Seeing in the dark

Been eight years since Vampire came out. I’ve been running it all that time, and so have a lot of you. And there have been seven (almost eight) World of Darkness games since. They’ve taught us a lot about life, love, and friendship. As well as shivving dudes in alleys because we want their blood just that bad.

Time to take some of those lessons back to the game that started it all. Get some razors. Open up some old wounds. Book’s called Sexmurder: Buy This!, and it combines awesome new chronicle material with big upgrades to the core setting and rules.

(Well, actually, on the schedule it’s called The Strix Chronicle, but I like “Sexmurder” better. And Rich hasn’t told me to stop using it yet. So.)

A lot of the book will be going through our open development process. I was a big fan of how this worked out on v20… helped avoid a lot of pitfalls, and helped polish the game a lot. So as the writers and I work through the changes, I’m presenting many of them to you folks for playtesting. We tried an initial outing with this on the forums, where I presented an early version of the physical Disciplines and spent a couple of weeks iterating on it with the help of some of you.

That was a great success. I can’t spend three weeks to a month on every Discipline (or even every three), but the outside feedback was invaluable. So, we’re going to try another experiment. I’m going to post my raw, ever-so-unfinished notes for a couple of powers up here, and see if we can all put them to the test together. I’m allocating about a week for it. (Hey folks, want to try it at Atlanta by Night?)

Vampires see things the rest of us don’t. Their whole society exists right behind ours, just out of view. They trade in our secrets, using them to bend us to their will and steal the very blood from our veins.

The Mekhet take this one step further. With their eerie Auspex, they harness the Beast to sniff out our weaknesses and guilt. The Mekhet know what we’re hiding.

So let’s kick off the blog side of the Sexmurder playtests with an exploration of vampiric perception. Things are changing a bit… Auspex is going to do something more powerful at the first dot than just juice up a Mekhet’s senses. It’s going to let her walk into a room and see fear and guilt and tempers about to flare.

Still, better eyesight and hearing and all that are important. So they’re going to move two places.

First, all vampires are going to see a little better in the dark. Seems only right for nocturnal predators. Their senses are also going to get universally sharper with regards to blood. They can smell it in you. They can hear your heartbeat.

Second, what used to be Auspex 1 is going to become a Merit that builds on that basic blood-sense. That means that sharper senses won’t be just for the Mekhet… they’ll be for the Gangrel, too, and for the gym-rat Daeva who savors the smell of his prey as they sweat.

(Note that this illustrates an important principle behind Sexmurder: even if we change some powers, none of them will be lost. If a power moves out of the dot ladder, it will become a reasonably-priced Merit, Threnody, or Devotion, either in the book or posted online. Characters who already possess those powers will get them for free when they’re upgraded to the new rules.)

With that preface, here are my starting notes on Kindred Senses and Auspex. Keep in mind, these are my first draft, and have not had a balancing pass. Thanks for your help!

Kindred Senses

Vampires have senses sharper than those of mortals. A vampire can see in dim light as well as a mortal can at noon, although not with any greater distance or accuracy. The other enhanced senses conferred by the Embrace all apply to blood. (Further non-blood related senses are granted by the Merit below.)

Blood Potency/Sense See blood
(tiny amounts)
Smell blood Hear heartbeats
1 arms’ length room arms’ length
2 room = =
3 = building room
4 = = =
5 visual range (close) city block building
6 = = =
7 visual range (far) neighborhood city block
8 = = =
9 visual range (to horizon) district neighborhood

The vampire can tell by smell whether the blood is within a living body or spilled outside it. (Sensing Vitae within vampire bodies is covered by the Predatory Aura. The blood of other non-living creatures is handled at Storyteller discretion.) She can tell within a range of a few hours how much time has passed since blood was spilled.

(Vampires do not need to breathe, and hence don’t automatically smell the way mortals do, but in order to maintain the kind of sensory detail that makes for fun storytelling, we assume that they get in the habit of smelling often enough to be aware of their surroundings.)

