Frenzy & Rotschreck

Cainites walk a fine line between their civilized human nature and the base passions of their vampiric nature. The dark side of their personality, known as the Beast, relies on passion and instinct rather than reason. This part of the character usually comes to fore at times of strong emotions - fear, humilitation or hunger - something most Cainites try desperately to resist. Sometimes they succeed and they retain full control of their actions. At others, the Beast takes over and the result is an orgy of instinctual violence. These outbursts are known variously as frenzy and Rotschreck, or collectively "succumbing to the Beast." Rotschreck, or collectively as "succumbing to the Beast." Rotschreck differs from other manifestations of the Beast in that is a primitive fear response (rather than one of anger and passion), so it is dealt with distinctly from frenzy.

Frenzy

Frenzy represents an uncontrolled emotional outburst, akin in many regards to a temper tantrum, but much more primitive and violent. The vampire is consumed with rage, attacking friend and foe alike and ignoring her usual standards of behavior and morality. The difficulty of resisting the Beast varies wildly, depending on the character's personality and outlook. Events that would send one Cainite over the edge into frenzy may have no effect on another Cainite. Most triggers are emotional, but some are physical, notably injury and hunger. If a character has yet to have his commitment to hi road tested (and is thus an initiate), resisting frenzy is notably harder. The times when a player should roll to resist frenzy are at the Storyteller's discretion, but they may include:

  • Anger or Frustration: When something makes the character angry, she must fight to keep her emotions within normal bounds. Failure to do so may result in a frenzy, during which the Cainite strives to destroy the cause of her anger. During the initial part of this frenzy the Cainite's actions are very focused, but even slaying or driving off the source of anger may be insufficient to sate the Beast, resulting in others becoming victims of the uncontrolled rage.
  • Danger: Great danger may provoke a Cainite to frenzy, prompting them to launch a preemptive attack. The frenzy is systematic in its targeting of threats, though the definition of "threat" while in the grip of the Beast is open to broad interpretation. A vampire in danger-provoked frenzy almost certainly targets the greatest threat first, and then works her way down to the lesser threats. However, their subconscious and bestial nature may also regard allies and bystanders as "threats" and result in their being attacked. Danger-provoked frenzies are not manifestations of terror (that is Rotschreck), rather it is an effort to eliminate threats, real or perceived.
  • Deliberate: Some Cainites, notably those on the Via Bestiae or the Norse einherjar deliberately seek out the Beast and seek to harness it to their own ends. They push themselves into frenzy, relying on their instincts to control the manifestation of the Beast. This practice of deliberately triggering a frenzy is known by various names, but "summoning the Beast" is the most common, while "riding the Beast" is the accepted term for attempting to steer the frenzy (deliberately induced or not. For more information on riding the Beast, see below under "Riding the Beast."
  • Hunger: After anger, hunger is the most likely cause of frenzy in a Cainite. A vampire's need for sustenance - blood - is not merely the dull ache that humans experience, but rather an all-encompassing addiction. She feels the need in every fiber of her body, so when her blood pool is reduced, she feels compelled to feed from any - any - handy source. When a character's blood pool falls below a quarter of its full level, she begins to crave blood and must roll to resist frenzy whenever tempted by a vessel. As the vampire's blood pool diminishes, this desire mounts (increase the difficulty to resits by one per point of blood less than a quarter). If this roll fails, the character immediately attacks the nearest source or nourishment with a view to drinking from her. She continues to drink until either her blood pool is replenished or the victim dies. If the former happens, she may attempt to end the frenzy. If this fails, or her blood pool is not fully replenished, she attacks another victim, and so on until the frenzy ends or she is sated.
  • Shame: Embarassment is another powerful emotion that can lead to frenzy. The severity of the embarassment required to trigger a frenzy varies from character to character. Those with self-reliant Natures can usually resist all but the gravest insults. Those to whom the opinion of others is important may be "set off" by relatively minor provocations. Once frenzy ensues, no one in the immediate vicinity is safe. The Cainite's first victim is likely to be the person who embarassed her, or who brought her the news, but the Beast may also seek to slay all other witnesses to the vampire's humiliation.
  • Temptation: Some Cainites try hard to walk a straight path, remaining true to a mortal code and their human nature. Temptation, however, is ever present , whispering in her ear and encouraging hr to carry out grevious acts. Sometimes these voices are too strong, and the Cainite must fight the Beast itself or enter frenzy.

The Storyteller should decide exactly when a player must check to see if his character frenzies, allowing her to tailor its prevalence and nature to her chronicle. If she decides a check is appropriate, the following rules are in order: When faced with provocation, a Cainite either fights the Beast or tries to work with it. The former allows her to try and maintain control, forcing her humanity to the fore, but if unsuccessful, she allows the Beast to rage unchecked. "Riding the Beast" - working with the frenzy - allows the Cainite to retain some control over her actions but largely guarantees that the outburst takes place. How a vampire reacts depends on her morality. Those who follow roads that teach Self-Control resist the Beast; those who learn Instinct embrace it.

