Rules of the Game
Black Bowery is primarily concerned with telling a story. As long as you are acting “in character”, and portraying that story, all else should be simple. However occasionally characters come into conflict, players want their characters to accomplish something the player is not physically capable of doing, or some other system to portray potential success or failure is needed. For this we have rules.
Black Bowery uses the Vampire: The Requiem rules for White Wolf’s Mind’s Eye Theatre as its primary rule set. Although you can play Black Bowery without owning any rule books, players who are interested in understanding the mechanics behind the game should purchase the Mind’s Eye Theatre: World of Darkness and Mind’s Eye Theatre: Vampire The Requiem books. What follows are rules changes, clarifications, additions, and deletions from these books, as well as the other books in White Wolf’s World of Darkness line.
The Important Rules
What follows are the most important rules of the game. In fact, as long as you know, understand, and follow these rules you will be a valued player.
- Don’t Be A Jerk
This seems like an easy one, but it bears repeating. In Black Bowery you play one of the Damned, creatures who are on the whole selfish, treacherous, and vile. However while you may play such a monster, you are not one. Remember that this game involves many different players, and they are all trying to have just as much fun as you. As a great game designer once said, “Good players have fun. Great players make sure everyone else has fun.” If you find yourself tempted to exploit another player’s unfamiliarity with the rules, or a loophole in the rules themselves, just think for a moment – is what you are about to do making the game more fun for everyone? Or only for yourself?
- It’s Only A Game
Black Bowery is an intense experience, and that is part of the fun. You will become emotionally attached to your character, like you would with any good story, and you will want your character to succeed. But sometimes characters get hurt. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they even get killed. When that happens, don’t take things too seriously. Remember that as intense and wonderful as it is, Black Bowery is only a game. Leave the game behind when it ends. Spending time talking about and thinking about the game is fun, but if you call the person playing the reclusive occult scholar at 5:13 AM on a Saturday to discuss a plot you’re involved with, or if you find yourself wanting revenge on a player for something their character did, things have gone too far. Maintain perspective.
- No Touching
Never actually make physical contact with other players, no matter how careful you are or how innocent you believe the gesture is. This is not just for combat, like punches or kicks, but also for “social touches” such as hugs or backrubs. No matter your intentions, accidents happen and intentions can be misunderstood. While minor touching like a handshake is probably fine, anything more is inappropriate unless you know the other player is fine with it – by which we mean the other person has just given you explicit permission for it. And remember that even the person playing the most outgoing and seductive Daeva may not want to be touched as a player. Do not assume.
- No Stunts
Never climb, jump, run, leap, or swing from anything during a game. Such physical actions should be described instead. You are imagining yourself to be a vampiric creature of the night, it should be easy for you to imagine your athletic feats as well.
- No Impairment
Black Bowery games, for the most part, will be taking place at a club, and a certain amount of drinking will occur. That is fine. However, there comes a point when inebriation impairs your ability to effectively play your character. At that point you should take some time, sit down for a bit, have some water, sober up, and then rejoin the game. If a Storyteller asks you to take a break because you are intoxicated, understand we are not suggesting you have done anything wrong. Just take a little time to regain your senses before rejoining us.
- Be Mindful of Others
Black Bowery games involve vampires, monsters, blood magic rituals, violence, conspiracy, and all sorts of other things that make for a fun, exciting horror story. While playing this story, however, you should be aware that the people around you are not in on the game. While in the rooms designated for Black Bowery this is not a problem, but if you and your vampiric cohorts are discussing things out in the bar, on the club floor, or outside on the street, be aware that talk of blood magic and violence can be very unsettling to those who do not realize you are only playing a game. If someone who is not playing the game talks to you, talk to them out of character. Feel free to tell them how great the game is, but be sensitive and try not to frighten them. If there are non-players about, then keep your voices down when discussing your latest plan to assassinate the mayor and replace him with an ensorcelled puppet. And, as if it needs to be said, never, ever, ever treat non-players as if they are part of the game. Acting like a creepy, violent bloodsucker in front of someone who has no idea what is going on is a sure way to get the police called. We Storytellers will be very displeased if the police get called.
- The Rules Are Flexible
The rules of Black Bowery exist for one purpose and one purpose only – to enhance the story. Thus, except for these major rules, all other rules are somewhat flexible. We will never change a rule arbitrarily, and if we tell you something is a rule you can trust that it will continue to be a rule, but please do not get into rules arguments with Storyteller staff. Rules do not exist for their own sake.
