Twenty-seven years ago Vampire: The Masquerade was released in 1991, and it’s been through a few iterations thus far along its journey. Our newest RPG show, Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night is diving into the Vampire: The Masquerade’s Fifth Edition and the World Of Darkness it resides in. If you’re as excited about it as we are, but aren’t familiar with the universe, here’s a crash course get you up to speed.
Prestation is the primary form of currency among the Damned, second perhaps to direct power over each other. Boons and favors, debts and obligations, a solid job or a major debacle all get wrapped up in the Christmas present box that is called Prestation. In every vampire game since the late nineties, vampire players have done everything in their power to ignore Prestation. In LARPs most players squirm and squee, plotting every trick they can to get out of owning anyone, any favor, ever. Many games devolve to physical violence among characters at the mere mention of being in debt to another.
Players do not like having to roleplay debt, even though they enjoy holding it over another. It’s a tricky psychological game that has plagued Vampire: The Masquerade chronicles since its existence and recent rewrites in both V5 and the By Night Studios Live Action Books have overhauled outdated systems to make Prestation something meaningful, desirable, and fun to play with.
In L.A. By Night, we’ve finally begun to see boons be traded among Anarchs of all factions, and their gravitas explained to Annabelle, so here is your vampire pocket guide to Prestation.
Step 1: Get In Debt
They say a clever vampire grants favors while a foolish one incurs them—and becomes a servant to their promises and their debts. Indeed, too many debts to the wrong people can embroil even the most powerful elder vampire into a byzantine knot of favors, politics, and obligations. Yet those debts owed don’t just generate out of thin air. Kindred trade in four types of boons (Trivial, Minor, Major, and Life), and in order to owe someone a boon, you probably got something in return.
Getting into debt can be fun and advance your character. Trivial boons, the easiest boons to both acquire and to satisfy can help your character get blood in a pinch, or an invitation to an exclusive soiree where you earn ten times that boon. If you think of boons like investments, they feel less hostile to you as a player and you’ll have more fun. Even if they are truly debts, like an unfortunate life boon because you killed someone on accident, that can work in your favor.
If anyone kills you, whoever you owe a boon too, they have to own your debt. Which means that owing boons to powerful and feared old vampires is one of the best forms of protections you can get. In short, don’t be afraid of debt, it’s an advancement of your story and a tool, not a punishment.
Step 2: Get Your Own
So what can you do with the boons you owe and own? Anarchs, Camarilla, and dare I mention the infamous Sword of Caine, all honor boons among vampires. It’s the backbone of currency when you will outlive a nation’s local economic system after all.
Trivial boons can be earned by helping new kindred in town make introductions, or the even helping make sure new players to the game meet the right people first. Mechanically, your character may earn a few extra social dice to win a roll thanks to the assistance from a trivial boon.
Minor Boons require vampires going out of their way to earn or pay off. Killing off an inconvenient but not very important human, or casting a vote in the court of Kindred a certain way tends to earn you a minor boon. Mechanically, your character might automatically win a roll without question thanks to someone with a minor boon helping you out.
Major Boons get a tad larger; at this point, some character is really in debt or has done a major service for someone. Doing a campaign for the Prince and getting awarded prime feeding ground is a great example. Major boons can often be a win/win scenario; so never be afraid to consider an offer to both earn or take on one.
Life Boons are the rarest, and truly, the only boon on this list you never want to be in unless it saved your life. You might earn a life boon by killing another powerful vampire as a reward from your sect or the court itself, or you might swear a life boon for the protection of yourself and your mortal family that’s left. Life boons being cashed in might award your character permanent backgrounds or even change the scope of a chronicle.
Step 3: Profit
By the time your character is both in debt, and has a few favors coming his way, they’ve become a player on the Kindred social scene. It’s at this point that you see characters like Victor Temple hosting nightclub court gatherings with other licks, or garner the attention of more public and powerful figures like the Harpies and Sheriff’s of the Camarilla world.
This is where the meat of a vampire chronicle lies.
Embrace this moment in time where your character has options. Take a survey of what you can do, and then, unlike the majority of players—use your favors. Vampire mythology paints a world where Kindred vampires hold on to their boons for centuries, waiting for the right moment in the eternal war to foil their rivals like a cunning predator. Most games end after eleven game sessions: be real, use your boons. Not only does cashing in your favors help advance your story, it gives the storyteller amazing guidance into the direction of your character. Unlike linear campaign settings, the World of Darkness is a fluid sandbox, and Prestation helps shape that.
What are your best and worst boon stories from Vampire: The Masquerade? Let us know in the comments below!
Are you ready to jump into the World of Darkness? Be sure to join us for Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night at 8 PM Pacific this Friday, September 14th for the premiere airing on Twitch and Alpha! Not an Alpha member? Get a free 60-day trial at projectalpha.com with code BITTEN!
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Image Credits: White Wolf
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.