By tasting blood, even in minute amounts, a vampire can tell:

  • Whether the blood belongs to any individual whose blood the vampire has tasted before.
  • If the blood is mortal, Kindred, or that of another monster. The monster type can be identified if the vampire has tasted the blood of that type of monster before. (EDIT: In other words, a vampire who’s tasted the blood of two werewolves can tell that both of them have the same strange tang to their blood. He’ll also know they’re supernatural creatures. He won’t know they’re werewolves unless he’s found out that one of them is a werewolf through some other circumstance.)
  • Whether there are any abnormalities in the blood, such as drugs, diseases, or poisons. The type of adulterant can be identified if the vampire has tasted blood similarly contaminated before. At the Storyteller’s discretion, this may apply to supernatural contaminants that do not leave a physical trace.
  • Whether Kindred blood belongs to that of a clan or bloodline whose blood the vampire has tasted before.
  • The number of steps of blood sympathy between the vampire and the vampire whose blood she is tasting.

When observing a mortal at close range, a vampire is aware of every movement of his blood within his body, and can smell the delicious scent of any open wounds, no matter how small.

Merit: Enhanced Senses

Prerequisite: Blood Potency 1

Building on her innate Kindred Senses, the vampire can see, smell, and hear at twice the distance and with twice the accuracy of a healthy mortal. The vampire’s senses of taste and touch are also twice as sensitive as those of the same hypothetical mortal.

The vampire can perfectly identify any sensory stimulus he or she has experienced before; for example, the smell of an exotic perfume, the texture of a rare fabric, or the sound of an individual’s scream.

(EDIT: This applies only to identifying the stimulus when it is experienced again, not to recalling it at any time, which would require a Merit like Eidetic Memory. This also doesn’t mean she perfectly recalls all memories associated with the stimulus… a vampire smelling the cologne used by a former vessel would be able to identify where he remembered it from, but would only recall that person and their encounters as well as an average mortal would.)

EDIT: The vampire may see with no light available.

The vampire may choose to temporarily reduce any or all of these senses to normal mortal ranges as a reflexive action, so as to avoid unpleasant sensation or distraction.


No secret is safe from the Beast. All of the powers of Auspex are essentially based around sniffing out secrets for the vampire to exploit.

Auspex 1-3 work by allowing the player to ask questions of the Storyteller. Several questions which meet the theme of each power are listed, but they’re not the only ones that can be asked. Additionally, the answers should usually be revealed in cool imagery. For example, asking “who here is most likely to lapse into violence?” might show the character with bloody hands, or make her smell like gunpowder. (By the way, writers, if you use that example, gunpowder doesn’t smell like cordite these days.)

Auspex now works with all five senses, which both increases the amount of cool description that can be used, and allows for some unconventional uses, such as a blindfolded character determining which of his captors is most afraid by listening to them speak to each other.

There’s also a bonus for using Auspex on someone while in intimate contact with them. Not just sex, but general extended touching, either sexual or platonic. You can find out a lot of someone’s secrets by being the one who’s digging the bullet out of their side. (Exact bonus TBD, use +Auspex for now.)

  • Beast’s Hackles 
    Allows you to sense sources of danger and weakness.
    • Cost: None for the first use in a scene, but maintaining the required focus taxes the vampire, meaning that subsequent uses within that scene cost 1 Vitae each. (EDIT: Changed this from always being free.)
      Dice Pool: Wits + Empathy + Auspex
      Action: Instant
    • Lets you ask one question per successful roll:
      • Who here is most likely to give me what I want?
      • Who/what here is most likely to lapse into violence?
      • Who here is most afraid?
      • Who/what here is most likely to hurt me?
      • Who here is closest to frenzy?
      • Is there a vampire here using Auspex 5?
    • Attempt to pierce Obfuscate
  • Uncanny Perception 
    Reveals the secrets of a single victim.

