In this week's edition of Fading Haloes design, lead designer Evan Tessier takes us through the importance of keeping -- and breaking -- Circles.
The Importance of Relationships
Fading Haloes is a game about making connections with other people. In our world, power exists not as a throne to be taken or a crown to be claimed, but as a group of people standing together. For the ambitious, a balance must be struck between using other vampires as pawns and recognizing when to meet with another as an equal.
Without establishing relationships, a vampire will swiftly fall prey to the darkness within and without, separated from the pack and devoured.
We have created two systems to mechanically enforce our desire to make this game about building relationships. The first is the accumulation of Blood through Bonds, and the second is the creation and administration of a Circle.
The Blood of the Covenant
As you will recall, Blood is the means by which a vampire sustains their unlives, protects themselves from harm and insanity, and fuels their supernatural powers. Without Blood, a vampire is weak, vulnerable, maddened, and desperate.
It’s not enough to just bite rats in the sewer or snatch some unsuspecting human off the street and chow down like cheap noodles after a pub crawl. That’ll keep the body going, but it does nothing for the soul. To truly thrive, a vampire must accumulate Blood through forging bonds.
Bonds come in three forms:
- A positive bond, such as a friendship or a romance or a pledge of allyship, is a Bond of the Heart, from which red Blood of the Heart can be drawn.
- A negative bond, such as a rivalry or enmity or hatred, is a Bond of the Fang, from which blue Blood of the Fang can be drawn.
- A neutral bond like a business relationship, mentorship, or agreement of nonaggression is a Bond of the Coin, from which purple Blood of the Coin can be drawn.
Red, blue, and purple bonds can be formed at any time by any two players, simply by informing a scenario marshal that such a bond has been formed. The marshal will mark down for each player that a bond of the appropriate color has been made. Between any two players, only one bond can exist at a time.
At the beginning of the next scenario, all vampires will receive one point of Blood in the appropriate color for each bond they have made, up to a total maximum equal to and not exceeding their Threshold of Purity value. If they have made more bonds than they can benefit from, they must choose a number of bonds equal to their Threshold of Purity to gain blood from.
Bonds can also be broken. A bond may be broken either through the agreement of the players (usually in the form of replacing it with another color of bond, such as a shift from red to blue, or purple to red), or at the discretion of scenario marshals (such as when a player has not played for an extended period of time, or if circumstances suggest that a bond is no longer accurate or relevant).
When a bond is broken, it will be replaced on the player’s record with a Broken Bond. Each Broken Bond on a player’s record causes them to begin the next scenario with a point of black Blood of the Dark, and is them removed from the record. A player may have a broken bond and also a forged bond with another player at the same time. (Remember, black Blood may be accumulated freely without regard to the Threshold of Purity, but can also draw penalties related to the Threshold of Sanity and to the ratio of colored-to-black Blood in the player’s pool.)
The forging of bonds should be taken very seriously, as it is the heart of the game – cheesing it for the sake of “winning” through mechanics will rob both players of the joy of many excellent roleplay scenes. Take the time to explore your interactions with other players and work hard to make the bonds mean something.
It is also important to note that there is no such thing as a “bad” bond! Blue Bonds of the Fang are aggressive and negative, but can make for amazing scenes with good friends that both fulfill you as a player and provide fuel for some of the more dynamic Powers. Don’t be afraid to make an enemy in Fading Haloes. We’re all friends playing a game together.
A Perfect Circle
Vampires protect themselves and thrive in communities by forming Circles, which are loose affiliations of like-minded individuals within a larger population of vampires. Circles act together outside of the confines of a scenario, and are the focus of “between-game actions” that are affected by the events of a scenario and determine how the next scenario will begin.
The Circle is the backbone of a vampire’s defense against the Forces of Darkness - the group of vampires to which they have bonded themselves and pledged themselves to the mutual defense of. It is possible to exist without a Circle, but dangerous and unpleasant.
Circles thrive when vampires join them, but also present tempting targets for the Forces of Darkness when they grow overly large; moreover, when many vampires gather, their feeding and their supernatural activities become more and more noticeable. Therefore, balancing the size of a Circle becomes a give-and-take act for the members. Most communities of vampires choose to exist in several smaller Circles, vying with one another for territory and control of food sources. This inter-Circle activity is the primary source of blue Bonds of the Fang.
Inviting a vampire to join a Circle is a formal procedure that requires the expenditure of Blood through the use of the universal Recognize Power, and can be opposed by or negated through the use of the universal Banish Power. These Powers will be discussed in greater detail in a later post.
At the end of every scenario, the storytellers will ask the members of a Circle how they plan to spend time between scenarios assisting their Circle. Each Circle member may assign themselves to one of three types of work: the Harvest, the Veil, and the Resolve. Neglecting one of those duties in favor of another is a gamble that can either pay off or spell disaster for the Circle.
A vampire with no Circle is considered to be a Circle of one, and must assign themselves to work on one of the three tasks, leaving the others to fate.
The level of Harvest a Circle has represents its ability to gather food in the form of Blood. Every vampire that works the Harvest allows their Circle to collect a number of Blood points equal to the number of vampires working the Harvest. These Blood points are then claimed from a scenario marshal in any denomination of red, blue, or purple that they request at the beginning of the next scenario, to be distributed as the Circle sees fit.
The Blood accumulated by the Harvest does not count toward the amount of Blood a vampire begins play with. It is a separate quantity that is received in a pool by the Circle and is unaffected by any vampire’s Threshold of Purity.
Each Urban vampire in the Circle adds one to the number of vampires considered to be working the Harvest, regardless of whether they are assigned to that work or not.
The level of Veil a Circle has represents its ability to hide their activities both from humanity and from the malevolent Forces of Darkness that seek to destroy them. Not assigning vampires to work the Veil in favor of other work is a gamble.
Every vampire a Circle assigns to work the Veil adds one to their Veil level. A circle requires a Veil equal to the number of vampires in the circle plus or minus a random amount chosen by the storytellers between games that represents the increase or decrease in suspicion caused by actions taken during the scenarios themselves. Failing to match this number means that something has discovered the activity of the Circle and its monstrous nature, the result of which will be determined by the storytellers.
Each Suburban vampire in the Circle adds one to the number of vampires considered to be working the Veil, regardless of whether they are assigned to that work or not.
The level of Resolve a Circle has represents its ability to protect its members physically, mentally, and emotionally from the constant struggle with the Forces of Darkness. Even if undiscovered because of their Veil, a Circle still faces opposition from the darkness within themselves and the stress of reconciling their predatory needs with their human-like natures; therefore, not assigning vampires to work Resolve can become costly.
Every vampire a Circle assigns to work Resolve adds one to their Resolve level. A circle requires a Resolve equal to the number of vampires in the circle plus or minus a random amount chosen by the storytellers between games that represents the increase or decrease in activity by the Forces of Darkness due to actions taken during the scenarios themselves. Failing to match this number means that something has befallen the members of the Circle, which will also be determined by the storytellers.
Each Rural vampire in the Circle adds one to the number of vampires considered to be working Resolve, regardless of whether they are assigned to that work or not.
Come Together, Right Now
Forging Bonds and joining Circles not only provides opportunities for deep and exciting role play, but also gives the storytellers new angles with which to test the resolve of the vampires against the Forces of Darkness. We hope you’ll come to embrace the opportunity to stand as a light in the dark together as a community.
Next time we'll look at events, scenarios, and what your time at Fading Haloes will look like.