Status is an objective measure of one’s standing within the city and vampire society as a whole. Since one can expect to be listened by those with less Status—and to be respectful and even obsequious to those with more Status—keeping track of, protecting, and building one’s Status is critical to Kindred who want any freedom of will.
Status is always public knowledge. Those in possession of permanent Status beyond the basic Acknowledged trait must list their traits on a visible badge (signed by the GM) for them to apply in game.
Effects of Status and Status Challenges
Status has no mystical pull, but for those who desire the protection of the city, it sets out certain social restrictions. Primarily, those with lower Status will be respectful, flattering, and generally eager to aid those with higher Status. They’re under no obligation to do favors without demanding appropriate Prestation, but they generally won’t turn down requests for aid that aren’t suicidal without considering them. Additionally, minor tasks for which no Prestation would normally be required (fetching another Kindred or ghoul, getting a drink, and such) will generally be undertaken without question. While being so sycophantic may be distasteful to some, it’s simply part of the great Jyhad.
Conversely, those with higher Status are to generally protect those with lower Status (albeit in return for proper Prestation), to not demand unreasonable services from them, and to not force them into suicidal or self-destructive situations. They must also act in accordance with their Status in order for it to be respected; for example, someone who is Feared must attempt to evoke fear, while those who are Well-Known must keep themselves in the spotlight. Beyond that, they may act as they see fit. This freedom makes the acquisition of Status a key point in any Kindred’s life, as it lets him be the one disdainfully giving orders rather than the one (falsely) graciously receiving them.
In the greater scheme of Kindred society, those with greater Status are believed before those with lower Status, find it much easier to gain an audience with the Prince and with Primogen, and can speak more often at court.
To reflect all these issues, the Status Challenge mechanic is used. Whenever a person seems to be acting in violation of the rules of Status, or when a person wishes to force a societal issue (such as getting an audience with Prince over someone else, or getting the Prince to believe their word over someone else’s), a Status Challenge may be called. In such a challenge, the only traits that count and that can be bid are Status traits. The loser of the challenge must back down (by adjusting his behavior as desired by the winner, or by leaving the area in a melodramatic huff) or publicly declare that he’s ignoring the other person’s Status—an event that’s dramatic and has other effects (see Ignoring Status, below). Remember, the Status Challenge is always between the people with the dispute; if two people are vying for the Prince’s attention, they engage in a Status Challenge between each other, not against the Prince, as it’s not his Status that’s being called into question.
During a Status Challenge, other characters nearby may throw their Status (through a public declaration of support) in with either character. The characters involved may bid and count any Status traits they possess—even those on loan, assuming their owners don’t revoke those traits upon their being bid. Characters may retest a Status Challenge by expending a Status trait (which then doesn’t count when comparing traits in the result of a tie). It is important to note, however, that a character may require proof of loaned Status if it is to be used in a Status Challenge.
It’s possible to have mass Status Challenges, but generally those Challenges are best resolved by each side picking a representative and throwing their traits behind that representative.
Granting and Removing Status
Permanent Status represents your character’s relative standing in the city and is typically granted (and removed) by city officials. Permanent Status changes must generally occur publicly and dramatically—usually at court, so the whole city can see—and usually must be witnessed by the Prince. The person whose Status is being altered need not be present, though it’s something of an insult to not be present when one is being awarded Status.
Temporary Status is a different matter and is given and taken away much more freely. Temporary Status isn’t a measure of your personal standing in the city; instead, it represents someone granting you their favor and the ability to act in their name. Since temporary Status can be revoked at relatively any time by the grantor, there’s less of a trust issue involved in its transfer.
