Many aspects of a character’s life are critical to their continued existence, yet they do not make for dramatic roleplaying during a game. It might be important for a character to maintain their holdings, learn Disciplines, and see to other common tasks, but these are generally dull to play out during a game. Instead, players use downtime actions to define their characters’ night-to-night activities. These downtime actions describe what your character is doing between game sessions, such as hunting to maintain their blood supply, spying on another character, carrying out activities to aid the Anarch Revolt, or learning a Discipline through research or physical exertion.
Nights pass quickly, even for immortal beings. Time is cluttered with many activities, and a vampire has a limited amount of time to take care of business before dawn. Players log their downtime actions with the Storytellers, who collects all actions and then disseminates results as appropriate.
All characters have 12 downtime actions for the time that passes in-character between events, which is approximately one year (meaning that a downtime action represents the main activity undertaken over about a month). These actions must be spent between events, and they do not roll over to the next downtime period. There are ways to acquire additional downtime actions, such as purchasing dots of the Science skill.
Each downtime action consists of three distinct elements:
- Location (see below)
- Type of action (chosen from a list provided below, grouped by types)
- Description (no more than one sentence of reasonable length)
There will also be a general-purpose Notes section at the end in case you wish to expand on your OC goals – e.g. if your character is intentionally underperforming or doing something very specific and you want to ensure we understand.
If you do not submit a downtime, we will assume that your character goes to their home Domain, spends enough time Feeding that they are full, does anything required to spend their XP how they want to, and then spends the rest of their time Patrolling. This is intended to allow people to effectively “opt out” of the downtime side of the game without suffering any detriment.
After the Storytellers receive these actions (via the online form we will provide), we will decide if challenges, extra details, or similar are required to successfully complete the downtime actions. The Storytellers will then adjudicate the results accordingly and report them back to players in writing. Some elements may be reported to some or all players whose characters were in the relevant Domain at the relevant time.
Please be aware that we do not require or allow “downtime scenes”, i.e. Storyteller-supported interpersonal character roleplay away from the main sessions of the game, especially where this addresses or seeks to resolve plots or involves direct interaction with NPCs. Players may choose to roleplay with one another as their Blood & Fire characters between events, so long as it makes sense in-character, but this will not attract any XP and will not be adjudicated or endorsed by the Storytellers. This may include optional small scenes (whether in person, over videocall, in collaborative fiction, or by email, as appropriate) where the characters are in the same place at the same time, in-character correspondence (see below), or player-run events for a limited subset of the playerbase. It may be possible for NPCs to attend such player-run events by invitation, but this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. In the case of optional small scenes or player-run events, we request that players keep the Storytellers informed of any significant developments so that we can decide how to incorporate them into our plot writing.
Part of the value of the Muster to the Anarchs is that it allows them to plan for the year ahead. We intend for downtime to support uptime and provide opportunities and fun anecdotes, but not to allow things to be resolved off-screen. As such, characters may only die in downtime if their player explicitly agrees to it – we would prefer to see them arrive at Muster bloodied and wounded, and have any final player character-versus-player character confrontation play out where everyone can see it.
Communication and Correspondence
You must not directly correspond with other players in-character, as postal services in Europe in the late 15th century were few and far between – much less speedy and reliable than email! Instead, you should send IC correspondence to our email address (in an editable format), including details of the Domain you sent it from, the Domain where you believe the recipient to be, and any precautions you are taking to protect your correspondence or ensure its safe arrival. We will forward it onto the recipient (if appropriate), noting how long it has taken to arrive (based on historical accounts of messengers in this period being able to travel from Bruges to Riga in two months). This serves to limit how frequently correspondence can be exchanged, and also opens it up to interception (see below).
You can write to NPCs if you wish, but we do not offer any guarantee that they will reply. Likewise there is no obligation or expectation on any of our players to participate in correspondence between games.
A key element to downtime is geography – a character must be present in the correct Domain to perform the task they wish to perform. Travel is possible but takes time (and therefore downtime actions) depending on the method used. We assume that characters are able to return to their home Domain very rapidly after events if they wish; otherwise they start the downtime period in the Domain in which the event occurred.
