When I wrote my guide to mechanics and character creation in V5 Vampire: The Masquerade, I left out one particular type of advantage – Loresheets. It just didn’t seem great for a introductory guide – they can have broad implications, they’re highly dependent on the chronicle you’re playing, and there are a lot of them. There are 25 just in the core book. As of the date I’m writing this (May 4, 2021), there are over 100 different Loresheets available (not counting the distinct Bloodline Advantage). That’s around 900 distinct Loresheet options to choose from (remember, you don’t have to start with the one-dot power). But I eventually made a video series out of the article, and one of the viewers commented on the lack of Loresheet discussion. There isn’t enough time in the world for me to discuss all of those Loresheet powers, but it was suggested that a look at the top ones was doable. And so here we are.
Below I discuss what I shall, for lack of a better term, dub the “Top Ten” or “Ten Best” Loresheets. But any sort of designation of these as “top” or “best” is fraught with peril, so let me first say a few things about what I mean by those terms.
I’m trying to provide something resembling an objective analysis. Yes, everything here is my personal opinion. Yes, it’s subject to change at a whim (I’ve got another 20 or so runners-up to choose from). And by whim I included “I already wish I had picked a few different ones of these but I’m not about to re-write this article.” (editor’s note – seriously, maybe three out of the ten would change if I was starting this article today) But this isn’t a list of my personal favorite Loresheets. That list would be heavily influenced by flavor – which concepts do I happen to like best or might I be interested in using in a game soon? But what does it matter if I like Victoria Ash or Horatio Ballard? Me having a personal preference for a character doesn’t help you think about which Loresheet to pick.
Which brings us to …. flavor doesn’t matter a lot here. That might sound a bit shocking. This is Vampire – flavor is to rule over mechanics, yes? But, again, there isn’t a good way to objectively analyze best flavor. And there’s doubly no way to objectively analyze it when you consider that even if there was an objective way of measuring the “best” flavor Loresheet, that measure would vary from chronicle to chronicle. The closest I might get was whether the mechanics embody the concept represented in the Loresheet. Ultimately, the actual “best” Loresheet is the one that’s got a good hook into the world set up by your Storyteller and a good hook into your character and also does some mechanical things you find cool/fun. But for the purposes of this article, flavor matters inasmuch as it affects how likely you are to be able to fit the Loresheet into your game. For example, there are a lot of 1-dot options that, once per story, let you get a piece of information on the subject of the Loresheet. That’s really kind of useless unless your Storyteller is working the subject into the chronicle in a real way. But a seemingly-narrow Loresheet like “Kevin Jackson” might still work well in any chronicle – just re-name the Loresheet “Prince of the City.”
This is not also not a list of the most powerful Loresheets. There are a bunch of Loresheet powers that are strictly superior to, from a mechanical perspective, just buying similar backgrounds. Why buy a 4-dot Mawla when you can buy a 3-dot Loresheet to get a 4-dot Mawla plus some other power? It’s easy to make a powerful Loresheet (it’s also easy to make very weak ones, like buying a 4-dot Loresheet to get a 3-dot Mawla with a drawback). To me, the “top” or “best” Loresheets involve some element of “best” design (or, at least, my take on what’s better). That’s why, in addition to not favoring obviously underpriced/overpriced Loresheet options, I don’t much favor exactly correctly priced options (I take a 4-dot Loresheet to get a 4-dot Mawla). These options serve a purpose – they help round out all of the dozens of options needed for a new book, and they give a convenient answer to how to represent working with a particular character or organization. But they’re mechanically not relevant and aren’t particularly exciting. So I’m looking for a Loresheet with options that are interesting, not immediately obviously bonkers good, but also powerful enough to maybe be worth spend XP on.
So, in a non-ranked order, here are the 10 Loresheets that seem the best-designed to me at this particular moment in time:
Bahari (V5): The Bahari (a.k.a. Lilin or about a dozen other things) are the Lilith-worshippers of the vampire world. Their focus could generally be described as growth through suffering, and fertility generally. Although the Bahari Loresheet is from the V5 core book, you can find more information on them in Cults of the Blood Gods. If you go a bit more old school, Revelations of the Dark Mother is the Bahari version of the Book of Nod. Three options stand out for me here:
- Ritual Scarification (**): Aggravated Willpower damage is hard to heal. Really hard. Aggravated physical damage is rough to, but not nearly as rough. Ritual Scarification lets you take physical aggravated damage to heal aggravated Willpower damage. I think that in some games this won’t be that useful, because the social combat rules are disregarded with some frequency. But if your ST is using the social combat rules and you like spending Willpower to re-roll dice, then aggravated Willpower damage is a real possibility.
