am not sure why Alley Cat works the way it does. You put a second dice pool before the roll that resolves the situation. That seems cluncky. Maybe it would be better just to describe three distinct levels of effect for Alley Cat (Sewer Rat comes to mind as an example). Or you could make Alley Cat a three-dot merit with all the effects described automatically applying.

    • I’d say it’s already too powerful without automatic effects. I mean, causing a Dramatic Failure with no chance to resist?

  7. I’m just baffled as to how Invictus territories are governable at all when relatively small groups of Carthians can enact these territory wide effects…

  8. A couple of friends and I had a look over this, and we found ourselves bewildered and often confused as to how things were supposed to work, or otherwise found several of these hard to accept:

    ESTABLISH PRECEDENT was a particularly amusing one. It has Final Death as a result, enforced by means that you cannot defend against. As a friend of mine pointed out, this means that killing someone under the effects of an undesired Frenzy means you just drop dead, and you can’t defend against it. Likewise, if you’re unaware that Establish Precedent is in use (it was enacted last night, and the rumours that it’s in effect haven’t spread yet), you could kill some mortal robbing your Haven, and then you die and there’s nothing you can do against it. If death or maiming is punishment for small or arbitrary crimes, you end up with a situation where players are powerless to defend against sudden death out of nowhere for doing things they had no idea would result in sudden death. (In fact, there’s no requirement that the law be known by anyone but the Carthians in the rules describing Establish Precedent.)

    Since Establish Precedent is a supernatural effect, it’s also unclear how the law is parsed. There’s a blanket effect in place that makes murder illegal… but who decides what a murder is? Taking the example of a frenzy, a real-world lawyer should be able to argue that since Frenzy is a state of temporary, virtually uncontrollable insanity, the killer is not culpable for their crime, and therefore it’s manslaughter, not murder. How does Establish Precedent distinguish between lawful killings, manslaughter, and murder?

    Another friend of mine questioned the details of how those laws are enforced. if the punishment for murder is being crushed under a ton of gold, do all other murderers get crushed by a ton of gold, or do they simply die? How do particularly strange punishments work? Take, for example, a Carthian domain where siring vampires without permission is punishable by being put in an arena to fight a bloodthirsty lion for an hour; if someone sires a Childe without permission, will they be chased down by a bloodthirsty lion for exactly an hour? How does this work with punishment where the outcome is uncertain? Taking the previous example, if the combat-with-lion punishment used with Establish Precedent resulted in the death of the criminal, will new criminals be punished by magical death, or by being chased by lions?

    “Only actions count, not statuses. For example, “being a Nosferatu” won’t be punished, but “using Nightmare to kill” will be.” is an interesting statement; what is “an action”? Is “Waking up while Nosferatu” an action, in the same way that legal systems place additional restrictions on children and the mentally infirm (e.g. owning a gun while you suffer from delusional paranoia is illegal in many US states). Is it really desirable that the Carthians should be able to discriminate against the Daeva or Ventrue by declaring “using Majesty or Dominate to feed” is a capital offense? What about “joining Circle of the Crone”, which certainly is an action, being made a capital offense? “Not joining the Carthian Community Party” being a capital offense? Can I make “feeding while not Carthian” an offense and just kill off the entire non-Carthian population of a city at will?

    Finally, a friend pointed out that this invalidates a classic bit of Vampire: “You know, the fun of a game where a PC has to try to either fuck someone else up by getting them tried for a crime they did or didn’t commit, or when someone else does the same. Like, that’s a classic bit of Vampire. Trying to prove to the Prince that someone else broke the law so you can steal their domain when they’re tried.”

    EMPOWER JUDICIARY is another one; if the Carthians can enforce arbitrary laws and become the de-facto judiciary and executive power in a city, together with Establish Precedent, it really raises the question of why any prince would let the Carthians live in their city. Better to purge them all so they don’t end up taking over with their power to cause instant death and aggravated damage at random.

  9. Sadly, IMO the only awesome thing about this page is the quote from Greg Stolze.

    I did not think that Carthian Law as a capitlized thing with elaborate rules was a good idea when it was introduced.
    What 2nd edition does with it is a legalistic nightmare 🙁

  10. Sadly, the only Awesome thing I can find here is the quote from Greg Stolze.

    IMO, Cartian Law as a capitalzed thing with special rules is an idea flawed at conception. To just give a secular covenant such a supernatural power makes no sense to me.

    And then 2nd edition does its thing and makes all the rules even more elaborate.