Vaulderie On The Road
Vinculum ratings vary depending on how frequently Cainites have participated in the Vaulderie together. If your character has either the Vaulderie Merit, or the Keeper of a Sacred Text Merit, they may perform the Vaulderie as often or as rarely as you choose, from never through to every few days. You should specify in your downtime submission how often you are doing this, and with whom you’re willing to perform the Vaulderie, as we will assess everyone’s degree of participation and update vinculum ratings at the end of each downtime. For this reason, we encourage Affinities to plan their downtimes together and aim to be in the same Domain(s) for most of the downtime period, to avoid letting their vinculum ratings slip too low.
- Vinculum rating 1: Permanent baseline, you only engage in the Vaulderie together annually or less frequently (including Cainites you only encounter at Musters)
- Vinculum rating 2: You’ve engaged in the Vaulderie together more than once in the last year (e.g. once at Muster and once during downtime)
- Vinculum rating 3: You’ve engaged in the Vaulderie together during at least 10 of the last 12 months, never missing two consecutive months (coordinated downtimes)
- Vinculum rating 4: You’ve engaged in the Vaulderie together weekly for the last three months (heavily coordinated downtimes in the same Domain for the last three actions)
- Vinculum rating 5: You’ve engaged in the Vaulderie together every few days for the last three months (identical downtimes for the last three actions)
- Acquiring something beyond your means: if you don’t have enough dots of the Resources background and want to buy an expensive item (like an English longbow or a war-horse), you may seek to do so legitimately by begging favours and earning money over one or more downtimes.
- Crafting a piece of equipment: you spend a downtime action and use your Crafts skill to design, build, or repair a single piece of equipment. This may require a static challenge to succeed. Please remember that significant technological developments are not part of this game, so won’t be allowed.
- Discipline Use: some Discipline powers state that they require the use of one or more downtime actions, and this is the relevant action for that.
- Feeding: you must spend 1 downtime action between games feeding. If you fail to do so, you enter the next game at half your normal Blood pool (rounded up).
- In some situations, you may need to spend more than 1 downtime action feeding, e.g. if you’re in a Camarilla Domain or a Domain where the Inquisition are very active, and you don’t want to attract their attention (if you don’t mind attracting their attention then you don’t need to spend the extra action to be careful, but that may come with other consequences!)
- The Herd Background can remove the need to spend downtime actions feeding
- A successful feeding action fully heals you of normal damage and of up to 5 aggravated damage
- Infiltrate a location: you can infiltrate a given location and undertake a single, simple mission (steal a particular item, plant some evidence, rescue a prisoner) with a downtime action. This assumes a reasonable level of planning and finesse on your character’s part. Failure may result in negative ongoing consequences for your character!
- Investigating: you may use one (or more!) downtime action to investigate potential leads, enemies, strange occurrences, potential Alternate Identities, or any other relevant knowledge or hidden information. This will involve the use of appropriate Skills, Backgrounds, Merits, and possibly Disciplines, and may require a static or opposed challenge to succeed.
- In order to determine if a character is using an Alternate Identity, you may choose to spend a number of downtime actions investigating a character under suspicion, researching their bona fides in their (supposed) home Domain. After you have spent your chosen number of actions, the Storytellers will make a challenge using your Mental attribute + Investigation skill versus the target’s Mental attribute + Subterfuge skill. If you succeed in this challenge, and you have spent a number of downtime actions equal to or greater than your target’s dots of that Alternate Identity, you discover the target character’s true identity.
- If you fail the test, if you have not spent a number of downtime actions that equal or exceed your target’s dots of that Alternate Identity, or if your target is not using an Alternate Identity, the identity appears legitimate. There is no way to establish in advance how many downtime actions are needed to thoroughly investigate someone, or if such an investigation is even warranted, except to say that a Cainite Alternate Identity is necessarily either 4 or 5 dots.
- Merit Use: some Merits state that they require the use of one or more downtime actions, and this is the relevant action for that
- Patrolling: you may spend one or more downtime actions patrolling a given Domain, which will give you a chance to notice anything happening there at that time, and possibly stop it depending on context
- Perform a Ritual: some Rituals state that they require the use of one or more downtime actions, and this is the relevant action for that
- Recover Overtaxed Resources: An individual with the Resources background may overtax their resources, allowing them to spend more than their allotted amount of money in a given month. A character who overtaxes their resources may spend up to twice the listed amount of money in a single month, but doing so taxes their investments and requires time to recover fiscally. When a character overtaxes their resources, their Resource background is reduced by two levels (minimum zero) for the next three events. The character may cut this recovery time in half by spending 3 downtime actions taking a personal interest in the recovery of their financial investments.
