This Too Solid Flesh

Update 1/17/2013:

We’ve uploaded a second version of Protean, based on feedback here and on our forums. Full animal form moves down to the third dot. The fourth dot power, Unnatural Change power gives vampires traits that go beyond the merely bestial, and into the truly abominable.

Click here to check it out.

The final outline for Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle went to the authors this week. This involved a new 20,000 word writer’s guide, a writer’s guide to the Strix, and a fairly in-depth outline, for a total of about 30,000 words of pre-development writing on my part. That’s not including any of the rules work, the extensive posts to the writer mailing list, or my forum posts and dev blogs. Everybody’s really stepped up their game for this book, and that’s really exciting.

The Strix Anthology is getting ready for editing. I just need to pick out the classic fiction we’ll be using to compliment our all-new tales of the Kindred and the Owls.

Tonight’s playtest subject is Protean, the signature Discipline of the savage Gangrel. Protean is the ability to leave the mortal shell behind, becoming increasingly monstrous and bestial. The vampire’s Beast is the embodiment of its destructive urges, instincts that serve him well for survival, but which grate against his remaining shreds of Humanity. Protean brings this conflict to the vampire’s physical body, and doesn’t hesitate to pick a side.

Protean was one of the most difficult Disciplines to develop a working draft for, and the writing team went through a lot of iterations. It’s always been a diverse power set, less defined by any single theme than by a group of iconic powers. We considered versions that were pure grab bags, as well as versions that focused purely on shapeshifting. We experimented with versions that went purely for the telescoping structure seen in Majesty.

Those earlier versions provided a lot of the foundation for the Discipline I’m about to share. But the story behind the Discipline was put into perspective by v20 developer Eddy Webb. Eddy proposed that Protean was a sort of inverted Descent of Man, with the vampire’s human self slowly giving way to the Beast. That made everything click.

In testing, you’ll note that aggravated damage is, as in The God-Machine Chronicle and the rest of the Blood and Smoke rules, much rarer. Claws no longer burn like fire by default, but very few things do.

As in previous playtests, we’re interested in all feedback, but will pay more attention to actual gameplay than hypothetical scenarios.

<Without further comment, here’s Protean.> I’m publishing it on Google this time so that I can more easily update our working copy in response to feedback.

Thanks for your time!

55 thoughts on “This Too Solid Flesh”

    • I propose the following track for Protean:
      1 – merge with earth (gain other mediums, like wood or water, by spending experience points)
      2 – animal body: man-sized walkers, like wolves, panthers, boars (which allow a vampire to inflict lethal damage in a fight), OR small walkers, like kittie-cats, puppy-dogs, small snakes (which can not fight, but are easily overlooked).
      3 – partial transformation: mainly a human body, but with one or more animalistic traits, such as a panther’s claws, a dog’s nose, etc., to permit a human to use animal abilities.
      4 – animal body: small flyers, such as bats or crows (which can not fight, but can FLY). By spending additional experience points, one could learn to take the form of a larger flyer, such as an eagle or large owl (which CAN inflict lethal damage in a fight).
      5 – mist form: traditional mist, or variations: a flurry of snow, a cloud of autumnal leaves, a swarm of moths, etc.

  1. I continue to be amazed by the new stuff coming out. So excited for the release.

    My only quibble with the Protean write-up is under Unmarked Grave:

    Should blood or Vitae be spilled on the ground where he rests, the vampire will absorb it. Vitae is diluted enough that it can’t result in a blood bond, but a Vitae-addicted vampire may feel the urge to come forth from the ground to seek more.

    I like the the absorption aspect, but I wonder about the lack of blood-bonds. Having run large-scale games, I worry that it could be used as a workaround to the normal dangers of feeding from Kindred. Just go gravebound to drink, and avoid the downsides of the Vinculum.

    This is mainly a mechanical gripe, as that’s where my mind tends to go. So I can see combination with old Coils of Blood or high Blood Potency feeding restrictions getting worked-around.

    My fix would be to say Kindred have the option of absorbing the spilled blood, but take all the normal risks of doing so (Vinculum, addiction, etc) and of course could still be forced to via addiction or frenzy and the like.

    Anyway, just a piece of theoretical feedback.

    • Conversely, I’d suggest that to reflect the dilution, perhaps any blood or Vitae gained would be one point less than that spilled on the ground.