- The Story Wins
Black Bowery is not a game you play to “win”. There are no arbitrary scores, like “how high a rank you have,” or “how many player characters you have killed” (especially not that last one). You do not read a novel or watch a movie to “win” it, but rather to experience an excellent story. In the same manner, you do not play Black Bowery to “win” it, but to be a part of an excellent story.
How To Play The Game
So how do you play Black Bowery? Well, the first step is showing up for the monthly game at Elysium. It might be best to consider what kind of character you want to play (see Character Creation for more details) beforehand, and show up early so you can discuss your role with Storytelling staff.
Once at the game, you take on the role of a Vampire, navigating the treacherous and horror-filled nights of Knoxville. During the monthly game many things will occur, and plots both epic and horrific will ensue.
And if that is all you wish to do, that is fine. You can keep your same character, show up next month, and continue to play the same character in the ongoing Chronicle of Black Bowery.
But what about in between? Your character does not vanish during the long month in between Elysium. No, your character is out and about the city, accomplishing their tasks, meeting with their friends, plotting their downfall, and investigating all the interesting things they discovered at the game. For this we have Downtime Reports.
A Downtime Report is your chance to tell us what your character is doing in between games. All Downtime Reports are due a week after Elysium – that is, by the 2nd Sunday of each month. You can turn in a Downtime Report whether or not your character was at the most recent Elysium game. As long as you have played at least one Elysium game with us, you may continue to operate in and around Knoxville. In each Downtime Report you get a number of Downtime “Actions” – that is, individual things you can do – equal to your dots in Resolve. So if you have three dots in Resolve, you might choose to lean on city officials to beautiful the part of town around your haven in an effort to attract more tasty tasty mortals, you might spend time at the firing range in preparation of picking up that third dot of firearms, and you might start researching that odd ancient manuscript you found at the last game. Just by turning in a Downtime Report. You can learn more about how to send in Downtime Reports at the Downtime Reports page.
Finally, the roleplay does not stop just because the monthly game is over. We encourage our players to get together and discuss things in character. Once a month we Storytellers have a public meeting where we encourage players with questions, or short scenes they wish to run, to seek us out. And we encourage players to post fiction about what their character is doing, short pieces showing a character’s journey, what they are thinking, and what they are planning, on our Forums. This enhances the fun for all, and makes the story better.
To reiterate, all you have to do to play Black Bowery is show up at the game. You have no further obligation. Just by showing up you will be able to participate in our plots, and experience the exciting story of Black Bowery. The other opportunities – showing up in costume/makeup, sending in Downtime Reports, roleplaying additional scenes between games, and posting fiction – are there for those players who want a more in depth experience, and who want to fully embrace the story as their own.
What happens if you really need to be at an event, but you simply cannot make it? Sometimes Real Life intervenes. Perhaps your character is a material witness in the trial of another Kindred, but you will be on vacation with your family during the big game. What can you do?
You can offer a Proxy. Proxy should only be used in dire circumstances. It is permission granted to give the Storytelling staff use of your character as a non-player character during the game. You should e-mail the Storytellers, specifically saying which events you are offering Proxy for, and what your stated goals at these events are.
Note that if your character is at an event by Proxy, your character is at that event. Storytelling staff will attempt to play your character well and within the limits you set, but bad things happen at events, and proxied characters may take damage or worse. The ability to Proxy is a privilege, and is not to be abused. It simply allows your character to fulfill vital story functions when you are unable to attend a game. Attending an event by Proxy grants no experience points or other rewards.
All players start out playing inexperienced vampires. Vampires, however, do not stay inexperienced for long. As you play your characters you will earn Experience Points, or XP, which can be used to improve your character and make them better. Experience points are earned in the following manner.
- 3 XP for playing in the monthly Elysium game. Just by showing up and playing you earn these XP. Storytellers reserve the right to dock XP for particularly disruptive players, but time is not a factor. Whether you play for one hour or all night, you earn 3 XP.
- 1 XP at the Storyteller’s discretion. Due to the large size of the game this will not be given out often, but if we feel a character or player did an exceptional job, participating in a story that awed us all, or simply embraced the theme of tragic horror that pervades Vampire, Storytelling staff may give out no more than 1 XP.
- 2 XP for turning in a Downtime Report. Simply by turning in a Downtime Report by the deadline you earn another Experience Point.
- 1 XP for winning the “player’s choice” award at the end of every game. This award may be won no more than once every six months.
- 1 XP for posting in the Bloodnet (RP) forums at least three times in between games. These posts must be substantial, at the Storyteller’s discretion. A paragraph as part of a larger roleplay scene is fine, but a single line is not.