    • Cost: None for the first attempt against a particular victim, 1 Vitae for each subsequent attempt against that victim in that scene. [EDITED]
      Dice Pool: Intelligence + Empathy + Auspex – victim’s Composure
      Action: Instant
    • Answers [successes] of the following questions about a single victim (in sensory impressions/symbolic imagery, not necessarily aura sight):
      • What is this person’s mood?
      • What is this person afraid of, right now? (Not a detailed answer. “Being found” rather than “cops.”)
      • What is this person’s Vice? (Or splat equivalent.)
      • What is one of this person’s derangements?
      • Is this person a diablerist?
      • Is this person acting under someone else’s control?
      • Is this person a supernatural creature? (And if I’ve seen this kind before, what is it?)
      • Who here does this person want to hurt most?
  • The Spirit’s Touch 
    Lifts psychic impressions from an object or place.

    • Cost: None
      Dice Pool: Wits + Occult + Auspex
      Action: Instant
    • Answers [successes] of the following questions (in sensory impressions/dream imagery). May also answer Auspex 1 or 2 questions, at Storyteller discretion and if relevant.
      • Who last touched/owned this?
      • What is the strongest emotion associated with this object?
      • What was this being used for at the moment of most intense emotion?
    • Restriction: May not be used on the same object more than once in the same scene. [EDITED]
  • Lay Open the Mind 
    Allows you to enter the thoughts of another, sifting through them or inserting your own.

    • Cost: None for a mortal or willing supernatural creature, 2 Vitae for a resisting supernatural creature
      Dice Pool: Intelligence + Socialize + Auspex – victim’s Resolve (if resisting)
      Action: Instant
    • Project [successes] thoughts or images into the victim’s mind.
    • Draw a single thought or image out of the victim’s mind. (Modifiers based on how deep you’re digging.)
  • Twilight Projection 
    Project consciousness as a “ghost body.” Except not actually a ghost, because there’s no spiritual substance to it.

    • Cost:  2 Vitae
      Dice Pool: Intelligence + Occult + Auspex
      Action: Instant
    • Ghost body can travel the character’s Speed * (Auspex + Blood Potency), anywhere within the lunar sphere.
    • (Good power, but needs special effort to integrate thematically and contextually.)

31 thoughts on “Seeing in the dark”

    • also love the expanded senses for all vampires, which is very thematic without sacrificing the unique presence of Auspex.

      as for Twilight Projection, i was originally hesitant about it fitting thematically, but i think Dracula could send out his presence to observe things from afar, so it should definitely fit if it evokes that kind of mood.

  1. I have a player who would be excited about all of these changes. I like the change towards the Q&A style of information gathering, it helps a Storyteller streamline the process and lets a player clearly point out the kind of information they want to get.

  2. Russell, I think you’re on spot with Kindred Senses. It always bothered me that our vampires had no rules for how much blood guided/aided their senses, being something so abundant in myths and literature.

    On the other hand, I believe that the enhanced senses should also come as standard package for every vampire, or even something developed as the blood thickens.
    Suggestion: see the empty spaces in the kindred senses progression? Fill them with enhanced senses.

    As for Auspex…
    Beast’s Hackles is an awesome idea. Really gives off that ‘attuned predator’ aspect.

    Uncanny Perception is something I’d rather see as the old version, with auras. I really can’t see the beast alone understanding this kind of complex answers. Perhaps it lacks a bit of fluff on the description.
    Suggestion: I believe that the last question “Who here does this person want to hurt most?” belongs to Beast’s Hackles. ( I know it’s general X specific but it fits auspex 1 thematically better)

    As for the other levels, I still have to think a bit, but 3 seems ok to me.

  3. Maybe you should impose a negative modifier on “Beast’s Hackles •”, according the number of people/Kindred subjected to the user’s gaze.

    Also, Auspex and Obfuscate are the greatest examples of Discipline counters, and I would like to know if theres gonna be a Obfuscate (or other form of supernatural resistance) power to counter the questions made by users of Beast’s Hackles and/or Uncanny Perception. Do you consider adding Blood Potency into this equation?

