How to Do a Challenge

How to Do a Challenge

This post originally appeared on Facebook on January 1, 2016.  It has been edited and updated to match the current rules of Riverside Opera.

A lot of people have some questions about what challenges are for and how they work. This article is intended to explain what they are and how to do them from start to finish.

First off, what is a challenge? A challenge is like a dice roll or skill check in D&D or any other RPG. Since dice can be unwieldy and immersion-breaking, Laws of the Night uses rock-paper-scissors (RPS) as a randomness generator.  The only problem with RPS in general is that after you’ve been playing with someone for a while, it’s more of a game of predicting what they will throw rather than randomness, so we use cards instead.  You use a challenge any time you’d normally make a dice roll in another RPG, whether it’s to hit someone, to convince someone of something, or to use most supernatural powers.  The actual act of throwing cards is, perhaps confusingly, called a Test.  A challenge is all the tests thrown that determine who succeeds and who fails at a single action.

Challenges come in three basic types:

  • Standard challenges (usually called challenges) are made against other players.  Think of these like opposed attack rolls in other RPGs.
  • Static challenges are made against the ST or a Narrator and reflect trying to do something against the environment.  Think of these like skill checks to try to pick a lock in other RPGs.
  • Finally, simple tests aren’t full-sized challenges, but are often referred to as such.  Simple Tests are used to see if a random event happens.  Think of them like the GM rolling a die to see who a monster attacks in other RPGs.

Challenges, at a bare minimum, use your Attribute Traits (just called your Traits, usually) and your Abilities. Think of your Traits as your Ability Scores from D&D (Strength, Perception, and so on) and your Abilities as your specific skills.

Challenge Basics

So, how does a Challenge work? Follow these easy steps!

  1. The aggressor (the person wanting to take the action ) declares a Challenge.  During their declaration, they must indicate whether their action is Physical, Social, or Mental.
  2. The aggressor bids a Trait and declares a Victory Condition.  They use the Trait in a sentence that explains what they want to do and how their Trait helps them accomplish it.
    • This declaration is often referred to as a Bid.
    • Generally, these statements follow this construction: “<Character Name> is <Trait> enough to <Victory Condition>.”
    • Victory Conditions cannot be sweeping or devastating (i.e., you can’t declare that you chop of someone’s head or Dominate an entire room in a single action).  The Narrator running the Challenge will have the final say in whether a given Victory Condition is acceptable.
  3. The defender either relents, accepting whatever the aggressor is doing, or declares a Bid of their own.
    • Defenders may declare that they are defending themselves or, if they were aware of the incoming Challenge and were not caught by surprise, that they are taking another aggressive action in return.
  4. The aggressor and defender each shuffle their RPS decks and flip over their top card (a Test).  (Rock defeats Scissors, which defeats Paper, which defeats Rock.)
    • If the aggressor wins the Test, they achieve their Victory Condition unless the defender uses a Retest.
    • If the defender wins the Test, they achieve their Victory Condition unless the aggressor uses a Retest.
    • If the aggressor and defender tie, they compare Traits in the category of the Bid (unless some other effect comes into play).  The aggressor declares his total first and can only count Traits they have not lost for the night, then the defender declares their total.  Either player can declare up to their total, but they may also declare fewer than their total if they would like.  Whoever declares more Traits wins the Test.
  5. Whoever lost the initial Test may call for a Retest (more on those in a minute).  A Retest returns us to Step 4, and it’s as if the original Step 4 never happened.
  6. After all Retests have been resolved, whoever won the final Test achieves their Victory Condition. The loser then marks the Trait from their Bid off their sheet, and that Trait is gone for the rest of the night.  It cannot be used in any other Bids, and it does not count toward that character’s total when comparing Traits.


Retests are super powerful parts of the mechanics of Laws of the Night.  They let you take another shot at succeeding where you once failed, thus increasing your odds of success.  There are a five different type of Retests:

  1. Ability Retests, such as Firearms or Brawl;
  2. Discipline-based Retests, such as Might;
  3. Merit-based Retests, such as Lucky or, in rare cases, environmental penalties;
  4. Willpower, if you are the defender against a Social or Mental Challenge; and
  5. Overbids, which we will go over later.

The trick to retests is that, for speed of game play, they have three rules:

  • They must relevant to what you’re trying to do. You can’t use the Computer ability to retest hitting someone with a computer.
  • Your opponent can recall your Retest by using a Retest of the same type.  If your Retest is recalled, the results of the initial Test stand.
  • During a Challenge, each type of Retest may only force a new Test once.  Once a Test is thrown for a type of Retest, that type may not be used again.  If my opponent uses Brawl to Retest, and I don’t recall with my own, then I may not then Retest with Brawl later in the Challenge.

So, at most, a given Challenge can involve six different Tests: the initial Test and one Test per Retest type.  Just remember that all Retests do is throw away the results of the last Test. They’re very powerful for that reason, but that’s why they’re limited!


Overbids are a special type of Retest.  They reflect the ability of powerful Kindred to use brute force to overcome opponents and obstacles.  Anyone may attempt an Overbid, but they are not easy to land.

To attempt an Overbid, the loser of a Challenge counts their number of Traits the have in the category of the Test, then spends a Trait of that category.  The Narrator adjudicating the Challenge then secretly looks at the other player’s character sheet and compares the number of Traits declared to the number of Traits in that same category.  If the person attempting the Overbid has at least twice the number of Traits, the Overbid is successful.  The previous Test is ignored, and the players Test again.

Naturally, Overbids cannot be recalled; it would be difficult to have twice the number of Traits than your opponent when they already have twice as many Traits as you, after all.

Example Challenge

Here’s an example of a basic Challenge in which Alice wants to punch Bob in the face, and Bob wants to talk her out of it

Alice says, “Physical Challenge. I’m so Brawny that I break Bob’s nose.”

Bob replies, “Because I’m so Charming, you stop at the last minute.

Alice and Bob play paper-rock-scissors. Alice throws rock, and Bob throws rock.  Because they tied, they compare Traits.  Alice goes first, saying, “I have 10 traits.”

Bob can’t match that total, so he decides to lie to cover up his strength, replying, “I have 3 Traits.” Alice has more Traits, so she wins.

Still, Bob doesn’t want to get hit. “Retest: Subterfuge,” he declares, and marks a Subterfuge off of his character sheet.

Alice recalls, saying, “I will Recall: Brawl,” and she marks a Brawl off of her sheet.

Bob tries again, “Retest: Subterfuge.”  Again, he marks off a Subterfuge.