- The Womb’s Blood (****): Once per story, The Womb’s Blood grants a +2 bonus to Stamina or Resolve when the character drinks “blood from the uterus,” which I presume is typically going to be menstrual blood. Note that, because of the limited uses for Stamina, it’s probably more useful for boosting Resolve (for searching and a wide range of resistances). Once per story is, in my experience, close to “whenever it’s really important that you have it.” And because you can choose when to activate it you can pick a night where the boosted stat might come up a lot. But it’s good that this is only once per story, otherwise it would encourage some sort of menstruation farm so that the vampire will just always have the bonus. Also, although I said that flavor doesn’t matter a ton for this article, I think that The Womb’s Blood syncs up with the flavor of the Bahari very well.
- First-Cursed (*****): The five-dot powers are hard to assess. Because these are the Loresheets I think are best-designed, there are a relative lot of 5-dot options that will be mentioned in this article. But they’re hard to calibrate. A lot of them seem really week for the cost – background costs to escalate entirely out of hand like most other high-dot costs do, but 15xp will still buy you a Skill from 0 to 3 or a Discipline from 0 to 2. Others seem game-breaking; the sort of thing I as ST would never want a player to have (e.g., once per chronicle, overthrow the Prince). So I think they’re hard to design, and the ones you see in this article will have some difficult-to-cost powers. How much is it worth to be able to walk in the daylight, even a little bit? Quite a lot, I think, and first-cursed buys you two hours in the sun every day (also being able to have sex on a routine basis). Even if that had no practical purpose, just the ability for a vampire to walk in the sun again might be worth it. Plus, you’re largely immune to Auspex, although that only matters for a few powers. With that bonus come drawbacks – being an Obvious Predator is no joke, and you’re an easy social target. But overall it’s the sort of thing that I would get excited about a character having despite the xp investment and that I as a ST wouldn’t hate.
Descendant of Helena (V5) (Toreador only): Helena is one of the OG Vampire Methuselahs, appearing in the old classic Chicago by Night books (see also Succubus Club). As you can tell, I’m presuming that you aren’t using the optional rule that “Descendant of …” Loresheets be classified as Bloodlines.
- Real Talent (**): Historically, I haven’t been a fan of this sort of merit – pay something now to get an XP discount later. Partially it’s so mechanistic. Partially it encourages you to start out really bad with characteristic that you want to be really good at. As I write this I’m wondering to myself if it deserves to even get a reference, but at least it works a bit differently in V5 than in prior editions. With Real Talent, you ideally put exactly zero of your starting skill dots in your choice of Craft, Etiquette, or Performance. Put two of your starting seven advantage dots in the Loresheet (effectively 6 xp), then (if you’re starting as a neonate with 15xp) you can take the chosen skill from zero to four (1+3+4+6 = 14xp). Because of this two-step initial purchase, an advantage like Real Talent at least let’s you start with a good rating in whatever it was you wanted to be good at (admittedly at the cost of doing much else at character creation).
- Embrace the Stereotype (***): Getting a bonus to Status or Influence at your own party might seem narrow. But getting people to come to a party is a lot easier than getting them to do something of significance. And a party is something you can control and deploy strategically. Plus, a character is probably only taking this advantage if they’re the sort of vampire who would be hosting a party anyway. Note that the utility of this option presumes that the ST is imposing a ‘realism’ cap on a character’s Influence and Status, so that Embrace the Stereotype will let the character punch higher than they normally could – you’re far better off just buying even more Status/Influence if that’s still achievable. The same is true of the 1-dot option, Skin-Deep, which is provides a narrower boost of Status.
- Divine Purity (****): Shifting blame for your actions is the sort of thing that a vampire can get up to a lot. Adding two dice to a roll is not a small amount. Once your Subterfuge is at 3 dots, adding a fourth dot is the same cost as Divine Purity, so this isn’t a shabby option if you’ve already got something like Subterfuge (Innocence) at 3.
Descendant of Menele (Chicago Folios) (Brujah only): Yes, in this list, the two old rivals are still at it. Menele got the short end of the stick in the story, but he has the upper hand in this article, as you’ll see below.
