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Creating and Playing a Caitiff

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by: Belladonna for Sanguinus Curae

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From the moment of their embrace, a Caitiff has a difficult but potentially winning hand to play in the game of unlife. Without sire, clan, or sect to claim her and direct her progress, the Caitiff must find a way to make her own success in the world of the night. Creating and playing a Caitiff successfully can be an intensely rewarding experience, but should be approached with care and thought - perhaps more so than any other breed of Kindred.

What follows is a step-by-step examination of bringing a Caitiff character into being.

How did you become one of the Clanless, what were the circumstances of your embrace?

You do not know what your sire was, beyond the fact that they were a vampire. You have (or had) no knowledge of Clans, Lineage, or restrictions. You may even be only marginally aware of your own embrace. How did this come about?

There are several means of becoming a vampire with no claim or knowledge of clan, a few of which are presented here as examples.

You may have been embraced in a fit of passion by a sire that realized their mistake in a case of 'morning after' revelation and fled before you came around. Your embrace may have been unsanctioned by the Camarilla, and your sire left you to avoid reprisals from the Prince. Your sire may have simply been a self-absorbed ass that abandoned you out of a fear of responsibility.

You may have been embraced through a quirk of fate, an accident that your sire is unaware of having occurred. Your sire may have been injured to the point of frenzy and attacked you out of desperate hunger, leaving you for dead and unaware that blood from her own injuries had made its way into your system.

Your sire may have been forced to flee by the arrival of enemies before your transformation was complete, and circumstances prevented her from returning before you have wandered off following your awakening. Or worse still, those enemies may have destroyed your sire without suspecting your existence, making it impossible for her ever to return.

What were your first nights as a vampire like?

Whatever the circumstance of your embrace, as a Caitiff you will inevitably have awoken alone and confused following your change. Only trial and error taught you what had happened to you at all, and the experience of these first few nights was most likely extremely traumatic. Since we are dealing with a successful Caitiff character, at least to some degree, we will assume that you did not make any fatal mistakes or assumptions - though it may have been a close call on some occasions.

Unlike those Kindred that are ushered into the world by watchful sires, you had to learn everything on your own, nothing is taken for granted. Having some clue about your condition helps, since the obvious weaknesses and requirements of vampires are relatively well-documented in popular fiction. But even the certainty that you were a vampire is something you would have been required to deduce. For those of average intelligence this is not terribly difficult when you realize that your body seems dead, you are forced to sleep during the day, sunlight hurts like hell, and you hunger for something that no food or drink will satisfy. Still, you may have spent many of your first nights in denial, until your inability or refusal to drink blood forced you into frenzy and your true nature was revealed unequivocally.

Most new Caitiff have a grace period of about a week to ten days before their hunger will drive them to the madness of frenzy, half that if they encounter a bleeding person or animal during their nightly explorations. It is even conceivable that your denial persisted even after the first instance of feeding, but since we are assuming that you eventually got your act together, we cannot assume that the denial lasted for long. Speaking of animals, it may be that your character refuses to drink human blood and spends her nights in a painful state of subsistent hunger, since while a vampire can exist on animal vitae, it is hardly nourishing enough to replace human blood, and never gives her the full benefit she needs.

(While it may be possible to play a Caitiff with a derangement that allows her to live in denial of her own condition, such a vampire would be such a tremendous threat to the Masquerade that she would not be able to exist for long near any Camarilla enclaves before being hunted down and destroyed. This still may be an interesting possibility to explore in a rural or secluded setting, if your storyteller is up to it.)

To give yourself some idea as to your character's formative period, it is a good idea to address each of the basic truths of Kindred existence and decide how your character discovered these truths - if she did at all, and what her version of these basic axioms are.

The deadliness of sunlight.
The difficulties with and fear of fire.
The Hunger and the resulting frenzy.
The effect of being staked.
The need to sleep during the day.

Exploring how your character discovered each of these things will give you a much greater insight into her views of her condition now.

What characteristics did your character develop, and how did they come about?

While some limited propensity of the Blood may have been passed to your character from her sire, no Caitiff ever fully develops the Strengths and Weaknesses of her parent clan If this were not the case, it would be very easy for other Kindred to deduce the clan of your origin, and you would be Caitiff no longer.

When creating a true Caitiff, every last aspect of vampirism must be explored with nothing taken for granted. Everything depends on what your character believes are the characteristics of a vampire, because this belief shapes the magic that makes Kindred what they are.

Before we discuss Disciplines, they are several other aspects of the Caitiff that it is necessary to cover. Caitiff have no inherent Blood Weaknesses. Instead, these weaknesses are expressed through Merits and Flaws, and will be passed on to your character's childer should she choose to embrace and teach another. The merits and Flaws you choose should reflect what your character believed is true of vampires. A few examples of Merit/Flaw combinations based on popular fiction follow.

Bram Stoker's Dracula:
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Smell
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Hearing
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Sight
Merit: (2) Light Sleeper
Flaw: (1) Cold Breeze
Flaw: (1) Smell of the Grave
Flaw: (1) Touch of Frost
Flaw: (1) Repulsed by Garlic
Flaw: (1) Cast no Reflection
Flaw: (2) Infectious Bite
Flaw: (2) Beacon of the Unholy
Flaw: (3) Repelled by Crosses

Anne Rice's Vampires:
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Smell
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Hearing
Merit: (1) Acute Sense: Sight
Merit: (2) Enchanting Voice
Flaw: (2) Infectious Bite
Flaw: (3) Eerie Presence
Flaw: (3) Permanent Fangs

These are just two examples of how your Caitiff might develop based on her own belief about vampires, other possibilities exist, and the exact combination of Merits and Flaws for your character should be discussed with your Storyteller.

And finally, what Disciplines does your Caitiff possess?

Just as the characteristics of your Caitiff will be determined by what she believes is true of vampires, so too will her Disciplines. While many Players and Storytellers simply default to using existing Disciplines, this is by no means a limitation that must be imposed. Your Caitiff may develop Disciplines wholly unique to her which must be carefully detailed between you and your Storyteller.

It is much more common for Caitiff Disciplines to once again be dictated by the popular fiction in which she believes, although this can become somewhat difficult for both the Player and the Storyteller to accommodate.

To illustrate this difficulty, I will once again resort to showing the examples set forth by two diverse forms of popular fiction.

Bram Stoker's Dracula:
Thaumaturgy: Movement of the Mind
Thaumaturgy: Weather Control
Thaumaturgy: Clinging of the Insect

Anne Rice's Vampires:
Thaumaturgy: Movement of the Mind

Given that the status quo in playing terms demands that each character begins with three to four Disciplines, (four if you purchase the Additional Discipline Merit), it is easy to see how trying to follow your character's beliefs regarding vampire abilities and use existing Disciplines to do so quickly becomes either a headache or an extreme disappointment.

To solve this difficulty, I have devised two basic Disciplines that will cover the essence of the commonly held belief about vampires. Most Caitiff would tend to develop these Disciplines from their first nights, assuming they have little or no Kindred input into their progress.

If you choose these disciplines as the first two for your Caitiff character, it would be wise to choose between Animalism, Auspex, and Fortitude for your third, as any of these three diverse Disciplines are supported by popular fiction.

To see these 'Caitiff Disciplines', go to the Disciplines section.


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