Mortal and Society Merits (Backgrounds)

Human Merits

Any vampire can possess these Merits, but they’re also available to and relatively common choices for players portraying mortal characters. For additional Merits available to all characters, see p. 158 of The God-Machine Chronicle. For Merits specific to mortals and ghouls, see p. 298.

Allies(• to •••••)
Effect: Allies help your character. They might be friends, employees, associates, or people your character has blackmailed. Each instance of this Merit represents one type of ally. This could be an individual, or the members of an organization, society, or clique. Examples include a covenant, the police, a secret society, organized crime, unions, local politics, and the academic community. Each purchase has its own rating. Your character might have Allies (Masons) ••, Allies (Carter Crime Family) •••, Allies (Carthian Movement) ••••, and Allies (Catholic Church) •. Each dot represents a layer of influence in the group. One dot would constitute small favors and passing influence. Three could offer considerable influence, such as the overlooking of a misdemeanor charge by the police. Five dots allows favors that stretch the limits of the organization’s influence, as its leaders put their own influence on the line for the character. This could include things such as ignoring massive insider trading or fouling up a felony investigation. No matter the request, it has to be something that organization could accomplish. The Storyteller assigns a rating between one and five to any favor asked. A character can ask for favors that add up to her Allies rating without penalty in one chapter. If she extends her influence beyond that, her player must roll Manipulation + Persuasion + Allies, with a penalty equal to the favor’s rating. If the roll is successful, the group does as requested. Whether the roll fails or succeeds, the character loses a dot of Allies. This dot may return at the end of the chapter. On a dramatic failure, the organization resents her and seeks retribution. On an exceptional success, she doesn’t lose the dot even temporarily. One additional favor a character can ask of her Allies is to block another character’s Allies, Contacts, Mentor, Retainer, or Status (if she knows the character possesses the relevant Merit). The rating is equal to the Merit dots blocked. As before, no roll is necessary unless the target’s Merit exceeds the character’s Allies. If the block succeeds, the blocked character cannot use the Merit during the same chapter.

Alternate Identity (•,••, or •••)
Effect: Your character has established an alternate identity. The level of this Merit determines the amount of scrutiny it can withstand. At one dot, the identity is superficial and unofficial. For example, your character uses an alias with a simple costume and adopts an accent. She hasn’t established the necessary paperwork to even approach a bureaucratic background check, let alone pass. At two dots, she’s supported her identity with paperwork and identification. It’s not liable to stand up to extensive research, but it’ll turn away private investigators and internet hobbyists. At three dots, the identity can pass thorough inspection. The identity has been deeply entrenched in relevant databases, with subtle flourishes and details to make it seem real even to trained professionals. The Merit also reflects time the character has spent honing the persona. At one or two dots, she gains a +1 die bonus to all Subterfuge rolls to defend the identity. At three dots, she gains a +2 die bonus. This Merit can be purchased multiple times, each time representing an additional identity.

Anonymity (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Cannot have Fame
Effect: Your character lives off the grid. She could have been dead for decades, making new identification difficult. This means purchases must be made with cash or falsified credit cards. She avoids any official authoritative influence in her affairs. Any attempts to find her by paper trail suffer a –1 die penalty per dot purchased in this Merit. Drawback: Your character cannot purchase the Fame Merit. This also may limit Status purchases, if the character cannot provide sufficient identification for the roles she wishes to take.

Area of Expertise (•)
Prerequisite: Resolve •• and one Skill Specialty
Effect: Your character is uncommonly specialized in one area. Choose a Specialty to assign to this Merit. Forgo the +1 die bonus afforded by a Specialty in exchange for a +2 die bonus.

Barfly (••)
Prerequisite: Socialize ••
Effect: Your character is a natural in the Rack and can procure an open invitation wherever she wishes. Whereas most characters would require rolls to blend into social functions they don’t belong in, she doesn’t; she belongs. Subtract her Socialize from any rolls to identify her as an outsider.

Contacts (•)
Effect: Contacts provide your character with information. This Merit can be taken multiple times; each instance represents a sphere or organization with which the character can garner information. For example, a character with three dots of Contacts might have Bloggers, Drug Dealers, and Vampire Hunters for connections. Contacts do not provide services, only information. This may be face-to-face, by email or telephone, or even by séance in some strange instances. Garnering information via Contacts requires a Manipulation + Social Skill roll, depending on the method the character uses. The Storyteller should give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the following factors: how relevant the information is to that particular Contact, whether accessing the information is dangerous, and whether the character has maintained good relations with or done favors for the Contact. These modifiers should range from a –3 die penalty to a +3 die bonus in most cases. If successful, the Contact provides the information. One use of a Contact is to dig up dirt on another character. A Contact can find another character’s Social Merits and any relevant Conditions (Embarrassing Secret is a prime example). If someone attempts to block Contacts with the Allies Merit, add up all Contacts dots to determine the effective rating, to a maximum of five.

Double Jointed (••)
Prerequisite: Dexterity •••
Effect: Your character might have been a contortionist or spent time practicing yoga. She can dislodge joints when need be. She automatically escapes from any mundane bonds without a roll. When grappled, subtract her Dexterity from any rolls to overpower her as long as she’s not taking any aggressive actions.

