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Law’s Guide to Prestation

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This document is based on the text in various Requiem books.

The core of this text is on pages 294-295 of the Vampire the Requiem: Mind's Eye Theater book. If you want a much briefer guide, or to check facts. There are references in this document to things that Michael Law would not know. However, given that this document is trying to discuss the society Law would be familiar with but which we are forced to extrapolate from the descriptions and mechanics given- I feel justified basing arguments on the pieces of information which White Wolf has given.


Boons, Status, and the Traditions

These three items are the central pillars of Kindred society. They do not provide the bulwark against the Beast, that is an individual's Humanity (and some powers).

What these three pieces provide is the bulwark against Chaos. They allow a group of predators to exist in a society that would otherwise demand that they simply beat on one another to establish dominance. While this is appealing to some, many vampires find that an eternity at this becomes rather droll. When an individual discovers that they can buy things to occupy the years if they can spend time at investing instead of beating down their neighbors they become far less interested in beating down their neighbors.

The question, of course, is which of these features is the most important to the functioning of society?

I believe that the order is

  1. Boons
  2. Status
  3. Traditions

To understand why, we have to examine each part point by point.

Traditions

I'm not saying the Traditions are unimportant. As guidelines, they are absolutely necessary. I don't think anyone argues with the idea that mortals probably won't take well to the idea that there's been a parasitic species hanging around their cities for eons, nor does anyone who thinks about it argue that perhaps keeping the number of predators to a level where the hunted population can sustain them is a good idea. The main proponents of a prohibition against Diablerie are those who think Humanity is a good thing, think killing other vampires is probably bad to begin with, and the Elders- all told a fairly insignificant group </sarcasm>.

Understanding why the Traditions come in last requires examination of a number of points. First, is the fact that while there is a wording which is most widely used (provided in the Requiem book), the text makes clear that it is not the only wording. Second, on an actual reading of just that version of the Traditions, we find they are literally written more like guidelines than actual rules. Third, and just as important, the fact is every covenant makes excuses to violate every Tradition. Fourth, or 3b, while some of the Covenants, such as the Lancea Sanctum, feel the Traditions are divinely revealed "Laws," the fact is there is a loophole built into the nature of each- one through which Kindred regularly break them and in which the exceptions each covenant carves for itself are built. Finally, the very nature of the three traditions is argued by some.

So these points are clear, let's take the Three Traditions one by one.


Masquerade

The First Tradition, "Do not reveal your true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so forfeits you your claim to the Blood." (V:tR-MET, pg 92)

First, we need to realize that this is the only one of the Three Traditions which carries a mandatory "death sentence." Actually, it carries a mandatory sentence that you lose your claim to the Blood, but as there is no known way to reliably un-embrace someone, it might as well be treated as a death sentence.

Second, the Masquerade is the least protected of the 3. It blurs your image in mirrors and on visual recordings. Ignoring, for the moment, the fact that this can raise as many questions as it clears- all this really provides is protection for your personal identity in the modern age. Prior to modern surveillance, cameras and video, this "enforcement" would have been more of a liability than an asset- requiring the expenditure of willpower simply to hide one's nature when standing near a mirror or other significantly reflective object. (V:tR-MET, pg 240)

That said, this is probably the most violated of the three traditions. While it is, arguably, violated just before the Embrace we can ignore that in favor of larger breaches that aren't covered by another tradition;

  1. Ghouls- Let's be perfectly clear about this; Ghouls are still mortals but they know about vampires. They may not have details but they know you need blood, give them blood, and it gives them supernatural powers. Every time you use them to cover one of your weaknesses you reveal to a mortal more of your true nature. The generally accepted exception for this is that they become 'of the blood'; sort of bastard stepchildren by virtue of that single point of Vitae. But, really, the fact is they're too damned useful not to use.
  2. Every time you feed- Really, how much clearer can you make your true nature than unsheathing a pair of fangs and sinking them into someone's neck (or other parts)? People who cultivate Herds take this to a remarkable degree, doing this to the same individuals or groups repeatedly. Do vampires really hope no one catches wise? Even a vampire who uses Dominate to make a mortal they picked up off the street at random Forget has broken this Tradition. They cleaned it up, but its still a broken tradition. But, what's a Lick to do?