- Re-establish a lost Haven: if your Haven is somehow destroyed or compromised, you can spend one downtime action to either establish an equivalent one in the Domain you’re currently in, or receive a refund of the XP spent on the Background
- Service a Flaw: some Flaws require you to spend one or more downtime actions fulfulling their requirements, and this is the relevant action for that
- Skill Use: some Skills have special effects when you spend downtime actions to use them:
- Crafts: A character with the Crafts skill may temporarily increase their Resources by spending 2 downtime actions (one to craft the item and one to sell the item). This increases the character’s Resources background by 1 for the rest of the downtime, even if the character does not have current dots in the Resources background, up to a maximum of 5.
- Legerdemain: Characters with this skill can use a downtime action to apply the Security advantage for another character’s Haven background for free. This effect lasts until the end of the next downtime period.
- Medicine: By spending a downtime action studying the target’s blood, hair, skin, or remains (including ash) with proper equipment, you can determine a creature’s supernatural type (if any). Characters who are familiar with vampires can also determine clan and generation. With use of proper equipment, you can preserve blood (including vampiric blood) for up to one month per dot in the Medicine skill.
- Performance: A character with the Performance skill may temporarily increase their Fame by spending 2 downtime actions (one to promote the upcoming performance, and one to perform). This increases the character’s Fame background by 1 for the rest of the downtime, even if the character does not have current dots in the Fame background, up to a maximum of 5.
- Science: A character with Science receives 1 additional downtime action, which can only be spent on a downtime action somehow relevant to one of their fields of study. For example, a character with Science: Enigmas might be able to spend this additional downtime action to solve a riddle, or a character with Science: Theology might be able to write a scathing critique of a heretical text. However, neither skill would generate an additional downtime action to investigate a spooky house. For every additional field of study that the character possesses at a rating of 3 or more dots, they gain another bonus downtime action, which can only be spent on a task relevant to one of their fields of study.
Any of the static challenges required by the actions in this category can receive a wild card bonus from clever or creative use of appropriate Backgrounds, Disciplines, Merits, Rituals, or Techniques. It may be helpful to read about the Strategic Game and sorties in order to understand the effect of some of these options.
Three concepts described below warrant some additional explanation. They are qualities that each Domain has, rated from 0 to 5. These concepts are Inquisition Presence, Sedition, and Tyranny. The Spymasters’ War Council will be provided with information about these factors for the Domains of Europe at each event to help inform decision-making.
Inquisition Presence reflects how active the vampire-hunting Shadow Inquisition is in the Domain, with a rating of 0 indicating that there are no members of the Shadow Inquisition in the Domain, and a rating of 5 indicating that the Domain is absolutely crawling with Inquisitors. The higher the level of Inquisition Presence in a Domain, the smaller the Inquisition Attention clocks will be during sorties in that Domain, meaning they arrive more quickly and with less provocation.
Sedition is a measure of ambient resistance to a Domain’s rulers, and the strength of Anarch organisation. A combination of disgruntled neonates, ancillae defectors, and guerrilla Affinities form the backbone of the Anarch Revolt, and cultivating these local contacts often means the difference between victory and defeat. A rating of 0 indicates a Domain completely opposed to the Anarch Revolt, where even the neonates are against the cause. A rating of 5 indicates that a Domain is on the very brink of revolution. It is worth noting that non-Anarch subversive elements like Baali and Mesu Bedshet will contribute to a Domain’s Sedition but will likely also cause problems for the Revolt down the line. It is worth noting that Sedition in Anarch-held territory instead represents counter-revolutionary elements who seek to undermine the Revolt.
