Morality

Humanity

The Trait of Humanity is integral to the underlying theme of Vampire: The Masquerade. It is a moral code that allows Kindred to retain their mortal sensibilities in the face of their transformation into parasitic monsters. In essence, it is what keeps a vampire from becoming a mindless animal, enslaved by her thirst for vitae.

Humanity, unlike most other Traits, is rated on a scale of 1 to 10, as it is more complex than a 1-to-5 quantification allows for. Also, just because a Kindred follows the Path of Humanity doesn't mean she is a friendly, congenial saint. Vampires are predators by nature, and Humanity only gifts them with the ability to pretend they're not. It is an inward charade that protects a vampire from herself, much as the Masquerade protects vampires from the mortals outside.

Unfortunately, the very nature of existence as a vampire is anathema to one's Humanity. As the centuries wear on, the Beast takes hold, and Kindred become less and less concerned with the well-being of mortal "kine" (after all, they'll die eventually, anyway). As such, characters are likely to lose Humanity over the course of the game.

Mortals also typically follow the Path of Humanity, though this is largely out of ignorance: They don't know they can be anything else. As such, this mechanical system for morality rarely comes into play for them. Certainly, some mortals - rapists, murderers and the like - have low Humanity scores, but they have no Beasts roiling within them, as do the Kindred.

It is possible for a vampire with a high Humanity score to be more human than some mortals are!

Effects of Humanity

A Kindred's Humanity score reflects how much of a character's mortal nature remains despite the curse of Caine. It influences how well a character may deny her vampiric state, as well as how closely she may pass for mortal.

  • Vampires sleep unnaturally deeply and are loath to rise even if presented with danger. Vampires with higher Humanity rise earlier in the evening than vampires with lower Humanity scores. Also, if a Kindred is forced to act during the day, the maximum dice pool he may employ for any action equals his Humanity score.
  • Humanity also affects a character's Virtues. Whenever a certain Virtue is called into question, a player may not roll more dice for a Virtue than her character has dots in Humanity. Obviously, as the character sinks ever more deeply into the arms of damnation, questions of morality and self-preservation mean less and less. As Humanity depletes, the character creeps slowly toward the night when she loses all self-control.
  • The length of time a Kindred spends in torpor (p. 216) relates directly to his Humanity score. A vampire with low Humanity remains in torpor for a longer time than a vampire with a higher Humanity score.
  • Humanity determines how, well, human a character appears and how easily she may pass for human among the populace. Vampires with low Humanity acquire unnatural and disturbing features like sunken eyes, perpetual snarls and bestial countenances.
  • If a character's Humanity score ever drops to zero (what kind of game are you playing?), that persona is no longer suitable for use as a player's character. Completely controlled by his Beast, the character is a mindless force of unnature, and falls under the Storyteller's control.

Humanity scores fluctuate based upon the Hierarchy of Sin - if a vampire accidentally or purposefully commits an act rated lower than her Humanity score, she must roll her Conscience Trait to see whether she accepts the act (and thus loses Humanity) or feels remorse and maintains her current level. Humanity may be raised only by spending experience points on it. See the Degeneration section (p. 221) for more information on Humanity loss and the Hierarchy of Sin.

The Downward Spiral

Vampires are monsters, have no doubt, and even a Kindred with the highest of Humanity scores is nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. Nonetheless, as Humanity erodes, vampires not only become capable of, but also actively pursue, ever more depraved acts. It is in a vampire's nature to hunt, and to kill, and eventually every vampire finds himself holding the corpse of a vessel he had not intended to murder.

It is important, then, to know how vampires change as their Humanity scores deteriorate. Vampires' behavior, even under the auspices of Humanity, may become so utterly depraved and alien that the very thought of her causes discomfort in others. After all, a low Humanity score indicates that very little connects the Kindred with her mortal origins.

Humanity 10-8

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
••••• ••••• Saintly Selfish thoughts
••••• •••• Compassionate Minor selfish acts
••••• ••• Caring Injury to another
Kindred with Humanity scores this high are, ironically, more human than human. Many fledgling vampires sometimes adhere to codes more rigorous than they ever held in life, as a reaction against becoming a predator. Older Kindred scoff at this practice, taking great mirth at the thought of newly whelped neonates cowering beneath fire escapes and subsisting on the foul blood of rats, vainly rebelling against their murderous natures. Oh, the humanity! In truth, vampires who maintain high scores in Humanity are rare, as every Kindred must kill sooner or later. Vampires with high Humanity are almost unbearable by their peers, who find frustration in their perceived naivete and self-righteousness; most Kindred prefer to suffer the slings and arrows of unlife without belaboring themselves. High Humanity scores indicate aversion to killing and even distaste for taking more vitae than is necessary. Though not necessarily passive or preachy, Kindred with high Humanity uphold excruciatingly exacting standards, and often have very clearly defined concepts of moral right and wrong.