  4. If the blood is mortal, Kindred, or that of another monster. The monster type can be identified if the vampire has tasted the blood of that type of monster before.

    I’d change the wording on this a bit. As written, if Varney drinks Wilbur the Werewolf’s blood one night, and then again the second night, that second night he can suddenly identify Wilbur as a werewolf.

  5. IanW – Would ‘Knowing consumed’ make that better?
    You’d still know it was willie’s blood but since you’ve never tasted another werewolf while knowing it was a werewolf you just know it’s ‘off’.
    Same if you bit willie’s squeeze belle.

    But if you then got a mouthfull of Uncle Ro in full on wolf form you’d pretty much connect the dots pretty easily.

  6. Like it. Really. Perhaps it would need balance, but I like the idea than Gangrels (and others) could have exceptionnals senses without Auspex at last !

    But, isn’t there a problem with the number of dot of Lay open the mind ? 😀

  7. the blood of another monster of that type before.

    Is that clearer?

    Anyway, glad to see full-scale rules for night vision and blood senses – I remember handwaving the former in a fair few Dark Ages sessions in the cWOD.

    Interesting that Auspex can now reveal Vice, but not Virtue…

  8. Wow… at the beginning of the article I was: wait… I am sure I want to use those rules? By the end of reading all five Auspex power I was: hell yes, can’t wait to use those.

  9. Clarified the post, Ian.

    There may be more to say about Virtue and Vice. There are some elements of those rules that we’re fiddling with, but for the current playtest I wanted Vice-sense in.

    Not sure about imposing a crowd modifier on Beast’s Hackles. Maybe an observation time modifier based on how many people you’re looking at?

    I’ll consider putting in Enhanced Senses as part of the Kindred Senses progression, but my instinct is to keep them separate, so that being a particularly keen hunter is something you choose for your character.

    Thanks for the questions and feedback!

  10. Wow. This is fantastic. I am a long time WoD player, only recently delved into Requiem, but even with this I can see that it’s a neat step in the right direction. Auspex has always been my favourite discipline, even in Masquerade, and this would have been so very useful for all those times I tried to manipulate people as a Tremere.

  11. I really like it. More vampire-y. And less “omg, psychic powers” and more “super-senses.”

    But please, could telepathy be NOT Socialize anymore? Something else has GOT to make more sense than the useless party skill for Telepathy…

  12. I like these a lot, thematically and from a player perspective. However, from an ST point of view, Beast’s Hackles would be very difficult to work with. If the room is full of PCs, how does the ST know who’s most likely to do what the player wants?

  13. Great changes! That’s funny, because the last time that I was the game master, I decided that my players had the power to feel some aspects of the body and blood as the heart beats. This actually helped the players to feel like nocturnal predators.

  14. If the room is full of PCs, then the Storyteller is going to have to ask them how likely they are to give the other PC what he wants. That may require a brief conversation, but I don’t see it as overly onerous.

  15. General feedback from a friend in regards to the first level:
    “I mean, the new first level sounds more nifty, but only until I think about it, and once I do it seems to me like basically they’ve just taken what the old first level used to do (which was pretty awesome) and turned it into a merit, and replaced it with a crappy divination power. Take the “who here is most likely to erupt into violence” – if used on a crowd of NPCs the storyteller can know the answer, but if used on players, short of going “Well I know player A planned this” or “I know Player B will get into any fight that is offered” there’s no way to actually make that prediction. What do you do, just name the character with the fewest dots of self controled – resolve+composure?”

    Perhaps a passive use of level 1 and Auspex in general is being in tune with violence and mayhem – the user receives bonuses to surprise rolls and initiative equal to [dots of Auspex].

    Level 2 looks like a less useful version of aura perception – though by less useful it means taking away lie detection – which I am ok with. Though you’re going to have to re-do majesty 2 is it – that gets people to share sekritts. And some people react badly to the lie detector being taken away.