Anyone can loan any permanent Status trait away as temporary Status. Doing so disables the trait for its owner; while everyone knows they still have it, it cannot be bid or counted in Status Challenges, except by its current possessor. To give temporary Status, the grantor must either announce it publicly or give the target a letter or other token representing the traits transferred. If a token is used, the traits it is worth must be announced publicly or described in a written form that those who are to recognize the Status traits possess. Tokens and public announcements are often used for long term grants of Status; letters are preferred when the person possessing the Status is running an errand, or if the grantor wishes to keep the transfer a private matter between himself, the person he’s granted it to, and a small circle of other Kindred. Letters are commonly used when coteries, elders, or other factions wish to have a single representative act in their name with another faction or single Kindred. It’s important to note that, since Status is based on belief, those who have no reason to believe you possess the Status traits you claim may ignore them without serious repercussions (see: Ignoring Status, below).
Temporary Status can be revoked extremely quickly. A public pronouncement is all that’s needed to return the trait to its owner. Status granted via tokens or letters can be revoked publicly, but it’s important that those who might be recognizing the Status based on such hear the announcement. It’s perfectly reasonable that the grantor demand that the token be returned or any letters destroyed upon revoking the Status. When a temporary Status trait is returned, it is returned expended if its previous possessor expended it. Temporary Status can be revoked preemptively in response to its usage; if the grantor of the trait doesn’t agree with how it’s about to be used, he can recover it beforehand.
Status is generally expended through Status Challenges, although some city officials can expend Status for other effects. Both permanent and temporary Status can be expended; when a Status trait is expended, it can’t be bid and is no longer counted in Status Challenges.
One important Status expenditure that any character, or group of characters, can do is the removal of permanent Status. By bidding a number of traits equal to another character’s permanent Status and defeating him in a Status Challenge, a target can be stripped of one permanent Status. All the traits bid are expended whether the Challenge is successful or not. Doing this for any reason but a grievous violation of decorum (read: the Status system) is likely to raise the ire of the Prince and Harpy; doing so in the presence of any city official is a dire insult and challenge to their authority.
Whenever Status is permanently removed from a character, he gets to decide what Status trait is lost, unless the removal is such that the traits removed are selected for him (such as the loss of Status for losing a city position).
It is not uncommon for a character whose status it to be removed to be granted a Negative Status instead, especially in situations where a given offense is not so egregious as to warrant the stripping of a permanent Status, but there still should be some Status-based consequences (see: Negative Status, below).
A character is under no necessary obligation to maintain the Status system. He may, at any time, ignore someone’s Status by simply publicly (loudly and melodramatically, usually) declaring that he’s doing so. Ignoring Status can be used to negate the result of a Status Challenge and is, in fact, the reason one would generally do so. Such a negated Challenge is assumed to have been won by the person who is ignoring Status, with his desired result being to simply not do what was demanded by the winner.
This action has no necessary, immediate repercussions, unless a city official is nearby (or unless a group of proactive Kindred are nearby and choose to strip the character of Status). It’s a terrible breach of etiquette, however, and can result in one’s Status being stripped. Doing so in the presence of the Harpy, Prince, or one’s own Primogen almost guarantees the immediate loss of Status.
Having No Status
The last Status trait a character can lose is his Acknowledged trait. A character with no Status traits is no longer under the protection of the Prince or the city. He may not be killed without permission, of course, as that’d violate the Tradition of Destruction, but he can be abused, maimed, or even tortured—even on Elysium grounds—without any major problems. In fact, most Princes consider one with no Status kine, which means he can be slain without violating the Traditions (as the Prince has, in this case, given implicit permission to do so).
Certain city positions grant permanent Status traits. These traits can’t normally be removed as long as the Kindred holds the position, but if any of these traits are stripped permanently, they’re immediately considered expended (although they’re not permanently removed). More importantly, the loss of such a trait in this way represents a loss of the city’s trust and prevents the vampire from using any of his position’s special powers until the beginning of the next game. In most cases, having a position-based Status trait removed is grounds for removal from one’s position.
Position status can’t normally be stripped until all of the character’s other permanent Status has been removed.
Whenever a permanent Status trait is removed, the Kindred removing it can choose instead to grant a permanent negative Status trait. This acts like a normal negative trait in any Status Challenge, with the exception that it’s public knowledge and therefore can (and should) be bid against its holder. Likewise, instead of granting a permanent Status trait (or restoring a permanent Status trait), a Kindred can remove a negative Status trait instead.
