Some text used with much appreciation from our Australian counterparts.
What is a Boon?
At its simplest, a boon is an IOU between one Kindred. However, unlike most IOUs, a boon isn’t about money. It’s the answer to “what do you offer to someone who already has everything?” Many Kindred are wealthy, having had centuries to acquire and accumulate fortune and luxury. Other Kindred simply have no need or desire for such things. The end result is that ofttimes, if a debt is owed or if one hopes to garner someone’s assistance, the offer of monetary compensation and remuneration (be it cash or goods) is not acceptable. Thus, a boon doesn’t deal in such things; instead, it deals in favors.
A boon can be more than just an IOU, depending upon how far you as a player and your character wish to take it. A boon can be used to forge and/or cement a relationship between two Kindred; after all, if someone owes you a favor, you have a vested interest in their wellbeing if for no other reason than you want to be able to collect on the debt someday.
Boons are the single most important way Society is run. They are the only way a younger Vampire can rise in power. There is no such thing as a favor among the Damned, there are only Boons.
The Measure of a Boon
Not all boons are created equal, and it’s important to understand the differences so that you don’t accidentally have your character under- or over-compensate when offering a boon to another Kindred (doing so purposefully is, of course, another matter).
A trivial boon is a small favor that takes little time and effort on the part of the debtor, and involves no risk to the debtor’s requiem or reputation. Simple things –making an introduction for someone, covering a small faux pas, providing basic information, or warning a vampire about a potential danger – are all considered trivial boons. Trivial boons should be freely offered and accepted by Kindred; it might be helpful to think of them like business or calling cards.
Examples of trivial boons include (but are not limited to):
- Formally introducing one character to another
- Commenting positively or negatively on another character’s statement or activities
- Loaning a character equipment for the night
- A once off simple menial task, like cleaning another character’s car
- One time use of a discipline or power in a single scene
- Apologizing for a simple social or political mistake
- Once off use of another’s territory usually to feed
- Giving a common mundane item or piece or property that would take a single night for the owner to replace
- Obtaining simple common information such as the standing or territory location of another Kindred
- Making someone else use a Trivial Boon
Trivial boons cannot be used to coerce someone into giving up secrets or someone to attack someone else. They cannot be used to force someone to break any Traditions or do anything that endangers the debtor in any way. They cannot be used to force someone to break another boon.
A minor boon is a favor that requires some time or effort on the part of the debtor, but is relatively low risk. Calling in a minor boon might involve asking the Kindred to watch over someone’s property or to help save a retainer, or procure feeding rights for someone for a short amount of time. It might involve voting in favor of the Kindred during a decision, or helping a Kindred gain control over some influence.
Examples of minor boons include (but are not limited to):
- Aiding someone’s political maneuver for a single month or night
- Protecting a possession, retainer or territory for a month
- Granting rights to make use of a regent’s territory for an entire month, usually to feed
- Having someone in a major political position exercise their authority (e.g. having the harpy strip someone of status, having the Sheriff investigate someone’s territory)
- Granting or helping someone obtain a minor political position (e.g. Whip, deputy sheriff, deputy hound), or giving up a minor political position
- Required attendance at another clan’s or covenant’s meetings (e.g. Midnight Mass) for a month
- Political support to another clan or covenant for a month
- A lesson in a common power of the blood (e.g., Animalism, Obfuscate)
- Teaching another member of your covenant a ritual, oath, coil or devotion outside of a formal mentor style relationship
- Giving up a reasonably uncommon piece of property or item that would require a month’s work to attain
- Obtaining detailed useful information such as who owes boons to whom, the locations of mundane covenant meeting spots.
- Making someone else use a Minor Boon
Minor boons cannot be used to demand anything likely to lead to the debtor’s Final Death, nor for anything that is politically permanent (such as supporting another Kindred in perpetuity). As with trivial boons, minor boons cannot be used to force someone to break any Traditions or force someone to break another boon.
A major boon is a favor that could potentially involve risk to requiem or it can involve significant amounts of political and social capital. A Kindred might be called on to help the one he owes to fight an enemy, or supplant his own political and social desires in favor of the other Kindred.
Examples of major boons include (but are not limited to):
- Involvement in a dangerous combat that could lead to death for the debtor
- Protecting someone for an evening in a hostile environment with risk to one’s own unlife
- Supporting someone politically for a year
- Supporting another clan or covenant above your own for a year
- Granting or helping someone obtain a major political position (e.g. Sheriff, Primogen, Harpy Priscus, Prince), or giving up a major political position
- Partial blood bonding to another Kindred
- Teaching someone a rare or uncommon Discipline or power of the blood (e.g. Protean, Auspex)
- Getting someone to turn a blind eye to an accidental breach of a Tradition
- Granting someone possession of a Torpored Kindred’s body
- Taking sole responsibility for an unreleased Kindred in absence of their Sire
- Committing a life threatening political maneuver (eg. Calling a blood hunt, banishing a Kindred from court)
- Giving up a valuable retainer or Ghoul
- Granting or helping someone obtain a Regency
- Giving up an incredibly rare possibly supernatural item or piece of property
- Giving up life threatening information
- Making someone else use a Major Boon
Major boons cannot be used to force the debtor to break any Traditions, break any other boons, or require them to perform an action that is clearly suicidal.
