Auspex, Celerity, Obfuscate, Animalism, Obteneration, Melpomine, Chimerstry, Protean, Dominate, Cachexy. Those are just 10 vampiric powers (Disciplines) from VtM/VtR that came immediately to mind, without pulling out either book, out of what must be a couple dozen total, spread over the entire oeuvre of these two games. The point is simple: vampires have awesome powers, and White Wolf has made a huge point of statting up the classical ones from lore as well as creating a host of new supernatural abilities for the blood drinkers. People like the powers of a vampire; besides immortality (and really, that’s just power #1), it is all these nifty tricks that folks attracted to roleplaying creatures of the night find appealing. It’s what makes the trade-off of subsisting on blood acceptable: you gain in return a number of powers that truly set you above the mundane humans!
I won’t deny it, when I played Vampire, it was the powers that I found most appealing. I played a Ravnos vampire just because their Discipline of Chimerstry, the ability to create illusions. My players spent about 90% of their Experience Points on improving Disciplines, on becoming stronger, more powerful, in those dark gifts bestowed them by the Beast. Vampiric powers are an essential part of the vampire myth, and as such, something I need to include in my rebuild of the game.
Here’s the very simple, very blunt statement I have to make about making up a vampiric powers subsystem for this game:
I won’t. I don’t care about having one. You have powers, now let’s move along.
Ok, so that needs elaboration.
I am going to include vampiric powers in my game, yes. Thing is, there is no way that I could set out to emulate all the powers that vampires have in lore, let alone in fiction and games. If we were to put all the White Wolf-created Disciplines in one book by themselves, I assure you we’d be looking at a tome of around 100-150 pages, quite possibly more; add in all the fan-made Disciplines floating about the net, and you’d have a mighty encyclopedic tome capable of stopping bullets. I’ve absolutely no desire to engage in that game, not even in a fraction of it. So how do I include powers in my game?
It’s fairly simple, almost lazy of me: you come up with them. As a vampire character, you begin with one basic power: you are a vampire, which means you are immortal (subject to conditions) and you have superhuman physical attributes. In those last three words, I have summed up three VtM/VtR Disciplines: Celerity, Fortitude/Resilience and Potence/Vigor. Written on the character sheet, these would be expressed as something like Superhuman Prowess. I can explain it in the book, what I mean by that, but really, I have no problem with each group deciding what exactly that means for them; they can use my description or create their own, and either way it is perfectly fine.
Each power is tied to a Beast die in the Humanity/Beast scale. That very first Beast die, the one that you acquire when born as a vampire, is what grants you the basic power. You want more powers? You gotta give in to the Beast a little more; it is only too eager to grant you more.
Starting characters may have up to 3 Beast dice (unless the group is playing older/more powerful vampires, but I think the default starting point will be 3), which means you still have two more powers to define on your character sheet. I will be sure to include a list of “common” vampiric powers from lore for players to choose from (and honestly, you are very welcomed to use the White Wolf books as your powers catalog, using those names as shorthand), but in the end you are free to come up with your vampire’s powers in conjunction with your fellow players and Game Master. Yes, this has the potential to opening things up to severe munchkinism and abuse, but that’s present in any game system, and I refuse to design for the lowest common denominator (the asshats who want to play power-trip fantasies).
Once you choose your power, you write it down on the character sheet assign to it a number of Beast dice. Each power must have at least one die attached to it. A character may have up to five powers (this, at the moment, is arbitrary and could change, so if you can come up with an argument for/against, let me know), and there is no maximum limit to the number of dice a power may have assigned to it. What the dice mean is an abstract representation of the strength of that power. A Superhuman Prowess of 1 may allow a vampire to overturn a car with little effort, a 5 may allow him to lift it, and a 10 may mean he can pick up an 18-wheeler and toss it across the highway. A Telepathy of 1 means the vampire can affect a couple of creatures within line-of-sight, 5 may allow communication with a small immediate crowd or with one creature across thousands of miles, while a 10 may allow limited mental communication with all minds in a hemisphere or even complete telepathic possession and transference of another creature/host. These are just quick examples.
I haven’t written about dice mechanics yet, but briefly, to explain the reason for those dice ratings for each power:
You have a dice pool equal to 10, with Humanity and Beast dice being of different colors. When you set out to do an action, you choose how many dice from your pool you will assign to your attempt. In actions in which one of your vampiric powers will be used, you must use as many Beast dice as the power has attached to it, supplementing those with either Humanity dice or more Beast dice. Basically, your power’s dice rating determines the minimum number of Beast dice you must roll when using that power. Beast dice are appealing to use because they score successes a little easier, though they are always dangerous as they can prompt a slip down the Humanity spiral.
I think this system will allow players the most flexibility in modeling the kinds of vampires they want to play (sparkling vampires are not out of the question with this approach) without overburdening the book, the players and the Game Master with laundry lists of “kewl powerz” and their accompanying stats. Attaching the Beast dice to the powers shows mechanically there is a price to pay for the abilities, and the way they are used when rolling makes sure the Beast always has a chance to collect on its investment.