One of the character creation additions in the fifth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade (V5) was the predator type. A vampire’s predator type is how they typically obtain blood – force, seduction, stealth, blood cultists, and so forth. Each predator type then provides some mechanical benefits related to the predator type – a Discipline dot, a skill specialty, and some combination of advantages and disadvantages.
When I first reviewed V5, I noted that I liked the addition of the predator type because it made players think about the question of how their characters went about this vital nightly activity. I’m a big believer in the “personal horror” aspect of vampire, and the need for blood is a big part of that.
But as I’ve been looking at V5 character creation more, I’ve found the provided predator types unduly restrictive. Why does the Alleycat have the option of Potence (which doesn’t really help, unless the plan is to beat people to death and then drink their blood) but not Fortitude (which would be useful for absorbing a gunshot wound)? Why are the skill specialties provided for the Osiris limited to Occult or Performance, when two of the examples given for an Osiris wouldn’t use either of those skills (the LARP organizer might use Leadership, while the writer might use Academics)? Why does a Sandman get a dot of Resources (to represent burgling homes) but the Alleycat doesn’t have that option (to represent robbing their victims as well)? Why does the Scene Queen, a social feeder, have the option of Potence, but not Presence?
So I thought I would break down the various predator types, see how the mechanics worked out, and then see what a generic predator type package would look like. And it turns out it’s pretty straightforward for most of them. A predator type provides:
- One dot in a Discipline (which may only be Blood Sorcery if the character is Tremere);
- One skill speciality; and
- A net of one advantage dot.
The net advantage dot might be just a one-dot advantage, but it is more commonly two advantage dots and a disadvantage dot (or even three/two). From a purely math standpoint, a character can lose a point of Humanity in exchange for two more advantage dots, or gain a point of Humanity in exchange for three disadvantage dots. Further, a character could take seven dots of disadvantages to increase their blood potency by one. In theory, strictly-dined predator types could be replaced by the above mechanical options.
However, in opening up predator types, I would deviate from the pure math a bit. The increased blood potency mentioned above comes with a crippling disadvantage (only being able to feed on other vampires). And the Humanity gains similarly come with restrictive flaws (not being able to feed from nonconsenting humans, or not being able to feed from humans at all). I would generally not allow players these options in a freeform system (they can use the rules-as-written predatory types if they want those options).
Additionally, the predator type is almost the only place left in Vampire where a player can practice experience point arbitrage, exploiting (or being compelled by) differing costs associated with certain dots during character creation versus later increases (the pre-V5 system was really bad about this, with drastically different cost structures for character creation and experience point purchases, which strongly encouraged starting characters to be built in a certain way). This is because the predator type provides one Discipline dot regardless of whether it is the third dot of an in-clan Discipline (15 xp) or the first (5 xp). In the rules as written, this is mitigated by the restrictive nature of the predator types – but that mitigation is gone if predator types become more freeform. Accordingly, I personally would not let a player use a predator type to take a third dot in a Discipline (this still leaves arbitrage possibilities, because the cost of the dot taken might be 5 (first dot in an in-clan Discipline), 7 (first dot in an out-of-clan Discipline), or 10 (second dot in an in-clan Discipline), but at least it limits the most extreme disparity).
Further, while Protean is not explicitly restricted in the way that Blood Sorcery is in the predator types, Protean is (like Blood Sorcery) normally limited to one clan during character creation, and the only predator types in the book that make it available come with a big limitation (no feeding on humans) or a crippling one (only feeding on vampires). These are similar to the option restrictions on increasing Humanity or Blood Potency. Protean is also a relatively strong Discipline, including the best low-level combat power. So, if opening up the predator types, I would keep Protean off limits to non-Gangrel, like Blood Sorcery is off limits to non-Tremere.
So, with all that, here’s a more open-ended way of doing predator types that you might want to try out. I would encourage Storytellers and players to still focus on how the vampire typically feeds, and how the selected dots relate to that. So you should add to the end of each of these a proviso that the selection must relate to how the character usually feeds … but it’s not like I’m going to be there to police whether your game turns predator type into just another bucket of dots.
- Add a specialty to a skill.
- Gain one dot of a Discipline in which the character currently has zero or one dots. Blood Sorcery may only be selected by Tremere, and Protean may only be selected by Gangrel.
- Gain one to three dots in advantages.
- Gain zero to two dots in disadvantages (one less than the number of dots in advantages gained).
- Optionally, lose one dot of Humanity to gain two dots in advantages.
Let me know what you think. And if you give this alternative system a try, I’d love to hear how it goes.