    The more I see from 2nd edition nWoD the less I want to play this legalistic nightmare. 🙁

  11. Are there even a defense against these things? like weaponize dissent seems like 1 guy from another city can come and start a mess in an established city, while many other largely game changing laws require a majority which can mean only 2 carthians can agree to hammer a city’s rule provided there is only 2.
    I hope there is either a limit to buying city status (such as you must have at least some percentage of city with lesser city status), or there is a way to stop these things. I dont think neither other vampires nor mages, werewolves etc. have any powers that are completely unstoppable.
    Several have been mentioned above but Cease Fire for example, this requires 1 guy with status 5 and another guy who has carthian status. So in a city where no carthian exists, these dudes can just setup shop and by themselves stop all disciplines. Assuming this individual has some obfuscate or protean etc. to hide his presence well, it would take days to hunt him and kill him(hunting is also very hard since nothing functions, imagine how many times you need to use auspex, animalism or sorcery to track him even he just hides in sewers with no obfuscate). During with ALL disciplines cease to function, no dominate, no majesty. Even against mortals which means kindred control over vital resources which are completely unrelated to Carthians will come to an halt (unless they take tons of damage or spend tons of willpower).
    This is not cease fire, this is complete sabotage. I dont think an archmage can do any better, no supernatural can single-handedly bring a whole working city to complete ruin. I am not mentioning those dispciplines which are essential to kindred survival (ie. playing a monstrous nosferatu who relies heavily on obfuscate even to move around).
    I think a rule should be introduced to limit majority of these things to Carthian domains, so they dont look like nuclear strikes against other cities. Theoretically you can have 5 guy carthian presence in a city and have status 5 among that group in the city, and I think after this many rules a small box saying this is absurd is necessary.

    • Cease Fire ends if the person who invoked it/bought the merit uses a Discipline or Devotion. I’d recommend extending that so that it breaks if the instigator willingly accepts a Discipline or Devotion being used on them. That prevents the loophole of someone else obfuscating the target.

      Weaponized descent is powerful, but it lasts a year and a day. If the Carthian uses it to take over the city then their own City Status increases and they start taking extra damage. At least I think that’s the intended balance.

  12. I agree with Dreams of Cutting. The very idea of Carthian Law as supernatural, mystical power is IMO absolutely non-compatible with young, secular, 100% political and 0% mystical Covenant like Carthian Movement. I rejected it long ago when it was published in Carthian covenantbook and will reject it now (if I’ll buy this supplement at all…). It was wrong then and it is equally wrong now.

    Besides, the way of rules and mechanics development gives me a moment of thought. I wouldn’t call it legalistic nightmare but this kind of complexion was never needed in our Vampire the Masquerade/Requiem stories. Well, it probably means that with this different approach to the rules Blood & Smoke isn’t a game for me anymore. 🙂

  13. I can’t help but feel that Establish Precedent would work a lot better as either a shadowy, spooky vampire destiny-thing that hounds criminals with a dice penalty or botches, and/or grants bonuses to those trying to punish them. This provides a situation where you want to goad your enemies into breaking the law, or one where you yourself broke it and need to get out of town or lay low until the curse wears off.

    Alternatively, it could be some kind of magic reward offered for enforcing an enchanted law, proportionate to the severity of its punishment. This encourages witch-hunts by vampires out for a bounty, or abusive and greedy judgements by a corrupt revolutionary authority. Those are pretty gameable.

    In its current form, though, it seems more like incredibly powerful sympathetic magic. If I, as a Carthian with legal authority – which I appear to be able to acquire arbitrarily, through Empower Judiciary – am willing to do anything to a single character, the act is automatically duplicated on anyone I choose within that domain. I get to supernaturally and perfectly enforce laws I made up myself over a huge area. Even without getting creative with punishments or crimes (crime is “feeding”, punishment is “third degree blood bond with me”), that’s a problem.

    The only apparent defence against this is either killing every Carthian as soon as they show up in your city, before they can magically establish themselves as legal authorities and then magically set up a killsat that targets whoever they please, or having Carthians who are (as in the example) fairy-tale enough to reach the time limit and not update their antivirus software.

    This is a degree of power I’d be wary of seeing in an Elder Solar Exalt, and at least in that case the PCs and anyone who mattered would have easy defences against it.

  14. How can Empower Judiciary strip away Clan and Covenant status? The Invictus shouldn’t care about the rulings of an arbitrarily imposed Carthian judge.

    Weaponize Dissent seems like it would help invaders, as long as they were low status.

    Establish Precedent would actually help tyrants, as seen by the example.

    • Well about Empower Judiciary, the loss of a status is due to the mystical effect of Carthian Law.
      And Estabilish Precedet helping tyrants… The Carthians can have a fascist government too. They are about applying mortal solutions to vampire problems, not democracy. Anything that works.

  15. Establish Precedent is intriguing but leaves a lot of questions up in the air.

    One set is about conflicting powers. What happens if a Carthian with Plausible Deniability breaks a law with an Established Precedent? It seems the most obvious conflict – are the others? Can Obfuscate help stop it? A protective blood sorcery?

    The other big set is about scale. Why didn’t the President of Honolulu just create a similar, overlapping precedent to protect himself before he renewed the original? If he’s already willing to sacrifice an advisor how hard is it to repeat the process annually with a sacrificial neonate? He could pick them out specially for the task and Dominate them into attacking.

    If that kind of carthian tyrant is a chronicle antagonist there should be clearer ways to get around it. The example of “causing harm to the Movement” is incredibly broad.

    Some kind of Clash of Wills or similar mechanic right off the bat would make it less overwhelming. A cap on how many precedents can be active at one time, too – right now I don’t see anything keeping a set of carthians from maintaining a dozen or more precedents between them.


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