Naturally, negative Status can’t be expended as temporary Status or given as a temporary Status trait to another character.
What do you get an undead killing machine as a gift for their help? What currency matters to immortals who can trivially take whatever they desire from the kine? Money is irrelevant to those whose cons are backed by supernatural might and to those whose investments can gather interest for centuries. Jewels and gold that would make a pauper cry and a king salivate mean nothing to the Kindred that control streets and thrones. A pretty little object of desire has no value to those of dead flesh, save as food – and blood is cheap in the teeming cities of the modern era.
Instead of material goods, favors are the currency of Kindred society. The semi-formal social code by which favors are traded is known as Prestation, and the favors themselves are known as boons. Whether Sabbat, Camarilla, or inconnu, all vampires participate in Prestation to some degree. Only the foolish, weakest, or most desperate vampires work for immediate material rewards; everyone else realizes that the value of a favor yet undecided is much greater among immortals than any mere stack of mortal currency or blood pack. Even in the Sabbat, Prestation is common. While individual packs may only trade favors informally, the game is deadly serious at higher levels and particularly among the Lasombra, whose Les Amies Noir are perhaps the most talented players among all of Caine’s progeny.
Because Prestation is a key part of vampiric society, particularly in the Camarilla, there’s little stigma to owing boons. In fact, while smart Kindred try to be owed more than they owe, they realize the value in owing a boon to someone else. Those who’ve “invested” in you by holding a boon from you have no interest in seeing their investment destroyed by your destruction or even exile, so they’ll often expend some effort to keep you safe. After all, by accepting your boon, they’re banking that you’ll be useful to them at some point – either as your power grows, or when you’re simply in the right place at the right time. Even powerful ancillae and elders will offer small boons to those weaker than themselves for minor services as another way of establishing loyalty. If you’re a mere neonate owed a boon by an elder, you’ve a compelling reason to keep that elder around and happy, since you never know when you might need their help.
The importance of Prestation explains why some Kindred take it as a personal insult when assistance is offered for free; doing so is essentially stating publicly that their future assistance is worthless. Likewise, a Kindred who fails to demand a boon for all but the most trivial favors is viewed as weak, inept, and uncouth. This is true even if the favor is ultimately self-serving or the vampire is truly altruistic (a rarity indeed).
Prestation, as a social game, is enforced through Status. For that reason, the Prince and the Harpy ultimately serve as the final arbiters of the system. Those who violate their sense of fair play, the rules they set forth, or the terms of any contract that the involved Kindred sign will almost certainly lose their favor and, thus, Status within the city.
Types of Boons
Very generally speaking, boons can be divided up into five different sizes, reflecting both the imposition of the favor for which the boon is owed and the size of the favor required to repay the debt.
- Trivial boons represent minimal favors, such as using a single Discipline on someone, translating a letter, or spending a small amount of Influence (2 points or less).
- Minor boons are more substantial, but still quite small, impositions, such as keeping a person away from a meeting by tying him up with a conversation, planting a small bit of evidence near someone, or spending a bit more Influence (3 or 4 points). Basic Rituals performed by the Tremere are often considered minor boons.
- Major boons are serious favors that usually take more than one game to accomplish, such as making a large expenditure of Influence (5 or 6 points), arranging the grant of a Permanent Status trait, teaching one level of a Discipline, or performing an Intermediate Ritual.
- Blood boons are favors similar to major boons, but are much larger in scale, involve violence, or require acting against the pronouncements of a city official. These include roughing up a member of another Clan, killing a ghoul or other kine, firebombing a building, bringing weapons onto Elysium if they’re not permitted, making massive expenditures of Influence (7 or 8 points), or performing an Advanced Ritual.