A life boon is a rare boon that should only be offered in circumstances when a Kindred saves the life of another Kindred when not required to do so, and at some risk to the lifesaver’s own requiem. They cannot be demanded, nor can they be traded to another.
To many Kindred, owing a life boon is much akin to being an unreleased childe. A Kindred owing a life boon may find herself having to surrender much of her own will and desires (depending upon the desires of the Kindred owed the debt) until the debt is repaid. It’s worth noting that there are some practical limits. Asking someone who owes you a life boon to break a boon and they have to do it. However, you are likely to be accused of being boon broken yourself. Also, while endangering their life is within the scope of the Life Boon, if things get too dangerous, they are likely to conclude that the risk of being killed as a boon breaker is less than the risk of dying obeying their master. Similarly, commanding a Kindred to continually breach the Traditions is likely to result in your punishment, not just the punishment of the Kindred committing the breach.
When Do I Offer (or Request) a Boon?
In general, there are three types of situations where your character will either offer a boon or request another Kindred provide one.
You Scratch My Back, and I’ll Scratch Yours
Your character can “wheel and deal” using boons. Perhaps there’s something your character knows another Kindred can do for him. Your character then approaches this Kindred and essentially says “If you will do this for me, I’ll owe you one in return.” If a Kindred approaches your character and asks for assistance, your character is well within his rights to request a boon in exchange for the help (and to also refuse to help if the Kindred does not want to offer the boon).
Compensation for Services Performed, Thank-Yous, and Appreciations
The appropriate response when your character discovers someone has done her a good turn (even if your character didn’t explicitly ask for the service or assistance) is to offer a boon. This is a thank-you, but is also showing your character’s appreciation for the help, and compensating the other Kindred for her time.
Pardons and Apologies
If your character makes a mistake or a social gaffe, a boon is the way for him to apologize and ask for pardon. The general procedure is to either apologize verbally or in writing (depending on the circumstance), and at the end of said apology, offer the appropriate boon as compensation.
Why Your Character Should Work to Collect Boons
Your character can and will accomplish more through use of boons than she could ever possibly accomplish on her own. A Kindred with a host of boons has the potential to be able to call upon skills, powers, and influences across multiple Clans and Covenants.
Don’t Be Afraid to Have Your Character Owe Boons
Sometimes, players find it hard to have their characters offer boons. They feel like they are losing by owing boons. There can be distinct benefits to being in debt to other Kindred, not the least of which is the possibility of protection of your character’s Requiem. Kindred want to collect on their debts; if your character owes boons to other Kindred, they have a vested interest in your character’s wellbeing if for no other reason than they want to be able to collect on the debt someday.
If your character dies at the hands of other Kindred (other than as part of a sanctioned Bloodhunt), your character’s creditors may elect to petition the Harpies in order to attempt to collect the debt from those that committed the murder. This can act as a deterrent for those who might wish your character dead.
Boons are yet another way to ensure civilized behavior amongst Kindred, as well as bring resolution to in-character conflict. Once a Kindred offers a boon on a topic and that boon is accepted, the topic is never discussed again. If the topic is brought up again, there are well-established methods of recourse; namely, to go to the local Harpy, who will eviscerate the Kindred for ignoring the terms of the boon.
You may note that often Boons might cause you to betray a cause that you believe in, or Prince that you support, or any other number of things that you hold valuable. There is, of course, a simple answer to this situation: more Boons. Give a Boon to someone you think you can trust, so that they will call it in to make you do what you want to do anyway. This is called Insurance. If you have already had a Boon called in before the Harpies, you can’t be asked to break that Boon. Be careful though; a Trivial Boon is only Protection for a single night, a Minor Boon for a season at the most, and a Major Boon lasts a full year. If you want to be prestation bound and loyal, make sure your Insurance hasn’t expired, and always, always be sure that the person you give that Insurance Boon to won’t decide to call it in for something different. Once you’ve given a Boon, you can’t control how it’s used.
Recording and Tracking Boons
As a player, you should always record all boons for your character, both those owed to her and those she owes. However, to make them truly binding, you need to have the appropriate Harpies record them – the Harpy of your character’s home city, and the Harpy of the city/cities of the other character/s. This makes the boon part of the public record, as it were, which means that if there is ever any question regarding the boon or if someone tries to avoid repaying the boon or claims there is no boon owed, your character has recourse and can appeal to the Harpies.
Refusal to Repay a Boon
This is a very serious decision to make, though there are times when a Kindred might choose to do so. The repercussions, depending on the situation, may be severe.
A Kindred that refuses to pay on a boon owed may be declared anathema by the local Harpy. Any and all boons she owed or which were owed to her can be declared null and void, which can result in the other Kindred she owed deciding to hunt her down. She may be banished from the city by her Prince (and may find it very difficult to find another home, as other Princes may not allow her to reside in their cities). Their assets and goods may be free to be seized by any Kindred – retainers, influences, money. In addition, any boons the boon breaker held may also be declared null and void, which leaves the boon breaker with few allies or access to assistance.
There is a weakness here: someone could say someone else has defaulted when they haven’t. That is called False Witness. Bring False Witness against someone and you will probably be killed… simple as that… no appeal, no Blood Hunt. Everyone knows you brought False Witness, and they know you have to die. In order to prevent False Witness from ever happening, it has led to both parties making damn sure that either the Boons are announced or that both are there when it is recorded.