Alice either can’t or won’t spend another Brawl, so they throw another Test.  Alice throws scissors, Bob throws rock.  Bob wins the Test.  While Alice could Retest with Willpower (since Bob is using a Social Challenge), she decides that her Willpower is too valuable to waste.

Neither Alice nor Bob decide to retest further.

Because Bob won the Challenge, Alice thinks again before punching him, stopping her fist right before it connects.  Alice marks “Brawny” off her sheet for the night.

I hope this write-up is a little clearer than the explanation in the book.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us in Discord or by email!

The Ok Check-In Mechanic

The Ok Check-In Mechanic

As our player base grows, we continue to be amazed at the depth of emotion, the dedication, and the commitment of our players.  The work each of you puts into not just your characters but also in a shared story is what sets Riverside Opera apart and is what will keep us going for years to come.

Riverside Opera is, first and foremost, a story-driven game.  We focus on enhancing the play experience and increasing the feeling of immersion, all while providing a safe and consent-based play environment for everyone. When we LARP, we often place ourselves into the lives of our characters, letting them steer the scene.  We feel what they feel, and sometimes our bodies don’t know the difference between fictional emotional trauma and real emotional trauma.  Sometimes, a scene is too intense or triggers a physical/emotional response that means we need a moment, but don’t know how to ask for that moment without breaking the story flow.  To that end, we are excited to announce that, effective as of Riverside Opera: Regency, we will be implementing a version of the OK Check-In system utilized by many of the American Free-Form LARPs.

The OK Check-In system has been in place in LARP circles for many years, and designed specifically to allow players to check in on the comfort level and well-being of their fellow players, without breaking the flow of the story.  With the implementation of the OK Check-In mechanic, the “Ok” hand symbol will no longer be used to indicated Out of Character.  Going forward, we will be exclusively using the crossed fingers symbol to indicated a player is OOC, when they are not in the OOC space.

The OK Check-In mechanic works in very straightforward fashion, as follows:

Player A Flashes the Ok hand symbol at Player B during a scene: This asks the question, “Are you ok?”

Player B responds in one of three ways:

  • Thumbs up – Player B is mentally/physically/emotionally ok with how the scene is unfolding. Play continues as normal

  • Palm Flat – Player B is unsure of how they feel in the moment, but is not fully ok in the scene. This should be treated as a Thumbs Down by Player A, the scene should be paused, Player B should be given the opportunity to either take a moment, or leave/be escorted from scene.


  • Thumbs Down – Player B is NOT ok. Scene should be paused, Player B should be given the opportunity to either take a moment or leave/be escorted from scene.

Palm Flat, and Thumbs Down are to be treated as the same response, because often, a player is afraid of “ruining the fun” by saying no, or they are otherwise incapable of giving a hard “No” in the moment for whatever reason.  The Palm Flat option is in in place because of the “I’m fine” or “Meh” default answers many people give to stress, out of fear of causing problems or being a bother.  Sometimes, a player just needs a de-escalation of the aggression level of the scene. Sometimes, they need to take a private moment to collect themselves, or go to the OOC space and detach from game stress for a moment.  The immediate follow-up question to either of those symbols should be, “Would you like an escort to the OOC space or for me to call a Narrator?”  This allows Player B to dictate what they need a go-forward, which may be as simple as, “Can we dial down the yelling?”

One does not have to be a primary player involved in a scene to perform an OK check.  We’ve all seen players portray character who have become overwhelmed IC, and had emotional breaks.  Anyone can do an OK check on anyone, at any time, if they are worried about a player’s emotional state or comfort level.

The Player who has called for a pause or stop should not be pressured into explaining why they called for said stop.  Unless Player B chooses to discuss the incident later, it is not a topic of discussion.  No IC repercussions may occur because of Player B’s need to deescalate or end scene.  That said, the Ok Check-In system is not to be used as an easy out to avoid negative IC consequences for player action, nor should it be used to interrupt a scene between players for personal IC gain.  Abuse of the system to that end is considered metagaming, and will be handled accordingly.

Example 1:

Brujah Prince Cup de Cake is squaring off against Ventrue Archon No Fun, who has been caught trying to incite a revolt in the city.  Prince Cup de Cake abruptly stands, interrupting the Archon by slamming one hand on the table as she loudly counters the Archon’s point, flashing the OK symbol with the other.  Archon No Fun flashes a Thumbs up, standing as he does so, matching the Prince’s vocal tone and volume, and agreeing to the escalation of aggression in the scene.

Example 2:

Anarch Baron Jay Cartier attempts to grandstand in the middle of open court, mocking the Sovereign’s rule and gets in a screaming match with Enforcer Merci Ravyn.  Jay and Merci players did not perform an ok check before they starting the argument, but Jay wants to escalate by moving into Merci’s personal space.  Jay flashes the Ok check, stepping one foot forward to indicate intent, and Merci flashes a Thumbs Down.  Jay’s immediately asks ““Would you like an escort to the OOC space or for me to call a Narrator?” Merci declines, indicates the personal space invasion is a no, and she would like to continue the scene, but at the established distance.  Jay steps back, and allows Merci to continue the scene at the level at which she is comfortable.

Example 3:

After an intense combat scene, Thyme the Malkavian notices that Rick the Setite, usually a very talkative chap, seems to be hiding in a corner avoiding people. Thyme catches his eyes and flashes the Ok symbol, and Rick replies with a shaky palm flat.  Thyme asks if he needs an escort to the OOC space, he says yes, and they both exit the play space.

Example 4, group scenario:

The Giovanni clan meeting is getting heated, accusations flying about one (or more) of their number acting against the Family’s best interest.  As volume levels rise, Emissary Lannie flashes the ok symbol, as group check in to make sure everyone is all right. All but two of the players flash Thumbs up. Those two players respond at the verbal follow-up, that they don’t want to leave scene, but the volume level is causing them issues.  Emissary Lannie gives an impassioned plea for the Family to maintain their calm, and the rest of the Giovanni comply.

We understand that these mechanics will take some time to fully transition into.  We ask that everyone give them a try, and practice implementing the OK Check-In mechanics in play.  Once comfortable with the mechanics, we feel that everyone will find them to enhance the player experience, maximize immersion, and minimize potential player discomfort.  A full demonstration of the OK Check-in mechanics, as they will be used in Riverside Opera, will be performed as part of the player meeting in January, and as needed to increase familiarity.

The Ok Check-In mechanics do not, in anyway supersede our Code of Conduct.  While these mechanics can be used to confirm permission to touch, please continue to obtain full verbal consent in the moment for player contact that has not already been pre-negotiated and informed to the Staff at large.