Etiquette (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Composure •••, Socialize ••
Your character knows her way around society, customs, and traditions. More importantly, she can use this talent to make or break reputations. This Merit applies to any social interactions where etiquette, style, poise, and reputation carry weight, and uses the Social Maneuvering rules on p. 173.
Bless His Heart (•): Your character’s words are always well- considered. No matter how vile, the things she says come off as defensible and respectful. When a character engages yours in a Social interaction, you may opt to use your character’s Socialize score instead of the lower of her Resolve and Composure to determine her starting Doors.
Losing Your Religion (••): When your character lets loose and insults someone, she leaves mouths agape. When tearing down a target verbally, use 8-again, and take a +2 die bonus to the roll. Afterwards, move the interaction one step down on the impressions chart.
In High Cotton (•••): Your character cultivates standing and respect, and carries it like a knight wears armor. You may apply one relevant Status or Fame Merit to rolls to contest Social interactions. Other Merits may apply with Storyteller permission.
Half-Cocked (••••): Your character is always prepared. On the other hand, others are not. In a new Social interaction, if the impression is good, excellent, or perfect, ignore the subject’s Resolve and Composure on the first roll.
Grace Under Fire (•••••): While your character may not always win, she never looks bad. If a character opens all her Doors, and you opt to offer an alternative, his player chooses three Conditions. You choose which one your character receives.

Fame (• to •••)
Effect: Your character is recognized within a certain sphere for a certain skill, or because of some past action, or just a stroke of luck. This can mean favors and attention, but it can also mean negative attention and scrutiny. This can tax the Masquerade if one’s not careful. When choosing the Merit, define what your character is known for. One dot reflects local recognition or reputation within a confined subculture. Two dots means regional recognition by a wide swath of people. Three dots means worldwide recognition to anyone who might have been exposed to the source of the fame. Each dot adds a die to any Social rolls among those who are impressed by your character’s celebrity. Drawback: Any rolls to find or identify the character enjoy a +1 die bonus per dot of the Merit. If the character has Alternate Identity, she can mitigate this drawback. A character with Fame cannot have the Anonymity Merit.

Human Merits

Any vampire can possess these Merits, but they’re also available to and relatively common choices for players portraying mortal characters. For additional Merits available to all characters, see p. 158 of The God-Machine Chronicle. For Merits specific to mortals and ghouls, see p. 298.

Allies(• to •••••)
Effect: Allies help your character. They might be friends, employees, associates, or people your character has blackmailed. Each instance of this Merit represents one type of ally. This could be an individual, or the members of an organization, society, or clique. Examples include a covenant, the police, a secret society, organized crime, unions, local politics, and the academic community. Each purchase has its own rating. Your character might have Allies (Masons) ••, Allies (Carter Crime Family) •••, Allies (Carthian Movement) ••••, and Allies (Catholic Church) •. Each dot represents a layer of influence in the group. One dot would constitute small favors and passing influence. Three could offer considerable influence, such as the overlooking of a misdemeanor charge by the police. Five dots allows favors that stretch the limits of the organization’s influence, as its leaders put their own influence on the line for the character. This could include things such as ignoring massive insider trading or fouling up a felony investigation. No matter the request, it has to be something that organization could accomplish. The Storyteller assigns a rating between one and five to any favor asked. A character can ask for favors that add up to her Allies rating without penalty in one chapter. If she extends her influence beyond that, her player must roll Manipulation + Persuasion + Allies, with a penalty equal to the favor’s rating. If the roll is successful, the group does as requested. Whether the roll fails or succeeds, the character loses a dot of Allies. This dot may return at the end of the chapter. On a dramatic failure, the organization resents her and seeks retribution. On an exceptional success, she doesn’t lose the dot even temporarily. One additional favor a character can ask of her Allies is to block another character’s Allies, Contacts, Mentor, Retainer, or Status (if she knows the character possesses the relevant Merit). The rating is equal to the Merit dots blocked. As before, no roll is necessary unless the target’s Merit exceeds the character’s Allies. If the block succeeds, the blocked character cannot use the Merit during the same chapter.

Alternate Identity (•,••, or •••)
Effect: Your character has established an alternate identity. The level of this Merit determines the amount of scrutiny it can withstand. At one dot, the identity is superficial and unofficial. For example, your character uses an alias with a simple costume and adopts an accent. She hasn’t established the necessary paperwork to even approach a bureaucratic background check, let alone pass. At two dots, she’s supported her identity with paperwork and identification. It’s not liable to stand up to extensive research, but it’ll turn away private investigators and internet hobbyists. At three dots, the identity can pass thorough inspection. The identity has been deeply entrenched in relevant databases, with subtle flourishes and details to make it seem real even to trained professionals. The Merit also reflects time the character has spent honing the persona. At one or two dots, she gains a +1 die bonus to all Subterfuge rolls to defend the identity. At three dots, she gains a +2 die bonus. This Merit can be purchased multiple times, each time representing an additional identity.

Anonymity (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Cannot have Fame
Effect: Your character lives off the grid. She could have been dead for decades, making new identification difficult. This means purchases must be made with cash or falsified credit cards. She avoids any official authoritative influence in her affairs. Any attempts to find her by paper trail suffer a –1 die penalty per dot purchased in this Merit. Drawback: Your character cannot purchase the Fame Merit. This also may limit Status purchases, if the character cannot provide sufficient identification for the roles she wishes to take.

Area of Expertise (•)
Prerequisite: Resolve •• and one Skill Specialty
Effect: Your character is uncommonly specialized in one area. Choose a Specialty to assign to this Merit. Forgo the +1 die bonus afforded by a Specialty in exchange for a +2 die bonus.

Barfly (••)
Prerequisite: Socialize ••
Effect: Your character is a natural in the Rack and can procure an open invitation wherever she wishes. Whereas most characters would require rolls to blend into social functions they don’t belong in, she doesn’t; she belongs. Subtract her Socialize from any rolls to identify her as an outsider.