- Life boons are favors so massive that they’re worth a trade of a Kindred’s unlife or entire Domain. This can include killing another Kindred – or preventing one from being killed, a truly gigantic expenditure of Influence (9 or more points), teaching a Clan-specific Discipline for which the penalty for teaching it is Final Death (such as Thaumaturgy or Obtenebration), backing treasonous moves against the Prince, blatantly breaking one of the Traditions, or engaging in the wholesale slaughter of kine.
Boons aren’t “fungible,” nor can they be split up or combined—at least not without the agreement of the person who owes the boon, the Harpy, or the Prince. Three trivial boons aren’t automatically worth a major boon, nor is a life boon worth five trivial boons. With that in mind, when trading or settling boons, the actual value is worth whatever those involved are willing to accept. A trivial boon from an elder might be worth a blood boon to a neonate, but merely a minor boon to an ancilla. Conversely, ten trivial boons from different neonates may be worth nothing to an elder—or they may be worth a blood boon, if that elder has a particular need for ten pawns.
Public and Private Prestation
Prestation can performed in private, in which case only the Kindred involved know about the boon. This sort of Prestation involves a bit more trust than most Kindred are comfortable with giving, as there’s no proof of the boon and no way to enforce it unless you happen to have more Status and can petition the Prince or the Harpy. However, very few Kindred will break a boon, even a private one; doing so invites retribution from you and your entire Clan, as well as anyone else you tell about the malfeasance. In fact, some of the longest running feuds in the Jyhad have started over broken private boons.
For Kindred who don’t trust each other, public Prestation is a more secure option. In this case, the offering and accepting of the boon takes in front of the Harpy, and preferably before multiple witnesses. In this case, the Harpy can sanctify the boon, recording it for reference and making it much easier for her to punish either party who breaks the agreement. While some Harpies may request a boon for this service, few Primogen will brook a Harpy demanding recompense for doing their job, making it rarely a costly way to ensure your boons are enforced. However, public Prestation is obviously inappropriate for anything you don’t want the whole city to eventually know about. The deal to use your influence to help a Toreador build a new nightclub is a perfect agreement to present to the Harpy; the deal to use your influence to help that Toreador overthrow the Prince isn’t.
For those who don’t even trust the Harpy, there are other ways to enforce boons. Dominate can require the execution of a boon, at least within the limits of its power. Allegedly, the Tremere have magics that can create mystical contracts with dire consequences for those who break them.
You can’t simply give a boon you’re owed to someone else without notifying the person who owes you the favor. Proper decorum in the Camarilla requires that the one who owes the boon accept the trade, though if they’re particularly well-liked by the Harpy or the Prince, they may be able to get away with denying such a trade unscathed. After all, they’re not denying that they owe the favor—they’re just refusing to owe it to some other uninvolved vampire.
Of course, one can attempt to bypass the consent of the person who owes you the boon by going straight to the Harpy or the Prince. While they might demand a boon from you for the service, they can simply call in the other Kindred and inform them that the boon has been transferred. This strategy is particularly effective when done in public, as it forces the one who owes you the boon to accept the trade or potentially lose face before the whole city.
Each level of Boon can be considered to have a numerical value, with Trivial Boons being “one point Boons” and Life Boons being “five point Boons.” Despite the fact that boons aren’t fungible currency, very generally speaking, a fair repayment for a boon is a number of services whose equivalent value equals the value of the initial boon. So, a fair repayment for major boon
(3 points) can be a service worthy of a major boon, a service worthy of a minor boon (2 points) and a service worthy of a trivial boon (1 point), or three services worthy of a trivial boon (1 point). Any payment that isn’t an equivalent exchange, however, is up to the discretion of the Kindred involved and the Harpy, either of which may permit or deny them as they see fit – since the only social rule about Boons is that they be repaid in kind.
