In the comments to this long-ago piece of sage counsel for new ‘Storytellers’ (which I dug up because I wanted to link it to someone on Reddit – I don’t sit around reading my five-year-old blog entries for fun, honest guv’nor), I…
Hang on. This may take a moment.
I made a mistake.
In Masquerade, it makes sense to start the characters off at 11th-12th generation. The days of old are long past, and Methusalae are rarely if ever seen (and are invariably the big bads behind the scenes of it all). In Dark Ages, they’re interacting almost directly with the 4th and 5th generation head honchos. Does it really make sense/play well to have them start off at such a low generation? Or does making them a higher generation simply start them with too much power?
And I said:
I do, as it happens, think 12th is too far along the bloodline chain to appear in the early thirteenth century.
Now, I stand by everything else I said in that comment, as regards power level and new players (ninth Generation is the magic one as that second blood point per turn opens up new possibilities; new players should serve their time with a character of tenth or more so that they settle into the ‘powerless in the face of timeless authority’/’rage against the undying machine’ feel of the game), but I was wrong about this bit.
What I’d allowed myself to forget, or possibly not noticed because I hadn’t really joined up the history of the Kindred world, is that the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are times of unrelenting vampire genocide. The last of the Salubri are wiped out, the War of Princes sees disposable neonates flung into the fires of war, the Anarch Revolt kicks off, the Assamites effectively invade Europe, the Black Death decimates the feed stocks and at least one strain proves to work on Cainites, the Cappadocians are disembowelled and the Inquisition begins in earnest.
The odds of your Dark Ages neonate surviving all that are slim to none. Even though the Anarch Revolt has some ideological continuity (“us against the elders!”), it probably won’t have much individual continuity (“my sire told me it was us against his sire, right before he died and my broodmates died with him”).
(This also answers a question Ben has sometimes asked me about the Sabbat, along the lines of “isn’t it an incoherent shambles that says it’s doing one thing and actually does about six?”
Well, yes. Because of the churn. Barring a few ancillae and smart elders who knew which way the wind was blowing, the nascent Sabbat turned over its recruits so fast that they didn’t have time to learn what was going on or assemble any coherent beliefs. It wasn’t until the retreat to Scandinavia during the Renaissance that the Sabbat had time to sit down and work out what it was meant to be doing beyond “survive” and “never surrender”. By that time, currents of thought had emerged, a Methuselah or two had gotten involved, and everyone had been through a few degeneration checks, if you know what I mean. As a result, the Sabbat’s definitive struggle isn’t the one against the Camarilla – it’s the struggle for its own coherence. It’s much like the left wing of modern Western politics, if you want an example: everyone involved wants Not This, nobody can agree on what they want instead.)
Anyway, with that in mind I begin to understand that it’s OK to have vampirekind make it all the way to the twelfth and thirteenth generations by the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, because most of those vampires only have a couple of centuries to live. Once the dust has settled you’ll mostly be left with those hoary veterans of the sixth to ninth generations, and they’ll be taking another hundred years to sort themselves out before they really get down to siring again. Remember that the now-nascent Camarilla insists on a lengthy period of proving yourself before you earn the right to sire: neonates don’t sire neonates, ancillae do, and that means decades of grunt work for the elders before you get to make vampire babies.
That brings us back to maybe one generation every hundred years: tenth in the seventeenth century, eleventh in the eighteenth, twelfth in the nineteenth (the starting generation for Victorian Age Vampire characters, if you’re keeping score) and thirteenth in the twentieth century, just in time for the Final Nights. The Sabbat probably gets ahead of the game, but the high turnover/burnout/mortality rate within the Sabbat means it’s racing from tenth to thirteenth within each successive century and then needing a do-over.
So yeah. I was wrong, White Wolf were right. News at ten.