Masquerade Damage

The Masquerade is pretty shaky these days. Turns out when you have a worldwide spy network that is pretty good at hunting down people trying to hide, it's hard to talk them down from drone striking your undead ass.

This system is designed to make the Masquerade as omnipresent a threat as Hunger and Humanity are in V5. As the coterie goes about their vampiric business, they unwittingly breach the Masquerade in a dozen tiny ways. A messy critical means you terrify the informant with fangs and glowing red eyes. You panic dial your blood doll when you're getting hungry. Maybe you engage in a good old-fashioned 90's style rooftop swordfight. Maybe you clean up, maybe you don't get a chance to. Eventually, some NatSec office worker sees enough watchword flags in Twitter posts, Facebook updates, and local news stories and starts snooping around. Once you get their attention, the pressure is on and fuck ups are not tolerated.

The Masquerade Track

Storyteller tracks the Masquerade strength for the entire coterie. If one falls, all fall. Or all turn on the one who screwed up, stake him and burn him to death to cover up their escape.

During the chapter, the Storyteller notes potential minor and major Masquerade breaches. At the end of the session, they roll a number of dice equal to the blank spaces in the track. If the roll fails, the Masquerade breaches have been noticed by the Second Inquisition, and appropriate action is taken.
The numbers beneath the track show the response level that the Second Inquisition will take. As the breaches become more frequent, the Inquisition will devote more resources to hunting, capturing, and killing the coterie.

Attention


The Second Inquisition is everywhere, but they're also understaffed. Not every potential masquerade breach is followed up on or even paid attention to. The Second Inquisition has to prioritize resources, deal with internal politics, and prepare cover stories just as much as the Vampires do. As the coterie gets the attention of the Second Inquisition, they become more and more willing to devote those resources to their capture and elimination.

Attention determines how aware of the coterie the Second Inquisition is, and determines what response the Inquisition will have to Masquerade breaches.
Attention starts at 0 at the beginning of the Chronicle. Add 1 to the starting Attention for each statement that is true.

  • One or more coterie members have Fame 3+
  • One or more coterie members have Resources 4+
  • The coterie's city has a high relative murder rate.
  • The coterie's city has been cleared of Vampires (+2 Attention)

For each point of Attention, fill in a box on the Masquerade Track starting from left to right.
Attention levels increase whenever there is a Masquerade Breach.

Masquerade Breach

Not every slip up is equal. Communicating over an unsecured channel is one thing, having a running super-speed gun battle in Johannesburg is another, and revealing your existence to a mortal is still another.

A Minor breach takes care of itself if left alone. A blogger gets bored and moves on to more lucrative content, an email thread gets buried in billions of other threads, or the witness that saw you punch a hole in a wall convinces himself it was an optical illusion.

Major breaches linger for a while, and might require some kind of cover-up to remove. A gun fight gets put on the evening news, a body drained of blood is found in a parked car, or you reveal your nature to a loved one.

We mark breaches from right to left, using a slash (/) for Minor breaches and an X for Major breaches.

Typical Minor Breaches

  • Using the internet to discuss Vampire business
  • Display of vampiric powers to untrustworthy witnesses
  • Spending large amounts of money (Resources 4+)
  • Using Contacts to alter local politics or media.

Typical Major Breaches

  • Large acts of violence
  • Murder without a cover-up
  • Revealing your nature to a mortal
  • Using Vampiric powers in public 
All Minor breaches are removed after the Masquerade Check is made each session or chapter. One Major breach is removed at the end of each story, or when the coterie covers up their offense.

The Masquerade Check

At the end of each session, roll a number of dice equal to the blank spaces on the Masquerade Track. If any successes come up, the Second Inquisition either hasn't caught wind of the coterie or doesn't have the resources to do anything about it.  On a failure, remove all Breaches, increase the Attention by one, and check to see what the response is.
If during the game the players ever run out of spaces, it's an automatic failed Masquerade Check.
Example: The coterie has panicked after an accidental death didn't get cleaned up. In their haste, they discussed the Camarilla coming down on them over a phone, and tried to use local police contacts to pester their enemies. At the end of the session, the Storyteller rolls four dice, getting 3 successes. All the minor breaches are removed. They still have to deal with that body, though.

Response

When the Second  Inquisition catches wind of the coterie, how they respond depends on how much Attention the coterie has attracted. Under every 2 boxes is a number. This number is the level of aggression the Inquisition is willing to devote or escalate to.

The first two boxes are blank- this represents the Inquisition being aware but otherwise engaged and not interested in hunting down some low-level licks.

Response Levels


  1. Active Investigation- The Second Inquisition begins to look into the coterie. They are not aware of who or where the coterie is, but will deploy a few investigators to the area who will make use of local police forces to attempt to narrow down the coterie's location. They will not engage, but if the Masquerade breaks they will find the coterie.
  2. Local Disruption- Instead of using national or international military resources, the investigators have a reasonably good idea of what the coterie is involved in and will manipulate local police and government to disrupt any activity if the Masquerade is breached. Direct engagement is still dissuaded, but if opportunity presents itself they will capture and interrogate a straggler.
  3. Direct Action- This is where shit gets real. Using paramilitary police forces, local talent, and the occasional Inquisition soldier, the Inquisition begins actively hunting the coterie. If the Masquerade breaks with this level of Attention, expect surgical strikes against assets or Kindred. They will back off with a failed strike, however, and look to regroup. 
  4. Condition Black- At this point, the Second Inquisition has decided that all bets are off and the coterie needs to be destroyed. Instead of the local ringers the Inquisition previously employed, hit squads of special forces soldiers, briefed and prepared for blankbody neutralization are deployed. The Second Inquisition will continue to escalate force from small hit squads to arson and explosives if necessary, and will not stop until they believe the coterie is destroyed, captured, or the collateral damage is deemed too extreme.
If the story already has some active hunters in it, the Masquerade break could mean that the hunters have zeroed in on them.

Removing Attention

Once the government decides that the coterie is dangerous and worth knowing about, it can be hard to convince them otherwise. Massacring an assault squad might make them back off, but it won't help the attention they pay to the coterie. 

Instead, remember that the Second Inquisition has to move resources around to focus on the coterie. Convincing them that the coterie is destroyed or that there is a more pressing threat elsewhere can reduce the Attention. Whatever method, it isn't easy and requires careful planning and execution.


Comments

  1. Excellent article. I will be using this in my game for sure.

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