    Regarding telepathy my suggestion is to make willing victims a simple rote to action – it has no cost and thus no reason to keep rolling over, and over, and over again….because players are going to use this to communicate and the only question is speed of data transmission. You also need to decide if telepathy can be used with Dominate (Alton Voice “Which…is another post…” /Alton Voice)

    Level 5 needs to be evaluated based on what you can do in astral form to avoid uber combos.

    – There is a positive note that the system doesn’t appear to give you a power to be punished when using it (heightened senses and spirit’s touch. especially spirit’s touch)

    I appreciate the edits that say all vampires can see in the dark. And the fact that powers are themed as to making you a better predator of humanity.

  16. I like the Vampiric Senses, but the chart seems clumsy to me. I guess there can be a little table on your character sheet for it, but it seems to meta to me in a way. I might replace it with something like, “Roll Wits+Composure+Blood Potency” with the number of successes revealing that information, or just strait up making it part of what Vampires do, and dropping the chart.

    I also want to double point out that I miss the Lie Detector in Aura Perception. I always thought it should be a little harder to do; but still; I’ll miss that.

    I also feel that Auspex five always felt clunky to me, and it still does.

    I’d also suggest adding back into Auspex the + to Initiative.

    Overall I can’t wait to see Sexmurder finished, looks like it’s going to really be something special.

  17. Additional thought for you – that enhanced senses merit is so powerful everyone will wind up with it. That strikes me as a merit tax which instead means it should just be rolled into the template.

  18. “Take the ‘who here is most likely to erupt into violence’ – if used on a crowd of NPCs the storyteller can know the answer, but if used on players, short of going ‘Well I know player A planned this’ or ‘I know Player B will get into any fight that is offered’ there’s no way to actually make that prediction. What do you do, just name the character with the fewest dots of self controled – resolve+composure?”

    If it’s a room full of PCs, then you ask them. Me, I’d say, “okay, folks, rated 1 to 5, how likely are you to erupt into violence.” In a PvP environment, that information could be written on notecards.

  19. First of all, I’m really excited by the work you’re doing. Great stuff!

    I primarily experience Requiem in LARP settings, and the new Auspex 1 power concerns me quite a bit, although it does seem like it would be awesome in tabletop.

    My concern is this: all of the example questions (except for the last one) would require roleplay to stop while the ST asked general questions to the crowd, such as “Is anyone here planning on attacking Joe over here?” In fact, it seems like each and every use of the power would interrupt the roleplay of the entire room, which is generally bad for the game.

    I can’t think of a way to fix the power without changing it a power that targets an individual rather than an entire room. Perhaps a power that let you learn information about another character’s physical capabilities through your powers of perception? I.e. by watching how someone moves you can make a guess at what their stamina is, or whether they have fast reflexes, or whether they’ve trained in fencing. For every success, you can ask one question about the targets physical attributes, skills, or disciplines.

    Having an individual target rather than a group target means you don’t take the entire room out of roleplay, and it also provides a nice flavor progression from level 1 (which lets you learn about someone’s body by closely observing it) through level 4 (which lets you learn about someone’s mind by breaking into it).

  20. Hi, Isaac. I’m glad that you’re excited!

    Many of the changes in Sexmurder will not be appropriate for LARP. We’re focusing on the tabletop game, as that’s what Onyx Path has the license for. While I’d be interested in working with the MES or any MET licensee on modifications to the MET Requiem rules, for now I’m focused on tabletop.

    I appreciate your comments, though, and I’ll look at them again if I work on a Requiem LARP product.

  21. That’s fair – it just makes me sad – we were glad to see unified rules and in general only play Vampire in a LARP environment.

    But good to know.

  22. That’s fair. I understand that you don’t have a license to print NWoD LARP stuff, which is a shame because I’d love to see what you and your team would do with it.

    I know that in the Mind’s Eye Society, which has a robust Requiem game of about four thousand players, we’re all holding our breath to see what comes out with “NWoD 1.5,” in the hopes that we can adapt it to our game. 🙂

  23. To be honest, what you really want is Eddy‘s take on the MET rules. He’s a great designer and an expert on every version of MET.