Contacts (•)
Effect: Contacts provide your character with information. This Merit can be taken multiple times; each instance represents a sphere or organization with which the character can garner information. For example, a character with three dots of Contacts might have Bloggers, Drug Dealers, and Vampire Hunters for connections. Contacts do not provide services, only information. This may be face-to-face, by email or telephone, or even by séance in some strange instances. Garnering information via Contacts requires a Manipulation + Social Skill roll, depending on the method the character uses. The Storyteller should give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the following factors: how relevant the information is to that particular Contact, whether accessing the information is dangerous, and whether the character has maintained good relations with or done favors for the Contact. These modifiers should range from a –3 die penalty to a +3 die bonus in most cases. If successful, the Contact provides the information. One use of a Contact is to dig up dirt on another character. A Contact can find another character’s Social Merits and any relevant Conditions (Embarrassing Secret is a prime example). If someone attempts to block Contacts with the Allies Merit, add up all Contacts dots to determine the effective rating, to a maximum of five.

Etiquette (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Composure •••, Socialize ••
Your character knows her way around society, customs, and traditions. More importantly, she can use this talent to make or break reputations. This Merit applies to any social interactions where etiquette, style, poise, and reputation carry weight, and uses the Social Maneuvering rules on p. 173.
Bless His Heart (•): Your character’s words are always well- considered. No matter how vile, the things she says come off as defensible and respectful. When a character engages yours in a Social interaction, you may opt to use your character’s Socialize score instead of the lower of her Resolve and Composure to determine her starting Doors.
Losing Your Religion (••): When your character lets loose and insults someone, she leaves mouths agape. When tearing down a target verbally, use 8-again, and take a +2 die bonus to the roll. Afterwards, move the interaction one step down on the impressions chart.
In High Cotton (•••): Your character cultivates standing and respect, and carries it like a knight wears armor. You may apply one relevant Status or Fame Merit to rolls to contest Social interactions. Other Merits may apply with Storyteller permission.
Half-Cocked (••••): Your character is always prepared. On the other hand, others are not. In a new Social interaction, if the impression is good, excellent, or perfect, ignore the subject’s Resolve and Composure on the first roll.
Grace Under Fire (•••••): While your character may not always win, she never looks bad. If a character opens all her Doors, and you opt to offer an alternative, his player chooses three Conditions. You choose which one your character receives.

Fame (• to •••)
Effect: Your character is recognized within a certain sphere for a certain skill, or because of some past action, or just a stroke of luck. This can mean favors and attention, but it can also mean negative attention and scrutiny. This can tax the Masquerade if one’s not careful. When choosing the Merit, define what your character is known for. One dot reflects local recognition or reputation within a confined subculture. Two dots means regional recognition by a wide swath of people. Three dots means worldwide recognition to anyone who might have been exposed to the source of the fame. Each dot adds a die to any Social rolls among those who are impressed by your character’s celebrity. Drawback: Any rolls to find or identify the character enjoy a +1 die bonus per dot of the Merit. If the character has Alternate Identity, she can mitigate this drawback. A character with Fame cannot have the Anonymity Merit.

Fast-Talking (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Manipulation •••, Subterfuge •• Your character talks circles around listeners. She speaks a mile a minute and often leaves her targets reeling, but nodding in agreement.
Always Be Closing (•): With the right leading phrases, your character can direct a mark to say what she wants, when she wants. This trips the mark into vulnerable positions. When a mark contests or resists your character’s Social interactions, apply a –1 die penalty to his Resolve or Composure.
Jargon (••): Your character confuses her mark using complex terminology. You may apply one relevant Specialty to any Social roll you make, even if the Specialty isn’t tied to the Skill in use.
Devil’s Advocacy (•••): Your character often poses arguments she doesn’t agree with in order to challenge a mark’s position and keep him from advancing discussion. You can reroll one failed Subterfuge roll per scene.
Salting (••••): Your character can position herself so a mark pursues a non-issue or something unimportant to her. When your character opens a Door using conversation (Persuasion, Subterfuge, Empathy, etc.) you may spend a Willpower point to immediately open another Door.
Patron’s Privilege (•••••): Your character can take advantage of her mark’s greed and zeal. When the mark does particularly well, it’s because your character was there to set him up and to subsequently tear him down. If a target regains Willpower from his Vice while your character is present, you may immediately roll Manipulation + Subterfuge to open a Door, regardless of the interval or impression level.

Fleet of Foot (• to •••)
Prerequisite: Athletics ••
Effect: Your character is remarkably quick and runs far faster than her frame suggests. She gains +1 Speed per dot; anyone pursuing her suffers a –1 die penalty per dot to any foot chase rolls.

Hobbyist Clique (••)
Prerequisite: Membership in a clique. All members must possess this Merit and the chosen Skill at ••+
Effect: Your character is part of a group of hobbyists that specializes in one area, as represented by a Skill. It may be a book club, a coven, a political party, or any other interest. Many Kindred choose to cultivate this group as a Herd as well (see p. 112). When the group’s support is available, you benefit from the 9-again quality on rolls involving the group’s chosen Skill. As well, the clique offers a +2 die bonus on any extended actions involving that Skill. Drawback: This Merit requires upkeep. You must attend at least monthly, informal meetings to maintain the benefits of Hobbyist Clique.

Indomitable (••)
Prerequisite: Resolve •••
Your character possesses an unyielding will. The powers of the supernatural have little bearing on her behavior. She can stand up to Kindred Dominate, a witch’s charms, or a ghost’s gifts of fright. Any time a supernatural creature uses a power to influence your character’s thoughts or emotions, add a +2 die bonus to the dice pool to contest it. If the roll is resisted, instead subtract a –2 die penalty from the monster’s dice pool. Note that this only affects mental influence and manipulation from a supernatural origin. A vampire with a remarkable Manipulation + Persuasion score is just as likely to convince your character to do something using mundane tricks.

Inspiring (•••)
Prerequisite: Presence •••
Effect: Your character’s passion inspires those around her to greatness. With a few words, she can redouble a group’s confidence or move them to action. Make a Presence + Expression roll. A small clique of listeners levies a –1 die penalty, a small crowd a –2, and a large crowd a –3. Listeners gain the Inspired Condition. The character may not use this Merit on herself.

