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Some believe that Kindred society exists now as it has for thou-sands of years. Legend has it that vampires once ruled as kings and that their feudal domains have simply passed down through the centuries.
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Of course, no vampire who walks the Earth to-night, or at least none known, can truly recall the details of events so long past. The memories of those Kindred who have slept away the decades grow uncertain, dreams intruding on reality, Some Kindred, particularly among the neonates, believe that their society is a more recent development, at least in histori-cal terms.
They maintain that only in the modern era, when hiding from the kine has truly become difficult thanks to rapid communication and other technological advancement, has Kin-dred isolation from humankind become complete. Only now, they claim, has the need for a separate society developed. The primary purpose of Kindred society, Kindred philoso-phers believe, is regulation. Kindred gather not merely in physical proximity, but socially, under a local government because enough of them recognize the need to police their own. A figure known as the Prince or whoever represents the lo-cal government is an enforcer, first and foremost.
Beyond this, Kindred claim that their kind cleave together socially for reasons far more personal and ingrained than the need to protect themselves from each other. Kindred society grants its members something they could never have among mortals: a sense of belonging, of community. Vampires might despise the greater portion of their fellows and their Prince or governor — and a great many do — but this is nevertheless their community, their city.
Where mortals turn to family, the Kindred have clans. Where mortals form nations and cultures, the Kindred have cov-enants. The Kindred are still outsiders, proponents of this idealized state, but at least their domains and clans and covenants al-low them to be outsiders together. Many elders, of course, consider such theories a heap of mealy mouthed, revisionist, self-indulgent effluvia spewed by idle childer with no knowledge of the way the world works. And thus the Danse Macabre continues on one more front.
Each is an artificial group comprising Kindred with similar philosophies, ideals, political aims and even religious notions. Vampires can usually belong to only one covenant at a time, as members are somewhat exclusionary about their principles, but Kindred sometimes leave one covenant to join another, evade notice of membership in multiple covenants, or actively concoct false identities with which to spy on other covenants. Some vampires belong to no covenant at all. While all of these groups receive greater treatment elsewhere in this book, it helps to familiarize yourself with some of their basic notions.
The Carthians seek to reconcile Kindred society with modern governmental structures and social systems. Regarded as pagans by some of the more conservative Kindred factions, the Circle relies more on holistics and redemption than on the penitence and guilt of other ideological covenants. Its members are sorcerers and blood witches. The Invictus is the aristocracy of the night. Neofeudal and corrupt from within, it is nonetheless a powerful covenant that draws strength from tradition.
The Invictus claims to trace its roots back as far as ancient Rome, if not before. The Lancea Sanctum looks to Biblical history for its spiritual outlook. The covenant seeks to influence Kindred society with the strictures of Longinus, who was believed to be a progenitor turned into one of the Damned by the blood of Christ. The Ordo Dracul is a neo-Victorian faction not unlike a secret society. It commands mystical knowledge and rituals that allow members to transcend their vampiric state. The covenant claims descent from the historical Vlad Tepes — Dracula himself. The truth is, Kindred numbers vary from city to city.
In most small cities, the proportion of undead to mortals tends to be relatively low: One vampire per , or more mortals is not uncommon. In large cities, the ratio is usually nearer one vam-pire per 50, mortals. In some cities that seem to draw the Kindred for whatever reason — cities such as New York, Lon-don, New Orleans and Chicago — the ratio can be substan-tially higher.
If one were to take a worldwide average, the ratio is prob-ably around the one-to, mark. It fluctuates so thor-oughly from domain to domain that one should never assume that any given population corresponds to that figure. The undead are bound to the cities of the kine as tightly as they are to the Blood itself. For them, the city is really a cage, gilded though it might be, and the Kindred could no more abandon it than they could become vegetarians. It would be foolish, of course, to suggest that Kindred never travel.
If they did not, they could never have spread as hu-manity has, and they would still be restricted to select areas of the Old World. What is it, then, about cities that holds the Kindred as though their feet were nailed to the floor? Why does each city exist as its own fiefdom, with little if any congress between it and its neighbor? Ultimately, no matter what sort of religious, cultural or mystical face the Kin-dred wish to put on it, blood is all that matters.
While hunting is never a sure thing, a Kindred can be relatively certain that, with a rea-sonable degree of care and effort, she can find someone on whom to feed in a city without attracting too much attention. Cities have slums, clubs, drug dens, hospitals and, if it comes down to it, dark alleys.
Certainly, it might be possible for a particularly hardy or desperate vampire to eke out an existence outside an urban center. A rustic town of people out in the middle of nowhere might provide enough Vitae to support a particu-larly careful Kindred for a short time. In a population of that size, however, someone would eventually discover his dep-redations when he inevitably loses control and frenzies.