Humanity 7

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
••••• •• Normal Theft
Most human beings have Humanity scores of 7 or so, so vampires at this level of Humanity can usually manage to pass for mortals. Vampires with 7 Humanity typically subscribe to "normal" social mores - it's not acceptable to hurt or kill another person, it's wrong to steal something that another person owns, but sometimes the speed limit is just too damn slow. The vampire is still concerned with the natural rights of others at this stage of morality, though more than a little selfishness shines through. Just like everyone else in the world…

Humanity 6-5

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
••••• • Removed Accidental violation (drinking a vessel dry)
••••• Distant Intentional propery damage
Hey, people die. Stuff breaks. A vampire below the cultural human norm has little difficulty with the fact that she needs blood to survive, and she does what needs to be done to get it. Though she won't necessarily go out of her way to destroy property or end a victim's life, she accepts that sometimes that's what fate has in store for some folks. Not automatically horrid, Kindred at this stage of Humanity are certainly at least mildly unpleasant to be around. Their laissez-faire attitudes toward others' rights offend many more moral individuals, and some minor physical eeriness or malformation may show up at this stage.

Humanity 4

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
•••• Unfeeling Impassioned violation (killing in a frenzy)
Hey, some people gotto die The vampire begins an inevitable slide into urge indulgence. A Humanity of 4 indicates that killing is acceptable to this Kindred, so long as his victim is deserving (which is, of course, quite subjective). Many vampire elders hover around this level of Humanity, if they haven't adopted some other moral code. Destruction, theft, injury - these are all tools, rather than taboos, for a vampire with Humanity 4. Also, the vampire's own self and agenda become paramountat this point, and devil take whoever gets in the way. Physical changes become quite evident at this stage; while not hideous in the sense of the Nosferatu or certain Gangrel, the vampire acquires a pallid, corpselike and noticeably unwholesome aspect.

Humanity 3-2

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
••• Cold Planned voilation (outright murder)
•• Bestial Casual voilation (thoughless killing)
The lives and property of others are irrelevant to a Kindred this far gone. The vampire likely indulges twisted pleasures and aberrant whims, which may include any manner of atrocity. Perversion, callous murder, mutilation of victims and wickedness for its own sake are the hallmarks of a Kindred with very low Humanity. Few vampires maintain scores this low and lower for very long - their damnation is all but certain at this point. Vampires at this stage may be physically mistaken for human, but don't bet on it.

Humanity 1

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
Horrific Utter perversion or heinous acts
Only nominally sentient, Kindred with Humanity 1 teeter on the edge of oblivion. Little matters at all to vampires this far gone, even their own desires outside of sustenance and rest. There is literally nothing a vampire with Humanity 1 won't do, and only a few tattered shreds of ego stand between him and complete devolution. Many who attain this stage find themselves no longer capable of coherent speech, and spend their nights gibbering blasphemy among their gore-spattered havens.

Humanity 0

Score Disposition Moral Guideline
X Monstrous None
Must sleep. Must feed. Must kill. Players may not run characters with Humanity 0. Vampires at this stage are completely lost to the Beast.

Alternate Virtues and Paths of Enlightenment

Some vampires forgo the petty mortal concerns embodied by the concept of Humanity. These Kindred reason that they are no longer human, thus they have no need to apply the sentiments of the living to themselves.

Whether or not a Kindred chooses to follow the moral tenets of Humanity, some sort of behavioral system must exist. To accept utter randomness is to court the Beast, and no vampire wishes to sink into the clutches of mindless depravity. Even those vampires who plumb the depths of immorality have some ethical bulwark they use to anchor themselves against the Beast.

Kindred who voluntarily abandon Humanity follow behavioral codes known as Paths of Enlightenment. While mechanically similar to Humanity, these codes have very little - in fact, sometimes nothing - to do with the mores of mortal culture. Adopting a Path of Enlightenment means giving up everything that matters to a "normal" person or, indeed, many Kindred.

So You Want to Follow a Path

Many Kindred loan themselves especially well to certain Paths. By all means, if your character concept fits a Path better than Humanity - and if the Storyteller permits - take it! It is important to know a few things before you commit to a Path of Enlightenment, however.