The Complete Guide to the Crafting System

The Complete Guide to the Riverside Opera Crafting System

Customizability in characters is an important part of any RPG.  In Vampire LARP, that customization historically comes from Disciplines.  While customizing with Disciplines is great, it isn’t the only way that a character would progress their effectiveness were the Kindred a real thing.  Many of them would opt to create their own armor, weapons, and other items.  In the rules as written, the Crafts Ability exists, so it seems as though it was a thing that the developers intended, but they didn’t provide any actual mechanics for doing so.  Toward that end, Riverside Opera has its own unique Crafting rules.

Crafting Quick Steps

  1. Blueprint the item.
    • Item Concept
    • Determine Item Effects
    • Determine Item Function
    • ST Approval
      • Determine Costs
      • Determine Difficulty
    • Pay Costs
    • Win Static Mental Challenge
  2. Build the item.
    • Determine Difficulty and Type of Challenge
    • Determine I/R/A Cost
    • Win Static Challenge
    • Request Item Card
  3. Manufacture the item (optional, not a Crafting action).

Crafting Actions

All characters get two Crafting actions each month, of which there are two types: Blueprints and Builds.  Characters may mix and match those two in whatever combination they like (so, Blueprint/Build, Blueprint/Blueprint, or Build/Build).  In order to execute a Build on an item, a character must possess a Blueprint for that item.


A Blueprint action has five steps.

First, the player settles on a concept for the Blueprint.  Concepts can be as simple, broad, complicated, or detailed as you like.  Anything from “a lapel pin that shoots fire” to “a gun that never misses, can be fired 5 times a round, is concealable in my pocket, deals more damage, and makes people see bunnies when they get shot” is acceptable as a concept for a Blueprint.

Note, however, that a concept for a Blueprint is not always likely to be exactly what the item does at the end of the process.

The second step is figuring out what available effects combine to make the item work.  Each effect has an Ability cost and a Blueprint Difficulty.  If an item has multiple effects, you choose the effect with the highest Blueprint Difficulty and then add 2 to the Ability costs and Difficulties for each effect past the first.  If an effect requires a specific Ability, that Ability must be spent to create the Blueprint, but it is not added to the total cost.

The Abilities that can be spent to Craft items are: Academics, Animal Ken, Computer, Crafts, Firearms, Medicine, Melee, Occult, Repair, Science, and Security.  You only need enough total Abilities from among all of those areas relevant to the Blueprint in order to pay the costs for that Blueprint (Medicine, for example,  will not help you design a gun).

The third step is defining what the item looks like and how it works.  This step is largely up to individual player and character style, and creativity is strongly encouraged, here.  Of note is that unless your character possesses magical talents (Necromancy or Thaumaturgy), there must be a plausible explanation for how the item actually works.

If your character possesses magical talents, they may craft items with up to two magical effects (effects that operate through no obvious mechanism).  Thaumaturgical items may have no more than two total effects.  Necromantic items may have any number of total effects, but the item should be deathly, disgusting, or otherwise disturbing.

Step four is working with the Storyteller to approve your item.  During this part of the process, the two of you will work together to determine exactly what the item does, how it does it, what it looks like, and what it costs to Blueprint and Build.  The item may change during this stage, but the Storyteller will work to make sure you get something with which you’re ultimately happy.

The last thing to do is pay the costs and win a Static Mental Challenge.  If you can do both, you have the Blueprint for your item.

Note: Blueprints are not transferrable.

Build Actions

A Build action has four steps.

First, the Storyteller determines the type of Challenge to Build the item (Mental or Physical) and the Difficulty of that Challenge.  The type of Challenge is based upon how your character intends to build the item.  If they’re enchanting a talisman or building computer code, that’s going to require a Static Mental Challenge.  If they’re building armor or smithing iron into a sword, that’s going to be a Static Physical Challenge.  The Difficulty of said Challenge is based upon the effects of the Blueprint.

Manufacturing Items

All Crafted items come with an I/R/A (Influence, Retainers, or Allies) cost.  By paying this cost, your character can obtain that item—and paying it does not count as a Crafting action, meaning you can pay it over and over again to get multiple copies of the same item in a single month.  If your character uses Influence, she uses her pull in one or multiple areas of human society to get her item put together.  Using Retainers makes your ghouls or servants do the job.  Using Allies asks your buddies for help.

Characters may mix and match these Backgrounds to manufacture items.

Item Effects

Make a Weapon or Armor Less Concealable-2-2-2-2

Create a common item 1 1 1 1
Use Base Weapon or Armor 1 4 2 1
Upgrade Weapon Damage Type 6 (Occult) 8 6 3
Make item Unbreakable 5 (Crafts) 5 3 2
+1 Weapon Damage 5 (Crafts) 5 3 2
+1 Armor Health 5 (Crafts) 5 3 2
Give an item 2 Bonus Traits 4 (Repair) 4 2 2
Remove a Negative Trait 4 (Repair) 4 2 2
Add a Special Weapon Ability 5 (Crafts) 6 4 2
Emulate a Basic Discipline 9 (Special) 12 10 5
Emulate a Basic Ritual 7 (Occult) 10 8 5
Non-Mechanical Effect 6 (Special) 7 5 4
Make a Weapon or Armor More Concealable 2 (Academics) 2 2 2
Single Use -2 -2 -2 -2
Limited Uses (2-5) -1 -1 -1 -1
Add Negative Trait -2 -2 -2 -2
-2 Bonus Traits -2 -2 -2 -2
-1 Weapon Damage -2 -2 -2 -2
-1 Armor Health -2 -2 -2 -2
Downgrade Weapon Damage Type -2 -2 -2 -2

Each one of these effects can be placed onto an item once.  For example, you couldn’t create an item that had five different instances of +2 Bonus Traits.

When emulating a Basic Discipline or Basic Ritual, the effect will always be worse than or have another drawback to the powers of said Discipline.  Additionally, you cannot stack both Disciplines and Rituals onto the same item.  Lastly, when emulating a Basic Discipline, the required Ability will be the Ability required to Retest said Discipline (e.g., Awareness for Auspex, Intimidation for Dominate, etc.)

When making an item Single Use, it makes things easier, but it also triples the number of items you receive.  When making an item Limited Use, it doubles the number of items you receive.  These effects are most commonly used in ammunition and explosives.

“Non-Mechanical Effect” is a catch-all effect for items such as EMPs, smoke bombs, and the like that have no analogue in the rules already or have no mechanical benefit whatsoever. The ST will determine if an item falls under this effect or if another effect is more appropriate.