Interdisciplinary Specialty (•)
Prerequisite: Skill at ••• or higher with a Specialty
Effect: Choose a Specialty that your character possesses when you purchase this Merit. You can apply the +1 die bonus from that Specialty on any Skill with at least one dot, provided it’s justifiable within the scope of the fiction. For example, a doctor with a Medicine Specialty in Anatomy may be able to use it when targeting a specific body part with Weaponry, but could not with a general strike.

Iron Will (••)
Prerequisite: Resolve ••••
Effect: Your character’s resolve is unwavering. When spending Willpower to contest or resist in a Social interaction, you may substitute your character’s Resolve for the usual Willpower bonus. If the roll is contested, roll with 8-again.

Language (•)
Effect: Your character is skilled with an additional language beyond her native tongue. Choose a language each time you buy this Merit. Your character can speak, read, and write in that language.

Library (• to •••)
Effect: Your character has access to a plethora of information about a given topic. When purchasing this Merit, choose a Mental Skill. The Library covers that purview. On any extended roll involving the Skill in question, add the dots in this Merit.
This Merit can be purchased multiple times to reflect different Skills. Its benefits can be shared by various characters with permission.

Mentor (• to •••••)
Effect: This Merit gives your character a teacher who provides advice and guidance. He acts on your character’s behalf, often in the background and sometimes without your character’s knowledge. This may be a sire, a covenant leader, or other figure. While Mentors can be highly competent, they almost always want something in return for their services. The dot rating determines the Mentor’s capabilities, and to what extent he’ll aid your character. When establishing a Mentor, determine what the Mentor wants from your character. The dot rating chosen should reflect the importance of the objective to him. A one-dot Mentor might be incapable of dealing with modern society and wants to live vicariously through your character. This might mean coming to him and telling stories of your character’s exploits. A five-dot Mentor would want something beyond price, such as an oath to procure an ancient, cursed artifact that may or may not exist in order to prevent his prophesized death. Choose three Skills the Mentor possesses. You can substitute Resources for one of these Skills. Once per session, the character may ask her Mentor for a favor. The favor must involve one of those Skills or be within the scope of his Resources. The Mentor commits to the favor (often asking for a commensurate favor in return); and if a roll is required on the Mentor’s part to secure the favor, he is automatically considered to have successes equal to his dot rating. Alternately, the player may ask the Storyteller to have the Mentor act on her character’s behalf, without her character knowing or initiating the request.

Mystery Cult Initiation (• to •••••)
Cults are far more common than the people of the World of Darkness would like to admit. Mystery cult is the catch-all term for a phenomenon ranging from secret societies couched in fraternity houses and scholarly cabals studying the magic of classical symbolism to mystical suicide cults to the God- Machine. Mystery Cult Initiation reflects membership in one of these esoteric groups. The dot rating dictates standing. One dot is an initiate, two a respected member, three a priest or organizer, four a decision-making leader, five a high priest or founder. If you wish your character to begin play in a cult, work with your Storyteller to develop the details. Designing a Mystery Cult requires three things, at bare minimum. First is a Purpose. This is the defining reason the cult exists. Usually, it’s tied in with the cult’s history and recent background. Second is a Relic. This is an item that grounds its members’ faith. For example, a piece of the God-Machine, an ancient text bound in human flesh, or the mummified flesh of a saint. The last is a Doctrine. Every cult is defined by its rules and traditions.
In addition to standing, a Mystery Cult Initiation Merit offers benefits at each level of influence. Develop these as well. The following are guidelines; use them to craft your own cults: • A Skill Specialty or one-dot Merit pertaining to the lessons taught to initiates. •• A one-dot Merit. ••• A Skill dot or a two-dot Merit (often a supernatural Merit). •••• A three-dot Merit, often supernatural in origin. ••••• A three-dot Merit or a major advantage not reflected in game traits.

Parkour (Style, • to •••••)
Prerequisites: Dexterity •••, Athletics ••
Your character is a trained and proficient free-runner. Free-running is the art of moving fluidly through urban environments with complex leaps, bounds, running tricks, and vaulting. This is the type of sport popularized in modern action films, where characters are unhindered by fences, walls, construction equipment, cars, or anything else the city puts in their ways.
Flow (•): Your character reacts instinctively to any obstacles with leaps, jumps, and scaling techniques. When in a foot chase, subtract your Parkour from the successes needed to pursue or evade. Ignore environmental penalties to Athletics rolls equal to your Parkour rating.
Cat Leap (••): Your character falls with outstanding grace. Normally, characters take one level of bashing damage for every ten feet fallen. Every success on a Dexterity + Athletics roll reduces the effective height by ten feet. However, if the character would take lethal damage from the fall, the Dexterity + Athletics roll will not reduce the damage. Parkour mitigates this limitation. Additionally, add your Parkour rating to the threshold of damage that can be removed through this roll. Parkour will not mitigate damage from a terminal velocity fall.
Wall Run (•••): When climbing, your character can run upward for some distance before having to traditionally climb. Without rolling, your character scales 10 feet + five feet per dot of Athletics as an instant action, rather than the normal 10 feet.
Expert Traceur (••••): Parkour has become second nature for your character. By spending a Willpower point, you may designate one Athletics roll to run, jump, or climb as a rote action (reroll all failed dice once). On any turn you use this ability, you may not apply your character’s Defense to oncoming attacks.
Freeflow (•••••): Your character’s Parkour is now muscle memory. She can move without thinking in a zen-like state. The character must run for at least a full minute in order to establish Freeflow. Once established, your character is capable of taking Athletics actions reflexively once per turn. By spending a point of Willpower on an Athletics roll in a foot chase, gain three successes instead of three dice.

