Abilities

Abilities measure your character's capability to undertake specific kinds of tasks. Whereas Attributes measure raw potential in broad fields, each Ability is a much more focused area of knowledge or expertise. Abilities let your character use his potential most effectively and compensate for underlying deficiencies in some cases. A weak but experienced knife fighter can make mincemeat out of a big burly opponent who has no clue how to fight well, for instance, and a priest who lacks personal charisma but understands the principles of rhetoric can defeat a charming but unskilled opponent in debate.

Specialty and Expertise

Most Abilities (with exceptions note in their respective descriptions) start out with a common body of lore, with many variations and separate branches available depending on a character's culture and circumstances. Specialties measure this property in game mechanics. When your character has a relevant specialty, you roll one more die than usual on tasks that involve it. You purchase specialties with bonus points or experience points; the cost for each appears in the relevant chart. You may have up to three specialties in any given ability, but no more than one can apply to a single roll. So if your character who has Melee with both the "swords" and the "multiple opponents" specialties, is fighting off three brigands with his broadsword, you still only roll one extra die.

Expertise is a special form of specialty that applies to the Crafts Skill and a few other catch-all Abilities. It is a field of endeavor the character has studied, such as woodworking, foraging or boat-building. Expertise works just like a specialty, granting an extra die when it applies, except that it can be combined with a specialty (for a maximum bonus of two dice), and that a character can have only as many fields of expertise as he has dots in the governing Ability. Most catch-all Abilities grant one free field of expertise and require that you purchase others with experience or bonus points. They also usually limit the ways in which you can use the Ability if your expertise does not apply. Few architects can hope to forge iron successfully without knowing how, for example. See the individual Ability descriptions for full details.

More than human

Vampires who are close enough in lineage to Caine, their Father in Darkness, can develop their prowess to heights that are literally unobtainable by any mortal man or woman. The scale of one to five dots measures the range of human potential. Characters who master Abilities at the sixth dot or above all produce the same sort of effect on others who see them as demonstrating this mastery: the awe that accompanies the fifth dot, only magnified. All but the most careless or distracted observers can see that someone with six dots in an Ability does something that no one ele can, with an unparalleled grace and confidence. It may seem angelic or demonic, but it never looks mundane unless the character makes a deliberate effort to conceal the full extent of his competence. For roleplaying purposes, use the descriptions provided for the fifth dot in each Ability and amplify them.

Acting without an Ability

  • Missing Talent: No additional penalty.
  • Missing Skill: +1 difficulty.
  • Missing Knowledge: No roll possible (automatic failure).

Talents are matters of innate aptitude, requiring no training to develop, and they improve primarily or exclusively through experience. Characters get better at them only by doing them regularly. It's possible to attempt actions related to Talents that a character doesn't possess. The player simply rolls the character's Attribute dice pool without the benefit of Talent-based dice, but also without penalty. Everyone (or nearly everyone) possesses a rudimentary grasp of each Talent, even without the minimal competence required for one dot's worth.

Alertness

Alertness is the ability to notice things that are going on in one's vicinity, with or without actively searching for them. Most Alertness rolls pair this Ability with Perception, and it generally applies to physical stimuli rather than matters of mood, the soul and so on.

• Novice: You're seldom taken completely by surprise.
•• Practiced: Wihspers do not go unheard in your vicinity.
••• Competent: You maintain a constant vigil.
•••• Expert: Few hidden things are safe around you.
••••• Master: Your senses push the boundaries of human potential and rival those of the beasts of the field.

  • Possessed by: Burglars, Hunters, Messengers, Sentries, Tramps.
  • Specialties: Ambushes, Angelic/Demonic Manifestations, Crowds, Forests, Noises, Paranoia, Traps.

Athletics

Athletics is aptitude for physical exertion, be it during relatively formal sports or simply in the course of an active life. Athletic feats that are directly related to combat are covered by Brawl, Dodge, Melee and the other combat Abilities, except in the case of thrown weapons. These require Athletics.