- Symposium (*): For a measly 3xp, you can re-roll one one die one every single Persuasion roll. That doesn’t increase the maximum number of successes you can get, but once you’ve got a dice pool of at least 4, you’re going to have something to re-roll almost every time (and if you happen to roll a success on every single die, you’re probably going to be OK with that too). At a minimum, that’s effectively 0.5 extra successes on every Persuasion roll – pick a failure, try again. But Symposium isn’t limited to that. Because it can re-roll Hunger dice, you can also use it to dodge bestial failures or messy criticals. If there’s anything wrong here, it’s that Symposium is generally far more efficient than just buying more dots of Persuasion.
- Know Thyself (***): There’s not a lot a character can do manipulate a frenzy once the roll is triggered, which makes this 3-dot option’s re-roll on a failed fury frenzy fairly distinctive. And at once per session, you’ll be able to use the re-roll almost every time it comes up (well, as long as your Willpower holds out, anyway). There are characters where maybe you don’t want something like Know Thyself because it makes for more interesting story if they lose their cool. But the scholarly-type Brujah might love this.
- The Greater Mysteries (*****): Speaking of distinctive abilities, the primary mechanical effect of The Greater Mysteries is to make it substantially easier to wake up during the day. Difficulty 1 vs. Difficulty 3 when your haven on fire is an enormous difference. I don’t see that coming up often enough to warrant the 15 xp, but the secondary benefit of being aware of your surroundings during the day is the ability to get clues from the Storyteller in the form of visions (I will admit that I’m not sure why having visions goes together with be aware of your surroundings, but I suppose anything is a step up from ‘dead ’till dusk’). With a decent Resolve + Occult, a character can get clues/hints every single game session. That’s not as good as Premonition, but then it doesn’t require buying up an out-of-clan Discipline.
Descendant of Montano (Chicago by Night) (Lasombra only): I think that the “descendant of” Loresheets are showing up in such relatively high numbers here in part because they’re easy to work into chronicles. They are by nature not confined to a single city and do not require a particular organization to be active in the chronicle. Montano is a Lasombra who never joined the Sabbat, but instead signed up with the Camarilla from the start.
- The Shadow of Yesterday (*): As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of 1-dot powers that let you, once per story, gain a piece of information on a specific subject, and in general these powers are too narrow unless your ST is really working that subject into the game. Well, the subject for The Shadow of Yesterday is “the Camarilla or Clan Lasombra.” The answer comes a bit slowly – you have to write a letter – but that’s a broad subject.
- Abyssal Apprentice (***): One of the real choices when leveling up is which Discipline power to take and which to be denied forever. Abyssal Apprentice short-circuits that limitation, allowing the use – once per story – of any unselected Oblivion power. With both the Lasombra and the Hecata adding to the list of Oblivion powers (between Chicago by Night and Cults of the Blood Gods there are four each at levels 1-3), that’s a relative lot of flexibility.
- Purity of Remorse (*****): Being outside during twilight, being aware during the day – you can tell that I find options intriguing when they are distinctive powers that bend basic rules of being a vampire. Purity of Remorse is similar. Maybe keeping your Humanity isn’t as flashy as “not dying from dim sunlight,” but it’s rough to maintain high Humanity in V5 (and effectively impossible to increase again). With a Humanity score of 8, any Remorse roll is down to a single die. Purity of Remorse guarantees that you always roll at least two. That’s still a 25% chance of losing that precious dot of Humanity, but this is, after all, a game about moral degeneration.
Eletria (Let The Streets Run Red): This isn’t a “descendant of” Loresheet, but Eletria isn’t tied to only one place, making it a little easier to work on. Another Chicago alumna
- Muse (*): Reducing difficulty is a big deal – reducing difficulty by one is usually the same thing as adding a bonus success to a roll, which is worth in the ballpark of two extra dice. This only applies to Craft (Painting), Craft (Sculpture), or Performance (Music), but it something like “Music” is really broad (indeed, it is vexingly – to me at least – much broader than an actual specialty within Performance, where music is broken up into things like singing, specific instruments, or instrument groups). And artists, especially musicians, are a fairly common concept in Vampire.
- Portrait of a Woman (**): Once of the few ‘combos’ among the Loresheets, Portrait of a Woman requires a painting, sculpture, or music check to activate, reducing it to a more manageable Difficulty 3 if you also have Muse. And a success allows the recovery, once per session, of all Superficial Willpower damage, which is a tremendous boost.