Resources (• to •••••)
Effect: This Merit reflects your character’s disposable income. She might live in an upscale condo, but if her income is tied up in the mortgage and child support payments, she might have little money to throw around. Characters are assumed to have basic necessities without Resources. The dot rating determines the relative amount of disposable funding the character has available, depending on your particular chronicle’s setting. The same amount of money means completely different things in a game set in Silicon Valley compared to one set in the Detroit slums. One dot is a little spending money here and there. Two is a comfortable, middle class wage. Three is a nicer, upper middle class life. Four is moderately wealthy. Five is filthy rich. Every item has an Availability rating. Once per chapter, your character can procure an item at her Resources level or lower without issue. An item one Availability level above her Resources reduces her effective Resources by one dot for a full month, since she has to rapidly liquidate funds. She can procure items two Availability levels below her Resources without limit (within reason). For example, a character with Resources 4 can procure as many Availability 2 disposable cellphones as she needs.

Retainer (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has an assistant, sycophant, servant, or follower on whom she can rely. Establish who this companion is and how he was acquired. It may be as simple as a paycheck. He might owe your character his life. However it happened, your character has a hold on him. A Retainer is more reliable than a Mentor and more loyal than an Ally. On the other hand, a Retainer is a lone person, less capable and influential than the broader Merits. The Merit’s dot rating determines the relative competency of the Retainer. A one-dot Retainer is barely able to do anything of use, such as a pet that knows one useful trick or a homeless old man who does minor errands for food. A three-dot Retainer is a professional in his field, someone capable in his line of work. A five-dot Retainer is one of the best in his class. If he needs to make a roll within his field, double the Retainer dot rating and use it as a dice pool. For anything else use the dot rating as a dice pool. This Merit can be purchased multiple times to represent multiple Retainers.

Safe Place (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has somewhere she can go where she can feel secure. While she may have enemies that could attack her there, she’s prepared and has the upper hand. The dot rating reflects the security of the place. The actual location, the luxury, and the size are represented by equipment. A one-dot Safe Place might be equipped with basic security systems or a booby trap
at the windows and door. A five-dot could have a security crew, infrared scanners at every entrance, or trained dogs. Each place could be an apartment, a mansion or a hidey-hole. Unlike most Merits, multiple characters can contribute dots to a single Safe Place, combining their points into something greater. A Safe Place gives an Initiative bonus equal to the Merit dots. This only applies to a character with dots invested in the Safe Place. Any efforts to breach the Safe Place suffer a penalty equal to the Merit dots invested. If the character desires, the Safe Place can include traps that cause intruders lethal damage equal to a maximum of the Merit rating (player’s choice as to how much damage a given trap inflicts). This requires that the character has at least a dot in Crafts. The traps may be avoided with a Dexterity + Larceny roll, penalized by the Safe Place dots.

Sleight of Hand (••)
Prerequisite: Larceny •••
Effect: Your character can pick locks and pockets without even thinking about it. She can take one Larceny-based instant action reflexively in a given turn. Her Larceny actions go unnoticed unless someone is trying specifically to catch her.

Staff (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has a crew of workers or assistants at her disposal. They may be housekeepers, designers, research assistants, animators, ghouls, cheap thugs, or whatever else makes sense. For every dot in this Merit, choose one type of assistant, and one Skill. At any reasonable time, her staff can take actions using that Skill. These actions automatically garner a single success. While not useful in contested actions, this guarantees success on minor, mundane activities. Note that you may have employees without requiring the Staff Merit. Staff simply adds a mechanical advantage for those groups.

Status (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has standing, membership, authority, control over, or respect from a group or organization. This may reflect official standing or informal respect. No matter the source, your character enjoys certain privileges within that structure. Each instance of this Merit reflects standing in a different group or organization. Your character may have Status (The Luck Gang) 3, Status (Drag Racing Circuit) 2, and Status (Police) 1. Each affords its own unique benefits. As you increase dot ratings, your character rises in prominence in the relevant group. Status only allows advantages within the confines of the group reflected in the Merit. Status (Organized Crime) won’t help if your character wants an official concealed carry firearms permit, for example. Status provides a number of advantages. First, your character can apply her Status to any Social roll with those over which she has authority or sway. Second, she has access to group facilities, resources, and funding. Dependent on the group, this could be limited by red tape and requisitioning processes. It’s also dependent on the resources the particular group has available. Third, she has pull. If your character knows another character’s Mentor, Resources, Retainer, Contacts, or Allies, she can block their usage. Once per chapter, she can stop a single Merit from being used if it’s of a lower dot rating than her Status and if it makes sense for her organization to obstruct that type of person’s behavior. In our Organized Crime example, if your character knows that the chief of police has Contacts (Criminal Informant), you may opt to block usage by threatening the informant into silence. Drawback: Status requires upkeep and often regular duties. If these duties are not upheld, Status may be lost. The dots will not be accessible until the character re-establishes her standing. In our Organized Crime example, your character may be expected to pay protection money, offer tribute to a higher authority, or undertake felonious activities.

Striking Looks (• or ••)
Effect: Your character is stunning, alarming, commanding, repulsing, threatening, charming, or otherwise worthy of attention. Determine how your character looks and how people react to that. For one dot, your character gets a +1 die bonus on any Social rolls that would be influenced by his looks. For two dots, the benefit increases to +2. Depending on the particulars, this might influence Expression, Intimidation, Persuasion, Subterfuge, or other rolls. Drawback: Attention is a double-edged sword. Any rolls to spot, notice, or remember your character gain the same die bonus. Sometimes, your character will draw unwanted attention in social situations. This could cause further complications.

Sympathetic (••)
Effect: Your character is very good at letting others get close. This gives him an edge in getting what he wants. At the beginning of a social maneuvering attempt, you may choose to accept a Condition such as Leveraged or Swooning in order to immediately eliminate two of the subject’s Doors.

