In a political vampire game, we are often faced with a problem of how to mechanically handle a Praxis takeover. When you play, as they say, “Go big or go home.” You want the ultimate prize—the ability to be the Prince of your own Praxis. The head honcho. The Archbishop. The Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, First of Her Name. How are you going to do it? Will we let you? —Yes we will. And this page tells you how.
Our goal for the design of this system is for it to be concrete but flexible, thematically relevant, and integrated with the other custom systems in our game. Any feedback is welcome. The system has its basis around the answer to this question, “What makes a vampire society?” What makes a Praxis a Praxis? In this system there are seven components; the three Major Pillars: Prince, Supporters, and Territories; and the four Minor Pillars: Elysium, Laws, Masquerade, and Prestation.
These components are the most basic things that make up a Praxis. Without the three Major Pillars, a Praxis cannot exist. A Prince needs Supporters to lord over, and the Supporters bring with them Territories, providing the Praxis with a source of blood and status. The four Minor Pillars are basic, nearly universal aspects of vampire society. Without them, vampire society cannot function. If a Praxis is perceived to be unable to uphold Elysium, Laws, Masquerade, and/or Prestation, their supporters will lose faith in them, resulting in defection and/or the Praxis turning into a lawless land.
The Prince is the head of state. Depending on the form of government, a Praxis may have more than one head of state. You need a Prince to form a Praxis.
- In Play
- Obviously, without a Prince, you can't form a Praxis. Getting rid of the Prince is a brutish and straightforward way to dissolve a rival Praxis. There is no guarantee that another Prince won't take her place, and there is no guarantee that her supporters won't rally around her death and make her a martyr. Killing the Prince does not guarantee the perpetrator a seat on the throne—in fact, quite the opposite. Actually claiming the throne requires far more finesse and subtlety than just rolling 10 successes on your rote willpower blood-augmented roll to bury an axe between the shoulderblades of your existing Prince.
Supporters are people who throw their weight behind a Prince. The members of a Prince's court are her Supporters. The Kindred who register themselves as "citizens" of her Praxis are her Supporters.
- In Play
- Ideally, you don't want to kill your rival Supporters, because you want them on your side. Supporters will help maintain your Praxis, perform delegated tasks, take up political positions, and give legitimacy to your Praxis. You convert Supporters to your side through showing how much better your Praxis is compared to the other guy's. You have the best Territories, the most secure Elysium, the safest Laws and the most stable Prestation. But then again, you're also not above bribery, blackmail, pulling favours, and applying torch and gasoline to your rival's establishments. This is Vampire, after all.
- The most important thing is that Supporters are Regents of Territories, and all the Territories that your Supporters control come under your Praxis. When the number of your Supporters dwindle to zero, your Praxis dissolves.
When declaring Praxis, a Prince should declare the extent of their influence, i.e., “the city of West Berlin”, “the British Sector”, or “Halensee and Schmargendorf”. You need to have a Praxis to actually claim Praxis over. The minimum number of Territories is one.
- In Play
- Territory is blood. Blood is power. Our system represents this power by status points (Acclaim). Each month, the Praxis (the Prince and Harpies) gets a number of status points to bestow equal to the total ratings of their territories. The more powerful you are, the more respect you can give to your Supporters.
- Besides Territories owned by their Supporters, a Praxis may also declare their claim over unoccupied territories, provided they are uncontested. A Praxis may declare their territory encompasses “the entire city of West Berlin”, and get all 64 Acclaim points to spend /if/ they have no rivals. When claims overlap, the allegiance of that Territory follows the Regent's. If there is no Regent, the contested Territory does not generate status until it is claimed, then it generates status for the Praxis aligned with the Regent.
- When a Praxis has zero territories, that is, when neither the Prince nor the Supporters can legitimately lay claim to a territory, it is dissolved.
Solitary predators prone to violence need a safe place where they can gather, socialise, politick and govern, where they can engage in activities that contribute to Kindred society. If a Praxis is unable to uphold Elysium, Kindred can’t gather for court without fear of being ambushed. They won’t come to Elysium to meet other Kindred or get a feel of the grapevine, and they certainly won’t come to Elysium to mediate disputes. What you get is increasingly isolated predators who see violence as the first resort.
- In Play
- Attacking is as important as defending in this scenario. Attacking someone else's Elysium can backfire if they respond well to the threat. It shows everyone what a great leader they are and it makes you look bad. Like everything else, a smart vampire calculates his risks.
