Humanity Hierarchy Of Sins

Humanity/Heirarchy of Sins


Let's face it: Despite all efforts to the contrary, a vampire is going to succumb to moral failure sooner or later in his unlife. Willfully or otherwise (ethics are particularly hard to maintain in frenzy), a vampire occasionally commits atrocity and risks losing his Humanity to the Beast. If the character feels remorse for his actions, he knows that his Humanity is still intact. If he commits a wrongful act and callously disregards it, however, his Humanity is obviously waning.

One of the most important themes of Vampire: The Masquerade is the Kindred's struggle to retain their souls and avoid the clutches of the Beast. Thus, it is extremely important to use morality and Humanity in a consistent, dramatic manner. If the Storyteller allows the players to (sometimes literally) get away with murder, the story will suffer, as one of the tragedies of vampiric existence vanishes. If the Storyteller is too strict with Humanity rules, though, all the characters will be ravening, blood-gorged maniacs by the end of the first session. Keeping a handle on Humanity is a hard thing to do, but the Degeneration system is designed to help that.

The system is simple: Whenever a character takes an action that the Storyteller decides is morally questionable, the character may suffer degeneration - a permanent loss of Humanity. If degeneration is a possibility, the player whose character commits the act should make a Conscience roll for that character. The difficulty is 8 - reprehensible acts are hard to justify - though the Storyteller may modify this. Willpower may not be spent for an automatic success on this roll - all the ego in the world won't protect a character from guilt.

If the player makes the roll with even one success, the character loses no Humanity - he feels enough remorse or somehow manages to justify his transgression. If he fails the roll, the character loses a point of Humanity. If the player botches, the character loses a point of both Humanity and Conscience, and also gains a derangement, decided upon by the Storyteller (who should make it appropriate). Obviously, morality is not something a Kindred can afford to take lightly. Remember that a vampire whose Humanity drops to zero is no longer suitable to be a player's character. (To be perfectly honest, Kindred with low Humanity scores aren't particularly appropriate either, but can be enjoyably tragic figures in comparison to their nobler counterparts.)

On the Brink

A Storyteller should always warn a player before she takes an action that may cause degeneration. Players should understand the consequences of their characters' actions, and should have the opportunity to enjoy making the decision. Likewise, a player whose character is in frenzy should be told when the character is about to do something heinous - and can only watch in impotent horror as the character casts her morals to the winds at the Beast's command. (Remember, though, that a player may spend a point of Willpower in order to stave off the pangs of frenzy for a turn.) Players should not be allowed to think they can get away with anything. Make it obvious that a roll may become necessary if vicious characters persist in committing self-centered deeds. Likewise, don't bait and switch. If you warn them that a roll is imminent, go through with it, or you risk ruining the mechanic's usefulness.

**Using Hierarchies of Sin **

Degeneration checks may seem arbitrary or ill defined. To some degree, they are, but this is intentional. Moreover, degeneration checks are not random so much as they are subjective. A Storyteller has carte blanche to monitor character morality in her chronicle. This is a huge responsibility for the Storyteller, but one that ultimately makes for a great deal of tragedy and horror, as the characters gradually descend into a state of utter monstrosity though they desperately rail against it. Storytellers, beware - players should never feel that you are screwing them out of Humanity or, consequently, their characters. Use degeneration checks consistently but sparingly, lest the tragedy erode to an incessant series of failed die rolls. Because this mechanic is so heavily entrenched in the Storyteller's line of duty, her own morality is often reflected in how she applies the rule. This is encouraged, as it illustrates literally what Vampire may do only in allegory.

To lend a sense of order to degeneration checks, consult the Hierarchy of Sin here. (Note: Other Paths use Hierarchies of Sin as well, though their ideas of "sin" are different. See the Appendix for other Paths and their ethical codes. Whenever a character commits a dubious act, see how that action relates to the hierarchy. If the action is at or below the level of the character's Humanity score, a roll is warranted - as a character falls further down the Humanity scale, she becomes increasingly callous, and minor peccadilloes cease to bother her. The use of the term violation in the hierarchy is deliberately vague, to aid the Storyteller. A violation may be anything questionable, and is presented to avoid inclining the scale toward any single transgression. Violation may be killing, callous injury, rape (what do you think taking blood by force is?) or any other villainy the Storyteller considers wrong.

It seems hard to slide to the lowest echelons of the scale, but consider the prominence of the Beast as Humanity falters. Sooner or later, the character will be committing depravity outside her own volition. The Storyteller is free to decree that characters of low Humanity (4 or less) occasionally act according to various urges and impulses that must be resisted with Conscience rolls or Willpower expenditure. This is the critical crux of Vampire: The Masquerade - how closely can the character skirt the Beast before it drags her into damnation?

Score Moral Guideline
10 Selfish Thoughts
9 Minor selfish acts
8 Injury to another (accidental or otherwise)
7 Theft
6 Accidental violation(drinking a vessel dry out of starvation)
5 Intentional property damage
4 Impassioned violation(man slaughter, killing in frenzy)
3 Planned violation(outright murder)
2 Casual Violation(thoughtless killing, feeding past satitation)
1 Utter perversion or henious act
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