Taste (•)
Prerequisite: Crafts •• and a Specialty in Crafts or Expression
Effect: Your character has refined tastes and can identify minor details in fashion, food, architecture, and other forms of artistry and craftsmanship. Not only does this give her an eye for detail, it makes her a center of attention in critical circles. She can appraise items within her area of expertise.
With a Wits + Skill roll, depending on the creation in question (Expression for poetry, Crafts for architecture, for example), your character can pick out obscure details about the item that other, less discerning minds would not. For each success, ask one of the following questions, or take a +1 die bonus to any Social rolls pertaining to groups interested in the art assessed for the remainder of the scene. • What is the hidden meaning in this? • What was the creator feeling during its creation? • What’s its weakest point? • What other witness is most moved by this piece? • How should one best appreciate this piece?

Trained Observer (• or •••)
Prerequisite: Wits ••• or Composure •••
Effect: Your character has spent years in the field, catching tiny details and digging for secrets. She might not have a better chance of finding things, but she has a better chance of finding important things. Any time you make a Perception roll (usually Wits + Composure), you benefit from the 9-again quality. With the three-dot version, you get 8-again.

True Friend (•••)
Effect: Your character has a true friend. While that friend may have specific functions covered by other Merits (Allies, Contacts, Retainer, Mentor, et cetera), True Friend represents a deeper, truly trusting relationship that cannot be breached. Unless your character does something egregious to cause it, her True Friend will not betray her. The Storyteller cannot kill a True Friend as part of a plot without your express permission. Any rolls to influence a True Friend against your character suffer a –5 die penalty. In addition, once per story your character can regain one spent Willpower by having a meaningful interaction with her True Friend.

Fast-Talking (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Manipulation •••, Subterfuge •• Your character talks circles around listeners. She speaks a mile a minute and often leaves her targets reeling, but nodding in agreement.
Always Be Closing (•): With the right leading phrases, your character can direct a mark to say what she wants, when she wants. This trips the mark into vulnerable positions. When a mark contests or resists your character’s Social interactions, apply a –1 die penalty to his Resolve or Composure.
Jargon (••): Your character confuses her mark using complex terminology. You may apply one relevant Specialty to any Social roll you make, even if the Specialty isn’t tied to the Skill in use.
Devil’s Advocacy (•••): Your character often poses arguments she doesn’t agree with in order to challenge a mark’s position and keep him from advancing discussion. You can reroll one failed Subterfuge roll per scene.
Salting (••••): Your character can position herself so a mark pursues a non-issue or something unimportant to her. When your character opens a Door using conversation (Persuasion, Subterfuge, Empathy, etc.) you may spend a Willpower point to immediately open another Door.
Patron’s Privilege (•••••): Your character can take advantage of her mark’s greed and zeal. When the mark does particularly well, it’s because your character was there to set him up and to subsequently tear him down. If a target regains Willpower from his Vice while your character is present, you may immediately roll Manipulation + Subterfuge to open a Door, regardless of the interval or impression level.

Fleet of Foot (• to •••)
Prerequisite: Athletics ••
Effect: Your character is remarkably quick and runs far faster than her frame suggests. She gains +1 Speed per dot; anyone pursuing her suffers a –1 die penalty per dot to any foot chase rolls.

Hobbyist Clique (••)
Prerequisite: Membership in a clique. All members must possess this Merit and the chosen Skill at ••+
Effect: Your character is part of a group of hobbyists that specializes in one area, as represented by a Skill. It may be a book club, a coven, a political party, or any other interest. Many Kindred choose to cultivate this group as a Herd as well (see p. 112). When the group’s support is available, you benefit from the 9-again quality on rolls involving the group’s chosen Skill. As well, the clique offers a +2 die bonus on any extended actions involving that Skill. Drawback: This Merit requires upkeep. You must attend at least monthly, informal meetings to maintain the benefits of Hobbyist Clique.

Inspiring (•••)
Prerequisite: Presence •••
Effect: Your character’s passion inspires those around her to greatness. With a few words, she can redouble a group’s confidence or move them to action. Make a Presence + Expression roll. A small clique of listeners levies a –1 die penalty, a small crowd a –2, and a large crowd a –3. Listeners gain the Inspired Condition. The character may not use this Merit on herself.

Interdisciplinary Specialty (•)
Prerequisite: Skill at ••• or higher with a Specialty
Effect: Choose a Specialty that your character possesses when you purchase this Merit. You can apply the +1 die bonus from that Specialty on any Skill with at least one dot, provided it’s justifiable within the scope of the fiction. For example, a doctor with a Medicine Specialty in Anatomy may be able to use it when targeting a specific body part with Weaponry, but could not with a general strike.

Iron Will (••)
Prerequisite: Resolve ••••
Effect: Your character’s resolve is unwavering. When spending Willpower to contest or resist in a Social interaction, you may substitute your character’s Resolve for the usual Willpower bonus. If the roll is contested, roll with 8-again.

Language (•)
Effect: Your character is skilled with an additional language beyond her native tongue. Choose a language each time you buy this Merit. Your character can speak, read, and write in that language.

Library (• to •••)
Effect: Your character has access to a plethora of information about a given topic. When purchasing this Merit, choose a Mental Skill. The Library covers that purview. On any extended roll involving the Skill in question, add the dots in this Merit.
This Merit can be purchased multiple times to reflect different Skills. Its benefits can be shared by various characters with permission.