Tyranny is a measure of the strength and stability of a Domain’s rulers, and their ability to crack down on Anarch activities, allies, and communities. In a high-Tyranny Domain, the local Cainite authorities are vicious, focused, and dangerous, both enthusiastic and capable of acting directly against the Anarch Revolt and sending numerous powerful servants against you. In a low-Tyranny Domain, the local Cainite authorities are too preoccupied with in-fighting and their own schemes to identify the threat posed by the Revolt. It is worth noting that Tyranny in Anarch-held territory describes exactly the same phenomenon.
- Break The Silence: Increase Inquisition Presence in the Domain by engaging in obviously vampiric activity, which the Camarilla call “breaking the Masquerade”. It is very easy for any vampire to do this, but the hard part is not getting captured or killed in the process. You must succeed in a static challenge of your Physical attribute + Stealth skill against a difficulty determined by the current Inquisition Presence and how effective any patrols by the local Cainites are or else experience harmful but non-fatal consequences.
- Enlist: You join up with an Anarch “army” in your Domain, fighting alongside them or working in a valuable support role to help them undertake the orders their General gave them. You should nominate one Skill you have which best represents your contribution (perhaps Brawl or Melee for a front-line fighter, Survival for a scout, Awareness or Investigation for a spy, and so on – or the appropriate skill for a Discipline you plan to use heavily). We will make a test of your chosen Skill + relevant Attribute to determine how effective your contribution was and what negative consequences, if any, you suffer.
- Intercept Correspondence: Europe lacks a postal service like that found in the Islamic world or the old Mongol or Roman Empires. Runners, monks, and travellers carry correspondence from city to city, but even the fastest take two months to bring news from Bruges to Riga. If you succeed on a static challenge of your Mental attribute + Streetwise skill against a difficulty determined by the Tyranny in the Domain, we will provide you with a copy of all correspondence that enters or leaves your current Domain this turn. On an exceptional success, the senders and recipients will be unaware that their correspondence has been tampered with.
- Lead Astray: You can misdirect the local Inquisition Presence into neighbouring Domains by leaving false trails implying vampiric activity across the border. You must succeed in a static challenge of your Social attribute + Subterfuge skill against a difficulty determined by the current Inquisition Presence, or else end up increasing the Inquisition Presence here as they see through your ruse.
- Rabble Rousing: You can attempt to proselytise to neonates and ancillae of your Clan and/or Road in a non-Anarch Domain, rallying them to the cause of the Anarch Revolt and getting them to turn against their elders, increasing the Domain’s Sedition. You must succeed in a static challenge of your Social attribute + Leadership skill against a difficulty determined by the Domain’s Tyranny. Failure will result in harmful but non-fatal consequences for your character, and a clampdown on dissent in the Domain, making future rabble-rousing more difficult by virtue of increased Tyranny.
- Undermine Authority: You can attempt to weaken and destabilise the Cainite authorities of a Domain, sabotaging their ability to control and hold their territory and reducing Tyranny. This might be as a prelude to an attack by one of the Anarch “armies”, a means to facilitate subsequent rabble-rousing, or just a way of expressing your distaste for authority. You must succeed in a static challenge of your Social attribute + either Intimidation skill or Subterfuge skill, against a difficulty determined by the Domain’s Tyranny. Failure will result in harmful but non-fatal consequences for your character, and a (further) centralisation of authority in the Domain, making future attempts to undermine it more difficult by virtue of increased Tyranny.
- Developing a Technique (by spending XP) takes one downtime action
- Gaining a Merit (by spending XP) takes one downtime action
- Improving an in-Clan Discipline by one dot (by spending XP) takes one downtime action
- This includes learning an elder or luminary power
- Learning one dot of an out-of-Clan Discipline takes one downtime action
- This requires a teacher in the same Domain at the same time, and for you to spend XP
- This includes learning an elder power
- The teacher doesn’t need to spend any downtime actions, just to be in the same location (and willing!)
- Removing a Merit and getting the XP back takes one downtime action
- Studying a Road or Path to experience a Moment of Truth takes a number of downtime actions equal to your current Morality score
- This requires a mentor with a higher Morality score than you in the relevant Road or Path to be in the same Domain at the same time, but they don’t need to spend any downtime actions to mentor you (though they do have to be willing!)