- 15 XP for turning in a background for your character. This is a one-time bonus. A character background should explain the history of your character before the game, including how, where, and when they were embraced, and their Requiem thus far.
Characters are improved by spending XP, according to the rules laid out in Mind’s Eye Theatre. For each XP expenditure (that is, each specific Attribute, Skill, Merit, Discipline, or other Advantage purchased), a downtime action must be spent. This downtime action should detail training in the skill, acquiring the merit, or in general describing how the new ability is brought about. Such a downtime action should also say, quite specifically, what is being purchased.
Generally speaking everything is purchased a single dot at a time. One downtime action for one dot. However, certain merits are “all-or-nothing,” having a set number of dots that they always cost. These merits may be purchased all at once (for instance, Danger Sense is a 2-dot merit. Both dots may be purchased at once, for the 4 XP cost of a fixed 2-dot merit).
Attempts to raise attributes, skills, blood potency, willpower, in-clan disciplines, and physical disciplines will always be successful provided the character has enough XP to spend. Purchases of merits, humanity, and out-of-clan non-physical disciplines, however, may succeed or fail. You must have the appropriate amount of XP to even attempt to learn such a thing. The storytellers will then determine, based on your actions and stats, whether or not you are successful. If you are successful, the XP is spent and you will gain the dot. If you are not successful, then no XP will be spent and your downtime action will reflect whether you failed or made progress, and what can be done to succeed at a later time.
The one exception to this is Coils of the Dragon. XP for Coils of the Dragon are always spent up front before entering the Chrysalis. Depending on how the Chrysalis goes, the character may receive the Coil requested, or they may suffer unusual effects. Either way, the XP is lost.
In-Covenant disciplines (Cruac for Circle of the Crone, Theban Sorcery for Lancea Sanctum) can theoretically be learned on your own, but having a mentor helps the process immensely and may cut down on time. Whether with a mentor or not, these abilities may require multiple downtime actions to learn. Coils of the Dragon will only ever take one action, but spending multiple previous downtimes preparing for the Chrysalis and having a Mentor greatly increase your chances for success. Out of clan or out of covenant disciplines require either a PC or NPC trainer to train you, and may take longer than a single downtime, especially at higher dots.
The one exception to this is the 15 XP granted by turning in a background. This 15 XP may be spent immediately upon the character’s next Downtime Action, and is used for fleshing out the character further. This XP expenditure requires no downtime actions, and can be used to purchase anything the character is legally qualified to purchase.
Humanity is a special case. Once lost, it is very difficult to regain humanity. It will require a concerted effort on the player’s part, not only with time spent in meditation and contemplation (or other appropriate actions) in downtime, but also by roleplaying a Vampire more in touch with their humanity during the game. Once Storytelling staff are convinced that you have earned a higher Humanity point, you will be allowed to spend the required XP. Depending on the circumstances (and how horribly you acted to lose the humanity in the first place), this may take some time. Humanity is easily lost but is only regained with effort.
At a certain experience point level, currently unspecified, we will require characters to be retired. At this point the character will be an Elder Vampire. Storytelling staff will work with the player to give their character a suitable retirement, and the character may well become a recurring non-player character in our Chronicle. As of this time there is no set experience point limit, but there will be one eventually.
Brownie Points are special points given out to those who help us make the game better for others. Brownie points are always given out at the Storytellers’ discretion. These are physical pieces of paper, which must have a player (not character) name clearly written on them, and the signature of a Storyteller, all in pen. Brownie points can be spent on certain effects. This is a two step process:
- Turn in the physical Brownie Points at the end of a game session to a Storyteller, declaring your intended use.
- Turn in a downtime action, reminding us in the action how many Brownie Points were spent, and on what purpose.
Storytelling staff is not responsible for lost Brownie Points, or Brownie Points not turned in correctly.
Brownie Points can be spent on the following:
- 3 Brownie Points can be spent to gain an extra Downtime action during a Downtime. Only one extra Downtime action can be purchased per month.
- 5 Brownie Points can be spent to gain an extra XP. No more than 10 extra XP may be purchased in this manner per Season.
In the future we may include other uses for Brownie Points.
Brownie Points are given out at Storyteller discretion. However, the following actions will always provide Brownie Points:
- Bringing a new, paying player to a game will provide 1 Brownie Point.
- Bringing a new, paying player to their second game will also provide 1 Brownie Point.
- NPCing at Storyteller request during a game will provide 1 Brownie Point.
- Assisting the Storytellers by donating props or other materials that are specifically requested by Storyteller Staff will provide 1 Brownie Point (we love all prop and material donations, and may give Brownie Points for them, but only specifically requested ones are guaranteed a brownie point).