Mentor (• to •••••)
Effect: This Merit gives your character a teacher who provides advice and guidance. He acts on your character’s behalf, often in the background and sometimes without your character’s knowledge. This may be a sire, a covenant leader, or other figure. While Mentors can be highly competent, they almost always want something in return for their services. The dot rating determines the Mentor’s capabilities, and to what extent he’ll aid your character. When establishing a Mentor, determine what the Mentor wants from your character. The dot rating chosen should reflect the importance of the objective to him. A one-dot Mentor might be incapable of dealing with modern society and wants to live vicariously through your character. This might mean coming to him and telling stories of your character’s exploits. A five-dot Mentor would want something beyond price, such as an oath to procure an ancient, cursed artifact that may or may not exist in order to prevent his prophesized death. Choose three Skills the Mentor possesses. You can substitute Resources for one of these Skills. Once per session, the character may ask her Mentor for a favor. The favor must involve one of those Skills or be within the scope of his Resources. The Mentor commits to the favor (often asking for a commensurate favor in return); and if a roll is required on the Mentor’s part to secure the favor, he is automatically considered to have successes equal to his dot rating. Alternately, the player may ask the Storyteller to have the Mentor act on her character’s behalf, without her character knowing or initiating the request.

Mystery Cult Initiation (• to •••••)
Cults are far more common than the people of the World of Darkness would like to admit. Mystery cult is the catch-all term for a phenomenon ranging from secret societies couched in fraternity houses and scholarly cabals studying the magic of classical symbolism to mystical suicide cults to the God- Machine. Mystery Cult Initiation reflects membership in one of these esoteric groups. The dot rating dictates standing. One dot is an initiate, two a respected member, three a priest or organizer, four a decision-making leader, five a high priest or founder. If you wish your character to begin play in a cult, work with your Storyteller to develop the details. Designing a Mystery Cult requires three things, at bare minimum. First is a Purpose. This is the defining reason the cult exists. Usually, it’s tied in with the cult’s history and recent background. Second is a Relic. This is an item that grounds its members’ faith. For example, a piece of the God-Machine, an ancient text bound in human flesh, or the mummified flesh of a saint. The last is a Doctrine. Every cult is defined by its rules and traditions.
In addition to standing, a Mystery Cult Initiation Merit offers benefits at each level of influence. Develop these as well. The following are guidelines; use them to craft your own cults: • A Skill Specialty or one-dot Merit pertaining to the lessons taught to initiates. •• A one-dot Merit. ••• A Skill dot or a two-dot Merit (often a supernatural Merit). •••• A three-dot Merit, often supernatural in origin. ••••• A three-dot Merit or a major advantage not reflected in game traits.

Parkour (Style, • to •••••)
Prerequisites: Dexterity •••, Athletics ••
Your character is a trained and proficient free-runner. Free-running is the art of moving fluidly through urban environments with complex leaps, bounds, running tricks, and vaulting. This is the type of sport popularized in modern action films, where characters are unhindered by fences, walls, construction equipment, cars, or anything else the city puts in their ways.
Flow (•): Your character reacts instinctively to any obstacles with leaps, jumps, and scaling techniques. When in a foot chase, subtract your Parkour from the successes needed to pursue or evade. Ignore environmental penalties to Athletics rolls equal to your Parkour rating.
Cat Leap (••): Your character falls with outstanding grace. Normally, characters take one level of bashing damage for every ten feet fallen. Every success on a Dexterity + Athletics roll reduces the effective height by ten feet. However, if the character would take lethal damage from the fall, the Dexterity + Athletics roll will not reduce the damage. Parkour mitigates this limitation. Additionally, add your Parkour rating to the threshold of damage that can be removed through this roll. Parkour will not mitigate damage from a terminal velocity fall.
Wall Run (•••): When climbing, your character can run upward for some distance before having to traditionally climb. Without rolling, your character scales 10 feet + five feet per dot of Athletics as an instant action, rather than the normal 10 feet.
Expert Traceur (••••): Parkour has become second nature for your character. By spending a Willpower point, you may designate one Athletics roll to run, jump, or climb as a rote action (reroll all failed dice once). On any turn you use this ability, you may not apply your character’s Defense to oncoming attacks.
Freeflow (•••••): Your character’s Parkour is now muscle memory. She can move without thinking in a zen-like state. The character must run for at least a full minute in order to establish Freeflow. Once established, your character is capable of taking Athletics actions reflexively once per turn. By spending a point of Willpower on an Athletics roll in a foot chase, gain three successes instead of three dice.

Resources (• to •••••)
Effect: This Merit reflects your character’s disposable income. She might live in an upscale condo, but if her income is tied up in the mortgage and child support payments, she might have little money to throw around. Characters are assumed to have basic necessities without Resources. The dot rating determines the relative amount of disposable funding the character has available, depending on your particular chronicle’s setting. The same amount of money means completely different things in a game set in Silicon Valley compared to one set in the Detroit slums. One dot is a little spending money here and there. Two is a comfortable, middle class wage. Three is a nicer, upper middle class life. Four is moderately wealthy. Five is filthy rich. Every item has an Availability rating. Once per chapter, your character can procure an item at her Resources level or lower without issue. An item one Availability level above her Resources reduces her effective Resources by one dot for a full month, since she has to rapidly liquidate funds. She can procure items two Availability levels below her Resources without limit (within reason). For example, a character with Resources 4 can procure as many Availability 2 disposable cellphones as she needs.

Retainer (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has an assistant, sycophant, servant, or follower on whom she can rely. Establish who this companion is and how he was acquired. It may be as simple as a paycheck. He might owe your character his life. However it happened, your character has a hold on him. A Retainer is more reliable than a Mentor and more loyal than an Ally. On the other hand, a Retainer is a lone person, less capable and influential than the broader Merits. The Merit’s dot rating determines the relative competency of the Retainer. A one-dot Retainer is barely able to do anything of use, such as a pet that knows one useful trick or a homeless old man who does minor errands for food. A three-dot Retainer is a professional in his field, someone capable in his line of work. A five-dot Retainer is one of the best in his class. If he needs to make a roll within his field, double the Retainer dot rating and use it as a dice pool. For anything else use the dot rating as a dice pool. This Merit can be purchased multiple times to represent multiple Retainers.