  • Paths are advanced concepts: For beginning players and Storytellers, it's best to stick with Humanity. Not only do most vampires still maintain vestiges of their mortal beliefs, it's less difficult to portray a character who knows and believes similar things as the player.
  • Paths are exclusive: Few Kindred are initiated into the secrets of the Paths. Most vampires - even those of the independent clans and the Sabbat - follow the ways of Humanity; they simply tend to degenerate to very low levels over time. Not just anyone can follow a Path; becoming such an inhuman creature requires discipline and spiritual strength, albeit of a distinctly alien sort. A person seeking to join a Path must have the capacity to discard her human nature, as well as the fortitude to survive the process.
  • Paths are utterly inhuman: Players wishing their characters to adopt Paths of Enlightenment are in for extremely demanding roleplaying experiences. Absolutely nothing the player believes in will be reflected by any of these Paths. These are codes of immortal ethics that Kindred have spent hundreds of years, if not millennia, studying. It's fine and good to have an Assamite character following the Path of Blood, but the player will have to devote an enormous amount of energy toward thinking how that character really thinks.

As a corollary to this, a Path follower is treated as though he has a Humanity score of 3 when using the rules for interacting with mortals. If the Path follower's Path rating is less than 3, use that score instead.

  • Paths shock conventional moralities: This cannot be stressed enough. Paths use game systems similar to Humanity, but the codes that constitute these ideas emphasize such alien ideals that anyone observing them is likely to be put off. Look over the Hierarchies of Sin for the Paths - some of them accord prestige, honor or righteousness to behavior that would cause the gods to strike a human dead in his tracks. Some codes espouse killing, while others cannot be bothered with it.

Indeed, some codes are so selfish that even thinking about helping others constitutes a moral failure.

To put it plainly, this is some heavy shit. These Paths are here to illustrate how utterly inhuman and removed the Kindred are from humankind, and to give them spiritual protection from the talons of the Beast. Use the Paths when the story or character demands them, not to free the characters from penalties for wanton murder or perversion.

Systems

Characters on Paths of Enlightenment use the same systems for degeneration as characters who still subscribe to Humanity. Each Path has its own Hierarchy of Sin, which functions the same as the one on p. 221. To recap, any time the Storyteller feels that the character is about to act in a manner contrary to morality as her Path defines it (i.e., she wishes to do something proscribed at her Path level or below), he should warn her that persistence will require a degeneration check. If the character undertakes the action anyway, have the player make the degeneration check (alternatively, the Storyteller may do this in
secret) and apply the proper consequences, if any.

Some Paths are so far removed from conventional human morality that concepts like Conscience and Self-Control do not apply to them at all. For these codes of ethics, different Virtues apply. Depending upon which Path a character follows, Conscience may be replaced by the Virtue of Conviction, while Self-Control may be replaced by the Virtue of Instinct. No character may have both Conscience and Conviction or Self-Control and Instinct. Which Virtues the character actually possesses depends upon which Path he follows. Remember, however, that all characters have Courage, regardless of Path.

Conviction

The Conviction Virtue quantifies a character's ability to maintain a sense of reason when faced with desire, suffering or need. Utterly inhuman, Conviction represents the reconciliation of the predatory urge with the character's capacity for atrocity.

As opposed to Conscience, which deals with remorse and atonement for Path transgressions, a character with Conviction recognizes his failure and plans to overcome it. Conviction is completely inhuman; the character who has this Trait can no longer pass for human under anything but the most cursory of scrutiny. Creatures who can sense the Beast (vampires, werewolves, etc.) immediately recognize someone with the Conviction Virtue for what he truly is: a monster. Like
Conscience, Conviction comes into question when a character must check for degeneration.

• Steady
•• Determined
••• Driven
•••• Brutal
••••• Completely self-assured

Instinct

The Instinct Virtue refers to a character's ability to control the Beast by familiarity rather than denial. It allows characters to "ride the wave" of frenzy and emotional excess by keeping a close rein on their passion, rather than letting passion control them. As atavistic as Conviction, Instinct is the Virtue of a monster who accepts his nature rather than maintaining a sense of human compassion.

Instinct allows the character to harness the Beast's destructive power; a character with high Instinct is primal and turbulent. A player rolls Instinct when attempting to control a character's existing frenzy. When a character who possesses the Instinct Virtue faces frenzy, she always enters the frenzy, unless the difficulty to avoid it is less than her Instinct Trait, in which case she may choose whether or not to frenzy. Thereafter, for the duration of the frenzy, the character is wholly under the Beast's sway, and must be run by the player (or controlled by the Storyteller) in an appropriate fashion. Any time the player wishes the character to consciously take an action (known as "riding the wave"); she must roll Instinct against the difficulty to avoid the frenzy. Frenzies affect the character normally (including ignoring wound penalties, etc.), though she may sometimes exert a bit of control while so enraged.

• Intuitive
•• Feral
••• Bestial
••••Visceral
••••• Primal

Creating a Path Follower

If a player wishes to create a beginning character on a Path, a few changes in the character-creation rules take place.