  2. Unmarked Grave: He is immune to almost all harm which does not. Seems to be a missing word or two there.

    For Primeval Miasma, I might amend it to include fog or shadow as other possible forms to take, rather than just smoke. It can all be thematic, depending on circumstance.

    • Fixed that sentence.

      The special effects on Primeval Miasma are something that warrants further discussion, yes. The particular example here is chosen for its resemblance to the Strix.

  3. wow! yet again, all i can say is that Strix is more and more shaping up to restore Vampires to Lords of the Night. Evocative, frightening and just cool! =D

  4. All I can do is add kudos. Reading the Protean write-up has my imagination working overtime. That’s always a sign of success to me.

    One question about •••• Prey’s Skin. Is it species or specific to the animal? I can see, especially in an urban environment, a vampire keeping a repertoire of stray animal forms entirely within the “Stray dog” category, especially if it’s specific to the animal. All of which would be used to take advantage of size, strength, cuteness factor, etc.

    • I’d say it’s species and general appearance. When you turn into a grayhound, you don’t turn into a specific grayhound, but you also don’t turn into a pug.

  5. Fantastic. Just fantastic. I am SO excited about this. Vampires with protean are suddenly a lot more unpredictable and terrifying (which I’m sure was your goal.) You can also model vampires from other parts of the world, and other mythologies, easier within the current rules. I’ve been play Vampire since I was 13 with V:tM 2nd edition, and you guys still manage to surprise me. Bravo.

  6. Interesting mix, and some of the abilities feel like a re-working of the Akunanse’s Abombwe Discipline from Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom. (A personal favorite of mine, actually.)

  7. “an animal that he consumed” – Prey’s Skin Power

    ^ Wow, I was just thinking about something like this a month ago. Definitely a positive evolution in my opinion of that power. It feels more thematically appropriate to a vampiric experience than just “vampires do this in movies/legend so here ya go”.

  8. Can a vampire choose to manifest their Predatory Aspect adaptations individually, or do all three come forth at once? Does vitae have to be spent for each adaptation?

    Is there a vitae cost to manifest these adaptations while using Prey’s Skin? And can they also manifest the adaptation gained from Monstrous State while in the form of an animal?

    • Predatory Aspect adaptations can be manifested individually. The Vitae cost is each time you activate Predatory Aspect, and is the same no matter the number of adaptations you manifest.

      The Vitae cost remains the same when using Prey’s Skin. If you pay the cost, you can also manifest Monstrous State while using Prey’s Skin.

  9. Do you need to have a specific alteration with Predatory Aspect to unlock his upgrade in Monstruous State (like the claws or the fur), or are the two powers independants ?

  10. I have never liked Protean 4. As true to legend as it is, I have never seen it used except for flavor, nor seen a situation where a player wished to become any of the beasts that a vampire can traditional become. If you need to become tougher or faster, simpler to pump one’s Physical Attributes or use Physical Disciplines.

    Now, being able to become any animal you’ve eaten recently adds some versatility, but modern Kindred remain city creatures, and so I think it must be asked how much will the power be used as opposed to Dominate 4 or the even Animalism 4? Perhaps my experience is out of the ordinary, but I feel that it is more appropriate for level 2. I am curious what other players’ experiences with it have been.

    • “He acquires all natural means of locomotion and sense that the animal possesses”

      If that’s literally true, shape-shifting has a lot of uses, especially in an urban environment.

      (1) Mobility. Before the congestion charge, average traffic speeds in London were a few mph lower than they were in the days of the horse and cart. A large dog can run at c. 30mph – in a built-up area, that’s often better than a car can achieve. A crow can manage a similar speed with short bursts of up to twice that. And it’s worth remembering that the peregrine falcon is increasingly found in urban habitats – try outrunning one of those. If you’re trailing someone, either on foot or in a car, and want to remain inconspicuous, an alternate form is very useful. A literal “flight” form is also good for making a hasty escape.

      (2) Investigation – Check out the crime scene with a peregrine falcon’s eyesight and then have a sniff around with a bloodhound’s nose. Who needs Sherlock?

      (3) Spying. Who notices a stray cat in an alleyway? Who worries about being overheard plotting a heist by a stray dog? Want to know what Ernst Stavro Blofeld is doing? Just sit on his lap and miaow occasionally.