- This is Sparta (***): Other Loresheets provide bonuses when opposing narrower groups of foes, but This Is Sparta provides a bonus to defend against the incursions of any other sect, regardless of what sect that is or where you’ve set up shop. It doesn’t directly help in a fight, but with a boost to Investigation, Academics, and Occult it could really help set up a good fight (or prevent one altogether).
- Ageless Beauty (****): Only meaningfully available to characters with Auspex, Ageless Beauty is allows the creation of art, but it is first and foremost a means of gathering evidence. Vampires, it turns out, lie an awful lot. And that extends to their past. Ageless Beauty allows the user to see the subject at any point in their past (if they roll enough successes, anyway). Were they really a French noble in the 1700s? Had they even been born 75 years ago? And even if you’re not that interested in the information gathering, you’ve probably got some vain high clan types who would love a portrait of themselves at some point in the past and will happily owe you a favor to get one.
Golconda (V5): The never-actually achievable state of vampire enlightenment, the V5 Golconda Loresheet is probably the friendliest presentation Saulot has received in the last two decades. These options focus heavily on overcoming the weaknesses inherent in the Kindred condition.
- Saulot’s Discipline (***): Ride the wave now to be immune to frenzy next time. Some will be unwilling to ever succumb to frenzy, but “killing those gang members we were going to kill anyway” is a lot better than “oh, god, mother!” The biggest weakness of Saulot’s Discipline is that there’s effectively no control over what frenzy check will be avoided – it might be some fear frenzy over a nearby lighter that you were going to pass easily anyway.
- Satisfy the Hunger (****): Once per session you can lower your Hunger by one (so long as it wouldn’t bring your Hunger to zero). The exact value of Satisfy the Hunger will depend on the pacing of the chronicle, as it’s pretty comparable to another dot in Herd (a background that’s usually pretty easy to justify increasing) at four times the price. A dot of Herd slakes one Hunger a week. Satisfy the Hunger slakes one dot per session. If you have a string of action-packed sessions that take place over two nights, you’ll get a lot more out of Satisfy the Hunger than if each session in your chronicle represents a month of time. Regardless, however, Satisfy the Hunger is instantaneous and universal, while making use of a Herd requires actually being in position to take advantage of those mortals. Notably, Satisfy the Hunger could be used to reduce Hunger before making use of a Herd, so as to eliminate the threat of frenzy upon tasting blood.
- Greet the Sun (*****): Once per story, you can hang out in the sun all day. You’ll wake in a hunger frenzy, but that’s pretty easily addressed for even the most noble of vampires by next falling asleep in a room full of animals. Something of a kinder, gentler version of First-Cursed. The biggest strike against Greet the Sun might be that it’s too easy (mechanically) – that if you’re playing a vampire who can just walk around in the sun all the time then maybe you’re getting a bit too far away from the core themes of Vampire.
High Clan (V5): As noted in the write-up, the distinction between “High” and “Low” clans is more of a Dark Ages thing, but you can still flaunt that snobbery in the modern era.
- Peacock (*): Once per session, you can re-roll a single die when seeking deference from another vampire in your domain. As discussed above (in Muse), dice re-rolls are nothing to sneeze at. This doesn’t work on titled vampires, but let’s face it – no amount of re-rolls is going to make a member of the Primogen defer to you anyway. The bigger restriction is that it has to be a vampire who’s in your domain, but that’s about the same as Embrace the Stereotype and this is only a 1-dot power.
- Elevate the Low (***): The most difficult aspect of Elevate the Low is that it might call for Storyteller adjudication too much. Some players will seek to get an extra die on every single Social test involving a “Low Clan” vampire for the duration of the entire chronicle – which is more than a bit much. But if a Storyteller is overly-strict with how often a character can allude to the possibility of elevating a clan, then Elevate the Low won’t be worth it. But with the right balance, this is a satisfying option.
- Embraced to Rule (****): Once per story, Embraced to Rule will force other High Clan vampires to defer to you, allowing you to take charge. That’s pretty great (without wrecking the whole campaign). There’s also an ability to roll one extra die on some Leadership tests, but it’s relatively rare to roll Leadership in general, much less specifically with respect to other High Clan vampires (who are more likely to require more personal rolls, like Persuasion).
- Blessed, not Cursed (*****): Another five-dot power, another bending of a vampiric weakness. Blessed, not Cursed, allows a character to – once per session – spend a Willpower to ignore their clan bane. Show them how you totally have a reflection. Slake your hunger on any random mortal you want. Withstand the most unpleasant of environments with ease. And that’s just some of the ‘default’ High Clans.
