Featured photo by Studio Glass-Ant, via Flickr and used under Creative Commons Attribution License
A vampire’s existence can feel like a lonely one. Everyone you meet could be a potential friend or a meal. Mortals can’t relate to your Kindred problems and issues. If only there were other Kindred to…oh yeah, there is. Kindred, fear not, for there is a way to find like-minded Licks that can help you, and you in turn help them, navigate the nights and actually accomplish something. This is your coterie.
“Coterie” is a fancy term for a group of like-minded individuals who share common goals. For Kindred, these goals usually entail safe eating, protection from danger, and a shoulder to cry tears of blood on. A coterie is usually made up of 3-6 Kindred, each with a role to fill in the group. This is where those mortal skills you cultivated come in handy. If you’re skilled in a field that a coterie would benefit from, you’re more likely to find a group who will watch your back every night.
In terms of Vampire: The Masquerade the game, your coterie is your playing group. During character creation, it is wise to establish what roles each player is going to fulfill so each character knows their place in the coterie. Is your character more of a leader or do they specialize in information gathering? Are they a bruiser or more of an intellectual? Every vampire has a spot, you just have to find out what that spot is.
Once everyone’s role is established, it is wise to establish the types of relationships your group members have. This is where the Relationship Map comes in. The RM is the best way to keep track of how every character, player character and NPC, is related and linked. Here is an example of what a typical RM looks like, as illustrated by this one in the core rulebook:
The four coterie members are the four corners of the center square. The lines represent how they’re related, with notes written along the lines to give a short synopsis of what that relationship is. Sires, Touchstones, Contacts, Allies, and anyone else that each Kindred has met is represented on the map. The arrows point to the member of the relationship who is in the inferior position in the relationship. For example, a sire will always have the upper hand on their childer, so the arrow will always point to the childe.
The RM should be kept at the table at all times for reference and be updated frequently to keep tabs on the ebbs and flows of each relationship. This is also a handy way for the Storyteller to try to weave new and more complicated relationships between all the characters involved.
There is another aspect that all players and the Storyteller should establish at this point: chronicle tenets. Chronicle tenets are usually three or so rules that are established to guide character morality and establish the tone of the chronicle, whether it be a gothic noir story, a political intrigue tale, or a more humorous one.
This is also a good time to discuss with your players the subject of real-life issues such as avoiding harming children and violent acts like rape and torture so they can be kept out of the game. Players should feel comfortable at the table and actually have fun without bringing up past traumas. If a subject is determined to be off limits, no player, nor the Storyteller, should bring up or even hint at it. Anyone who attempts to do so purposely should not remain in the player group.
Once your coterie’s relationships are established and your tenets are agreed upon, it’s time to build your coterie mechanically. Each player is awarded one point to invest in the coterie’s background and resources, but players can save Advantage points and invest them as well. There are many pieces to a coterie that affect every aspect of your group’s nightly activities. Coterie backgrounds define the mission and usefulness your coterie is to the Prince or Baron. There are a wide variety of things a ruler can establish a coterie for, from being a mercenary force, a spy ring, championing a cause close to the ruler’s undead heart, or even to protect the legacy of an elder. The skills and abilities of your Kindred will guide you to choosing what kind of coterie you are best suited for. Be aware that choosing a coterie background costs coterie points, but your players can offer any left over Advantage points to invest.
The first resource is the domain. This is the area in the city that your coterie resides in and rules over. Most young coteries get a city block, or perhaps a tenement building or a mall to live in and around. This is where your coterie can sleep, socialize, and hunt.
Where you hunt is important, but the quality and quantity of victims is just as vital. This is known as the chasse of your domain. The more your coterie invests in the chasse, the more area you have to hunt and the quality of the prey increases. However, if you’re given a small domain in a particularly high population area, the chasse is still small but the quantity of victims is higher.
The next thing to invest in is the lien of your domain. This is how well your coterie members blend in with the locals. You can freely travel within your domain without suspicion if the investment is high. Otherwise, some people in your domain might put two and two together when someone gets attacked and your coterie always seems to be around at the time. Each point invested adds a die to rolls involving interacting with people within your domain peacefully and without raising anyone’s suspicion.
Protection within your domain is also essential to your coterie. This is referred to the portillon of your domain. Each point invested subtracts a die from the rolls of whomever is trying to intrude upon your domain. This does not apply to the Haven in your domain, however.
You’ve been Embraced. You’ve been shown the ropes by your sire. You’ve made sure your Touchstones are safe and unaware of your new unlife. You’ve accrued allies and contacts and found your unique way of nourishing yourself. You’ve found other Kindred who share your ideals and values and have established yourself in the city with a haven and a domain. Now your story can really start.
This is the end of the Kindred 101 series. I hope these guides help you establish your Lick in your group’s World of Darkness and I wish all the success and triumph to you and your coterie. Just don’t piss off the Prince or you’ll be seeing the morning sun for one last, bittersweet time.