      Those are just the basics. Depending on the circumstances, there are more creative applications. Rents on the Ventrue’s combo complex might go down once the area gets a reputation for rabid animal attacks. Want to pass a packet of incriminating documents to a journalist without being seen? Arrange a meeting in the city park and drop them on the unsuspecting member of the fourth estate from 500 feet. For particularly violent Kindred, the same basic technique would probably work with grenades.

      It’s at least as versatile and useful a power as mind control, and a lot more subtle.

  11. Another thing that sparked in my head from the new outlook of Protean was that its now sounding like the antithesis to the Coils of the Dragon.

  12. In Primeval Miasma, it mentions that the vampire “can perceive with perfect clarity absolutely anything within the smoke”. Does this mean it overcomes Obfuscate or illusions? I figure probably with a Clash of Wills, or what not…

    • I’d make it a Clash of Wills. As I think you’ve inferred, Clash of Wills will be generalized to cover most Discipline conflicts, not just perception-related ones.

  13. And thusly, Gangrel gain Glabro form (+1 Size, Str, Stam, add Claws, add Armor or senses…)
    Still hate lvl 5 though. Mist form always seemed kind of cheap to me. Pretty much unkillable if you can mist (no eyes for Dom, can’t be caught, can’t be harmed sans fire, and GL with flamethower in any LARP or even TT game).
    Overall though, very nifty. I’d love to see 5 go down a bit, but it’s nifty.
    Question on beast forms though. So bats are out??? (Within 3 steps of original size means no size 1 creatures, like bat…)
    Nice writeup though. LOVE the change to (L) damage instead of (A) damage for Claws. Makes a lot more sense IMO.

    • >> Still hate lvl 5 though. Mist form always seemed kind of cheap to me.

      Two words: 3 Vitae.

      So, unless you have enough Blood Potency, you will need to spend 2-to-3 turns spending blood before you change into Mist.

      Personally, I don’t mind it, but I haven’t tried it in-game myself.

      >> And thusly, Gangrel gain Glabro form (+1 Size, Str, Stam, add Claws, add Armor or senses…)

      Selectively, though.

      >> Question on beast forms though. So bats are out??? (Within 3 steps of original size means no size 1 creatures, like bat…)

      I sense… Devotions…

    • The Size thing was an error, and has been corrected. 🙂

      Dominate could still potentially work on a character using Primeval Miasma. The new eye contact rules have been clarified to explain that the issue is the victim seeing the vampire’s eyes, not the vampire seeing the victim’s eyes. The vampire in smoke form can perceive anything within itself clearly, which would include the Dominating vampire’s eyes.

      Glad you like it!

      • >> The new eye contact rules […]

        This is great news!! 🙂

        >> The Size thing was an error, and has been corrected.

        Aaaaaaw, and here I was thinking of making a Devotion that turned the Vampire into a swarm of little animals… Heheh.

        • “Aaaaaaw, and here I was thinking of making a Devotion that turned the Vampire into a swarm of little animals… Heheh.”

          There will be a swarm Merit. 🙂

  14. I’m sure this has been discussed elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it:

    These are some fairly significant changes, by the look of it (I admit, it’s been a while since I last read VtR) – was there a particular reason you’re putting the changes in a *Chronicle Book* rather than doing a whole new 2E? It just seems a kinda weird place to put such big changes.

    • As I understand it, it’s part of the licensing thing — they don’t have the rights to do Requiem 2E. My pure speculation is that CCP/WW fears doing so would trigger an edition war or devalue the books on the shelves, like 3.5 did to 3.0 back in D&D. (Speculation founded on being a former retailer.)

    • It’s CCP’s preference. They weren’t interested in a formal second edition, but liked the idea of rules updates teamed with a new setting. They also liked the idea of doing some big stuff with the Strix, since those are unique to Requiem.

      • I don’t particularly like that decision. It doesn’t affect with regards to Requiem, since I’m not a huge fan of the line (though these changes are making me *more* interested), but I imagine this is the reasoning behind the GMC as well, and I just feel that not making it a new edition leaves you with two sets of rules and two sets of settings to support, unless you’re planning to completely abandon the mechanics and setting in the core? Well, I say two settings, but I don’t imagine they’ll be significantly different.