Meneleans (Children of the Blood): That’s right, the not-even-alive-anymore Methuselah shows up twice in this article. Possibly the saddest methuselah cult of all, Menele at least knew how to had out good perks.
- Mortal Empathy (*): Once per session, get a free Willpower in the form of a 3-die re-roll on a Social test involving mortals. For some characters, this won’t come up much, what with mortals just being food. But for a character who’s trying to be friendly with mortals, it can really smooth over those ruffled feathers.
- Peacemaker (**): Similarly, some vampires will never want to play Peacemaker. But vampires who want everything to be solved nicely tend to get themselves stuck in the middle a lot, which means that the 2-die bonus from Peacemaker when trying to settle things down will also come up a lot.
- Bond Breaker (*****): A variation on the Unbondable merit, Bond Breaker also has the upside of allowing one to break the bonds of others while rendering the Bond Breaker unable to create blood bonds. For this sort of character, that’s a deal they’ll usually happily make, as they’re likely uncomfortable with emotionally enslaving a lot of humans anyway. There are real drawbacks to being unable to create blood bonds, but if your goal is to empower your friends while leaving their minds intact, it suddenly becomes a rather big bonus.
Rudi (V5): I’ve seen Rudi take some flak and I can see why some view him as a caricature of a ‘woke’ vampire – advocating for minorities and the oppressed both mortal and vampire. He seems to have escaped all of the personal horror that is, in theory, a defining quality of Vampire. But for these purposes, what matters is that he has some handy Loresheet options. There are always vampires fighting against the system, after all – and if Rudi is a bit too noble for your tastes, your character can have those noble intentions and all the angst that goes with being a bloodsucking monster who probably preys on the very mortals they’re supposedly helping.
- Newfound Rights (*): I’ve mentioned above how handy it can be to re-roll a single die. The re-roll from Newfound Rights is only once per story, but it’s an entire dice pool. It only works when attacking the establishment (verbally or physically), but I imagine that any character with the Rudi Loresheet is going to be doing an awful lot of that.
- Them and Theirs (**): Become a real team player with the ability to detect threats against your coterie members’ Touchstones. The thing to watch for here is whether Them and Theirs simply becomes a way of feeding information that the coterie was going to get anyway. So you need a Storyteller who will avoid falling into the trap of Them and Theirs just being a replacement for a Touchstone to make a phone call (after all, Touchstones are rarely killed off without giving the vampire a chance to get involved).
- The Bear Pack (****): I’m a little hesitant to put The Bear Pack on this list, because the bulk of the points are one of those background-by-another name Loresheet options. In this case, the group serves as a 3-dot Mawla with benefits (they will actually show up and get their hands dirty). I’m putting it here because, essentially, you’re paying one dot for that show-up-to-a-fight benefit and for the ability to, once per story, gain an automatic success on efforts to rally disenfranchised Anarchs or mortals.
Servitor of Irad (Cults of the Blood Gods): Irad was reportedly one of the direct childer of Caine. Ironically, although Irad was destroyed by the Antediluvians, the Servitors of Irad hope to serve the Antediluvians, proving themselves worthy of being spared when the Antediluvians awake. To that end, they seek to weaken vampiric institutions that might oppose the Antediluvians.
- Shield of Irad (*): You get an extra die on all rolls that involve lying to other Kindred. That doesn’t help hunting rolls, but it’s pretty much every Subterfuge roll you’ll make against another vampire.
- Know the Will of the Ancients (***): This option allows you to add an additional Conviction (without adding another Touchstone to defend) and that Conviction can be changed from time to time. In mechanical terms, this means you can get an extra reason to justify your actions and therefore, help stop stains (and Humanity loss). It’s not so noble as actually being more remorseful, but it gets the job done (counterintuitively, having more Convictions to rationalize your actions can mean not needing to make a Remorse check at all, even though failing a Remorse check is usually taken to mean something like rationalizing your actions instead of acknowledging that you did something wrong).
- Do the Will of the Ancients (****): Similar to Blessed, not Cursed, Do the Will of the Ancients allows a character to ditch their clan bane. Unlike that 5-dot Loresheet option, this one only works once per story (but it doesn’t cost a Willpower).
Remember, all of that is just my personal take. As I noted above, the actual “best” Loresheet is the one that’s got a good hook into the world set up by your Storyteller and a good hook into your character and also does some mechanical things you find cool/fun. But what are your preferences? Let me know in the comments below. If there’s enough interest maybe I will be able to make some time for additional Loresheet discussions
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