- Upgrading a Background by spending XP doesn’t require you to spend any downtime actions, but you must be in the relevant Domain to do so
- Any XP expenditures not listed above do not require you to spend a downtime action
Every travel action brings danger with it – you must make a static challenge using an appropriate combination of Attribute and Skill against a difficulty determined by your mode of travel, the local area, and any relevant Backgrounds, Disciplines, Flaws, Merits, Rituals or Techniques you might have. If you fail, something harmful but non-fatal happens to your character; an exceptional success means you get some sort of short-term benefit appropriate to the situation. Contiguous Domains are ones that share a land border; coastal Domains are ones that border the sea and/or the ocean (see below); connected Domains are ones with established shipping routes indicated on the map.
You do not need to use travel actions to head to the location of the next event. In addition, each character gets one free journey per downtime period, from their current Domain to a contiguous one – so a character could move from e.g. their Haven in Rome to either Florence, Naples, or Venice for free. Any further distance they wanted to travel would require them to allocate actions to it, as follows:
- On Foot: you may travel up to 2 contiguous Domains per action (e.g. from Madrid to Toulouse, Sofia to Bratislava, or Bergen to Copenhagen)
- By Horse: you may travel up to 5 contiguous Domains per action so long as you have Resources 2 or higher in your starting Domain (e.g. from Madrid to Venice, Sofia to Strasbourg, or Bergen to the Low Countries). This distance is limited by the number of dots you have in the Ride skill, so someone with Ride 3 can travel only up to 3 contiguous Domains. Bringing additional people with you will increase the Resources cost: adding two people to your journey (for a total of 3) increases the Resources necessary by 1 dot, and adding up to five people to your journey (for a total of 6) increases the Resources necessary by 2 dots.
- By Ship: you may travel between a number of contiguous or connected coastal Domains equal to twice your number of dots in the Resources background in your starting Domain per action (e.g a Resources 1 trip from Sofia to Athens, a Resources 3 trip from Bergen to Granada, or a Resources 5 trip from Sofia to Brittany). Bringing additional people with you will increase the Resources cost: adding two people to your journey (for a total of 3) increases the Resources necessary by 1 dot, and adding up to five people to your journey (for a total of 6) increases the Resources necessary by 2 dots.
- Through the Abyss: you may travel to any Domain that contains a location familiar to you, bringing up to two other people with you. This does not cost a downtime action but requires you to have the Walk The Abyss Merit; certain Abyss Mysticism Rituals may improve the safety or number of people you can bring. You become familiar with a public location by spending at least three downtime actions in the same Domain as it. These actions do not need to be consecutive or even in the same downtime period. To become familiar with a specific named location requires you to have taken either an Investigation or Infiltration action against it.
- With Celerity: you may travel a number of contiguous Domains per action equal to 2 plus your dots in Celerity, but will need to spend an extra action to feed this downtime (only one extra per downtime period no matter how far you travel by Celerity)
- With Protean: if you have the Protean power Shape of the Beast, you will normally use the On Foot rules (above) whether you are in fight form or flight form, with your Discipline use affecting your safety as above. If you are able to apply the Fast template to your fight form, you may travel up to 3 contiguous Domains per action. If you are able to apply the Aquatic template to your fight form, you may travel up to 2 connected or contiguous coastal actions per downtime. If you have a swim form from the Aquatic Predator Merit, and apply the Fast template to it, you may travel up to 3 connected or contiguous coastal Domains per action.
Influence actions do not require downtime actions to use. Instead, you get 1 Influence Action per dot of the Influences background you have, per downtime period (i.e. per year rather than per month). This background is split into two categories, and is Domain-specific. The two categories are as follows:
- Elite: Aldermen, Banks, The Church, Guilds, Knightly Orders, Monarchs and their courts, Nobles, Universities, and so on
- Underworld: Bandits, Disreputable Occultists, Dockers, Heretics, Highway Robbers, Mercenaries, Pirates, and so on
Influence in Blood & Fire follows the normal Mind’s Eye Theatre rules, with effects below level 10 limited to the specific Domain in which a Cainite has Influence. You can take any of the available Influence actions, being aware that $1,000 is translated to 2 florins. The level 8 Elite action is called “Aristocratic Pique” but has the same effect. The level 10 action “Regional Influence” allows you to affect any and all neighbouring Domains, whether contiguous or connected. Otherwise, these rules are unchanged except in terms of flavour.