        This just feels a bit more confusing, a bit murkier – are these rules the new “official” rules that you’ll be using going forwards? An optional set of rules that will get no more attention? Optional rules that will get some support?

        Plus a chronicle book just doesn’t feel like quite the right place for the discipline updates – I’m not sure what it is, but something about this just rubs me the wrong way…

        Anyway, that’s just my opinion, and it sounds like it’s well out of your hands.

        • To me, it doesn’t sound like the rules will be so significantly different that any new product’s rules will have to be dramatically different.

          Also, I don’t think that these new rules will be published with a “These are the new rules, the old rules in all books have been completely invalidated, have a nice day” mentality.

  15. the updated Protean seems clean. a couple questions though.

    1) it seems that Animal Defense is gone. has it been moved somewhere else or would it still be appropriate to use it as an aspect?

    2) how would one evoke Dracula’s Wolfman and Batcreature forms in the new system?


  16. I am having some issues with this expanded settings. Is the new settings going to be a viable cross settings group or be considered like a bubble. Considering one thing I love about the NWoD is the more level playing field between the supernaturals that exist.

    If aggravated is going to be so rare in this setting, how do these *updated* vampires content in situations where vampire meet x-other venue. When polite conversation or indirect action no longer can balance out and fist and fang need to come out.

    Honestly Requiem needs a Revised or 2nd Edition. Requiem corebook feels lack luster or odd when compared to corebooks that were released later as WW got a feel and a direction for the NWoD and while WW has expanded a lot on Requiem through subsequent releases, it feels like it still is the only NWoD series that requires additional books to play to make the venue more enjoyable while I can pick up the Mage, Changeling, Promethean, Giest book and have a field day with just the corebook alone.

  17. I’m liking the updated one more as well. It definitely feels like an anti-Coils where instead of rigid paths/tiers it’s more mercurial and seems like general mindset is to just “let go” of form the higher one gets.

    I especially like how Unmarked Grave and Primeval Miasma being beginning/end caps to the set make the middle three feel more like transitional states. Like the Uratha’s middle phases between Man and Wolf.

    If you’d be open to a suggestion for maybe an art note pitch I’d definitely recommend showcasing this discipline in Solid/Liquid/Gas states similar to the Uratha state changes.

  18. Question: does the vampire’s alternate form appear blurred on CCTV?

    The implication of this revision is to make the Gangrel – at least the modern, urban Gangrel – more mangy curs than mighty beasts. The iconic wolf form wouldn’t even be widely available to most European Kindred. That might seem unimportant, but over time, I wonder if it might have a subtle impact on the way the Gangrel are perceived, especially by the Ventrue? A dog is a domesticated servant; a wolf is an independent predator.

    The Unmarked Grave ability to absorb spilled blood looks like an adaptation of the Mabry “Blood from the Boards” ability. Places like the old Chicago stockyards in the thirties would have been ideal for young Gangrel who didn’t want to feed on humans. How do abattoirs dispose of blood nowadays?

  19. My first reaction to removing Agg is that it made fighting with claws clearly inferior to fighting with weapons. In the current version, deciding to be a weapon fighter or a claw fighter is an interesting choice: claws have the advantage of doing agg, whereas weapons have a higher equipment bonus and allow to use fighting styles, which are very powerful. Taking the agg out of claws makes that decision less interesting, because weapons are clearly superior in all circumstances.

    Then I realized that this version of Protean gives you +5 to grappling when maxed out, which is not something that’s available to weapon users at all. Suddenly, the decision becomes interesting again, because you’re choosing between being a grappler (who are difficult to escape but slow to do damage, since they spend the first round initiating a grapple) or a straight-up damage dealer (who simply hope that they can put their opponent in the turn before he or she can escape). It’s a different sort of choice, but still a choice. I’m interested to see how it plays out.

  20. Overall I like the changes that I’m seeing in Sexmurder. Disciplines now feel more like a progression of ablities, each new level of mastery building on the previous one. Which really helps in the development of devotions and the like. My biggest problem with the transforming into a preditory animal level has nothing to do with thematics or mechanics but of the population sizes of certain predators.

