Blood Magic

Learning Rituals

Learning Necromancy and Thaumaturgy rituals in play

Learning a ritual in play can be achieved in a number of ways. We have chosen to use the rules here given in V20 Rites of the Blood.

  • The first step in learning a ritual in play is to start a job stating the name of the ritual, what IC/narrative steps you are taking to learn it, and then (if necessary) to roll out the results.
    • If you are learning from an IC teacher such as an approved NPC Mentor or another PC with an Instruction equal to the ritual level, you should note as such in the job. You may then proceed to the next step.
    • If you do not have access to the above, you must discover the ritual yourself. This involves:
      • A vaguely plausible method of attempting to learn the rite. An example would be being granted conditional access to the Tremere Chantry Library, even if you don’t have the Keys to the Library Merit.
      • You must then commence an extended Intelligence + Investigation vs (Ritual Level + 3) requiring a total of Ritual Level x 5 successes. Each roll requires one RL week.
        • You may substitute Intelligence + Academics, if you have the Research specialty for Academics.
        • If you are a Tremere PC with the ‘Keys to the Library’ merit, you may add as many dice to this roll as you have merit dots – provided your merit rating is equal to or higher than the ritual being sought.
        • You may rarely gain the opportunity to attempt to discover rituals outside your ‘school’, depending on your participation in various IC events or other dealings. Your Director will handle the specifics, in that case.
      • Proceed to the second step when you have accumulated enough successes (you don’t need to wait an extra week).
  • Having discovered the ritual, the second step involves learning the ritual itself.
    • This requires an extended Intelligence + Occult vs (Ritual Level + 3) requiring a total of Ritual Level x 5 successes. Each roll requires one RL week.
      • If you are a Tremere PC with an approved Mentor NPC (i.e., a Mentor that the Director agrees has and is willing to teach this ritual), you may add your Mentor dice to the roll.
      • If you are learning from another PC, you may add your teacher’s Instruction rating to this roll.
      • If you are a Tremere PC with the Keys to the Library Merit, you may add as many dice to this roll as you have merit dots – provided your merit rating is equal to or higher than the ritual being sought.
    • In the extraordinary event of studying a ritual from a different school (which likely requires either a willing PC teacher, or somehow acquiring or stealing access to their arcane lore), you must take extra effort to reframe the ritual in the trappings of the ritualist’s own school. This doubles or even triples the number of successes required to learn the ritual.
      • Example #1; a Tremere Apprentice has decided to risk learning the Anarch Thaumaturgy ritual Blood Crystal and has somehow managed to successfully discover it. They must now repurpose the ritual to work with a Tremere understanding. This increases the number of successes required to learn the ritual from <ritual level> x 5 to <ritual level> x 10.
      • Example #2; a Tremere apprentice has somehow stumbled upon a scrap of Koldunic knowledge (or even more bizarrely, somehow acquired a teacher) that enables them to attempt to learn the level one Koldunic Sorcery ritual of Reawakening the Dead Water. Since Koldunic Sorcery is entirely outside the Tremere Thaumaturgy school, it requires <ritual level> x 15 successes to successfully learn.
    • Immediately proceed to the third step when you have accumulated enough successes.
  • Having now discovered and learned the ritual, the third and final step is paying for it.
    • The base XP cost for a ritual native to your in-Clan Discipline and ‘school’, (such as a Tremere Warlock learning a Tremere Thaumaturgy ritual) is <ritual level> x 2.
    • The base XP cost for adapting a ritual that isn’t native to your ‘school’ , yet still related to your in-Clan Discipline (such as a Tremere Warlock with Thaumaturgy attempting to learn an Anarch Thaumaturgy ritual) is <ritual level> x 3.
      • This is also the minimum that characters pay who somehow acquire Thaumaturgy or something like Necromancy as an out of clan Discipline.
    • The base XP cost for attempting to learn a ritual that is neither native to your Clan nor ‘school’ (such as a Tremere Warlock attempting to learn a Koldunic Sorcery or Necromancy ritual) is <ritual level> x 4.
  • You may subtract 1 XP from the cost for the ritual for every logged scene, from the very beginning of discovery and throughout learning, that related to acquiring mastery of the ritual.
    • You may subtract up to half the cost of the ritual in this fashion.
    • If you are a Tremere PC with a high enough Keys to the Library Merit, you may subtract an additional 1 XP from the cost of the ritual.

Ritual Mechanics

The fundamental mechanics for Blood Sorcery Rituals is discussed on page 230 of the V20 Core book. In brief:

  • A Ritual requires a successful Intelligence + Occult vs <Ritual level + 3> with only one success required. Failures result in strangeness, botches result in Very Bad Things™. Additionally, Rituals often require ingredients and/or the expenditure of vitae.

The V20 Rites of the Blood book is used here, and it further expands on the thematic and mechanical properties of Blood Sorcery Rituals, establishing the Principles of Blood, Will, Knowledge, Identity and Sympathetic Magic.