  • Alternate Virtues begin at zero: While every human (and thus every recently Embraced Kindred) has a modicum of their "natural" Virtues, vampiric Virtues must be inculcated from the ground up. So, while a character with Conscience, Self-Control and Courage is created with one free dot in each Virtue, then has seven points to spend on Virtues, a character with Conviction, Self-Control and Courage begins with only two free dots (in Self-Control and Courage). A character with Conviction, Instinct and Courage begins with only one free dot (in Courage). All characters receive seven points to spend, but must use points to buy the inhuman Virtues to at least 1. This may seem unfair, but shunting off one's human nature is not undertaken lightly. Even monsters are not created overnight.
  • A vampire following a Path of Enlightenment must begin the game with a Willpower Trait of 5, minimum: This can be achieved by spending points on Courage or raising Willpower with freebie points. Beings of lesser ego simply do not have the spiritual vigor needed to break down their very souls and rebuild them from the ground up.
  • Beginning characters may not start the game with Path scores above 5: If the combination of the character's Virtues would indicate a Path score of higher than 5, simply record "5." Likewise, freebie points may not be spent to increase a beginning character's Path rating above 5, either. Beginning character vampires who subscribe to these codes still have only 25 or fewer years of experience as Kindred - hardly enough time to master the rigors of inhuman codes of behavior.
  • In all other ways, unless otherwise specified, inhuman Paths and Virtues are used like their human counterparts. So, if a roll calls for the player to use Perception + Self-Control, and the character has Instinct, roll Perception + Instinct.

Switching from Humanity to a Path

A character may also elect to eschew his human nature in favor of a Path. This is exceedingly difficult, and those who fail find themselves permanently soul-scarred as a result.

A character seeking to switch from Humanity to a Path must have a Humanity rating of 3 or below, as well as ratings of 1 in whichever Virtue or Virtues are to change to their counterparts. For example, a vampire seeking to follow a Path espousing Conviction and Instinct must have Conscience and Self-Control ratings of 1.

During the chronicle, a "deserving" candidate is typically approached by a Kindred already on the Path; in this sense, Paths resemble secret fraternal orders, approaching candidates they deem worthy rather than being open to solicitation. This process should always be roleplayed. If the character chooses to initiate himself toward the Path, he begins a program of rigorous study, and a vampire already on the Path is assigned as the initiate's mentor. An initiate spends at least a year in contemplation and study of the Path's ways. During this time, the initiate must forcibly degenerate his human Virtues, dropping them to "acceptable" levels (Humanity 3 or below, ratings of 1 in appropriate Virtues), if he has not done so already. Again, this should be accomplished by roleplaying.

The vampire then undertakes a test, which must be roleplayed by the player and Storyteller. This test can involve study of forbidden lore, answering of riddles, completion of ordeals and tasks, or whatever else the Storyteller deems appropriate for the given Path. However, part of the test always involves the vampire committing an act that, in human terms, would be viewed as an atrocity. Such a deed is undertaken not for the sake of mindless evil, but rather to impart a lesson about the character's nature in relation to the Path.

Following the completion of the test, the character makes a Willpower roll. If the character's Humanity is 3, the difficulty of the roll is 10. If the character's Humanity is 2, the difficulty is 8, and if the character's Humanity is 1, the difficulty is 6. Willpower may not be spent to gain automatic successes on this roll. If the character succeeds, he sheds his human nature and the Virtues that accompany it, gains ratings of 1 in all appropriate Path Virtues, and gains a Path rating of 1. If the
character scores three or more successes, he experiences a profound, if twisted, enlightenment, gaining a Path rating of 2. If the character fails the roll, he commits a stupid, pointless atrocity without gaining any corresponding understanding. He loses a point of Humanity, fails to attain the rudiments of the Path, but may reattempt the test (at a difficulty appropriate to his lowered Humanity Trait) in a month's time. If the character botches the roll, he loses a point of Humanity and may not reattempt the test for an entire year.

Should a character be driven to Humanity zero in this fashion, his soul is lost to the Beast, and the character is permanently taken over by the Storyteller.

Paths of Enlightenment

The Path of Blood
The Path of the Bones
The Path of Night
The Path of Metamorphosis
The Path of Paradox
The Path of Typhon

Path of Caine
Path of Cathari
Path of Death and the Soul
Path of (Evil) Revelations
Path of the Feral Heart
Path of Honorable Accord
Path of Lilith
Path of Power and the Inner Voice

Path of the Beast
Path of Entelechy
Path of the Hive
Path of Orion
Path of Redemption
Sharia El-Sama

Path of Harmony
Path of Self-Focus
Path of the Scorched Heart

Path of Sutekh

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