“Making an item that already exists” is only considered part of the effect of a blueprint if you are required to build the item as part of your blueprint. For instance, if you want to modify a sword to be used with Puissance, if you already have a sword, you don’t need to include making one as part of your blueprint. However, this also means the blueprint can’t be used unless you already have a sword on hand (i.e., the Blueprint is making a coating that keeps the sword from breaking). Novel items don’t need to have the “making any item that exists in the book” effect, as their creation is part of the blueprint by definition.  Of note here is including the “Create a common weapon or armor” trait when making weapons and armor is that you also get the base stats of the weapon or armor in question if you do so.

A “commonly available item” is an object that already exists in the world, is readily purchasable, and a trained person could create with the right tools. This includes blown glass, works of art, jewelry, clocks, and so on. An Xbox One, while readily purchasable, isn’t something a trained person can build with the right tools, so it doesn’t qualify. A laser can be built by a trained person with the right tools, but isn’t readily purchasable, so it also doesn’t qualify as “commonly available.” Commonly available items have no mechanical effects by themselves. You use this effect to make such items instead of going out and purchasing them yourself.

Entering Play with a Crafted Item

New characters may enter play with a single Crafted item with Storyteller approval provided that:

  1. The character possesses all Abilities required to Blueprint the item;
  2. The Blueprinting Challenge cannot overbid the character; and
  3. The Build Challenge cannot overbid the character.

The Riverside Opera Status and Prestation Guide

Status and Prestation Guide


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.

Expending Status

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).

Ignoring Status

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).

Position Status

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.

Negative Status

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.

Prestation and the Boon Economy Clarified

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.

Trading Boons

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.

Settling Boons

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: Camarilla 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.

Understanding Metagaming

Understanding Metagaming

In the past, we have touched on metagaming a bit, but I wanted to talk about it a little more, since it has been a while since we addressed the topic and there are some new players in the game who may not be familiar with how we handle it.

What is metagaming, exactly?

Metagaming is the act of using a strategy, action, or method in a game that goes beyond the rules, uses external factors or information to affect the game, or goes beyond the limits or environment of the game.  In Riverside Opera, we discourage all metagaming, and we do not tolerate any sort of cheating at all.  For our part, we enforce metagaming as cheating when any information learned or action taken while out of character (OOC) is used to your character’s direct or indirect benefit in character (IC).

Again, in Riverside Opera, cheating is not tolerated.  A first offense will cost the offending player 5 XP.  A second offense will result in the Storyteller asking that player to not return to the game.  It sounds harsh, but we take cheating very seriously, and we do not tolerate it in any form, especially when it comes to metagaming.

The definitions I gave above make it sound like it’s easy to spot metagaming, but in practice, there is a great deal of grey area and nuance to consider.  Since it comes with such a hefty penalty, the staff has to take into consideration every circumstance of a situation before ruling that a particular action is metagaming or not.  We don’t take accusations of it lightly, and we don’t accuse players of it on a whim, either.

We want the story to remain as organic and sensical as possible, and—more importantly—we want the game to be fair to all its players.

But why is metagaming a bad thing?

Say that Randy has saved up a ton of points and is going to cash them in on a set of Perks in order to be able to play his perfect Follower of Set, his favorite clan. In his excitement, he tells a bunch of his friends while at dinner one night that he is planning on bringing that character to the game, but his character is going to pose as a Toreador to avoid suspicion.

Well, Chris, who knows about the shady things that Randy’s characters get up to, overhears the conversation at dinner and decides to have his character tell the Prince that a Setite is planning to come into the city next month and destroy the power structure. After all, Chris’s character is better off if he doesn’t have to compete directly with Randy’s.

See where things get a little unfair? Randy’s entire concept is ruined.

But we can just undo that interaction, right? Tell the Prince’s player that the conversation never happened? Yeah, not exactly. What if the Prince decided to rally forces and told several of her closest supporters to be on the look for a Setite? And then they each told two other people? Now the whole LARP knows, and it is MUCH more difficult to have everyone pretend that they don’t know that Randy’s Toreador is actually a Follower of Set.

Information is king in Vampire LARP. It is crucial to the political economy, and if anyone ever uses out-of-character information in this way, that economy can be disrupted or destroyed.  Riverside Opera is a game of political intrigue, and it’s very difficult to have intrigue if you can’t trust that other players will keep their IC and OOC knowledge separate.

Another good reason to avoid metagaming comes down to a sense of community.  It’s very difficult to have OOC trust when anything you say at dinner or in Discord can be used against your character at the actual game.  That leaves us as players in a very difficult position—do we just not talk about this thing that we dearly love with our friends who also love the same thing?  We are all very invested in our characters, and we want to protect the XP, time, and costuming investments we have in them, but that becomes hard to do if every little thing we say OOC can be used against us IC, so if metagaming is allowed, then we must choose whether to talk about the game with our friends or to protect our investments in our characters, which is a choice no one in the game should be required to make.

Examples of Metagaming

Based on the definitions above, which of these examples is metagaming?

Scenario A

Benny is playing Alfred, a Brujah who really wants to fill the Prince with aggravated damage holes. On the night of court, Alfred attempts to bring a shotgun onto Elysium, but the metal detector goes off as he enters the building.  The Keeper of Elysium informs him that he must leave his gun in his car, so Alfred goes back outside and takes it to his car.  Benny leaves the item card in his passenger seat and comes back inside, getting past the metal detector.

Frustrated at his luck and lack of foresight, Alfred goes to Cindy, an Assamite who takes assassination contracts, and asks her to kill the Prince for him.  She agrees.

Several hours later, near the end of game, Benny goes outside to take a phone call.  He sits in his car and chats for a bit, and before he comes back inside, he picks the item card back up and slides it into his badge, not wanting to lose it or forget it there (since he should be turning it in at the end of the night).  He then goes back inside.  When he goes back in, he fails to narrate that the metal detector goes off.

Right before closing court, Benny bends over to tie his shoe, and his badge tips over, dumping XP votes, Self-Control cards, and item cards all over the place.  Benny attempts to collect everything, but in his embarrassment, he forgets to check and make sure he picked everything up.  Cindy’s player, Daphne, only enters the room after he has already regained his composure and gotten back into character.

When closing court begins, Cindy is standing in the foyer when she notices the shotgun under a table.  Cindy bends over, picks up the shotgun, and attempts to shoot the Prince.

Scenario B

Emily has been keeping an eye on Gerald all night. She knows that he is planning something, and she has been brushing up on her Ancient Etruscan, since he has been having conversations with other suspicious people on Elysium in that dead language.  Emily’s player Fatima purchased Linguistics: Ancient Etruscan to help her character eavesdrop on her enemy.