The Principle of Blood is easiest to understand. Simply put, blood magic is completely dependent on the application of Kindred vitae. No non-vampire can ever work blood magic as it is performed by Kindred. Ghouls and revenants who receive extensive training from their sorcerous regnants (and after many years of study) may command a few minor paths and rituals. However, even this simple mastery requires the regnant’s vitae coursing through their veins.

  • Without exception, every power associated with every blood magic path requires the expenditure of at least one point of vitae.

The Principle of Will is equally straightforward. Every manifestation of blood sorcery is the result of the vampire focusing and exerting his will to bring the effect into existence. It is important to underline that blood sorcery requires the exertion of will to succeed – not the faith of belief. Actual religious devotion is not a requirement, although there are sects and cults who confuse this (potentially leading to a heightened risk of malefic possession).

  • Mechanically, the Principle of Will means that all activation rolls for blood magic path powers are Willpower rolls.
    • It is impossible for any blood magician to accidentally unleash a blood magic effect, such as in frenzy.
    • Although successful blood magic is highly unlikely to deviate from the magician’s desired result, botches can be catastrophically harmful. This may be reflected in the loss of a temporary or permanent dot of Willpower, or some other effect at the Storyteller’s discretion.

The Principle of Knowledge holds that a vampire cannot learn any form of blood magic either intuitively or through observation of another practitioner. Each aspiring magician must actively study the occult lore associated with her school and develop a deep empirical knowledge of the arcane practices that go into each path and each ritual.

  • The Principle of Knowledge has its greatest relevance in the area of rituals, as almost all rolls to enact rituals are Intelligence + Occult, with the exception of certain obscure schools.
  • Whichever path the sorcerer studies first informs his understanding of all other paths. As such, no secondary path rating can ever exceed his primary path rating.

Next, the Principle of Identity defines the level of connection that allows the blood magician to properly target his magic. When invoking the powers associated with most paths, the magician must direct his attention to himself or to some personage or thing within his field of view.

  • It is generally impossible to target something the magician sees on television or through other means with a Path effect. Indeed, for some Path effects, even line-of-sight is insufficient and the magician must be especially near or even physically touch the target.
    • A noted exception are some Anarch ‘hacktivist’ thaumaturges, who are able to push against the edges of this limitation by focusing their magic through ritually-prepared CCTV cameras.
  • Rituals allow for greater range, but even they are limited in that the blood magician must supernaturally identify a distant target.
    • In ancient times, this could be achieved by invoking True Names, but the power of such naming has diminished over the centuries, and tonight, only spirits and a handful of similar, ancient creatures can be bound in such a manner.
      • Many schools of blood magic traffic in ancient lists detailing the True Names of angels, demons, totems and other spirits, especially the Tremere.
    • For modern, material beings, blood may serve instead.
      • This is especially true for vampires, and a single point of vitae properly incorporated into a ritual can allow the ritualist to strike her target across any distance.
    • For most other rituals and circumstances, the connection between a ritualist and their target is achieved through sympathetic magic.

Finally, the lesser Principles of Contagion and Sympathy, often seen as subsidiary to the Principle of Identity, collectively describe what is meant by the phenomena of sympathetic magic: The process by which a blood magician attempts to target someone or something beyond his immediate presence.

  • The Principle of Contagion states that things that were once connected or once part of a single whole retain a link even after they are separated.
    • The stronger the physical or emotional connection was during its existence, the stronger the link after separation.
    • When using a ritual against a distant target, it is helpful to incorporate something that was once part of the target, or in their possession. Ideally, the most powerful such element would be the target’s own blood. Less intimate connections impose a correspondingly steeper dice penalty on the ritual roll.
Difficulty ModifierSample Connections
-1A point of the target’s blood or a severed body part at least as large as a finger.
No modifierA lock of hair, a fingernail, or any bodily fluid other than blood. A magical item created (or modified) by the target also satisfies this degree of connection.
+1A physical object which the target considers a prized possession.
+2A physical object which was owned and regularly handled by the target within a week of casting. An item containing a recent fingerprint from the target. A point of vitae or a severed body part from a blood relative of the target.
+3A physical object which was handled by the target at least once within the last week.
+4A recent picture of the target.
+5The target’s name written on a piece of paper.
  • The Principle of Sympathy can be summarized by the aphorism that “like produces like.” Thus, two things which are similar in some ways can, through magic, be made similar in other ways as well. The ‘voodoo doll’ fetishes associated with some Necromancy schools are a prime example of this principle.
    • The vampire must craft the effigy to be used in the ritual with an Intelligence + Artistry roll (difficulty 8).
      • A sympathetic element (see the chart above) must be incorporated in the doll’s construction, such as the target’s name or a lock of their hair.
    • Every success on the Intelligence + Artistry roll reduces the difficulty modifier given by a weak connection to the subsequent Intelligence + Occult roll by 1.
      • Successes on this roll cannot modify the difficulty by more than the vampire’s rating in his highest blood magic path.
      • It can not reduce the penalty imposed by a weak connection to below zero.