  24. Maybe making blood sense also see living like garden scene with Mina from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This would give a bonus to finding hidden living things and maybe certain medicine roll.

    As for Auspex, like you need a Vampire’s Sight power at 2 or 3 dots that is similar to Interview with a Vampire’s description. Seeing statues move and alike can give context to scene. In game terms, this should be vague information, like seeing someone your questioning for murder’s shadow grab a knife. I think this is best at 2 dots.

    As for Auspex 5, get rid of it. Replace with Timeless Sight, which lets the vampire try two actions a turn, and possibly make two different rolls, then he picks the best result as he action for the round.

  25. Astral projection always was a strange addition to VTR. I find more players ignoring it than taking it. Never saw the purpose for it and always viewed It more in tune with werewolves. However, cant really think of an alternative. Just thematically, ive seen alot of predatory aspects to most of the diciplines, but AP doesnt fit with my perception of vampire. Maybe im just short sighted

  26. Love the question-asking rules. Very apocalypse world. Thematically appropriate questions too.

    It occurs to me that there might be a better way to do the “ghost self” thing. I imagine what that is there to do is to give the impression that the guy with auspex can see everything and be everywhere, with people getting paranoid about his presence following them.

    The snag with a ghost self is that it opens up all kinds of weird problems, such as people found in shadowrun, of astral forms popping their heads into locked boxes, sinking through floors etc.

    It can also lead to an annoying thing where people trek around in ghost form, encountering situations in a way that reduces drama, because they are not actually there and cannot interact. It basically means more effort for storytellers for less meat, because you start describing lots of situations just in cutscene form.

    Alternatively, how about emphasising the vampire social elements, so that you can send your vision out to follow someone you have blood bonded or sired. In other words, you still have vast scouting power, but you have to send an agent of yours and risk them getting discovered.

    In addition, your childer will know that at any time you can turn your vision on them, and see what they’re plotting, meaning that the feeling of “she could be anywhere” is retained.

  27. I very much like the blood-based upgrades to basic senses. In addition to the practical benefits, it allows the Storyteller to emphasize the inhuman, predatory nature of vampires simply by describing the scene.

    A park on the Fourth of July, with thousands of families picnicking under the stars and waiting for the fireworks to start. Very cheerful and festive…except that thousands of families means thousands of children roughhousing and you can smell the scrapes and cuts. And every time one of them passes within a few feet of you, your eyes are drawn to the spots of scarlet and rust and the sloppily-applied bandages. And no matter where you go, there’s the thump, thump, thump of hearts beating all around you, pumping delicious blood through easily-punctured veins…

  28. One thing I’ve just noticed… How many merit does it Enhanced Senses – or does it not really matter if the XP costs are being flattened out?


  29. Enhanced Senses should cost at least 3 dots as a merit, because it’s very powerful. I agree with the comment on it saying that everybody will take the merit for their character.

    Beast’s Hackles and Uncanny Perception look a bit overpowered to me. On Beast’s Hackles, I don’t see why you should know if someone will give you what you want or if there’s someone using Auspex 5 in the room. A vague feeling of who is dangerous or scared or aggressive in the room should be enough for a level 1 power. Maybe kind of a danger sense effect would fit, in fact, that would be a merit we could convert in a discipline power.

    Uncanny Perception is good because we get rid of the aura thing, but you get way too many and precise information with that level 2. It’s a story killer for the storyteller, as your players will immediately know a lot on all the characters they meet. Being a diablerist has always been a pain in cities because unless you’re insanely strong and have a great obfuscate level, every single guy with Auspex can tell you’re a diablerist and make your life miserable.

    Immediately knowing if a guy in under someone’s control, discovering immediately what he fears, what madnesses he has and so on … Wow … This level 2 just does better than all five levels of other disciplines. So many information, and the action type is instant ? It’s really too powerful. Am I the only one to think this way ?


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