• Novice: You lead a moderately active existence.
•• Practiced: You can compete effectively in local sporting competitions.
••• Competent: You can support yourself, at least in large measure, with the prizes you win in challenges of physical excellence.
•••• Expert: Stories of your prowess circulate widely.
••••• Master: Your reputation precedes you, and would-be rivals feel awe at your ability.

  • Possessed by: Barbarians, Entertainers, Spearmen, Squires, Warriors, Youths.
  • Specialties: Climbing, Dancing, Juggling, Running, Swimming, Thrown Objects, Tumbling

Brawl

Brawl is the ability to fight unarmed, whether with a specific system of techniques or simply flailing away and relying on one's experience of where and how to strike. Brawling well requires coordination, speed, the ability to withstand pain and the willingness to deal out "unfair" assaults, particularly against strong or quick opponents.

• Novice: You don't immediately fold in the face of a fight.
•• Practiced: You've had your share of tussles with neighbors and other local brawlers.
••• Competent: You fight with confidence and competence, and you can count on winning or at least coming through a fight and remaining standing.
•••• Expert: You can take on most opponents and expects to win.
••••• Master: You do as much with your fists as many soldiers and knights do with their weapons.

  • Possessed by: Brigands, Bullies, Soldiers.
  • Specialties: Arm-locks, Boxing, Drunken Fighting, Grappling, Showing Off, Throws, Wrestling.

Dodge

Dodge is the ability to get out of harm's way whether in combat or in the face of other sorts of danger. It encompasses the use of cover and agile maneuvering, and it comes from the systematic training of a knight or the rough-and-ready experience and instincts of a thief or brawler. Dodge plays a crucial role in the survival of any character who fights often, greatly increasing his chances of escaping damage.

• Novice: You reflexively avoid minor sources of injury and show a measure of grace in your movements.
•• Practiced: You're hard to hurt unless someone or something catches you by surprise.
••• Competent: It takes serious effort for an opponent to hit you; you get out of the way of most thrown objects as well as immediate dangers.
•••• Expert: Only skilled warriros can expect to hurt you very much.
••••• Master: Wherever a threat is, you're almost inevitably somewhere else.

  • Possessed by: Animal Trainers, Brawlers, Criminals, Hunters, Scouts, Soldiers.
  • Specialties: Backstep, Dive, Duck, Find Cover, Horseback, Leap, Sidestep.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand others' emotional states and to present a suitable response - whether the character genuinely sympathizes with others or simply wishes to use them. It's crucial in unraveling motives and helpfil in detecting dishonesty.

• Novice: You seem sympathetic to people with whom you share something in common.
•• Practiced: You share others' joys and sorrows, even when you haven't made any particular effort at it.
••• Competent: You display keen insights into others' souls and enjoy a measure of respect or fear depending on how you use your wisdom.
•••• Expert: Few people can deceive you. Enemies mutter that you deal with dark powers, and friends believe that God has given you a special perception.
••••• Master: Nothing human is mysterious to you.

  • Possessed by: Commanders, Diviners, Gossips, Merchants, Parents, Priests, Tricksters.
  • Specialties: Background Emotions, Emotions, Family Problem, Long-Term Concerns, Personalities, Truths.

Expression

Expression is the ability to communicate clearly and appropriately with words, be they spoken or written. Characters wih high Expression ratings make their arguments persuasively, regardless of the extent to which the truth may support thme. They can bring out subtle truths or convey subtle deceptions, depending on how they use their ability. Expression, although used when composing written texts, does not cover the ability to actually read and write (that's Academics).

• Novice: Sometimes you find just the right words.
•• Practiced: You routinely speak well, and (if you are literate) you can correspond reasonably clearly.
••• Competent: You can make a living with the spoken and written word, and you can count on winning arguments.
•••• Expert: Your sermons, proclaimations or other acts of expression garner widespread respect, and others copy your style.
••••• Master: Your fame runs far and wide among devotees of good style, and others find it nearly impossible to argue against you.