Later that night, Emily uses Heightened Senses to listen in on Gerald talking to Hagathor, a Nosferatu ne’er-do-well.  When Fatima examines the scene, she notices that both of them are using the hand symbol which indicates they are speaking another language.  She assumes that they are speaking Ancient Etruscan, so she starts taking mental notes about what she is hearing when she walks into the room.  What she hears is Gerald and Hagathor discussing murdering the Ventrue Primogen so they can put someone who will support Gerald for Harpy in that spot.

Excited that she walked in at the exact moment they said something really juicy, she turns on her heel and leaves the room without even closing the door.  The players of Gerald and Hagathor assume that their language hand symbols deterred her spying, since they were speaking Sumerian during their meeting.  They feel no need to clarify, since they assume Fatima couldn’t understand them anyway.

When Gerald and Hagathor exit their private meeting, they are greeted by the Sheriff and four Deputies, who take them into custody for conspiracy to violate the Tradition of Destruction.

Scenario C 

Ichabod has a dastardly scheme to burn down Elysium and make it look like the Tremere did it. His player, James, pulls the Storyteller aside and talks at a normal volume about what he intends to do: he is going to pump a boric-acid napalm into the sprinkler system and set it up with a remote trigger so that it goes off when he texts a particular phone number, lighting up Elysium in green fire.

Latanya sees this interaction and hears of Ichabod’s plan.  Then, her character Kelly goes to the Sheriff and suggests that he might want to check if the sprinkler system is working properly.  The Sheriff investigates and finds the boric-acid napalm trap, disabling it before it can do any harm.

Later, when James tells the Storyteller that Ichabod texts the number, the Storyteller tells him that nothing happens.  James then inquires as to why, since he had never told anyone in or out of character about the plan except for the Storyteller.

Based on the most basic definition, all three of these instances are metagaming, but it is less clear whether there was willful cheating going on.  Let’s go over each instance in detail.

Scenario A – Explanation

Alfred/Benny – Despite the fact that he OOC brought in the item card from his car and despite the fact that said gun was used IC, Benny is not guilty of metagaming or cheating.  He never intended to use the item at all, much less to his benefit, and any actions he took were purely OOC, including accidentally spilling his badge on the floor.  While it might look hinky (and perhaps someone less scrupulous than Benny may have done something similar on purpose), there isn’t any evidence here to prove intent, even though he received IC benefit from an OOC action.

Cindy/Daphne – Cindy’s actions are purely IC, though Daphne should have stopped to ask the Storyteller or gathered room OOC if there actually was a shotgun conveniently hidden under the table.  There still isn’t any cheating going on here, though better discretion and OOC communication were absolutely warranted.

Scenario B – Explanation

Emily/Fatima – Assumptions are a killer in this situation.  She is absolutely guilty of metagaming, but it is another question entirely if it was explicitly cheating.  She had intent, yes, but she assumed that she was doing things by the book.  Had she stopped to ask (as she absolutely should have) what language the other characters were speaking, it would have been clear that she didn’t know what she claimed to know.  If it can be proven that Fatima had prior knowledge that either Gerald or Hagathor knew any other language at all besides Ancient Etruscan, then this circumstance would be cheating (and Fatima would be docked 5 XP).  If not, it is only a warning to communicate better next time, with the next instance, innocent mistake or not, costing Fatima 5 XP.  In any case, you should always clarify what language is being spoken when someone else is using that hand symbol.

Gerald/Hagathor – While they were guilty of not clarifying what language they were speaking, neither of these characters’ players are guilty of any metagaming or cheating.

Scenario C – Explanation

Ichabod/James – Ichabod is rightly upset by what has transpired here.  He did nothing wrong and was not only thwarted, but also might very well be punished IC for doing something that no one ever should have known was going to happen.

Kelly/Latanya – This is a situation where it is 100% metagaming and cheating.  Nothing that is ever said to the Storyteller should ever be taken IC unless the Storyteller is actively playing a character.  In this situation, Latanya would be docked 5XP, and if she ever cheated again, she would be asked to not return to the game.

Avoiding Metagaming

As a player, you have a duty to avoid metagaming.  If there’s ever a situation where you might, even unintentionally, be using OOC knowledge or actions to your IC benefit, you should go out of your way to not do so.  It can be difficult to think about every little thing your character does, so here are some quick tips that, if followed, can help you avoid metagaming without a ton of effort.

  1. If anything is said to the Storyteller, it is OOC information. Just ignore anything another player says to the ST.  Walk away if you have to.  Plug your ears.  Sing a song.  Decide that you’re super interested in your fingernails all the sudden.  You wouldn’t want someone eavesdropping on your conversation with the ST, so do others the same kindness.
  2. Before acting on any information, intelligence, or evidence, be sure you can point to exactly where you got that information IC. If you can’t remember, it might have come from OOC sources, so it might be best to not act on it instead.
  3. Don’t share your super-secret plans. For real. Just don’t tell anyone what you’re up to.  The fewer people know about what you’re doing OOC or IC, the less chance that someone can muck it up.  Don’t talk about it at Huey’s after game, don’t squee over your brilliant plan in Discord, and don’t talk loudly OOC at game, either.  Keep it under your hat, and less goes wrong.
  4. Don’t make assumptions. Always communicate. If something you see or hear is an absolute bombshell, be sure to double check that what you heard or saw was accurate. Especially in cases where the next action you take could carry the risk that someone else’s character might die, it is vitally important that you check to make sure there’s not any misunderstanding.

As always, if you have any questions about whether or something is metagaming, please feel free to ask.  It can be difficult to spot and even more difficult to avoid, and we want to keep the game fair and fun for everyone.

The Independent Alliance

Riverside Opera Lore: The Independent Alliance

What is the Independent Alliance?

Any exploration of the Independent Alliance must begin with the Accords.

The Independent Accords

In recent nights, the Camarilla and Sabbat have begun an era of aggressive expansion unlike any other in more than a century.  What began with the overthrow of the Roman in Memphis escalated into displaced Sabbat members attacking Chicago, Louisville, and other cities, which begat the Imperium, which begat more Sabbat incursions.  The problem hasn’t been isolated to the New World, either.  In Europe, the Sabbat, fearful of the growing boldness of the Camarilla and desperate to grab as much territory as possible, began assailing Independent cities, including Bucharest, Kolkata, and Tehran. After all, the Sabbat leadership reasoned, they are occupied by independents, who have no sect to support and defend them, so there is little risk of retribution from outside forces.

To confront and halt this assault, the Giovanni invited the embattled Assamites, the angry Followers of Set, and the frightened Ravnos to Venice to negotiate an accord.  In addition to large delegations of those clans, the Italians invited other vulnerable parties to Sabbat incursion—yet only their estranged cousins in the Samedi, the autarkis Tzimisce, and the Salubri made an appearance at the conclave.  After months of bargaining, negotiation, and intrigue, the representatives from the gathered clans and bloodlines signed the Independent Accords.