- Elysium can be attacked using our Territory System, under Attacking a Site. It can also be attacked on-screen, by contacting an ST who will run it for you. Because of the nature of our system, attacking an Elysium constitutes a declaration of war. It counts as a PK action and players should not be surprised if others retaliate in kind.
At its most basic, a Kindred society will have the Three Traditions. The other laws may be as simple or as elaborate as the individual Praxis choses to make them. Read through Damnation City pages--- for examples of Praxis Laws. Each Prince has the right to make their own Laws, outlined Praxis Laws.
- In Play
- Kindred are Beasts. Laws represent the Man. Laws are social contracts that keep the baser instincts of the Kindred in check. The Kindred politick and play games and hold court; they pray to Longinus and practice democracy and address each other as lords and ladies—all for what? To promote the Man; to stave off the urges of the Beast for another night. And Laws keep society in check so that they can do just that. Laws do not have to be fair or even-handed. No—this is Vampire. The Law needs to be /respected/. The Law only works if people believe in it. You're going to lose Supporters if they don't believe in your Laws or your ability to uphold it. They're going to start asking, “If the Sheriff can’t protect Joe Vampire from becoming diablerie-fodder, what’s going to stop the same thing from happening to me?”
- A good enforcer is essential to anyone who wants to claim Princedom. You want to beef up your Hound and Sheriff departments. You might want to send in some goons to challenge the rule of Law of your rival Praxis. As with all things, be wary of this backfiring if they prove to be able to withstand the challenge.
The First Tradition has the distinction of getting its own category. Kindred who break the Masquerade will experience the mortal world pushing back, inverting the relationship between predator and prey.
- In Play
- Why do Kindred fight for Influence? Why do they fight for control of the mortals, to be the ones pulling the strings? The reason is simple: Masquerade. You want to be able to turn the Police away from an investigation of an exsanguinated corpse. You want to be able to distract the Media with the latest Political scandals, so that they don't report on the vampire serial killer that just resurfaced after the trail's gone cold 60 years ago.
- Praxis that don't respect the Masquerade just don't last. Vampires look out for themselves; they don't want to be part of a Praxis that exposes them to the scrutiny of the sheep.
Prestation is the currency of vampire society. A boon can be understood as the “stock” of an individual vampire. If a Praxis somehow manages to “mess up” their “economy”, then their "currency” is worthless, which will make other vampires unwilling to trade with them, unwilling to honour their boons, and severely limiting their ability to deal in vampire society.
For how to destabilise a country’s boon economy, you must first understand how boons work.
These are some possible scenarios that might cause people to lose confidence in the market:
- The citizens of this Praxis are known to not honour their boons. People don’t want to trade with them because they know they won’t get anything back.
- The Prince’s favourite childe just broke a boon and got off scot-free. The Prince cannot be trusted to enforce the boons that his citizens are owed.
- Regents are requiring Minors for passage through their domains. Prestation is devalued because you might easily rack up a Major just for crossing the street multiple times.
- This Praxis is a warzone. Elders are getting ashed every night. "I don’t know how much my boon is worth because the Elder who owes me might not even live to see her next sunset."
- In Play
- Out of all the components, Prestation is the hardest one to actively manipulate. It is more likely to respond passively to changes instead. One of the more straightforward ways to manipulate it is with the Boon Policy. It is the Harpy's job to protect the integrity of the Boon System, whether by making soft suggestions or hard interventions. People want to belong to a Praxis that they can “do business” in. They want to know that their debts can be collected and they will be paid what they are due. The Prince must not be /seen/ to abuse Prestation. Sometimes the economy is about trust and human emotions. And the Kindred are emotional creatures, vicious and volatile, with the urges of a Beast to match.
Maintaining your own Praxis
So now you have managed to gather all seven elements, strengthening them and defending them from your rivals. You're the one sitting on the Iron Throne. But your work is not done yet! Make a nice little list and check them off as you go along. Are you keeping your Supporters happy? Are you sharing the wealth? Do you have enough laurels to recognise their achievements? Do you have a safe place for Elysium? Are you enforcing your Praxis’s Laws? Do you care about the Masquerade? Can your followers rely on the social contract of Prestation in their daily dealings? Most of all… are you able to smack down the next punk who challenges you, pulling the same shit as you did before?