    The reproduction rate of bats, mice, cats or racoons would allow for someone to be able to consistently turn into one of those animals. However the reproduction rate of owls, wolves, or mountain lions would not support a vampire consistently turning into them without quickly overhunting them. Just as a thought maybe a merit of something like Totem should allow a vampire to turn into a wolf or a particular animal.

  21. I have felt that the biggest flaw with Protean is how Claws of the Wild negated one of two benefits derived from Shape of the Beast, namely, lethal weapons (claws or teeth) (the other benefit is ‘flight’, as a bat, crow, etc). That is, who wants to take the shape of a wolf at Protean-4 when you gain it’s primary benefit (sharp teeth) at Protean-3 ?

    It’s not my intention to replace the posted replacement for Protean, but rather to submit my own ideas for curing the problems in the hope that someone might find them useful:

    – Revised Track for Protean:
    (Note: protean-3 “wolf/jaguar” shape: lethal damage in fight, but no flying;
    protean-3 “bat/crow” shape: may not fight, and no lethal damage, but can fly:
    a fair trade ?

    1 – Aspect of the Predator: unchanged from Vampire: the Requiem.
    2 – Haven of Soil: unchanged from Vampire: the Requiem.
    (- see “Yielding Earth” devotion, “Night Horrors” book.)
    3 – Shape of the Beast: choose one of the following:
    a) medium fighter: wolf, panther, boar, crocodile: fight, “lethal”; keen senses.
    b) medium swimmer: shark, dolphin, eel: swims, fight, “lethal”; keen senses.
    c) small: cat, ferret, snake, etc.: not fight; keen senses.
    d) small flyer: bat, crow, etc.: not fight; may fly; keen senses.
    e) pay 6 xp to add one more from the list above)
    4 – Partial Transformation: clawed hands or toothy jaws for Lethal damage, hound’s or
    wolf’s head for a keen sense of smell, bat’s head for a keen sense of hearing,
    cat’s or owl’s head for keen night-vision, grow wings from shoulders for gliding
    from a height & breaking a fall.
    – pay 6 xp to upgrade Shape of the Beast to add one of the following:
    a) large fighter: bear, lion, crocodile: may fight, “lethal” damage; keen
    senses. [ or add “Giant” merit for “giant man” ? ]
    b) medium-sized flyer: eagle, condor: fight, “lethal”; keen senses.
    5 – Swarm Body: swarm of bats or rats, cloud of snow or cluster of blowing leaves; as
    “Swarm Mind” (Gangrel Clan Book), but without the loss of sanity.
    (- pay 12 more xp to add, or 6 xp to replace with, “Body of Spirit”: penetrates
    more barriers than swarm of bugs or bats, or cloud of leaves or snow).
    (- pay 6 xp to upgrade “lethal” damage to “aggravated” when in Shape of the
    Beast or Partial Transformation (with claws, jaws). (or “Spinebite” (Changing
    Breeds): 1-willpower or vitae for 1-”aggravated” attack/scene ?)
    (- what about true, flying “winged man”: Protean-5 plus Vigor-3 ?)

  22. Regarding the proposed new Protean power, I am doubtful about how “free and easy” both the “bury yourself in the dirt” and “animal shape” powers are.

    That is, any punk neonate can merge with any medium (dirt, kevlar or titanium steel blessed by the Pope) by spending enough Vitae, and any ex-sporting goods shop clerk Gangrel can take on the shape of any beast by drinking it’s blood without any real effort.

    I prefer the original versions of those power, because one learned only one medium (usually soil) and one animal shape (usually bat or wolf), and must spend experience points to learn others, ie: “earning by learning” from some wild and crazy mentor during role-playing.

    I would also like to see different classes of animal shapes, such as:
    a) man-sized walkers: wolf, jaguar, boar;
    b) small walkers: housecats, small dogs, snakes;
    c) large walkers: bear, lion, stallion;
    d) small flyers: bat, crow, small owl or hawk;
    e) medium flyers: eagle, large owl or hawk;
    f) swimmers: seal, dolphin, moray eel, shark;

    The more useful talents (flying, swimming, big brutal bear) should cost more experience points to learn, because they ARE more useful.

    Finally, (please, God !) give us the game statistics for vampires who assume these animal shapes, even if a crow can’t really do much except fly (which is cool), and a housecat can’t really do much except blend in, unnoticed, among humans (which is also cool).


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