Safe Place (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has somewhere she can go where she can feel secure. While she may have enemies that could attack her there, she’s prepared and has the upper hand. The dot rating reflects the security of the place. The actual location, the luxury, and the size are represented by equipment. A one-dot Safe Place might be equipped with basic security systems or a booby trap
at the windows and door. A five-dot could have a security crew, infrared scanners at every entrance, or trained dogs. Each place could be an apartment, a mansion or a hidey-hole. Unlike most Merits, multiple characters can contribute dots to a single Safe Place, combining their points into something greater. A Safe Place gives an Initiative bonus equal to the Merit dots. This only applies to a character with dots invested in the Safe Place. Any efforts to breach the Safe Place suffer a penalty equal to the Merit dots invested. If the character desires, the Safe Place can include traps that cause intruders lethal damage equal to a maximum of the Merit rating (player’s choice as to how much damage a given trap inflicts). This requires that the character has at least a dot in Crafts. The traps may be avoided with a Dexterity + Larceny roll, penalized by the Safe Place dots.

Sleight of Hand (••)
Prerequisite: Larceny •••
Effect: Your character can pick locks and pockets without even thinking about it. She can take one Larceny-based instant action reflexively in a given turn. Her Larceny actions go unnoticed unless someone is trying specifically to catch her.

Staff (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has a crew of workers or assistants at her disposal. They may be housekeepers, designers, research assistants, animators, ghouls, cheap thugs, or whatever else makes sense. For every dot in this Merit, choose one type of assistant, and one Skill. At any reasonable time, her staff can take actions using that Skill. These actions automatically garner a single success. While not useful in contested actions, this guarantees success on minor, mundane activities. Note that you may have employees without requiring the Staff Merit. Staff simply adds a mechanical advantage for those groups.

Status (• to •••••)
Effect: Your character has standing, membership, authority, control over, or respect from a group or organization. This may reflect official standing or informal respect. No matter the source, your character enjoys certain privileges within that structure. Each instance of this Merit reflects standing in a different group or organization. Your character may have Status (The Luck Gang) 3, Status (Drag Racing Circuit) 2, and Status (Police) 1. Each affords its own unique benefits. As you increase dot ratings, your character rises in prominence in the relevant group. Status only allows advantages within the confines of the group reflected in the Merit. Status (Organized Crime) won’t help if your character wants an official concealed carry firearms permit, for example. Status provides a number of advantages. First, your character can apply her Status to any Social roll with those over which she has authority or sway. Second, she has access to group facilities, resources, and funding. Dependent on the group, this could be limited by red tape and requisitioning processes. It’s also dependent on the resources the particular group has available. Third, she has pull. If your character knows another character’s Mentor, Resources, Retainer, Contacts, or Allies, she can block their usage. Once per chapter, she can stop a single Merit from being used if it’s of a lower dot rating than her Status and if it makes sense for her organization to obstruct that type of person’s behavior. In our Organized Crime example, if your character knows that the chief of police has Contacts (Criminal Informant), you may opt to block usage by threatening the informant into silence. Drawback: Status requires upkeep and often regular duties. If these duties are not upheld, Status may be lost. The dots will not be accessible until the character re-establishes her standing. In our Organized Crime example, your character may be expected to pay protection money, offer tribute to a higher authority, or undertake felonious activities.

Striking Looks (• or ••)
Effect: Your character is stunning, alarming, commanding, repulsing, threatening, charming, or otherwise worthy of attention. Determine how your character looks and how people react to that. For one dot, your character gets a +1 die bonus on any Social rolls that would be influenced by his looks. For two dots, the benefit increases to +2. Depending on the particulars, this might influence Expression, Intimidation, Persuasion, Subterfuge, or other rolls. Drawback: Attention is a double-edged sword. Any rolls to spot, notice, or remember your character gain the same die bonus. Sometimes, your character will draw unwanted attention in social situations. This could cause further complications.

Sympathetic (••)
Effect: Your character is very good at letting others get close. This gives him an edge in getting what he wants. At the beginning of a social maneuvering attempt, you may choose to accept a Condition such as Leveraged or Swooning in order to immediately eliminate two of the subject’s Doors.

Taste (•)
Prerequisite: Crafts •• and a Specialty in Crafts or Expression
Effect: Your character has refined tastes and can identify minor details in fashion, food, architecture, and other forms of artistry and craftsmanship. Not only does this give her an eye for detail, it makes her a center of attention in critical circles. She can appraise items within her area of expertise.
With a Wits + Skill roll, depending on the creation in question (Expression for poetry, Crafts for architecture, for example), your character can pick out obscure details about the item that other, less discerning minds would not. For each success, ask one of the following questions, or take a +1 die bonus to any Social rolls pertaining to groups interested in the art assessed for the remainder of the scene. • What is the hidden meaning in this? • What was the creator feeling during its creation? • What’s its weakest point? • What other witness is most moved by this piece? • How should one best appreciate this piece?

Trained Observer (• or •••)
Prerequisite: Wits ••• or Composure •••
Effect: Your character has spent years in the field, catching tiny details and digging for secrets. She might not have a better chance of finding things, but she has a better chance of finding important things. Any time you make a Perception roll (usually Wits + Composure), you benefit from the 9-again quality. With the three-dot version, you get 8-again.

True Friend (•••)
Effect: Your character has a true friend. While that friend may have specific functions covered by other Merits (Allies, Contacts, Retainer, Mentor, et cetera), True Friend represents a deeper, truly trusting relationship that cannot be breached. Unless your character does something egregious to cause it, her True Friend will not betray her. The Storyteller cannot kill a True Friend as part of a plot without your express permission. Any rolls to influence a True Friend against your character suffer a –5 die penalty. In addition, once per story your character can regain one spent Willpower by having a meaningful interaction with her True Friend.

Mortal and Society Merits (Backgrounds)

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