Thus, the Independent Alliance was born.

Where the Sabbat consider themselves to be the Sword of Caine, fighting against the monstrous Antediluvians and the Camarilla considers themselves to be polite vampiric society and the Antediluvians to be little more than myth, the Alliance consider themselves to be the protectors of the old ways and hold their progenitors in high esteem.  Some Assamites and Setites are even positively fanatical about the worship of their respective Antediluvians.

In fact, during the conclave to align the sect, many of the sticking points on such an alliance came down to religion.  Each member clan and bloodline has dogma pertaining to the mysteries of the universe, and each has a rich heritage and cultural history that is uniquely their own.  Finding common space in which all of them may exist was a challenge, but it became less so when, near the end of the talks, the most vehement critics of Article VI, the Assamite contingent who were a part of the Web of Knives, abruptly left the conclave and another representative from the Clan stepped forward in their place.

More than anything else, the Alliance is a sect where belief, the old ways, and the study of history and mythology are accepted and embraced.  It is where those who do not wish to remain a part of the never ending conflict between the Camarilla and the Sabbat might find safe harbor.  Even members of the Camarilla pillar clans may renounce their previous sect and pledge their allegiance to the Alliance, though it comes with the drawback of being a Probationary Sect Member.

If your character in Riverside Opera belongs to one of the member clans or bloodlines, you may be a part of the Alliance for free if you so choose.  Characters from other clans or bloodlines may be a part of the Independent Alliance by purchasing a 10-point Perk (though they must still take the Flaw Probationary Sect Member as well).

The Independent Alliance is a sect built on honor, loyalty, and respect.  Even the member bloodlines, which are often not provided the same rights and privileges in court as full clans, are considered to be full members of the Alliance and are afforded the same protections.

Perspectives on Other Clans and Sects

Though they claim to be independent, the Alliance does have some bias toward some clans and sects over others.  Generally, they have an enormous distaste for and need to keep a healthy political distance from the Camarilla, but they loathe the Sabbat.  While the Camarilla wears blinders to the truths of the Antediluvians, the Sabbat actively seek to destroy them, and that is heretical to a degree that no clan in the Alliance can abide.

While they don’t actively seek to convert members of any sect, the Alliance is sometimes open to the petitions of like-minded Kindred from the Camarilla or Anarch movement who renounce their Status and obligations to their home sect.

Positions and Prestige

Instead of Status, the Independent Alliance use a system of societal structure based upon Prestige.  Roughly speaking, Prestige is a measure of the trustworthiness and honor of an individual Kindred.  Kindred in an Alliance domain who have no Prestige are considered to be entirely untrustworthy and are not allowed to speak in open court or petition the Sovereign without the sponsorship of an Emissary.

Prestige can be granted or removed by a number of positions within the domain (outlined below), but one theme is constant throughout the Alliance: Prestige should only be awarded for service to the domain or the whole Independent Alliance, and it should only be removed when someone engages in conduct detrimental to the domain or sect.  Prestige is not a popularity contest like Camarilla Status, is not as arbitrary and weak like Sabbat Status, and is not as fleeting and meaningless as Anarch Reputation.  It is difficult to earn the respect and trust of elders, and Prestige should reflect that fact.

Prestige may be loaned just like Status, though ill-advised or poorly thought out gifts of temporary Prestige may draw the ire of the Chamberlain (see below).

As such, players in Riverside Opera may only by the Status Perk once if they are a member of the Independent Alliance.

Independent Alliance cities are not unlike cities held by the Camarilla, the Sabbat, and the Anarch Movement insofar as the eldest or most powerful Kindred claims Domain.  The similarities do not end there, but the way the Independents view the details of those posts may be slightly different.

The city structure of an Independent Alliance city isn’t laid out in the Accords, though it ultimately derives from the Traditions of Caine and the exigencies of managing a modern domain. Cainites of Old Clan Tzimisce, due to their considerable expertise in holding Domains for centuries or longer, played a crucial role in establishing these structures as traditions (lower case) within the Alliance. The Magistrate was a concession to Articles III and IV of the Accords by these superannuated vampires; while they would have preferred Sovereigns to have absolute power, the Giovanni, Ravnos, and Assamites—due to their past troubles in Camarilla cities—insisted that issues that cut across member clans be addressed by a neutral third party, not some Prince analogue.


The Sovereign is analogous to a Camarilla Prince, Anarch Baron, or Sabbat Archbishop.  They are the Kindred who is eldest or most powerful in a domain, and their word is law within the confines of the Independent Accords.  The Sovereign must:

  • Hold a regular court to address grievances and handle city matters, including Prestige;
  • Uphold and defend the Traditions;
  • Maintain an Emissary from each other member clan;
  • Allow member Bloodlines the opportunity to act as Emissary for their bloodline;
  • Obey, follow, and defend all Articles of the Independent Accords;
  • Maintain, at their individual discretion, a Chamberlain, Enforcer, and/or Steward; and
  • Recognize and defend all members of the Independent Alliance in good standing who introduce themselves within the Sovereign’s domain.

The Sovereign gains:

  • Three additional Prestige traits: Acclaimed, Eminent, and Empowered;
  • A special Prestige trait, Sovereign, which functions identically to the Prince Status Trait from the Camarilla;
  • The ability to strip Prestige from or grant Prestige to any Kindred Recognized in their domain by expending one temporary Prestige, which must be done formally at court;
  • The authority to freely recognize Kindred within their domain in open court, granting them the Recognized Prestige trait;
  • The right to levy the Lextalionis (an antiquated term for the Blood Hunt) upon violators of the Traditions by expending four temporary Prestige traits in open court—one of which must be loaned by the Emissary of the offender, if one so exists within the domain—thus removing all Prestige possessed by the target and removing their protection under the Independent Accords;
  • All powers of the Chamberlain, Enforcer, or Steward when those positions are vacant;
  • The power to reverse any decision levied by their Chamberlain, Enforcer, or Steward at the cost of one temporary Prestige; and
  • The power to make public pronouncements and decrees in open court.


The Steward is analogous to a Camarilla Seneschal, though the Steward has more responsibilities than their counterpart in the Ivory Tower.  In addition to being the Sovereign’s chief adviser and right hand, the Steward also serves as the primary point of contact for all emissaries within the Sovereign’s domain.  The Steward must:

  • Hold court in place of the Sovereign in their absence;
  • Act as ambassador between the city and emissaries from other member clans and bloodlines;
  • Maintain amicable relationships between each clan and bloodline within the city;
  • Obey, follow, and defend all Articles of the Independent Accords; and
  • Bring all matters concerning breaches of the Traditions or transgressions against member clans and bloodlines to the Sovereign immediately.