  • Possessed by: Minstrels, Poets, Preachers, Rabble-Rousers, Teachers.
  • Specialties: Actig, Conversation, Improvisation, Poetry, Preaching, Storytelling.

Intimidation

Intimidation is the ability to make others do what you want, not out of respect or conviction but out of fear of the consequences if they disobey. It may include the use of threats, physical force or purely psychological tactics, depending on the individual.

• Novice: You can reliably get your way with much weaker targets.
•• Practiced: People around you know that when you make threats, you mean them, and they try not to cross you.
••• Competent: You exert the commanding presence of an authority figure, regardless of your actual status.
•••• Expert: Even those who like you feel some nervousness in your presence, and the masses fear your wrath.
••••• Master: You are well on your way to becoming one of the legendary tyrants of the age.

  • Possessed by: Bullies, Commanders, Lords, Thugs, Torturers.
  • Specialties: Blackmail, Overt Threats, Physical Coercion, Politics, Pulling Rank, Staredowns, Veiled Threats.

Leadership

Leadership is the ability to make others carry out orders. It doesn't change their underlying outlook or convictions; it lets the would-be leader seem credible or worthy of respect based upon whatever their standards are. It's usually rolled with Charisma rather than Manipulation to reflect this distinction.

• Novice: You've organized small ventrues in your hometown with moderate success.
•• Practiced: You routinely direct small groups of your neighbors and peers.
••• Competent: Your duties include the exercise of authority, such as serving as captain of the guard or abbot of a monastery, and you discharge them well.
•••• Expert: You act capably as a leader of people throughout your region.
••••• Master: You are, or can be if you choose, a great warlord, pillar of the Church or other famous leader of your time.

  • Possessed by: Commanders, Constanbles, Ecclesiastical Authorities, Family Patriarchs, Nobles.
  • Specialties: Commands, Compelling, Friendly, Noble, Oratory, Pious, Stern.

Legerdemain

Legerdemain is ability to perform feats of manual dexterity, ranging from picking a purse from a belt, to juggling and feats of trickery such as palming objects. It encompasses the stealth and concealment involved in using that dexterity without being noticed, such as when palming an object or performing a conjuring trick.

• Novice: You've sometimes taken very small items when nobody was looking and gotten away with it.
•• Practiced: You can rob alms boxes and steal from blind beggars with impunity, and you are good enouhg at sleight-of-hand to entertain local gatherings.
••• Competent: You can gracefully make off with nearly anything that isn't nailed down, and you have the polished manner of a professional entertainer, even if that's not your chosen livelihood.
•••• Expert: When you perform your tricks, they seem genuinely supernatural to most observers.
••••• Master: People wonder if perhaps supernatural powers are performing the thefts you commit, thanks to your audacity and the lack of any clues left behind.

  • Possessed by: Beggars, Jesters, Minstrels, Robbers.
  • Specialties: Concealment, Conjuring Tricks, Juggling, Picking Purses.

Subterfuge

Subterfuge is the ability to live convincingly and to conceal one's own motives and feelings. It serves legitimate as well as criminal purposes: Diplomats and even confessors sometimes use it to draw out information from others.

• Novice: You get away with small lies most of the time.
•• Practiced: You're seldom questioned about your chosen explanations.
••• Competent: You maintain the trustworthy demeanor of a professional thief and liar.
•••• Expert: Even wise and noble souls are pawns in your schemes.
••••• Master: Whenever the accusations fly, you're the last one anyone doubts.

  • Possessed by: Courtiers, Charlatans, Heretics, Minstrels, Spies, Wooers.
  • Specialties: Changing the Subject, Finding Weaknesses, Flattery, Patter, Seduction, Selective Omission.