If you feel you have done something during a game to earn Brownie Points, see a Storyteller before leaving the game.
Rules Changes and Clarifications
Black Bowery uses the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules for Vampire: The Requiem for the most part. However, there are some changes, clarifications, and optional rules that are unique to our particular game. These rules follow.
The single biggest change to Black Bowery is that, unlike the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules, we do not draw a card and then add dots to determine a pull result. This method results in a very linear difficulty curve with few successes. Instead, we simulate the rules for the Tabletop version of Vampire: the Requiem. This can be done in one of two ways.
- Every Storyteller will have a deck of 80 cards, containing 8 sets of the cards 1-10. When you make a test you pull a number of cards equal to your dots in a test pool. Any cards 8 or above are successes. A 10 is a success, and in addition you may pull another bead. Any other cards are failures, and Aces are special failures that may cause other effects in certain situations.
Example: Antoine has 2 dots in Dexterity and 3 dots in Stealth, giving him a test pool of 5 to hide from Barry. Antoine pulls 5 cards, gaining 2, 5, 7, 9, and 10. His 9 counts as 1 success. His 10 counts as an additional success, plus he gets to pull another card, an 8. This counts as an additional success. Thus Antoine has 3 successes to attempt to hide from Barry. Unless Barry pulls 3 successes on his Perception check, Antoine will succeed at hiding.
- If you have a smart phone there are a number of available apps that simulate the rolling of multiple 10 sided dice. In fact a number of these apps are specifically designed to be used with the World of Darkness (make sure you are using an app for the NEW World of Darkness, like Vampire: The Requiem, rather than the OLD World of Darkness, like Vampire: The Masquerade). If you have one of these apps available you can use this to make your tests, rolling a number of 10 sided dice equal to your dots in a test pool. Any roll of 8 or above is a success. A roll of 10 is a success, plus another dice is rolled. Anything less than 8 is a failure, and a 1 is a special failure that may come into play in certain situations.
- If your test pool is ever reduced to 0 or fewer, you may still make a “chance pull”. You pull 1 card (or roll 1 die). You only succeed if you pull a 10, although this grants another pull as usual (which also is only a success on a 10). If you pull a 1 on a chance pull then you have just earned a Dramatic Failure, which has additional negative effects.
- If you ever gain 5 or more successes on a single pull you have gained an Exceptional Success. This may have additional positive effects beyond the additional successes earned.
Gangrel and Nosferatu Clan Weaknesses act in accordance with the Tabletop rules, rather than the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules. Thus 1s subtract from the total successes gained on any Intelligence and Wits rolls for Gangrel, or Presence or Manipulation rolls for Nosferatu.
Conflicts between Mind’s Eye Theatre and Tabletop
If a skill or discipline is different between the Tabletop and Mind’s Eye Theatre rules, the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules will be used (except where otherwise noted). However, because the Primary Mechanics allow for Exceptional Success or Dramatic Failure, these rules will be included where they do not conflict.
Example: Awe (Majesty Level 1) functions for an entire night on a Success, as listed in Mind’s Eye Theatre, rather than only a scene, as listed in the tabletop rules. However in the case of a Dramatic Failure, the Dramatic Failure rules from the tabletop are used, resulting in the subject actively seeking to avoid the vampire until they leave.
In order to stake a Vampire, the Vampire’s heart must be pierced by a single solid shaft of wood. Most commonly this will be a wooden stake, though it is possible to stake a Vampire with an arrow or crossbow bolt made of wood. Wooden bullets, and other projectiles smaller than the heart, cannot be used to stake a Vampire. Regardless of the method used, all attempts to stake a Vampire are resolved as attacks aimed at the heart (-3 penalty for the small size of the target). Only an exceptional success (5 successes or more) results in the Vampire being properly staked. Otherwise the Vampire merely takes damage from the weapon with no further ill effects. Note that some creatures, such as Hunters, can break these rules. These rules are found in the Armory sourcebook, as well as the latest errata for Vampire: The Requiem. It supersedes the rules found in the Vampire: The Requiem core book, and the Mind’s Eye Theatre: Requiem book.
Optional Core Rules
- Morality Derangements
When a character fails a Degeneration check, they must make another check to avoid gaining a Derangement. These derangements remain until the character’s morality improves.
- A Matter Of Resolve
Characters gain a number of Downtime actions each game equal to their Resolve dots. In addition, these dots may be used whether players were at the latest game or not.
Characters may select as many Flaws as they wish. They carry no fixed benefit, but roleplaying flaws can be a lot of fun and add to the story of your character.