At best, the vampire has a frightened, angry population of mor-tals on his hands, all of whom move on or look for the cul-prit with shotguns. Some few vampires take the idea of escape a step further and attempt to survive in the wilds, feeding on animals. Many give it up after a relatively short time, though. Not only do they face a relative paucity of available blood, Kindred even-tually reach the point at which animals are no longer sustain-ing.
Why scavenge and scrounge in the yard when they can simply stay nearer the table and feast? In addition to the difficulties involved in feeding, existing outside a city invariably leaves a Kindred subject to the other hazards and difficulties inherent to travel. They gather in groups, though their competitive and aggressive nature often renders such gathering dangerous, or at least uncomfortable.
They compete against one another — plotting, scheming, backstabbing — yet they find themselves unable to function in other environments. Even if the Kin-dred could easily acquire blood outside the urban sprawl, few would be willing to leave cities behind, for both Kindred and mortal society supports them.
The Kindred gain most of their power and strength not from their own innate abilities, but from the influence they wield in the mortal world. No matter how old or powerful a vam-pire is, someone is always older and stronger. Rare is the Kindred without some influence, or at least a few contacts, whether in government, business, orga-nized crime or in some other potentially useful element of kine society. A Kindred without his contacts is, to a large extent, help-less. He certainly has his innate powers — the strength and abilities inherent in the Blood and his undead nature — but so do his enemies, and he no longer has any help on which to call.
Even Kindred society serves as something of a safety net, as long as everyone involved is willing to follow the rules. For the most part, any given vampire is unlikely to attack another openly within the city.
Ventrue: Lords Over the Damned by Russell Bailey
All but the most desperate Kindred think twice before blatantly violating the Traditions of their kind or the local law for fear of reprisal from the Prince and other authorities. Away from the reach of the Prince, how-ever, all bets are off. For the Kindred, anything beyond the city limits is lawless territory, lacking any supreme authority to whom grievances can be brought.
As most wise Kindred stay inside their cage, those who do not have no undead allies on whom to call, just as they have few or no mortal pawns. Young, unattached Kindred who are new to the Requiem quickly find that they need some degree of leverage in order to make a place for themselves in the world of the Damned. Maybe a fledgling vampire has accidentally angered another neonate, someone holds a grudge against her sire, she needs to convince an elder to allow her to feed in his territory, or maybe she simply runs across someone who dislikes her covenant, clan, bloodline or hair color. She needs allies among the other local Kindred, or at least something to offer or with which to threaten her rival.
The greatest asset most Kindred truly have to offer one another is access to their ties and connections in mortal society. Certainly, some particularly skilled Kindred provide other services, and a Prince can offer territory or other special privileges, but influence is the currency with which most Kindred barter.
Without some measure of influence in mortal society, most Kindred have little to trade. So the young vampire discovers that she must develop mortal allies and contacts if she wishes to cultivate Kindred allies. The more Kindred allies she has, however, the more attention she draws. The enemies of her allies become her enemies. Other Kindred who might have left her alone suddenly see her rising in power and decide to cut her off at the knees before she becomes dangerous. She needs more connections, more influential sponsors. For that, she needs to develop more contacts and influence in kine society.
The bonds of friendship are all but nonexistent among vampires, and those relationships that do form against all odds rarely survive as long as those who enter into them. And so it goes, an endless loop ensuring that few Kindred ever manage to haul themselves out of the quagmire that is the modern city. Kindred who dwell among a large population of, or in a region dominated by, their clanmates and covenant members have an undeni-able social and political advantage over those who do not.
These social bonds are, almost by definition, found entirely within cities. Too many Kindred have found, however, that the inherent difficulties of surviving away from population centers are greater than expected, and they have no assistance on which to call. Loneliness One of the most ingrained reasons to remain in cities is loneliness. Kindred are no longer mortal, but the transition is relatively recent for most. Not even the eldest can fully shake the last lingering traces of what they used to be.
Some young Kindred have recently attempted to survive in the wild as coteries, rather than as individuals. Doing so goes a long way toward alleviating the loneliness of such isolation, but many of these coteries run into difficulties finding enough sustenance upon which to feed. For a group, the task is extremely challenging in the long run.
Clanbook - Ventrue, Lords Over the Damned
Elysium One of the most ancient and honored surviving Kindred customs, and one whose importance many modern neonates drastically underestimate, is that of Elysium. In essence, a Prince may declare specific locations of his city to be Elysium, places free of violence, safe for all Kindred. Most official Kin-dred business takes place in Elysium. Politics and intrigue are as com-mon here as rats on the street outside, with debate and nego-tiation heard as frequently as casual gossip. Many elders spend entire nights here, and while neonates are welcome most of the time , they are expected to remember their place.