The Steward gains:

  • Two additional Prestige Traits: Honorable and Venerated;
  • The powers of the Sovereign in their absence;
  • The authority to sanctify and enforce boons between individual members of the Alliance and the domain as a whole so long as the Emissary of that individual agrees; and
  • The ability to spend one temporary Prestige to remove one permanent Prestige from anyone who refuses to repay a debt owed to the Sovereign or domain.


The Emissary’s closest analogue in Camarilla society is a Primogen, but an Emissary is so much more than just the eldest of a clan in a city.  Emissaries are their clan’s ambassadors, monitors, executioners, and chief negotiators in a given domain.  They advise the Sovereign and lobby in the interest of their clans in the domain at large, negotiating inner- and intra-clan business.

Emissaries are the one position defined in the Accords, and as such, they are the most vital to the stability and success of the Independent Alliance as a whole.  Each member clan is expected to field an Emissary in every city within the Alliance outside of Alamut, Egypt, Mumbai, and Venice.  Just as each member clan and bloodline is different, so are the titles sometimes taken by emissaries in various domains.  Assamite emissaries are often known as Pasha (which is an honorific that replaces any surnames the Emissary might have had); Setite emissaries are sometimes referred to as Heirophants; the Giovanni call their emissaries Consiglieres; and while the Ravnos do not often use titles other than Emissary, it is not unheard of for one of them to claim one of many different titles from Seer to Maharaj.

Unlike their Camarilla counterparts, emissaries are not empowered to eject anyone from their clan or bloodline.  According to the Alliance, no Kindred may revoke the blood rights of any other Kindred—after all, one can no more stop being of their clan than they can stop being a child of Caine.  However, they are allowed to (and sometimes do) adopt Caitiff or cast-off former Camarilla members or Anarchs into their clans or bloodlines—though the system by which those Kindred earn the right to join is left to the individual Emissary.

Each Emissary, regardless of clan or bloodline must:

  • Advise the Sovereign and/or Steward in matters of the domain;
  • Maintain proper discipline and control of their clan or bloodline;
  • Act as ambassador between the city and the leadership of their clan or bloodline;
  • Report notable activities within the domain to their parent clan or bloodline;
  • Serve as judge when members of their blood have made transgressions against the court; and
  • Ensure proper recompense when one of their blood is substantively harmed by another member of the court.

Emissaries gain:

  • Two additional Prestige Traits: Beloved and Trusted;
  • The ability to expend one temporary Prestige to grant one permanent Prestige or strip one permanent Prestige from a member of their clan or bloodline;
  • The power to adopt Kindred into their clan be expending three temporary Prestige and making a formal pronouncement at court;
  • The discretion to dole out clan or bloodline resources as they see fit;
  • The ability to formally petition the other emissaries for aid in open court;
  • The right to grant another Emissary a permanent Prestige by expending temporary Prestige equal to the recipient’s permanent Prestige;
  • The right to remove one permanent Prestige from another Emissary by expending a number of temporary Prestige equal to the target’s permanent Prestige;
  • The power to reverse the decision of a Sovereign by expending one temporary Prestige, so long as emissaries from the Assamites, the Setites, the Giovanni, and the Ravnos all voice their open support for the reversal in open court;
  • The ability to remove or grant a permanent Prestige to the Sovereign by expending temporary Prestige equal to the sovereign’s permanent Prestige so long as emissaries from the Assamites, the Setites, the Giovanni, and the Ravnos all contribute at least one Prestige to the effort; and
  • The power to appoint Scribes, who act as their eyes, ears, and voices during their absence.


Where in Camarilla society, the keeper of boons and social decorum has significant checks on the powers of the Prince and is empowered by the Primogen, in the Alliance, the Chamberlain does not have nearly as much broad or sweeping power.  The Chamberlain’s job is more akin to banker or accountant than their Camarilla counterparts, and as such, their power is distinctly limited in comparison.  Further, the emissaries do not traditionally loan the Chamberlain status.  The Chamberlain is still expected, however, to maintain proper etiquette in the use of Prestige and prestation, and they have a terrifying amount of power to do so.  The social order must be maintained, and the Chamberlain is the one saddled with the duty of protecting it.

The Chamberlain must:

  • Procure and maintain at least one permanent Elysium in the domain, including the determination and declaration of the boundaries thereof;
  • Sanctify all boons between individuals and transcribe them in an official record in the domain;
  • Monitor the use of Prestige in the domain to ensure that all Alliance laws are being observed;
  • Ensure that boons are being repaid rather than filling up the ledger on both sides;
  • Maintain fairness between parties when negotiating boons;
  • Recommend a fair price for a boon if there is a disagreement on the value of said boon; and
  • Enforce punishment on those who misuse Prestige or refuse to repay a boon.

The Chamberlain gains:

  • The additional Prestige Trait: Just;
  • The ability to sanctify any boon or written agreement between individuals as an official record of the domain;
  • The power to, at no cost, grant the Negative Prestige “Boon Breaker” to any individual who refuses to pay, denies the validity of, violates the terms of, or otherwise attempts to renege on an officially recorded boon or agreement, so long as sufficient evidence is brought before the court (those who have the Boon Breaker trait may not petition the Chamberlain or Steward to sanctify boons);
  • The discretion to remove the Negative Prestige “Boon Breaker” at no cost in open court;
  • The power to, at no cost, grant the Negative Prestige “Capricious” to any individual whose use of Prestige violates the Accords or oversteps the bounds outlined by their position—provided a majority of the recognized emissaries in the domain proclaim, in open court, that they agree with the interpretation of misuse;
  • The discretion to, at no cost, remove the Negative Prestige “Capricious,” provided that a majority of the recognized emissaries in the domain proclaim, in open court, that they agree that proper penance has been paid for the original transgression; and
  • The right to expend a temporary Prestige to strip a permanent one from someone who ignores a just use of Prestige.


The Enforcer is the representative of the Sovereign’s law in the domain.  Unlike the Sheriff in a Camarilla city, enforcers in the Alliance must also maintain peace on Elysium grounds in addition to providing protection for the denizens of the domain.

The Enforcer must:

  • Provide adequate protection for the Sovereign, Steward, Emissaries, and Chamberlain;
  • Protect the laws of the Sovereign and the articles of the Accords;
  • Dispense punishments as levied by the Sovereign;
  • Ensure the security of the Kindred within the domain from incursions from the Camarilla, Sabbat, or other malevolent parties; and
  • Detain suspected violators of the Traditions, Accords, or Sovereign law and deliver them to the Sovereign for judgment.