- The Fourth Tradition
While combat is an important part of the World of Darkness, some players like it more than others. As such, attempting to take any violent actions against another Vampire (and specifically only another Vampire) within Elysium will cost 1 Willpower Point each turn. Anyone attempting to kill or diablerize another Vampire in Elysium must spend 1 Willpower dot to go through with the act. This rule shall not be abused, and anyone who attempts to do so (such as repeatedly committing horrible acts and then fleeing into Elysium for sanctuary) may find themselves outside of this mystical protection. Note that this is only within the in-game Elysium (normally limited to the club and the woods behind). Locations which have been designated as other locations around Knoxville do not fall under this rule.
- Humanity for Experience Points
Characters usually start at Humanity 7. However, characters may instead start lower than that and gain 5 bonus XP per point of Humanity lost (to a maximum of 10 XP). The Storytelling staff gives warning, however, that morality and the fight to retain Humanity is a central theme of Black Bowery, and those who trade away Humanity easily may find it excessively difficult to get it back.
- True Covenant Status
Characters may purchase Status dots in multiple Covenants. Only one Covenant can be their “true” Covenant. The other Covenants are Covenants that they are spying on, acting as double-agents. No more than three total dots of Covenant Status can be purchased so long as status is split between Covenants (as anyone that famous would be found out instantly). Understand that spying on a Covenant is a serious offense, and those who are caught may very well be killed for their treachery. This option is very strongly recommended against for new players, or any player who is unwilling to accept the danger that comes with a spy’s life.
- Optional Modifiers for Animalism
These modifiers are in place. Vampires feel an affinity for predators, especially predatory mammals.
- Deceitful Creatures
Using the Auspex 2 power of “Aura Perception” to determine if someone is “lying” only determines whether or not they are being deceptive. While this could indicate a lie, it could also indicate a deflection, a half-truth, or an ulterior motive.
The rulebooks provide many hard and fast rules for Diablerie. These rules are not necessarily true. Diablerie is an extremely potent act that involves the consumption of a Vampire’s soul. Rules for Diablerie are subject to change without notice.
See Diablerie, above. Golcanda exists. How do you get there? How do you attain it? What does it do? There are no hard and fast rules here. A lot of research, guesswork, and faith will be required to reach this state of Vampire nirvana.
- The Predator’s Taint
In our Chronicle the Predator’s Taint is muted when Vampires know they will be gathering together. Thus, checks for the Predator’s Taint are not necessary when entering Elysium for the monthly gathering, though players are still encouraged to roleplay the unease their Beasts feel upon seeing so many other Kindred.
Optional Minor Rules
The Lancea Sanctum book provides for a number of ceremonies called Apostolica. Those Apostolica practiced by the Knoxville Lancea Sanctum provided benefits as noted.
- Chrysalis Mechanics
The Chrysalis Mechanics from the Ordo Dracul book are in full effect. This means learning Coils of the Dragon costs the new dots x 6 XP, not x 7 XP. However, in return for this less expensive cost, the ritual is dangerous and may fail, wasting the XP. Being taught by a mentor, having a coterie of other Kindred trying to learn the coils and helping you, and roleplaying the introspection and self-analysis necessary to achieving a new coil all increase the chances for success.
The Circle of the Crone book provides a number of optional rules systems for Cruac. Some of these systems may be in use. However, since all involve deep mysteries, anyone hoping to make use of these systems will have to research them thoroughly, and experiment in game.
- Attitude and Ambiance
Different parts of Knoxville feel different. The rules for Attitude and Ambiance from Damnation City are in effect, making certain actions more or less difficult in certain neighborhoods.
- Street Grids
The optional rules for navigating street grids from Damnation City are in effect. Depending on the area of town you are in, it may be more or less difficult to move around quickly and easily, shadow other characters, sneak around, or hunt for prey.
The rules for Ghoul creation laid out in the Ghouls book are being used. There are no Ghoul families in Knoxville whose presence is widely known.
- The Thrill and Reluctance
Ghouls are addicted to Vitae. When a Ghoul is full to their maximum Vitae, they ignore two dice of wound penalties. A resolve roll is required for a Ghoul to spend their last bit of Vitae. Ghouls approaching their monthly deadline without Vitae suffer penalties on all actions.
- Other Optional Rules
There are many other optional rules that cover various sub-sections of the World of Darkness. In general, if a rule emphasizes storytelling, or provides more options, we will allow it. If a rule covers only one small corner of the World of Darkness, such as a single bloodline or a particular weapon, we will consider the rule if and when it becomes important.