Progeny

The Second Tradition, "Sire another at the peril of both yourself and your progeny. If you create a childe, the weight is your own to bear." (V:tR-MET, pg 92)

Even more than either of the other Traditions, this is a warning rather than a Ban. This means that it's ok to break it- after all, every vampire most characters will ever meet were created in violation of this tradition (Longinus and Dracula may be exceptions, but they're not around to check).

Of course, the fact is Prince's everywhere to claim the prerogative to choose when it is violated. If their choice of Acknowledgment matters, this can provide more of a punch than even the willpower dot it costs to create another vampire. However, if God were as opposed to the creation of new Vampires, and unwitting eternal damnation of mortals, as the Sanctum seems to think- would it be that "easy" to circumvent the Will of God?

Diablerie

The Third Tradition, "You are forbidden from devouring the heartsblood of another of your kind. If you violate this commandment, the Beast calls to your own Blood." (V:tR-MET, pg 92)

While this is considered the great forbidden treat, and does in fact carry the word "Forbidden" in it's most commonly accepted wording- the fact is that there's no punishment within it. Unlike Masquerade, which "forfeits their claim to the Blood," violation of this Tradition is phrased clearly as a warning. It warns that "the Beast calls to your Blood." To us with the rulebook, this is an obvious reference to the fact that it reduces your humanity, but it is not a condemnation to immediate punishment by your peers. (V:tR-MET, pg 95)

This is not to suggest that your peers should ignore the act. In fact, an individual who performs this act risks addiction and becomes much more likely to commit the act. Further, destruction of another kindred may or may not be innately "wrong," a subject which will be more completely addressed later, but it does lead to repercussions within society.

The problem is that discovery, and thus enforcement, is difficult. There are a very few powers in the game which allow the direct discovery of having committed diablerie. Aura Perception, a clan-specific discipline, being the most common. Diablerie becomes a crime whose punishment is predicated on a spectacularly stupid practitioner or the word of one of a few "inquisitors," likely Mekhet. While this creates a situation of immense power for the Mekhet, as they receive an explicit and powerful political tool, the possibility of witch hunts commenced due to political vendettas makes it no more stable a basis on which to create a society than the position of Prince or Harpy, which will be discussed further under Status.

Further, even were the act of Diablerie to be universally condemned and punishable by death, this creates a scenario where a single type of criminal is punished if caught- discouraging that crime but not the degeneration of society into violence for other reasons. Further, the legitimacy of any capture of such a criminal relies on the respect accorded their accuser- any hint of ill will or illegitimacy creates a scenario where the allies of the accused view any Blood Hunt or execution as an assassination.


All of this being said it is not difficult to find rationale to ignore the prohibition even if we ignore radical theologies and ideologies that could actually revere the act.

Firstly, this is the only one of the Traditions with after the fact enforcement- the loss of Humanity. Both of the other traditions have pre-violation costs and mechanics, making this the easiest to violate. It is also the most subtle of the enforcement mechanisms. While this does not, innately, justify the act it makes justification easier by removing the hard barrier to violation that the others possess.

Second, as mentioned above- discovering a diablerist is difficult.

Third, while uncommon, there are references to Prince-sanctioned violation of this tradition. In the case of Blood Hunts, in particular, ruling that the subject may be entirely consumed is not an unheard of method of rewarding participation. (V:tR-MET, pg 97)

Further, every covenant except the Invictus readily justifies it.

