Clans and Covenants as a Matrix
In working on Vampire: The Requiem, one of the things I wanted to offer players was a greater pool of character relationships than was available in Masquerade. In Masquerade, your character creation option is very linear. The individual pieces are broad, but by and large, a character’s clan defines a great deal of his interaction with Kindred society. Your geography largely determines your sect (a decision made by the Storyteller, in most cases), and within that sect’s framework, you pick a clan. Sure, you can cite exceptions, but for the most part, this is how it works because this is how the setting assumes it works. You can be the one Sabbat Lasombra in a Camarilla city if you want, and if the Storyteller agrees, but the social structures assumed by the Masquerade setting regard such a thing as a rarity.
So for Requiem, I wanted to expand that a bit, but I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t paralyze the player with the paradox of choice.
Practically, I built a matrix that drew upon one of the parts people really liked about Masquerade: the ideologies. The romanticized arch-traditionalism of the Camarilla and the apocalyptic libertarianism of the Sabbat both gave people fungible philosophies that they could cleave to that gave texture to their storytelling, and those of the other sects did, too. We brainstormed and went back and forth a great deal about what concepts semi-organized groups of vampires organized around — the covenants. Religion, naturally, formed the foundation of two of them. More secular politics formed two others. The third became the weird theosophy of the Ordo Dracul, which had a distinctly Gothic tilt. (These didn’t just spring into being, however. We originally had a wheel set up that opposed certain ideologies and was sympathetic with others. When it came down to giving these cogent belief structures that balanced so neatly, however, well, that didn’t work as well. I think part of this came as a result of over-structuring the social dynamic. I wish it would have worked out smoothly because I love the visual arrangement of such information, but it just didn’t result in vampire doctrines that made any sense.)
The other axis of the matrix was a no-brainer. That was where the clans went. The idea of vampire clans is so central to White Wolf’s take on Vampire that I knew I wanted it to carry over from Masquerade into requiem. (Whether that’s actually true is another discussion, but I still stand by it.)
The combination of these character-definition keystones lent themselves to good mechanisms for narrative drama. What do you think and what do you do about it? What are you “born” (clan) and what do you “choose” (covenant)? In parallel to other roleplaying games, what’s your race and class? The result is a matrix of 25 possible character archetypes instead of a subset of a spectrum of 13.