Naturally, that means that the specifics of the repayment of a Boon are up to the Kindred to whom it is owed. Besides simply performing the task requested of you, one easy way to settle a boon is to acquire a boon from the Kindred you owe that’s of equal size as the one you owe to him. It’s then possible to declare them both settled, as you’ve at that point performed a service equal to the original boon. It’s sometimes possible to get out of a Boon by performing a service worthy enough to repay it at a remarkably fortuitous time, then demanding (usually publicly, preferably with the Harpy around) that the Boon be considered repaid, but again, nothing requires the Kindred to consider this a viable form of repayment, other than the degree to which he feels he can potentially lose face and his own sense of fair play.
Of course, since boons and Prestation are social structures, the court of public opinion is often a powerful tool to convince people to see things your way. Since Status is so important among Kindred, it can be used as a bargaining chip during Prestation. Having a contract that specifies the services rendered and the type and size of repayment expected – then having that contract sanctified by the Harpy – almost assures that the boon isn’t abused by either party. Announcing a boon at court, or demanding a boon be considered settled for services rendered in front of a large gathering of Kindred, is an excellent way to put either party on the spot; properly acted with just the right amount of melodrama, these sorts of scenes can force the other vampire to acquiesce or face a loss of Status for offending the sensibilities of the other Kindred there. This strategy can backfire, however, if the boon was originally kept private because it involved some rather unsavory activities. Finally, those with higher Status can often get away with more abusive actions with boons—as can those who are owed boons by the Harpy.
Prestation: Clan Perspectives
- Brujah: As much as they rail against it, Brujah typically recognize the value of Prestation to achieve their revolutionary ends. After all, it’s difficult to change a system from within if you have no power in it. That said, Brujah rarely engage in Prestation with their fellow clan members. Kindred in the clan are brothers and sisters; family don’t charge family for favors. Instead, Brujah simply deny assistance to deadbeats who don’t provide anything of value or who constantly demand help but never reciprocate. Even then, the clan will still rush to the aid of a member in dire straits, no matter what they’ve done in the past.
- Gangrel: Gangrel rarely run into each other and so rarely have a need to engage in Prestation within the clan, but for all their independent ways, Gangrel are among the more strict enforcers of the system. Any Gangrel asking a fellow for a favor is expected to offer a similar service in return, though most Gangrel rarely hold boons but instead discharge them quickly—often with an equivalent service rendered immediately; boons only serve to tie down these wandering souls. While no immediate retribution will come to one who doesn’t follow the rules, a Gangrel who refuses to repay favors or offer boons to fellow Kindred of the clan is likely to find himself bereft of aid in lupine territory or in an open field come sunrise.
- Malkavian: Many Malkavians profess no care or understanding for Prestation and instead aid other Kindred at their own twisted whims. The wise Kindred always bends the ear of the harpies when cutting deals with the childer of Malkav. Within the Malkavian clan, Prestation is extremely mercurial, with massive debts being repaid by seemingly trivial services. Recovering a lost toy might be repaid with a blood boon, while destroying another Kindred might be worth merely a trivial boon. In short, political power and boons within the clan are gained by being better able to comprehend the madness of one’s fellow Kindred. More lucid Malkavians capitalize on this to rapidly achieve dominance over their clan in the city.
- Nosferatu: The tightly-knit Nosferatu use Prestation as a means of establishing a meritocracy within the city. For Nosferatu, information is currency, and no information is given without getting a boon or an equally valuable tidbit of data in return. Asking for information without offering a boon or a secret of your own is an insult, but offering information without expecting something in return is a greater one; you’re essentially saying your information is worthless, or that your associate is incapable of getting any information of value. Those Nosferatu who hold a large number of boons aren’t despised but are instead feted as among the clan’s most effective spies.
- Toreador: While Nosferatu gather boons to prove their worth and Ventrue gather them as relationship-building, Toreador largely collect and trade boons to achieve their goals with the city’s kine. Artistes trade their works to poseurs for boons that they can use to fund their continued art, while poseurs trade boons to expand their influence and support their chosen mortal artists. Like the Malkavians, Prestation can be quite fluid within the clan, particularly where art is concerned; an original Manet may be worth a life boon to one Toreador and a mere scoff from another.