  • Carthian- Neonates raging against the Elder "Man." To take on an elder you need elder power or huge numbers.
  • Ordo- Evolution, discovery. Two groups have risen who specifically refine the process for use on non-vampires. these groups are unpopular only due to the excesses of the participants.
  • Circle- Personal power and blood sacrifice...
  • LS- the Monachus speaks reverently of it, forbidding it as a practical matter.
  • Invictus- Even the Invictus recognize power earned, though their emphasis on age and experience discourages open admiration of the act.

Status

Status has a number of effects. The most direct being that they should generally tell the value of your boons. They also contribute to Clan Eminence and Covenant Ascendancy, which can provide their own bonuses.

As a general rule, a lower status kindred should respect a higher status kindred. But the only enforcement of this is the whim of the Harpies and Prince.

Finally, when all other considerations in a case are equal, Status comes into play. More on this in a moment.


Status, alone, is meaningless. Numerous times neonates have managed to obtain 3 and 4 status without even an understanding of basic social grace. While this seems amusing, it can warp and damage the system of Prestation as their ongoing antics are ignored simply because they have the favor of another powerful individual or stripping them is otherwise considered "more trouble than it is worth." This leads to a loss of respect for Status, and the entire system of Prestation. Even if the culprit is not a neonate, but lacks the basic ability to function within the agreed upon society, such aberrations of status have an equally detrimental impact. Thus, while status is an important component of Prestation- it's easy abuse has inevitably reduced its importance. Even in a properly functioning City, it is merely a marker of what is already known, not a stricture or guideline of itself.

Abuses of Status are inevitable, as the Prince or Harpies shift the status of their allies higher and enemies lower. This is tolerable, and to be expected of vampiric politics, to a degree. The problem arises when the shape of the Status list becomes so wildly inaccurate compared to relative power and value to a functioning society that individuals decide their only remedy is violence.

Status and Trials

At its base kindred society, like any society, is about property rights. Even the Traditions generally represent crimes against property- mentors, allies, the amount of competition for limited resources, and the ability to do as one pleases in the mortal populace. Generally, however, kindred society restrains itself and does not violate those sacred tenants- which makes all crimes a character should be involved in dealing with as property crimes. Even attacks on other Kindred are a matter of Vitae expended to heal or personal resources lost- not issues of personal harm.

As such, the Boon system and its arbitration become the key method of providing remedy for "crimes." If all crimes are against property, the value of such actions can be determined and compensated.

However, as easy as that makes determining the type of "punishment," often there are conflicting accounts of events and conflicting reports of exactly how much loss was inflicted. Thus arbitration becomes necessary.

The steps of such arbitration are as follows;

  1. Has a loss of at least trivial value been inflicted.
  2. If so, was the individual who inflicted that loss within their rights to do so (the lost property infringed on their rightful Domain or was destroyed as the result of self-defense against its owner).
    • If not, exactly what quantity of loss was inflicted.
    • If so, does the other individual deserve compensation (go to 1)


At each of these steps the ruling arbiter must assess evidence, whether they choose to seek out that evidence or examine only evidence presented to them and make a judgment based on that. If no evidence is presented, or the evidence is inconclusive, the arbiter moves to witness statements.

These witness statements are where Status applies. Each statement can be classified as supporting a given side of a disagreement on any given point. To determine the "accurate" side, the Status of each side is summed, and the greater Status is considered accurate.

It is worth clarifying that these statements must come from witnesses- individuals who were either physically present or through some skill or ability have information about the event in question. Deep seated personal conviction only counts as bias, and does not help your favored candidate's status total on any given point.

Positions

One of the keys to any government are those who rule. In the case of Vampire society, the key positions are vital because they are largely unrestrained and unchecked. Positions themselves have little power outside their ability to manipulate other aspects of the Prestation system, Boons and Status. Even the much vaunted "Prince's Blood Hunt" has much of its power based in the "simple" removal of acknowledgment and suspension of owed Boons. A demand for the individual's death can be made without the Hunt, but without this action there are repercussions within the system of Prestation.

