Can an immortal creature really rule a city in the World of Darkness? In the old days of Vampire: The Masquerade, multiple factions and creatures struggle for control of a city – let’s say Chicago. Werewolves, mages, technocratic governments, hunters, demons, mummies, faeries, kinfolk, vampires and more. It was an absurd list and truly it made many players question if any actual humans lived in the World of Darkness.
Yet this is the canon we are presented. That above all else, the pre-eminent rulers of our cities always ended up being vampires. Sabbat, Camarilla, or Anarch it did not matter as each of them claimed Domain over a single city. Chicago By Night, L.A. By Night, and New Orleans By Night are all examples of undead dominance over the domain. Vampire: The Masquerade’s fifth edition (V5), brings some much-needed overhaul to the creation of a city and a vampire’s place in it.
Domain is back as an official background trait in V5, but finally (for the love of all that is unholy) revised to make sense. The core aspect of a coterie (vampire hunting packs), Domain represents the hunting ground for the coterie. It’s no longer some territory that the vampires own and influence every nook and cranny. Elder Brujah no longer say that the Shedd Aquarium is theirs and theirs alone (and it would be a terrible spot to feed anyway). For the Camarilla, the Prince doles out hunting grounds to each coterie and Anarchs cut deals with their Barons for “turf.”
Chasse determines how well stocked or rich an area is and makes it easier to feed, while also abstractly referring to the physical size of the domain. Even at the highest level, we are now talking about “all the hospitals in Queens,” for example—which is a vast improvement from say, ruling over the City of Chicago. Another trait, Lien, covers how well integrated the coterie is into their domain. This addition makes your hunting ground a little more alive for the characters, giving them access to extra rumors or really knowing their beat. Lastly, Portillon measures how secure the domain is against other vampires, mortal police, or other predators that stalk the night.
Building Your City
Now that Domains are finally solidified as hunting grounds for the characters, it becomes vastly easier for storytellers and people to build an integrated city. Even if you wanted to toss out the V5 metaplot and go back to the old days with a bajillion supernatural creatures walking around at night—only vampires need their hunting grounds. A werewolf could easily run a coffee shop and never, for decades, run into a vampire who fed a few blocks down at night. Yet this territory is now something tangible with a mood based on each coterie.
V5 offers one of the most fantastic city building chapters, and most of it points to building a City of Districts. Each coterie has their own flavor, and each hunting ground would have some logic behind it. A suburban sprawl for example, would make a terrible hunting ground (people lock their doors at night and drive in cars), but it would be rather secure against invasion. As you create alliances between coteries you can see how a Prince or a Baron could rise to power. Instead of ruling over a city, they are truly farming the only resource that matters to vampires—blood.
In past editions of Vampire: The Masquerade, most characters never even held Domain. It just wasn’t part of the play experience for your average character. Clans held entire domains instead of coteries, and it was parceled out in city blocks like they owned the joint. Most characters just walked around wherever, and fed with abandon, on whatever they could. Many chronicles never even touched on how vampires fed, focusing only on city politics or a city-wide war versus another sect.
Those days are gone.
If you are adjusting to the new system or just looking into playing V5, I’d argue the biggest (and best) change in V5 is the focus on feeding and urban territories from the ground up. Your characters need Domain. It gives them something to focus on, a home to defend, and a garden to tend to. If you are brazen enough to play a character that doesn’t have a Domain you risk being hunted, shunned, or worse—having to poach on someone else’s leftovers. This is the fate of most Caitiff (clanless) vampires or other thin-blooded ones who spend most of their nights wondering if they can even eat enough to stay awake for another day.
If you were a vampire, what kind of feeding territory would you want? Let us know in the comments below!
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Featured Image: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
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.