The Enforcer gains:

  • The additional Prestige Trait: Feared;
  • The right to harass or detain any Kindred within the domain who has not been Recognized by the Sovereign;
  • The power to take any Kindred into custody, so long as the Enforcer possesses a written order from the Sovereign or is a personal witness to that Kindred violating one of the Traditions; and
  • The ability to expend one temporary Prestige during open court to strip one permanent Prestige from any Kindred against which the Enforcer has conclusive evidence of a violation of the Traditions or the Accords.


The last position in the Independent Alliance is one of the least often used, but it is also one of the most important.  A Magistrate is only appointed when there is a matter of guilt or innocence that cannot be agreed upon or where punishment cannot be agreed upon by the Sovereign and the accused’s respective Emissary.

The Sovereign or any Emissary may call for a Magistrate to be appointed in any matter of wrongdoing by expending one temporary Prestige and openly stating their grievances in open court.  After a Magistrate is called for, they are selected from among the Kindred in the city who have the most temporary Prestige.  Generally, Kindred take turns openly pledging their Prestige to members of the court they find worthy of the position (though after having Prestige pledged, an unwilling candidate may then simply pledge all of their loaned Prestige to another candidate).  Neither the Kindred who called for the Magistrate, the accused, the Sovereign, nor the Emissary of the same clan or bloodline of the accused may be selected to be the Magistrate, though those parties may loan their personal Prestige to another candidate if they so choose (as can any Kindred who is Recognized in the domain), before Prestige is counted.

Though the counting of Prestige may be delayed until a later time, the Magistrate must be selected in open court, after which point the trial begins immediately and is held in its entirety during the court in which they are selected.  Individual Magistrates may hold their trials differently, but it is commonly accepted that both sides, the accuser and the accused, have an opportunity to present arguments and evidence before a verdict is rendered.

Before the trial begins but after the Magistrate is appointed, the accused may call for a Trial by Combat rather than a traditional hearing.  The rules for a trial by combat are:

  1. The accused always challenges the accuser when a Trial by Combat is called for—if there is no definitive accuser or if there is no single accuser, the Sovereign is considered to be the accuser for these purposes;
  2. The Magistrate must define the arena of the Trial and may decide any special rules for the Trial before champions are declared;
  3. Both parties may select a champion to represent them in combat;
  4. Combats are never to be to the Final Death;
  5. Combatants who “accidentally” deliver the Final Death upon their opponents are immediately subject to the Final Death themselves;
  6. The victory condition for all Trials by Combat consist of one party surrendering or being rendered incapacitated;
  7. Victorious champions are automatically granted the permanent Prestige trait: Selfless (those who fight for their own cause do not receive Prestige);
  8. The loser of the combat and their champion (if there is one) both immediately lose a permanent Prestige; and
  9. The winner of the combat (and not their champion) determines the verdict, which then should be viewed as infallibly true by the whole of the Independent Alliance.

Once a verdict has been declared and the punishment has been decided, the Magistrate is forced to step down from their post.

Once appointed, the Magistrate must:

  • Uphold the Traditions, the Accords, and the laws of the domain (in that order);
  • Only hear and consider testimony and evidence brought forth during the trial;
  • Determine guilt and proper punishment if guilt is found; and
  • Act as referee for any Trial by Combat, if one is so demanded (see below).

The Magistrate gains:

  • The additional Prestige Trait: Infallible;
  • The power to strip temporary Prestige from any Kindred who speaks out of turn during the proceedings by expending one temporary Prestige;
  • The authority to levy any punishment they deem appropriate as a punishment for a crime, up to and including the Final Death;
  • The right to call for any Kindred present to testify or bear witness; and
  • The power to expend a temporary Prestige to force any reluctant Kindred so called to testify—if the Kindred still refuses to bear truthful testimony, the Magistrate may strip one permanent Prestige from that witness (this power may only be used on an individual witness once).


See this page for a list of all canonized city affiliations in Riverside Opera.

The Missing Owner’s Manual: Obfuscate

THe Missing Owner’s Manual: Obfuscate

Obfuscate is a very powerful Discipline, but only if used properly. The basic idea is that renders you (and at Advanced, your chosen allies) unable to be detected except by those who have as much, or more, Auspex than you have Obfuscate. The most obvious use is for spying, but an attack from Obfuscate is in almost all circumstances deemed to be from surprise – which renders your opponent bereft of their Celerity, Potence, or other offensive Disciplines.

In general, Obfuscate doesn’t involve you initiating challenges; others initiate challenges against you to try to break through your concealment. The only time you initiate challenges for Obfuscate is if you try to disappear when someone’s looking at you using Vanish from Mind’s Eye (Intermediate 2).

Who’s the best at Obfuscate: Malkavians. With both Dominate and Obfuscate in clan, they have the lowest costs to get overlapping abilities, and indeed, all of their Disciplines use Mental traits.

How to win Obfuscate challenges:

  • Maximize your Mental traits.
  • Buy up the Stealth ability to the maximum for your generation.
  • Take an ability specialty on Stealth for “sneaking around,” which will give you 1 bonus trait for most Obfuscate challenges.
  • Take Dominate to Intermediate 2 (Conditioning). The effects of this Discipline in Riverside Opera are applicable to any attempts to manipulate someone’s mind, so they apply to Obfuscate. This gets you a free retest and the Conditioned trait for Obfuscate. This is relatively low on the list because, in general, Obfuscate challenges aren’t common.

How to best use Obfuscate:

  • Take advantage of the fact that no one can detect you, period, if you’re not moving. This means settling into rooms and waiting for people to arrive, standing by doors instead of moving to the center of rooms when following people, and generally using the environment to your advantage. Movement is your enemy in Obfuscate – do everything you can to minimize the amount you need to move.
  • Stay near corners so you can drop line of sight to people to quickly activate your Obfuscate. Remember: you can’t activate Basic Obfuscate if anyone can see you.
  • Avoid “forced interactions” that can break your Obfuscate or, at the very least, force you to move and risk discovery. That means don’t stand in front of doorways, don’t stand in the middle of hallways, and don’t sit in chairs where others might want to sit.
  • If you have Cloak the Gathering, you and all your associates should pick up Language: ASL so you can communicate silently while under the effects of Obfuscate.
  • Mute your phone! A phone ringing IC, or delivering a text message, is interacting with your environment and breaks your Obfuscate. This is also true of a bright phone screen in a dark room.
  • Identify Auspex users and either avoid them or Dominate them into not using Auspex to detect you.
  • Ensure you always have a convenient escape route, which can include tricks like smoke bombs to force people to lose line of sight on you.