It is worth noting that an abusive individual can entirely destroy a City's functioning with a few ill-planned decrees if they are not stopped, and stopping them directly can be nigh impossible if they have attained the right levels of supernatural power. However, such individuals can simply be exiled from polite society by holding gatherings at locations they prefer not to attend or simply do not know about. Holding gatherings they are unaware of provides a simple expedient. If the majority of society, or a significant portion, simply routs around such an individual they quickly find that while they may hold a title (and may even have that title acknowledged to their face) the power of the position has moved on to someone society views as less damaging.

For these reasons Positions are treated only as an appendage of the larger issues of Boons and Status.

Boons

"Domains that do not honor boons are considered disreputable, usually held by revolutionaries or the unaligned" (V:tR-MET, pg 295)

While the first thing that any neonate learns is that Boons let you make others do stuff, the relationship of a boon is both exactly that but is also somewhat more complex.

The complexity of the Boon relationship starts in the fact that to honor a boon a debtor cannot spend their time trying to attack their creditor or trying to create or trick them into dangerous situations. Endangering another Kindred risks further Prestation debt, as a property crime, and any actions to "force" payment automatically negates the value of the action. (V:tR-MET, pg 294)


It is Boons which provide the backbone of society. Without the Prestation Debt there is no universal currency among vampires with which to enforce property rights (as we've established all crimes are against property). Not all vampires value money or material wealth and some have greater access to Vitae than others. It is only through having a currency valuable to all participants that such disparate types of creatures can find a method by which to trade.

Ironically, Boons provide to Vampires what cash provides to Humans; a generally respected valuable to trade. Humans use cash so they can exchange something they have (often skilled or unskilled labor) with an individual who has nothing they desire and still obtain something they desire from a person who does desire what they can provide. However, with the removal of many basic human needs the value of human currency becomes vastly less than it might otherwise be.

In fact, many individuals would have little to share or reason to accommodate one another in anything. They, and all others, would compete in an environment of base domination and conquest, where those best able to survive direct conflict would monopolize whatever resources they value.

While some would indicate that this is the truth of the Requiem, many things, both mechanical and flavor, indicate otherwise. Firstly, the existence of clans other than Gangrel indicates a call for monsters who are more than cunning predators who kill their opposition with fang and claw. Further, the proliferation of individual vampires to the point where multiple forms of vampiric governance are suggested for different cities indicates that not all interactions between new vampires immediately cause a fight to the death against this new competition. While the Predator's Taint, which can demand such conflict or otherwise demand flight, seems to indicate otherwise the rules explicitly allow for ignoring it under proper circumstances (most circumstances in LARP) and it is only invoked upon first meeting.


The value of an individual's Boons establishes their Status, as much as the reverse is true. If an individual is unreliable in payment their effective respect, if not mechanical Status, quickly deteriorates. This separation is part of what makes Boons more important than Status and is the core of the discussion of the abuse of positions listed above.

The Economics of Prestation

The basic unit of vampiric trade is the Boon, thus all discussions will revolve around the relationship of other valuables (including Vitae, Resources, and Labor) to that universal currency.

Boons v Status

The basic features of the Prestation system are Boons, or debt, and Status. The relationship between these two features is only vaguely alluded to, so this text seeks to provide a concrete link upon which many of the following pieces can anchor. It is given that the relationship centers on the fact that the value of a Boon is equal to the Status of the kindred who holds it.

Thus, the assumption upon which we will work is that a trivial boon from a status two Kindred is worth twice that of a status 1 Vampire. Similarly, a status 5 Vampire’s trivial boon is worth 5 trivial boons from a status 1 kindred. This is not a standard assumption, or one which is derived directly from the book. It is a representation of the fact that an individual who claims higher levels of recognition and power in Kindred society has more expected of them and is expected to have a wider array of resources at their disposal.


Unless otherwise stated, all further discussions involve status 1 kindred. Those who hold Boons over higher station/status kindred can expect proportionally more, and such Kindred can expect more from individuals when giving a Boon. Thus, much of the discussion remains valid even if this shift is entirely rejected.