Benefits of Frenzy
Although they are reduced to a bestial state, vampires in frenzy gain several temporary benefits:

  • They may ignore all dice pool penalties stemming from wounds (though movement penalties remain in effect).
  • The Beast fights outside influences, so any characters trying to dominate the frenzied vampire suffer a +2 difficulty penalty.
  • A frenzied character who uses Dominate on others reduces her difficulties by two, again representing the power of her bestial nature to overwhelm others.
  • A frenzied character need not Willpower to attempt a feat of strength. Her Beast sufficies to give her the strength of mind.
  • She is immune to Rotschreck.
  • Fighting the Beast: The player makes a Self-Control roll against a difficulty that depends on the provocation (see chart below). If the vampire is trying to resist temptation to commit a heinous, evil act, the player can roll against a difficulty of 9 - Conscience instead (if that is lower). The vampire must score five successes to completely master the Beast. A lesser number of successes postpones the frenzy one turn per success (though each passing turn "uses" a success), during which time she may continue to resist. Each new success further postpones the frenzy (though a botch means that each turn of postponement costs two successes), and if she accumulates five unused successes in this time, the Beast recedes until new provocation presents itself. If the number of unused successes decreases to zero, or if the player rolled none initially, the character frenzies. A botch on the initial roll indicates that not only does she frenzy, but the character may also suffer some form of derangement (at the Storyteller's discretion). A player whose character is held in the grip of frenzy may spend a Willpower point in order to regain control of the character for one turn. He may do so in order to attempt to flee, to utter an apology (or receive one) or to turn away from an intended victim. This brief exertion of will does not end the frenzy, however. That only happens when the provocation has been removed (or eliminated) and the Cainite's fury has spent itself, typically after a scene.
  • Riding the Beast: In this case, the character automatically enters frenzy unless the difficulty is less than her Instinct trait (in which situation the decision to frenzy or not lies with the player). If she desires, the player can spend a point of Willpower to boost her Instinct by one, allowing her to resist minor temptations. Once in frenzy, however, she may not use Willpower to reason with the Beast. Instead, the player can attempt to direct the character's actions by mkaing an Instinct roll against the frenzy provocation's difficulty (see chart below). Each success allows the character to resist (or more properly, redirect) the frenzy for a turn, though it does not end it.
Provocation Difficulty
Smell of blood (when hungry) 3+
Sight of blood (when hungry) 4+
Being harassed 4
Life-threatening situation 4
Malicious taunts 4
Physical provocation 6
Taste of blood (when hungry) 6+
Loved one in danger 7
Outright humilitation 8
Significant nearby source of fire +1
Character is a road initiate +1

Rotschreck

Fear is a major motivating factor in all beings, living and unliving, yet Cainite resilience and effective immortality frees them from many of the worries inflicted on humanity. Yet, while this freedom results in characters who tackle the world head-on, it also results in more extreme reaction to those few sources of true fear Cainites. The primitive terror response in vampires is known as Rotschreck, for the Red Fear. Fire and sunlight are the principal triggers for this condition, which is as mindless as frenzy but leads the vampire to desperate attempts to flee, utilizing violence and powers to speed her progress. As with frenzy, if a character has yet to have his commitment to his road tested (and is thus an initiate) resisting Rotschreck is notably harder.

All vampires have some control over the reaction and can largely suppress their instinct to shy from fire - just as well given that naked flames are the principal source of light in the Dark Medieval. The flame has to present a real threat to the Cainite to trigger a test for Rotschreck, so the presence of a torch in a wall sconce or a candle on a table does not require a roll. However, if the same torch is thrust in the vampire's face, all bets are off. The presence of large torches and braziers does put Cainites on edge. Vampires resisting frenzy under such conditions suffer a +1 difficulty penalty to do so. For this penalty to be in effect, there needs to be substantial open flames in the immediate area. A simple candle will not do.

To avoid Rotschreck, the vampire must make a Courage roll, the difficulty varying dependent on the degree of danger. Just as with frenzy, five successes are required to fully quell the Beast, and fewer successes allow the Cainite to resist for a period of time. Each success holds off the Red Fear for a turn, but each turn of postponement decreases the net number of successes by one. If the total drops to zero, Rotschreck grips the Cainite. A botch during this period increases the "cost" of postponing the effects to two successes per turn, but if the character achieves fire unused successes, the risk of Rotschreck abates.

Failure at the initial roll means the vampire flees madly from the danger, taking the shortest route to shelter and attacking anyone or anything that gets in her path. A Willpower point may also be spent to retain control (if the character is already seized by the Red Fear) to direct her actions, perhaps avoiding an attack on a trusted companion. A botched initial roll results in the character entering a frenzy and attacking the source of danger.

Provocation Difficulty
Lighting a candle 3
Sight of a torch 5
Bonfire 6
Obscured sunlight 7
Being burned 7
Direct sunlight 8
Trapped in a burning building 9
Character is a road initiate +1