Most areas of Elysium are cultural or artistic centers, con-ducive to intellectual pursuits and the sense of calm reflec-tion that most Princes hope to maintain. Such places include everything from theaters and opera houses to museums and galleries to university halls and libraries. As more Princes come to accept the ways and conveniences of the modern world, and as young Kindred ascend to positions of power, the num-ber of nightclubs and restaurants declared Elysium grows as well. In any case, wherever an Elysium is, attendees are ex-pected to dress and comport themselves appropriately, for the sake of the secrecy, if not simple courtesy.
While refreshments are often provided at Elysium, espe-cially during court or other formal gatherings, such is not al-ways the case. It is considered bad manners to show up to Elysium hungry, as not only does doing so lead to short tem-pers and potential violations of the laws of nonviolence, but most Princes discourage or even forbid hunting within sev-eral blocks of Elysium.
After all, these locations are centers of Kindred activity. If hunting were permitted in the region, it would only be a matter of time before the number of strange occurrences and deaths attracted attention. Any sort of physical or mystical confrontation is strictly forbidden within Elysium though social conflict has risen to both an art form and outright war.
Violators of this rule are inevitably banished or executed posthaste. When tempers flare beyond words, the Prince, Sheriff or Master of Elysium might ask those involved to leave and cool off elsewhere in hopes of heading off an explosion that would result in violence and punishment. Elysium is strictly neutral ground, and Kindred are expected to leave their conflicts — or at least any physi-cal continuation of them — outside.
Many Kindred conflicts that have eventually erupted in violence began with a single misspoken word in the corri-dors of Elysium. A haven is the place perhaps the only place where a vampire can reliably find shelter from the sun while she sleeps the day away. The vast majority of neonates do not begin their unlives with an established haven of their own. Once in a while, the neonate merely returns to his former, mortal residence with the intent of renovating, and indeed, some types of homes need surpris-ingly little work in order to become functional havens.
Regardless, some Kindred follow a tradition that says a sire is responsible for housing his progeny until such time as that protege is released into the world. After all, they argue, once a neonate has a haven of his own, he technically has his own personal domain, and many old-fashioned sires do not believe that childer are entitled to the rights of domain until such time as they are released.
Thankfully, this tradition is practiced less and less frequently as time marches on, and tonight, few sires would even want their fledgling childer dwelling under the same roof with them for years on end. Given the sheer amount of time a Kindred must spend within — at least 12 hours a day, for all eternity — a haven can become the only thing its owner will see in any real sense as his own.
One does not have to be aesthetically obsessed to appreciate a level of personalization in the home, and even the most Spartan vampire eventually develops some sense of indi-vidual style or at least efficiency in the design, decoration and layout of his haven. Some Kindred especially the Gangrel and some Nosferatu enjoy the solitude offered by inhospitable surroundings, and they elect to make havens in areas deep underground, atop dizzying heights or even underwater.
Others opt to blend in as much as they can, preferring the warm comforts of modern high society to the cold comforts of the grave. Daeva and Ventrue in particular are known for their rari-fied tastes in havens and all associated trappings , and some well-to-do Kindred maintain lavish homes and pent-house suites that would make the wealthiest mortal green with envy. Security, of course, is of paramount concern, and Kindred possessed of any degree of material resources usually spare no expense in making sure that a haven is well protected from both the sun and from daytime intrusion.
Such security might come in the form of high-tech alarms, a bank of cameras, pres-sure- sensitive floor plates and the like, or it can come merely from locale. A haven buried deep underground or in an old vault is going to be very secure by nature alone, without any further security measures. Domains of the Dead Without a doubt, isolation and the attitudes and practices spawned by it have resulted in the current forms of vampiric government, culture and society. While humanity has devel-oped enormous countries, world-spanning faiths, multi-na-tional cultures and even the tentative beginnings of what might one day grow into a world community, the Kindred have been left behind, as unchanging as they are undying.
Exceptions certainly exist, but for the most part, when it comes to government and sociological development, the Kindred never left — or at the very least, have returned to — far more primitive times. No Kindred domain is governed exactly like any other, but the vast majority of them resemble the feudal nations of ages past. It does mean that their power structure is usually hierarchical and largely inviolate. Consider the details. A given city is isolated by Kindred standards.
The population usually consists of Kin-dred of drastically different ages, influence and power. And, perhaps most importantly, no higher authority exists out-side the city. In most cases, this is a single vampire, usually one of the eldest and most powerful in the city. A few cities are ruled by allied groups of Kindred, and an even smaller number actually attempt to emulate more modern political styles of governing, but these cities are by far the exception, not the rule.
By and large, the Kindred have no choice but to accept the dictates and leadership of a given Prince, no matter how tyrannical his reign is or odious his laws are. After all, what are the other options?