Boons v Other Boons

Just to be clear, per V:tR-MET, pg 294;

  • 1 Major Boon \approx 3 Minor Boons
  • 1 Minor Boon \approx 3 Trivial Boons
  • 1 Major Boon \approx 9 Trivial Boons
  • 1 Life Boon = infinite Major Boons.

Status and Boons v Other Boons

As a note, the status differential makes some other interesting equalities.

  • 1 Trivial Boon over a Status 3 Kindred = 1 Minor Boon over a Status 1 Kindred.
  • 1 Minor Boon over a Status 3 Kindred = 1 Major Boon over a Status 1 Kindred.

Contracts

In a city where Boon Contracts are standard, an uncontracted boon is worth at most half what a Contracted boon is.

If Boon Contracts aren't standard, the Contract is worth at least twice a "standard" boon.

That is the same relationship from two different angles.

  • 2 Non-contracted \lessapprox 1 Contracted


This represents the fact that the clear verifiability of a contract, and it's innate repercussions (lethal damage), make a contracted boon worth significantly more than an uncontracted boon. Arguably, this equation is amazingly kind to the comparative value of an uncontracted boon. However, the assumption that most kindred would rather honor a boon than face the repercussions bolsters that value.

In a City where Boons have failed to have significant social force behind their enforcement or been ignored in the actions of highly respected members of society, the "honor" boon (an uncontracted boon) can fairly be considered to have been proven entirely worthless.

Boons v Materials

The primary substance of vampiric existence is generally Vitae. Because, however, vampires want “stuff,” cash can also be valuable.

  • 1 Trivial Boon = 1 point of Vitae. (also said, a trivial boon = Vitae equal to the debtor’s status. This can be provided by simply opening one’s veins or, more likely, giving limited access to part of one’s herd). (DC 197-198)
  • 1 Trivial Boon = 1 point of Resources expenditure (usually an item purchased with same, though enough cash to make that purchase will do.)
  • 1 Trivial Boon = an introduction to an influential Kindred.(VtR-MET 294)
  • 1 Trivial Boon = granting feeding rights for a short period.(VtR-MET 294) {see "feeding grounds" VtR-MET 101 for a definition of "feeding rights"} {See Boons v Time for a discussion of how a "short period" might compair to "some time." This baseline also ignores the consideration of value and size of feeding grounds granted.}
  • 1 Minor Boon = 1 Mortal Vessel in condition specified (usually untouched).(DC 197-198) (That is a human person, no strings attached, delivered to your door. The debtor is responsible for all procurement and is reasonably held responsible for cleanup- that means disposing of the body or cleaning memories. If this is the payment and the mortal is returned to the debtor {in any condition, live or dead} they remain responsible for any Masqurade Breaches caused by that human after they are returned. It is within the realm of reason for the creditor to require a specific “type” of human or particular individual.)
  • 1 Minor Boon = protecting or saving a treasured property or valuable Retainer.(VtR-MET 294)
  • 1 Minor Boon = granting feeding rights for some time.(VtR-MET 294) {see "feeding grounds" VtR-MET 101 for a definition of "feeding rights"} {See Boons v Time for a discussion of how a "short period" might compair to "some time." This baseline also ignores the consideration of value and size of feeding grounds granted.}
  • 1 Major Boon = protection from near destruction. (VtR-MET 294)


Bear in mind that these payments only work if the owed individual wants the provided “stuff.” Thus you cannot simply open your veins, try to blood bond them, and claim to have paid a trivial debt. Similarly, a suitcase of cash procured with Resources 1 will likely be laughed at by an individual with resources of 2 or more, and not count as payment. It is this "if they want it" aspect that makes a Boon a preferable general currency than Vitae or Resources.