- Tremere: Prestation is rarely performed within the Tremere clan in a given city, as its members are expected to act primarily to strengthen the clan as a whole. Instead, Prestation occurs between chantries and regions, with Regents and Lords swapping favors primarily to secure choice apprentices and territories. This game is permitted by the Council so long as it ultimately ensures the most politically adept rise to the top; the moment it harms the clan’s overall goals, the next highest authority in the Pyramid puts a quick stop to it. Within a city, while Apprentices will sometimes engage in Prestation with each other to get out of (or into) particular duties, it is still rare. Instead, most Tremere aid each other freely in order to prove their worth and strengthen the clan as a whole against its, and the Camarilla’s, many enemies. However, Tremere who abuse the largesse of their fellows are transferred away to less prestigious chantries or sent to Vienna, never to be seen again.
- Ventrue: While the Ventrue are arguably more hierarchal than the Tremere, Prestation plays a much greater role. As consummate politicians, no Ventrue gives anything away for free, even to another Ventrue; you never know when a favor may prove useful, or even when owing one might prove useful by letting you get close to a more influential member of the clan. Among Ventrue, Prestation is a friendly, personal exchange among noble peers. No Ventrue would stoop so low as to involve the Harpy in a private deal, as Kindred of this clan should be better than to renege on their word; calling in the Harpy is tantamount to saying you don’t trust your own clan and is a severe insult. Most Ventrue owe and are owed a dizzying array of Boons within their own clan, each of which represents a “business relationship.” Most Ventrue consider it a serious insult to offer them assistance without Prestation, as that’s essentially stating their future services are worthless.
Getting the Keys to the Kingdom: Dirty Tricks for Enterprising Kindred
Through the ages, many Kindred have discovered ways to use the social structures of the Camarilla to their advantage. Here are some of the dirtier tricks they’ve used to gain power; these are included both to aid the devious and to help those in power protect what they have. They’re sorted roughly in order of complexity, risk, and sheer deviousness.
- “Fall in love” with a member of another Clan. Use this connection to gather information about that Clan’s activities.
- Sell information—true or not—about your Clan’s activities for small Boons. Use these small Boons together to demand a large service.
- Whenever you catch someone doing something objectionable, demand a Boon from them to stay quiet. This means you should always be on the lookout for the sorts of private meetings in which evil acts are planned and executed.
- Sell small Boons on city officials to younger, less powerful Kindred for massive Boons.
- Arrange to get kicked out of your Clan. Then throw yourself on the mercy of another Clan so you’re taken under their wing. Proceed to sell their secrets back to your own Clan—preferably for Boons.
- Never do any dirty deed yourself. Always use Boons to do them, so the crime is less traceable. Optimally, use a Boon to have someone else actually give the order so you have plausible deniability. For the extra point, make sure the person who gives the order is a city official, so you can blackmail a Boon out of them later when the instrument of your wickedness is caught (probably by your hand).
- The Keeper of Elysium and the Sheriff aren’t immune to each other. Their roles also often conflict. Make sure they conflict as much as possible so that they’re either both tied up and not doing their jobs, or so that one tries to overthrow the other. After the decision to eliminate the rival has been made, you can then reveal (privately!) what you’ve done and offer further support at the cost of a Boon. Alternatively, you can go to the targeted rival and offer to expose the other’s improprieties to the Prince—for a price.
- Are you the Harpy? Be sure to be capricious and unfair in your adjudication of Status. Favor those who don’t owe you Boons, so they’ll use your services often. You can then suddenly revoke your favor and demand a Boon to give it back. Be sure to abuse younger Kindred with less Status, then take them aside and request Boons from them to be nicer to them.
- As the Sheriff, plant evidence of crimes on those who seem to be getting a lot of Status. Then dramatically reveal an “ongoing investigation” at court and subtly point fingers at those people. You can then demand Boons to stay silent. Those who don’t pay will have the evidence against them dramatically revealed at the next court and suffer the consequences.