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Petition for help? To whom? No higher authority exists. Overthrow the regime? Odds are, no single faction in the city has the strength to wrest power from the Prince, else it would have happened already. One might be able to rally several different factions, multiple powerful el-ders or simply a great portion of the Kindred population be-hind the goal, but for this tactic to work a great many Kin-dred with their own ambitions and fears must put aside their differences and work together.
The only way such is likely to occur is if the Prince is so truly horrible and abusive that nearly every vampire in the city believes that she has something to gain by ousting him. Sometimes a single pow-erful elder does succeed in scheming her way to authority, ousting a weaker Prince in the process, but doing so requires years of machinations, numerous alliances and many decades of experience. Leave the city, begin anew somewhere else? The Kindred are acutely aware of the hazards of that course of action.
Few Princes rule so absolutely that they can do everything they might want. Other elders most likely dwell in their domains. Many domains take the feudal model further still. One way the Prince has of both mollifying the other elders and delegating responsibility is by parceling out portions of his city and granting them to other Kindred as per-sonal feeding grounds. Only a very few Princes parcel off an entire city. Most focus only on the best areas: downtown, specific slums, hospital districts, club and bar areas. In many cities, an area of this sort is called the Rack.
If the Prince grants such a territory to an elder, that elder then decides who, if anyone, may feed there. This grants the elder substantial power, as many Kin-dred rely on Racks for easy feeding. If they wish to con-tinue hunting in those areas, they must offer favors or concessions to the current landholder. Of course, some Kindred choose to ignore the fact that the territory is no longer open. In some domains, they have very little. In other cities, elders rule their territories almost as domains within domains.
Here, an elder may set his own laws and enforce his own dictates, as long as they do not blatantly contradict those of the Prince. This is particularly common in cities where an elder is very nearly as powerful as the Prince himself. Do you care to dispute it? That power, however, still ultimately belongs to the Prince, who might withdraw his grant or offer it to someone else. Thus does a wise Prince placate those who would otherwise be his enemies, while at the same time grant-ing himself leverage over them for future use.
In some cities, the process continues further still. Those who control a given territory might subdivide it further, grant-ing portions of their own holdings to favored childer or allies. Doing so works only in the largest cities, of course, and not always in those. When it does, the local rule often has three or even more layers, resulting in a chain of authority that even the Byzantine-minded Kindred can find confusing.
It is fear, after all, more than any other factor that holds Kin-dred society together. In most cases, any social or political action the Kindred take is motivated by fear. The Prince fears losing power, so she cracks down on those who rebel against her word. Neonates fear the tyrannical political machine, and they react either by becoming part of it or by striking against it in hopes of changing the system before the system catches up with them.
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Covenants as a whole fear mortals and young Kindred. The Invictus fears savvy young Kindred who can react to the modern world better than staid elders can, and it fears staid elders who have had decades or even centuries to hoard power and influence. The Lancea Sanc-tum fears the changes and secular nature of the modern world. The Carthians fear the current power structure. The unbound fear being bound by the laws of others. The Circle of the Crone fears, or so it seems, the very nature of the Kindred condition.
The Ordo Dracul fears that which it can-not quantify or understand. All of the Damned fear being cut off from access to blood or being forced to leave their home cities. It would not be wholly inaccurate to say that the Kindred who would be Prince must simply make herself the most feared, more than she must be the most powerful or the best con-nected or the eldest.
This, then, is why the majority of Princes are far more despotic than, perhaps, their situations require. Some Kindred are loyal to their Prince due to some personal attachment, however, or perhaps in repayment for past favors. As always, the rare exception does exist. Even when established in a context they can understand, it makes for a horrifying juxtaposition with the comparatively progressive modern world from which they have been drawn.
Kindred society has various cliques, all of which tend to cling together and snub anyone outside their own incestuous ranks. It has a proliferation of petty grudges, backstabbing and overblown squabbles over minor or even imagined slights.
Needless to say, the society of the Damned is far from perfect. The fact that such vicious and barbaric customs ring true even in general terms goes a long way toward showing how petty and deadly many Kindred personal and political struggles can be. The Kin-dred have developed the ability to hold and inflate a grudge to an art form, and most of them never forget even the most minuscule slight.
Part of this is physiological. As the Kindred cease to age, so too do they often cease to grow mentally and emotionally.
Therefore, a vampire of probably knows a great deal more than she did when she was 20, but she is un-likely to be any more mature or truly any wiser. And as the majority of modern Kindred are Embraced at the prime of life — and therefore relatively young — few of them ever de-velop the maturity that would have come with but another decade or so of actual living. Perhaps the greater part of it, however, comes back to fear.
Kindred respond to minor offenses by holding grudges and working to humble or destroy the one who slighted them because they are scared of doing otherwise.