Also note that refusal to pay a Boon is an offense worthy of loss of Status, and possibly other punishment. Inability to pay might be grounds for a loss in status if the required material is basic enough, as the debtor clearly does not possess the material wealth or power to meet demands appropriate to that level of respect, but is never grounds for further punishment.

Boons v Time

Payment of some boons requires providing some material need or desire. While this can be looked at as requiring a service or set of services for the procurement and/or disposal of the material these items generally have a standard difficulty to procure, and an individuals particular competence or incompetence becomes their own concern. Theoretically, Such items are easy to set a base value upon.

However, if an individual has no need for an "outside" source of such easily categorizable materials payment of their boons may require a service, a set of services, a term of service, or a single service for a term. Obviously, the difference in terms changes the value of the boon- requiring a single, simple service for a night is worth much less than the same service for a decade or century. Further, the Status or Position of the kindred may make their time more valuable.

  • 1 Major Boon = a long period of service above and beyond the call of duty. (VtR-MET 294)

cost of service v skill (costs more to get a scholar mekhet into a fight than a warrior gangrel). cost of service v danger.

notes;

Base

Assuming no commitments from City office interfere, the duration of open, non-violent service for a Trivial boon is determined by the person requiring service's status minus subject's status (including eminence and ascendancy, at the time boon is called in):

Askers status less subject's statusduration of service
-6 or less1 minute
-5 5 minutes
-4 10 minutes
-3 30 minutes
-2 1 hour
-1 6 hours
0 1 night
1 1 week
2 2 weeks
3 1 month
4 6 months
5 1 year
6 5 years
7 10 years
8 25 years
9 50 years*

*in the situation of more than a 9 point disparity in effective status, simply continue the 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cycle increasing the time unit through centuries and millennium.

Modifiers

Specific Services

bonus to asker's statusAction
+5onus of service limited to having a particular discussion of the asker's choice.
-1Requires expending a limited but self-refreshing resource (status points, willpower)
-3Requires expending a limited but not self-replenishing resource (Vitae)
-2Requires possession/use of a City Position (prince, harpy, priscus, primogen, sheriff, etc.)
SpecialViolence as part of the payment


Combat

Normally, payment of a boon does not involve combat or violence. Unless specifically included in the agreement the incidence of violence negates the trade on which the boon is based. If the conflict is forced upon the individual taking the action in an unavoidable way, as a part of the actions taken to pay the boon not because of his own choices, the value of the exchange will rise.

However, an individual who willingly takes on a conflict they could avoid is not automatically entitled to any payment they haven't negotiated in advance.

However, in the situation where violence is or may be involved in the payment of a boon there may be a significant adjustment in the value of the payment depending on the ability of the individual involved. It is worth noting that intentional sacrifices or self-inflicting wounds to increase the value of the prestation debt exchanged is an action which can lead to the debt being entirely overturned. (VtR-MET 294)

Status modifierLevel of violence encountered
-debtor's combat abilityPossibility of violence, but none actually occurs.
-2x(debtor's combat ability)Trivial violence (less than 1/4 the health levels of all individuals on the character's side of the conflict are lost).
-4x(debtor's combat ability)Minor violence (more than 1/4 but less than 1/2 the health levels of all individuals on the character's side of the conflict are lost).
-5x(debtor's combat ability)Significant violence (more than 1/2 but less than 2/3 the health levels of all individuals on the character's side of the conflict are lost).
-7x(debtor's combat ability)Major violence (more than 2/3 but less than 3/4 health levels of all individuals on the character's side of the conflict are lost or a single participant on the character's side enters torpor from his wounds).
-10x(debtor's combat ability)Lethal violence (more than 3/4 the health levels of all individuals on the character's side of the conflict are lost or a single participant on that side reaches final death).


combat abilityExamplesBonus
NoneDr. Dennis Allen, Wesley Corso, Michael Law6
Some 3
LotsNightwolf, Johnny Relic1

Sources

  • DC - Damnation City
  • VtR-MET - Vampire; the Requiem Mind's Eye Theater

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